Sega’s systems have had plenty of great RPGs, but like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect.
Sega Dreamcast was a very intriguing system that never lived up to its full potential. Despite having internet connectivity and good graphics, the Dreamcast lacked the sales to keep up with the competition.
Remember, the system suffered from the misfortune of having the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and GameCube launching soon after. That did not stop Sega fans from enjoying the plethora of games that were released during the system’s brief lifecycle. As an RPG fan, this system did not attract me much because I had a backlog of PS1 RPGs, but I played more than a few really good ones.
Anyway, here are my picks for the best Sega Dreamcast RPGs. These fun, quaint, and sometimes groundbreaking games are still worth a look today.
To be clear, I may have stretched the definition of RPG a little bit on some of these, but I’m sure you’ll all forgive me.
15. Evolution 2: Far Off Promise
Evolution 2: Far Off Promise continued the series’ odd habit of throwing in random-sounding titles. I beat the first game and had high hopes for this one, but they were somewhat unceremoniously dashed when the biggest upgrade was the graphics.
I enjoyed the return to the familiar setting and dungeons that made the first game so quaint. Still, I was a little upset that there wasn’t too much changed from the first game in the series.
A lot of the music stayed the same, the combat was relatively unchanged, and the game felt like you picked up right after the last one ended. It was nice to come back to the old story and characters, but the game failed to innovate.
It wasn’t bad by any stretch of the mind, but I wish that more effort was put into the story and worldbuilding the second time around.
I really liked some parts of Silver. Some people grated against the pre-rendered 2D backgrounds, but I was fresh off of FF7 at this point, so I didn’t mind.
I won’t lie— the game didn’t achieve any feats in the area of graphics, and the sounds could have used some work. The music was just alright and the voiceovers were downright painful most of the time.
The best part of this game, like many good RPGs, was the story.
There is a deep nefarious plot happening, of course, but the beginning of the story sees the1 main villain, Silver, sending one of his sons to get all the women of child-bearing age to choose a new wife. Unfortunately, your wife fits the criteria and ends up taken away.
It seems like a standard revenge plot but it gets so much better. Another interesting part of the game was the combat. It was action-oriented instead of turn-based. While it was still sub-par, I enjoyed it immensely. Overall, Silver was a good RPG that was “OK” at everything but not great.
13. Record of Lodoss War: Advent of Cardice
To the best of my understanding, Record of Lodoss War: Advent of Cardice is part of a multimedia story comprising anime, manga, and this video game.
I didn’t know any of that when I started playing, I just saw how similar it was to Diablo in terms of combat and RPG elements. These games feature action-based combat where you go up and smash and slash your enemies, a dark mood, and sparse music.
Your primary character is a massive human that goes around and slashes his way through a weird story that is apparently made more for fans of the original media. You get loot, upgrade weapons, and go out to slash some more on your new quests.
The game didn’t reinvent the genre, but I give it points simply for managing to sneak out before game production for the Dreamcast ended.
12. Draconus: Cult of the Wyrm
Here’s another hack-and-slash RPG that was far ahead of the Record of Lodoss War in just about every measure. That doesn’t mean the story was made with a lot of thought in mind.
You have to unite all the races to kill the ultimate evil. Got it? That’s not what this game is about, though. This game is about exploration, sweet combat, and voice acting.
You can play as a warrior or a sorceress, and you traverse the different realms killing creatures, getting items, and killing more. The RPG element is sorta downplayed as you mainly get new abilities instead of grinding levels.
Every realm you go to in the game is in a different location, and the themes managed to look pretty good. You go from castles into rolling hillsides, so you never feel like you’re stuck in the same place for too long. Unless you run into a glitch, and there are more than a few of them.
The combat is actually better than mindless hacking; you do have to consider defense sometimes. Lastly, the voice acting in this game was very good for the time, and you could be caught off guard with a sudden monster screaming at you. Overall, this was a good, not great, game.
A shooter RPG game? Sign me the heck up. If I was even more biased toward certain video games, Armada would make my personal top 5.
The game was originally announced as an online space shooter. While the internet connectivity didn’t pan out, you could still play this game with three other people and work to complete missions, earn credits, and upgrade your gear.
The graphics were nothing to write home about, but the open map designs let you really use the environment to your advantage. As the story went, you are part of one of six factions of humans left after Earth got wiped out by the titular Armada. You can choose your faction and name, and get to work wiping out enemies.
