Ah, the Dreamcast. Sega’s final—and perhaps best—foray into the gaming hardware business was hugely innovative, a little misunderstood, and many would say ahead of its time. It boasted impressive technical specs, creative hardware features like the VMU—a memory stick with built in LCD screen—and a a VGA adapter for higher resolution screens. It was also an early pioneer of online gaming and was the first home console with a built-in modem. Many of its features have gone on to shape the way we play console games today.
The Dreamcast beat its rivals the PlayStation 2, GameCube and Xbox on to the market, but after a strong launch it quickly lost ground to the unstoppable marketing power of Sony and its hugely popular PlayStation 2 console. Much like Kurt Cobain or Tupac Shakur, Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast was taken from us before its time. Despite its short lifespan however, the Dreamcast managed to squeeze in a fantastic selection of high quality games into a short period of time. There are way too many great games on the Dreamcast to fit them all into a Top 10 (or even Top 25) list, but here is a small selection of some of the very best standouts. Welcome to our Top 10 Best Dreamcast Games.
10. Space Channel 5
In the current gaming landscape of expensive triple-A franchises, many risk-averse publishers choose safety over innovation. This was certainly not the case on the Dreamcast, which was home to many of Sega’s most daring titles. Space Channel 5 is a prime example of Sega’s focus on creativity and pure fun during this era. Long before the world had grown weary of music and rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Space Channel 5 was an early pioneer of the genre. The game stars Ulala, a mini-skirt wearing news reporter who is tasked with dancing her way through various space-themed stages to rescue hostages from invading aliens—with a Michael Jackson cameo thrown in for good measure. It’s a strange premise to be sure, but somehow, like so many of Sega’s more experimental titles from the period it just worked. Space Channel 5’s bizarre concept was part of its charm, and it combined this with colorful visuals, fun mechanics, a catchy soundtrack, and a good dose of humor for a truly unforgettable gaming experience that was just as fun to watch as it was to play.
9. Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Prior to Resident Evil 4 coming along and mixing up the series formula, Code Veronica is often considered to be the peak of the classic Resident Evil style games. Originally developed by Capcom as a Dreamcast exclusive, the game was able to take full advantage of the systems power and was the first game in the series to feature 3D environments as opposed to the pre-rendered backgrounds that the series was previously known for. Overall Code Veronica was visually stunning and a fantastic showcase for the Dreamcast. Apart from looking great, Code Veronica also featured challenging puzzles, classic Resident Evil game play, and a solid story that saw the return of series favorites Claire and Chris Redfield as they once again sought to uncover the evil plans of the Umbrella Corporation.
8. Metropolis Street Racer
The Project Gotham Racing series was a big hit on Microsoft’s Xbox consoles, but its Dreamcast-exclusive spiritual predecessor Metropolis Street Racer was the title that started it all. The game featured an extensive list of real world vehicles which were complemented by a realistic driving engine. Metropolis Street Racer was a massively ambitious title which recreated parts of Tokyo, London and San Francisco in extreme detail. These games were so accurate in fact, that later in life when traveling I felt somewhat familiar when traveling these cities. Metropolis Street Racer was also notable for introducing the “Kudos” system in which players are rewarded for stylish driving as well as speed. This system has had a great influence on many subsequent racing franchises which have taken a similar approach.
7. Jet Set Radio/Jet Grind Radio
Even more than the fabulous Space Channel 5, Jet Grind Radio represents Sega at its whackiest and most inventive. The ground-breaking cel-shaded art style which the game introduced may have become a fairly common sight since, but at the time it was nothing short of revolutionary. The game’s visual style was complemented by an upbeat, eclectic soundtrack which was so good that no other game prior or since can claim to match it. The game play itself was challenging, exciting, and unique. It involved skating around, collecting spray cans, and tagging the streets of a futuristic Tokyo setting with messages of hope and rebellion against an oppressive government. Even after all these years Jet Grind Radio still feels fresh and very playable today.
6. Crazy Taxi
Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah! Yah! For anyone who has played Crazi Taxi, it will be impossible to think about the game without hearing its classic soundtrack by American punk-rockers The Offspring. And just like The Offspring’s music, Crazi Taxi was fun, fast, and didn’t take itself too seriously. The game shared similarities with other Sega arcade racers like OutRun. It had a bright ‘blue-sky’ color palette, over-the-top drifting, big airs, and featured classic checkpoint-based racing. Where it differentiated itself was its unique premise. In Crazi Taxi, your play a reckless cab driver whose only goal is to pick up and drop off fares as fast as possible. Road rules and common sense be damned! There were a number of fun mini-games and other content, but it was the addictive time-based racing that kept players coming back for more.
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