by: Simon Williams
; edited by: Michael Hartman
; updated: 4/17/2012
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Bright Hub takes on the task of deciding the top ten Dreamcast games of all time. Has your favorite Dreamcast classic made the cut?
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Top Ten Dreamcast Games of All Time
In the short two year lifespan of the Sega Dreamcast, inspired game developers, revelling in the power of the hardware and the possibilities afforded by the system's many innovations, released a stream of unbelievable games, many of which sadly never reached the audience they deserved. Trying to narrow down these classic titles to a final list of the top ten Dreamcast games was a massive challenge, but we at Bright Hub took it on. Peruse the list, agree with some of the entries, throw rotten tomatoes at us for the games we left out, but glory in the majesty that was the Sega Dreamcast.
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First up in our top ten Dreamcast games is the arcade classic Crazy Taxi. First released into the arcades in 1999, and then ported to the Dreamcast in 2000 in a pixel-perfect conversion, Crazy Taxi is a frankly mental driving game involving ferrying different passengers around a sunny Californian city while dodging insane motorists and keeping one eye firmly on the clock. Choose one of four different taxi drivers, each with their own strengths and weaknesses (as well as hilarious dialogue), and try to pick up and deliver as many paying customers as possible before the timer runs down. The Dreamcast version also added in a "Crazy Box" mini game mode, featuring various driving challenges of a usually bizarre nature (taxi bowling, anyone?) to round the package out.
Sporting a cracking punk soundtrack featuring Bad Religion and Offspring, Crazy Taxi was a joyous embodiment of the "just one more go" spirit of the best arcade games, and remains popular today, having just been announced as a forthcoming Xbox Live Arcade title. The original Dreamcast version is one of the few in our top ten Dreamcast games that can still be found sealed at a decent price as well, so makes a great starting point for any Dreamcast collection.
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Jet Set Radio
Also known as Jet Grind Radio in Northern America, this cel-shaded skating game is another example of the imagination and creativity developers pored into so many of these top ten Dreamcast games. You play a member of a spray-painting skater gang in a fictionalized Tokyo, trying to keep one step of both rival gangs and the police. The gameplay involves a combination of skating and platforming, as the player chains together moves to reach out of the way spraycans and graffiti spots, looking to "tag" an increasing portion of the city with your gang's colors.
A cult classic, despite not actually shifting that many units when originally on sale, Jet Set Radio is another title recommended to form the basis of a new Dreamcast collection, thanks to plentiful supplies of cheap sealed copies on Ebay and other sites. Like Crazy Taxi, it's also graced with a fantastic soundtrack, mixing in Hip Hop, J-Pop, Electro and Funk, as well as a truly innovative art style.
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For many console gamers, this quirky little puzzle game, eventually given away as a free pack-in title with the Dreamcast, was their first taste of the joys of online multiplayer gaming that we take for granted now in the era of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. ChuChu Rocket's historical importance alone would see it find a place in our list of top Dreamcast games, but in typical Sega fashion, they managed to cram a fiendishly addictive puzzle mechanic into it that means the game stands on its own merits.
The aim of the game is to herd your collection of "ChuChus" (mice, essentially) towards a series of goals, while avoiding the "KapuKapus" (I bet you can guess what they are) that wander the playing area, through the strategic placement of arrows and remembering the rules of how the ChuChus behave when they come into contact with obstacles. What seems a simple enough board game at first quickly ramps up into a baffling brain-teaser, and that's before you factor in the four-player online multiplayer. Sega also included a level editor with the game, featuring the ability to upload and download new levels from the Internet, unprecedented on a home console at the time.
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Metropolis Street Racer
It's made by Bizarre Creations. It features highly accurate recreations of major cities including London and Tokyo. You earn "Kudos" for pulling off driving maneuvers. Yep, Project Gotham Racing fans, this is where it all began. Indeed, there was a time when the original Xbox seemed to be acting as a sanctuary for Dreamcast games with no home to go to, with ports and sequels to games from the Sega console proliferating on the Microsoft machine. The subsequent PGR titles are pretty much direct sequels to Metropolis Street Racer, but Bizarre were unable to use the original name due to copyright issues.
