The titular Nights from Nights into Dreams soars in the sky with a large backdrop of the moon.
Image via Sega

The best Sega Saturn games we should never forget

These Saturn games are legends in their own right.

The tale of the Sega Saturn was unfortunate. It launched during a time when hotshots like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were hogging all the spotlight, and Sega’s clunky console managed to fall out of fashion as quickly as it released—but that doesn’t mean its games are lost to time.

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While the Sega Saturn may have been a commercial failure, it did manage to house some of the best titles to exist from its era of video games. Who would want to miss out on this kind of gaming glory?

The 13 best Sega Saturn games of all time

Panzer Dragoon Saga

Image via GameTripper

While Panzer Dragoon II Zwei had already brought the series into the realms of stardom, Saga nearly turned the franchise on its heels by giving it a welcomed makeover that ended up being a straight-up improvement over its predecessors.

Transforming the game from a simplistic 3D rail shooter into an entire RPG, complete with an intricate plot and visible towns, made the game far more complex than before. These changes pushed the series in a deeper direction than previous entries, making Panzer Dragoon Saga arguably the best RPG on the Sega Saturn.

Virtua Cop 2

Image via Sega

Even though both iterations of the Virtua Cop games on the Sega Saturn featured swift and exciting light gun action, I would still choose the sequel as the superior version.

Virtua Cop 2 retained all the elements that the first game excelled at, while also introducing different routes to explore, adding tons of replay value to the whole experience. Seeing Rage and Smarty return to their roles of trigger-happy heroes from the first game, in an enhanced addition to the saga, makes Virtua Cop 2 the real deal.

Related: Sega of America workers form biggest cross-department video game union in the U.S.

Astal

Image via Sega

The opening of Astal features a full-motion video that does a beautiful job of depicting what to expect on your journey. Players are shown the titular character named Astal, as well as his feathered friend that players rescue early in the game, who can be controlled by a second player later in the story.

Not only is Astal a side-scrolling platformer, it’s also a beat em’ up, and it has terrific graphics—probably in contention for the best visuals of any game on the Sega Saturn, making this title an unforgettable ride.

Daytona USA

Image via Sega

Like most other racing games that made their way onto the Sega Saturn, Daytona USA also made its first appearance in the arcades. But unlike the other racing games, Daytona was the only one to be remembered so fondly decades later.

Striking and colorful visuals, along with the game’s signature car handling emulating real life vehicles, made this Saturn port of an arcade favorite a smash hit. And let’s not forget the 40 different cars you can choose from in Saturn mode, giving Daytona USA enormous replay value.

Radiant Silvergun

Screengrab via Treasure

Many shoot ‘em ups were ported to the Saturn from arcades, but none were as iconic as Radiant Silvergun. The story follows a team of fighter pilots in the future battling waves of enemies summoned by a mysterious crystal dug up from the earth. The game features huge space battles and massive explosions. Everybody loves explosions.

With badass spaceships armed with a variety of weapons and swords, along with larger-than-life boss fights, Radiant Silvergun makes for one hell of a gaming experience. It doesn’t fall off in modern times either—clearly, since the game got a Nintendo Switch port in 2022.

Guardian Heroes

Image via Gametrog

A mix between a brawler and an RPG, Guardian Heroes was released by developer Treasure during a time when side-scrolling fighters and 2D sprite-based games were quickly becoming a thing of the past, yet it still managed to succeed.

With a storyline bustling with wizards, magic swords, evil spirits, and outlandish characters, there’s never a dull moment in the game. Guardian Heroes boasts a morality-based progression system where each decision your character makes changes the path they take, and ultimately, the ending you get. How you act triggers a multitude of changes to your Karma meter, giving the game substantial replayability.

Burning Rangers

Image via Sega

To put it simply, Burning Rangers is a game where you play as a firefighter in the future. While that might sound like a boring premise, the game is anything but.

Armed with a cybernetic suit, the player works tirelessly to prevent deaths, take care of ravaging blazes, and defeat frenzied antagonists who want to watch the world burn in flames—the only real large-scale threat left in this dystopian world.

