The Best Sega Saturn RPGs

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After the success of Sega’s Genesis, they knew they needed to follow it up with something just as awesome. Whether they released something just as awesome is up for debate. While it wasn’t a commercial success, the Sega Saturn did deliver Sega fanboys some pretty awesome games. Releasing to American and European audiences in the Summer of 1995, it sold surprisingly well for its first few weeks before the PlayStation began to take the lead. It did not receive much support from third-party developers, meaning the library was slim compared to other consoles. Even though the selection of games was slim, most of them were of extremely high quality.

Many of these fantastic games were RPGs, but what do you expect from Japan? Titles like Shining Force III and Panzer Dragoon are still revered titles to this day, with a remake of the latter just releasing. No matter what your opinion of this ill-fated Saturn is, it was home to some quality games that deserve more recognition.

Panzer Dragoon Saga

Despite being a series of on-rails shooters revered by fans, Panzer Dragoon Saga builds upon this world with one of the best RPGs to date. Incorporating some of the on-rail shooter elements, Panzer Dragoon Saga is a strange RPG. The player controls Edge, a mercenary who, of course, rides a dragon.

The story is a revenge plot as Edge tracks down the Black Fleet, a traitorous gang of murderers who wounded him and killed his companions. As Edge explores the world, he will encounter strange lands filled to the brim with interesting characters. These towns are similar to most RPGs where players can buy items or upgrade equipment.

Outside of town, players will encounter random enemies who are fought in a strange real-time shooter with a mix of turn-based elements. The player must fill their attack gauges and avoid enemy attacks in order to be victorious. Panzer Dragoon Saga is still one of the best RPGs of all time, with the game gracing top-of-all-time lists frequently.


Shining Force III

A continuation of the long-standing Shining franchise, Shining Force III is regarded as one of the best in the series, releasing on the Saturn in 1998. The game itself plays similarly to other entries in the franchise, with the typical turn-based tactical elements that you’d expect from a Shining game. While the combat is typical for the series but still fun, the exploration elements are a big draw for this game. Outside of combat, the player and their party can explore towns typical of any RPG.

The player takes control of Synbios, a lord trying to give his subjects peace from a totalitarian regime, as he is thrust into a war masterminded by a strange cult. The player must uncover this true threat in order to restore peace to Aspinia. Shining Force III is a fantastic RPG with plenty of variety and content for RPG fans.


Grandia

Released originally in Japan on the Sega Saturn, Grandia is an awesome RPG by the same developers who made the Lunar series. In this third-person, isometric RPG, players assume the role of Justin. Justin has just inherited a magic stone that leads him to the secrets of an ancient civilization. Along the way, Justin runs into other adventurers who can be added to your team.

One of the biggest highlights of Grandia is combat. Like many JRPGs, Grandia uses a turn-based combat system, with some notable differences. Encounters aren’t random and your position in the battle isn’t fixed. The player is able to evade around the battleground or send a volley of attacks to multiple or just one enemy. This makes the combat a little more tactical and a lot more fun.

Grandia has been named one of the best games of all-time by multiple gaming publications, and it definitely deserves all of its praise. While Grandia did not release on the Saturn outside of Japan, the Japanese version is a better looking and sounding version and worth importing.


Dragon Force

A great mix of RTS gameplay with story-driven RPG elements, Dragon Force is easily one of the most exciting games on the Saturn. The player takes control of one of eight factions across the world of Legendra. In each faction are generals who command their own army of troops. Players can control these generals as they traverse towns across the world.

Everything in this title happens in real-time. All enemy and allied generals move on their own on the map, starting conflicts or retreating. When the player enters combat they face one of their generals off against the enemy in a real-time battle. The player can control the formation of their troops, their advance, and their attacks. The general also has special moves that deal more damage. The mix of combat and story creates one of the most fun and unique titles on the Saturn.


Phantasy Star Collection

Probably one of Sega’s best RPGs, Phantasy Star is a long-standing franchise that competes with Final Fantasy as one of the best RPG series to date. The Phantasy Star Collection on Saturn features the first four titles in the series. For players unaware of the Phantasy Star series, the player will take control of a party of characters as they traverse a top-down world full of towns, enemies, and dungeons.

Combat is turn-based, similar to other RPGs of the era. This collection did not see a Saturn release outside of Japan, but a release on the Game Boy Advance. The notable difference between the two releases is that the GBA release does not include Phantasy Star IV or any extras. If you are looking to play this collection, importing the Saturn version is definitely the better option.


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  • Updated March 11, 2021
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