Sega Saturn Magazine’s Top 50 Saturn Games

For my money, the best gaming magazine ever
For my money, the best gaming magazine ever

In these crazy uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are staying at home than ever. As a teacher I’ve been off work the past two weeks, and won’t be reporting back until May at the earliest. With most of us implementing shelter-in-place, this has afforded us more time to connect with those we hold dearest, as well as enjoy our indoor hobbies. Playing video games, binge watching shows and movies or reading a good book. For me, it’s all these things and a chance to update RVGFanatic a little more frequently. Work has kept me busy, as well as moving in with my girlfriend, so I haven’t been able to update as much as I would like. With all this extra down time, I can’t think of a better time than now to convert one of my most popular articles from my original site.

Their design and coverage was epic
Their design and coverage was epic

Sega Saturn Magazine was a UK publication that ran 37 issues back in the mid to late 1990s. It’s often considered the “Sega Saturn Bible” and is a favorite publication of many. Their passion bled through the pages, and to this day remains my favorite magazine, beating out even EGM, GameFan and Super Play.

Amazing stuff
Amazing stuff. Credit these shots to Archive.org
One of my favorite issues, thanks to the top 50
One of my favorite issues thanks to the Top 50

In issue #28 (February of 1998), Sega Saturn Magazine published a list of their top 50 Saturn games. I’ve always been a fan of top lists; I enjoy comparing my opinion to those of others. Not everyone will agree on every ranking, but that’s all part of the fun. Just keep in mind that this list was compiled in late 1997, so you won’t be seeing later Saturn releases on this list, such as Burning Rangers, Panzer Dragoon Saga or Shining Force III.

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I originally shared this Top 50 list on the Neo Geo forums back in October 2003. It became one of the most viewed links there. So popular, in fact, that two former Sega Saturn Magazine contributors (including the editor) reached out via private message to thank me personally for the fond trip down memory lane. Now, nearly 20 years later, I’m proud to share that list here on RVGFanatic. Enjoy!

#50: MASS DESTRUCTION (87%)

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Best described as Return Fire meets Soviet Strike, the unambiguously titled Mass Destruction is a technically outstanding blaster.

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“Yeah, there’s a loose mission structure to follow, but the meat and bones of Mass Destruction is just that — mass destruction. Running at a super-smooth 60 FPS and featuring some of the most incredible pyrotechnics we’ve ever seen, it’s just a shame they missed out the all-important two-player mode.” -Lee Nutter

#49: THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’95 (89%)

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SNK’s greatest fighters from their legendary beat ‘em ups amass in this one 2D battling mega game! Action-packed fighting action guaranteed!

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“Capcom have virtually owned the 2D fighting genre on Saturn, but this one SNK release shows that when it comes to true hardcore fighting games, the underdog are in a class of their own. KoF ’95 is probably the most lastable fighting game on the system… if you’re into SNK of course.” -Editor Rich Leadbetter

#48: SHINING WISDOM (N/A)

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The last 2D game in the Shining Force series. Explore a fantasy realm and undertake a quest to save your homeland from destruction.

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“Sega have always produced quality RPGs and Sonic Software Planning’s epic is no exception. While the visuals may look pretty basic, Shining Wisdom’s playability and grand scale are second-to-none. There are literally hundreds of characters to meet and magical spells to master. A deserved addition to the RPG fan’s library.” -Matt Yeo

#47: ENEMY ZERO (88%)

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The best attempt yet at an ‘Interactive Movie,’ programmed by legendary Japanese nutters Warp. The 11th best selling Saturn game EVER in Japan!

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“The Japanese loved it. We quite liked it as well, come to think of it, as the smooth sci-fi action and top quality rendered FMV makes for an enjoyable and deep experience, with a pretty tough challenge for all you Saturn owning adventure fans.” -Gary Cutlack

#46: ACTUA GOLF (90%)

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Golf — hitting a ball around a field with a stick. Sounds crap, but it actually makes for a decent video game simulation.

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“To convince your dad that games aren’t just about shooting and fighting, it’s essential to own a golf game. And you might as well buy a good one while you’re at it — Actua Golf scored 90% for its attention to detail, smooth 3D graphics and great control.” -Gary Cutlack

#45: PANDEMONIUM! (90%)

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Resurrecting the neglected platform genre from its 16-bit glory days, Pandemonium! is the finest example of its kind on the Saturn.

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“Incorporating classic 2D gameplay into a luscious 3D environment, Pandemonium! is a speedy and visually astounding platformer.” -Lee Nutter

#44: ATHLETE KINGS (90%)

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One of the first games to be produced for the Saturn-based ST-V arcade board, and probably one of the best, featuring gorgeously smooth hi-res visuals… it’s AM3 magic!

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“Tasty athletic girls in high-cut Lycra gear… lovely! Of course we’re only interested in the gameplay, and the button-bashing action made for an excellent sports game. It’s not the biggest game ever made, but beating your personal (and buddies’) bests presents a decent challenge that can last ages.” -Gary Cutlack

#43: DARK SAVIOR (92%)

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Years in the making, this adventure has the same class and style as the epochal LandStalker on Mega Drive. Stunning adventuring, although RPG masters may find it too easy…

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“The sheer quest in Dark Savior is one that all die-hard adventurers will savor — it’s quality. I completed the Japanese import, then played it through again when it came out here. Excellent.” -Rich Leadbetter

#42: DAYTONA CCE (90%)

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The Rally conversion team tried their hand at recreating the awesome Daytona USA coin-op on the Saturn with mixed results.

