Sega’s final console was a technological marvel that was far ahead of its time. The Dreamcast introduced many staples into today’s console landscape, such as online play, microphone attachments and the tantalizing visual memory unit (VMU), which acted as a second display and could be removed for portable play with some titles. Nintendo would draw inspiration from the VMU with their dual-screen Nintendo DS handheld. While these hardware innovations will always be fondly remembered, it’s the games the Dreamcast provided that will remain its strongest point. The following are the 10 best games released on Sega’s deep and timeless Dreamcast library.
10. Power Stone 2 (2000)
The Dreamcast was (and remains) the king of fighters, as the console had a variety of fighting games, all incorporating different mechanics to make each of them feel unique and appealing. The Power Stone series represented exceptional 3D combat on the console, as the four-player battles played very similar to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. The battles are free-roaming, arena-based fighting, which heightens the freedom tremendously compared to fighting on a simple 2D plane. The original Power Stone was a successful launch title for the Dreamcast, but Power Stone 2 blows it away and becomes a must-own. By introducing four-player battles and balancing out the characters, the sequel easily tops its predecessor. The Power Stone series is a franchise that needs to make a return on current-gen consoles, as one can only imagine what developer Capcom would be able to accomplish for the series with today’s hardware.
9. Phantasy Star Online (2001)
Phantasy Star Online brought the long-running Sega RPG series and turned it into a console MMORPG. Even today, there are very few MMOs on consoles, as the genre is generally reserved for the PC world. However, the Dreamcast contains one of the finest MMOs ever created in the form of Phantasy Star Online. The game was an absolute revelation in 2001, taking full advantage of the console’s built-in modem to bring groups of friends together. Phantasy Star Online has a large and dedicated loyal fan base that continues to keep the online RPG going today. The commitment to the unique game is staggering, but as the modifications and updated forms of the game continue, the online community shows how special this game is to remain as relevant today as it was when it was released. Phantasy Star Online is much more than nostalgia; it’s an addictive experience.
8. Resident Evil Code: Veronica (2000)
Ideas for a Resident Evil game titled ‘Code: Veronica’ began shortly after the release of the original Resident Evil in 1996. Code: Veronica was originally intended to be the third title in the series, and to be released on the original PlayStation. However, plans for Resident Evil 3: Nemesis eventually took form and released in 1999. Code: Veronica then exited the main numbered line in the series but, as players realized after playing this fan favorite title, Resident Evil Code: Veronica fills a gap in the main storyline much moreso than the “real” Resident Evil 3 does. Originally a Dreamcast exclusive, Code: Veronica was ported to other major platforms but only offered subtle differences. Indeed, the Dreamcast version is so strong that the updated Code: Veronica X is largely similar. Code: Veronica would offer the final piece of traditional Resident Evil gameplay for a while, at least until 2012’s Resident Evil Revelations, which was a throwback to the horror roots of the series. Code: Veronica is undoubtedly a Resident Evil outing, which is much more than some of its numbered sequels can say. Code: Veronica is an amazing game and a must-own on the Dreamcast.
7. Grandia II (2000)
Grandia II was Sega’s answer to Final Fantasy, and was a thrilling RPG that featured real-time turn-based battles. The innovative twist in the combat system is that the game allows movement during battle. The result is that characters can move around, strike, and then retreat. Both playable characters, as well as enemies, can cancel one another’s move, neutralizing many threats and causing each battle to become very strategical and thoughtful. Grandia II eventually received a PlayStation 2 port as well as a Microsoft Windows port, but the Dreamcast version remains the definitive edition. The ports have been lazy offerings with inconsistent frame rates and downgraded textures. The best Japanese roleplaying game on the Dreamcast stands tall among the greatest JRPGs ever made. Grandia II, one of the best games of the generation, let alone on the console, is a title best experienced on the Dreamcast and one that has aged remarkably well.
6. Rayman 2: The Great Escape (2000)
Originally a Nintendo 64 hidden gem buried behind the likes of Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, the Dreamcast version of Rayman 2 showcased how to properly enhance a game beyond the common port. The Dreamcast edition takes full advantage of the superior hardware running the game and changes the two-dimensional sprites into 3D models. It also fixes the camera angle by zooming out slightly, making some of the more perilous platforming feel a little less cheap with increased visibility. Finally, the Dreamcast version goes beyond aesthetic makeovers by also offering exclusive mini-games, a revamped world map and a remastered final battle. Rayman 2: The Great Escape is one of the best platforming games ever made. The game has since been released on countless platforms spanning multiple generations, but the Dreamcast version remains significant and mighty impressive. Despite being based on a game released on the previous generation’s hardware, players who have experienced Rayman 2’s captivating gameplay understand that it’s one of the best titles on the Dreamcast, and simply one of the best games ever made.
5. Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes (2000)
It’s amazing how much quality content Sega was able to provide for the Dreamcast library in such a short span of time. One particularly impressive area is the fighting arena, where the Dreamcast offered a variety of different fighting games with varying engines that provided distinct entries able to stand on their own, despite all being released quite closely to each other. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was undeniable proof of the arcade experience that Sega was capable of providing with the Dreamcast. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 takes developer Capcom’s tag-team fighting game to new heights by allowing three characters to be tagged in or out during battles. With a roster of 56 characters from the Capcom and Marvel libraries, there’s a lot to experiment with in this insanely deep fighting game. Considered by many to be the best traditional 2D fighter of the generation, the over-the-top, fast-paced Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is easy proof of the Dreamcast’s greatness.
4. Jet Grind Radio (2000)
Jet Grind Radio, known as Jet Set Radio in every territory outside of North America, was a showcase for what Sega’s internal studios could offer, and a hint at the overall potential that the ill-fated Dreamcast console could have provided. Jet Grind Radio has a huge cult following to this day, as the gorgeous cell-shaded graphics and funky soundtrack have aged remarkably well, even if they’re not as revolutionary as when the game initially released. Featuring rollerblading gameplay reminiscent of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, along with graffiti-spraying, Jet Grind Radio offers a fine blend of genres with loveable comic book style visuals.
3. Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)
Sonic games have historically been received negatively since making the transition to 3D, and this reputation has actually harmed the legacy of Sonic Adventure 2. The hedgehog’s initial foray into open space may not have been as smooth as Mario’s original venture into 3D, and the two-dimensional Sonic offerings that preceded Sonic Adventure were impossible to live up to, but it was still a great game. The title was simply fun to play, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Sonic Adventure 2 was an excellent sequel that successfully fixes many of the camera problems that plagued the original Sonic Adventure and provides one of the best presentations on the console. Featuring breathtaking graphics and a sense of speed that harkens back more toward the Genesis classics than the slow-paced Sonic Adventure 1, the sequel has become one of the more underrated games in the industry. Don’t allow the belief that all 3D Sonic games are terrible to sway you from the truth that Sonic Adventure 2 is an exceptional game that has stood the test of time. As a bonus, the game also contains the console’s best use of the VMU’s portability with the addictive and improved Chao garden, where players can raise virtual pets.
2. Soul Calibur (1999)
The majority of critically acclaimed fighting games tend to cater toward the hardcore crowd, but Soul Calibur bucks that trend by providing a uniquely accessible but effectively deep fighting game. The game has relatively loose timing requirements. This means expert timing isn’t required to pull off a quick succession of moves. However, the game still appeals toward seasoned fighting veterans with the advanced techniques permitted in Soul Calibur, such as offensive block maneuvers that allow attacks to be redirected. The title was a successful representation by Sega that the Dreamcast console would provide arcade entertainment in the comfort of a home, while having superior presentation. Soul Calibur was released as one of the 19 launch titles for the Dreamcast in North America, yet the gorgeous title looks like a late-generation GameCube or Xbox title. Outpacing Dreamcast competitors by miles in the graphics department, Soul Calibur flexes one of its many muscles and shows the overall quality of the game. Soul Calibur, like the Dreamcast console itself, was so far ahead of its time and represents the pinnacle of fighting games.
1. Shenmue 2
It’s so difficult to choose between the two Shenmue titles released on the Dreamcast, but regardless of which game players choose to be the slightly superior one, a Shenmue title certainly tops the list of the best Dreamcast titles ever released. The nod here goes to Shenmue 2, which manages enough improvements in terms of gameplay mechanics, graphics, and presentation to outweigh the nostalgia and sense of epic adventure associated with the original game. Shenmue 2 offers a much larger world and improved dialogue but without a doubt, both titles need to be experienced by every gamer. Shenmue 1 acts as an introduction to the gameplay style of the series and Shenmue 2 shifts the location for a grander experience. The titles complement each other perfectly and players who play both titles will appreciate the sequel more. It’s safe to say that Shenmue 3, set to finally be released during December 2017 on PC and PS4, has been placed with some lofty expectations.