As you may have noticed, we're big fans of Cult Classics here at Eurogamer. Over the years we've trawled the sobbing depths of the GameCube, Xbox and PS2's back catalogue to prise a seemingly unending procession of hidden gems from the yawning abyss of commercial indifference. And with the Dreamcast recently celebrating its tenth anniversary, what better than to check out what the ultimate cult console has to offer in that department?
Having compiled our definitive Dreamcast Dozen what follows is essentially The Best of the Rest, giving weight to games that were brought exclusively to the platform, rather than focusing too much on the large volume of excellent PC and PlayStation ports that also found it a comfortable home. In other words, creditable entries such as Quake III Arena, Hidden & Dangerous, Grand Theft Auto 2, Unreal Tournament, Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation and Rainbow Six are out. For now, sit back and marvel at an already-eclectic selection of titles worth checking out.
SEGA/United Game Artists
Poor old Rez. It's almost so 'cult' now that getting people to appreciate its charms works in reverse. It's now seven long years since it first appeared, and people have hardly stopped banging on about it ever since, which, while well-meaning, seems to serve to put people's backs up about its so-called overlooked greatness. So let's bang on about it a little more, only with some clear-headed realism. As most of you know, it's a self-consciously clubby on-rails shooter - essentially a bit like Panzer Dragoon, but with minimalist vector graphics and a pounding trance soundtrack which responds directly to the action. As each of the five levels progress, the audio-visual tag-team gets ever more intense, and by the end of it you feel like someone's slipped you something naughty. A genuinely psychedelic freakout - Jeff Minter is probably still smarting that he didn't get there first. Check it out on Xbox Live Arcade if you want a somewhat easier means of experiencing this oddball shooter.
Arriving too late in the day for SEGA to bother porting it to the West, this Japan-only release nevertheless gets the red carpet treatment on its way into the Cult Classic halls. Arriving in the latter portion of 2001, Cosmic Smash was like a late 1970s vision of what games would look like in the 21st Century, and all the more endearing as a result. Essentially a hybrid game of squash-meets-Breakout, the crisp, minimalist visuals and old-school gameplay gave it an obvious appeal with the hardcore, and its unavailability in the West has merely enhanced its enduring appeal. It's like a companion release to Rez, only about a hundred times harder to find. Discover at your pleasure.
Released to zero fanfare after SEGA had already decided to pull the plug on the console, Outtrigger is one of the true hidden gems among the first-party exclusives. Conceived as an arcade title, it's a rare Japanese take on first-person shooting, at a time when the genre had very little traction there. With an interesting emphasis on collectibles and power-ups, it held together surprisingly well, and even boasted slick 60fps visuals and a six-player online mode where each player had their own specialist weapon and abilities. While little more than a footnote to the Dreamcast's more glorious achievements, Outtrigger deserved a better fate.
Curiously only ever released in the US, this multiplayer fighting game came from the same stable that developed all of SEGA's acclaimed US sports titles (generally only of interest to our cousins across the Atlantic, before you demand to know why they're absent from our Euro-centric list). Despite rave reviews in its home territories, it arrived just after SEGA had already swung the axe on the console, and thus stands tall as a particularly rare Cult Classic. Alongside Power Stone, this cartoony four-player brawler was regarded as an essential multiplayer title - made all the more interesting at the time for its online mode. Sadly there's no chance of getting that particular option going nowadays, but if you can find it, Ooga Booga is still a great couch-based multiplayer romp.
The Dreamcast launch title you've completely forgotten about, this first-party effort didn't boast the wow factor demanded to truly excite upon its release, but looking back on its quirky appeal now, it's clear that it demands a re-evaluation this far down the line. The premise of this 3D shooter was simple: a bunch of neglected toys decide to rise up and rebel against Andy's new army-themed replacements. Set over various rooms of the house, your mission is to destroy each area's 'boss' general, via numerous playable vehicles including airplanes, tanks and racecars. It wasn't always that obvious what you were supposed to do, and perhaps the unfriendly learning curve contributed to its being overlooked, but persistence is rewarded in this curious shooter offspring.
Omikron: The Nomad Soul
This cyberpunk adventure game was somewhat overlooked upon release, and garnered attention initially because it featured a David Bowie-penned soundtrack and some in-game appearances from the man himself. A cult following has steadily built up - not least thanks to the intense interest in Quantic Dream's subsequent project, Fahrenheit, and the current PS3 poster-child Heavy Rain. It's fair to say The Nomad Soul hasn't aged particularly well in technical terms, but if you look beyond the primitive voxel visuals it's an adventure with real substance. Unsurprisingly for a David Cage-designed game, it concerns a serial killer - only this time you're on the hunt for a demon who is pretending to be a police commander, and who happens to be luring human souls into a videogame. Sounds crazy, but there's nothing else quite like it.
