Even the world’s staunchest optimist would agree that perfection is a fool’s errand, but in the realms of video games, Sega‘s swan song should absolutely be cause for reconsideration. The company’s final console before bowing out of the hardware race for good, the Dreamcast has consistently received honors for the impact it had on the medium as a whole, a fact that can’t be understated by any measure.
From popularizing entire genres with Shenmue and Phantasy Star Online to delivering some of the most visually striking titles with Jet Set Radio and Marvel vs. Capcom 2, not since (and potentially never again) has a console boasted as many memorable adventures as these.
9) Crazy Taxi
If one game more than any other embodies Sega’s openness to trying almost any idea pitched to them back in the late 90s and early 2000s, it’s Crazy Taxi. The premise was simple: pick up punters and ferry them—while bopping along to an incredible licensed soundtrack including the likes of The Offspring and Bad Religion—across town to their desired location within an allotted time. One of the purest arcade experiences that ever debuted on Dreamcast, the original would go on to spawn numerous sequels following Sega’s departure from the console market and continues to live on as a primarily mobile series.
8) Resident Evil: CODE – Veronica
While the passage of time has done little to endear Resident Evil: CODE – Veronica‘s laughably bad dialogue and voice acting to newer fans, Capcom’s unnumbered addition to the mainline series remains a fan favorite. Delivered in the form of a massive two-part campaign split between siblings Claire and Chris Redfield, CODE – Veronica marked the franchise’s first departure from using pre-rendered textures in favor of fully 3D assets. A remarkable achievement at the time and one that showcased the Dreamcast’s power. Who knows, perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, Capcom will opt to deliver a remake, if only to modernize its cheesy characters and retell the fascinating origins of Umbrella.
7) The House of the Dead 2
Light gun shooters may be deader than the dodo in 2021, but the genre maintains a fondness in many gamers’ hearts for the memories they helped create. While PlayStation owners will no doubt name Time Crisis as the quintessential light gun experience, Sega fans knew better. Fast, frenetic and capitalizing on the eternally entertaining act of shooting zombies right in the gob, The House of the Dead 2 went all-in on its shlocky horror, letting two players team up in the quest to take out mad scientist Doctor Curien and his ghastly experiments. Eager to relive the experience? Developer MegaPixel is currently working on a remake for Nintendo Switch scheduled for release later this year.
6) Marvel Vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
Though it has since spawned two sequels, Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes remains the series’ most popular installment, both critically and by popular opinion. The reasons for this aren’t exactly hard to discern, either. Boasting a colossal roster of characters representing both companies, MvC2‘s gorgeous art style, fluidity, and 3v3 format has, simply put, never been matched or surpassed, with the third game and 2017’s Infinite arguably regressing in terms of available content and quality.
5) Sonic Adventure
Yes, the open-world segments were largely forgettable and dull. Yes, Big the Cat was an unnecessary and nonsensical addition to the series and yes, Sonic Adventure suffered from numerous camera issues, but it’s a testament to the overall enjoyable nature of Sonic’s first 3D adventure (Sonic Jam doesn’t count, by the way) that it charts to highly among fans despite its obvious issues. Giving Tails, Knuckles and Amy their own dedicated story campaign and unique mechanics was nothing short of an ambitious undertaking and, of course, there’s the bonus Super Sonic stage to top it all off, which remains one of the character’s best appearances in any mainline 3D title to date.
4) Power Stone
Trust Capcom, of all developers, to deliver a console-defining fighting game like no other. An arena-style experience not dissimilar to Nintendo’s incredibly popular Super Smash Bros. IP, Power Stone‘s central gameplay mechanic (other than beating the living snot out of your opponent, of course) revolved around collecting the game’s titular gems in any given match to trigger a transformation that’d make Akira Toriyama proud. A direct sequel allowing for greatly expanded multiplayer matches would be released one year later, introducing pick-ups and interactive environments, resulting in a terrific party game to play with a bunch of friends.
3) Jet Set Radio
Innovative, effortlessly cool and, above all, one of the games responsible for popularizing cel-shaded visuals, Jet Set Radio captures the very same addictiveness delivered by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater one year earlier in 1999, only, in this instance, it’s infused with a generous helping of that trademark 2000s Sega Magic. An inline skating gang, the GGs, compete with rival gangs in retrofuturist Tokyo-to by plastering graffiti wherever possible, using the city itself as their blank canvas. Jet Set Radio’s critical acclaim would garner it a sequel, Jet Set Radio Future, for the original Xbox, but the series has since gone quiet, much to the chagrin of many anarchists eager to grind metal and show their art to the world.
Shenmue III ultimately ended up being something of a Monkey’s Paw moment for fans of the original games when it was finally released 18 years after 1999’s second installment. But then, was there ever going to be any other outcome? The original, after all, while dated by today’s standards, is so fondly remembered for popularizing several features which have since become mainstays of the open-world genre. Exploring the rapid Westernization of residential Japan in a sandbox populated with fleshed-out characters, mini-games, and side quests not signposted all contributed to the creation of a living, breathing world never seen before on a games console.
1) Phantasy Star Online
Much like Shenmue, Phantasy Star Online was something of its own pioneer, arguably for the most important advancement in gaming since the medium’s inception. Credited as the first-ever online console RPG, Phantasy Star Online drew heavy inspiration from Western contemporaries such as Diablo and EverQuest, featuring loot-based character progression and a persistent online world able to connect players from across the globe. While Sega no longer maintains official servers for the original PSO, private servers still boast sizable populations. A testament to its quality and legacy.