Nothing makes a retro console more interesting than one that could have gone onto greatness, which is why this list of the best Dreamcast games of all time has an exciting yet bitter-sweet feel to it (that’s a good thing – please don’t stop reading).
The SEGA Dreamcast is a bit of an enigma. It’s perhaps the greatest ‘what if’ story in gaming history, SEGA’s swan song and a last-ditch attempt to keep the Sonic ship afloat in a world of bandicoots, Italian plumbers, and green hatted forest children (if you need help on deciphering those three games, then there’s no hope). It sits in second-hand gaming stores like a mysterious object in a fantasy quest and prompts strange looks from children, a constant reminder of what SEGA could have gone on to achieve had they got the formula right.
Many consider the Dreamcast to have been way ahead of its time, especially with the removable VMUs that are now used by many aspiring modifiers and the fact that it was the first console that could connect up to the internet. 620 games were released for the console, a lot of which are incredibly innovative and fun to play, but sadly without the longevity needed to make the Dreamcast a house-hold name today. Still, if you are thinking of completing your retro console collection and looking for the best Dreamcast games ever made, then you’ve come to the right place. That’s the history lesson over – let’s crack on with Number 10.
10. Crazy Taxi
Everyone around the world has probably had a go at the first title on our list of the best Dreamcast games. You might have played Simpsons Road Rage or other similar titles, but Crazy Taxi was the first and best game of its kind. It went on to spawn various sequels on different platforms and was super fun to play. As well as the original map that you could play on the Arcade version, the Dreamcast port featured a MASSIVE San Fransisco map where the player could really explore and get completely lost (something that you don’t want to do when you’re trying to get a lot of points and keep that clock from running down!)
The premise of Crazy Taxi is simple – take passengers to their destination while pulling off cool tricks and destroying stuff. Get them there quickly and you get more points and cash. It’s so simple it hurts, making it one of those games that anyone can pick up and play no matter how much gaming experience they have. Dreamcast used this title to show off the fact that their new console could hold 60 frames a second, and it received positive feedback from game reviewers the world over. Just imagine how Crazy Taxi might look if we were opening up the ‘Dreamcast Series X’ or something today – maybe we’ll see an improvement when the Dreamcast Mini drops.
9. Soul Calibur
I first got into Soul Calibur on the Game Cube when Link became a playable character. Since then, I’ve gone back to collect all of the variations on my previous consoles and still can’t decide which one I like the best. Nightmare is undoubtedly my favourite character, but you can’t beat Voldo or Yoshimitsu either. The Dreamcast port of this game is one of the first titles that really outshined its Arcade counterpart, giving home console owners a better experience than the kids queuing up with a pocket full of quarters ready to beat each other to a virtual pulp.
Players could work their way through a main ‘mission’ mode with their favourite fighters and collect points that could be used to unlock different costumes and add-ons. Characters each had special moves and lots of quick attacks that could be pounded out in close-combat, and the level of thought that went into creating the characters themselves is what really sets this game apart from other fighting titles (excluding Number 5 on our list of the best Dreamcast games of course). If you haven’t visited the Soul Calibur series, then this is certainly a good place to start. Game on!
8. Phantasy Star Online
If you’ve read my articles before, then you’ll know that I love a good RPG game. Phantasy Star Online was the worlds first online RPG game for home consoles, allowing up to four people to join forces from anywhere in the world for role-playing nerdiness. Games like this really make me wonder how SEGA got it so wrong with the Dreamcast – this was pioneering stuff, and the game was an absolute belter too! Playing in real-time with people who weren’t sat right next to you was huge back in the day and is pretty much the only way that people play multiplayer games today! PSO is undoubtedly the main muse behind many of our favourite RPG games, and critics called it a ‘landmark game’ for the console.
If you’ve ever played games like PSO before, then you’ll pretty much be already acquainted with how this title works. There is an offline mode that frankly was a little bit dull, but the online mode allowed you to meet your friends in a virtual lobby and fly a spaceship to an uncharted planet where you had to defeat monsters and aliens. Players could choose their own race of fighter and special skill, spend coins on items, make battle plans, and throw out pre-set phrases to get everyone hyped up. It’s like a virtual Dungeons and Dragons with nice graphics and gameplay that is 100% addictive. Hobbyists still keep private servers open for playing Phantasy Star Online even today, which proves what a dedicated cult following this game has!
