Japanese video game publisher Sega started out in the interactive medium much earlier than most. The company began its venture into the arcade market long before almost anyone else. The same goes for the console industry, which Sega dominated for a time with the Genesis and other platforms.
The storied history behind Sega makes creating the best Sega games of all time list quite tricky. But these best Sega games of all time represent the company’s strongest products in terms of gameplay, visuals, story, characters, settings, popularity, how well they hold up today, and more.
1. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
The seventh entry in this Sega games series took many risks, and they all paid off well. It removes series protagonist Kiryu for a new hero in Ichiban and also trades its brawler gameplay for phenomenal turn-based Dragon Quest-style action.
This all pairs so well with the realistic depiction of Yokohama, Japan, and the fantastic content it offers, like managing a business. But above all else, it provides one of the strongest plots in Sega’s history with the powerful tale about homeless people, orphans, the intimacy industry, and more.
2. Yakuza 0
The Yakuza series, or Like a Dragon as it now goes by, stands out for its strong writing and focus on the criminal underworld of Japan. This prequel game features the best 3D brawler gameplay in the series, a fantastic and emotional tale, and an unmatched level of side content.
3. Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
Phantasy Star IV remains the best in the long-running sci-fi Sega games series and one of the finest turn-based JRPGs of all time. Its exceptional gameplay provides so much depth and its exploration feels so much more refined and exciting than other games.
4. Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
One of the most underrated Sega-licensed Disney games also represents the strongest platforming gameplay from the company. It released in 1990 but competed well with other platforming giants at the time with its terrific 16-bit world.
Players take on the role of Mickey Mouse as he tries to save Minnie using thrilling action commands and explores several varied magical worlds.
5. Valkyria Chronicles 4
If players want the strongest standalone story in Sega’s history, look no further than this World War II alternate universe game. Players navigate a 3D battlefield with turn-based strategy gameplay. This flexible and challenging combat matches well with the emotional and heartbreaking tale of young soldiers.
6. Skies of Arcadia
One of Sega’s first attempts at a traditional turn-based RPG outside of its sci-fi series resulted in one of the most beloved games in the company’s history. This space pirate-themed game features an engrossing world filled with strategic gameplay, a beautiful story, and characters who deserve a sequel at some point.
7. Shining Force 3
Camelot’s final attempt at the tactical RPG genre before handing it over to another studio also represents its most substantial entry yet. If players get their hands on all three scenarios from this game, they’ll find one of the deepest, most impressive, and longest RPGs of the 1990s.
8. Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic games often struggle when it comes to 3D gameplay, but this sub-series features the most substantial look at 3D action for the hedgehog mascot. In addition, it boasts an unbelievable amount of side content for the best overall game in the ongoing franchise.
9. Disney’s Aladdin
Sega published an incredible and stunning 2D platformer iteration of the beloved Disney animated film. It captures the look and idea of the film despite the limited hardware at the time. The gameplay feels fun and challenging enough for the whole family.
10. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
The king of arcade racing remains the Mario Kart series from Nintendo, but this Sega racing title comes the closest to dethroning Mario. Sonic, Tails, and a bunch of other Sega characters come together for a fast-paced racing title with exceptional maps and an impressive vehicle transformation feature.
11. Phantasy Star Online
Sega broke new ground with this Dreamcast game. It offered one of the first online multiplayer experiences in gaming history, plus one of the first MMOs not on PC. Better yet, it also offered exceptional action RPG gameplay in a wondrous sci-fi universe that feels solid even decades later.
12. Jet Set Radio
No other game feels and looks like this monumental Dreamcast title from Sega. Players take on the role of a roller-skating graffiti artist who explores a stylized world and tags up locations with various art. Sega fans want this series back for a reason.
13. Virtua Fighter 5
The fifth mainline iteration of this fighting game series from Sega represents the peak of it all. It has incredible 3D graphics, which hold up well many years later, and the finest fighting gameplay tweaked to its utmost potential with all of the various characters.
14. Sonic Mania
Many people lament the fact how Sonic games feel in its messy but super fast gameplay. However, this modern attempt at the old-school style of the original side-scrolling games goes beyond what the initial games did. It feels more thrilling and looks and sounds as good as the Genesis titles.
15. Streets of Rage 2
This arcade and console game relishes in its action-packed multiplayer. Players pick their character and battle it out across colorful 16-bit streets as they take down thugs and bad guys. It has some of the finest multiplayer components out of any Sega arcade game.
16. Golden Axe
This medieval beat-em-up game feels so unique with its weird but welcome setting. Players take on the role of various characters, each with their own dedicated moves and weapons. While good solo, this game elevates even further in multiplayer.
17. After Burner
This arcade title plays quite similar to other on-rail shooters from Sega but perfects the idea. Players take the role of a jet pilot who flies through various missions, zipping around the screen and tearing apart enemies in glorious fashion.
18. Nights Into Dreams
This gorgeous 3D platformer game felt far ahead of its time in terms of visuals when it released for the Sega Saturn. Players fly and navigate through numerous whimsical dream-like worlds with excellent platforming gameplay and fascinating lore.
19. Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Players navigate the titular character through 17 stages of intense puzzle platforming. The obstacles and challenges in this game offer intense thought-provoking objectives, and its remake in 2021 only enhanced the beautiful game further.
20. Sonic the Hedgehog
It all started here for Sega. The company made other welcome games before the blue little hedgehog came onto the scene, but its popularity and fame skyrocketed with the release of this mascot. It has some of the most memorable platforming worlds and music in gaming as well.
21. Panzer Dragoon
This fascinating on-rail shooting game sees players ride dragons in a post-apocalyptic world. They battle against other enemies, blasting away at them across linear but gorgeous levels. Its remake in 2020 represents the best way to play it.
22. Altered Beast
This unique action platformer sees the player battle across multiple levels to save Zeus’s daughter, Athena. The five different beast transformations give such variety and flexibility for taking on the supernatural enemies of the underworld.