Top 10 Games by Sega [Best Recommendations]

In 1966, Sega made its breakout was through a submarine simulator called Periscope, and it would establish Sega’s name as an arcade powerhouse. In the 1990s, Sega took America by storm through its Genesis console with an aggressive ad slogan of "Genesis Does What Nintendo Does". Unfortunately, Sega’s success with the Genesis did not continue with the Saturn (though that console was a huge hit in Japan and became popular with import enthusiasts).

As its last hurrah, Sega released the Dreamcast between 1998 (Japan) and 1999 (the West). Though its launch was a success, the console ceased production in 2001 (but would continue to have loose support in Japan until 2006). Since then, Sega has been rebounding as a third party bringing over its original franchises to its former rivals and creating new ones which we will cover for today’s top 10.

10. Crazy Taxi

  • System/Platform: Arcade, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Gamecube, PC, PlayStatoin 3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Hitmaker
  • Release Date: Feb 1999

Opening this list is one of Sega’s most unique arcade titles, Crazy Taxi. This game truly puts the crazy in Crazy Taxi by allowing the player to use any methods available to take a customer to their destination by driving beyond the speed limit, going over sidewalks, going up ramps, driving off-road and up hills. If you take a passenger within their individual time limit, the overall time limit of the game can be extended. Though this driving game may not be your typical racing game, it is still a race against the clock and its ridiculous elements of using all means possible gets your adrenaline pumping.

If anything, this game is probably one of the ultimate escapes from reality where the player is free to break the rules of the road and yet make it into a profession. Complementing the grungy looking characters players can select, Crazy Taxi’s soundtrack features songs by Bad Religion and The Offspring who were some of the biggest bands during the release of the original game and the heaviness gets players into its anti-establishment spirit.


9. Shinobi

  • System/Platform: Arcade, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, PC, NES, PC Engine, PlayStation 3, Master System, ZX Spectrum, Wii, Xbox 360
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Sega
  • Release Date: Nov 1987

Shortly before Sonic became Sega’s mascot, there was Joe Musashi (who in turn replaced Alex Kidd). With side-scrolling games being the norm in the 1980s along with the ninja craze during that time, Shinobi would take the genre to a new level of creativity. As Joe Musashi, the player must go out into the night and rescue the children of his clan who have been kidnapped.

The game lives up to its ninja gimmick by not just having Musashi taking the appearance of a ninja and using shurikens and a katana as his weapons of choice, but the way he is controlled also allows him to appropriately move like a real ninja jumping to higher floors with multi-turn flips, and is also one of the first games of its kind to move while staying crouched.

As a novelty, the player can also use Musashi’s ninjutsu (or ninja magic in English versions) once per stage and there are three options to choose from depending on the level. Those choices are a thunderstorm, a tornado, and a doppelgänger attack. Like a good majority of these arcade action games, there would be bonus stages that would have a different function from the actual gameplay. In Shinobi, the bonus levels would be played in a first person view where the player would throw shurikens at oncoming enemy ninjas. If in the event you fail, it’s cool and not game over. But if you succeed, you get and extra life!


8. Streets of Rage 2 (Bare Knuckle II)

  • System/Platform: Genesis, Arcade, Game Gear, Master System
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Ancient
  • Release Date: Dec 20, 1992 (Japan), January 14, 1993 (US)

If any game defines the Genesis ad campaign by promoting it as edgy, it would have to be Streets of Rage II. Though the first was a smash hit, the sequel took it to the next level by realizing what needed to be improved, most especially the graphics. In the first game, the character models are rather small and the resolution is a little dull and fuzzy. Then the second game corrects those issues to the point that more detail is put into the shadowing, skin tone, and muscle definition. The game’s city has a livelier feel in the background with the flashing lights and the animation feels more fluid and natural.

Another iconic feature of the game is its upbeat soundtrack, which takes influences from the club music and hip-hop of the early 1990s. The soundtrack is a great demonstration of the Genesis hardware with its catchy beats and synthesizing instrumentals that the console is legendary for, and in turn, the tunes would influence present day DJs who grew up on Streets of Rage II.


7. Nights into Dreams

  • System/Platform: Saturn, PlayStation 2, PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Sonic Team
  • Release Date: July 5, 1996 (Japan), Aug 20, 1996 (US)

In addition to Sonic, other dedicated Sega fans also love Naka Yuji for Nights into Dreams, which would become the flagship title of the Saturn. Through our main characters Elliot and Claris, the player enters the world of Nightopia, the world of dreams where they must battle the evil Wizeman. Shortly before anime would become big in the West through Toonami, the characters’ anime inspired designs is probably one of the first examples of the art form to the non-Japanese mainstream gaming world.

