After the runaway success of Nintendo’s NES Classic console in 2016 and the growing hype surrounding the upcoming (and hard to pre-order) SNES Classic, the Shacknews staff thought about other consoles that could use a modern update in a smaller form factor. Obviously, the Dreamcast is the greatest console of all time, so it was a natural choice. With the easy part out of the way, the real struggle comes down to selecting which games should be included with a hypothetical Sega Dreamcast Classic.
The Birth of the Dreamcast
The Dreamcast began life in the mid-90s under the codename “Blackbelt”. It would be Sega’s follow-up to the Sega Saturn, which had generally received a lukewarm reaction from the video game world. The original design was to be powered by a 3dfx chipset based around the popular Voodoo 2, but complications and internal company politics led to the use of one of NEC’s PowerVR chipsets. The project was renamed “Katana”. Katana would be paired with a new optical disc format known as the GD-ROM. IT was similar to the dominant CD-ROM format of the time, but had the benefit of a larger storage capacity. While conventional CD-ROM discs could hold around 650MB of data, the GD-ROM was capable of storing up to 1GB of information.
In a first for consoles, the machine would ship with a 56k modem from the factory for internet connectivity. The modem itself was a modular unit that was designed to be replaced as network standards improved in the future. The controller featured analog triggers and ports for memory cards and rumble packs. Sega held a public competition to name the new console and Dreamcast ended up being the winning entry. The Dreamcast launched in Japan on November 27, 1998 and the North American release followed the next year on September 9, 1999.
While the Japanese launch was light on software and having only a port of Virtua Fighter 3 as a showpiece, the North American Dreamcast launch arrived with eighteen games in tow. Included in the launch library were some heavy hitters, including Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur, Power Stone, and NFL 2K.
Ended Before it Started
Despite the strong launch library, the video game market had some hesitation towards the new console. Video game giant EA chose to abstain from participating on the Dreamcast platform, reportedly due to Sega’s hesitation to grant EA exclusive rights to sport titles on the console. The absence of the largest third party games publisher and the impending release of Sony’s Playstation 2 console eventually doomed the Dreamcast despite its initially strong sales. The Dreamcast was officially discontinued on March 31, 2001. In total, 9.13 million Dreamcast consoles were sold worldwide.
While it may not have burned for long, the Dreamcast star burned incredibly bright. It was on the forefront of many features that later became staples of console gaming, including online play, voice chat, and use of a second screen via its VMU memory cards. It was a system known for being the king of arcade ports and fighting games. During its lifespan, Sega studios delivered some of the most unique and innovative software available at the time.
The Cream of the Crop
Across all territories, the Dreamcast library was comprised of 636 titles. For this hypothetical Dreamcast Mini project, only 20 of them make the cut. In no particular order, these standout games would make for the best possible Mini collection:
1 - Soul Calibur
Originally released in arcades in July 1998, this fighting game classic arrived on the Dreamcast as a launch title with improved graphics and a story mode that was incredibly novel for the time. Soul Calibur was everything you want as a new console showcase. It looked and ran amazing on the Dreamcast hardware and was the first time the a console port of an arcade game was visually dominant versus its coin-op counterpart.
2 - Shenmue
One of the most ambitious games ever released, Shenmue provided a glimpse into the future of gaming with its interactive open world and quicktime events. Its budget nearly crippled Sega at the time and it failed to recoup its development costs. The adventure/action/RPG game still has a rabid following and its second sequel is currently in development.
3 - Power Stone 1 & 2
While never as popular as its Capcom fighting cousins, the Power Stone games are considered to be the pinnacle of 4-player couch gameplay on the Dreamcast. Four combatants would square off in multiple arenas from a high-angle perspective and collect weapons and powerups to aid in the fight. Excellent candidates for a modern remaster and digital store re-release, these two games sell for astronomical prices on the secondhand market to this day.
4 - NFL2K1
While it could never realistically be included in this collection due to licensing issues, NFL2K1 is one of the most important games ever released for consoles. In addition to its gameplay dominance over contemporaries, it was the first Dreamcast game to get full-fledged online play. The text on the back of the game case reminded players that “this season, the whole country is in bounds”. It was also part of a bundle with a black-shelled Dreamcast console.
5 - Virtua Tennis
A deceptively simple tennis game was an arcade-perfect port of Sega’s AM3-based hit. The Dreamcast version had an added campaign mode that culminated in a match against Arthur Ashe. Local multiplayer was an absolute blast and could be picked up and played by anyone.
6 - Marvel vs Capcom 2
One of the most popular fighting games ever made and continuing to be re-released in perpetuity, Marvel vs Capcom 2 originally arrive in Japanese arcades in 2000 with the Dreamcast port following quickly. Fast, colorful, and making no sense, the game pits Marvel Comics heroes against a roster of Capcom’s biggest stars. A must own for any Dreamcast library. It also has the best song in video game history.
7 - Rez
The popular music-based rail shooter is probably most remembered as a Playstation 2 game, but it also released for the Dreamcast on the same day (though it never saw a North American release). It was developed by Sega’s AM9 team and has been remastered and re-released several times, including a VR version.
8 - Samba De Amigo
Another title that would likely not make the cut from the Dreamcast mini in real life, Samba De Amigo was an arcade port of a latin music rhythm game that used dope-ass maracas. Best played while drinking or with some other drug, this dancing monkey simulator represented the offbeat creativity coming from Sega’s studio during the turn of the millennium.