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“The highly anticipated update of the often maligned Daytona conversion is a mixed bag really. The myriad of improvements (two-player mode, new tracks and improved graphics) is commendable, but somehow the superlative gameplay has been lost in the conversion. It’s not really Daytona anymore, but a cool arcade racer nonetheless.” -Lee Nutter

#41: SPACE HULK (90%)

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A corridor shoot ‘em up that tries to include more of a strategy element, with players responsible for positioning their troops as well as shooting.

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“Do we want strategy in our shoot ‘em ups? Well, if you’re looking for something that’s a bit tougher and durable than most games, Space Hulk’s very complex levels and massive alien sprites should do the trick. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of mindless blasting for you shooting fans.” -Gary Cutlack

#40: SOVIET STRIKE (90%)

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The inevitable 32-bit update of EA’s established Strike series arrives to much critical acclaim.

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“Soviet Strike adheres to the same basic gameplay principles of the previous Strike games, but running on Sega’s powerhouse console, everything is done far better. More weapons, FMV clips, photo-realistic landscapes and a greater variety in the missions culminate in an awesome addition to the series.” -Lee Nutter

#39: JONAH LOMU RUGBY (91%)

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The only authentic rugby simulation on the Saturn. Codemasters’ sporting star recreates the sights, sounds and smells of the big lads’ game. It’s a bit difficult to find in the shops, but the effort is more than worth it.

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“While the world goes soccer crazy, Codemasters take a stab at one of the world’s roughest sports. Actual team stats, spot-on gameplay and bone-crunching matches ensure Jonah’s reputation (and tackle) remain intact. A welcome alternative to all those footie games.” -Matt Yeo

#38: MANX TT SUPERBIKE (91%)

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The stunning Model 2 arcade racer was converted to the Saturn by Australian coders Tantalus, and they did a pretty good job too. But can they match the power of a true AM conversion?

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“The one complaint that stops Manx TT from being a bit higher in this listing is the ridiculous number of tracks — just two. The graphics were the closest a racing game got to Sega Rally standards (at the time), and the racing action played bloody well too. Shame about the number of tracks.” -Gary Cutlack

#37: SATURN BOMBERMAN (90%)

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The perfect party game. Hudsonsoft’s first Sega Bomberman outing offers loads of explosive fun with up to ten players trying to blow the living daylights out of each other. As Barry Norman would say: and why not?

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“Bomberman’s a hit on every system. Excellent long term playability, multiple weapons and battle arenas, multi-tap compatibility and replay value galore. Although let down by a weak one-player game variation, this is still an essential purchase and a great party game.” -Matt Yeo

#36: CROC: LEGEND OF THE GOBBOS (91%)

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Take on the evil Baron Dante in this multi-level, 3D platformer. Croc is set to be a big star and his first outing is a real hoot!

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“Owing a big thanks to Mario 64, Croc’s adventures are perfectly pitched at both young and old players alike. Huge stages, tricky platforming action and hilarious bosses await intrepid players. Not an amazing Saturn game, but certainly in a league of its own.” -Matt Yeo

#35: SUPER PUZZLE FIGHTER II TURBO (86%)

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Miniaturizing their cool Street Fighter characters (and others from DarkStalkers) and sticking them in a puzzle game made Capcom sound like they’ve gone mad…

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“Fortunately Capcom’s masterful coding skills ensured that another gameplay classic emerged. Super-cute versions of Ryu, Chun-Li and the gang battle it out for 2D supremacy, and the gem-dropping gameplay makes for one of the best puzzle games this side of Buckaroo and Connect 4.” -Gary Cutlack

#34: BAKU BAKU ANIMAL (93%)

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Not just another Tetris clone, as Sega’s cutesy Baku Baku Animal is arguably the finest example of the puzzle game genre.

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“I hate this game. Buying it was the single worst mistake I’ve ever made. Baku Baku has single-handedly ruined my sex life. My girlfriend loves it, more than she loves me if truth be known. Bitch. No, just kidding, honest.” -Lee Nutter

#33: BUST-A-MOVE 3 (91%)

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Another great puzzle game. Converted from the classic Taito arcade series, this one sees cute cartoon characters shooting colored bubbles all over the place… Intriguing…

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“Puzzle games are fun, aren’t they? The graphics are always colorful and nice, and most contain simple gameplay that even your mum could understand. Bust-A-Move 3 would be especially popular with your mum because it’s great fun, and contains one of the best head-to-head two-player games there is. Cool.” -Gary Cutlack

#32: FIGHTING VIPERS (94%)

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Tossing aside the realism of Virtua Fighter 2, Sega’s pseudo-sequel takes a more fantastical approach to the beat ‘em up genre.

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“Adding weapons, barriers and armor to the established Virtua Fighter formula, AM2’s incredible Fighting Vipers conversion is a speedier and more brutal beat ‘em up than the more graceful VF series. Add to this the fact that as a conversion it’s virtually indistinguishable from the arcade, and we’re left with yet another top Saturn beat ‘em up. Ooh and you can watch AM2 play it too!” -Lee Nutter

#31: SEGA AGES (91%)

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AM2’s arcade classics of the eighties: Space Harrier, Afterburner II and OutRun are gathered in one outstanding retro compilation.

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“Sega’s graphics technology, coupled with AM2’s gameplay prowess, have led the arcade field for over a decade. These games (although aged) are still great fun — and OutRun in particular still ranks as one of the greats of the racing genre.” -Rich Leadbetter

#30: BOBBLE BUBBLE FEATURING RAINBOW ISLANDS (92%)

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Two epoch-making Taito platform games arrive on Saturn. The graphics might be crap, but the gameplay is golden.

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“Bubble Bobble’s cool, but the real star of the show is Rainbow Islands. It might not be quite arcade perfect, but the depth of this game is astounding (there’s more to it than Mario 64). Couple that with perfect gameplay and I can’t recommend this enough.” -Rich Leadbetter

#29: LAST BRONX (92%)

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Big men, little girls, bulging weapons — sounds like a dodgy porn flick. But it isn’t, it’s the awesome Last Bronx.

