SEGA’s been in the games industry for a very long time. The former console manufacturer has had its ups and its downs over its long career. Although they are best known for their console games and franchises, SEGA has surprisingly had a lot of great arcade games as well.
SEGA has had a great legacy in the arcade. They’ve created titles that have been inspiring genres and developers nearly since the video game industry began. Sonic the Hedgehog isn’t Sega’s only iconic game, there are plenty of legends left dormant in the arcade.
Opa Opa, a bizarre spaceship with feet, appears every now and again in recent SEGA offerings. But the little guy was one of SEGA’s earliest attempts at a gaming mascot, and nostalgia for him and his game still abounds. Fantasy Zone is a charming little shooter game with left and right scrolling. Its pick-up-and-play nature and charming sound design often see it cited as ahead of its time.
This chippy little game is often called a “Cute-em-up” due to its plucky nature. The side-scrolling setup of the game also distinguished from its peers. The ship had two different weapons, a standard shot and a bomb, and could receive upgrades. This cute little ship has gone on to appear beyond his franchise because of his charm.
Die Hard Arcade
Arcades were no stranger to licensed gaming fare, with both the good and bad getting movie licenses. In collaboration with FOX, SEGA managed to secure Die Hard‘s license. The game would be reskinned in Japan (they didn’t own the Japanese license) as Dynamite Dekka, and Die Hard Arcade didn’t follow any film’s plot. But it did provide an extremely sweet blend of gameplay styles.
Die Hard Arcade sees John McClane and player 2 tasked with rescuing the president’s daughter. But all the action is still centered around terrorists in a tower. The game mixed beat-em-up mechanics with shooting and quick-time events. Die Hard Arcade might be one of the weirdest in the franchise, but it’s also addictive action gaming at its best.
This color-matching puzzle game is certainly a classic, as it’s one of the best and oldest puzzle game franchises and one of SEGA’s highest sellers. But SEGA actually bought the rights from the series’ original owner, Compile.
Puyo Puyo started life as a series of JRPGs before turning into a puzzle game. The slime enemies from that game became the blocks that need to be matched for points. The series has been through many iterations and has several protagonists. It’s even enjoying a new wave of popularity through the recent Puyo Puyo Tetris games.
Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder
Streets of Rage is probably the beat-em-up franchise people think of when thinking of SEGA. But that’s a console franchise, and when it came to arcades, there was another name. Golden Axe was a series of fantasy beat-em-ups beloved by classic SEGA fans. While it did make its way to the genesis, the sequel in arcades, The Revenge of Death Adder, did not.
This sequel was one of the more obscure games in the franchise, only being ported in 2020. But that’s a shame, as it’s every bit as fun as its predecessor. While no characters return from the original cast (except Gillius, who rides the new giant character) the new protagonists fit well into the mold. And the three-way directional system allowed players to choose their level paths.
SEGA has no shortage of excellent video games based on driving. The list of their racing games includes classics like Super Hang-On, Virtua Racing, Sega Rally Championship, and many more. But in terms of capturing the vibes of summer, the Out Run games are king. These games featured a scrolling background that was revolutionary for 1986.
The camera is placed behind the driver, who must drive to checkpoints within a time limit. The game also features a stylish summer background and excellent muzak to listen to while driving. This led to Out Run becoming SEGA’s biggest arcade game of the 1980s according to Gamest. The game spawned three successors, but the original is still looked on the most fondly.
Space Harrier is a great retro SEGA classic (now available on Switch) that’s bizarre but incredibly influential. This rail shooter puts the camera behind a rocket-propelled protagonist as they zoom around a checkered land. Obstacles like rocks and even some enemies. The goal is to vanquish all enemies in the level and then fight the boss.
The game features eighteen levels with fifteen bosses for the protagonist, Harrier, to defeat. Some of the bosses are quite fearsome, however. The first stage features a Chinese-style dragon to fight against. The game was renowned for its scrolling and colorful graphics.
Daytona USA is another one of SEGA’s great racing offerings. This one is a little more standard, featuring both the laps and the famous Daytona 500 racetrack. This NASCAR-inspired game used texture mapping and satellite imaging to capture the track and the cars in the best detail. This earned it praise and extremely high sales.
The game ran at a smooth 60 frames per second, which was rare for 3D in 1994. But perhaps the biggest legacy of Daytona USA is its soundtrack. Rolling Start and Let’s Go Away have become some of SEGA’s most popular tracks. This arcade classic was a mixture of a lot of perfect ingredients at the right time.
The House of The Dead 2
SEGA’s light-gun offerings are among their most popular. But standing above Virtua Cop and Alien 3 was the crown jewel. This was The House of the Dead series, also known as Curien Mansion. This zombie-infested shooter was a hallmark of exciting arcade action and receives remakes and ports to this day.
While it lacks the drama of a game like Resident Evil, House of the Dead was never trying to be scary. The cheesy voice acting of 2 and bizarre enemy types fit made it the most popular in the series. The game brought the wackiness full-on with Typing of the Dead. This was a reformat of 2 that remixed it as a typing game, and it’s arguably even more fun.
Virtua Fighter 2
One of the best fighting games of the 1990s had to be Virtua Fighter 2. This was one of the first 3D fighting games, and one of its earliest successes. Virtua Fighter was the brainchild of SEGA designer Yu Suzuki.
Virtua Fighter took a more realistic take on fighting games, abandoning the theatrical energy attacks of games like Street Fighter. Instead, the game’s fighting is extremely faithful to the martial arts the characters perform. The series has been influential not just on other fighting games like Tekken, but on other SEGA games as well. The Shenmue and Yakuza games have heavy VF DNA.
Typically, SEGA was great at racing and driving, excellent soundtracks set in their time, time limits, and surrealism or pseudo-realism. Crazy Taxi was the game to finally bring all these elements together. This game, set to a soundtrack of The Offspring, saw players operating a bizarre quick taxi service where the more reckless the driving the better.
The game was renowned for its extreme 90s attitude, featuring extreme caricatures for drivers and product placement. The driver must drive all around a city like San Fransisco, though its sequels would incorporate other cities like New York City. The game’s passengers would ask to go to various real locations regardless of how reckless the driving on the way is. This encouraged fun play that’s permanently burned in the brain of anyone who ever played it.
NEXT: 10 Great Retro SEGA Games Available On The Switch
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