Released towards the end of the 1990s, the Dreamcast was Sega’s last hurrah in the home console market. While it had a very successful American launch on Sept 9, 1999, it was unable to maintain its momentum due to numerous factors such as Sega’s reputation due to the failure of the Saturn in the US, and the upcoming PlayStation 2, which would feature backward compatibility with PS1 games and DVD playback. While the Dreamcast was not the all-purpose entertainment machine that the PlayStation 2 would be, it does not negate the fact that it did have some really groundbreaking games, some of which would even hold up to this very day.
While the Dreamcast was discontinued around 2001 in the US, it still had a pretty good lifespan in Japan until the mid-2000s and some independent gaming companies still develop and release games for the console. Some of these games include Pier Solar, Sturmwind, and Elysian Shadows. But what were some of its best games during its prime? Read our list to find out!
10. Resident Evil – Code: Veronica (Biohazard – Code: Veronica)
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: Feb 3, 2000 (JP), Feb 29 (2000)
This game takes place after the events of Resident Evil 2. Claire is off to find her brother Chris but finds herself on a zombie infested research facility in the Southern Ocean. For those familiar with the old school Resident Evil games, Code Veronica largely plays the same way. What makes it scary is its gothic setting, darker lighting, and fog for more unpredictability.
This is the game that also perfectly utilizes how to get around obstacles such as fire, by covering them with crates. Other traditional items are medical sprays and herbs, the menu screen layout, and the cheesy voice acting. Plus, the CG action scenes offer some awesome sequences for dramatic purposes. So if you want something old school, a little scary and fun with the right environment, then Code Veronica is something you may like.
9. Crazy Taxi
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Hitmaker
- Release Date: Jan 24, 2000 (US), Jan 27, 2000 (JP)
This time period was also an era when driving games beyond the racing genre were gaining traction such as Grand Theft Auto and Driver. For Crazy Taxi, players have the opportunity to play the role as a taxi driver and as the title says, you are free to go crazy by breaking every traffic rule there is! The game is easy to play since there will be an arrow to guide you to your destination. Some destinations include real life stores such as Pizza Hut, KFC, Tower Records, and a Levi store.
For every trick you can pull off, whether it would be dodging traffic by the teeth or going up a ramp, you can get some extra money! And the best part of this game, you don’t have to worry about the cops! But if you don’t take your customers to their destination on time, they will get off and you will get no money! Last, we promise that 90s kids will also dig the soundtrack with tunes provided by popular bands such as Offspring, which is in tune with the anti-establishment nature of this game.
8. Skies of Arcadia (Eternal Arcadia)
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Overworks
- Release Date: Oct 5, 2000 (JP), Nov 12, 2000 (US)
While Dreamcast wasn’t known as a JRPG console, it doesn’t mean it had its own outstanding contributions. In this game, you play the role of Vyse, a young space pirate who must stop the Valuan Empire from taking over the world. While this game does play like your typical JRPG, its cast of likable characters, unique sky world, and some unique battles does make it distinct in comparison to the likes of more popular RPGs such as Final Fantasy. In addition to your traditional RPG battles, there will also be battles when you use Vyse’s airship and in certain turns, you can use its super weapon. Unfortunately, if you don’t want to have frequent random battles, this may not be the game for you but it’s also a good opportunity to level up.
While most RPGs give you a reference map of the world once you can explore it, Skies of Arcadia is about creating the map as you explore, which brings a fresh set of challenges. While the game was largely received by its fans and the media, it did not make a profit and any potential future installment has been put on the back burner. So if you love old school JRPGs and raiding the skies, then we recommend this game.
7. Jet Grind Radio (Jet Set Radio)
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Smilebit
- Release Date: Jun 29, 2000 (JP), Oct 30, 2000 (US)
While games like Grand Theft Auto allow players to explore the city as a hardened criminal through any means necessary, Jet Set Radio takes a step back and allows the players to skate around the city on roller blades and tag certain areas with spray paint. Try to think of the old school Tony Hawk games on the original PlayStation but instead of a skate park, you have a whole city as your playground. Not only is it about graffiti, it is also about the various tricks and flips you can do while skating to your destination. Not only do you have to out do other rival graffiti gangs, you also have to evade authorities that go as far as chasing you with state of the art military equipment. It seems extreme but it gives players a sense of wanting to express a form of teenage rebellion through this game.
