In case you weren't paying attention in 1999, the situation for the Dreamcast wasn't ideal. Coming off of the disastrous Saturn boondoggle, the Dreamcast seemed like a beacon of hope--Sega's preemptive strike on the next generation, with gloriously crisp-looking graphics and a bevy of exciting early releases. And it was great, with the console playing host to some of Sega's most creative games of all time, not to mention stellar third-party exclusives. Our list of the best Dreamcast games includes puzzle games, fighters, RPGs, sports, racing, rhythm, and typing (yes, typing). The Dreamcast was a glorious buffet of gaming excellence.
Yet, while the games were fantastic, the Dreamcast itself didn't catch on as quickly as Sega needed, and the release of the PlayStation 2 sapped a lot of momentum from the little white console. Sega pulled the plug on active Dreamcast support in March 2001, with the last officially licensed games coming out within a year's time. Our time with the console was all too brief, but it's still home to some fantastic experiences. Here are the best Dreamcast games of all time.
25. Sega Bass Fishing
The Dreamcast’s lifespan proved to be unfeasibly fruitful for fans of weird games about fish, which might sound like the sort of thing people just say to be funny, if not for the fact that this was a major international gaming console for which a complicated “fishing rod” peripheral was widely available, so yes, really.
And you can’t (or shouldn’t) talk about the Dreamcast without talking about this lovingly realized simulation of high-tech Old Uncle sports. A succession of tournaments offer plenty of variety in the places you’ll go in your search for the ultimate catch. Video game fishing usually boils down to dropping a lure and reeling in patiently enough to not break the line, but Sega Bass Fishing required a surprising amount of skill and savvy to conquer. Fish on!
24. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was immediately revolutionary upon its 1999 release, simulating skateboarding in full 3D with a trick-based score system that rewarded dexterity and daring in equal measures. But it’s this sequel, released just a year later by Activision/Neversoft, that is commonly regarded as the series’ high point. Indeed, THPS2 can be found near the top end of many best-game-ever lists.
What makes this one so special? The original’s varied, trick-centric gameplay sees an overhaul here with a greater breadth of moves, areas, and characters, as well as a comprehensive skater-creator mode. The levels are naturalistic and the tricks based on reality--much more so than the subsequent ever-more-crazy sequels--meaning this game actually inspired people to take up real skateboarding. True fact.
23. The Typing of the Dead
Of all the totally out-there ideas that amazingly became Dreamcast games, The Typing of the Dead is easily the most laughable--and as such, one of the most spectacular of them all. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to convert The House of the Dead 2--an excellent light gun game, it must be said--into a game where you kill zombies by speedily typing in words or phrases, but the reality is pure genius.
Mixing educational gameplay with tongue-in-cheek sights and sounds (like special agents with keyboards strapped in front of them), you'll pound out letters to stay alive in an undead-infested city and have a blast doing it. Who said edutainment is no fun?
22. Space Channel 5
The Dreamcast is home to some of Sega's most daring and beloved franchise attempts, and Space Channel 5 is an absolutely prime example. Starring a galactic TV reporter named Ulala, you'll dance through colorful space stations in an effort to defeat aliens and rescue hostages. It really is as bizarre as it sounds, but that's a large part of its appeal--the game even features a cameo from Michael Jackson, who holds a larger part in sequel Space Channel 5: Part 2.
Like many of the games created by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (of Rez fame), it's a one-of-a-kind affair (well, OK, two) with stellar mechanics, colorful aesthetics, and a soul all its own. Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!
21. Grandia 2
Grandia 2 was hailed as a champ upon its initial Dreamcast release in 2000, serving up one of the top single-player RPG experiences on the platform. Building off of the success of the Saturn and PSOne original, the sequel featured a turn-based system that let you move around a bit during battle, while the fantastic visuals and presentation made good use of the system's hardware.
By the time inferior ports were released for PlayStation 2 and PC, it had been greatly overshadowed by Final Fantasy X and other cinematic genre heavyweights. But for Dreamcast diehards, it was one of the best games of its kind and a great experience on its own merits.