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“The highly anticipated conversion of AM3’s first fighting foray certainly doesn’t disappoint. Excellent hi-res visuals, 60 FPS update and unequivocally violent gameplay culminates in one of the best 3D beat ‘em ups to grace the Saturn to date.” -Lee Nutter

#28: WIPEOUT 2097 (92%)

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A speedy racing game that was one of the few reasons to buy a PlayStation… until it was converted (rather well too) to the Saturn!

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“Cool futuristic racing, with eight tracks to race around. The hover cars handle really well, and the extra colorful courses all look fantastic in this Saturn conversion. Some of the special effects from the PlayStation version are missing, but who cares? It plays brilliantly and that’s what counts.” -Gary Cutlack

#27: MADDEN NFL ’98 (92%)

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It was compulsory for every Mega Drive owner to have at least one Madden game, and the legendary US football series continued on the Saturn — just about the only EA sports title to continue the quality in the move to 32-bit…

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“And it continued with style. One of the best multi-player games that consenting adults can enjoy, this ’98 update is faster, smoother and tougher than ever before. This year’s players and stats, and the ability to build your own team from scratch make Madden ’98 the best yet.” -Gary Cutlack

#26: STEEP SLOPE SLIDERS (92%)

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The first Saturn snowboarding game to hit the UK and it’s a blast! 17 characters, six challenging courses and hundreds of cool tricks.

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“Board stupid? You won’t be with Steep Slope Sliders, an amazing game that faithfully recreates the world’s most popular winter sport with incredible detail and much playability. Play the game as a straight forward racer and beat the clock or pull off blazing stunts to rack up massive scores. If you’ve never been snowboarding before, Steep Slope Sliders is the perfect downhill trainer.” -Matt Yeo

#25: WARCRAFT II: THE DARK SAGA (91%)

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Electronic Arts attempt to grab a slice of the lucrative Command & Conquer action more than makes up for the absence of Red Alert.

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“Taking a medieval slant on the strategy based Command & Conquer formula, EA’s Warcraft II plays virtually identical to Westwood Studio’s classic. With over 52 huge missions to complete and the Beyond the Portal expansion pack toss in for good measure, this is awesome stuff and well up there with Command & Conquer.” -Lee Nutter

#24: SONIC JAM (92%)

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Dubbed as the “ultimate retro pack” in issue #22 of Sega Saturn Magazine, Sonic Jam shows off the Sonic Team at their very best.

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“The Mega Drive Sonic series was the main reason that many people (myself included) first got into games. Putting all four games on one disc was a masterstroke for the Sonic Team, and with the mind-blowing Sonic World — this is an essential slice of the retro cake.” -Lee Nutter

#23: X-MEN: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM (92%)

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Cyclops, Wolverine, Juggernaut and pals battle it out in one of the most outrageous 2D fighting games ever conceived.

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“Before X-Men: Children of the Atom, no one knew the potential of Saturn’s 2D capabilities. X-Men showed the world that no machine can match the Saturn (sans Neo Geo of course). When COTA appeared, work at EMAP stopped completely and many happy hours were spent pummeling CVG’s Tom Guise (and others) into pulp as he squealed like a stinking pig… but I digress…” -Rich Leadbetter

#22: DAYTONA USA (92%)

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The first conversion of AM2’s classic coin-op and arguably one of the finest racers on the Saturn.

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“Yeah, the graphics are looking a bit crap now and the PAL conversion is quite poor. But the fact remains that AM2’s Daytona conversion sounds, feels and plays just like the coin-op, not something we could say about the more recent conversion.” -Lee Nutter

#21: GUARDIAN HEROES (93%)

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Platform kings Treasure combine classic RPG elements with some hard-hitting, side-scrolling beat ‘em up action. Explore mystical lands inhabited by fair maidens and bizarre monsters.

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“Only rivaling Capcom in terms of 2D mastery, Treasure’s epic adventure is an innovative and challenging game. The fact that Guardian Heroes manages to breathe new life into the stale scrolling beat ‘em up genre can’t be a bad thing either. A truly ace game.” -Matt Yeo

#20: NIGHT WARRIORS: DARKSTALKERS’ REVENGE (93%)

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A classic 2D beat ‘em up featuring a gaggle of truly gruesome creatures. Capcom’s creature feature is also the first sequel to the demonic DarkStalkers.

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“What other game lets you beat the crap out of vampires, a werewolf and even Frankenstein’s monster? Amazing cartoon animation, completely over-the-top moves and Capcom’s trademark quality gameplay make this a must-have title. Unique amongst beat ‘em ups.” -Lee Nutter

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#19: QUAKE (93%)

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The impossible has been made real with Lobotomy’s translation of id software’s graphically amazing PC shooting game.

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“Quake on PC is my all-time favorite video game. There may be no Death Match (so Tom Guise AKA TipDrinker gets off lightly this time) but Lobotomy’s tweaks to the single-player game have made it a highly entertaining, challenging experience. And graphically speaking, this translation is untouchable.” -Rich Leadbetter

#18: SHINING THE HOLY ARK (93%)

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It’s a new Shining game on the Saturn from Team Sonic. It’s 3D and it’s quality. Enough said.

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“I didn’t want to review this because it started out so dull. Regardless I battled through the early stages and discovered what ranks as one of the single most compelling RPGs I’ve ever played. I’ve happy memories of this title — I love it loads and can’t wait for Shining Force III.” -Rich Leadbetter

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#17: SONIC R (93%)

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Designed by the legendary Sonic Team and programmed by British developer Travellers Tales, the first Sonic title to be programmed specifically for the Saturn is a joy to behold.

