The Sega Saturn Edition of the Totes Mathematical Top Ten Game List for Every Console Ever!

This entry is part 6 of 15 in the series Console Lists

“Could be. I’m a pretty dangerous dude when I’m cornered.”

“Yeah,” said the voice from under the table, “you go to pieces so fast people get hit by the shrapnel.”

― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Ladies and Gentleman of the gaming world, I present to you the answer to a question which was never asked.

The question was “How can we follow up our incredibly popular Genesis system in the worst possible way?” And the answer, of course, was the Sega Saturn. A system which seemed bound and determined for mediocrity and a lack of innovation. We’ll get to the reasons below. Most of them are the same reasons you’ll find for the majority of failed consoles but Sega seemed to define the art.

Although…that’s not fair exactly. I’d like to make it clear to my readers that I actually quite liked the Sega Consoles. But man…That company. Sega gotta Sega, am I right? That aside, there were some pretty great games. However, before we get to them, let’s dive into some history!

The Sega Saturn
Released: 1994 (1995 in North America)
Generation of Home Consoles: Fifth
Graphics: 32 Bit
Rating: More sizzle than steak. (And not that much sizzle.)

Nowhere but Saturn. Sega Saturn.

Nowhere but Saturn. Sega Saturn.

Sega had a good run in the fourth generation/16 bit era. They weren’t the apex predator but they certainly had their day in the sun. Part of that prestige came from the fact that Sega was willing to replace their Master System with the Genesis console a full two years before Nintendo replaced the NES with the Super Nintendo. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander and Sega opted to jump into the 32 bit era before Nintendo could get in and put a stranglehold on the world.

Unfortunately for them, Nintendo had been quietly screwing over the Sony Corporation and as a result, the Playstation was preparing to crash the party. Sony’s system was elegant, it was on the horizon, and for some reason Sega started making a lot of misguided business decisions based on its existence.

The first thing happened during development. The Saturn was basically designed and finished by 1993 and truthfully, wasn’t that bad. Basically it was the Genesis and all of its add-ons stuffed into a single box. Revolutionary? No, but a solid console nevertheless.

However, in early 1994, reports were coming out about how bad ass the technical specs of the Playstation were going to be and Sega panicked. Rather than release a much weaker system, they opted to add more chips and processing power to the existing build. More chips meant much better graphics, but it also meant that it was much harder to program for.

At the same time that Sega was doing this, they also started developing the 32X add on for the Genesis which would serve as cheaper alternative to people who wanted 32 bit graphic games. Conceptually, it was a good idea, but in reality it muddled the market. It also irked the third party developers who now had four separate Sega systems to design for. (The original Genesis, the Sega CD, the 32X, and now the Saturn)

In addition to the design of the console itself, Sega started making marketing decisions based on what Sony was doing. The most damning of these was futzing around with the release date in North America. The console was originally slated to be sold for $399 and released on “Saturn-day”. September 2nd, 1995. This was what all of the advertising was built around, it’s what all of the stores were told, and importantly, it’s what the third party developers, (Who were already getting sick of Sega’s shit) were preparing for. However, when Sega of Japan learned that Playstation was planning on launching their system a week later on September 9th, they moved the Saturn launch up by a full four months.

On May 11, Sega shipped the Saturn to a handful of stores, (Though not all stores. Best Buy, Walmart, and KB Toys were all left out of the fun and suddenly pissed off at Sega.) The idea was to get a stronghold in the U.S. before the Sony launched and hopefully kill the thing dead before it had a chance to settle in.

Unfortunately, the third party developers had planned on releasing their games with the original system launch, four months later, and as such, nothing was ready, nor would anything be ready until September. This in turn meant that the Saturn launched with like 6 games, none of which included their most popular character and mascot, Sonic T. Hedgehog.

So while there was an initial surge of people wanting a 32 bit system, sales dwindled pretty quickly and the Saturn didn’t have any hype heading into Christmas. Instead of being the leaders of the 32 bit era, the story ended up being, “The Saturn has no games and this new Sony thing seems like it might be better AND cheaper.” Plus the 32X thing confused a lot of parents and hurt sales. Plus Plus, everyone still loved the Genesis and didn’t want a new console. Triple Plus, The price kept dropping to get people to buy systems which sort of worked, but quad-plus it meant that Sega was losing more and more money with each console sold. Final Plus, when the news that Final Fantasy VII was going to be a Sony exclusive, the system was pretty much killed dead in Japan which led to Sega abandoning the fight everywhere else in the world.

