Top 10 Sega Saturn Games - Still Highly Playable

Tags: #sega ,   #RetroGaming ,   #videogames

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-09-21 10:11:29

While Sega Saturn was obliterated by PlayStation and even N64, this underrated gaming console is now appreciated as one of the best Sega consoles. There's plenty of choice, with over a thousand titles in its library. Unfortunately, a vast majority (75 percent!) remain Japanese exclusives. However, some have excellent English language fan translations. Thus, this list of best Sega Saturn games will only include titles playable for non-Japanese-speaking gamers. Furthermore, we'll rank games based on how fun they are now instead of their historical value. 

10. Magic Knight Rayearth

Magic Knight Rayearth has aged gracefully
Developer: Sega
Also available on: Saturn exclusive
Best features: Presentation, fun combat
Similar titles on Saturn: Linkle Liver Story
Game info

Magic Knight Rayearth successfully brings the beloved manga and anime series to life. The game follows the adventures of three young girls who are transported to the mystical land of Cephiro, where they must embark on a quest to save the kidnapped Princess Emeraude. With its vibrant graphics, charming characters, and engaging storyline, Magic Knight Rayearth immerses players in a world of fantasy and magic.

The gameplay mechanics are solid, with real-time battles and exploration elements that keep players engaged throughout the journey. The game also features beautiful anime-style cutscenes that further enhance the storytelling experience. While the difficulty level may be on the easier side, the game's strong narrative and captivating atmosphere make up for it. Magic Knight Rayearth received an English release very late in Saturn's life, so many missed it. Thus, it's another hidden gem for the platform.

9. Fighters Megamix

It's beautiful and still highly playable
Developer: Sega AM2
Also available on: Saturn exclusive
Best features: Visuals, lots of characters
Similar titles on Saturn: Virtua Fighter 2, Fighting Vipers
Game info

Virtua Fighter 2 is undoubtedly one of the most important Saturn games and a graphical showcase. However, gameplay and content-wise, it's not on top. That honor goes to Fighters Megamix, which improved over it in almost every segment. The game combines characters from numerous Sega games with many surprises. While fighters from Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers dominate, there are many others. This includes characters from Sonic Fighters, Virtua Cop 2, and even a Hornet car from Daytona USA!

Playing style can resemble Virtua Fighter 2 or Fighters Megamix, whatever you prefer. Furthermore, there's a team battle mode and several single-player courses. Combine this with many unlockable characters, making the replay value high. Visually, this is a stunning product. While the resolution is lower than in Virtua Fighter 2, everything is more detailed. Finally, the animation quality is excellent, and it runs at 60 fps.

8. Policenauts

Kojima loves storytelling, and Policenauts shines in that department
Developer: Konami
Also available on: PC-9821, 3DO, PlayStation
Best features: Excellent story, presentation, light gun support
Similar titles on Saturn: None
Game info

Hideo Kojima fans often moan about Policenauts, as this title was never released outside of Japan. As this is a text-heavy visual novel, this made it impossible to play. Luckily, the English fan translation for Saturn solved that problem. Even if this genre doesn't seem inviting to you, Policenauts will hook you with its excellent story and characters. Furthermore, there are action sequences, and only on Sega Saturn you can use a light gun to shoot. 

The Saturn version is the last port of the game and benefits from it with additional scenes and even looks better. Thus, this is the best way to experience this title. Still, Policenauts isn't for everyone, as it's slow and doesn't offer much action. However, this is an excellent choice if you like sci-fi and appreciate a good story.

7. Sega Rally Championship

Sega Rally has incredibly satisfying handling physics
Developer: Sega AM3
Also available on: PC, Arcade, PS2
Best features: Brilliant track design, excellent controls
Similar titles on Saturn: Daytona USA, Sega Touring Cars
Game info

Unfortunately, Sega converted only a few of their excellent arcade racing titles to Saturn. Furthermore, some, like Daytona USA and Sega Touring Cars, had massive issues. Luckily, Sega Rally turned out excellent and even topped the arcade release in some elements. Thus, there's an extra car, a car setup, and even a split-screen mode. Furthermore, the Netlink edition of the game supports online play. The game's strong qualities include excellent handling and track design. Therefore, you'll drive on many different surfaces and need all your skills.

Graphically, Sega Rally is one of the best-looking games on Saturn. The visual sacrifices are surprisingly small, and the frame rate is rock solid. Unfortunately, the game still lacks content, as four courses and three cars weren't enough even in 1995. Yet, this is one of the greatest rally games, and you'll love returning to it. While you can easily play the arcade version today, this one is still worth experiencing. Unfortunately, the game isn't available to buy for decades due to licensing. Even if it was, it would undoubtedly be delisted after a few years.

6. Shining Force III

Fan translation is excellent
Developer: Sonic Software Planning/Camelot Software Planning
Also available on: Saturn exclusive
Best features: Excellent graphics, battle system
Similar titles on Saturn: Grandia, Shining the Holy Ark
Game info

Shining Force III is an epic tactical RPG released exclusively for the Sega Saturn. Divided into three separate scenarios, the game offers a deep, immersive storyline that showcases different perspectives of the overarching conflict. The turn-based battles are strategic and engaging, allowing players to position their characters and execute well-coordinated attacks. With its beautiful sprite-based graphics and memorable character designs, Shining Force III delivers a visually appealing experience that captures the essence of the classic Shining Force series.