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“Clearly the focal point of Sonic R is the mind-blowing graphics, with some jaw-dropping visuals and special effects rivaling those of Mario Kart 64. But rather than just being a graphical showcase for the Saturn, Sonic R is an awesome game to play. There’s a massive exploration element to it, secret routes to discover, hidden items to find and … well, let’s just say that this is fine Saturn gaming.” -Lee Nutter

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#16: PANZER DRAGOON II ZWEI (93%)

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A brilliant blasting game, this game features astounding 3D effects that no Saturn game or indeed PlayStation title has managed to match. And despite being easy to complete, there’s tons of lastability in it too.

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“We all knew that this one was going to be awesome, but when we first sat down and played the finished article, Panzer Zwei was like a gift from the gods. The graphics redefined our expectations of what the Saturn was capable of — suddenly anything was possible. The different routes, morphing dragon and vast amounts of hidden stuff add immensely to the appeal.” -Rich Leadbetter

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#15: COMMAND & CONQUER (94%)

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PC games don’t convert well to consoles — most are way too complicated to appeal to us. So how did Command & Conquer score 94% in issue #15? Well, it’s a great game, that’s why.

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“Beneath the bland exterior beats the heart of a warrior. A warrior of gameplay, because maneuvering your troops around the battlefield, building bases and attacking the enemy is simple to pick up, and the controls work perfectly. It even comes on two CD’s, each with different areas and scenarios for the two sides in the conflict. A very big game.” -Gary Cutlack

#14: SEGA WORLDWIDE SOCCER ’98 (91%)

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Raising a swift index finger to the established FIFA and Actua brands, Sega Worldwide Soccer ’98 out-quaffs them in every conceivable way, being the best footy sim around.

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“The arrival of Sega Worldwide Soccer ’97 heralded a new standard in the footy sim genre, but the crap keeper AI and lack of Premiership sides was a real drawback. SWWS ’98 redresses these criticisms whilst retaining the graphical finesse and rampant playability of the prequel. If you don’t own the prequel, this is the only soccer game worth bothering with.” -Lee Nutter

#13: RESIDENT EVIL (94%)

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Genuinely frightening action adventure in which the sole purpose is to survive. Roam freely throughout the secluded mansion, mercilessly slaughtering the undead and solving the diverse range of puzzles. Awesome!

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“For Capcom’s first foray into the realms of 3D, Resident Evil is an exceptional achievement. This shit-scary scenario, non-linear gameplay and tense atmosphere offers players an experience they’ll never dare to forget. Blasting the head clean off a zombie as a fountain of blood erupts from between its shoulders is quite simply the most satisfying moment in gaming history. Hugely ace stuff!” -Lee Nutter

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#12: VIRTUAL ON (93%)

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Eight different robots battle it out over different stages in AM3’s robot battler. A game of strategy as well as reflexes, this is one of the best two-player games on Saturn.

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“Virtual On is a game of strategy — of brains over brawn. It’s also one of the best one-on-one titles you can get for the Saturn. The amount of strategies and tactics found in this game is frankly amazing. Not many people bought this — a shame because it’s in a class of its own.” -Rich Leadbetter

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#11: VIRTUA COP (94%)

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The first of the much vaunted “Big Three” for Christmas ’95, Virtua Cop is a staggeringly accurate conversion of the AM2 masterpiece which simply must be owned.

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“After the appalling Lethal Enforcer games, Virtua Cop breathed fresh air into the dying genre. Using polygon-sensitive graphics as opposed to the dreadful FMV, players could reenact their favorite Tarantino shootouts in a socially acceptable way. It’s an absolute classic, though has been largely superseded by its mightily impressive sequel.” -Lee Nutter

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#10: STREET FIGHTER COLLECTION (92%)

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The ultimate 2D beat ‘em up collection! Capcom’s finest titles meet head-on in a two disc extravaganza. Play the original arcade perfect Super Street Fighter II, Super Street Fighter II Turbo and an updated version of Street Fighter Alpha 2.

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“If you’re a hardcore Street Fighter fan then Virgin’s retro beat ‘em up compilation is a must-have item. The game that made Capcom the giant it is today is still the classic it always was and its inclusion here shows just how far the series has come over the years. This collection is still worth buying if you already own Street Fighter Alpha 2, although both Super Street Fighter II and Super Turbo are really starting to look dated.” -Matt Yeo

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SPECIAL GUEST COMMENTARY #1

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Excluding the Tekken series, I’m not the biggest fan of fighting games. Now, it hasn’t always been like this. I really enjoyed Street Fighter II Turbo back in the day, and I considered myself halfway decent. I used to play it late into the night with my then friends. It was the standard “loser passes the controller” setup that we had going, and the level of competition — as fierce as it was — was pretty even. Few people managed to hold on to the controller for more than three matches. Those were the times, but they are gone now. After that initial Street Fighter rush, I never played a 2D fighter again. Ever. But I’ll always have the memories.

SPECIAL GUEST COMMENTARY #2

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I have a confession to make… I can no longer be called a TRANSFORMERS collector. ::GASP:: Wait!! Come back!! It’s not what you think. Actually, as of yesterday, I’ve become a *Action Figure* collector. Why? Let me spin the tale…

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You see, I love collecting Transformers. They were a huge part of my childhood. I can remember going to Toys R Us and buying the latest Transformers toy, going home and spending the whole day totally focused on the joy of that new toy. They were a defining part of my youth and I’ll collect them and enjoy them for the rest of my life. Now, after I had “shed” the toy thing, I had become like any other teen… on the hunt for exciting adventures. Sounds like a porno but this ain’t Emanuel, so let’s keep it clean… and as for that new, exciting challenge… I found it. It was Street Fighter II.

