The Sega Saturn occupied a truly special place in the mid-’90s 32-bit home console wars and, as time has passed, its position has become even more iconic. The Sony PlayStation was built around new franchises meant to draw in older, more casual gamers and many of those franchises lived on with each generation of new hardware from Sony. Nintendo sold the N64 system by bringing its established franchises into the 3D world and many of the game franchises that defined the N64’s game library are still thriving, today. The Saturn, however, did not even receive a proper Sonic the Hedgehog game and its game library was built around new franchises that fit the old-school gaming mold and ports of arcade games from Sega’s AM2 division. While many of the Saturn’s arcade ports have found their way to modern consoles through Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, many titles that were created specifically for the Saturn have never been released for any other console. Many of the Saturn’s exclusive titles are also very kid-friendly and created in the vein of true old-school games, a combination that makes these classic Sega Saturn games perfect for release on Nintendo’s Virtual Console.
Clockwork Knight 1 & 2 – Sega – 1995
At the time of its release, Clockwork Knight was not very well received as the 1995 gaming world viewed the side-scrolling platform game as old hat and the toy-based world as juvenile. The Saturn-exclusive franchise was sadly a victim of the times as most gamers were enthralled by survival-horror games, Doom-clones, 3D fighting games, and arcade-style racers. A Wii U re-release of Clockwork Knight 1 and 2 would give a new generation of gamers the chance to enjoy the near Shigeru Miyamoto quality platform action of this brilliantly conceived game.
Bug! and Bug Too! – Sega – 1995/1996
Sega took a chance when they let this little bug star in a franchise on its new 32-bit Saturn system in 1995. The gaming press heaped wide praise upon this title for its well-executed traditional side-scrolling mechanics but gamers were not as kind. Saturn fans wanted a new Sonic the Hedgehog title and Bug and its sequel failed to fill those speedy red shoes. Sega brought Bug over to the PC, but other than that our little green hero remains a Saturn-exclusive to this day. A port of this game to the Virtual Console could provide Wii U gamers with a classic throwback title that suits their gaming sensibilities.
Mr. Bones – Sega – 1996
The Sega Saturn was home to some great side-scrolling games but the timing was all wrong as gamers had moved on to 3D gaming environments like those offered in Resident Evil and Super Mario 64. As gamers have developed nostalgia for the old-school style of gaming and its brilliant simplicity, games like Mr. Bones are seeing renewed interest in the retro gaming world. Mr. Bones was mostly a platformer but its levels dabbled in multiple classic genres, making it an experience that would be well suited for Wii U gamers if only Sega could get it on the Virtual Console.
Astal – Sega – 1995
The arrival of 32-bit gaming to the home console market marked a paradigm shift in the gaming world. Gamers expected a new level of graphical realism that was once solely relegated to arcade and computer gaming. Gamers were drawn into the then-realistic and gritty visuals of games like Resident Evil and Tekken. A sprite-based platform game like Astal with a heavily saturated color palette did not stand a chance in the 1995 marketplace. This game fits right in with the Nintendo theme, though, and Wii U gamers would likely flock to this under-appreciated example of solid 2D platform gaming if Sega could bring it to Nintendo’s Virtual Console.
Three Dirty Dwarves – SegaSoft – 1997
Three Dirty Dwarves provided arcade-style action with brilliant multi-player gameplay, making it a solid party game and a truly undiscovered gem of the 32-bit era. While the game uses 2D graphics, some of the action sequences take place in 3D planes, giving the game a mix of old-school aesthetics and new-school gameplay elements. The game’s big sprites and addictive gameplay make it an appealing game for Wii U owners should Sega ever decide to bring some of its best Saturn classics over to the Nintendo Virtual Console.
Virtua Fighter Kids – Sega – 1996
The original Virtua Fighter changed the fighting game world forever and the franchise lives on as one of the capstones of the one-on-one fighter genre. Sega created this cutesy version of their fighting game franchise in 1996 and it was largely looked over as Fighting Vipers was the big fighting game draw for the Saturn during 1996. The game was not merely a pint-sized version of Virtua Fighter, though, since the speed was increased and the fighters’ shorter limbs meant tighter gameplay. Virtua Fighter Kids appeals to younger gamers and older gamers feeling nostalgic for a Virtua Fighter throwback.
Baku Baku Animal – Sega – 1996
Puzzle games were seen as passé by the mid-’90s and they were not vehicles for displaying a particular console’s processing power and graphical prowess. Because of this, many gamers and critics overlooked Baku Baku Animal and its stellar gameplay mechanics and puzzle execution. The game was ported to the PC, Game Gear, and Master System, and even made an appearance as a downloadable game for cell phones in 2002. Porting this game over to the Virtual Console would offer Wii U owners the opportunity to experience one of the best and most overlooked puzzle games of all-time.
Sonic R – Sega – 1997
Many of the games on this list of Sega Saturn titles that should be released for the Nintendo Virtual Console are titles that were largely overlooked when originally released due to the fads of mid-’90s gaming. Sonic R is another title that falls neatly into that category of old-school style gaming that was just not what the market wanted in 1997 despite its timeless fun. Sonic R was also not the true Sonic the Hedgehog installment the Saturn needed, but the gameplay was strong and it offered a solid alternative to Mario Kart. Wii U gamers would enjoy Sonic R’s classic execution and addicting gameplay.
Dark Savior – Sega – 1996
Dark Savior is one of the most sought-after Saturn games and the Saturn is the only console you can play the game on, making it a pricey title on the used market. Dark Savior was another one of those mixed-platform games that Sega seemed to do so well during the ’90s. While the title remains a cult-classic with dedicated Saturn fanboys, it could do well on the Virtual Console as most Wii U gamers missed the chance to play the game the first time around.
Fighters Megamix – Sega – 1997
Sega was the king of 3D fighting games in the mid-’90s. Their Virtua Fighter franchise started the genre and they continued to wow gamers with Virtua sequels and off-shoots like Fighting Vipers and Last Bronx. While Virtua Fighter 2 and Fighting Vipers have been released for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, Fighters Megamix remains a Saturn-exclusive. You might ask why Nintendo would want this mash-up of Virtua Fighter and Fighting Vipers on the Virtual Console and how would Wii U owners respond to its release. Fighters Megamix went far beyond just combining the character rosters of the two fighting games. Sega added Virtua Fighter 3 fighting moves, an astonishing number of gameplay modes, a true 3D fighting movement, and an assortment of characters and fighting arenas from the entire Sega world including some from Virtua Cop, Daytona USA, and Sonic the Fighters. Fighters Megamix was almost like a virtual shrine to all that was great about Sega during the ’90s and re-releasing it for the first time in the modern era would no doubt draw a big audience on the Virtual Console.
More from this contributor:
Three Ways Sega’s AM2 Division Forever Changed Video Gaming in the Early ’90s
Four Interesting Facts About Sonic the Hedgehog: Retro Video Game Trivia
Three Video Game Releases That Would Have Saved Sega’s Ill-Fated Saturn: Retro Gaming