If any gaming console could be classified as a cult classic, it would certainly have to be the Dreamcast, Sega’s final gaming console, or as some would like to call it, the Tupac of video games. Despite being discontinued in the US in 2002, it still had an active lifespan in Japan until 2007. As of recent, there are some independent developers that still create and release games for it to this very day. Despite its criminally short production, it has a library of memorable games that many of its fans still enjoy to this day. As for this respective list, we would like to explore what games on the Dreamcast had the best soundtracks so read our list to find out!
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: UGA
- Release Date: Nov 22, 2001 (Japan)
While the game became popular as a PS2 release, it was originally a Dreamcast game in Japan. If you have ever seen Tron Legacy, this game was doing whatever that movie did long before it premiered in theaters. While the beats are not as heavy as Daft Punk’s tracks, you’re still getting heavy electronic instrumentals, which were popular in Europe and Japan in the late-90s and early-2000s. Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the lead designer to this game, got the idea for Rez after attending a rave in Germany and also wanted to do something akin to Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings, which were inspired by sound.
Throughout the development, Mizuguchi would attend all kinds of music events around trendy Tokyo districts such as Shibuya for more inspiration. Considering the timing when this game came out, it is very much reminiscent of then-popular dance tracks such as Sandstorm by Darude, but still has a unique timeless feel to it that perfectly sucks you into its digital world.
9. Phantasy Star Online
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Sonic Team
- Release Date: Dec 21, 2000 (Japan), Jan 29, 2001 (US)
While Sega has some other notable RPG titles such as Valkyria Chronicles and Sakura Taisen, the Phantasy Star series is probably their most recognizable franchise in that respective genre on an international scale. While the first four games were a cult hit on the Master System and the Genesis, the franchise made a huge comeback on the Dreamcast as being one of the first online RPGs on a home console. And what does every top-notch RPG need? A solid soundtrack! Its serene opening theme does an excellent job of welcoming you in as it grasps your curiosity of the world that awaits your full exploration.
Considering that Phantasy Star has always been a masterful mix of fantasy and sci-fi, its soundtrack does an excellent job of capturing those two unique qualities. There are some songs that are more in-tune with nature by utilizing tribal instrumentals, and there are others that feel like you’re in outer space with synthesized chord progressions. The music knows when to be intense and it knows when to be calm, so as you enjoy this game on private servers with its cult fanbase, be sure to take a hard listen to its awesome soundtrack.
8. Soul Calibur
- Publisher: Namco
- Developer: Namco
- Release Date: Aug 8, 1999 (Japan), Sept 9, 1999 (US)
In addition to being the second game ever to get a perfect 40 in Famitsu (and this was when getting a perfect 40 in Famitsu was next to impossible), the Dreamcast release of Soul Calibur offers one of the most authentic soundtracks you can get from a fantasy fighting game. It is very epic, grand, and powerful no matter what part of the game you are in. Even the character selection BGM knows how to build up the anticipation of how exciting this game is.
While much of the songs are very grand, some character themes such as Taki’s are culturally appropriate to her with the inclusion of traditional Japanese wood clicking percussions. With other characters such as Siegfried, the major chord progressions in his theme song perfectly set him up as heroic. Overall, the soundtrack does an excellent job of presenting to players that you are on this big quest for self-discovery and to save the world in the middle of the 16th century, and much of its instrumentals and composition perfectly captures that spirit.
7. F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa
- Publisher: Sega (Japan), Acclaim (US)
- Developer: Sega
- Release Date: Aug 3, 2000 (Japan), Sept 19, 2000 (US)
We all want to buy a Ferrari but unless you’re Bill Gates or Yu Suzuki, you aren’t going to afford one at $50,000,000. But don’t worry, you can drive a digital one for less than $50 on the Sega Dreamcast through F355 Challenge! As you enjoy driving through your standard Dreamcast controller or through a steering wheel controller, you can listen to some rockin’ music. In addition to Suzuki’s love for Ferrari’s cars, he’s a huge rock fan and was in a garage band in his youth.
