Saturn is the name of Sega's fifth generation video game console. It was released November 22, 1994 in Japan and September 2, 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 Daytonna 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 2, 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 3D games for, even compared to its imperfect competitor, the N64. This meant that many 3D games on the system featured 2D backgrounds or figures. However, the system was still the most popular one among developers this generation.
In total, the Sega Saturn had about 1,000 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.
- Virtua Fighter 2 - 7 million
- Daytonna USA - 4 million
- Fighters Megamix - 4 million
- Sega Rally Championship - 4 million
- Virtua Cop - 4 million
- Virtua Fighter - 4 million
- Crash Bandicoot 2 - 4 million
- Crash Bandicoot 3 - 4 million
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater - 3 million
- Resident Evil - 3 million
- Resident Evil 2 - 3 million
- Tomb Raider 2 - 3 million
- Driver - 3 million
- Metal Gear Solid - 3 million
- Nights into Dreams - 3 million
- Rayman - 3 million
- Crash Bandicoot - 3 million
- Spyro the Dragon - 3 million
- Sonic Tennis - 3 million
- WWF Warzone - 2 million
- WWF SmackDown! 2 - 2 million
- Driver 2 - 2 million
- Resident Evil 3 - 2 million
- Resident Evil: Director's Cut - 2 million
- Puyo Puyo Sun - 2 million
- Tomb Raider - 2 million
- Tomb Raider 3 - 2 million
- 007: Tomorrow Never Dies - 2 million
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - 2 million
- Need for Speed 3 - 2 million
- Grandia - 2 million
- Croc - 2 million
- Frogger - 2 million
- Namco Museum - 2 million
- Namco Museum 3 - 2 million
- Grand Theft Auto 2 - 2 million
- Rugrats in Paris - 2 million
- Rugrats: Search for Reptar - 2 million
- WWF Smackdown - 2 million
- Crash Bash - 2 million
- Crash Team Racing - 2 million
- Sonic CD - 2 million
- Spyro 2 - 2 million
- Spyro: Year of the Dragon - 2 million
- Sonic Golf - 2 million
- Virtua Fighter 3 - 2 million
- NFL GameDay 2000 - 1 million
- NFL GameDay 99 - 1 million
- WWF Attitude - 1 million
- Tenchu: Stealth Assassins - 1 million
- Toy Story 2 - 1 million
- Super Robot Taisen F - 1 million
- Super Robot Taisen F Kanketsuhen - 1 million
- Dino Crisis - 1 million
- Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation - 1 million
- FIFA 2000 - 1 million
- Knockout King - 1 million
- Madden NFL 2000 - 1 million
- Madden NFL 2001 - 1 million
- Madden NFL 99 - 1 million
- NASCAR 2000 - 1 million
- NASCAR 98 - 1 million
- NASCAR 99 - 1 million
- NBA Live 2000 - 1 million
- NBA Live 98 - 1 million
- Need for Speed: High Stakes - 1 million
- Sled Storm - 1 million
- Star Wars Episode 1 - 1 million
- Tiger Woods 99 - 1 million
- Mortal Kombat Trilogy - 1 million
- Monopoly - 1 million
- Tetris Plus - 1 million
- Silent Hill - 1 million
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories - 1 million
- NFL Blitz - 1 million
- Ace Combat - 1 million
- Mobile Suit Gundam - 1 million
- Pac-Man World - 1 million
- Time Crisis - 1 million
- Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six - 1 million
- A Bug's Life - 1 million
- J-League Pro Soccer Club wo Tsukurou! 2 - 1 million
- Neon Genesis Evangelion - 1 million
- Neon Genesis Evangelion 2 - 1 million
- Sakura Taisen 2 - 1 million
- Sakura Wars - 1 million
- Grand Theft Auto - 1 million
- Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase - 1 million
- WCW Nitro - 1 million