20. Power Stone 2
One of the saddest omissions from Capcom's post-Dreamcast repertoire is the Power Stone franchise, which took the fighting genre in a fresh direction with true 3D environments. Like the original, Power Stone 2 is an absolute gem of a multiplayer experience, but it ups the player count from two to four. Cue carnage.
With a colorful, cartoonish aesthetic and highly distinct fighters (including a small boy named Pete... for no obvious reason), each match proves a whirlwind of fists, feet, and found items. It also adds environmental hazards to the mix, like a frantic dash away from a giant rolling stone ball and a rising fire, not to mention massive bosses. Both titles were ported to PSP, but a true revival is long, long overdue.
19. Chu Chu Rocket
Much like the name on the front of the box, ChuChu Rocket! is absolutely beguiling at first glance. Hailing from Sonic Team, the comical puzzler features simplistic art design, but it's put to good use in an approach best described as 'controlled chaos'. The goal in each stage is to guide a mess of blue and white space mice to your rocket, but with holes and hazards (like dawdling orange cats), you'll need to drop navigational arrows on the board to guide your minions to safety.
It's an absolutely bonkers four-player experience, with scads of arrows and mice scattered about the screen, and it was also the first online Dreamcast game, giving it an extra-special place in history.
18. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
While essentially an enhanced port of a six-month-old PlayStation game, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver made a strong impact on Dreamcast gamers, thanks to hugely improved visuals found on top of the same fantastic original release. Swapping between spectral and material versions of the game world, you'll guide Raziel--a badass wraith--through a hack-and-slash quest to take down the titular Kain.
Soul Reaver is considered one of the best original adventures of its time, despite its abrupt ending, and the Dreamcast release stands tall thanks to the added horsepower helping the gothic world of Nosgoth come to life in an impressive manner.
17. NFL 2K
Visual Concepts' NFL 2K series helped push video game football toward a more modern, broadcast-style approach while also holding its own against Madden--and NFL 2K2 was its Dreamcast swan song before expanding to other platforms. Annual sports iterations tend not to age well, true, but when it launched, 2K2 felt like a tremendous recreation of the sport.
Excellent player models and animations help anchor the action in reality, while the improved running game is noticeable, and the franchise and online play options offered plenty of lingering depth. It's testament to the game's quality that it still looks and feels so solid. At the time, it was nothing short of revolutionary.
16. NBA 2K
With Electronic Arts’ NBA Live series enjoying unchallenged supremacy in the field of virtual hoops for some time, Sega’s challenger--developed by 2K mainstay Visual Concepts--had a lot to prove. How’d it go? Well, put it this way, there’s been a new NBA title from the studio every year since.
Full 1999-2000 rosters are present in this unparalleled effort at realistic, fast-action full-court play, which offers a range of play modes as well as an inventive player editor to put the “Face in the Game” feature debuted by EA in the same year to shame. Player AI is sharp enough to reward single-player marathons, and while later entries in the series would add crucial features such as online play, the original NBA 2K still looks and feels just like basketball. And the commentary is astonishing. No other Dreamcast game is as technically impressive as this. No wonder the series is so good now.
15. Dead or Alive 2
Crafted by Team Ninja, Dead or Alive's first sequel used separate graphics engines for its fighting and cut-scenes, allowing for unprecedented graphical fidelity. The Dreamcast's technical chops allow for a wildly ambitious sequel, which adds tag-team fighting and multi-tiered stages, complete with cinematic transition animations as fighters smash through stained glass windows and fall into courtyards below, where they stand up and continue the fight. Amazing.
14. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Code: Veronica was a daring move for the Resident Evil franchise, finally debuting a core series entry on a platform other than the PlayStation, but it panned out spectacularly as the advanced hardware emboldened the survival horror affair. Splitting the quest between Claire and Chris Redfield, the adventure maintained many of the core elements of the beloved franchise while ditching the pre-rendered backdrops of past games for a more cohesive, real-time 3D aesthetic.
The game did eventually make it to a PlayStation platform as Code: Veronica X for PS2, but Dreamcast series fans got a huge head start on this excellent entry back in 2000. It's aged very well too, so if you miss 'old Resi' and haven't played this, you're in for a treat.
As with its spiritual predecessor Radiant Silvergun on Saturn, Ikaruga became the default much-loved, totally-impossible-to-obtain shoot-'em-up for Dreamcast--and it was only released on the console in Japan (a GameCube version came out worldwide).
