The SEGA Dreamcast was one of the most innovative consoles ever. It also marked the end of an era. Aware that its time in the console business was almost over, Sega said to hell with it and went all-in on fascinating, weird experiments, from the delightful rhythm games like Space Channel 5 to strange curiosities like Seaman.
In compiling a list of the 10 best Sega Dreamcast games, we sought to create a snapshot of the Dreamcast's legacy, which encompassed everything from burgeoning online play to wild peripherals. We kept the focus on North America for the most part, which meant omitting many of the excellent shoot 'em ups from Japanese video game developer G.rev, but we did manage to sneak in Rez — a pioneering rhythm game that was always meant to be on Dreamcast.
The Dreamcast is long gone, but the games listed here live on as some of the most beloved games ever made. Here are the 10 best Sega Dreamcast games of all time.
10. The Typing of the Dead
A spin-off of The House of the Dead 2, The Typing of the Dead was initially designed to improve one's typing and practice how fast one can type, however, its idiosyncratic gameplay and humor make it so much more than that. Instead of a light gun, you’re using a computer keyboard and the power of proper spelling and grammar to fend off hordes of undead.
9. Grandia 2
The Dreamcast didn't have many RPGs, but the ones it did have were good. Along with Skies of Arcadia, Grandia 2 is generally considered one of the two best RPGs on the platform, lauded for its excellent soundtrack and even better battle system. While Grandia itself has faded, its mechanics have sprung up in a variety of RPGs over the years, from Ubisoft’s Child of Light to Penny Arcade’s On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness.
Grandia 2 was also one of the best-looking games on the Dreamcast. Filled with high-quality magic spells, special attacks, and other touches, it was a noticeable cut above what was available on the PlayStation at the time, especially during its most elaborate attack sequences. Its visual luster has faded in the years since, but it's still good fun to play, as demonstrated by the recent remaster. It remains worthy of the Dreamcast's legacy.
8. Phantasy Star Online
The Dreamcast's Phantasy Star Online was a rebirth for the brand. Phantasy Star Online was a hit at debut, switching from the original first-person dungeon crawling and overworld exploring model to a new 3D real-time action RPG. PSO added online play with friends, character creation, and more to the franchise, which was distinct from the previous games' narratives.
Combat was enjoyable and varied depending on your character's customization; different races and classes excelled at melee, ranged, or technique combat. The four quest areas varied in style and fostered replayability by allowing you to level up and acquire materials to feed your pet Mag, which would provide special abilities such as buffs, stat boosts, and powerful photon blasts. These features increased replayability by enabling players to create new characters and experiment with alternative race and class combinations.
Following its initial release, Phantasy Star featured additional missions, raised level caps, new difficulty levels, and more, all of which could be downloaded, which was uncommon at the time. Phantasy Star Online appeared to just keep going, and for those of us who picked it up again on later systems like the Gamecube or the Xbox, it had a second life, capturing our attention and time all over again with enhancements.
7. Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 released just 3 years after the first Sonic Adventure and improved on the originals formula in every way. Levels were tweaked to fit the personalities of the characters. Sonic and Shadow were all about speed and platforming, Tails and Dr. Robotnik were all about blasting their way to the finish line with their mechs, and Knuckles and Rouge were all about exploration and treasure hunting. Alternate objectives were included in each level, adding to its replay value. The Chao garden improved upon its return and was a fun distraction where you could raise and train Chaos to compete in races and karate. A 3D version of Green Hill Zone was available as a reward for those who collected all 180 emblems by earning an A in every mission.
There were also many two-player head-to-head modes in which you could race on foot, fight in mechs, embark on a treasure hunt, or race in go-karts. Sonic Adventure 2 also featured some of the best music songs in the franchise's history. There’s a reason songs like 'Escape from the City' and 'Live and Learn.' were saved for the finale and encore in the Sonic 30th Anniversary Symphony. Sonic Adventure 2 for its time was everything we had wanted from a 3D sonic game.
Produced in part by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who would later be known for his work on games like Lumines and Tetris Effect, Rez wasn't just unique, it was cool. It managed to combine rave culture and rail shooters, fueled by the Dreamcast's open-ended creativity.
Rez's development team is still emotional about this project to this day, coming as it did in the midst of the Dreamcast's unceremonious death. It would eventually release on PlayStation 2, and is now available on a multitude of platforms, including the Meta Quest 2. But as the last vestige of "cool Sega" and a rhythm game pioneer, Rez will always be a Dreamcast game first.
5. Jet Set Radio
An action game where players venture through Tokyo using skates, spray graffiti, and evade authorities, with fun, addictive gameplay and a stellar soundtrack? Jet Set Radio is something special. While its sequel Jet Set Future's gameplay is a bit more refined, the cel-shaded vibrant art direction, music and distinct gameplay of the original make it a true gem that has influenced spiritual successors such as Hover and Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.
4. Marvel vs. Capcom: New Age of Heroes
Marvel vs Capcom 2 on the Dreamcast was a game-changer in the world of fighting games. Not only was it a near arcade-perfect port, meaning that the developer didn’t have to make any sacrifices or tweaks to get it to run just as well as it did in the arcades, but Marvel vs Capcom 2 was simply one of the best fighting games of its time. Being able to play it at home without having to spend your allowance at the arcade was something that no doubt created an entire generation of fighting game fans.
3. Power Stone 2
There’s a reason why people are still clamoring for more Power Stone; despite the wealth of arena and party fighters that have come out since Power Stone 2, there’s still nothing quite like it. Part of the appeal was that there were juist so many different ways to take the fight to your opponent: You could just wail on them with your character’s unique list of moves and special moves, you could run off and hop in a turret or use some other sort of environmental interactable, you could pick up one of the seemingly hundreds of items, or you could hunt down the three power stones and transform into your super powerful alter ego and turn the tide of the fight definitively in your favor.
Power Stone 2’s multiplayer battles were just so incredibly dynamic, and the Dreamcast is still the only place to experience them.
2. Skies of Arcadia
There’s a lot that makes Skies of Arcadia one of the best RPGs of the Dreamcast era, but the number one reason is its sense of discovery and adventure. Skies of Arcadia is all about being an adventuring Sky Pirate, discovering new lands, recruiting new crew members to your ship, and you know, stopping an evil empire from destroying the world with ancient weapons.
Skies of Arcadia is charming, its world fascinating, and while many probably experienced it on the Gamecube as Skies of Arcadia Legends, the original Dreamcast version will forever hold a place in the pantheon of fantastic JRPGs.
The original Soul Calibur is still one of the best fighters ever made. When it came to the Dreamcast, people were still pumping quarters into machines across the world to play, but somehow you got a better version at home with new features and better graphics than the original.
To get such an amazing version on a home console was really special and to this day, the Dreamcast version of Soul Calibur holds up as one of the best things about the console. If you’ve never tried this tale of souls and swords you are missing out on something special.