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The 10 best Sega Dreamcast games, ranked

It's about to get controversial.

As someone who had the distinct pleasure of owning a Dreamcast at the end of its short-lived reign and was then subjected to reviewing at least half of the system’s library, I have a unique insight as to which games stood out amongst the pile of refuse that made up the bulk of Dreamcast titles.

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The Dreamcast was released in North America on September 9, 1999, in direct competition with the release of Final Fantasy VIII. It was officially discontinued less than two years later, in March 2001. It was a brief and brilliant lifespan with some titles that truly broke the mold.

The absolute best Dreamcast games

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10. The Typing of the Dead (2001)

One of my high school field trips was to Six Flags decades ago. Thanks to the delight that is motion sickness, I was unable to enjoy the rides with my peers and instead spent my day in the arcade playing The House of the Dead 2. It was terrible in all the right ways and ridiculously fun to play. So, when Smilebit took the beloved light-gun shooter and replaced the guns with a keyboard, I was in Heaven.

The Typing of the Dead tests players by having them type words and phrases like “I like beautiful, older ladies” and “Get stomach ache from raw oysters.” Additionally, it adjusts to your typing capabilities and ramps up the difference accordingly. As someone who had to sit through so many bland typing programs in my youth, I’m upset more developers didn’t go this route.

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9. Unreal Tournament (2001)

At the turn of the century, shooters were becoming more prominent, and every studio was trying to iron out the kinks. Going back and playing them now, one realizes just how good we have it today with keyboard and mouse or dual stick controls. However, despite lacking modern amenities, Epic Games and Cliffy B. churned out something truly amazing with Unreal Tournament.

It was a game about big dudes and big robots duking it out with even bigger guns. Learning the maps and item spawns was paramount to success. It was an absolute blast to bring over to a friend’s house on a Friday night and lay waste well into the evening hours. Even better, it was much easier to pack up a Dreamcast than a large beige PC, as was the style at the time.

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8. Street Fighter Alpha 3 (2000)

Back in the day, many studios were pushing hard into 3D. This had a unique effect as many outlets faulted Street Fighter Alpha 3 for sticking to 2D. Looking back, I can only chuckle as this entry was what made Street Fighter for me. There were three versions of the fighter available on Dreamcast: Street Fighter Alpha 3, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, and Street Fighter III: Double Impact, each with something different to offer. However, Alpha 3 stood apart.

Alpha 3 is beautifully animated, has a gigantic roster, and introduced new mechanics and control styles to keep longtime fans engaged. Even more interesting, since the Dreamcast could connect to the internet, players could download new opponents on a weekly basis through the Saikyo Dojo to really test their abilities.

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7. Phantasy Star Online (2000)

Phantasy Star Online was the first “MMO” for consoles. Teams of players could congregate with one another in the hub on the Pioneer 2 before heading down to the planet of Ragol to take on missions that usually involved small-scale genocide. Missions and enemies grew tougher as players leveled up and thus the gameplay loop was created. Neurons around the world were activated.

I personally know people who had secondary phone lines in their homes activated to play Phantasy Star Online with friends. Despite the offline mode being heavily criticized by outlets at the time, I still enjoyed my time running around and losing myself in the sci-fi world. The nostalgia is very strong with this one.

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6. Dead or Alive 2 (2000)

For a lot of us, we know exactly why Dead or Alive 2 caught our attention. For the rest of you, you’re liars. Once we moved past the veil of scantily clad female warriors, a surprisingly compelling fighter was waiting. Dead or Alive 2 was the first fighter I played where it felt like there was real weight to the characters, and launching them through a breakable surface or into an electrified wall was supremely satisfying.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Dead or Alive 2 was an absolute stunner in the visuals department. This, combined with the easy-to-learn/difficult-to-master gameplay, turned a guilty pleasure into an absolute delight that dominated a lot of my time with the Dreamcast. It makes the microtransaction hells that are Dead or Alive 5 and 6 such a disappointment.

