Top 10 Dreamcast Beat-em ups!

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the old boy, Mr Dreamcast, on a fantastic 16 years. Yup, the Sega Dreamcast had its innaugral launch in its home country of Japan back in November 27, 1999 and despite the system's so-called "failure" has been complete source of enjoyment for myself, and milllions of other gamers ever since. To celebrate I thought it would a great opportunity to talk about a genre in which the Dreamcast really did flourish, the "beat-em up".

The beat-em up, or so called fighting genre, really came to the fold after the success of a certain Street Fighter II in the nineties and paved the way for big companies like Capcom, Namco, Sega and SNK to further establish themselves with a number of classic and lucrative arcade games. The Dreamcast’s close relationship to the Naomi arcade system ensured that the system received a slew of quality fighters ported at light break speed and which were for the most part, arcade perfect. Although the controller for the console isn’t ideal, the variety of accessories like the arcade stick, Fighting Pad FT and more recently, the Sega Saturn pad converter cable, negates any control issues one may have had back in the day.

In modern times, the beat-em up genre has proven to be the one that attracts modern gamers to the system, and it is to those who are seeking to expand their collections I offer my personal top 10 fighting. While some of the titles may not be the most highly rated on a technical level, they are placed in order of how frequently they get play time and consequently, remain relevant to this day. Please let me know what you think, and what your own personal top 10 would look like. Anyway, here goes......

10 – Virtua Fighter 3TB
 Starting the list we have one of the first titles developed for the console. Originally intended for the Sega Saturn, the third installment of Sega’s 3D fighting series seemed to suffer from the producer’s indecision between evolution and revolution. It truely brought the series into the third dimension by introducing a fourth button, the dodge, but in all other ways it wasn’t really a huge improvement over Virtua Fighter 2. Yet, while it isn’t the best 3D fighter on the Dreamcast, being Virtua Fighter, it does offer a considered fighting experience unlike any other 3D fighter on the system.

9 – The King of Fighters 2002
The King of Fighters 2002 introduced a Dream Match roster, mixing up both old and new characters from the series. It was a huge improvement to previous years' incarnations and shows its quality by being the most played KOF title in the arcades even today. If you have to pick up one KOF game for the Dreamcast, make sure it's this. Just watch out, the price on this one has been rising significantly over the last few years and will only increase.

8 – Super Street Fighter II X

The title that introduced Gouki to series had often proven problematic on previous consoles that could never seemingly handle a complete, arcade-perfect rendition of the game. Load times, missing frames of animation, are no longer an issue in the Dreamcast version which leaves gamers finally able to enjoy Super Street Fighter II X in all its glory - just be prepared for the insane difficulty and huge price!

7 – Project Justice

Project Justice, or Moero! Justice Gakuen  in Japan, is another Dreamcast exclusive and the only true sequel to the original Playstation title, Rival Schools. Moero serves up plenty of good, clean fighting game fun, with a dash of offbeat humor and makes a good recess title for those who want a break from the more technical fighters. The action is fast and furious, and the combos are easy to perform for those who enjoy the style of play in titles like Marvel vs. Capcom or even the Street Fighter EX series. Visually, in 2014 it all looks a bit basic and rather underwhelming, especially when compared to Soul Calibur, or even Virtua Fighter 3TB, but the anime presentation, as well as the high-school setting, works well to offer an experience unlike any other on the system, and for that reason, makes it a game Dreamcast fans should have in their collection.

6 – Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike

There is little to be said about this technical fighter that hasn’t been said before. Visually, the game is an absolute feast for the eyes with some of the best 2D animations in any game and technically, it’s one of the tightest fight experiences around; although it can be a tough game to get a hang of for beginners. The brand new roster was somewhat controversial at the time which lead to the first two games (both of which remain exclusive to Dreamcast) being ignored by almost all except the hardcore fans. Still, while there are those that claim that the Dreamcast version of 3rd Strike is not “arcade perfect”, there are those who claim that it is; it's that it just not the original first edition arcade version. What can’t be denied is that there’s a reason why a large fan-base is still dedicated to this title today and why it remains as one of the most highly rated beat-em ups of all time. It just needs a large amount of patience and one or two evenly skilled mates to get the most out of it.

5 – Soul Calibur
It was a tough choice between this and Dead or Alive but when I really looked back on which I'd given more time to over the past few years there was no contest. A revelation of its time, this was the game you came to when you wanted to rub the nose of that one friend who wouldn’t shut up about Sony’s emotion engine (while ironically playing cut down versions of Marvel vs Capcom for PSone). While it is has since been surpassed on almost every level, it still manages to compete in the visual department (especially through VGA) and offers a fun and rewarding experience in multiplayer. A ton of great characters, each with their own deadly weapon and an assortment of special moves tailored to that specific weapon make Soul Calibur stick out from other titles on the system. It was the flagship game of its time, and combined with the fact that it can be had for peanuts these days make it a must have for any collection.