What makes Ikaruga such a defining genre entry is its unique focus on bullet polarity, in which you need to swap weapons to take out certain enemies, while risking your own tail in the process. It's a beautiful shooter, and thankfully, due to an HD remake on Xbox Live Arcade, more and more people can experience it at a reasonable price. But it's still worth seeking out on Dreamcast to see what the console can do in Treasure's incredibly capable hands.
12. Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike
Throw a stone and you’ll hit a home conversion of Street Fighter II, but the epochal fighter’s sequel mainly stuck to the arcades--except for two Dreamcast conversions, of which this is by far the better pick. As well as the full roster of SF3’s 10 characters (eight of them new to the series) and the new entrants added for the 2nd Impact installment, 3rd Strike adds five new characters including fan-favorite Chun-Li, bringing the initial playable total to 19 (villain Gill is also unlockable).
The title also features new gameplay modes and remixed versions of each character’s theme on top of the original tracks, making it a holy grail for Street Fighter completists. It's true that it isn't as well known as its predecessor or its successor (some people actually asked 'there was a SFIII?' when SFIV was announced), but in terms of hardcore, technical fighting, this is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the series and demands your full attention.
11. Phantasy Star Online
What began as a traditional JRPG on the Master System and Genesis was radically transformed into Phantasy Star Online, which itself proved a pioneer in bringing online adventuring to consoles. While playable solo, Phantasy Star Online really comes alive when you pair up with three online pals, empowering teams to conquer common foes and massive bosses in search of loot and improved levels and gear.
Though limited compared to traditional PC MMOs, PSO opened up online gaming on consoles to a much wider audience thanks to its automatic language translation of set phrases to anyone in your party regardless of language spoken, and its accessible hack-and-slash combat and still-gorgeous visuals make it hugely appealing. .
While Space Channel 5 explores a sillier side of Tetsuya Mizuguchi's rhythm-gaming genius, Rez delves into much trippier territory, with a music game that blends Panzer Dragoon-esque shooting with thumping electronic beats and wireframe visuals. By creating sounds via actions that build the music tracks in the game, Rez attempts to simulate the sensation of synesthesia.
Sadly, the Dreamcast version of Rez never reached the States (though it did hit Europe), but we've been lucky enough to experience it on PlayStation 2 and Xbox Live Arcade since.
9. Daytona USA 2001
It’s testament to Sega AM2’s standard-setting work on Daytona USA that the game stubbornly refused to leave arcades in the years following its release--and despite the unveiling of innumerable competitors and Sega’s own sequel, somehow the 1993 original never managed to look dated. This Dreamcast version slaps a fresh sheen on the timeless favorite, offering a host of customization options and some new courses that make the most of the Dreamcast's technical grunt with some impressively large draw-distances.
There are also loads of new vehicles to unlock, including one called the Pywacket Barchetta. The less said about that one, the better. Still, occasional madness aside, this is the best Daytona USA game that isn't the HD remake of the arcade original.
8. Quake 3 Arena
In 2000, first-person gaming had progressed from the claustrophobic hellscapes of Doom and Quake into multiplayer tournament play to test the limits of LAN play and the burgeoning Internet. Quake III Arena spearheaded the drive toward FPS gaming as a hyper-violent cybersport, and the Dreamcast version quickly gained a reputation as one of the most solid computer ports ever to hit consoles.
Boasting fast, smooth play--crucially even during pitched matchups--and an easily accessible online mode, the Dreamcast version of Quake III is the one that many superfans remember most fondly. Such is the game’s continuing popularity that fan-servers continue to cater to ongoing public demand.
7. Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia is a single-player RPG in which skyfaring pirates do battle in floating ships, and your 17-year-old hero, Vyse--armed with dual cutlasses--is a uniquely positive protagonist in a genre full of mopey leads.
The battles prove impressive both on the ground and in the air against other ships and monstrous beasts, making for a long and satisfying quest that pops on every level. A lightly revised port came to GameCube a bit later on, while the leads made cameos in Valkyria Chronicles for PS3, but otherwise this series sits sadly dormant, aside from getting its own themed track in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.