The game takes place in stages where the players can freely explore in order to achieve the objective. The game makes excellent use of high-resolution graphics with detailed environments that represent forests, jungles, canyons and anything that is limited to the imagination. Due to the coloring of the characters being red, blue, and purple, they easily stand out in a world of green making the game easy for anybody to navigate. When the player assumes the role of Nights, you become free as a bird and you must collect various orbs in order to complete the level.

The game’s flight-mode makes full use of the Saturn’s 3D controller, which includes a thumb stick on the upper-left for a full 360 freedom. As Nights, the player can make the character do various acrobatics and achieve certain objects when approaching at the right angle and momentum. The game is a great balance of a fantasy world mixed with some realistic laws of physics that make the player think how to achieve a certain objective. Last, its energetic soundtrack finds ways of being tribal with its instrumentals to reflect its jungle environments, but have some electronic beats to symbolize we are playing a game.


6. After Burner

  • System/Platform: Arcade, Amiga, PC, MSX, NES, PC Engine, Sega 32X, Master System
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Sega AM2
  • Release Date: July 20, 1987

Just like a lot of Suzuki Yu’s other masterpieces, the intent of After Burner is to give the player a simulated experience. Off the tails of Top Gun, this game lets you fly into the US Navy’s F-14 Tomcat and you can shoot down some Commies. In addition to its featured fighter jet, much of the game’s soundtrack takes influence from the movie’s heavy guitar riffs that will raise your excitement.

Like Space Harrier, After Burner is primarily a third-person rail shooter with the game scaling forward at a fast pace. All the player has to do is move around the joystick in order to dodge any enemy fire and you have the option of either firing with a machine gun, or with heat seeking missiles in the instance you have a lock on. The game has various cabinets that you can play with.

One version was the standard upright cabinet where the player just has to move the control stick and squeeze the trigger. Other versions have a close-in cockpit that would move around with the controls of the game making the experience more immersing. Even though you might not find this game in your local arcade these days, you can re-discover the full version in Shenmue 2.


5. Yakuza 2 (Ryu ga Gotoku 2)

  • System/Platform: PlayStation 2
  • Publisher: Ryu ga Gotoku Studios
  • Developer: Sega
  • Release Date: Dec 7, 2006 (Japan) Sept 9, 2008 (US)

In Yakuza 2, you can explore the nightlife of Kabukicho (in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward) and Dotonbori (in Osaka). For example, you are free to stop by the hostess clubs and spend all your money on a hostess you can have alcohol with. Or you can go shopping at a Don Quijote store (think of them as Japan’s Wal-Marts) or have a beef bowl at Matsuya. The game has been praised by critics in Japan for being very accurate to the culture of the Japanese mafia and the realistic portrayals of the settings. With the English version of the first game being met with harsh criticism, the language track of the second game in only available in Japanese. So if you want a pure experience of Tokyo and Osaka at your fingertips, Yakuza 2 is it.

Yakuza 2 features some brutal action through its heat move system that allows the player to deliver as much damage as possible with the most extreme means possible as if it were a hardcore wrestling match. Players can use whatever objects are available as weapons during the battles (such as bicycles, beer bottles, electronic signs, umbrellas, etc.) and its comedic brutality plays into the fun. Heck, if you happen to be near a balcony or a bridge, the heat system allows you to throw people off a bridge or balcony. And for you OST enthusiasts, we promise that you’ll be enchanted by of one of the game’s songs, December 17 by Crazy Ken Band.


4. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

  • System/Platform: Genesis, Nintendo 3DS, iOS, Android
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Team Sonic
  • Release Date: Nov 21, 1992 (Japan), Nov 24, 1992 (US)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is probably one of the first mainstream platformers that would have two-player co-op with the introduction of Sonic’s sidekick, Tails. Players can either share a screen, or the screen can be broken in half horizontally for the players to race each other. While Sonic has speed, Tails has controlled gliding with his tails being used as a propeller. And as a bonus, the top of the Sonic and Knuckles game cartridge has its own port to put Sonic 2 into and the player can play Sonic 2 with Knuckles as a selectable character.

Though the hunt for the chaos emeralds was more of a novelty in the first game, the second game gives this side quest a more rewarding purpose by giving Sonic, the Super Sonic power up. While the chaos emerald hunt stages in the first game were like a pinball game on acid, the chaos emerald stages in the second game are in a 3D rendered rail shooter-like running course, which was unique in a 16-bit console upon its release.


