Back in the mid to late 90s, video game companies were getting consoles ready for the move of 32-bit consoles hitting the market. Sony answered the call with the Playstation, while Nintendo got out the Nintendo 64. But one console that almost went unnoticed in the US was the Sega Saturn.
Popular in Japan, the Sega Saturn had many unique titles. However, it struggled to make its mark in the United States and Europe. Regardless, the Sega Saturn is just as important as the Playstation and N64.
This year marks the 27th anniversary of Sega Saturn’s launch. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the top ten best Sega Saturn games. The titles mentioned below are exclusive to Sega’s console–they are titles not on the PS1 or N64!
Sakura Wars: The Classic Sega Saturn Game
- Year: 1996
Sega Saturn’s cult classic Sakura Wars is a role-playing game like no other. This game was among the first to crossover multiple genres into one game. It combines a tactical RPG, a dating sim, and a visual novel. All of this with original anime cutscenes.
Imperial Officer Ichiro Ogami is tasked to lead the Flower Division of Tokyo into a battle against black magicians. His army disguises itself as a theater group, living and performing in a theater. However, when the battles start, the army takes control of their personalized mech units to face the “Hive of Darkness.”
The gameplay includes interactions with a number of characters, like in a visual novel. Every answer and choice affects your relationships and the outcomes of future missions and interactions. Additionally, it has interesting turn-based combat, which is similarly influenced by the relationships and actions you made with your team.
The series has multiple sequels, and a remake was made in 2019. Although it’s a Japanese port, you can find a fanmade translation online. It’s quite popular, as are its characters. Even Saturn’s spokesperson, Segata Sanshiro, is married to the main girl in the game!
Burning Rangers: On The Burning Edge Of Early 3D
- Year: 1998
This Sega Saturn game’s music hits so hard that it has its own soundtrack disc! Yet the music isn’t the only part of this game that works well. The story is also great. A team of futuristic firefighters goes around multiple locations saving lives, putting out fires, and even defeating robots. No, seriously, this game gets crazy later down the line.
Burning Rangers, worked on by Yuji Naka, was one of five games released in North America. Not only is this game fully 3D, but it also has many similarities with Sonic the Hedgehog. The characters use crystals to power their weapon, save civilians, and keep themselves at full health.
There is also a bit of a time limit: the longer the player takes, the more unstable the building becomes. In addition, it keeps players on their toes by having unexpected explosions to test their reflexes!
Virtua Cop: The Arcade Game Sega Brought Home
- Year: 1995
Sega is no stranger to the arcades, so what better arcade port to their console than Virtua Cop? If the arcades don’t have this in stock, the Sega Saturn had you covered.
A fully 3D light gun shooter game, Virtua Cop has players gun down bad guys while avoiding hapless civilians running towards the line of fire. The game feels very cinematic. It puts players in the shoes of cops Michael Hardy and James Cools, who go through multiple stages and take on waves of the aptly named E.V.I.L. Inc.
As playing this game with a controller can feel stiff and clunky, the Sega Saturn included a light gun that came along with the game. Hence, this game is about as close as you can get to the arcades. The best part is that players don’t need to spend tokens or wait in line to play!
Fighters Megamix: Sega Saturn’s Crossover Fighting Game
- Year: 1996
The mid-1990s saw a slew of fighting games released. Yet very few of them were as mixed up and quirky as Sega Saturn’s Fighters Megamix. This game is not only fully 3D but has a pretty good roster from both Fighting Vipers and Virtua Fighter 2.
What makes the game unique is its 12 hidden characters to unlock. These include Rent-A-Hero, Bean the Dynamite, and even the Hornet from Daytona USA. This game was released before Super Smash Bros. and truly started the popularity of crossover fighting games.
Although this game isn’t as talked about as other fighting games are, Fighters Megamix stands out among the crowd. It is definitely unlike any other fighting game of the time. After all, how many others let you play as a polar bear in a Santa Claus suit?
Assault Suit Leynos 2: The Retro Game
- Year: 1997
Games don’t have to be in 3D in order to be good. The third game in the Assault Suits series, Assault Suit Leynos 2, feels like a retro game with modern controls. The premise is simple: the player is a pilot of an Assault Suit taking on enemy aircraft and mechs.
