Saturn is the name of Sega's fifth generation video game console. It was released November 22, 1994 in Japan and September 2nd, 1995 in Europe and North America.
Whereas the Genesis marked Sega as Nintendo's direct competitor, the Saturn was the console that made the two companies largely equal in the eyes of the general public. In many aspects, such as certain genres and in terms of third party support, the Saturn was even considered to be the Nintendo 64's superior.
Sega's 27-member "Away Team" began development on the Saturn in February 1993. The project was code named "Aurora."
The Saturn launched fairly early in Japan, in November 1994, before there were very many games available for it, with the chief exceptions being Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA. As Nintendo was still strongly supporting their SNES, the Saturn thus got off to a slow start in the country. For this and for supply reasons, the Western release came almost a year later, on "Saturnday," or September 2nd, 1995 at a cost of $299. This later launch also gave third party developers time to prepare games for the system.
In late 1995, shortly after its international launch, the Saturn began receiving a steady stream of titles for the first time. These included key first party games like Virtua Fighter 2, the best selling Saturn game ever by a large degree. Other major hits of latter 1995 and the first half of 1996 included Sega Rally Championship, Virtua Cop, Street Fighter Alpha, Rayman, and Resident Evil. By the launch of the Nintendo 64 on June 23 in Japan, the Saturn had a respectable library. The Saturn's price was then lowered to match the N64's launch price of $249.
The rest of 1996 set the tone for the rest of the generation, with a number of major Nintendo games being met and matched by similarly high profile Saturn games. Nights into Dreams served as a major platformer for the Saturn, as did Crash Badicoot, and holiday releases such as Tomb Raider and Fighters Megamix performed well enough to hold against the N64's strong first holiday season.
Unfortunately for Sega, the Saturn lost some of its momentum in 1997, which ultimately led to Nintendo's console selling more by the end of its life. Sega's Sonic Team continued to fail to create a major Sonic title to match Super Mario 64, and the international release of the Nintendo 64 made the competition global. The Saturn wasn't helped by several strong releases for the N64 this year, including multiple Final Fantasy games, Diddy Kong Racing and Goldeneye 007. Nevertheless, the Saturn held its ground with games such as Tomb Raider 2 and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The May price drop to $149, matched by a similar Nintendo price drop, also kept sales steady.
If 1997 was the year that showed the Nintendo 64 wouldn't lose this generation, 1998 was the year that showed that the Saturn wouldn't either. It started with the hit Resident Evil 2, and though the middle of the year was bare save for a minor price cut to $149, the final few months of 1998 proved the Saturn's worth. Metal Gear Solid stole the show, proving the power of the system and of optical media in games. Other show-stealers included Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot 3, and Virtua Fighter 3. However, Sega's next-generation NAOMI hardware was also shown off this year, meaning the Saturn's days were numbered.
Sega's emphasis in 1999 and 2000 was clearly preparing for the Dreamcast. Nevertheless, major games came out during this time. Sonic's Golf and Tennis franchises debuted during this time, as did third party games like Driver, Resident Evil 3, Xenogears, Dead or Alive 2 and Dino Crisis.
The Saturn's life unofficially ended in September 2000 with the release of the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast would pick up where the Saturn left off and become even more successful. However, Saturn units and games would continue to be released up through 2002.
The Saturn was Sega's best selling console yet, with 42 million units sold over the system's life. Of these, 14 million were sold in Japan and 18 million were sold in America. Although still less than Nintendo's system, this gave the Saturn over 40% of the market-share.
The Saturn was Sega's first entirely new system to make use of CD-ROMs to store games. This gave the system the ability to play games that contained much more data than the N64's, although load times were longer.
The Sega Saturn, in many ways, was outperformed by its chief competitor. Its CPU and GPU each ran at 29 MHz, although the RAM was a fairly impressive 5MB.
The Saturn was notoriously difficult to program 3-D games for, even compared to its imperfect competitor, the N64. This meant that many 3-D games on the system featured 2-D backgrounds or figures. However, the system was still the most popular one among developers this generation.
In total, the Sega Saturn had about 1000 games made for it over its lifetime, which sold about 300 million units between them.
List of Best Selling Saturn Games
The following is a list of Saturn games that have sold at least one million units. Please note that the list may be incomplete.
- Silver Fox - 20 million
- Virtua Fighter 2 - Seven million
- Daytona USA - Four million
- Fighters Megamix - Four million
- Sega Rally Championship - Four million
- Virtua Cop - Four million
- Virtua Fighter - Four million
- Crash Bandicoot 2 - Four million
- Crash Bandicoot 3 - Four million
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater - Three million
- Resident Evil - Three million
- Resident Evil 2 - Three million
- Tomb Raider 2 - Three million
- Driver - Three million
- Metal Gear Solid - Three million
- Nights into Dreams - Three million
- Rayman - Three million
- Crash Bandicoot - Three million
- Spyro the Dragon - Three million
- Sonic Tennis - Three million
- WWF Warzone - Two million
- WWF SmackDown! 2 - Two million
- Driver 2 - Two million
- Resident Evil 3 - Two million
- Resident Evil: Director's Cut - Two million
- Puyo Puyo Sun - Two million
- Tomb Raider - Two million
- Tomb Raider 3 - Two million
- 007: Tomorrow Never Dies - Two million
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Two million
- Need for Speed 3 - Two million
- Grandia - Two million
- Croc - Two million
- Frogger - Two million
- Namco Museum - Two million
- Namco Museum 3 - Two million
- Grand Theft Auto 2 - Two million
- Rugrats in Paris - Two million
- Rugrats: Search for Reptar - Two million
- WWF Smackdown - Two million
- Crash Bash - Two million
- Crash Team Racing - Two million
- Sonic CD - Two million
- Spyro 2 - Two million
- Spyro: Year of the Dragon - Two million
- Sonic Golf - Two million
- Virtua Fighter 3 - Two million
- NFL GameDay 2000 - One million
- NFL GameDay 99 - One million
- WWF Attitude - One million
- Tenchu: Stealth Assassins - One million
- Toy Story 2 - One million
- Super Robot Taisen F - One million
- Super Robot Taisen F Kanketsuhen - One million
- Dino Crisis - One million
- Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation - One million
- FIFA 2000 - One million
- Knockout King - One million
- Madden NFL 2000 - One million
- Madden NFL 2001 - One million
- Madden NFL 99 - One million
- NASCAR 2000 - One million
- NASCAR 98 - One million
- NASCAR 99 - One million
- NBA Live 2000 - One million
- NBA Live 98 - One million
- Need for Speed: High Stakes - One million
- Sled Storm - One million
- Star Wars Episode 1 - One million
- Tiger Woods 99 - One million
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy - One million
- Monopoly - One million
- Tetris Plus - One million
- Silent Hill - One million
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories - One million
- NFL Blitz - One million
- Ace Combat - One million
- Mobile Suit Gundam - One million
- Pac-Man World - One million
- Time Crisis - One million
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six - One million
- A Bug's Life - One million
- J-League Pro Soccer Club wo Tsukurou! 2 - One million
- Neon Genesis Evangelion - One million
- Neon Genesis Evangelion 2 - One million
- Sakura Taisen 2 - One million
- Sakura Wars - One million
- Grand Theft Auto - One million
- Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase - One million
- WCW Nitro - One million