The Sega Dreamcast often gets a bad rap among gamers and critics. Even so, the Best Dreamcast games was home to memorable games that have gone on to legendary status with critics and fans.
Some of the criticism is earned. Sega lost a lot of goodwill from gamers after the disastrous Sega 32X and Sega CD – both are sort-of attachments to the Sega Genesis that sometimes, but not always, improved the games.
Unfortunately, the 32X didn’t work with every game and had no 3rd party support, and the Sega CD was SLOW because the Sega Genesis was simply not powerful enough to load a CD. The peripherals Sega tried to get gamers to buy to update the aging Genesis soured many on the console.
Despite the bad rap, the Dreamcast was ahead of its time and was both revolutionary and a powerful gaming system. It offered a better graphics processor. Many of the features that first appeared with the Sega Dreamcast have become core features of modern gaming.
The Dreamcast was the first system to include a built-in modem for online play. It offered a microphone attachment and high-def graphics through a VGA box. It even used virtual memory (VM). Even with all that power, the Dreamcast was a short-lived console as the Sony Playstation dominated the market and minds of video game fanatics.
The Best Dreamcast Games: Comparison Table
Jet Set Radio Future
How We Chose Our Ratings for the Best Dreamcast Games
Before we dive into the review, let’s go over the factors we use in our scoring.
The foundation of each review is the gameplay, graphics and story. As we play through a game, it must offer at least 2 of these 3 factors to be considered for the Best Dreamcast Games list. For at least one factor, the game should push the envelope and bring something new to the genre.
Next, we factor in other review sites and message boards to see how critics and gamers responded to the game. We understand the best games inspire an emotional response, both positive and negative, and weigh that in our scoring.
Finally, there is always an element of personal opinion with any rating, but especially a rating on games. Some gamers love shooters and would rather go to the dentist than play an RPG, and we respect that. Even so, we try our best to review critically. Accuracy and honesty are foundation of our ratings.
The Best Dreamcast Games
These are the games we wouldn’t be embarrassed recommending to anyone. You may not agree with every game on the list, but there’s something for everyone here.
Samba De Amigo
If you own a Sega Dreamcast and throw a party, you better have Samba De Amigo.
With fresh, popular Latin sounds, a party-filled screen and controllers that happen to be red maracas (man, those maracas are awesome), Samba De Amigo is one of the greatest rhythm and dance titles ever launched on a console. It was an easy choice for the Best Dreamcast Games list.
In the game, players use the maracas to match the pattern and rhythm on the screen. The party is hosted by a cute monkey who acts as your avatar in the game. If you play well and match the rhythm, then more characters will join the monkey at the party. Do well enough and an entire entourage of characters will fill the screen, including a dancing cactus and creatures and costumes that wouldn’t look out of place at a carnival.
The game also includes other modes such as Party and Battle, mini-games and competitions.
For pure party-fun and dancing cactuses, we give Samba De Amigo 3.5 out of 5.
Jet Set Radio Future
As one of the first games to include cel-shaded visuals, Jet Set Radio makes the Best Dreamcast Games list not only for great gameplay, but groundbreaking visuals.
The point of the game is fairly simple. You start as a gang member in a futuristic city known as Tokyo-to. You have skates and a can of spray paint, and you fight the authorities and other gangs by tagging the streets. In a typical level, you must tag certain spots before time runs out while being pursued by the authorities.
Sure, the skating doesn’t have the depth of Tony Hawk, but it feels fast. There’s a joy and freedom to the game that works well with graphics that are ahead of their time. Add in the tagging element, the heavy thumping soundtrack, the ability to make your own tags, and the unlockable characters and you have a great game.
For unbridled youthful energy and cel-shaded rebellion against the man, we give Jet Set Radio 3.5 out of 5.
A cult classic game that is still considered one of the greatest shooters of all time, Ikaruga was an easy choice for the Best of Dreamcast list.
The game offers a new and exciting, twist on the typical twitch gameplay of shooters. All the projectiles in the game are either black or white. The gamer can switch the color, or polarity, of the ship between black and white. The same color projectiles are absorbed, while the opposite color will kill the player.
In the game, as the screen fills with projectiles, the polarity gameplay element will keep the player alive. You need to use the polarity to survive, which makes for an exceedingly difficult challenge.
For a welcome twist on the shooter, we give Ikaruga 4 out of 5.
Sonic DX Adventure
It’s true, the move to 3D platform was rough on Sonic, and his first game on the Dreamcast, Sonic Adventure, was plagued by camera problems and glitches, but Sonic Adventure 2 corrected many of those problems and added new elements that made it a Best Dreamcast Game.
The game featured two campaigns, a hero campaign and a villain campaign Each campaign featured three different characters. Each character offered different gameplay. For example, Sonic in the hero campaign offered the fast-paced gameplay of a Sonic game, while Knuckles the Echidna in the hero campaign was focused on action-adventure in an open world.
Add in beautiful visuals that made good use of the Dreamcast’s power, unlockable power-ups that seemed almost RPG-like, and a fun mini game that let you raise a pet and Sonic Adventure 2 is a powerhouse game focused on fun.
For keeping Sonic fast-paced even with his virtual pets, we give Sonic Adventure 2.4 out of 5.
