As I’m sure you all know, mini consoles are all the rage these days and everybody’s getting in on the action. Just about every major console has a miniature version now- the most recent being Sony’s PlayStation Classic. Furthermore, there are rumors of an upcoming N64 Classic to be released shortly after. And while I personally dislike the mini-console fad, I can’t help but wonder if there will be a miniature Saturn in the future. After a mini PSX and N64, a Saturn should follow, naturally. And despite my aforementioned disdain for minis, there is a part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing a mini Saturn. It’s my favorite console thus far, and many of its best games don’t have ports or remakes. Hell, Panzer Dragoon Saga, one of the Saturn’s greatest titles, can’t even be ported since the source code was lost. Its inclusion alone would justify the existence of a miniature Saturn since mini-consoles tend to rely on emulation to run games.
All that being said, I know this probably isn’t the most lucrative business venture. The console sold poorly in the U.S., and its North American game library was practically nonexistent when compared to Sony’s and Nintendo’s offerings (or even the Saturn’s own Japanese lineup). On the other hand, the Saturn has some real gems that have become somewhat legendary in the years since its release. It could potentially be profitable if the right games were included. So with all that in mind, what games should be added to its roster if Sega were to create this console? Well, in the interest of parity with the PS Classic, I’ve settled on 20. Though, if I’m being completely honest, including more than 20 would be challenging, since I’m sticking with American releases. Here they are in no particular order.
#1 - #3 Panzer Dragoon, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, and Panzer Dragoon Saga
I couldn’t pick just one or two of these games, so I just tossed all three in. The first game was refreshingly original, with superb art direction and a terrific score. The second, while technically superior in every way, lacked a bit in the artistry. So for this reason, I gotta keep ’em both on this list. As for Saga, well, do I even have to explain myself? Many people consider it to be one of the greatest RPGs of the 32-bit generation. Personally, I have no way of ruling on it one way or the other, since it’s current ASTRONOMICAL price prevents me from playing it. Its scarcity and reputation make it one of the few mandatory games on this list.
#4 Nights Into Dreams
You guys are probably tired of hearing me talk about this game. So I won’t, lest to say that it’s one of the most unique games of that generation, and it should be included.
#5 Sega Rally Championship
I’ll be completely honest. I was never really crazy about this game. People sing its praises, but for some reason, it just never resonated with me. Perhaps is the somewhat floaty controls (a reason I don’t like games like F-Zero or Wipeout) or maybe it’s the lack of track variety. Whatever the issue might be, I’m mostly “meh” about it. It’s just on here because I know I’m seriously in the minority with that opinion.
#6 Daytona USA: Champion Circuit Edition
This was the Saturn racing game I enjoyed. It had great, varied tracks, easy controls, and arcade style fun with a ton of cars. And while I prefer the inferior original version of the game, I just can’t justify sacrificing all the improvements for the original’s goofy music.
#7 Virtua Cop
Since we’re clearly dreaming by even discussing a Saturn Mini, let’s include a light-gun game. Besides, if they really wanted to, Sega could find some workaround to make the guns work. Perhaps some kind of Wii-mote style tech or something. Regardless, this game is a whole lotta fun, and definitely worth the inclusion. …and if they still can’t solve the light-gun issue, I say keep it in any way. I remember having lots of fun playing this with just a controller.
#8 House of the Dead
Speaking of light-gun games, HOTD would make for a great addition to this lineup. It’s essentially Virtual Cop with zombies, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The game is especially important in that it’s the one that most non-Saturn-owners are probably most familiar with. The arcade version was a big hit, and most gamers have probably played at least one entry in the franchise.
#9 Virtua Fighter 2
VF2 is another classic for the system. Whereas the original helped pioneer 3-D fighting games, this title helped cement them. It had terrific graphics for the time, a solid roster, and plenty of the novelty that helped make the first game so appealing. Not to mention, it helped pave the way for many tie-ins and spin-offs going forward.