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I had always loved video games, but this one was different… it totally consumed me. I can remember going to the arcade, after school, with my friends and playing for hours. I remember drawing all the characters during my spare time… and history class. I loved the game, the stories, and thus… Street Fighter is one of my fondest memories.

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#9: TOMB RAIDER (94%)

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Arguably the best game of 1996, Core’s multi-format platform adventure became a massive success, thanks in no small part to the gravity-defying chest of a certain Miss Croft.

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“From virtually every perspective, it’s damn near impossible to find fault with Core’s first real hit. This game is big — like really big. Split into 15 differently themed levels, each feature enormous 3D environments, comparable in sheer scale to those of Mario 64. The gameplay is no slouch either, with a vast array of puzzles to solve, tasks to perform and endangered wildlife to kill. But the real star of the show is of course, Lara Croft. With a versatile array of superbly animated acrobatic maneuvers at her disposal, Lara certainly has great things in front of her (sigh). Unfortunately not on any Sega machine.” -Lee Nutter

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#8: EXHUMED (94%)

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Lobotomy’s initial adventure was unfairly dubbed Doom in Egypt.” In truth it’s one of the deepest action-packed adventures money can buy. One of the most criminally underrated games of all time. Known as PowerSlave in America.

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“It took the whining and moaning of our own “Manual” Daniel Jevons to convince me to take this game seriously. When I started playing — and playing it properly — I realized that this adventure is a work of genius. Sega Saturn Magazine got behind Lobotomy in a big way and our prayers for them to convert Duke Nukem and Quake were answered. It’s also extremely cheap at £20 in most shops, so there’s no excuse not to own this classic.” -Rich Leadbetter

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Rich Leadbetter and the rest of the SSM staff really did a lot for not only Exhumed, but for Lobotomy, the Saturn, and Saturn owners. They pushed Exhumed to the moon. Even after a massively impressive 94% review in issue #11, Exhumed sales were quite low in the weeks following. So, Rich, being the high quality gaming crusader that he was, sought to seek justice. And in issue #13, this was his editorial…

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Rich’s editorial went a long way. The UK masses went out and bought the damn game en masse. Exhumed became a hit as rentals and sales went through the roof following Rich’s passionate plea. Exhumed often appeared in the top 10 rental list. Nice job, Rich. Way to champion the little guys!

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And due to its smash success in the UK, GT Interactive saw fit to allow Lobotomy to program Saturn Quake. If it weren’t for Rich’s never-say-die attitude and Sega Saturn Magazine…

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#7: MARVEL SUPER HEROES (95%)

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The game they said couldn’t be done. Capcom’s most ambitious 2D fighting game arrives on the Saturn replete all the awesome visuals and playability that you could hope for. Senses-shattering!

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“We got arcade Marvel Super Heroes in the office at about the same time that the finished Saturn X-Men appeared. I remember comparing the two and thinking, ‘no way will this ever come to the Sega machine.’ Whilst the conversion isn’t perfect, it’s incredible in every way that matters. The rich visuals are beyond compare, but it’s the combo system that really makes this game. And Doctor Doom is ace.” -Rich Leadbetter

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#6: VIRTUA COP 2 (95%)

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Following the unprecedented success of the seminal Virtua Cop conversion, AM2 reaffirmed their position as the greatest coders of Sega’s machine with this stunning sequel. Time Crisis? HA!

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“The most important thing to mention about Virtua Cop 2 is that it is huge — approximately twice the size of its predecessor in fact. Each of the three levels feature multiple routes about halfway through, making the sequel a less linear affair than the first game. Each of these levels are densely packed with destructible scenery and of course, hod-loads of bad guys. There’s also some stunning set pieces in there — the car chase sequence in particular stands out in my mind. Yeah, it might not be as close a conversion as the less ambitious Virtua Cop, but AM2 have pulled off a miracle in getting the Saturn to emulate the Model 2 coin-op so well. Everyone must own this game.” -Lee Nutter

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#5: FIGHTERS MEGAMIX (95%)

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AM2’s greatest creations clash in a 3D beat ‘em up of unparalleled proportions! Virtua Fighters meet Fighting Vipers for some hard-hitting 3D beat ‘em up shenanigans. If you want speed and action, get this!

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“The Saturn is blessed with a number of awesome 3D beat ‘em ups but Fighters Megamix is something else. A staggering 32 characters, Vipers’ armor-breakers, Virtua Fighter 3 moves, enclosed arenas and secrets galore make this a premier Saturn title. Even if you own both Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers, there are still plenty of new features and playable faces to get to grips with. Loads of depth and playability makes Fighters Megamix one game you can’t live without!” -Matt Yeo

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#4: DUKE NUKEM 3D (97%)

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One of the most action-packed politically incorrect 3D blasting games imaginable. Lobotomy promised us an excellent translation but the final product defies belief. The best game released this year.

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“The speed and action contained in Saturn Duke Nukem just blew me away. Couple the playability with Lobotomy’s incredible 3D engine and you have a game that’s just as cool as the PC game — and sometimes superior. And it hoses down the PlayStation game. Completely. I honestly don’t think I’ve played a game quite as satisfying as Saturn Duke for ages. On the higher difficulty levels the sense of carnage you get is almost intoxicating. Awesome!” -Rich Leadbetter

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97 freakin’ percent. That’s the massive rating Sega Saturn Magazine awarded Duke Nukem 3D. SSM were big fans of Lobotomy since the days of Exhumed. SSM was there every step of the way as Lobotomy converted Quake and Duke Nukem, with previews, showcases and interviews with the Lobotomy staff. Hell, Quake and Duke graced back-to-back covers! Fun fact #1: Lobotomy credited Rich Leadbetter under “Special Thanks” in Saturn Duke.

