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There Are Only 3 Near-Perfect Sega Dreamcast Games, According To Metacritic

Universal acclaim in the gaming industry is not an easy achievement. At their core, reviews are opinion pieces. A genre-defining feat for one person might prove another's worst game of the year. For some developers, trying to appeal to as many people as possible is akin to walking on a tightrope.

When a game does manage to rise above the rest, it's understandably a big deal. Titles like "The Last of Us" and "Mass Effect 2" helped define their generations, and their respective Metacritic scores of 95 and 94 out of 100 show just how treasured they were by the majority of critics that experienced them.

Then, there's a level even above that. Some titles ascend even higher, approaching near-perfection and falling just a few points short of a 100/100 on the review aggregation site. For the Sega Dreamcast, only three such games exist.

NFL 2K1

"NFL 2K1" was a direct competitor to Electronic Arts' "Madden," which recently honored the late John Madden with his first cover in 23 years. Developed by Visual Concepts and released in September 2000, "NFL 2K1" was the first football game to offer online play, according to Sega. The entry, which succeeded 1999's "NFL 2K," even managed to outsell "Madden 2001" on PS2 within its first two weeks of release.

IGN claimed it "was a must-own sports game on any console" in its review. In addition to introducing online multiplayer, the game made a slew of improvements now seen as standard. The passing mechanics, for example, allow players to throw three different types of passes: bullet, lob, and normal. Depending on a quarterback's specific stats, some perform better than others against the blitz. The review even stated that "2K1" "[had] the best passing game in football" at the time.

GameSpot named "NFL 2K1" the best traditional sports game of 2000. The site asserted that the graphical fidelity isn't as strong as it was in "NFL 2K," but that "2K1" offsets this with refined gameplay and animations. GameSpot's review even declared it "the most faithful representation of the real NFL yet."

Metacritic Score: 97

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

The second installment in the legendary "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" series released on September 19, 2000. Much of the gameplay loop from the 1999 original remained intact, but the sequel offered improved visuals and the series' first level editor. Eurogamer's Martin Taylor praised the level editor for its ease of use and gave the game a 9/10.

In IGN's review of "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2," David Smith called the entry "a brilliant refinement of an already brilliant game," in reference to the first "Pro Skater." Like Taylor, they praised the title's improvements in the visual department. Additionally, they noted that the controls were among the most satisfying in the industry. They called it "as addictive as action games used to be — like 'Pac-Man' or 'Donkey Kong,'" and compared its control responsiveness to "Quake 3" and "SoulCalibur." In 2020, "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2" received a remake that critics felt retained the best parts of original.

Metacritic Score: 97

SoulCalibur

According to Metacritic, 1998's "SoulCalibur" is the closest thing to perfection ever released for the Sega Dreamcast. It was the first sequel to the 1995 Japanese arcade title "Soul Edge," and its success signaled the rise of the next great fighting game series. Years later, "SoulCalibur" was still going strong, with its sixth numbered entry considered one of the best games of 2018.

In their review of "SoulCalibur" for GameSpot, James Mielke called it the "best 3D fighting game ever released in the arcades," adding that the Dreamcast version improves on that foundation across the board. They credited the title for creating a stellar first impression with its eye-catching intro. "It looks so good it might as well be CG, because five years ago, graphics like these were impossible," they stated. They also highlighted the character improvements thanks to a more advanced physics model.

In the gameplay department, "SoulCalibur" uses an "eight-way directional system," allowing fighters to step to the side and in diagonal directions as opposed to just backward and forward. Mielke also said the physics "took weapon weight into account," giving each individual fighter their own unique feel and style. They gave the game a perfect 10/10.

Metacritic Score: 98