My Personal Top 10 Sega Saturn Games!
Join Bill as he shares his Top 10 Sega Saturn Games!
Out of all the consoles released over the years, the Sega Saturn may have one of the most interesting game libraries of all time. Thanks to its relative failure outside of Japan, and the general mismanagement at Sega during the era, a lot of its games have been forgotten in recent years. So today I’d like to share my personal top ten games released for the system, and my thoughts on each.
10. Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition
So the original Sega Saturn release of Daytona USA, while playable, was notably a bit of a mess, due to its inconsistent graphics and lack of content compared to the arcade original. Later in the console's life, Sega decided to release an updated version of the game known as Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition. Based on Sega AM3’s Sega Rally Championship, the port would feature updated graphics and additional content including new cars and tracks and a new hard rock soundtrack. As a longtime auto racing fan, Daytona USA has always been one of the series that best combines the realistic aspect of the sport along with fun arcade-style accessibility, easily one of my favorites in both the arcades and at home.
9. Fighting Vipers
Now while the Saturn wasn’t exactly known for its 3D graphics capabilities, Sega’s arcade developers were still able to make the most of the system’s hardware to bring some excellent fighters to the system. One of which was Fighting Vipers, a 3D fighting game created by Sega’s legendary AM2 studio headed by Yu Suzuki. With the game’s notable mechanics based around enclosed arenas and armor, along with featuring more western-styled combat and locations to allow it to stand out among the large number of fighters from the era. Fighting Vipers was in a lot of ways the fighter that really clicked with me when it came to 3D games in the genre, and led to much branching out and discovery of new franchises.
8. Nights Into Dreams…
Now while the Sega Saturn would not see a mainline Sonic the Hedgehog title during its lifetime, series creator Sonic Team would branch out into different games. The first of which was Nights into Dreams, an action game created by Sonic creators Naoto Ohshima and Yuji Naka, notable for being packed in with Saturn’s 3D gamepad which was meant to assist with the game's precise controls. With excellent graphics, combined with a fun story and characters, Nights into Dreams was one of the first games to start my Saturn collection that would truly show me what the console was capable of, kickstarting my love for the console.
7. Albert Odyssey: Legend Of Eldean
Notably, one of the few traditional turn-based Role Playing games to be released outside of Japan for the Saturn, Albert Odyssey: Legend Of Eldean was notably the creation of Sunsoft and would be the lone entry in the Albert Odyssey series to make it overseas. The game's localization was iconically handled by Working Designs, a publisher renowned for pioneering early localization practices with their excellent translations and high-quality packaging for their games. Even if the game was not the most groundbreaking Role Playing Game to grace the Saturn thanks to its somewhat safe design, Albert Odyssey is still a great turn-based RPG for the time, helped by an excellent story and characters. Overall this game would become one of my favorites on the system thanks largely due to my love for publisher Working Designs and JRPGs as a whole.
6. Sakura Wars 2
So one unfortunate aspect of the Saturn was due to its general failure outside of Japan, most of its most interesting games would never see a release overseas. One of those series was Sakura Wars, which would notably see two entries for the console and would feature a unique mix of gameplay styles including Tactical Role Playing, Visual Novel, And Dating Sim. With the game also showcasing a fun presentation that would use Anime cutscenes to help present the story to the players. With the second game often being seen as the peak of the franchise.
Unfortunately, the game has never seen an official English release, although it would later see an anime adaptation that would even see a dub overseas, which would spark my interest in the games leading to me importing them and experiencing them for the first time.
5. Princess Crown
Notably another Japan-only title for the Saturn, Princess Crown was notably the creation of Shin Megami Tensei developer Atlus. And would be notable for its beautiful 2D graphical style and hack and slash/beat ‘em up styled combat that would mix with action role-playing mechanics for one high energy and easy-to-pick-up design. Following the game’s release, the studio within Atlus would branch off to form the studio Vanillaware who would go on to create a number of acclaimed titles including Odin Sphere, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, and the pseudo-sequel Dragon’s Crown.
Sadly like the previous entry on this list, this title has also never seen an official English release, although Vanillaware’s legacy would later spark my interest in experiencing the game, which is an absolute joy for any fan of stylistic 2D RPGs.
4. Shining Force III
Notably one of the final titles to be released for the Saturn during its lifetime. Shining Force III was the third entry in the tactical RPG sub-section of Sega’s Shining series of role-playing games. With the game being notable as the final title in the series to be developed by series creator Sonic! Software Planning (who would go on to become Camelot Software Planning), and would feature some excellent Tactical RPG gameplay acting as the perfect answer to Nintendo's Fire Emblem series.
Following the game's release it would actually see two additional scenarios that unfortunately never leave Japan. With the game itself being one of my first more expensive titles I would collect, appealing to my growing interest in tactical RPGs while additionally cementing my love for the genre alongside Nintendo’s Fire Emblem.
3. Burning Rangers
Another late release in the Saturn library, Burning Rangers was the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog creator Sonic Team with Naoto Ohshima and Yuji Naka leading the project. Burning Rangers revolves around a fictional future team of firefighters and would notably mix third-person shooting, action, and platforming aspects. The game would also stand out in regards to its graphics and presentation, which would showcase some of the best 3D graphics to ever grace the Saturn along with some extensive voice acting for the time. Burning Rangers would also be one of the greatest finds I would come across at a gaming convention, and even if I really didn’t have the money at the time, as a collector I simply couldn’t pass it up.
2. Radiant Silvergun
Now out of all the genres to be featured on the Saturn during its lifetime, the Shoot ‘em Up genre may have been one of the most prolific. One of the most recommended titles would be Radiant Silvergun, a game created by developer Treasure, a studio acclaimed for their over the top flashy titles. Radiant Silvergun would notably revolve around a team of fighter pilots facing off against a mysterious threat for the survival of humanity, with the gameplay taking place in a vertical perspective with up to six different weapon types to aid the player during the game's many high energy stages.
Now while the Saturn game would remain exclusive to Japan, Radiant Silvergun would see a few international releases for the Xbox 360 and The Nintendo Switch. Although the Saturn version is in a lot of ways seen as the definitive version of the game, one that I was glad to add to my collection, and despite its high price tag it was a joy when I finally got to play it for myself.
1. Panzer Dragoon Saga
Quite possibly the holy grail of the Sega Saturn game library, Panzer Dragoon Saga was notably the third entry in the Panzer Dragoon series and would be notable for its dramatic shift in gameplay, switching from Rail Shooting to a full-on role-playing game. With the game taking aspects of its rail shooter roots and expanding them into a fully fleshed-out world with fun characters and engaging battles to defeat. With everything tied together by the game’s spectacular graphics and music, all in all, becoming one of the greatest experiences of the 32-Bit era. Sadly the game itself has become quite the collector's item in recent years going for over $1000 in today's retro game market, while also being the most expensive game I’ve ever collected in my 14 years with the hobby. This is truly one of those games that lives up to its immense hype, that should definitely be played if ever given the opportunity.
So this is my personal top 10 list for the Sega Saturn, still in a lot of ways one of the more obscure systems of its time. While many gamers know of it, not many truly are aware of what it actually had behind it. So what do you all think?
Let me know on any of our socials and continue the discussion.
About the author:
Bill Barber is a long-time video game collector and enthusiast of all things gaming and anime, aside from collecting Bill cohosts the Gaming And Collecting Podcast with his sister Alex and runs the Instagram blog @thebarberwhogames.