Good guy Rich!
Good guy Rich!

Fun Fact #2: Rich Leadbetter and Gary Cutlack contacted me back in October of 2004 to thank me for posting their Top 50 list. I had the extreme honor of interviewing both of them about their Sega Saturn memories — from working for the best magazine ever to their favorite Saturn games. Check it out here!

Crazy guy Gary!
Crazy guy Gary!

#3: NiGHTS: INTO DREAMS (96%)

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Quite simply the most unique, innovative and beautifully crafted video game of all time, from the crack development team that brought you Sonic the Hedgehog and the explosive Burning Rangers (coming soon!)

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“Whilst many were quick to criticize the Sonic Team’s creation for being a tad short and easy, what they consummately failed to appreciate was the true nature of the game. Whilst the sumptuous 3D visuals are enough to draw most gamers in, it’s the superlative retro style of gameplay which keeps them engrossed. Pulling off massive links, racking up huge scores, performing a diverse range of aerial stunts and watching the artificial life system evolve as you play is only a minuscule part of what NiGHTS has to offer. Admittedly, the game concept may appear bizarre at first and ‘immature’ even, but NiGHTS is a unique and lasting experience which simply must be owned by everyone who is serious about games.” -Lee Nutter

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  • Sometime in mid-late ’96

I just got home from Toys R Us and have sampled both Mario 64 and NiGHTS. I came away impressed with both. Mario 64 is destined to become a classic for generations to come, and NiGHTS possesses a unique charm… the kind that might make it a cult classic for the ages. I wouldn’t be surprised if these two still have a large fan base decades later…
-Bruce

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  • 10-13-01

I remember the whole Mario 64 vs. Crash Bandicoot vs. NiGHTS thing. Good times those were. The battle of ’96. Each heavyweight representing its system. I’ll never forget that Saturday when I was at Toys R Us waiting in line to test play each game. It was an exciting time and rivalry — one I still have yet to feel in today’s generation of games. Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical. NiGHTS was something else to witness in 1996. It was poetry in motion. The music was off the charts. They sure as hell don’t make games like this anymore.
-Charlie

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  • I love NiGHTS! If they ever make another one, here’s an idea. Imagine finding a secret underground passage underneath a tree, filled with gems and power-ups, or even better, a clan of Nightopians living in seclusion.
    -Timothy

Nightopians

  • I loved NiGHTS so much that I bought the import. One of the most inspirational games I played in ’96. Only 2 games have EVER kept me up the entire night fueled from adrenaline… NiGHTS and the original Sonic. Yuji Naka and Sonic Team, thank you.
    -Michael Ko

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  • I just picked up my copy of the latest Next Generation magazine and along with it my copy of Christmas NiGHTS. What a great gift! I had forgotten how fun NiGHTS was to play. I couldn’t put it down last night until I had 23 of the 24 gifts. I was confused as to why I couldn’t get the 24th gift until I changed the date to earlier in the year and saw that the 24th gift was Christmas NiGHTS itself. I thought the Sonic into NiGHTS gimmick was a nice touch! I just want to thank Sega for giving me (and others) this very cool Christmas treat!
    -Keith

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  • 12-10-97

Being single and living alone, I usually don’t get into the Christmas spirit until I go to visit my folks a few days before Christmas. I just got Christmas NiGHTS and it actually gave me the Christmas spirit earlier than normal. Thank you Sega. Now I don’t have to buy a tree…
-Evan

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  • 12-15-97

Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:

Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!

If you got this little gift of joy, whip it out. If not, go find it. Don’t look at me though. Mine ain’t going no where but inside my Saturn.

So, don’t forget…
-Will

  • 12-10-98

Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:

Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!

Still copyless you say? Fool!

So, don’t forget…
-Will

  • 12-11-99

Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:

Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!

You BETTER have a copy by now.

So, don’t forget…
-Will

  • 12-18-00

Don’t forget people, Christmas is coming, and you know what that means:

Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams time!

So, don’t forget… but I don’t think I have to repeat myself any more. It’s tradition by now ;)
-Will

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  • This might sound sad but I owe Sega some major thanks. In 2000 I found myself alone on Christmas Eve, with only Christmas NiGHTS to keep me company. And you know what, it was a pretty good Christmas, all things considered. So thanks, Sega.
    -Nelson

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  • 12-07-02

Wow, almost Christmas NiGHTS time already. I’ve played every year since its release on Christmas. Not only has it become tradition for me and many others, it’s become a staple for the holidays. When I was a kid growing up, Christmas just wasn’t Christmas unless you watched A Christmas Story, went to the parade, sang carols and sat on Santa’s lap at the mall. Well, for me anyhow, these days and, yes, still to this day — Christmas NiGHTS is the equivalent to all those, if not a little sweeter.
-Arthur

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  • 12-07-02

I agree! Christmas just isn’t Christmas unless you watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol, eat some gingerbread men and play some Christmas NiGHTS! It’s a legend all in itself. One in which I shall pass down to my kids and their kids. Sega made a lot of mistakes over the years but every time I play this, I say thank you for the great memories.
-David

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#2: SEGA RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP (97%)

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Since its release in early 1996, Sega Rally has gone on to become the best selling Saturn game ever and the benchmark by which all other racers are judged. And rightly so, in our opinion.