#10 Fighters Megamix
Another great 3-D fighter was Fighting Vipers. But since I have a limited number of games to work with, I’ve chosen to overlook that title in favor of Fighters Megamix. This particular game mashes up characters from Virtual Fighter, Fighting Vipers, and even some other Sega games like Daytona USA and Virtual Cop. In a way, it was like the Super Smash Bros. of its day.
#11 Virtual On: Cyber Troopers
This one’s definitely on here for me. Most people probably couldn’t care less about this game, but it’s always been a favorite of mine. Ever since I first sat in the twin-stick arcade version of it at the local pool hall, I’ve been hooked. It was the first time that a game made me feel like I was piloting a mech, and that was a big deal. The unique controls were intuitive, and at least to me, completely logical for piloting a mech. I completely nerded out with this one, and I still try to play it from time to time.
#12 Marvel Superheroes
As with Daytona, I’ll sacrifice my personal preference for the better title. I grew up with X-Men: Children of the Atom, but there’s no debating that Marvel Superheroes is the better title. Not only did it include some of the characters from X-Men, but it also included many other beloved Marvel characters like Spiderman and Hulk. And if that wasn’t enough to merit its inclusion, the game would eventually lead to the wildly popular Marvel vs Capcom franchise.
#13 Night Warriors: Dark Stalkers’ Revenge
While still possessing acclaim among fighting game fans, Dark Stalkers seems to have become one of Capcom’s lesser franchises now. The last proper game in the series came out in 1997, though, there have been some re-releases since. It would be great to get another entry, but at the very least, this game’s inclusion would give it some attention.
The Saturn is well known for 2-D excellence, and one of its earlier examples is Astal. True, its mechanics are rather simplistic and do nothing to shake up the platformer genre. But damn, if it isn’t gorgeous to look at. Everything from the sprites to the backgrounds have a painted look to them, kind of like what you get in Vanillaware’s titles.
#15 Guardian Heroes
Though nowhere near as pretty as Astal, this 2-D beat-em-up was definitely original. Rather than allow the player to move freely along the y-axis like most games in the genre, Guardian Heroes divides movement into three horizontal planes. It’s very unique and made for a fun play mechanic.
#16 Burning Rangers
The concept behind this title is rather unique- take part in a group of futuristic fire-fighters to put out blazes and rescue civilians along the way. A late release in the Saturn’s life, this game featured some of the system’s best visuals (despite a couple of graphical glitches here and there). It’s from the same team that made Nights, so that’s no surprise.
#17 Dark Savior
Here’s a game I don’t see mentioned too often, and I’m not sure why. I found the game to be very enjoyable, with good action and interesting environments. Gameplay wise, it’s an isometric action RPG (similar to something like Final Fantasy Tactics) with some fighting elements sprinkled in. I think it’s worth including.
#18 Dragon Force
Many of you know why this is on the list. But for the uninitiated, this is a tactical RPG in which the player commands hundreds of soldiers in battles with neighboring kingdoms. Gameplay is fairly simple and consists mostly of issuing commands and casting spell-like attacks. Yet somehow, each fight is incredibly cinematic. It’s a great game, through and through.
#19 Magic Knight Rayearth
From what I can tell online, this was the final Saturn release in North America. And while that doesn’t necessarily merit its inclusion on this list, the game’s pedigree does. It was developed by Sega and localized by Working Designs (the latter which deserves its own mini-console, if you ask me). Plus it’s also a solid RPG with charming 2D graphics. So, there’s that.
#20 Saturn Bomberman
Bomberman games are fun and simple, sure. But let’s be honest- it’s on here for the multiplayer. 10-player local was unheard of at the time (and still is, thanks to developers’ preference of online play) but could be easily featured if the mini Saturn supports Bluetooth controllers. Even if this hypothetical console didn’t, I’m sure 3rd party manufacturers would make an adapter of some kind, as 8bit-do has done for the NES and SNES Classics.