Out of this world
Numerous excellent games were released for the Sega Saturn, which was supported primarily in the mid-to-late 1990s, including a variety of original Sega classics and several stellar third-party releases. Some of these are coming to Sega Forever, which delivers games from all Sega consoles, for free, on mobile. RPG and fighting game fans, in particular, enjoyed a healthy array of options on Saturn, but other worthy picks no doubt remain. We've rounded up our picks for the 50 top titles released on the Saturn, so it's time to dive into that crawl space and/or peruse the online listings, fire up Sega's 32-bit console, and check out some oft-forgotten favorites...
25. Die Hard Arcade
Guy who vaguely resembles Bruce Willis on the cover? Check. Burning skyscraper behind him? Got it. Game that matches that premise? Well, not so much. Die Hard Arcade really doesn't have much of anything to do with the classic '80s action romp; the game was developed independently from the license in Japan, then the film's name was slapped on for added marketability elsewhere in the world.
Luckily, the phony approach doesn't diminish what proved to be a pretty fun beat-'em-up for two players, wherein you'd work your way through a building while smashing baddies in bunches. And you weren't just relegated to fisticuffs--a wide array of firearms and melee weapons helped amp up the arcade-style action.
24. WipEout 2097
Psygnosis neon-lit futuristic racing series took a cue from F-Zero, but pushed the sci-fi trappings into a glowing vision reminiscent of the rave scene at the time. The Saturn version offers the same deep, hyperspeed racing as the better-known PlayStation iteration, albeit without the roster of electronic artists (Prodigy, Chemical Bros., Fluke, etc) that had brought the original such crossover appeal.
Even without those tunes, the futuristic racing action felt next-gen at the time and still feels pretty ahead of its time now. If you're diving into the Saturn scene these days, you should grab this iteration to see for yourself how well it holds up.
23. Virtua Cop
With 3D technology fast evolving in the 1990s and many coin-op shooters such as Midways Terminator 2 still relying on the same old joystick-disguised-as-a-gun shenanigans pioneered by decrepit arcaders like Operation Wolf, it fell to Sega's Virtua series to provide a long-overdue update on the formula with the revolutionary Virtua Cop.
Besides exacting marksmanship challenges and tests of reflexes, the game's deceptively-nuanced play demonstrated the kind of variety available to contemporary first-person shooters - a lesson not lost on the developers of GoldenEye, who cite this title as a primary influence. The Saturn port allows arcade-perfect play via accessories like the Stunner light gun, or equally challenging keyboard/joypad aiming.
The playfully pint-sized bitmap sprites of Game Arts 2.5D role-playing epic may've looked juvenile next to the fully polygonal likes of Cloud Strife and friends, but this influential original wasn't afraid of comparisons to Square's established blockbuster series; in fact, many such comparisons were favorable, even from western critics officially locked out of Grandia's Japan-only release.
Despite a well-attended petition from fans of Game Arts Lunar series, the Saturn version remained Japan-exclusive, leaving western players to discover the game's immersive charms via widespread importation and later conversion to PlayStation.
21. Steep Slope Sliders
DonPachi developer Cave's trick-racing snowboarding title, released during the first flurry of gamer's enthusiasm for the sport in the late 90s, offers a number of innovations over the standards of the day. The free-form control scheme refuses to tie you into a set roster of tricks, offering greater scope for improvisation and creative play.
The games home version, a close port of Sega's Saturn-derived Titan arcade board, offers real-time weather and course conditions based on the systems own internal clock--presumably meaning that if you had this game and a full-time job, you wondered why an entire snowboarding game had been set during evenings and weekends.
Developed in the height of the Mario 64/Banjo-Kazooie/Conker collect-em-up craze, Star Fox designer Argonaut Software intended this thingamajig-grabbing romp as a Nintendo 64 exclusive, Yoshi-centric spin-off; but when the London outfit's Japanese patrons turned down the favor, Mario's mount was quickly swapped out for a new toothy reptile-creature with less established brand loyalties, and the N64 setting was abandoned in favor of friendlier pastures on the Saturn and PlayStation.
That gave players on Sega and Sonys machines a chance to explore 42 brightly colored levels worth of Argonauts take on the Mushroom Kingdom, earning the company a bestseller of its own in the process.
Read more: The 25 best Dreamcast games of all time
19. Street Fighter Alpha 2
The Sega Saturn built a small legacy off of its ability to serve up smoother-running versions of top 2D fighters, and Street Fighter Alpha 2 is just one of many examples. Alpha 2 built upon the solid foundation of the original 32-bit entry, and the Saturn version of the fighting sequel was easily the best, offering the smoothest visuals, a few bonus characters from the American arcade release (including Evil Ryu), and extra survival and art gallery features.
But regardless of platform, Street Fighter Alpha 2 is a great fighter from the era, serving up technical showdowns with a memorable mix of characters.
18. Shining Force 3
Camelot Software Planning's series of beloved Sega mainstays saw what should have been its finest hour curtailed by overreach, as this three-part mega-sequel came too late in the Saturn's lifespan and never got a complete release outside of Japan. Western players were stuck with the bravura first instalment, God Warrior of the Kingdom, released simply as Shining Force III; the game's scope and invention is both satisfying in itself and a tantalizing glimpse at the massive slice of Shining goodness enjoyed by Japanese players.
Regardless, this is the rich, tactical play you know and love from Genesis-era Shining titles, bumped up with ever-more epic hour-plus battles and enhancements such as the ability to pair two characters stats for a greater XP bonus.
Lobotomy Software's brief run at FPS dominance saw a high point in this internally-developed shooter, running on the SlaveDriver Engine developed to power the company's Saturn ports of Quake and Duke Nukem 3D. The game pits crack Special Forces operatives against ancient Egyptian creatures and deities in an adventure whose development could quite feasibly have preceded Stargate's release in theaters, so give Lobotomy a break on that front.
Exhumed's solid 3D play and inventive nonlinear design saw it converted to other formats such as the PC and PlayStation; but it's the Saturn original which featured the greatest breadth of powers, effects, and cool gameplay innovations.
16. Duke Nukem 3D
The Saturn version of Duke's signature adventure was released as a swansong for Sega's abandoned Deep Water imprint, established in the 90s as the company's Vertigo Comics-style mature content sub-label. That should come as little surprise to scholars of Mr. Nukem's gleefully profane legacy, who can rest assured that this game features all the ass-kicking, gum-lacking, pig-exploding, movie-quote-appropriating fun we've come to demand from 3D Realms irrepressible meathead.
Dig deep enough into this SlaveDriver Engine-powered port and you'll be rewarded with an exclusive bonus level and the second instalment of developer Lobotomy Softwares cult Death Tank series of minigames.