During his brief period as an amateur rock musician, much of their inspirations came from Van Halen, one of the best bands of all time. Much of the guitar riffs obviously take influence from Eddie Van Halen, who Rolling Stone magazine considers the best guitar player in history. As you cruise through the tracks leaving the competition eating your dust, you probably want to bob your head until your neck snaps as you enjoy the metal this game has to offer.
6. Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: Mar 30, 2000 (Japan), Jun 29, 2000 (US)
Even after 18 years, Marvel Vs. Capcom 2 is still loved and played by hardcore fighting gaming enthusiasts. Beyond its large roster of selectable characters and introducing 3 vs. 3, it is also iconic for its jazzy soundtrack. While its jazz isn’t as heavy as Cowboy Bebop’s, it’s still enough to get you excited with anticipation as you choose your team on the select screen. While the lyrics of I Wanna Take You For a Ride are repeated over and over, for some reason, it just doesn’t get old. Could it be its instruments? The fat beats? That’s really hard to answer, but fans just love it.
Another song that stands out to many fans is the theme song of the clock tower stage. Its arrangement is the ultimate track in letting fans subliminally know that this game is all about fun and you should just have a good time while playing. There’s no story to follow and the soundtrack just allows you to enjoy that the nature of this game is truly quirky by having Mega Man and Iron Man fight each other, or team up. But all you just got to do is pick up the controller, have fun, and listen to some jazz to spice things up.
5. Space Channel 5
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: UGA
- Release Date: Dec 16, 1999 (Japan), June 4, 2000 (US)
Another Dreamcast original staple and product of its time is Space Channel 5. After Busta Groove and Parappa became cult hits on the PS1 and with Dance Dance Revolution briefly revitalizing the arcade scene, Sega entered the music genre with its own rhythm-and-dance game, Space Channel 5. If you have played Busta Groove or Parappa the Rapper, Space Channel 5 plays like them but uses verbal commands but doesn’t include visual prompts to get into the rhythm. Due to the novelty of this game, it is only natural that it has a fitting soundtrack to want to let you get up and dance.
Despite taking place in outer space in the distant future, the soundtrack contains heavy influences of 1960s upbeat dance tracks, and it knows when to up the tempo as the game advances. In between out dancing aliens, it perfectly knows when to slide in a victory fanfare such as the trumpets to Ken Woodman’s Mexican Flyer to let you know how groovy this game is.
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Team AM2
- Release Date: Dec 29, 1999 (Japan), Nov 7, 2000 (US)
Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue is probably one of the biggest cult hits in the history of gaming. In addition to paving way for the modern open world game, one of the qualities that Shenmue gets props for from critics and dedicated fans alike is how it accurately represents Japan and China to the point you feel like you’re there. One notable extension of that quality is reflected in its soundtrack. A good portion of it uses an excellent mix of traditional and modern music that emphasize its Eastern setting.
Many fans love this quality because it brings a true sense of authenticity and despite taking place in the mid-1980s, it has a timeless feel to it. In addition to the more cultural centric background tracks, it knows when to use late-1990s style J-pop and 80s style rock to set the mood. One notable song that fans can agree on is the input of Wish, a J-pop song akin to Hikaru Utada’s singing style when Ryo takes Nozomi home on his buddy’s motorcycle to set a more romantic mood. Another song fans also enjoy is Joy’s theme song with its heavy guitar riffs and the opening screams and the lyrics of you’ll never meet any woman the likes of her to let you know that is who Joy is. So if you really want something genuine with not just music but to a game as a whole, Shenmue is certainly it.
3. Sonic Adventure
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Team Sonic
- Release Date: Dec 23, 1998 (Japan), Sept 9, 1999 (US)
In addition to being one of Sega’s biggest franchises, Sonic has always had a reputation for addicting soundtracks even prior to the release of its Dreamcast debut. However, Sonic Adventure takes that trait to the next level by serving all kinds of new tracks that are still in touch with the spirit of the series. Each playable character has their own unique theme song that is appropriate to each of them. I Wanna Fly High, Tails’ theme song, perfectly represents his personal admiration for Sonic and how he also wants to be independent. As for Sonic’s theme, It Doesn’t Matter by Blue Crush 40, it has heavy guitar riffs and the chorus appropriately suits Sonic’s character by talking about never giving up and living life on your own terms.
