Ranking The Hardest Sega Dreamcast Games Ever Made

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Released internationally in 1999, the Dreamcast was ahead of its time.

It gave gamers a taste of the future, with detailed 60fps graphics and robust online capabilities that blew the competition out of the water.

This powerful hardware and forward-facing philosophy made the Dreamcast the perfect breeding ground for notable titles like Shenmue and Phantasy Star Online – but those aren’t the games I’m looking at today.

Along with these innovative games, the Dreamcast had its fair share of titles that refused to give up one aspect of old-school gaming: the hard-as-nails difficulty.

Let’s take a look at the hardest games to come out for SEGA’s last console.

 

10. Crazy Taxi (2000)

Crazy Taxi Dreamcast Gameplay

We’re all familiar with arcade racing games.

But driving frantically around a city to get eccentric passengers to their destination is a very different experience.

This is doubly true in Crazy Taxi’s Dreamcast release, which features an all-new playable map based on San Francisco, USA. It’s much larger than the original map, and there’s a lot to explore and discover.

Finding your way around the massive San Francisco is no easy task – but thanks to excellent graphics, well-written passenger banter, and excellent music, it’s gratifying.

 

9. Gunbird 2 (2000)

Gunbird 2 Sega Dreamcast Gameplay Screenshot

Gunbird 2 is one of those games that start out easy enough, then it gets brutally tough once you’ve gotten comfortable with the controls.

It plays like a dream, but you’ll need more than just reflexes to clear this game.

It’ll take practice, time, and a willingness to die over and over as you master the intricacies of combat.

Thanks to its gorgeous pseudo-3D bosses, funny skits, and top-notch gameplay, you’ll still have a ton of fun as you’re repeatedly blown apart.

 

8. Illbleed (2001)

Illbleed Dreamcast Screenshot

Not all games are challenging for the same reasons.

Most titles in the survival horror genre can thank their unrelenting enemies and scarce resources for their difficulty.

Illbleed finds its own challenge in the many traps the player must learn to avoid and defuse to survive the slaughter.

The story takes place in an exclusive theme park ran by a homicidal maniac where several “players” must fight for their lives, much like Jigsaw’s victims in SAW.

Depending on how many of these players make it to the end, you’ll be treated to different endings.

It’s not that hard if you know what to do, but it’s more than a little tough without a guide.

 

7. Neo XYX (2013)

Neo Xyx Sega Dreamcast Screenshot

Next up, we have an unusual shoot-em-up released several years after the Dreamcast was discontinued.

Neo XYX was initially developed for the Neo Geo MVS by NG’Dev. Since they were already releasing a game for a defunct console, porting it to a second one must have sounded smart.

It features some of the most gorgeous hand-drawn graphics on the Dreamcast, especially for the bosses.

If you like old-school Toaplan-developed shoot-em-ups like Fire Shark and the legendary Batsugun, Neo XYX will be right up your alley.

 

6. Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future (2000)

Ecco The Dolphin Sega Dreamcast Gameplay

The Ecco franchise is well-known for its unusual premise and realistic dolphin protagonist, but its difficulty is also notable.

Part of what makes this game so hard is getting used to being a dolphin.

Your proportions and the way you move are so far removed from the human experience, it’s a little bit hard to grasp at first.

Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future brought the magical dolphin’s exploits to the 3D realm, with absolutely mind-blowing underwater landscapes and the same challenging gameplay.

 

5. Soul Fighter (1999)

Soul Fighter Sega Dreamcast Gameplay Screenshot

This 3D beat-em-up really brings the term “old-school hard” to mind.

Later levels require you to beat up veritable hordes of enemies, all of which can end your run in no time – so three lives in Arcade mode and one life per level in Adventure mode is hardly enough.

These levels can last up to an hour.

And they would be pretty challenging even with unlimited continues.

Of course, healing items are also extremely hard to come by.

That said, it’s an enjoyable and rewarding game with very appealing graphics.

All three characters bring a unique fighting style to the table, so there’s plenty of replayability too.

 

4. MDK2 (2000)

Mdk2 Sega Dreamcast Gameplay Screenshot

MDK2 brings the same frantic pace and challenging gameplay you’d expect from a 2D shooter platformer like Metal Slug to the third dimension and injects a healthy dose of puzzles into the mix.

It features excellent graphics and a memorable cast, including a four-armed humanoid dog and an old man with a dangerous toaster.

These wacky characters were vital in making the game memorable for those who got a chance to play it back when it first came out.

I wouldn’t say the puzzles and platforming are too hard by themselves – but try solving riddles or showing off your parkour skills while bullets rain down on you non-stop.

 

3. Super Magnetic Neo (2000)

Uper Magnetic Neo Sega Dreamcast Gameplay

I find few mascots on the Dreamcast more interesting than Neo – a robot that generates magnetic fields to interact with machines and metallic structures.

The magnet-headed hero must fight the Pinki Gang’s evil mechanical contraptions and bring peace back to the land in this unusual 3D action platformer.

Sometimes, solving puzzles and getting around requires obscure uses of your magnetic powers – and the devs actually chose to leave out any sort of guidance (like signs or pop-up tutorial screens) so players would have to figure it out themselves.

It’s fun and creative but more than a little hard for the average kid.

 

2. Border Down (2003)

Border Down Sega Dreamcast Gameplay

Border Down makes it to the second spot thanks to its bizarre Border System, which makes the game slightly harder every time you lose a life.

Levels in this horizontally-scrolling shooter are more of a marathon than a race.

It gets harder the further you go, and small mistakes early on can completely ruin your run thanks to the Border System.

While difficult, the game is also immensely rewarding.

When you finally clear a level, it usually means you’ve mastered it and can fly through without losing a single life.

The gratification you get from this kind of flawless victory is what hard games are all about.

 

1. Mars Matrix (2000)

Mars Matrix Sega Dreamcast Gameplay

Mars Matrix is not only hard, but also criminally underrated.

This arcade port is one of the most beautiful shoot-em-ups on the Dreamcast – almost as beautiful as it is hard. Still, its tight gameplay keeps that high difficulty rewarding.

One of the most challenging aspects is learning how to drive up your score. It may be there just for the leaderboards in other games, but in Mars Matrix, it’s the only way to improve your weapon.

The difficulty can be overwhelming at first, especially if you’ve never played a game like this.

But it becomes a bit easier once you learn where and when to use your shield.

Let’s hope you make it there before smashing your controller.

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