Working with your friends to blow up enemies, get upgrades, and complete mission objectives will see you spending hours upon hours together. That was a real high point of this game for me— the chance to sit with friends, get super strong, and rule the skies.
D2 is a bit of a weird game. You start off by getting your plane hijacked and crashed by cultists in a long opening sequence, and then it is up to you to survive the Canadian wilderness.
But, you’re not the only one that survived the crash. Dun dun DUN.
The mystery of your survival for 10 days is only overridden by the abject weirdness of the fact that a surviving cultist turns into a monster and attacks. You have to travel throughout the wilderness, get clues as to what is going on, and kill the weird plant monsters that keep popping up.
I got a Parasite Eve vibe from this game, and that was a good thing. You obtained experience for killing monsters that would increase your combat strength. The combat itself was weird, though. When one of the mutating human-monsters appeared, you had to shoot at it in first-person.
Aside from that, the game was pretty good. The pace was a little slow for some, but the eeriness of the setting combined with the intriguing story kept me going through the relatively short game.
Shenmue was not a typical RPG (or much of one in most respects), but I think most people that played it would be happy with seeing it on this list.
You played as Ryo, a young man that witnessed his father’s murder. You travel around your home city and to pick up clues and learn about what happened. Sounds kinda boring, right?
Well, it’s not. You spend time running afoul of local criminal organizations, getting into fights, and talking with people that may have witnessed what happened in the time leading up to your dad’s murder.
I adored the fact that the game had a persistent world. If you left the game running or played too long, you wouldn’t have access to certain characters or shops. The game went through cycles of day and night, and that really helped the immersion.
Another incredible part about Shenmue was the amount of detail in the environment. Seriously, the little things like items in shops and soda machines along with the overall cityscape were beautiful compared to most other games I played during this time.
The combat, which was definitely not a focus of the game, wasn’t that fantastic, but it was fun to brawl with people. All in all, the game seemed obsessed with the minutiae of life. Not every hero can afford to drop everything and go on a quest for vengeance.
Shenmue captured the smaller parts of life that were often left out like working, sleeping, and training for fights— all the stuff that other games never put in. While it made the game ponderous and slow at times, it was still one of my favorites.
8. Dragonriders: Chronicles of Pern
Here I go again stretching that RPG definition, but Dragonriders: Chronicles of Pern was a very fun adventure game that looked like an RPG if you squinted.
The graphics were decent for the system and the music was just okay, but the real strength of the game was the story. The world is based on a series of novels, so there was a lot to draw on from those worlds. The basics of the story involve a dragon rider trying to find a new rider for a young dragon.
The real story is so much deeper than that, though. The story has quests and side quests that flesh out the world and keep you interested for hours and hours.
The game is not without flaws, though. The combat is kind of weak and it feels like you spend most of your time trying to figure out where you’re supposed to go rather than getting there.
That being said, the game is immensely rewarding for adventure fans, and it’s even better if you have read the book series.
7. Time Stalkers
Not every person wants to be a hero, and that is the case with Sword, the protagonist of Time Stalkers. Due to an unfortunate run-in with a bad guy that tries to hack you with an axe, Sword ends up in the position of being a hero. Or, at least that’s what the old guy tells you.
Time Stalkers is a pretty typical RPG. You have standard leveling and tactical turn-based combat. The story is somewhat interesting and the music will get stuck in your head. I played this game fresh off of Final Fantasy Tactics, so it was a little bit of a letdown.
Overall, the graphics were decent and the story was middling, and I enjoyed some of the game mechanics like catching creatures. The game wasn’t mind-blowing, but you could find a worse way to spend 10 hours.
6. Elemental Gimmick Gear
While Elemental Gimmick Gear (EGG) was more of an action-adventure game, it had enough RPG elements to make it on the list.
The first thing that grabbed me about this game was the graphics. The game features hand-drawn maps that you travel across for the majority of the game, but boss battles were fought in 3D, giving every big battle a little more gravity.
The graphics and music made the game really special because of all the little details that you couldn’t help but stop and look at once in a while.
The regular combat was super fun. You could zoom around in your EGG’s ball shape to wreck enemies and explore the land. You got-power ups by obtaining capsules for increased attack and defense.
The story is a little odd but it has some tight pacing that will leave you wanting more when the game ends. This game almost cracked the higher parts of the list of the best Sega Dreamcast RPGs, but I had to leave it here.
