Skies of Arcadia

The Sega Dreamcast, Sega’s bright (but extremely brief) shooting star was the home to many great games, including some incredible Role-Playing Games.

Unfortunately, the Dreamcast did not sell well, as Sega managed to move a paltry 9.13 million units of its final console. Consequently, the system didn’t have many million unit sellers, software wise. Sonic Adventure is king on the system with 2.5 million units sold (many which were packed-in with the console).

But what about its Role-Playing Games? Despite having, what seems to be, the highest rated (behind Final Fantasy IX) JRPG of the 2000s in Skies of Arcadia, the genre was all, but commercially dead on the system.

No Dreamcast RPG sold a million copies. Heck, no Dreamcast RPG managed to hit the 500,000 units sold (or even half of that) mark either.

The Dreamcast failing as a console was a big culprit for this (the poor sales of the RPG genre in it), but also the fact that it was the PlayStation that had popularized the genre in the mid 1990s. RPG fans coming from that console went to the Sony PlayStation 2 waters instead.

Still, it is interesting to dig back and look into the top sellers on the system. Mainly, because it would explain Sega’s reluctance to bring one of its greatest properties back from its grave.

* Numbers were taken from VGChartz, as Wikipedia doesn’t have a listing. To compound the difficulties in researching this list, VGChartz only lists (Tracks numbers for) four Role-Playing games.

Thus, finding the fifth game on this list took a lot of research and mostly, guess work. Given that I had to guess, based on year released, marketing, and popularity, I want readers to assume that #5 is likely not right. 

Everything changes if we classify Shenmue (1.18 million units sold) as an RPG, as it would top the list, bumping #5 out, but given the controversies in what should classify as “An RPG”. I would rather avoid Shenmue’s inclusion.

I would (gladly) die on the “Zelda is an RPG” hill, but I don’t quite feel the same way about Shenmue, though to be fair,  I wouldn’t argue against it (being an RPG) either.

Finally, I have to assume that VGChartz didn’t do a proper job tallying Japanese ‘only’ RPG titles’ sales. Which would explain the considerable list of Dreamcast RPGs ‘That I have never heard of’  listed, such as: Chou-Hatsumei Boy Kanipan: Bousou Robot no Nazo!? that posses no data, or sales numbers. 

It is entirely possible that some of these games sold enough copies in Japan to out do our #5 choice on the list. 

5. Time Stalkers (1999) – Sales Numbers: ?

Time Stalkers Screenshot

Here we go. Time Stalkers, it is no secret that I didn’t love the game. Yet, as a launch window game, and one that was heavily marketed towards the RPG crowd that potentially wanted the system, my guess is that Time Stalkers is the system’s fifth best seller in the genre, or at least close to it.

Other games that I took into consideration were: Evolution: The World of Sacred Device, E.G.G. Silver, and The Record of Lodoss War.

A final factor that I took into consideration when choosing Time Stalkers over the others, were the responses (amount of them) that I got for some of our articles that either mentioned or failed to mention the game.

Clearly, a decent number of our readers played Time Stalkers. Thus, as far as guesses go, Time Stalkers is as good as any.

4.  Skies of Arcadia (2000) –  Sales Numbers: 90,000

Skies of Arcadia Top FIve Dreamcast RPGs

Ouch! And I really feel that ‘Ouch’ with all of my aching heart. This is best JRPG that I have played from the year 2000 till present day. Skies of Arcadia is a masterpiece, by far the best DC RPG, and a game that deserved to sell, at least, 10 times as much.

Now, I have spent the last two years preaching Skies of Arcadia’s greatness, and the need for a remaster of the title (I am grounded enough to realize that there will never be a ‘Remake’, or Sequel) on the Nintendo Switch. However, these painful numbers are the reason why Sega continues to ignore the IP.

Skies of Arcadia would fare better 3 years later (2003) on the GameCube. It would sell 220,000 units there, and yet, those numbers would only carry the game to the #13 spot on the GameCube list of “Best Selling” RPGs.

The GameCube wasn’t a system known for having a large JRPG installed base of users, which begs the question: Why would Sega sabotage Skies of Arcadia by condemning it to another ill fated system, instead of crafting a PS2 port of the game?

Sega’s mishandling of Skies of Arcadia was nearly as criminal as its handling of Panzer Dragoon Saga. The proof is in the pudding (or numbers in this case).

Skies of Arcadia is one of the more epic, and gorgeous (I still have a soft spot for its visuals) adventures that can be experienced on the genre, and it deserves a play-through by anyone who has yet to have the privilege of trying it out.

3. Phantasy Star Online Ver. 2 (2001) – Sales Numbers: 190,000

Top Five Dreamcast RPGs Phantasy Star Online

New content, a higher level cap, and new modes made PSO V.2 an instant success with fans of the original game.

Phantasy Star Online was many a gamer’s introduction to online RPGs, and Sega did a wonderful job on the DC and its little 56k modem. Players were able to go solo online (and offline) or with three other friends exploring an uncharted planet and tackling on different challenges.

2. Grandia II (2000) – Sales Numbers: 200,000

Grandia II Screen

With 200,000 units sold, Grandia II did well for itself in the Dreamcast eco-system. Grandia II was a great game (my favorite in the series), and it did well with critics. Yet, on good conscience, I cannot say that it was a better game than Skies of Arcadia.

This is a classic example of brand recognition, Grandia was an established name on both the Saturn (Japan) and the PlayStation. Naturally, the few RPG fans on the DC gravitated towards the more popular game.

Combined sales of Grandia II (Dreamcast, and PS2 where it sold 290,000 units) merited a third main entry in the series. Grandia III sold 490,000 on PS2, making it the best selling game in the franchise, but that number wasn’t high enough to merit a Grandia 4 at that point.

As far as Grandia II goes, it was a pretty little (could be finished in under 35 hours) JRPG, that gave the DC an early exclusive ‘big’ time Game Arts RPG. Grandia II was the perfect game for fans that wanted a quality JRPG on the system.

1. Phantasy Star Online (2001) – Sales Numbers: 200,000

Phantasy Star Best Selling Role Playing Games Dreamcast

Killing monsters, and seeking treasures with friends has never more fun than in Phantasy Star Online. Before you let me know that there have been better MMORPGs out there, I want to say that I agree, there have been better competitors.

That said, PSO did it first (if you only stuck to console gaming), and nothing has been quite as magical, as that first play it with other people online. Given the fact, that PSO was one of the earliest titles in the genre, and that it was breaking new ground on consoles, some of the game’s weaknesses such as less than stellar ‘solo’ play, simplistic storyline, and repetitive quests were easily overlooked, because PSO was much more than that.

PSO was a gateway into a fantasy world were you could join ‘real’ party members and spend countless of hours killing monsters and discovering new areas. Because of that, and the emerging popularity of online play on the Dreamcast at the time, I am not surprised that PSO is the best selling Role-Playing on the system.

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By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.