While cel-shaded games are not so uncommon in today’s gaming world, the original Jet Set Radio is one of the first games to introduce this unique graphic style by having a mix feel of 2D and 3D and allows a fluid frame rate that compliments the pace and style of the game. The game is also known for its catchy and upbeat soundtrack that relaxes the player and assists them in having a good time.
6. Phantasy Star Online
- Publisher: SEGA
- Developer: Sonic Team
- Release Date: Dec 21, 2000 (JP), Jan 29, 2001 (US)
Maybe online console RPGs were inevitable but even so, Sega was one of the first to accomplish this with the first Phantasy Star Online, which make use of the Dreamcast’s Internet capabilities. Taking inspiration from their Phantasy Star series from the Genesis, Phantasy Star Online allows you to play online and form parties to accomplish the missions you are tasked with, or you can go solo. When you start out, you can choose to be a Hunter (for close range combat with short blades), Ranger (gun users), or Force (magic users).
While talking by mic wouldn’t be the norm for a while, Phantasy Star Online uses Symbol Chat as a means to communicate with players around the world regardless of language. If you had the keyboard, you can just type what you wanted to say. Other than that, it’s more or less like other modern day MMOs but this is the OG of the genre. Like the original games, it is a good mix of intergalactic sci-fi and fantasy. And thankfully, this game does have an offline mode for you to play. Last, this game still has some private servers still set up by passionate fans of the game.
- Publisher: Namco
- Developer: Project Soul
- Release Date: Aug 5, 1999 (JP), Sept 9, 1999 (US)
While Namco has been Sega’s rival by releasing its Tekken series for the PlayStation consoles, they made an exception and released a Dreamcast port to the Dreamcast as a launch title in the US. SoulCalibur distinct itself from other 3D fighters by being based on weapons and taking place in a time of old school warriors. You can have a knight with a claymore sword, a samurai with a katana, a Kung Fu fighter with nunchucks like Bruce Lee, a freak with Freddy Kruger-like claws, and a dominatrix-like fighter with a whip. SoulCalibur was also one of the first 3D fighters to allow full eight-way movement so just like an actual boxer and or MMA fighter, you need to circle away from your opponent’s weapon for defense and to get your weapon in range for the attack.
It was also one of the first console games where its graphics exceeded that of its original arcade release. While the original arcade release of SoulCalibur was based on PS1 hardware, SoulCalibur has perfectly smooth graphics, an amazing frame rate, a kick ass soundtrack and has an awesome combo and grappling system like Tekken’s. But unlike Tekken, you can knock your opponent out of the ring like in Virtua Fighter. The game is very easy to pick up for just about anybody so whenever you get together for a party and want a fighting game to play, this is it for you.
4. Sonic Adventure
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sonic Team
- Release Date: Dec 23, 1998 (JP), Sept 9, 1999 (US)
Of course, you cannot have a Sega console without a Sonic title and we have Sonic Adventure for that. With Sonic Adventure, you play the stories of Sonic, Tails, Amy, Knuckles, Big the Cat, and Gamma. Each character offers not only their own story that intertwines with the rest of the cast, but each has their own abilities that distinguish themselves from each other. Sonic still runs fast and can jump high with the right momentum. Knuckles can slowly glide and dig holes into the ground to find shards of the Master Emerald.
The layout and gameplay with Sonic and Knuckles are pretty consistent with the original Sonic games for the Genesis, but with an appropriate 3D presentation and some novel cinematics such as the killer whale chase in Sonic’s first level. Even for players who never tried the original Sonic games, they can easily get into this. But with original characters like Big, he has a fishing game that can be hit or miss for players.
In addition, this was one of the first Sonic games to have full-fledged voice acting and many hardcore fans loved Brian Drummond in the role of Sonic to the point that many protested he wasn’t cast in the dub of the Sonic X anime. Last, we can also promise that you will love the soundtrack to this game with image songs that perfectly match each main character.