That sort of sums up the Sega Saturn Saga. As I mentioned earlier, there weren’t a ton of games for it, but the Top Ten actually has some pretty dope entries. Without further ado, I present the Mathematical Top Ten games list for the Sega Saturn!

(As with the all of these lists, I used a weighted ranking system, which includes game sales, user reviews, and professional reviews. I plugged everything into my Excel algorithm, hit enter, and out came the list. Copacetic?)

10. Resident Evil. 1997. (Capcom)resident-evil
Capcom claimed to have invented the “Survival Horror” genre with this game. They didn’t. They did however, coin the phrase, so that’s something. Capcom also sold a ton of copies, and that’s something too. Starting off our Saturn list is a port of the game which originally showed up on the Playstation. You’re a soldier who fights a bunch of zombies which were accidentally/not accidentally invented by one of the most inept companies to grace the Earth, the Umbrella Corporation. A company whose business model remains one of the most convoluted documents in existence. There’s been like ten games of fighting zombies and monsters and I still don’t know what the end goal is for Umbrella, but hey. That’s the business world for you. The game was well received although a lot of the people who were buying it, bought it for a different system…Which actually makes it the perfect game to kick things off! (Full disclosure. Some jokes ported from the Playstation article.)

9. Virtua Cop. 1995. (Sega AM2)virtua-cop
This game started as an arcade light shooting game developed by Sega AM2 (The Arcade division of Sega) and was ported to the Saturn. The Saturn didn’t have a light gun controller, however, so while the graphics were almost frame perfect to the arcade game, inputs were on the joystick. Ultimately, the system they worked out was pretty good and the design became a bit of a staple for a lot of “Light Shooters with no Light Gun” games moving forward. Gameplay-wise, you’re a cop who shoots a boatload of criminals and will get a minor penalty for shooting an innocent civilian. (Topical!). It was frenetic and mindless and fun.

8. Daytona USA. 1995. (Sega AM2)daytona-usa
Another arcade port by the good folks at AM2. You may have played this if you ever went to a really large arcade. Arcade size was important because the gameplay allowed for eight players to all race against each other. Each player had a large screen display in front of them. (And usually a little car to sit in. The eight person set took over one hundred and sixty square feet of real estate. Because of the large scale and the sick graphics it was actually one of the highest grossing arcade games of all time. This was a pretty good port which a lot of Saturn owners bought and seemed to enjoy the hell out of. Ironically, it suffered a bit from the graphics being so good. They took up so much space on the disk that the game wasn’t very deep, featuring only three tracks and two game types. Daytona USA didn’t revolutionize the genre on home consoles but it’s a solid enough game.

7. Guardian Heroes. 1996. (Treasure Co. Ltd.)guardian-heroes
Here we have a great little side scrolling beat em up with a twist! Treasure Co. Ltd. added some fun RPG elements to the game as well as branching story choices which could affect the outcome of the game in big big ways. Including who you ultimately fought as the final boss. Each scene, which in a normal Beat-Em Up would just give you a “Move Right” command, gave you experience points and the ability to update your fighter’s stats like strength, agility, luck, etc. There was also a pretty fun versus mode which allowed you to have fights with the five available characters. The game was ultimately well received and looked pretty flawless. It’s definitely a hidden gem in the Beat Em Up genre and well worth a look if you ever get the chance.

6. Grandia. 1997. (Game Arts)grandia
Number six on the “TMTTGLfECE” is Grandia! The very first in a long series of extremely well made, (Though not exactly revolutionary) RPGs. You play as a young boy who seeks to be the world’s best adventurer in a fantasy setting which is just beginning to delve into technology. That’s a description we’ve heard before, but screw it. If it ain’t broke… The game featured an amazingly fun battle system which focused on the players location in the field relative to the enemies. It was a solid continuation of the system developed for Lunar: The Silver Star. A lot of people felt the story, scope, and game play was equal to Final Fantasy 7 but it didn’t really hit in the U.S. because of bad translations of text. Which is a shame because the game was solid as all get out. If you love classic RPGs and haven’t played this I’d really suggest tracking down a copy.