Originally in development for the Sega Saturn, Shenmue was thankfully held over for the Dreamcast, giving the platform one hugely epic exclusive. Set in Yokosuka, Japan in the 1980s, Shenmue tells the story of Ryo Hazuki, a young man who sees his father killed by a mysterious warrior.
That event kicks off a lengthy and deliberate tale of revenge across the open-world setting, with the adventure filled with hand-to-hand fights, quick-time events, and plenty of time spent gathering clues as you explore the environments. The immersive world design makes it a difficult game to put down, but while a sequel was released on Dreamcast and Xbox (only the latter reached the States), a true ending to the series remains, for now, unresolved.
5. Virtua Tennis
We have Virtua Tennis to thank for finally making the ball-lobbing sport viable as a fun and accessible video game. What this pioneering entry did that previous tennis titles couldn't was make it not only easy to hop in and take a swing, but also make it an absolute blast, whether playing solo or with/against a friend.
Intuitive controls offer simply ground shots or lobbed shots, providing advanced control for those who seek it through court positioning and charged angles instead of offering separate buttons that would needlessly complicate the formula.
The minigames are just as enjoyable as the main game itself, offering silly challenges with bowling pins and targets to hit as you level up your character in order to progress through a World Tour. It's that pure arcade essence that makes the original Virtua Tennis such a wonderful game and although its first sequel is also on Dreamcast and just as appealing, nothing can match the purity of this first iteration.
4. Marvel vs Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
Despite its short shelf life, the Dreamcast, like the Saturn before it, became known as the best home for certain arcade fighting games, including the original Marvel vs. Capcom (which was butchered on PlayStation) and its sequel, which was less-expertly ported to other systems further down the line.
On Dreamcast, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 maintains every inch of chaos from the arcade release, with 56 fighters available for you to create three-person squads for hectic tag-team showdowns. The fantastic 2D animations and rock-solid frame-rate look superb on Sega's console, and have aged wonderfully. Power it up now and it still feels new, fresh and just as spectacular as ever. HULK SMASH!
3. Jet Grind Radio/Jet Set Radio
Another wildly innovative Dreamcast original, Jet Grind Radio (that's Jet Set Radio outside of the States) stars a young gang of rollerblading graffiti artists who fight to express themselves in the police state of Tokyo-to. Blading around the three areas of the city, you'll spray paint tags all over buses and walls while evading the cops, all as a fantastically diverse soundtrack blares in the backdrop.
Jet Grind Radio is perhaps best known for popularizing cel-shaded visuals, but the game earned (and still deserves) love for more than just looking good. It's probably the coolest game ever made. Pleasantly, there is now an excellent HD conversion on most consoles, which adds in second-stick camera control, but the Dreamcast original is a riot on its home platform and needs to be sampled as it was originally intended to be played.
2. Crazy Taxi
This very nearly topped our list, so consider this a very close runner-up to the winner. Crazy Taxi gives you a simple goal: Use the limited time available to transport as many passengers as possible across the city, picking up time bonuses for speedy trips.
And so begins a chaotic spin through crowded streets and impromptu shortcuts, wherein you'll rock out to The Offspring and Bad Religion while chauffeuring screaming passengers to Pizza Hut. Thanks to its deceptively deep control scheme and high-score replayability, it's still a vibrant and exciting play experience today, many years after its iconic Tower Records storefronts faded to the wind.
It's hard to imagine a fighting game today making the kind of impact of Soulcalibur, but Namco's Dreamcast launch title was boldly revolutionary, completely raising the bar for how a 3D console fighter could look and play. On the surface, the game remains remarkably polished, with hugely enhanced visuals over the arcade release that remain among the best in Dreamcast's library.
But as the visual impact begins to fade with time (though not much, it has to be said) the weapons-based combat remains exemplary, striking a remarkable balance between accessibility and depth. The lengthy mission mode remains a perfect example of how to augment a quick-play arcade game for weeks of home console play sessions. But even without that, the standard one-on-one versus game would still top our list. The 8-way run, ultra-precise parrying system and sheer wealth of useful and beautiful fight moves make Soulcalibur one of the best fighting games of all time. And it's the absolute best Dreamcast game, period. The legend will never die.