For gamers of a certain generation, the mid-90s brought a difficult choice:
Sony PlayStation or Sega Saturn?
Very few of us had the cash to buy both, and each company went to town in their marketing to get their hands on our money. Whichever machine you went with, though, you didn’t actually miss out – each machine had its own merits, and some major titles (Tomb Raider, for example) were released on both anyway.
The Saturn didn’t last quite as long as the PlayStation, though, and Sega went on to stop producing their own consoles altogether. After the Dreamcast brought financial losses in the same way the Saturn had years earlier, the company moved into producing software for other consoles instead.
Still, the Sega Saturn has its fans even today, and a decent catalogue of games to keep them satisfied more than 20 years since its release.
So, if you’ve got your old machine in storage somewhere, what 10 games do you HAVE to dig out along with it?
Panzer Dragoon Saga
This is one of the most beloved Saturn games, but it’s in very short supply. When this was released back in 1998, Sega was already gearing up for the Dreamcast’s arrival, and so no more than 20,000 copies actually hit the Western market.
So, if you already own a copy of this, or have the cash to invest in one, Panzer Dragoon Saga is well worth a look.
This four-disc behemoth is set in a post-apocalyptic world, featuring a unique language and a gripping plot. Players take on the role of Edge, a dragon-riding mercenary, in three different types of gameplay: soaring on your winged pal; fighting bad guys; and exploring the world on foot. Like the Final Fantasy series, Panzer Dragoon Saga incorporates random battles.
The game also received widespread acclaim for its stunning art direction, and is praised as one of the best RPG games ever made.
Virtua Cop 2
Once upon a time, playing a lightgun game in your own home was the pinnacle of gaming luxury. While we’d all tried Duck Hunt on the NES at one time or another, titles like Virtua Cop 2 brought the thrills of cutting-edge arcades right to your bedroom.
On-rails shooters are endlessly replayable and fun, especially in co-op. Virtua Cop 2 was a big hit on the Saturn, thanks to its graphics and fast-paced action. Sure, the visuals aren’t quite as impressive today, but the game still has an authentic arcade feel.
NiGHTS into Dreams
Even gamers who never went near a Saturn are likely to have heard of NiGHTS into Dreams.
Developed by the team behind Sonic the Hedgehog, NiGHTS is close to those games in spirit if not in story. Featuring a much more complex and interesting concept, NiGHTS is a 2D action game in luscious 3D settings, across seven different stages. Each of these takes place in the dream-world of Nightopia, as leads Elliot and Claris try to stop Wizeman the Wicked seizing control. The visuals and score are both incredible, considering when they were created.
Unlike Sonic and most action games, NiGHTS into Dreams is based around flight. Players soar through levels, collecting pick-ups and passing through rings. It still feels unique after all these years, and is definitely worth trying again.
Virtua Fighter 2
Just as the Saturn and PS1 brought arcade-shooters like Virtua Cop 2 into our homes, they were also powerful enough for a whole new world of fighting games too.
For years, gamers had brawled through countless 2D fighters, but now 3D graphics made sideways-movements and shifting camera angles possible. Gone were flat characters, replaced by chunky polygonal sprites instead.
Virtua Fighter 2 is still one of the Saturn’s classic fighting games. Two new characters debuted here: (Shun Di, an expert in Drunken Kung Fu) and Lion Rafale (the brilliantly-named master of mantis-style combat). The gameplay is much more simple than we’re used to in today’s brawlers, but Virtua Fighter 2 is still great fun, especially in versus mode.
This side-scrolling beat-em-up is a classic in the style of other Sega masterpieces like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe. However, rather than using the Saturn’s upgraded power for such a simplistic game, developers Treasure Co. Ltd brought more to the table.
As players work through the story mode, they can actually direct the plot with their decisions. These branching paths lead to different endings, adding more replay value (as does the massive range of playable characters). Another innovation is the karma meter, which changes depending on whether players kill civilians or save them.
Guardian Heroes was released on Xbox Live Arcade back in 2011, so if you can’t find your old Saturn, there are other ways to try an updated version out there!
The Bomberman series features its fair share of classic party games, and this Saturn version is one of the best. This features both a story and battle mode, with as many as 10 players able to compete (so long as you have two multi-taps handy).
Saturn Bomberman’s graphics are bright, colourful, and were simple even at the time – this has helped the game to age better than most.
Fans of the series will still find plenty to love when they play it today, so try to get your hands on a copy!
Sega Rally Championship
Every console has its great racing games, and Sega Rally Championship is one of the Saturn’s. Ported from the successful arcade game, Sega Rally (as it was generally known) boasted the USP of different surfaces affecting vehicles’ handling. This is something we take for granted now, but at the time it was pretty darned revolutionary.
Rally games were less common than they are now (though there’s hardly a huge amount today), and this helped to demonstrate the Saturn’s power to great effect.
This RTS received incredible acclaim when it hit the market, and it remains a terrific example of the genre. Players take charge of their own area of land, and have to bring their entire continent together to fend off a dark force looking to wipe them out. There are eight characters to choose from, with each set on their own fixed route as they travel from one town to the next in their quest.
Battles are based around real-time tactical action, and take some getting used to (as most RTS games do). Despite its age, Dragon Force still looks beautiful today, particularly in the battle scenes. Chunky sprites, smooth movements, and a great sense of visual depth gives the game a unique style.
How many games are based around putting out fires? There was Rosco McQueen on the PS1, of course, and a few others, but Burning Rangers could well be the best example of the firefighting video-game niche.
Rather than following a modern-day team of firefighters, Burning Rangers is set in the future. Fire is one of the only dangers facing society, and the Burning Rangers themselves are on-hand to deal with it.
Gameplay revolves around extinguishing fires and saving people, as one of two new recruits. One cool feature is the high-tech suit the rangers wear, including a jetpack (which helps with navigating the wide stages).
It may not sound like the most exciting game ever made, but Burning Rangers is a blast. It’s also an example of the unique, innovative titles released on the Saturn. The visuals still stand up to scrutiny today, and the character animations are impressively fluid.
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
The second Panzer Dragoon game on our list, II Zwei is totally different from Saga. II Zwei is a prequel to the first game, and an on-rails shooter featuring dragons – what more do you need to know?
The action’s fast but not confusing, and switches between ground-based and aerial routes. Visually, II Zwei is still beautiful (despite some ropey textures), with the player’s dragon well-animated and a great range of environments. Anyone who played Saga and expects more of the same here will be surprised, but not disappointed.
As the player progresses and their performance improves, their dragon will actually evolve, and a variety of paths can be chosen through levels. Anyone powering their Saturn up for a playthrough of classic games will find it hard to put this down.
What are your favourite Sega Saturn games? Let us know!