Taken on its own merits, Metropolis Street Racer still stands up well. The graphics, astonishing on a console in 2000, still hold up, with masses of detail and super-smooth frame rates, while the gameplay will be instantly familiar to PGR players, involving unlocking cars and tracks through a progression of street races and challenges in the different cities, building up the Kudos meter through pulling off driving stunts while keeping an eye on the clock. A clever feature meant that the game's day-night cycle ran according to your Dreamcast's own internal clock, so if it was daytime in London, it was nighttime when you raced in San Francisco.
There were many great racing games on the Dreamcast, including the hardcore F355 Ferrari Challenge, but Metropolis Street Racer just beats them out to take its place in the top Dreamcast games list.
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The first truly left-field choice on our rundown of the greatest Dreamcast games, not least because virtually no-one was able to buy it let alone play it when it was released, but bear with us, because it deserves its place in the pantheon.
A single-player sport/puzzle game hybrid, Cosmic Smash took the minimalist approach to controls first seen in Virtua Tennis and crafted something truly original from it. The gameplay is a mixture of arcade classic Breakout and squash, that sees the player trying to break various patterns of blocks under a strict time limit while dealing with fantastical ball physics that allow you to pause and alter the flight of the missile in mid-air. Add to this the semi-hallucinogenic vector graphic art style and the fact that the game is so maddeningly addictive that it makes Angry Birds look like a walk in the park, and you have a true, if sadly unsung, Dreamcast classic.
Cosmic Smash was released in Japan and Europe only near the end of the Dreamcast's lifespan, unusually in a DVD cover rather than the standard Dreamcast jewel case. You won't believe it when you see the price it fetches now, but it was actually a cheap budget title. Quite why Sega sent this game out to die no-one will ever know, but then again, trying to fathom what Sega thought it was doing in 2001 is beyond even the greatest minds on the planet anyway.
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Take that! And that! Ha ha! Eat my sword!
Yes, not just one of the greatest Dreamcast games ever, but arguably the greatest fighting game ever made, Soul Calibur probably provided more fantastic multiplayer moments (and irreparably broken friendships) in my household than any other title. Nominally an arcade conversion, but so vastly superior to the original that it virtually counted as a new game, Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast was not only a technical tour-de-force, featuring jaw-dropping graphics and animation, but intense, strategic gameplay that still managed to be accessible to those unschooled in the ways of the fighting genre. It was also arguably the first title that got fighting in a 3D environment right. Subsequent games in the series, while decent enough in themselves, never quite matched up to the genius of the original.
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Skies of Arcadia
The Dreamcast may not have had access to some of the big JRPG franchises like Final Fantasy, but who needed them when you had the beautifully crafted Skies of Arcadia? A massive two-disc adventure, Skies of Arcadia saw you take control of Vyse and his gang of friends as they tried to prevent the evil Valuan Empire from bringing destruction down upon everyone. The game combined the dungeon crawling and random encounters beloved of JRPGs with exploration of a enormous overworld filled with islands hanging in the sky. When you add in a lovingly written tale that touches all the traditional bases of Japanese RPGs while still feeling fresh and original, Skies of Arcadia easily sails its way into our list of the greatest Dreamcast games.
Oh, and did I mention it had airships? Airships!
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Perhaps the single most controversial choice for our top ten of the best Sega Dreamcast games, but hear us out. Yes, you're a bunch of little animals shooting cartoon bears, but Fur Fighters is a truly brilliant game, and, anyway, the bears deserve it. They stole our babies.
Fur Fighters is the second title from Bizarre Creations in our list, and it's a game that displays more imagination and humor in its first level than in any of the morass of "space marine" shooters that deluge us today. Its a third-person shooter and platformer that featured expansive levels with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, trinkets to pick up and puzzles to solve. Along the way you get to indulge in some heated gunplay that is not only intense and testing but also absolutely hysterical, as bears go flying through the air in true A-Team style. The ability to switch between several characters, each with their own special abilities and characteristics, also adds a level of strategy to clearing out each level. Any other game that featured huge free-roaming levels, memorable bosses and masses of weaponry would be praised to the hilt, but, in typical Dreamcast fashion, virtually no-one bought it. Hang your heads in shame.
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Ikaruga has become one of those games that's discussed in hushed tones, like some awe-inspiring relic from the East. I mean, it's Ikaruga. Perhaps the ultimate embodiment of everything in vertically scrolling shoot 'em ups. And rock hard.