One of the standout features of Shining Force III is the interconnectedness of its scenarios, which creates a sense of continuity and progression throughout the trilogy. Players can import their saved data from one scenario to the next, carrying over characters and decisions, resulting in a cohesive and immersive gameplay experience. The game also offers an exceptional soundtrack that complements the epic battles and emotional moments, further enhancing the overall experience. Luckily, Scenario 2 and Scenario 3 received fan translations so everyone can play them.

5. Powerslave

The Saturn version is the one you want
Developer: Lobotomy Software
Also available on: PSX, PC
Best features: Graphics, non-linearity
Similar titles on Saturn: Duke Nukem 3D, Quake
Game info

The fifth console generation was loaded with first-person shooters, so even Saturn library has a few excellent ones. However, Powerslave sits on top. This title takes you to Egypt, where you'll fight enemies ranging from crabs to mythological creatures and aliens. While the gameplay may look basic, there's some unexpected depth here. Thus, don't be surprised if you get stuck. In that case, you need to explore other locations and find a way to progress. Furthermore, mindless shooting isn't encouraged, as ammunition is pretty scarce. 

While Powerslave is available on PlayStation and PC, these versions are inferior. In the case of PlayStation, the game lacks some visual effects, and the level design is worse. Finally, the PC port is a more linear experience. Saturn port looks and runs beautifully, so the developers used this engine for Duke Nukem 3D and even Quake! Thus, this proves how powerful the console was, doing some things better than PlayStation. 

4. Street Fighter Zero 3

The best among great Capcom fighters on Saturn
Developer: Capcom
Also available on: Arcade, PSX, Dreamcast, PSP, PS2
Best features: Almost arcade perfect, additional modes, character choice
Similar titles on Saturn: Street Fighter Collection, Marvel Super Heroes Vs. Street Fighter
Game info

Saturn was a 2D graphical powerhouse, making it perfect for Capcom fighters. With a 4 MB RAM expansion cart, Sega's 32-bit effort could provide almost arcade-perfect ports, impossible anywhere else. Street Fighter Zero 3 features a diverse roster of fighters, the biggest in the series' history. The Saturn version of Street Fighter Zero 3 stands out for its smooth gameplay and faithful arcade port, with almost identical graphics.

While both the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast versions of Street Fighter Zero 3 are highly regarded, the Saturn version has an edge. The Saturn port faithfully recreates the arcade gameplay, while the Dreamcast version has problems with hit detection. Additionally, the Saturn version includes more features and game modes. Finally, the Sega Saturn controller is way better for Capcom fighters. This is a standout choice for fans of Street Fighter and fighting games.

3. Guardian Heroes

The game that evolved the whole genre
Developer: Treasure
Also available on: Xbox 360
Best features: Non-linearity, character choice, visuals
Similar titles on Saturn: Three Dirty Dwarves
Game info

Guardian Heroes is an action-packed beat 'em-up that offers an engaging and unique gameplay experience. The game boasts an intriguing storyline, where players control a group of heroes fighting against hordes of enemies in a medieval fantasy setting. With its vibrant graphics and beautifully animated sprites, Guardian Heroes immerses players in a visually stunning world.

One of the standout features of Guardian Heroes is its deep and customizable combat system. Players can choose from several unique characters, each with distinct abilities and play styles, allowing for diverse gameplay strategies. The game also incorporates RPG elements, allowing players to level up their characters and make choices that impact the story. With its fantastic visuals, engaging gameplay, and memorable multiplayer mode, Guardian Heroes remains a beloved gem in the Sega Saturn library. The Xbox 360 version is also excellent, so you can get that one too.

2. Panzer Dragoon II Zwei

An exceptionally beautiful game
Developer: Sega
Also available on: Saturn exclusivev
Best features: Gorgeous graphics, multiple routes
Similar titles on Saturn: Panzer Dragoon
Game info

Panzer Dragoon Zwei is an immersive rail shooter that builds upon the success of its predecessor. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the game follows the journey of a dragon rider tasked with defending against a menacing empire. The graphics are a standout feature, with stunning environments and detailed enemy designs that bring the game's dystopian atmosphere to life.

The gameplay mechanics of Panzer Dragoon Zwei are solid, offering intense aerial battles and strategic decision-making. The game's atmospheric soundtrack (although not as good as in the original) complements the on-screen action. Thus, you'll enjoy every minute and wonder why it's still a Saturn exclusive.

1. Dragon Force

Stay patient and learn the mechanics
Developer: Sega
Also available on: PS2
Best features: Hundreds of characters on screen, deep gameplay
Similar titles on Saturn: Dragon Force 2
Game info

Dragon Force is an epic strategy game taking players on a grand adventure in a fantasy world. The game combines a real-time approach and role-playing elements, allowing gamers to command armies and engage in tactical battles. With its compelling scenario, rich character development, and immersive gameplay, Dragon Force offers a unique and engaging experience.

One of the standout features of Dragon Force is its vast roster of playable characters, each with distinct abilities and personalities. The game offers multiple factions, each with its unique storyline and objectives, adding to its replay value. The strategic battles are a highlight, where players must carefully deploy their troops, manage resources, and utilize special abilities to gain the upper hand. The game's stunning visuals and memorable soundtrack further enhance the immersive experience. While there's a PS2 version, it's a basic, Japanese-only port, so ignore it.

Unfortunately, retro gaming became expensive and even impractical to casual gamers. However, we now have an excellent Sega Saturn emulator for PC and other platforms. Thus, you can replicate the game almost perfectly and enhance the graphics. All these titles only remind us that Saturn deserved much better and that Sega should give it more love.

What are some of your favorite Sega Saturn games? Did you ever have Saturn or at least played on it?

Cover photo: archive



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