Samba de Amigo
If it wasn't for the recent Wii re-issue of Sonic Team's maraca-shaking rhythm-action effort, this would have been the Dreamcast's most obvious Cult Classic. Available for around GBP 100 at launch, UK figures from Chart-Track reckon that fewer than 2,500 gamers bought it back in December 2000, making it one of the most collectible games of the decade - not to mention one of the most improbable multiplayer games of all time (finding another player with a set of maracas is going to be a tall order, obviously). With SEGA opting not to bother releasing official maraca peripherals for the Wii, those who own the coveted Dreamcast original can shake their moneymakers with pride.
By the time this overlooked lightgun shooter hit the DC in the summer of 2001, the writing was already well and truly on the wall for the troubled console, with the momentum having swung in favour of the PS2. But for those who stuck with SEGA's system, Confidential Mission was an excellent companion release to The House of the Dead 2. Similar in style to the Virtua Cop titles (none of which got a format release on DC in the West), it was a typically over-the-top spy thriller romp, with two agents on a mission to retrieve a stolen satellite. As you might expect, it's about as derivative as possible, but with so few lightgun shooters available in the home, it was an essential purchase for those hankering after a bit of twitch shooting craziness.
Marvel Vs Capcom 2
When Midway tried to jumpstart its stalled Mortal Kombat franchise by pairing it with a cast of comic legends from the DC universe, it was blatantly hoping to hark back to this absolute gem of a fighter. With 56 characters, three-way tag teams and new "snapback" attacks, the lure of pitting Mega Man and Wolverine against Doctor Doom and Akuma was hard to resist, especially with the sort of deep yet balanced gameplay you'd expect from the Street Fighter team. This was also a game where the Dreamcast's architecture shone brighter than the competition. Thanks to the shared features of the console and the arcade's NAOMI board, it was able to supply a nigh-perfect conversion.
Billed as the DC's answer to Metal Gear Solid, the hype was strong for Amuze's stealth-action title. Fortunately, it wasn't all hot air, as a string of positive reviews in the dying embers of 2001 gave brief weight to the belief that SEGA's console was still a viable entity if only a must-have action-adventure came along. But while its somewhat derivative brand of action-adventuring wasn't quite the console's saving grace, it's definitely one of the system's strongest in the genre thanks to tight controls and slick visuals. Shame about the tired premise of having lost his identity, memory and blah, I-was-the-best-headhunter-in-the-land-and-have-to-prove-myself-all-over-again-blah. It was 2001, though.
After the various arcade versions caused such a commotion during the latter half of the 90s, everyone assumed an arcade-perfect port would go down a storm on Dreamcast. But as with all of SEGA's attempts to revive its racing brands this decade (see OutRun 2 and SEGA Rally for proof), only a few hardcore diehards bought into it. Despite poor sales, Daytona USA did pick up its fair share of fans, as evidenced by the massive number of enormously positive reviews from around the spring of 2001. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, though, and many have since criticised the port's inability to quite match the arcade's control system - particularly with the wheel. Still, with no subsequent attempts to revive the long-dormant Daytona brand, this DC-exclusive version retains an elusive appeal, and is more than welcome down Cult Classic alley.
Typing of the Dead
Come on, who doesn't like to hone their secretarial skills while dismembering the undead? Just one of several bizarre SEGA offerings to grace the Dreamcast, this keyboard-based spin-off from the House of the Dead rail shooter series still raises an eyebrow today. As you'd expect, using the separate Dreamcast keyboard peripheral, players killed zombies not by blasting their heads off with a gun, but by accurately typing the words on the screen. Boss battles mixed things up, demanding rapid entry of long phrases or answers to trivia questions. Thankfully, once you get past the sheer "huh?" factor of the concept, Typing of the Dead is actually a really fun game, with lots of silly easter eggs and laughs to be had.
In September 1999, all eyes were on skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and his Pro Skater game, which brought the thrills and spills of skating to joypads with unprecedented success. This, sadly, meant that most people overlooked this broadly similar hoverboard game from Criterion, then several years away from Burnout's fame and fortune. Set in futuristic versions of London, Tokyo and New York, the game focused more on racing than its real-world rival, but still offered a robust selection of stunt moves to master. When the Dreamcast wheezed its last, Criterion returned to the concept for the more warmly received Airblade on the PS2 in 2001.
Another early Dreamcast offering from a Britsoft developer that would go on to greater success, this third-person action game trod similar turf to the likes of Conker's Bad Fur Day by mixing cute animals with intense violence. As well as allowing players to switch between six animal heroes on a quest to save your babies from the evil General Viggo, the game also boasted 17 weapons and 26 large and intricate levels. Enough, you'd think, to make it a hit with the gaming public, but after a lukewarm retail reception the game has had to make do with posthumous cult popularity instead.