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“It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why Sega Rally is such an incredible game. Maybe it’s the flawless conversion of the twenty times as expensive coin-op. Maybe it’s the feeling of gritty realism the programmers manage to convey, making you think you’re actually driving a Rally car, but there’s never so much realism that you’d have to know how to drive one yourself to play the game properly. Or could it be the decent smattering of Saturn specific modes, from the awesome split-screen two-player mode, to the ghost mode and custom car option. Who knows? The point is, two years on from its release and Sega Rally is still the best racer on any console bar none. Whilst other racers may boast superior graphics (and only just), none have surpassed Rally in terms of sheer playability. It’s a classic video game of our time.” -Lee Nutter

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  • 7-27-00

At one point in my life I poured so many hours into Sega Rally that, honest to gosh, I went out driving and heard a voice in my head say “Long medium left baby!” That’s when I knew I had crossed that line… no game but Rally has ever made me feel that way. Not even the almighty Tetris
-Scott

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  • 8-21-03

Sega Rally was one of the few video games my father actually played. He couldn’t understand how a man in his late 20’s could be interested in playing video games (NOTE: He was addicted to computer golf, but did not think of it as a video game).

Anyway, my niece and nephew were visiting and he asked me to bring over some games for them to play. I debated for about 5 seconds before I packed up the Saturn, steering wheel, and several games — including Sega Rally.

Sega Rally hardly left the machine for the other titles. Everyone was trying to get the best score. The game is just pure fun. I played it last night just to see if my memory was holding it in too high a place. Nope. I played it for a good two hours, loving every minute of it again.

As for my father… I overjoyed him last Christmas by giving him a Golden Tee arcade cabinet for his den.
-Mike Andrews

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  • 5-28-96

After playing out my current batch of Saturn titles, I decided to start playing some of the older ones I hadn’t played in ages. I popped in Sega Rally, a game I had beaten many times before and much to my surprise it was just as if not more fun than it used to be. The excitement of Rally racing is still there after 6 months! I beat all my records and had a blast doing so. If anything this is a testament to its replay value and AM3’s care and love for the games they make.
-Jordan

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  • 9-8-99 (1 day before SEGA Dreamcast’s launch)

Nothing’s sweeter than practicing hard all night til you just manage to shave a half second off your career best. Man that is so satisfying. Words cannot do it justice. Even better is having a buddy watch you do it, trying to psych you out so you don’t beat his best time — and then handing the controller off to him with a smug smile saying “Your turn, champ.”

Rock on, SEGA Saturn.
Bring it on, SEGA Dreamcast!
-Jimmy Bakerfield

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  • 11-14-98

True story. One Saturday night I stood up my girlfriend. I had an hour to go before the date began. I thought “eh, a little Sega Rally never hurt anybody.” Right? An hour quickly became two. My girlfriend called my phone but I left it upstairs. Eventually she came over to my place. She was about to blow her top when I told her to sit down and play. She looked like she was gonna kill me but I continued quickly.

“Look, I’ll give you a BIG lead. If you can beat me, I’ll promise to go to that … opera with you.”

“You’re on.”

I caught up with her on the last lap and was in position to win. But, purposely, I bumped into one of the railings and let her speed ahead for the win.

But really… I won. The opera? It wasn’t so bad.

OK — it was really bad. I hated it.

But, I didn’t get kicked in the balls. Or have my Saturn and Sega Rally copy chucked out the window. It balances out…

A month later we got engaged and 8 months later we got married. I had an hour before the wedding started. I thought “eh, a little Sega Rally never hurt anybody.” Right? … ;)
-Luis A.

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#1: VIRTUA FIGHTER 2 (98%)

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Virtua Fighter 2 remains the Saturn’s finest hour, bearing all the hallmarks of greatness that the Saturn stands for. For starters, it’s an AM2 arcade conversion — quite possibly their best one to date. The Saturn’s high resolution mode is used to create the most lifelike fighters yet seen on the system, and the super smooth 60 frames per second movement is uncannily realistic. But for all its technical accomplishments, the real joy with this game is its playability. Each of the characters battles away with REAL fighting techniques, they move and react just like real fighters would. And the possibilities with the 2,000 moves in the game make it virtually limitless in terms of lastability. When this arrived in coin-op form, it was such a step forward that arcade-goers across the globe took notice. And the Saturn version, bar small graphical compromises, is identical. A mammoth achievement — still.

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“I remember seeing the first demo of Virtua Fighter 2 in motion on the Saturn. You couldn’t play it — you could only watch as two computer controlled opponents slugged it out. But I was spellbound. Months earlier we’d seen the Saturn seemingly having difficulties replicating the first Virtua Fighter, which had no texture mapping and half the frame rate. To see Virtua Fighter 2 on the Saturn with all the techniques, characters AND in hi-res was a revelation. Plain and simple. But technical issues aside, VF2 is more than a game, it is an art. On a trip to Japan, my old MAXIMUM colleague Gary Harrod brought back videos of expert VF2 players getting to grips with Akira and Jeffrey (my favorite fighter and his, respectively). What I saw on this video was light years ahead of my own skills. Watching these Japanese masters playing VF2 was like watching an entirely different game to the one I was playing. It was another revelation. These guys had taken the game’s precision controls and stunning physics to awesome effect, with combos and techniques I would spend the next few months attempting to emulate. It’s this huge lastability that makes VF2 superior to Fighters Megamix in my eyes. True, Megamix has more characters, but it lacks the precision gameplay and thus the aspiration for true mastery that VF2 has. And that’s why I think Virtua Fighter 2 is the best Saturn game money can buy.” -Rich Leadbetter

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  • 12-5-95

Just the other day I was at my friend’s house. He showed me Virtua Fighter 2 and, remembering the disaster the first Virtua Fighter port was, I prepared myself for a good chuckle or two. Then I played it. Well I’ll be. Virtua Fighter 2 is quite impressive. I feel a little jealous it’s not on the PlayStation. Perhaps there is legit competition in the Saturn just yet. It certainly has changed this diehard PlayStation user’s perceptions on what the Saturn is capable of.
-Brent ‘The Bone’ Bonds

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  • 12-3-95

I finally got my hands on Virtua Fighter 2 (for $49) this past Friday, and I must say… this game is truly awesome. Virtua Fighter 2 has been the first game I’ve purchased that has made feel like “OH my God, this is incredible!” I look at this game and simply can’t believe I’m playing this at home and I’ve played a LOT of games on a LOT of systems, and this game is just AWESOME!