We Love Katamari
I’m not usually one to insist a game must be art, but Rez is not only a gorgeous game with great shooter gameplay, it wraps it in a package that is easily artwork.
At its core, Rez is a shooter on rails. Your avatar travels in an electronic landscape shooting enemies and capturing power-ups. The power-ups can “evolve” your avatar. As the avatar evolves, it changes shape and becomes more human-like. When the avatar is hit, it loses shape and devolves. Add in awesome electronic music with beats synched to your actions on the screen, the game is simply hypnotic. In fact, Sega marketed the game as “synesthesia,” or manipulating different senses with another sense.
For making synesthetes everywhere feel welcome, we give Rez 4 out of 5.
For pure frantic combat and insane combat moves, few games can match Marvel Vs. Capcom 2.
The gameplay and set-up are fairly simple. You have a huge roster of characters from both the Marvel Universe and Capcom games. You create a roster of three characters and then you face off against another team. The game takes the simple set-up and explodes it with gameplay that’s chaotic fun and insane brawling. You have combos, hyper-combos that can throw enemies to dizzying heights, a deep tag-in element that adds another level of strategy.
Add-in that huge roster of unlockable characters and you have a game that many still argue is the best fighting game. The only element lacking in the Dreamcast version was the online play, but it was still a highlight of the Dreamcast console.
For game-busting combos and tag-in assists, we give Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 4 out of 5.
Metal Solid Gear
A weapon-based fighting game, Metal Gear Solid was originally a Dreamcast exclusive that provided a gameplay depth and tight controls that most games can’t match.
The set-up is simple. You have a roster of characters, each with a different fighting style and weapon. Also, one will face off in a 3D ring with different elements and shapes. Finally, you defeat an opponent by either knocking them out of the ring or wearing down their health. Soul Calibur added depth to the game with an Impact Defense system that let you block and counter attacks. It also used an 8-way run system that took advantage of the 3D arena.
With a roster of interesting characters and fascinating backstories that weave together to tell the tale of the evil Soul Edge sword and its counterpart, Soul Calibur, the game is pure fun. With plenty of game modes and a deep fighting system that takes time to master, Soul Calibur is an easy choice for the Best Dreamcast Game list.
For cool swords, we give Soul Calibur 4.5 out of 5.
One of the first MMORPGs to be released on a console, Phantasy Star Online introduced millions to the joy of playing online with friends.
The game also ditched the turn-based combat of previous Phantasy Star games for real-time hack and slash combat. Players can choose from one of three classes and one of three races for a character. Players then team up with up to 3 other players (though you can play alone when you want to) to fight through levels, or instances, before reaching a boss. Loot is collected, and experience gained for powering up your character.
With a fascinating mix of science fiction and fantasy elements, Phantasy Star Online was a great addition for the Dreamcast. Today Phantasy Star Online is still remembered fondly by gamers everywhere.
For hacking and slashing fun with friends, we give Phantasy Star Online 5 out of 5.
Like many games, Skies of Arcadia is a Final Fantasy clone, but it does everything – from story, to characters, to exploration, to combat, better than almost any other game.
As a turn-based RPG, you control Vyse, a sky pirate tasked with stopping an evil empire from unleashing ancient weapons of mass destruction. You fly across a 3D world in a skyship revealing new areas, chasing mysteries, finding new continents and areas, discovering treasure and exploring dungeons. Along the way, you fight enemies and gain experience, and eventually save the world.
Sure, it sounds like many other games, but few, if any, games could match Skies of Arcadia for characters you could fall in love with and a story that kept you playing late at night.
For swashbuckling sky ships, we give Skies of Arcadia 5 out of 5.
Yes, this is two games, and yes it was originally supposed to be an installment in the Viruta Fighter series, but Shenmue broke so many barriers in the gaming world it deserves a position at the top of the Best Dreamcast Games list.
In the game, you play Ryo, a martial arts student investigating his father’s murder. After the set-up, Shenmue separates itself from other titles. It offers 3D open world environments that include brawler battles and events. There are elements of RPGs, simulation games where you manipulate NPCs for information, and real-time events like day, night and characters with daily schedules. In the game, shops close, buses follow a schedule, and characters need to eat.
Unfortunately, the game never reached a mass market and the series is still unfinished. For storytelling, combining gameplay elements successfully, and creating an interactive world, Shenmue is a masterpiece. Many still consider it one of the best games ever released.
For hungry NPCs and murder mysteries, we give Shenmue 1 & 2, 5 out of 5.
Buyer’s Guide to the Best Dreamcast Games
While the Sega Dreamcast wasn’t a long-running system with a huge catalog of games, it did offer some of the best and most enduring games on the market. The system pushed boundaries at the time.
If you are looking to purchase ports or remakes of the titles here, keep in mind there are some very bad ports out there. Not every port was able to capture the magic of the Dreamcast original.
For example, Samba De Amigo has several ports, including one for the Wii, but they didn’t add the maracas or offer the same gameplay control as the Dreamcast original. The port suffers for it, even with enhanced graphics.
Take a look at reviews of the port before purchasing to make sure critical gameplay elements are included.
As always, happy gaming!