3. Fighters Megamix

  • System/Platform: Saturn
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Sega AM2
  • Release Date: Dec 21, 1996 (Japan) Apr 30, 1997 (US)

Just a couple of years before Nintendo made its break out into fighting games with its Super Smash Brothers series, Sega released its own fighting game with a mix of its own franchise characters, Fighters Megamix. Though a bulk of the game consists of characters from Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers, it includes other characters from other Sega games like Sonic Fighters, the car from Daytona USA, Janet from Virtua Cop, Rent-A-Hero, and AM2’s palm tree logo. Though the featured Virtua Fighter 2 characters retain their models from that game, their move sets and controls are taken from Virtua Fighter 3, which barely hit arcades at the time of this game’s release. Also, the armor-breaking feature from Fighting Vipers is brought over in this game.

In addition to the move list of the Virtua Fighter characters, Janet from Virtua Cop is a substitute for Aoi from Virtua Fighter 3 who uses her fighting style, aikido along with all of her moves. Thankfully, the game manages to balance the gimmicks between all games. Due to all the unlockables, the game has tremendous replay value and has a deep but rewarding learning curve. Plus, its soundtrack is rather catchy and actually uses a few instrumental tracks that may sound familiar to Shenmue fans.


2. Panzer Dragoon Saga (Azel Panzer Dragoon RPG)

  • System/Platform: Saturn
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Team Andromeda
  • Release Date: Jan 29, 1998 (Japan), April 30, 1998 (US)

Though it made its debut as a rail shooter, Panzer Dragoon’s biggest legacy is its RPG, Saga. Panzer Dragoon Saga expands on the original’s foundation in regards to its gameplay features and world. While the previous games were just moving a dragon around and shooting down enemies, in Saga, you can explore the towns on foot or use the dragon like the airships in the Final Fantasy games. Though RPGs tends to use a party system, Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the few RPGs that make use of only one character, Edge.

The battle system is an excellent balance between traditional RPG elements of hit points and technique points and the targeting system of rail shooters. Its use of time gauges (depending on how much they have been filled) allows players to use certain attacks that can cause a certain amount of damage. One gauge attack allows you to use a generic gun attack while a two gauges lets you use lasers. Last, while old-school RPGs had characters remain stationary during the battles until their gauges are filled and the player gives them a command, Panzer Dragoon Saga would be one of the first of its kind to allow free movement in the middle of battle.

Last, this game is one of the very first few RPGs to feature voice acting. As a series staple, the game speaks its own unique language, which takes influence from Latin and other Eastern European languages. Though the game has been met with positive reception, the failure of Saturn outside of Japan only made this game a cult hit to the point that its English releases can go as high as $300 on Internet auctions. So if you want an RPG with distinctions that still hold up to this day, this is the game to try out (or you can come to Japan and get the game for cheap!)


1. Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka

  • System/Platform: Dreamcast
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Sega AM2
  • Release Date: Dec 29, 1999 (Japan) Nov 8, 2000 (US)

Putting aside its controversial English version (which actually Suzuki admitted to liking), Shenmue is number one for numerous reasons to the point it can be its own article. Shenmue did so much for the industry by introducing the modern concept of open world gaming which Suzuki Yu originally labeled as FREE, Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment. As Hazuki Ryo, you can feel as if you’re experiencing suburbia Japan by shopping at a convenience store and openly conversing with the neighbors.

You can even visit the local arcade and play full versions of some of Sega’s arcade classics, Hang On and Space Harrier (think of it as getting three games for one!), or throw some darts, or practice your reflexes on the QTE games. You can even buy capsule toys of various Sega characters from the Sonic and Virtua Fighter series, and other lost and forgotten franchises like Alex Kidd.

In addition, it has its own weather system so it can be sunny, rainy, cloudy, or even snowy! When you’re down on cash, you can get a job as a forklift operator. And since Shenmue was originally intended to be an RPG of Virtua Fighter, many of the martial arts techniques are characters are taken from that game. Shenmue just has so much to offer and after a 14-year hiatus, the campaign for a third game broke Kickstarter records for the gaming industry by showing that its fans want Ryo out of that cave!


Final Thoughts

With the quality Sega has made with its numerous hits whether they’d be mainstream, have cult status, or be unknowns, making this list felt impossible. Which is why we would like to make a few honorable mentions to Phantasy Star Online 2, Virtual On, Sakura Taisen, Jet Set Radio, and Burning Rangers. We understand that some of you readers may have a different idea of what should be in the top 10 and you are free to disagree with what we listed.

If we have the option to do a top 20 in the future, we will be sure to do one! Please leave your top games (feel free to list how many you want!) by Sega in the comments and let’s have a fun discussion of the old days of Sega along with its present and future!

Justin

Writer

Author: Justin "ParaParaJMo" Moriarty

Hello, I am originally from the states and have lived in Japan since 2009. Though I watched Robotech and Voltron as a child, I officially became an anime fan in 1994 through Dragon Ball Z during a trip to the Philippines. In addition to anime, I also love tokusatsu, video games, music, and martial arts. よろしくお願いします

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