Atari Jaguar. These two words seem to muster up so much controversy amongst the mainstream gaming press. “The controller is horrible” they say, “it’s not really 64-bit.” “Doom doesn’t have music.” For those that own a Jag, most of that disdain is misguided. The Atari Jaguar is an excellent system with a dozen or so great games. Sure there are some stinkers, but Barbie Horse Adventures doesn’t make the Game Boy Advance bad, does it?
With that in mind, I present to you the Top 5 Atari Jaguar games.
Number 5: Raiden
Developer: Seibu Kaihatsu Inc.
2014 Price: $15
Raiden was a launch title for the Atari Jaguar back in 1993. It’s a curious title for sure, as the original arcade title was released in 1990, with home ports following a year later. By holiday 1993, it was yesterday’s news. However from a retro gaming standpoint, this is an excellent shmup.
First, this port is significantly better the the Genesis and Super Nintendo versions. The graphics feature far more colors and detail, and scroll much more smoothly. I also like how the Jaguar port mimics the TATE monitor setup giving how a truly vertical play area. Others have criticized the large heads-up display covering the right side of the screen, but trust me, this is how it should be.
What makes Raiden such a great shmup is the fact your ship always seems a bit too slow for the action going on around you. It gives you a feel of desperation, and forces you to commit a strategy as you don’t have time to change your mind and do something else. You will see the game over screen quite a bit as you slowly make it a little farther every time.
The controls, music, and graphics are all excellent. While this might not be a technical masterpiece showing off what the Atari Jaguar can do, it’s a brilliant play through today.
Number 4: Atari Karts
Developer: Miracle Designs
2014 Price: $70
I seem to be in the minority on this one, but I assure you Atari Karts is a great game. As the name implies, this is a mascot kart racing game. From a technical standpoint, this blows Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo out of the water.
The game runs in full screen and at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. There are also quite a few layers of parallax scrolling in the background. The rotating plane itself (the track) has quite a few colors and generally looks pretty great. Road side objects and your rivals all scale nicely as the move towards, or away from the screen, aiding in the slick presentation.
Atari Karts leans more towards racing, and is quite light on the combat. However I rather enjoy this style of game. The power ups are somewhat weak but there are a few gems. The Wheel reduces friction along you to cut corners through the grass, dirt, and snow. The Steering Wheel power up eliminates skidding, allowing you to go through turns at full speed. The Rabbit power ups gives you speed. Lastly, there are speed arrows littered across the tracks.
If you can correctly utilize all of these driver aids, you’ll be on your way to blitzing your fellow opponents. When you chain everything together, it’s magic, and that’s why Atari Karts is on this list. This is a must-own.
Number 3: Tempest 2000
Genre: Vector Shooter
2014 Price: $15
Like many great games, Tempest 2000 is still receiving sequels to this day (TkX is scheduled to be released soon). Tempest 2000 is the quintessential Atari Jaguar game. The graphics could not have been done on the systems released before it. The music absolutely shames anything without a CD Rom drive.
Tempest 2000 is a psychedelic tube shooter taking place in another dimension. It takes the vector-style graphics of the original and amplifies it tenfold. Sprites are constantly being broken into pieces, rotated, and melted. There are particle effects galore, and the chaos on the screen was unmatched for it’s time.
The actual game itself is slightly less interesting than the graphics. Your ship’s movement is limited to the edge of the polygonal levels and you must destroy enemies before they reach your end of the tube. The gameplay doesn’t grab me, but there are legions of fans that absolutely love this game.
There is definitely some depth to this game that I’ve yet to find. Despite this not being my favorite game, I can appreciate the quality here. It really is a showcase title and if you do decide to buy an Atari Jaguar, this is a must-have.
Number 2: Rayman
2014 Price: $60
The fact that Rayman even exists on the Atari Jaguar is nothing short of a miracle. Why Ubi-Soft invested any amount of resources developing this for the Jaguar is one of life’s great mysteries.
Rayman is the first title in what would become an immensely successful franchise. It’s a 2D platformer that features a limbless hero who must free his home world from the evil villain, Mr. Dark. What makes this game so special for me is the quality. I’ve played many generic platformers from the mid-90s, and Rayman easily outclasses them all.
The graphic quality is outstanding, featuring detailed sprites and multi-layered backgrounds. Rayman himself has no limbs, which allows for some exaggerated movement. He can wind up his fist and launch it across the screen, because there is no arm limiting his reach. All of the enemies are creative, well animated, and have the same level of inventiveness. The whole world of Rayman has a lush look to it that I can’t quite put into words.
The soundtrack and sound effects also help complete the immersiveness of Rayman’s environment. Even the sound when collecting the most minor of items is somehow perfect and fitting. The CD version of Rayman released on contemporary systems might have a better soundtrack, but this cartridge version is no slouch.
Rayman isn’t perfect however. The difficulty is brutal, and often times unfair. I have yet to complete this one. Thankfully there are some cheat codes to effectively give you unlimited lives, which is the only way to play. Rayman on the Atari Jaguar is an anomaly, and belongs in every gamer’s Jaguar collection.
Number 1: Super Burnout
Developer: Shen Technologies
2014 Price: $20
If you follow the IMPLANTgames Podcast, this should come as no surprise to you. Super Burnout is the best game on the Atari Jaguar. Period. This title didn’t light the world on fire back in 1995, as there were too many exciting polygonal racers being released. Over time, the price of this game has crept up as gamers slowly discover how great this game is.
The graphics are everything you could want in a 3rd person line-scrolling racing title. The frame rate never drops below 60fps and everything races across the screen at a frantic pace. The road side objects are plentiful, and smoothly scale from the distant blips to giant sprites as you race through the tracks. Some tracks even transition from night to day, or day to night.
Rather than featuring endless tracks that mindlessly flow to the left and right, Super Burnout features actual tracks. They feel like tracks too, and you’ll have a sense as to where you are, and what is coming up next as you race through them. This allows you to memorize the courses and begin to learn a racing line through the bends. After that, you start to learn how to break the rules of the game, and speed through turns faster than should be possible.
It’s an absolutely brilliant romp and easily my favorite 2D racing game of all time. The Atari Jaguar truly had some gems, but Super Burnout tops my list because there are no “buts.” There is nothing about the game I would change. The track design is excellent, the bike selection is perfect, the Championship mode isn’t too long, the quality of the music is unmatched, and the graphics are mesmerizing.
Super Burnout expertly captures the feel of an 80’s arcade racer from Yu Suzuki and blends it effortlessly into a deep console title. Without question, this is the best game money can buy for the Atari Jaguar.