The Best Sega Saturn Shooters

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The second to last Sega console, the Sega Saturn, was not a commercial success. Outshone by many of its contemporaries, this console faced many issues leading to its short lifespan and lack of sales. However, despite these issues, many fans still adore this strange piece of Sega hardware. With the lack of third-party support came amazing first-party titles and well-selected third-party ones from the handful of developers that Sega had on hand. Many of the Saturn's games turned out to be hidden gems and offered some niche titles for modern gamers to enjoy.

The Saturn existed at a strange period for shooter games. First-person shooters were quickly becoming vogue, while arcade shooters, as well as shmups, continued to maintain some popularity. This batch of shooters is a good mix of these three distinct types of shooters, each offering the same gun-slinging action, just in a different package.

Virtua Cop 2

Originally developed by Sega for the arcades, Virtua Cop 2 was eventually ported to the Sega Saturn to become one of the best titles on the platform. Virtua Cop 2 is your typical lightgun shooter on the surface, but as the player progresses through each level, the depth of this title comes to light. The game offers branching paths throughout the story, offering choices that on-rail shooters rarely saw during this era.

Throughout the game, players are awarded for shooting criminals while saving hostages and avoiding getting shot themselves. Players can earn combos and bonuses by performing exceptionally well during these levels. If you are a Saturn owner, Virtua Cop 2 is a must-have.

Duke Nukem 3D

Initially developed by 3D Realms for the PC, Duke Nukem 3D is a landmark FPS title that revolutionized the genre along with its contemporaries such as Doom and Wolfenstein 3D. This game is absolutely full of charm. Between quips made by the titular Duke Nukem, or the funny and strange setpieces poking fun at other games of the era, players will quickly fall in love with the hilarity of this game.

The player assumes the role of Duke Nukem, the epitome of 80’s action heroes, as he fights off hordes of pig aliens invading earth. In each level, Duke can find plenty of secrets that offer new weapons or funny gags. Duke Nukem 3D is a must-play FPS and one of the most influential shooters of all time.


Another excellent FPS, Powerslave is an exciting adventure through an Egypt plagued by reanimated mummies and old gods. Despite being forgotten by many gamers today, this title is on par with other famous FPS titles of the era. A fantastic feature of the Sega Saturn release of this title is its Metroidvania design. Players traverse areas unlocking abilities that allow them to access previously blocked entrances, making the game feel less linear and rewarding exploration.

The shooting gameplay is similar to many other games of the era, with a variety of weapon types and pickups in each level. Despite Powerslave fading into obscurity, it has a devoted fanbase and is an overall awesome FPS.

Panzer Dragoon

A different type of shooter, Panzer Dragoon is a rail shooter that became an instant classic. The player assumes the role of Keil Fluge, a hunter and dragon rider, as he moves through six different levels, each teeming with enemies.

The gameplay itself plays much like Star Fox 64 in certain sections, not really allowing too much freedom of movement while still allowing the player to shoot down a slew of enemies. This title spawned an extremely successful, yet limited, series. Panzer Dragoon is easily one of the best games for the Saturn, and can still be experienced through its recent remakes.

Radiant Silvergun

Technically a shooter, Radiant Silvergun is a shmup that initially hit the arcades back in 1998. In this title, players play as fighter pilots fighting hordes of enemies spawned by a recently unearthed ancient crystal. These Silvergun fighters have a wide array of weapons, each with its own pros and cons to better suit the player's playstyle. There are six stages total in this game, each featuring difficult bosses that require a fair amount of skill.

The original Saturn release is a Japan-exclusive, so it will need to be imported. But if you aren't worried about playing it on the original hardware, it was released on Xbox Arcade in 2011 for a worldwide audience. Radiant Silvergun is easily the best shmup of the era and a must-play for fans of the genre.

Area 51

While the era of light gun games has long passed, there are a few classics still worth going back to. We’ve already mentioned Virtua Cop 2, but there is another title that shines above the rest. Area 51 is one of the best light gun games of the era. Featuring everything you could want in a light gun game, including zombies, aliens, and nuclear destruction.

The player must traverse through Area 51, shooting zombies and aliens along the way in order to destroy the atomic armaments in the zone. The player is scored based upon how each enemy is hit and how many friendlies aren't shot. The gameplay is similar to many other light gun titles of the era but definitely worth playing.

  • Updated March 11, 2021