The gameplay is both smooth and intense, giving the player full range with 360 aimings. Additionally, the players’ suits can be customized with over 50 weapons. There are upgrades to be obtained and ways to customize the mech for the best play style.
Between the graphics and the music, Leynos 2 feels like a mecha anime. It was released as a Japanese exclusive for Sega Saturn and is a game worth playing just for how fun it can be. While it might not be as memorable as Mobile Suit Gundam, it’s pretty close.
Die Hard Arcade: The Sega Saturn Spinoff
- Year: 1996
Despite the name, this game doesn’t have anything to do with the Die Hard movies. That said, it’s still the most fun you’ll have in a beat-em-up game. Known as Dynamite Deka in Japan and Europe, Die Hard Arcade was the first beat-em-up game to use textured 3D graphics.
Play as either John McClain or his female partner Kris Thompsen as they scale a tall building, all while fighting a horde of enemies to save the President’s daughter. What makes this game interesting was not just the combos players can pull off, but also the number of weapons they can use.
Aside from guns, players can use brooms, pipes, pepper spray, fire axes, and so much more.
Die Hard Arcade is very challenging in more ways than one. The game introduces quick time events that require the player to push “command” at the precise right time. If the player fails the event, they then have extra enemies to beat. However, if played with a friend, the game becomes much easier and even more fun.
House Of The Dead: Sega Saturn Meets Horror
- Year: 1996
Sega Saturn is no stranger to arcade games. If you’re looking for a light gun game that’s a little scarier, then House of the Dead will scratch that itch. House of the Dead is a game that may seem simple but is surprisingly difficult to get through without shelling out credits.
Thomas Rogan, or Agent G, goes through a mansion that is infested with mutants and zombies. The gun players are given only holds six shots, while enemies are constant. Add in the number of scientists that need help and that give the player useful items, and timing and accuracy become key to making it through the mansion alive.
Much like Virtua Cop, House of the Dead had the option of using a light gun to make the game more like an arcade game. Make sure to keep a cool head and not panic when you’re down to your last life!
Guardian Heroes: Sega Saturn’s Roleplaying Game
- Year: 1996
The late 1990s was all about change in gameplay and graphics. Thus, side-scrolling beat-em-ups were starting to become a thing of the past. The developers at Treasure however decided to take the genre and put a spin on it by making a fighting role-playing game.
Players can choose around five characters to play as, including classics such as those found in Dungeons and Dragons. The hand-drawn sprites and detailed backdrops are eye-catching. However, combat can get crazy if players aren’t careful.
The role-playing mechanics come into play with branching paths. The player’s actions can also affect the ending of the game. With multiple endings and likable characters, Guardian Heroes is an underrated gem only available on Sega Saturn.
Panzer Dragoon Saga: The Most Expensive Game To Buy Today
- Year: 1998
The Panzer Dragoon series is possibly one of Sega Saturn’s most captivating. It was one of the few shooter games to be fully 3D. Players can even fly dragons! While the first two entries were great on rail shooters, Panzer Dragoon Saga was the first to become a much more open world with turn-based combat mechanics.
After being the sole survivor of a tragic attack, Edge goes on a quest to find the ones responsible for the death of his comrades. Edge’s travels lead him to find the villain Crayman, as well as a mysterious woman who was encased in stone.
There are very few copies of this game in existence, unfortunately. As a result, copies can be worth as much as one thousand U.S. dollars. Still, if you can find it at a reasonable price, it’s well worth the experience.
Nights Into Dreams: The Most Ambitious
- Year: 1996
A 3D platformer like no other game, Nights into Dreams is Sega Saturn’s most ambitious title. Sonic Team’s developers created this game to not only show off the hardware of the console but also to promote their own analog controller. It’s also one of the few games that are still easy to pick up and play on modern hardware.
The goal of the game is to fly Nights around various dream levels, all while collecting orbs called “Ideyas.” Each completion of a level contributes to getting the player to a boss level as they help Nights take on Wizeman the Wicked and save Nightopia.
There are multiple endings to the game. It even got a Christmas-themed demo in Japan. While this game is not like Sonic the Hedgehog, Nights into Dreams grew popular enough to be released on the Xbox Arcade. It is even available as a PC port on Steam.