It might be hard to believe but Sega‘s last console, the Dreamcast, came out 14 years ago yesterday in the US. Released September 9th, 1999 (hence Sega’s “9-9-99” ad campaign), the Dreamcast was a beautiful machine that showcased one of the best eras of Sega games and allowed for seamless arcade ports. The Dreamcast was the first console to offer real online gaming as well as a slew of other innovative features.
The Dreamcast’s hardware was very close to Sega’s NAOMI arcade system, which made arcade ports easy. The console’s hardware had anti-aliasing built-in which made all its titles smooth and beautiful – unlike the “jaggies” that still plagued several PS2 titles. It also included a modem and supported online play in several games including proto-MMO Phantasy Star Online and deathmatchers like Unreal Tournament.
The system’s lineup of games was simply incredible. Sonic finally was truly updated for 3D with Sonic Adventure. Soul Caliber brought arcade grade weaponed combat to the living room, games like Shenmue and Skies of Arcadia greatly expanded what it meant to be an RPG (in very different ways), Crazy Taxi and Jet Grind Radio created entirely new types of games. Every single one had an incredible amount of polish and packed loads of fun.
Sadly, the Dreamcast just couldn’t compete with Sony‘s PS2 juggernaut a couple of years later. Sega, already weakened from the previous console generation’s loss with its Saturn, threw in the towel. The Dreamcast was discontinued in North America in March, 2001 and Sega gave up its hardware business and focused solely on software development.
Sega’s last and best console had a bit more of a shelf life elsewhere, with support in Europe and Australia/New Zealand until the end of 2002. In Japan, the Dreamcast was actually in production and could still be purchased directly from Sega through 2006. Its final studio game, Karous was released in 2007.
But the Dreamcast never really died. It’s lived on and become something of a “cult” console, if such a thing exists. The internet’s filled with fan sites where its untimely demise is lamented and its great lineup of games is celebrated. Ebay’s still full of custom Dreamcasts, modded with VGA outputs and colored shells. The console is going strong.
It’s not only a collector’s item, either. There’s a thriving homebrew community for the 14-year-old console too, one that’s even spawned new packaged games like the Kickstarted Dreamcast version of Watermelon’s Pier Solar.
The Dreamcast was released in Japan in November of 1998, so its true 15th birthday is coming later this year. Expect a lot more on the greatest console that ever failed on that anniversary. Until then here’s a list of Dreamcast games you can play on your mobile devices right now!
- Super Monkey Ball Android/iOS
- Chu Chu Rocket Android/iOS
- Crazy Taxi Android/iOS
- Jet Set Radio Android/iOS