I remember when I first heard about Sega leaving the console hardware business. I was so confused! Sega had always been the counter to Nintendo. Nintendo made consoles, Sega made consoles, but now there were going to be Sega games on Nintendo consoles! For anyone who grew up in the 90’s, this was crazy news. We learned in hindsight, that Sega of Japan was ran by a group of rabid monkeys or something. Purposefully sabotaging their company due to their jealousy over the success of Sega of America. I can’t think of any other reason for the disastrous handling of the Sega Saturn here in the states. Anyway, for whatever reason, Sega continued to make high quality games (let’s ignore most of the Sonic series here), and these are my favorites:
If you don't know, Crazy Taxi is a series of games where you play as a taxi driver, delivering people to their destinations as fast as possible for points. This is very arcade style, and in fact the series is also an arcade mainstay. Crazy Taxi 3 adds minimal features over the second one (which added jumping), but is still an immensely fun game. As the name suggests, High Roller takes place in a Las Vegas type setting. Right off the bat this top five entry is kinda cheating. The thing I like most about Crazy Taxi 3 is that it effectively includes the first two Crazy Taxi games. In addition to the new characters and Vegas-ish map, you can go back and play with the characters and maps from the previous two games. This is pretty cool, because it means you can do stuff like use the jump from 2 in the map from 1. You can't mix and match the characters with the locations though, which kinda sucks.
If you were a fan of Sega, the original Xbox console was the console to own. In addition to Crazy Taxi 3 mentioned above, lots of Sega IPs got sequels on the Xbox, one of my favorites being OutRun 2. OutRun was a classic Sega arcade game that sort of combined racing with a choose your own adventure book, and OutRun 2 carries on this legacy. Basically, you are racing against the clock to reach one of several goals. Along the way the road forks left and right, allowing you to choose your path. The left path is easy, and the right path is harder. Each path takes you to a different locale, of which there are many. This is also one of the best looking games on the original Xbox. The colors really pop, and there’s some pretty cool lighting on the cars. There’s also a version with more content called OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast, but I haven’t played it.
This game is a riot, especially when you play it with a friend. This is the Typing of the Dead version of House of the Dead: Overkill. If you don’t know that that means, it’s exactly like the original game, but instead of shooting zombies you… type them to death. Every zombie that appears on screen also shows a word next to it. Type the word, and you shoot the zombie dead. If you know how to type, this is insanely fun, and still pretty hectic. I played through this game with a friend, and we had a great time. The dialogue is really damn cheesy, and it’s hilarious. Basically this game embracing the series’ B-movie style of narrative, and it works really well. HotD: Overkill is great, but I still recommend this over the original version.
2. Sonic Generations
I only wanted to include one mainline Sonic game in this list, which is pretty easy because there’s only a couple even worthy of being in this list. It really came down to this or Sonic Colors, but I think Generations is better because, well, I like classic Sonic. Generations is a self-congratulatory celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog’s 20th anniversary. It features a set of levels from past Sonic games, which contain an act for modern boosty Sonic, but also 2D classic Sonic. The modern Sonic gameplay is pretty much exactly like Sonic Colors: You play as Sonic and you can boost to crazy speeds. The level design takes on a very obstacle course-y style. Even better is classic Sonic, who plays exactly like he did in the Sega Genesis games, and the level design matches this style. The only part that sucks is the lack of levels, where the developers filled the gaps with missions you have to complete in the levels to pad out the gameplay time.
I have to really hand it to Sumo Digital, this is one of the most entertaining kart racing games I’ve played. It was a tossup between this and the original Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing, but I think this one edges out just barely. Mostly because this game is filled to the brim with so much content. It’s got characters, stages, modes. There’s so much to do in this game, and it’s all fun. Special shoutout goes to the challenges, which is a pretty refreshing take on kart racing single player. It’s got all the items and tropes you’d expect from a kart racer. It borrows the character specific special item from Mario Kart: Double Dash, which its prequel did as well. But the "Transformed" part is the most interesting. Throughout the race, you'll come across air or water sections, where your kart transforms into a boat or a plane. A lot of people don’t like this, but I quite enjoy it. The plane is marginally worse than the boat and kart, but it’s fine.