Micro consoles have seen huge success over the past few years; tiny versions of 8, 16 and even 32-bit machines with well known and fondly remembered games built in, these devices have been warmly welcomed and, for the most part, critically acclaimed.
Features such as save states and rewind have made the games more accessible and approachable – somewhat offsetting the often ridiculous challenges or sparse save states so that modern players can make progress without having to do so all the way from the start of the game or taking an unnecessarily long time to locate save points in-game.
We’ve seen the NES, SNES, Mega Drive/Genesis, PC Engine/Turbografx-16, Neo Geo and even a PlayStation Mini all make appearances with varying degrees of success. Sega themselves have even released a mini version of their famous arcade cabinet, the Astro City Mini alongside SEGA fans anticipating a Dreamcast Mini soon too.
Yet their mid-90s console, the Saturn, has yet to get the micro console treatment – despite its direct and most successful competitor, Sony’s PlayStation, having been released in micro console form. Will Sega ever release a Saturn Mini? Let’s take a look – with some reasons why they would – as well as why it may not necessarily be a sure thing.
Could the Saturn’s relatively weak commercial performance in its day mean that Sega are reticent to revisit the console?
Will SEGA release it even though it wasn’t a great selling console?
Sega were undoubtedly one of the biggest gaming companies in the world in the late 80s and early 90s.
Their arcade output was absolutely phenomenal, and despite dominance by Nintendo in the US and Japanese 8-bit markets, their Master System console saw great success in Europe and Brazil. Their Mega Drive/Genesis held its own in the 16-bit era against Nintendo’s SNES too – with both companies arguably at their strongest during this time.
However, a confusing, expensive policy of iterating on Mega Drive technology with add-ons such as the Mega-CD and 32X as stop-gaps on the way to the 32-bit era saw Sega stumble a bit – and the Saturn’s launch was initially bungled, with stock issues and the infamous announcement at E3 of Sony’s PlayStation being $100 cheaper than Sega’s 32-bit console.
Despite an absolutely incredible software library packed with genuinely superb arcade conversions and exclusives, not to mention a strong, if short-lived, successor in the form of the Dreamcast, it’s fair to say that Sega – as a hardware manufacturer – never quite recovered from the commercially underwhelming performance of the Saturn.
Yet the years have been kind to Sega’s Saturn.
Its architecture – seen as a misstep at the time, with 3D being heralded as the future and the ‘only’ way forward in gaming – allowed for superb 2D gaming, meaning that it was the best place to find home versions of games such as Capcom’s ever more demanding, sprite-based beat ‘em ups, which have aged like fine wine.
The Saturn was a great machine for 2D shoot ’em ups too, with titles such as Radiant Silvergun, Batsugun and Dodonpachi amongst countless others which made the transition from arcade to Saturn – and many were never ported to any other console, making a Saturn Mini that could feature even a small selection of these shoot ’em ups an incredibly enticing prospect, especially given their current prices on the secondhand market.
This is all without even going into examples of Sega’s own arcade ports or home console exclusives, of which there are countless unmissable titles – and just like those aforementioned beat ’em ups and shoot ’em ups, there’s quite a few of these that were never released on any other console either – just check out the absolute classics on our Best Sega Saturn Games list – wouldn’t it be amazing if these 30 titles were the library for the Mini?
SEGA Saturn Mini Technology
Though most micro consoles have been based on cartridge-focused machines, Sony’s PlayStation Mini showed that – despite their larger size and FMV cutscenes – a micro console based on what was originally optical disc-led technology is possible.
Sony also managed to curate a selection of games that were varied, highly regarded and – crucially – not just first party, so there shouldn’t be any reason why Sega can’t do the same and engage with companies like Capcom to release their 2D beat ’em ups on a Saturn Mini (licensing issues aside for games such as Marvel vs Capcom or X-Men vs Street Fighter of course).
Their own oeuvre, with games such as Panzer Dragoon Saga (which nearly made it to the very top of our Best JRPGs list), Nights Into Dreams, Burning Rangers and even lesser known titles such as Sonic R or Shining the Holy Ark (a title which made it to our very own Best Sega Saturn RPGs list!) would be absolutely phenomenal additions to a Saturn Mini too, amongst countless other titles that would be a great fit.
Collectors are currently paying extortionate prices for games that are only available on the Saturn and can be at least 27 years old at this point, so there’s little doubt that – even though the Saturn never reached the mainstream success that Sony’s PlayStation saw – there’s a huge audience of hardcore fans who would absolutely jump at the chance to own a Sega Saturn Mini.
Perhaps Sega’s own recent release of the Astro City Mini – which featured 37 arcade titles on a cute replica of their famous Astro City arcade hardware – is a clue that we’re getting closer to the announcement and possible release of a Saturn Mini.
It contains a number of arcade titles that were ported to the Saturn – including Virtua Fighter – as well as older titles, with some never having made it out of the arcade in the first place.
The relative obscurity of some of the games included – far more obscure than many Saturn games, for example – means that Sega may not be overly concerned about the Saturn’s weak commercial performance upon its initial release.
Gamers are a much more accepting and increasingly retro-obsessed bunch than they were in the mid-90s when the Saturn launched, when the future was all that mattered and the PlayStation ruled the world from a gaming point of view.
These days, countless pixel art-based indie titles have adjusted the playing field somewhat and retro isn’t looked upon as a niche obsession. Perhaps now is exactly the right time for Sega to get a Saturn Mini onto store shelves.
Sega, if you’re listening: let’s go back to the 90s and give the Saturn the reception it truly deserves!
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.