7. Power Stone 2
Like many of the best Dreamcast games on the console, the Power Stone series started life as an Arcade game. It’s essentially SEGA’s version of Super Smash Bros. and is a great title to kick back with while socialising with your mates (in the flesh this time and not online). The worlds are insane and the items are very Smash Bros-esque, especially the big K.O hammer! Some levels have sub-areas and interactive scenery that might change or disappear entirely at a moments notice, forcing you and your mates to battle while skydiving or literally jumping ship!
Power Stone 2 utilised the VMU for trading items bought in the store or picked up in the Adventure Mode with other gamers. You could also keep certain items to hand and pull them out in a fight to give you an advantage over your opponent. Capcom certainly have the special formula for making a great fighting game – all you need to worry about is finding a set of mates and persuading them to take a beating!
I really should have included both Shenmue titles in this list of the best Dreamcast games, but I guess it’s a good idea to start off where the saga first began. The Shenmue series has only just concluded, having an 18 year gap between games two and three. While the third part (released for PS4) had to be made via crowdfunding donations on Kickstarter, the first Shenmue title cost around $47-million to make! That’s one pricey game, and while it pulled a cult following that helped to keep the series alive in later days, it wan’t enough to save the poor old Dreamcast (cue disappointed sigh).
The storyline revolves around protagonist Ryo Hazuki setting out on a quest to avenge the death of his father. The game features quick time events that determine certain outcomes, and players must collect information from background characters in order to solve clues and progress through the vast open world levels. One of the best bits about this titles is that you can fight multiple opponents at once, making you feel like a virtual Chuck Norris. If in-depth plot lines and games that you can really sink your teeth into are what you’re after, then this could be well be one of the best Dreamcast games for you!
5. Marvel VS Capcom 2
What could be better than seeing Captain America face off against Ryu, Wolverine fighting Blanka, or Spider-Man taking on Chun-Li? It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, which is why Marvel VS Capcom takes the middle spot in our list of the best Dreamcast games of all time! This cold possibly be one of the most influential fighting games ever made and one of my favourite titles when I fancy a bit of ‘beat em up’ action. It’s the ultimate nerd frenzy, with every kick-ass character from film and video game history taking part in the biggest clash of muscles, superpowers, and egos.
The game works very much like Street Fighter and indeed the previous titles in the Marvel VS Capcom series. All characters have special abilities as well as button-mashing attacks, and the player can choose to call in a sidekick for tag-team style action throughout the fight. ‘Oi, Hulk; give us a hand will you?’ The Dreamcast port of this game looked superb and played incredibly well, and it’s one that you should definitely include in your collection.
I don’t ever think that I’ve come across a game quite like Rez in all my years of gaming. Sure, it has similarities to Tron, Guitar Hero, and VR Troopers, but it’s the only game that would dare put all three of those things together. And the weirdest thing is that it actually works, and it’s addictive. To be honest, I still don’t really have a clue what the storyline is, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is getting into the groove and pulling that pistol trigger…pushing that shoot button…you get the idea.
So what is Rez all about? It’s a musical rail shooter, kind of like Sewer Shark (one of the best SEGA CD games), but without the weird FMV characters and zombie rats, and more music. Still with me? Players must shoot down enemies to ‘killer tunes’ (see what I did there). The game fx and music both combine together to create a sort of experimental soundscape that was incredibly clever and very intricate for a computer game of its time. This is another one of those titles that you really have to play for yourself to truly understand. I couldn’t resist sticking it in our list of the best Dreamcast games of all time because, while it’s a bit of a wild card, it certainly leaves a lasting impression.
3. Jet Set Radio
The next title on our list of the best Dreamcast games was all about being a massive rebel, inline skating your way around Tokyo, and graffitiing up any surface that you could find. It was one of the first games to use cell-shaded graphics, a style that would later go on to be used for the ever-popular Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker. This game follows in the footsteps of titles like ‘Parappa the Rapper’ and is a mixture of Crazy Taxi and the spray-tag minigame on Tony Hawks Pro Skater. Long story short; it’s awesome!