Ferrari F355 Challenge
The flipside to OutRun's giddy arcade perfection, lifelong SEGA man Yu Suzuki poured his love of all things Ferrari into this seminal purist's racing game. On a conceptual level, the 1999 game was driving in the opposite direction to most racers of the time. Led by Gran Turismo, with its apparently endless garage of licensed vehicles, the industry trend was to pack as many collectible cars into a racer as possible. Suzuki's title instead offered a small number of real-world tracks and just one car with which to tackle them - the F355 of the title. Many found this restriction weird and scary, but for the hardcore few who appreciated the laser-precise focus, it remains one of the most testing racing games ever made. Britsoft survivor System 3 tried to revive the idea last year, but failed to match Suzuki's passion or precision.
Virtual-On - or Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram if you want to be really nerdy - was the only entry in this long-running mecha action series to land on the Dreamcast, but it still made a big impression on those who came across it. Imagine Armored Core crossed with Space Harrier, but hopped up on manga pills and you're close to the sensory overload on offer. Thundering around neon-hued environments, blasting all and sundry with a daunting array of mechanised mobile weapons, it was hardly nuanced, but it was definitely impressive. The Dreamcast port even came with a beefy (if rather ugly) Twin Stick peripheral to better recreate the arcade experience in the home. The series later moved to the PS2, where the Dual Shock's analogue sticks made such silly plastic excesses sadly redundant.
Space Channel 5
SEGA/United Game Artists
Back in the days before music games were mainstream, when Parappa and Gitaroo Man were merely oddball representatives of an evolving genre, SEGA unleashed Space Channel 5 - arguably the campiest game ever made. As the flamboyant mini-skirted Ulala, you had to report for the titular futuristic telly station on a funky, rhythmic alien invasion. You did this, not through extensive research and reportage, but by dancing really, really well. With its bright and bold palette and rather shameless similarity to Deee-Lite's Groove Is In The Heart video, this certainly wasn't a game afraid to cast its net wider than the traditionally male gaming audience. It even featured a cameo from Michael Jackson, back when such a thing was considered a selling point and not a terrifying mistake.
Skies of Arcadia
Quite simply one of the best, and most undervalued, role-playing games to emerge from Japan, the fact that the effortlessly lovely Skies of Arcadia never got to enjoy the countless sequels of its better established rivals is a black mark against the entire games industry. Following cocky sky pirate Vyse and his crew as they pilot their floating galleon around a charming steampunk world, the game offered both the expected dungeon-crawling combat encounters along with a very enjoyable ship-to-ship battle system. The random encounters are, admittedly, a bit of a chore but Arcadia looks, feels and plays so differently to all the other JRPGs that it's hard to hold that awkward tradition against it.
Seaman has the dubious distinction of being quite possibly the strangest and most sinister game ever produced for public consumption. In essence it was a virtual pet, an aquatic chum that you nurtured to adulthood using the Dreamcast microphone. But that barely scratches the surface of the mesmerising horror of this big bag of wrong disguised as a videogame. Chief among the game's crimes against nature is that your beloved pet is not some cuddly Pokmon or Tamagotchi, but a talking fish with a dispassionate human face, staring into your soul like something sprung from the mind of Hieronymous Bosch. Consider that the western release was narrated by Leonard Nimoy and you can probably guess why Seaman caused more nightmares than coos of paternal joy. Need more evidence? Just watch.
Trigger Heart Exelica
Released in 2006, long after the Dreamcast was supposedly dead and buried, this innovative Japanese shoot-'em-up was popular enough to make its way to Xbox Live Arcade for wider consumption. With only two ships and five stages, it's clearly designed with the high-score addict in mind. Where Exelica, er, excels is in its clever anchor system which enables players to snag enemy craft and either use them as shields or projectile weapons, spinning them around and hurling them into the fray like an Olympic hammer throw. Mastering this system is the key to clearing the relentless onslaught of enemies, making it considerably different to most caravan shmups.
Chu Chu Rocket
Famously the first major console game with online support, Chu Chu Rocket was supposed to herald a bright new dawn for multiplayer gaming, but instead seemed like another graphic illustration of the Dreamcast being too damned far ahead of its time for its own good. Wisely given away for free in Europe by SEGA, this charming puzzle game involved guiding mice around a 2D chequered board into rockets while avoiding cats. Although review scores were unanimously positive, most critics agreed that online play could have been somewhat slicker, and SEGA's bold online experiment struggled to gain momentum from that point on. One day this'll get a cheap and cheerful XBLA or PSN release and fulfill its obvious potential. Until then, a moment's silence for another lost Cult Classic, and a fitting place to end our exhaustive roundup of all things Dreamcast.
Compiled by Kristan Reed and Dan Whitehead.