Since Burning Rangers released in 1998—the farewell period for the Sega Saturn—Sonic Team managed to squeeze out every last drop of potential the console had to offer. The resulting package was a game that was more visually stunning than Saturn gamers were used to seeing, alongside a banger of a soundtrack and solid firefighting gameplay.

Related: Microsoft seriously considered acquiring Sega and Bungie to bolster Xbox Game Pass

Resident Evil

Image via Capcom

The OG title that kicked off the legendary horror franchise, Resident Evil first released on the PlayStation before being ported to the Sega Saturn. Players control the all-too-familiar Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine in their debut games. As members of the elite task force S.T.A.R.S., the two must escape a mansion infested with zombies and other monsters.

While the game may have dated graphics and gameplay, the original Resident Evil can still easily make you jump out of your seat. Some fans argue that the old graphics make the game even more eerie, and I certainly think so.

Shining Force 3

Image via Sega

While the developers had amazing things in mind lined up for Shining Force 3, they decided to split the game into a trio of standalone scenarios with continuing storylines—only for the original scenario to make it to the West and not the remaining two.

It’s funny how the developers of the game were called Camelot Software Planning, and yet the software planning that went into the game anywhere outside Japan was clearly sub-par.

Thankfully, fan translations of Shining Force 3 are available, and the rest of the game was too good not to make it onto this list. With well-written characters, a large number of classes to play, and standout combat mechanics that lead to surprisingly rich turn-based battles, Shining Force 3 definitely made its mark on the Sega Saturn.

Tomb Raider

Image via Core Design

Even though this daredevil of a female protagonist found her renown through Sony’s PlayStation, the legendary Lara Croft eventually made her debut on Sega’s Saturn’s Tomb Raider.

While Tomb Raider was clunky in various aspects, the best features of the game, like its titular tombs and puzzle-like gameplay, were immaculate and well ahead of their time.

Further advantages of the Saturn version of Tomb Raider include its superior visuals, colors, and effects like underwater distortion; features that the PS1 version of the game had to cut out. 

Fighters Megamix

Screengrab via operationrainfall

Fighters Megamix was a cross-title brawler way before Super Smash Bros. Not only did the game feature more characters than the original SSB for the N64, it also featured a more diverse cast of characters.

You can fight as a car, a palm tree, a green duck, and so much more, with all of these characters hailing from various other titles on the Sega Saturn. I really wasn’t kidding when I said the game was diverse.

The combat in the game still holds up, while Megamix also gives you a whole lot to do thanks to its full single-player mode suite. It’s hard to critique this absolute riot of a classic.

Duke Nukem 3D

Image via 3D Realm

While this game wouldn’t fly in the modern era—especially with its crass depiction of women—Duke Nukem 3D still has a lot of positive aspects that overshadow its negative points and dated humor.

Like most other Lobotomy Software FPS titles, Duke Nukem 3D boasts incredibly smooth shooting mechanics that are among the best on the Saturn console. Combine this with its various extras like fun minigames, thrilling multiplayer content, and an exclusive secret level, and you’ve got a smash hit on your hands.

Nights into Dreams

Image via Sega

It’s difficult to emulate the mystical experience that Nights into Dreams offered players on the Sega Saturn. The experience was bolstered by using the controller specifically designed for the game’s 3D features, which was included with a copy of NID.

You play as the titular Night, a curious creature soaring through the dreams of two young children with the goal of confronting their real-world problems by channeling the strength they derive from their dreams. Wacky, abstract, and oddly philosophical—I love it.

In NID, you fly through surreal dreamscapes while collecting orbs and aiming for the best score you can achieve in each stage, all with a phenomenal soundtrack playing in the background. There’s no experience like Nights into Dreams.


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Author
Yash Nair
Yash is a freelance writer based in the tropical state of Goa, India. With a focus on competitive Pokémon, he also writes general guides on your favorite video games. Yash has written for sites like Dot Esports and TouchTapPlay, and has a distinct love for indie video game titles.