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5. Skies of Arcadia (2000)

The bulk of the Dreamcast’s library was made up of racing titles and fighters. RPGs were, in comparison, few and far between, and there was definitely a void to fill. Skies of Arcadia took up this challenge and succeeded immensely.

Players stepped into the boots of air pirate Vyse and his crew to take on the might of the Valuan Empire. This band of air pirates must stop the Valuans from resurrecting an ancient weapon that nearly destroyed all life on the floating islands of Arcadia. It’s a straightforward premise, but one that Skies of Arcadia executed with perfection.

Despite going up against some fierce competition like Baldur’s Gate II, Diablo II, and Final Fantasy IX, Skies of Arcadia held its own and was rightfully regarded as the best RPG for the Dreamcast and one of the best RPGs for any console. It’s one of those games that possessed me where I would play it for hours during the day and go to bed thinking about what awaited me when I returned.

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4. Sonic Adventure 2 (2001)

I don’t have much of a dog in the fight of which Sonic title is the best. However, the one I played the most was Sonic Adventure 2, and apparently, many critics and fans will say this is one of them. From its iconic opening level with the backing song “Escape From the City” playing, Sonic Adventure 2 stands as a paramount outing for the blue speedster.

Rather than being entirely focused on Sonic rescuing various critters, players take control of various heroes and villains in a split campaign where both sides must be completed to unlock the finale. It was a very unique way of telling the story and led to a lot of replay value. Fantastic visuals, an engaging story, and detailed levels made it easy to get into Sonic Adventure 2 and not want to leave.

Of course, you could ignore all of that and simply focus on the Chao Garden.

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3. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (2000)

At the turn of the millennium, Capcom was on top of its game. From arcades to consoles, the developer and producer was everywhere, trying out new series’ like Rival Schools while polishing staples like Street Fighter Alpha 3. However, Capcom definitely struck gold when it unleashed Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on the public.

This 2D fighter contained a whopping 56 characters from across the broad spectrum of Capcom and Marvel properties. Ryu, Jill Valentine, Morrigan, Rogue, Venom, and even Marrow threw down for some truly inspired tag battles. It immediately became a staple in the Battle by the Bay tournament before the competition was rebranded as Evo. It would run until 2010, when it was replaced by Marvel vs. Capcom 3. It’s nothing short of tragic that it hasn’t been remastered with an online mode.

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2. Soulcalibur (1999)

I can’t even tell you how much time I spent playing Soulcalibur. From the moment I booted it up, I was hooked, and the Soulcalibur series remains my favorite fighter to this day. Developed by Project Soul, players are dropped into an imagined world of the late 1500s, where legendary fighters battle across the world to acquire the eponymous blade.

Soulcalibur stood apart thanks to its gorgeous visuals, compelling weapon-based gameplay, and well-executed use of 3D environments. Voldo would crabwalk his way across the stage, whereas Nightmare dominated with his aggressive range. With a bevy of challenge modes and unlockables to collect, it had nigh unlimited replayability. Soulcalibur changed the game, and I would love to see a return to form for the series.

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1. Jet Grind Radio (2000)

Jet Grind Radio came out of the gate swinging hard. From the cel-shaded graphics to the ludicrously fantastic soundtrack and the unique gameplay to the sheer attitude it radiated, it is the shining star of the Dreamcast. It instilled the idea of fighting against the establishment while being true to yourself in many, myself included.

Guitar Vader lived inside my head while I scoured every level for the tagging spots and rival gang members while avoiding Captain Onishima and his thuggish police. The way the team at Smilebit brought Tokyo to to life with its distinct areas full of color and life is nothing short of incredible. Jet Grind Radio embodies the spirit of Sega’s Dreamcast and should be experienced by everyone.


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Author
Christian Dawson
Christian has been playing games since he could hold a controller in the late 80s. He's been writing about them for nearly 15 years for both personal and professional outlets. Now he calls Destructoid home where he covers all manner of nonsense.