4 – Marvel vs Capcom 2

Over a decade after the original release, Marvel vs Capcom 2  remains as popular as ever. The Dreamcast version is based off of the original Naomi arcade incarnation and therefore, is of course arcade perfect. Still, this wouldn’t mean anything if it wasn’t fun to play, and luckily very few fighting games come close to MvC2 in terms of enjoyment, gameplay, and flashiness. I think one of the things I love most about the game is the speed. It's probably the fastest fighting game in existence, especially when compared to many modern-era fighting games; the whole thing is one big adrenaline rush. With a total of 56 unlockable characters, MVC2 never ceases to amaze the player with the variety of special moves and fighting styles and the advancement of graphics over the original game is particularly noteworthy (although a few older sprites don’t look fantastic against the 3D backgrounds). Throw in the intense Snap Back, Variable Counter, Air Combo, Variable Assist, Hyper Combo, Variable Hyper Combo, and 3-level Delayed Hyper Combo moves and you have one of the deepest, but yet enjoyable, fighting games to grace any home console.

3 – Powerstone
Powerstone is a very enjoyable, and somewhat of an unconventional fighter. It was one of my most anticipated titles for the system upon the console’s launch, and its fun gameplay has ensured it is still my go-to game whenever casual gamers come over. While its charm lays in the fact that it’s so easy for non-fighting game fans to pick up straightaway, what makes Powerstone really stand out is the strategic element found within the game’s "Powerstone" gimmick. If a certain player gets all 3 Powerstones they are temporarily morph into a unique super-human alter-ego, which gives the game an edge, as players gamble between attacking their opponents to get their Powerstone while remaining somewhat weary of the fact that being overly aggressive may result in them losing their own stones. This makes Powerstone an awesome game for one-on-one duels. While the sequel went on to bring in more players and more extreme weapons, the first game, with its more refined gameplay, is the one I find myself going back to these days. It also still looks fantastic!

2 – Street Fighter Zero 3 Upper/Saikyō-ryū Dōjō
Street Fighter Zero 3 is a monumental title and one I rate as one of the best of all time. Everything it is bigger and bolder than any of the other cannon SF titles; from the techno/rock soundtrack and the overly excited announcer to the garishly colorful intro screens, everything just screams (literally) STREET FIGHTERRRR! Visually, the game is a definite improvement with the newer characters having the smoother and more realistic animation, than the lineup from Zero. The trademark Street Fighter eye candy is also present; the flashy explosions, fireballs and super moves are all there, and there are a ton of fantastic modes that will literally keep you going for months if not years. Like a lot of titles in this list, Street Fighter Zero 3 greatness is evident in its continued prominence as a popular arcade title, and that it simply offers a style of gameplay that has yet to be beaten.

1 – Capcom vs SNK 2

It had to be. On a technical, visual, and just plain old nostalgia perspective Capcom vs SNK 2 is my favourite Dreamcast beat-em up of all time. Not only that, but it’s my best fighter period. With a plethora of recognizable characters, refined gameplay, and fantastic visual style, Capcom Vs. SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001 is the game fans of both companies were so patiently waiting for. All of the improvements made from the revised ratio system, team structure, to the character expansion all make for a thoroughly entertaining 2D beat-em up, and a fitting swansong from a company which supported our beloved system so gallantly. It remains competent tournament fighter (and still my most played and challenged game in the arcades), and the best example of how to handle a cross-over fighter. I really cannot recommend it enough, it's a game every Dreamcast owner needs to have, simple!

Unfortunately, it seems like we are unlikely see a new Capcom Vs. SNK or HD update any time soon. The original agreement signed between the two companies in 1999 was to develop 2 fighting titles each and was made just as SNK filed for bankruptcy in 2000 (it is widely known that SNK vs. Capcom: SVC Chaos was only made in order to fulfill the contract obligations and lost the company a fair bit) and that SNK were not happy with the terms of which stated that only the distributing company would gain from a release. In other words, SNK did not gain a penny from either of the Capcom Vs. SNK games and the companies have not communicated since. This all means that there is all the more reason to keep hold of your arcade-perfect Dreamcast copy, and if you are yet to pick it up then what are you waiting for? BUY, BUY, BUY!


  1. I was at a tournament event this past weekend that was dedicated to some of the best Capcom fighting games of the past decade. It was an amazing experience and the main lineup at the event consisted of 4 games included on your list.
    - Super Street Fighter 2X (UD CPS2)
    - CvS2 (PS2)
    - MvC2 (DC)
    -3rd Strike (360)
    The event was success to the point that it may become an annual event.
    I like your list. Mine would be almost similar.

  2. Personally I would replace Zero 3 with GGX. As the first (and only DC release) Hi Res 2D Fighting game, it was a revelation and made quite a stir back in the days. GGX is perhaps one of the most popular 2D fighting series today and it owes much of it is as a result of Sega hardware. Naomi/DC.

  3. That is true, but on personal level the game (GGX) has never struck a chord with me just like other games from Arc have yet to really interest me. I don't know if it is the presentation, or the gothic style characters but it's barely a game I play if I am honest; hence its absence from this list.

    CDages, I know you are a fighting game connoisseur so would you care to share your top 10?

  4. Honestly my Top 10 would be rather similar to yours. With the only exceptions being replacing GGX with Zero 3 and placing it on 4th. CvS2 on 2nd place and MvC2 on 1st. There you have it. My personal top 10.

  5. Poor tech romancer I love you


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