3. Dead or Alive 2
- Publisher: Tecmo
- Developer: Team Ninja
- Release Date: Feb 29, 2000 (US), Sept 28, 2000 (JP)
While Dead or Alive today is a multi-media hit with its Xtreme series, its second release was still in its infancy as a powerhouse fighting game franchise. If you have played the present releases of Dead or Alive, this game is pretty much the same but was the first to introduce some of its present elements such as multi-layer staging. It also features its traditional juggling combos and for you perverts, yes, there are bouncing breasts featured in a console that is nearly 20 years old.
Like all installments of DoA, it's easy to pick up for beginners but takes time to master for the dedicated player. The action is pretty explosive and dramatic. It still maintains its unique balance of grappling and striking in conjunction to its fast pace. So if you want to see the birth of the Dead or Alive series to how it is today, then Dead or Alive 2 for Dreamcast is where you want to start.
2. Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: Mar 30, 2000 (JP), Jun 29, 2000 (US)
If there is one game that is considered the best 2D fighter of all time, it would certainly be Marvel vs. Capcom 2. The Dreamcast controller as a whole may have been subjected to controversy for fighters that are six button oriented, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is basically four button and works well with the controller. If that isn’t your thing, you can also get the arcade controller if you prefer that.
While the versus series prior to MvC2 was strictly 2 vs 2, it was the first to introduce 3 vs 3 and featured a strong roster for fighting games at the time. While this game featured some returning characters such as Wolverine and Ryu, the game also introduces Servbot from Megaman Legends, Jill Valentine from Resident Evil, and Cable and Marrow from the X-titles. It introduces new hyper combos, 3D backgrounds, a catchy soundtrack, and easy controls. The game was easy for both newbies and veterans of 2D fighters alike. Plus, you can have triple team supers for triple the damage! So depending on your team, you can find out on your best combos.
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sega AM2
- Release Date: Dec 29, 1999 (JP) Nov 8, 2000 (US)
Last, we cannot deny Shenmue. Not only is it the legacy of the Dreamcast, but the legacy of its creator, Yu Suzuki, also famous for his arcade hits such as Hang On, After Burner, Space Harrier, and Virtua Fighter. What makes this game one of the greatest could be its own article. For the longest time, Suzuki wanted to make an RPG and Shenmue was initially intended as a Virtua Fighter RPG. As development progressed, Shenmue became its own distinct game but still maintaining its influences from Virtua Fighter by having its combat system as a beat ‘em version of Virtua Fighter.
In addition, players can learn other techniques from other NPCs and they will demonstrate and explain the technique. When the player has the opportunity to practice it, they must “translate” the instructions as a control mechanism. If in the event you have trouble, the controls would appear on your VMS.
Beyond its martial arts story, it’s the ultimate simulation of suburban Japan in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo. While it is considered the first open world game, Yu Suzuki conceived the game as a new genre known as FREE, short for Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment. You could explore every aspect of Ryo’s home and dojo. It was rich in detail. In addition, you eventually get a job as a forklift operator at the docks and when you have free time, you can even play at the arcade with games such as Space Harrier and Hang On. While the English dub has been subject to ridicule, Suzuki admitted to liking it.
Thankfully, Corey Marshall and Masaya Matsukaze are confirmed to resume the role of Ryo for Shenmue III. Will the third game live up to the hype and its legacy? We have to wait and find out.
Putting aside its premature end, Dreamcast still has its own distinct legacy to gaming that cannot be denied. Along with what we shared on this list, we would like to make some shoutouts to Power Stone 2, Last Blade 2, Space Channel 5, NFL2K, and Quake III. Thankfully, these games have not been forgotten by the loyal fans who continue to support it to this day.
As for those that never got a Dreamcast, they can either purchase the consoles and get these games, or they can get re-releases through the online stores of present day consoles. But nothing beats the novelty of playing a game on its original console. While Sega couldn’t maintain its success in the console market, nobody can deny that it has given the world some awesome games with the Dreamcast.