Sunday, May 17, 2015
20 Years of Sega Saturn: Top 20 Saturn Games
This month marks 20 years since the Sega Saturn launched in America...and began to doom Sega's future as a console manufacturer. See, after the success of the Genesis and the ongoing console war with Nintendo, Sega launched a number of ill-conceived add-ons for the Genesis, namely the Sega CD and 32X, before the Saturn ever came out. After botching their own launch, and pissing off third party publishers, it's a wonder that the Saturn, and the Dreamcast that would follow it, managed to last the few years they did. That aside though, it doesn't take away from the fact that the Saturn was a dreadfully underrated console.
With its main competitors being the mega-successful Playstation and Nintendo 64, the Saturn sat far back in third place with little third-party support. What it did have was some wonderful 2-D fighting games, a whole shitload of great racing games, and even more RPGs; many of which are regarded as the best of the era. Sadly, a lot of the best games to be released for the Saturn weren't released in North America, but fortunately, the Saturn is one of the simplest consoles to play foreign games on.
With all that in mind, in celebration of 20 years since the Saturn hit our shores, this is a list of the 20 best games available for the console. Some of these games were available on other consoles, either at the time or were in the future, but that doesn't take away from the fact that these were the absolute best games the console had to offer.
Let's get started.
20. ROAD RASH
A 32-bit version of EA's hit racing series from the Genesis, "Road Rash" features all the great racing action that fans of the franchise had come to know. Combined with a fucking fantastic soundtrack and wonderfully cheesy FMV sequences, "Road Rash" is a blast. It was also available on the Playstation and 3DO, along with a souped-down version on the Sega CD some years prior.
19. MR. BONES
A multi-genre video game that features an assortment of different style levels and gameplay scenarios, "Mr. Bones" is still a Saturn exclusive that featured some great graphical effects (for the Saturn that is) and a kick-ass soundtrack. It quickly faded into obscurity upon release, but has since become a cult classic and a sought-after game for Saturn collectors. Check this out.
18. MEGA MAN 8
Capcom's classic "Mega Man" series hit the Saturn and Playstation, and provided more of what the franchise had become known for. That's pretty much it, nothing too innovative here, but since it's a Mega Man game, there's nothing wrong with that. The American Saturn version of this is rare, and it's actually cheaper to import the Japanese release instead.
17. GALACTIC ATTACK (U.S.)/RAYFORCE (JAPAN)
A vertical space shooter arcade game, "Galactic Attack" has about 10 different titles depending what region of the world you're in, but every single one is just as fucking fun...and harder than shit. It's simple and fun, and one of many shmup-style games that the Saturn has to offer. I still pop this in now and then to this very day.
16. VIRTUA COP 2
One of Sega's flagship franchises at the time, "Virtua Cop 2" was the best of the series with more branching paths, better graphics, and loads more action. Many of the elements in this game would wind up being used in Sega's better known "House of the Dead" series, but sadly that home port of the game to the Saturn was nowhere near as good as either of the "Virtua Cop" games ended up being.
15. DAYTONA USA: CHAMPIONSHIP CIRCUIT EDITION
An arcade classic, "Daytona USA" was one of the first games most people ever played on the Saturn. It was close to being an arcade perfect port, but the Championship Circuit Edition, released towards the end of the Saturn's life-cycle, added a few more modes and even the option for playing online (then again, Sega's NETLINK service at the time was fucking horrendous, but I digress), helping make this the definitive version of the game for its time.
14. SATURN BOMBERMAN
"Bomberman" is always a fun blast, especially if you have a room full of people, but "Saturn Bomberman" is one of the best releases in the long running franchise. Everything about it is perfect: it's arenas, it's animation, how simple it is to pick up and play, etc. This also goes for a lot of money on eBay and all that.
13. DARIUS GAIDEN
The long running"Darius" franchise has seen release on all kinds of consoles and computer systems in the past, but "Darius Gaiden" is one of the absolute best pure 2D shooting games ever made. Super enjoyable with ridiculous boss fights and a pumping soundtrack. Also released on the Playstation and has been ported to many other consoles over the years.
12. FIGHTERS MEGAMIX
A mish-mash of characters from Sega's "Virtua Fighter" and "Fighting Vipers" franchises, "Fighters Megamix" is a big blast to play. Between the large character selection, which also includes a bevy of unlockable and secret characters, plus the many homage's to Sega's franchises, this game is just plain awesome. You can usually find this pretty cheap and it has never seen a re-release either. Check it out.