On the surface, Ikaruga is just that, a bullet-hell vertical scroller, ten-a-penny in Japanese arcades. Worse, it only features five levels (so I've been told - I'm going to have to own up here, I've still never managed to complete it, possibly due to not possessing the reflexes of a god from Olympus). But this being Treasure, there is so much more going on.
The spiritual successor to legendary Saturn shooter Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga grafts a polarity mechanism onto the shmup gameplay. Your ship can change between white and black at the press of a button, and so do your bullets. Let's say you're in black polarity: you become invulnerable to enemy black bullets and your black bullets deal out double the damage to white enemies. However, get hit by a white bullet and you're in trouble.
Ikaruga therefore becomes as much an intense puzzler as a shooter, as you attempt to memorize the different color combinations of enemies in each level, while rapidly switching between the appropriate polarity, all while dodging the immense patterns of bullets. Once the end-of-level bosses turn up, it frankly turns completely mental. In an unbelievably addictive way.
Ikaruga is undoubtedly one of the best Sega Dreamcast games, but, honestly, if you buy it for Dreamcast you have more money than sense. It goes for absolutely ridiculous sums on Ebay. The Xbox Live Arcade is exactly the same version, and a couple of hundred dollars cheaper, so get it on there. But do get it.
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So we come to the end of our countdown of the best Dreamcast games ever made. Nine worthy gaming classics have come before us, but finally we have reached the summit, the deifining title of the Dreamcast era, a game so adored that even now, a decade later, a voluble section of gamers still harangue Sega to release the third and final part of the trilogy. Bright Hub's greatest Dreamcast game ever is Shenmue.
Trying to sum up Shenmue in a couple of paragraphs is pretty much impossible, but here goes anywhere. After watching the death of his father at the hands of a mysterious man called Lan Di, Ryo Hazuki sets out to solve the murder and bring the killer to justice. To do this, the player must explore a massive game world set in 1980s Japan, filled with a myriad of clues, activities and characters to encounter.
Shenmue was designed to be Yu Suzuki's gaming masterpiece, and is rumored to have been the second-most expensive game of all time after Grand Theft Auto IV - at a time when Sega were losing money hand over fist. First conceived on the Dreamcast's predecessor the Saturn, Shenmue's scope and scale soon proved too much for the 32-bit machine, and devlopment transferred to the Dreamcast. Shenmue was groundbreaking in the freedom it presented the player with and in its detailed simulation of Eighties Japan, including authentic day/night and weather cycles as well as fully voice-acted NPCs, unheard of for the time.
The actual gameplay in Shenmue was acombination of exploration of the gameworld, a 3D fighting engine for combat and the introduction of what would become known (and commonly derided) as Quick Time Events, involving pressing button combinations displayed on-screen. There are motorcycle chases, fights in bars and even Yu Suzuki's classic arcade games Space Harrier and Hang-On, both fully playable within the game's virtual arcades.
Shenmue never stood a chance of ever recouping its production costs, and while the sequel did make its way out into the world, including an Xbox port, the final chapter never saw the light of day, leaving Shenmue fans forever frustrated. While a financial disaster, Shenmue has proven hugely influential on games in the 21st Century, particularly the Grand Theft Auto titles and other "Open World" games, and its story-telling mechanics have found their way into the work of game designers such as David Cage of Indigo Prophecy and Heavy Rain fame. In many ways, the spirit of Shenmue lives on in Sega's Yakuza series.
You may never be able to solve the crime at the heart of Shemue, but it is a collosus in the Dreamcast gaming landscape, and truly deserves its crown of best Dreamcast game ever made.
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The Sega Dreamcast may have only had a commercial life of barely two years, but it arguably crammed in more classic titles per game released than any other console. Creating a list of the best Dreamcast games ever is difficult enough, but when you consider that the likes of Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Power Stone, F355 Ferrari Challenge and Marvel vs Capcom 2 plus countless others didn't make it onto our chart, and the riches available to Dreamcast owners is plain for all to see. Factor in a still lively homebrew scene with plenty of free Dreamcast game downloads available, and a Sega Dreamcast, even now a decade later, remains a quality gaming investment. Even if you haven't got access to the original hardware, many of these great games are playable on Dreamcast emulators on PC, so there is no excuse not to give them a try.