Beyond its standout character theme songs, the general background music is still connected to Sonic’s upbeat and fast-paced origins and nature. The station area has an upbeat elevator tune-like track to help you enjoy the area and how it’s fun and safe. And after Sonic enters his first stage along a beach resort, the chimes and acoustics of its stage theme allow you to feel the nature and freedom of how open Sonic has become from its 2D origins. Then when you enter the forest stage, it has an appropriate feel of mystique with its tribal instrumentals. Even though the soundtrack is always in your face, it has everything you can think of, which is why the game is so much fun.
2. Crazy Taxi
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Hitmaker
- Release Date: Jan 24, 2000 (US), Jan 27, 2000 (Japan)
For this classic arcade port, Crazy Taxi truly lives up to its name as you violate nearly every traffic rule you can think as you take your customers from a local KFC to a Tower Records (remember those?) just a few miles away. In relation to its modern San Francisco feel, casual clothing of the drivers, and the overall anti-establishment atmosphere is a soundtrack that brings it full circle. The song that captures the spirit of Crazy Taxi is All I Want by Offspring. The heavy guitars, fast drum beats, and bombastic voice of Dexter Holland all perfectly reflect the devil may care attitude of the game of just wanting to say “screw the system,” and just have fun.
In addition to the Offspring, Bad Religion also contributes a harder feel with Ten in 2010 with its more aggressive overtones and take no prisoners attitude. While some of these songs are understandably dated, you have to put it in context to its initial debut and understand what the trends were at the time. In addition to these songs, it has places you don’t have often see any more like Tower Records and the Levi Jeans store. As you enjoy this unique time capsule of a game, you can feel like a kid from that time period and know what it was like to be a rebel in those days. While you can enjoy these songs in your car, please remember to drive safely and obey all traffic rules.
1. Jet Grind Radio (Jet Set Radio)
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Smilebit
- Release Date: June 29, 2000 (Japan), Oct 30, 2000 (US)
In addition to Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio is also unique to those games that allows you to be a rebel, but a different kind. As opposed to being a taxi driver that violates the rules in San Francisco, in Jet Grind Radio, you are part of a group of rollerblading street artists who tag the buildings of Shibuya in Tokyo to claim your territory as you take on other street artist gangs and evade authorities. Complimenting the unorthodox nature of this game with its then groundbreaking cel-shading graphics is its upbeat soundtrack with heavy beats and fat bass.
Its mix of numerous genres and instrumentals with fast and heavy guitars, electronic-like tracks, and J-Pop are very in sync with what was popular in the early-2000s. Considering that listening to music on the radio was still big during the period of its release, much of its musical presentation is appropriate to that aspect upon its debut so you’re getting something organic for its time. While the soundtrack isn’t as hard or loud as Crazy Taxi’s, it has its own unique way of being of presenting itself to players wanting to enjoy a carefree youth.
As for its international releases outside of Japan, the North American version includes a remix of Dragula by Rob Zombie, with Recipe for the Perfect Afro in the European release, and Improvise by Jurassic 6 for both North American and PAL versions. So if you were a youth during that time, playing this game can certainly take you back thanks to its soundtrack. And last, graffiti is a major crime that can land you in jail (or the cane in Singapore) so if you wish to participate in street art, please find an appropriate venue that legally allows you to express yourself in that kind of way.
Many of the songs featured in some of its games were products of its time. If you enjoyed the music of the Dreamcast’s prime, the Dreamcast for some of its big names truly offered that. To some people, it shows its age, but it doesn’t stop it them from being awesome. In addition, Limp Bizkit helped promote the console and Janet Jackson’s music video to Doesn’t Really Matter uses gameplay footage of numerous Dreamcast games. It was truly the system to get in the late-90s/early-2000s considering some of the celebrities who contributed to its heavy promotion. So who do you think are some of the best OSTs on the Dreamcast? Leave your thoughts in the comments.