9 - Ikaruga
Originally released in 2001, Ikaruga is shmup classic. It features a ship that can swap between black and white, which allows it to avoid projectiles in those respective colors. The game and levels are designed tightly around this mechanic. It never saw a North American release on the Dreamcast, though it eventually made its way to the west via Nintendo’s Gamecube in 2003.
10 - Crazy Taxi
No point in buying a Dreamcast Mini if you can’t use it to make some crazy money. A semi-open world taxi simulator that was full-on bonkers ended up being of the landmark releases for the Sega console. Featuring crazy slides, crazy jumps, and crazy fares, anyone could pick up Crazy Taxi for a few minutes and be enthralled. The Bad Religion and Offspring tunes that provided the soundtrack are still burned into my brain.
11 - Phantasy Star Online
The first MMORPG to grace a console was one of the crown jewels of the Dreamcast library. PSO brought some massive improvements and changes to the series. The biggest change for fans was a shift into real-time combat rather than the turn-based systems used for the Genesis Phantasy Star games. PSO was a critical darling upon release and considered one of the better RPGs of its time.
12 - Jet Set Radio
Taking influence from the insanely popular Tony Hawk games and adding in an open world and legendary soundtrack put Jet Set Radio on the path to Dreamcast immortality. JSR featured a semi-open world that skaters painted with graffiti and evaded the police. It was one of the first games to use cel-shaded graphics and as a result, looks much less dated than its contemporaries.
13 - Sega GT: Homologation Special
Sega’s answer to Gran Tourismo was a critical success, but failed to make an impact on the sales charts or in the hearts and minds of simcade racing fans. Breathtaking visuals and a full roster of realistic licensed cars made an excellent for the player who did pick this up instead of waiting more than a year for Gran Tourismo 3 and the Playstation 2.
14 - Sega Bass Fishing/Marine Fishing
A pair of arcade ports from the legendary Model 3 hardware, these games came with the official Dreamcast fishing controller and were pure joy distilled into its purest form. A bright, colorful presentation and easy to pick up gameplay made these games a hit with players. In Japanese arcades, Sega Bass fishing was known as Get Bass, the greatest game title of all time.
15 - Tokyo Xtreme Racer
Before Vin Diesel started stealing DVD players with Varsity Blues and making 30 sequels, Tokyo Xtreme Racer was the hot way to get into underground street racing culture. Featuring an innovative racing duel system that worked a bit like a 2D fighting game, TXR provided one of the best single player campaigns in racing game history. Player used their skills and winning to upgrade their cars in hope of becoming the top street racing club in Tokyo.
16 - Space Channel 5
Only on the Dreamcast could you have a game about a ditzy dancing reporter battling an alien invasion be fun and make some sort of sense. A rhythm game that was cool before rhythm games took over the world 7 years later, Space Channel 5 oozed style and strangeness. Players who could press onwards to the end of the game were rewarded with the chance to dance with the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
17 - Sega Rally Championship 2
If it seems like this list is heavy on driving games, that would be because the Dreamcast was unmatched when it came to provided the best of the best in racing. Sega Rally was another arcade port from Sega’s famed Model 3 architecture and the Dreamcast version was very faithful to the original, though it ran at 30fps instead of 60fps like the arcade cabinet. A joy to play and featuring a classic Sega arcade soundtrack, Sega Rally 2 was an early hit during the Dreamcast’s first year.
18 - Resident Evil: Code Veronica
Code Veronica marked the debut appearance of the Resident Evil series on the Dreamcast and was the first Resident Evil game to appear outside of the Playstation brand. It was the first game in the series to be rendered in full 3D rather than just 3D characters against a 2D backdrop. It went on to become one of the best-selling Dreamcast games and is considered to be one of the bright spots in the Resident Evil series.
19 - Dead or Alive 2
With Soul Calibur being the unquestioned star of the Dreamcast’s 3D fighting games, Dead or Alive 2 was not far behind. It sported amazing visuals for the time and offered gameplay that many considered to be superior to that of its more popular weapons-based counterpart. It remains the best reviewed entry in Tecmo’s fighting series and was the last release that focused on the fighting instead of breast size sliders (which DoA2 did have…).
20 - Skies of Arcadia
Unarguably the biggest RPG to land on the Dreamcast, Skies of Arcadia was the result of a collaboration between Panzer Dragoon, Phantasy Star, Sonic, and Sakura Wars developers. The pre-release hype was warranted as they delivered in spades. Critical reception to Skies was universally positive, but like many other Dreamcast games, simply failed to have impact commercially. Skies of Arcadia was later reworked and ported to Gamecube in 2003 where it gained a bigger following.
While the 20 games above are amazing, many more titles on the Dreamcast deserve consideration for inclusion into this hypothetical MiniCast. In no particular order, the honorable mentions go out to Street Fighter III: Third Strike, Daytona USA 2001, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, Grand Theft Auto 2, Grandia 2, House of the Dead 2, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Metropolis Street Racer, NBA Showtime, Seaman, NHL 2K, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, NBA 2K2, Toy Commander, Quake III, Unreal Tournament, World Series Baseball 2K1, Zombie Revenge, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Hydro Thunder, and ChuChu Rocket.
In a perfect world, Sega will come though and deliver on a MiniCast and secure a sizeable amount of these beloved games for inclusion and while we are talking fantasy situations here we might as well ask that they make enough consoles so that anyone who wants to buy one doesn’t need to refresh Walmart.com at 3am to get one.