5. Evolution: The World Of Sacred Device
The name was a little confusing, but I started playing this game because the main character’s butler, Gre Nade, totes around a rifle to shoot your enemies. It reminded me of Alfred Pennyworth.
Evolution is another game that didn’t really do anything that advanced or changed the RPG genre, but it was a firmly above-average game. You take the role of Mag Launcher, an adventurer that is trying to make his fortune. You get roped into increasingly serious adventures by your bosses, The Society, and eventually, you get caught up in the search for the Evolutia.
Most of the game is spent in dungeons where you’ll fight enemies and seek to complete your missions. The game takes you to many locations in your seaplane, but you definitely do not spend as much time in cities as you would in other JRPGs.
I liked the pace of the game, the combat, and the graphics. The lore was left a little to be desired, too. Overall, the first game was far better than the second in my books, but it was still a decent Sega Dreamcast RPG.
4. Grandia II
There is a lot to love about Grandia II. It’s a JRPG that is somewhat reminiscent of Star Ocean 2: The Second Story. The game features bright, colorful graphics, an awesome musical score, and a combat system that more than makes up for the linear nature of the game.
Grandia II succeeded in so many areas by sticking to the JRPG formula for the most part and deviating where they could. For example, the little bit of flexibility in terms of movement in combat was enough of a spark to keep it interesting without going overboard.
The story is a bright spot, but it’s also a little complex. If you have a mind for detail and enjoy trying to plumb the depths of a game’s narrative, then you’ll probably love this classic more than someone that rushes through the game.
Either way, this is an incredibly solid game.
3. Shenmue II
Let’s not live through the heartache of this title not making it to the U.S. on Dreamcast; it belongs on the list and it’s staying right here.
Shenmue II picks up where the last game left off with Ryo arriving in Japan to try to find his father’s killer. Just like the first game, you have to get clues and explore to progress the story and find out the truth.
The game builds on all the successful elements developed in the first game. You can earn money with odd jobs, the day-night schedule has returned, and the level of detail is just amazing. There is a little more fighting in the game, but it’s still not the focus.
One cool thing is that you can import your data from the first game and use that to get a head start on your martial arts skills.
I can’t heap enough praise on this game because of how unique and fun it was to play. It was very good and certainly belongs in this spot on the list only because the next two are just that good.
2. Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia is iconic. The game kept the RPG formula but added so many cool features to the game that you couldn’t help but fall in love with it. You play as Vyse, an air pirate who is trying to make his way in the world and resist the Valuan Empire.
The story is rich and the world feels full. The game spends a lot of time getting you to explore. In fact, you get an airship to help you in that endeavor. There are plenty of areas to check out as you go around to the different floating continents and interact with many NPCs.
The art department really deserves props for the graphics and world design that still remains one of my favorites for the system. The battle music, magic graphics, and combat system are also high points of the game.
If you want a game with great characters and development, you have to go with Skies of Arcadia.
1. Phantasy Star Online (Ver. 2)
I give points for innovation as well as personal bias. Phantasy Star Online was an incredible game that brought internet connectivity into a major RPG series on a home console. If you were alive during the time that PSO came out, you know how big this was for gaming.
The updated version of the game was called Ver. 2 and it improved on things like the level cap, PvP battles, and difficulty.
You could team up with four other real people on the internet to explore the zones and try to solve the mystery of what happened to the Pioneer 1 ship. The combat was rather fun in that it was action-oriented and let you use swords, guns, and magic. The AI of the monsters was lacking, and the game could be rather unforgiving in terms of sudden jumps in difficulty.
Still, PSO had great music, a means to type messages to others in the hub, and a refreshing game style that helped people get into MMO-style games.
The story was unrelated to the main series, but it utilized an idea similar to Phantasy Star III, where refugees took to large spaceships to escape annihilation only to stumble on an ancient evil. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but enough of the game was great that I have to award this the top spot on the list.
Final Thoughts on the Best Sega Dreamcast RPGs
The Sega Dreamcast didn’t have a long lifespan and it lacked access to big game franchises to have a lot of incredible RPGs.
The games I’ve listed here are all very good for the most part, but the top five are the system’s standouts. It’s a shame that the Sega Dreamcast died off when it had so much potential.
I hope you liked the list. Let me know if I missed any games that you felt belonged on the list. I am always looking for new games to check out.