As you might expect, the game plot is a bit insane. Rival gangs of street-taggers compete to win pieces of a mysterious vinyl that can supposedly summon the devil. The main antagonist is eventually defeated by destroying his turntables and tagging his head as he plummets to his death. It’s all a bit bizarre, which makes it even more fun! This is one game that you should definitely give a try if you’re looking for something to do during the Covid19 lockdown (if you’re reading this from the future, then I would like to think that lots of people bought Dreamcasts during the pandemic because they finally had time to experience this groundbreaking console. And because ‘why the hell not!’).
2. Skies Of Arcadia
Two RPG games in one list – I feel like I’m binge-watching Stranger Things all over again! This game was fantastic and the vast landscapes that you could explore were breathtaking. Turn-based battles, flying spaceships, epic soundtracks, and a host of weird and wonderful enemies to defeat. Yep, Skies of Arcadia had it all and was described by critics as being one of the best games for the console. I loved the epic fantasy storyline and the kick-ass weapons available throughout the game, and the fact that you could spend such a long time exploring the vibrant worlds (something that we take for granted in titles like Skyrim and BOTW) allowed you to fully immerse yourself in a completely different reality.
If you haven’t played Skies Of Arcadia before, then it’s very much like Final Fantasy and indeed Phantasy Star Online. Players can explore cities or delve into maze-inspired dungeons, collecting items that will help them in their quest and battling monsters and demons at every turn. Like many RPG games, different mana points are used in the battle system with health being picked up along the way. If you like any of the other fantasy titles that I’ve referred to throughout this article, then I urge you to give Skies Of Arcadia a try – you’ll be lost in another universe before you know it!
1. Sonic Adventure
Selling 2.5million copies, Sonic Adventure wholeheartedly deserves the top spot in our list of the best Dreamcast games of all time! The first fully 3D Sonic adventure – it’s what we all dreamt off during the side-scrolling days of the SEGA Mega Drive, and Sonic Adventure certainly didn’t disappoint. All of the usual suspects including Tails, Knuckles, and Amy are back, as is Robotnik who just doesn’t know when to give up! I spent hours playing this game back in the day, raising my Chao’s and making them win races to bring me eternal glory. Make me proud, my little odd-shaped minions!
The premise is tried and tested – collect rings, stop ol’ ‘moustache face’ from using the Chaos emeralds for his own evil gain, and run as fast as hedgehogly possible everywhere you can. Seeing Sonic in a 3D adventure was absolutely amazing and finally put the blue wonder at the same level as Mario and Spyro. Sonic was always a gaming hero, but being able to move him in any direction and having the ability to revisit certain areas felt so good. It wasn’t just about speed anymore (ok, it’s always about speed with Sonic), and many people saw this game as the one that would bring SEGA back to the forefront of the console market (how many times have I written that so far in this article!). This will always be one of the best Sonic games in my opinion, and I hope that you agree with my choice!
Final Thoughts. . .
I don’t normally write a final thoughts section on these ‘best games’ articles, but I think that this one calls for a brief conclusion. Look how many of the games above had positive reviews from critics or were hailed as being ‘the Dreamcast’s saviour, and the console still didn’t manage to take off. I honestly believe that the world just wasn’t ready for this style of next-gen console back in 1999. People were still playing with the NES and SNES for crying out loud, unboxing N64s and getting to grips with sticking CDs in consoles instead of cartridges. I think my mum had just found out about Tetris back then too! Most other online consoles didn’t start taking off until around 2005, making the Dreamcast around 6 years before its time.
I honestly believe that, had the Dreamcast come out a little later, it would have been a much bigger commercial success. Now, sadly, it’s too late for SEGA to make a resurgence in the console world. They’ve had a lot of success with the SEGA Mega Drive Mini, but times are changing, and the Dreamcast will forever be an albatross around SEGA’s neck. Luckily, Dreamcast consoles do still exist in the world, and those of you that are dedicated to achieving retro gaming enlightenment can sit back and pretend that this console actually made it, that it went on to be one of the greats. If you’re reading this in Brazil where the SEGA Master System is still in production, then ignore everything I have said; you’ve got one hell of a console coming your way soon!