11. VIRTUA FIGHTER 2
While we're on the subject of Sega's 3D fighting franchises, "Virtua Fighter 2" was one of the best 3D fighters of its era. Granted it was never for everybody, but it was super enjoyable for what it is. Playing like a way more refined version of the original game with graphical effects that pushed the Saturn's poor 3D processing power to its limit, this was one of the premiere games for the console to own.
10. X-MEN VS STREET FIGHTER
An arcade fighter crossover, the Saturn version of "X-Men VS Street Fighter" never made it over here on our shores, instead we got an inferior Playstation version that couldn't handle all the sprite movement and animation. For the Japanese Saturn release, the game came with a cartridge that expanded the RAM so all the game's animation and tag-team action remained intact. One of the best of Capcom's Marvel fighting games.
9. SEGA RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
An arcade perfect port of Sega's off-road racing hit, "Sega Rally" is still super fun to play to this very day. There's been sequels and spin-offs in the years that followed, but this remains one of the best games on the console, and an essential addition to your Saturn library.
8. NIGHT WARRIORS: DARKSTALKERS REVENGE
The second installment of Capcom's "Darkstalkers" fighting franchise, the Saturn release of "Night Warriors" was a near-arcade perfect port that proved the Saturn could do 2D animation and graphics way better than the Playstation ever could. It flows smooth as silk and is still super fun to play. Oh, and Morrigan makes me feel funny in my pants...in the front.
7. STREET FIGHTER ALPHA 2
What I just said about the Saturn doing 2D games way better than the Playstation could? Well, it's true, and "Street Fighter Alpha 2" is a prime example. This is without a doubt the best home port of the game to ever see the light of day.
6. NIGHTS...INTO DREAMS
An instant cult classic upon its original release, "Nights" featured wonderfully fun gameplay and was even packaged with a "3D" controller that made the game even more fun (a controller that one can tell right away was an early precursor to the controller that would be designed for the Dreamcast). Unique in its art design and gameplay elements, the game also boasts an amazing soundtrack that is regarded as one of the best...well, ever. We finally received a long awaited sequel on the Wii a few years back, as well as an HD re-release for a new generation.
5. RADIANT SILVERGUN
The best vertical shooter to grace the console, "Radiant Silvergun" sadly never saw release over here. Instead, it remained in Japan, where it became a fan favorite and a critical darling, which is a real shame that American gamers didn't get to experience it back then. Anyway, eventually it did get an HD re-release on XBox Live, which is pretty fun, but there's just something about the original that does it for me. It'll cost you a pretty penny to import it, but it's worth it.
4. SHINING FORCE III
One of the final games to be released for the Saturn, "Shining Force III" is super rare, and super awesome. With great animation, voice acting, and a deep quest that will keep you plenty entertained, this game has a lot to offer. Sadly though, as long as this game is, there's more to the story that never made it over to our shores. Additional scenarios would be released in Japan, while we missed out on them. Ultra pricey.
3. DRAGON FORCE
Regarded as one of the best real-time strategy games to ever see the light of day, "Dragon Force" features multiple storylines and paths that determine how the game will wind up. Achieving massive critical love when first released, like many other Saturn games it didn't sell well, and has since become a sought-after collector's item.
2. GUARDIAN HEROES
A 2D side-scrolling beat 'em up with RPG elements thrown in, "Guardian Heroes" was another critical darling that no one played, and has thus become one of the most sought-after games the Saturn has to offer. It has received an HD re-release on XBox Live with new artwork and gameplay elements, but there's something about the original Saturn version that it just can't hold a candle to it.
1. PANZER DRAGOON SAGA
Well, this is it. The big granddaddy of Saturn games, and one of the rarest video games in general. An RPG take on Sega's cult "Panzer Dragoon" franchise, "Panzer Dragoon Saga" was a massive undertaking that saw an extremely limited release during the last days of the Saturn's life. Seriously, this game goes for hundreds of dollars, especially if you can find one with all the discs included in its original packaging. That aside though, it's one of the best games Sega ever made, and is begging for some kind of re-release in the future. Hell, I'd just love a new "Panzer Dragoon" game honestly, but that's another story.
So there you have it. Did you own a Saturn in your youth? Did you ever play it? Do you want to? Well you fucking should. Captain Nick says so.