I’ve written quite a few programs, and worked with a lot of graphics applications, and maybe this is why I am so impressed. To realize what is going on and what has to take place in order to bring you a game of this magnitude is simply mind-blowing.

I’d post more, but gotta get back to my Saturn.

Game on!
-Dave Mann
Irvine Alumni, Class of 1994
University of Southern California

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  • 12-1-95

I just purchased a copy of Virtua Fighter 2 from Microplay and it is absolutely amazing!! At the first sight of the incredibly high-res display and fluid animation, I was blown away. What’s here folks is nothing short of a miracle. It’s the punch in the face Saturn owners have been waiting for! Here’s my quick review:

Graphics: 10
Sound: 9
Game Play: 10!
Replay Value: 10!

Overall: 98%

Definitely THE best fighting game on any home system to date, and it’s just so damn fun to play, I could go on FOREVER about how great it is! BUY THIS GAME!! If you don’t, I’ll hire midgets to burn down your house.
-Dan

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  • 2-2-01

In my gaming life, I can point to certain console moments that shall forever haunt me. Super Mario Brothers 3 on NES. Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis. Street Fighter II on SNES. Add Virtua Fighter 2 on Saturn to that list. I went with my dad and three friends to Toys R Us to buy it. Then we got home at 8 PM and played against each other for five straight hours. Imagine… four 12 year old kids huddled around a 27 inch TV for five straight hours on a Saturday night. You know whatever’s keeping their attention for THAT long has to be pretty special.
-Ron

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  • 8-28-00

I was one of the biggest Street Fighter fans back in the early ’90s. Then came Virtua Fighter 2 and I found my new calling. I recall many hours spent at my local arcade attempting to master all 11 characters. I’d stay until they had to literally kick me out.

Then the Saturn version came out and blew away everything I expected. I swear I must have spent at least 1,000 hours on it. No game is perfect, but in my book Virtua Fighter 2 is VERY close.
-James Dat Nguyen

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  • 6-6-02

I don’t play games much today. In fact, the last game I really touched was Halo on XBOX when it came out. Yeah, it’s been a while. Anyway I still lurk from time to time and felt the need to chirp in.

There was once a golden age in gaming. It was the early ’90s. NES was still kicking, Genesis was coming into its own and SNES was just around the corner. Boy what great times. Then came the 32-bit war. It wasn’t quite as memorable as the previous generation of games but three words…

VIRTUA FIGHTER 2.

‘Nuff said.

This game has the kind of magic where, sadly, not everyone will understand. To fully experience it, you must have a gaming group of friends — all equally skilled — and have get-togethers on occasion where you just feast on this game. It really is a marvel. The bouts can either be snap-snap-snap or long drawn-out epics. It’s as fun to watch as it is to play. This is the only way to truly appreciate Virtua Fighter 2.

All the guys I used to play this game with back in the day — they all got married and became fathers. I still talk to them and we kid around sometimes about the “good old days.” We still get together to play Virtua Fighter 2 every once in a long while… but for sure those times in 1996-1997 were priceless.

We like to joke around that one day we might be as old as Shun himself :P
-Ben

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  • 11-5-03

I absolutely hated fighting games until I played Virtua Fighter 2 on May 1, 1997. I thought both 2D and 3D fighting games were stupid, boring and offered no depth whatsoever.

The day I got my Sega Saturn was the day that I changed my mind about fighters. I learned that deep fighting games did exist, I just had to find the ones made by Yu Suzuki. From 1997 up until 1999 my gaming group and I played on average six hours of Virtua Fighter 2 a week. That’s a lot of hours. The only reason why we stopped were due to life (marriage, college, whatever).

I used to feel the same way about racing games. I hated the genre. Thought it too was junk until I discovered my love of Sega Rally. Thanks to both these titles (both on Saturn of course) I “evolved” as a gamer.
-Glenn A. Rudy III

Long live the Sega Saturn!
Long live the Sega Saturn!
And thank you SSM for all the wonderful memories!
And thank you SSM for all the wonderful memories!

2 thoughts on “Sega Saturn Magazine’s Top 50 Saturn Games”

  1. Wow, that was a fun rundown of the Saturn’s best. Never was aware of this UK publication until your blog. I missed out on the Saturn for most of its lifespan, but had a few memorable weekend sessions of it with friends over the years. Now that the Saturn’s 25th North American launch anniversary is coming up in a few weeks what would you say are your own top ranked Saturn games all these years later?

    A couple weeks ago I celebrated the launch a little early with a write up on my brief experiences with the Saturn over the years – https://daleisgreat.blogspot.com/2020/04/25-years-of-saturn-virtual-boy.html

    Anywho, glad to see you back posting again more frequently! Keep ‘em coming!

    1. Thank you Dale. Whoa, sorry for the super late reply. I meant to update more frequently but man, the reading bug has bitten me super hard lately. It took me 3 weeks to finish reading It (all 1,153 pages). Anyway, what great timing with your Saturn article in early April. I took a look, cool stuff! I like the personal picture that you shared. It’s always cool seeing gaming group pictures like that. Really brings you back. Yup, the Saturn turned 25 earlier this month in the US. Makes me feel even older than I already am, lol.

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