5. NIGHTS into Dreams. 1996. (Sega Sonic Team)nights
Ah…NiGHTS. There was no Sonic game for the Dreamcast, but Sonic Team was working hard on the next big thing. Instead of the hedgehog, in this game you were a flying purple angel nightmare man from the land of dreams. You flew around in a very effortless way collecting items and such, had the occasional boss fight, and probably toked up a bit beforehand. (SSX hadn’t been invented and this was the best the world had to offer at the time.) While it was critically acclaimed at launch, to get the best experience, you needed an optional 3D controller with an analog stick which cost a bunch of money for the consumer and limited the unit’s sales. As with a lot of things Sega, the game was great, the controller was actually amazing, Sega saw very little return for their investment, and of course a bunch of other companies stole everything they could from the game/controller and made billions. Because (Say it with me guys) Sega.

4. Dragon Force. 1996. (J-Force)dragon-force
Coming it at number 4 on the Saturn list was THE best game of 1996!…for March, and the Saturn game of the year for 1996 according to Electronic Gaming Monthly. High Praise! And well deserved. Dragon Force was a Real Time Strategy game in the vein of Age of Empires. It also featured a tactics style game in the vein of Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics. You are one of eight rulers around the world and your goal is to basically achieve peace through conquest (While also maintaining a working government.) Sound fun? Because it was! If you’re into that sort of thing. The game was very pretty, the mix of the RTS and RTT styles was seamless and Dragon Force remains a great game which, had it been on another system, would probably be far better remembered and beloved.

3. Panzer Dragoon Saga. 1998. (Sega)panzer-dragoons
The top three begins with one of my favorite games of all time. The third game in the Panzer Dragoon series decided to kick it up a notch and add a huge RPG to an already strong rail shooter. Which seems like it shouldn’t have worked at all, and yet somehow it turned into this glorious thing. You play as Edge and battle the evil empire while flying and fighting on the back of a dragon. Apparently two programmers died while making it due to the stressful conditions of trying to develop something this epic. That’s how much work went into this. In any list of the best Saturn games, this will be in the top three and usually manage to snake the gold medal. It would have my vote, but alas, I am but a pawn in the Totes Mathematical algorithm. It was wonderful and it’s a crime that it’s not available anywhere. A crime I say! No but seriously. This game was the dogs bollocks.

2. Sega Rally Championship. 1995. (Sega)sega-rally
Just edging out Panzer Dragoon Saga due to much higher sales, comes Sega Rally Championship. Neat little racing game with some cool game modes. It was developed by one of the main architects of Ridge Racer, Kenji Sasaki. In a weird cultural thing, “Rally Racing” was considered quite the taboo genre by Sasaki’s contemporaries. At the time, gaming companies felt that racing games should be slick and polished and mostly just have Italian race cars. SRC was none of those things and opted for legit fun game play instead of sub par game play with perfect looking cars. The gambit paid off in a big way and this was one of the top selling games on the system as well as one of the most acclaimed.

Which brings us to the number 1 position! THE best selling game on the system by far and one of THE most critically acclaimed games and ports of all time. This game is the singular reason why the system sold as much as it did around the world. It remains the one. The only…

1. Virtua Fighter 2. 1995. (Sega)

virtua-fighter-2

It’s Virtua Fighter 2 Everyone!

The first Virtua Fighter game was a revolution in the fighting game series. It was the first arcade fighting game to feature 3D Polygon graphics and the world took notice in a big way. There was a lot of pressure to deliver a sequel which would top the original and the Sega team delivered in spades. Virtua Fighter 2 was light years ahead of the original in the graphics department and the port for the Saturn was as near to perfect as you could get. There’s no story, no real endings, and zero plot to speak of. It was so good that it didn’t need any of those things. A bunch of fighters are having a tournament. Go! And people loved the crap out of it.

This game sold on an almost one to one basis with the system when it was released. Everyone in Japan who owned a Saturn probably owned this game. For a while the game was bundled with the console in the U.S. and it remained one of the very few things that actually boosted sales of the system. It has been voted as one of the best games of all time by a whole host of sources through the years and for all reasons mentioned, Virtua Fighter 2 easily deserves the number one spot on the Totes Mathematical List. No asterisks. No arguments. Just breathtaking and brutal fighting.

So there we have it! Upset that Scud the Disposable Assassin didn’t make the cut? (Of course you’re not. That game was terrible.) Think that the port of Myst should have been mentioned?(Eh. Sure.) Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. Then find a way to play some classic games!

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Philippe L.

About Philippe L.

When not out exploring the stars with his good friend Hotblack Desiato, he makes his living here on Earth keeping other people's money safe from the hands of thieves and spinning the occasional yarn. He enjoys beer and coffee very much, but unfortunately he can't eat shellfish or tomatoes.

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