Sega Dreamcast emulators

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Sega Dreamcast
DreamcastConsole.png
Developer Sega
Type Home video game console
Generation Sixth generation
Release date 1998
Discontinued 2001
Predecessor Sega Saturn
Emulated
For other emulators that run on Dreamcast hardware, see Emulators on Dreamcast.

The Sega Dreamcast is a sixth-generation console released by Sega on November 27, 1998, in Japan and later on September 9, 1999, in NA. It retailed for $199.99.

To go more in-depth, it had a Hitachi SH-4 RISC CPU at 200 MHz with 16 MBs of RAM and 8 MBs of VRAM. Additionally, on the graphic side, the console came with a PowerVR2 GPU at 100 MHz, which theoretically was capable of pushing 3 million polygons/second on-screen. The audio system had 2 MBs of audio RAM, which complemented a powerful 67 MHz Yamaha AICA sound processor with a 32-bit ARM7 RISC CPU core. The audio chip could generate 64 voices with PCM or ADPCM codec and provided ten times the performance of the Saturn's sound system.

Also, Microsoft collaborated on the Dreamcast's development, and this partnership would continue later with the Xbox. What came out of this was the possibility for games to be developed for an optimized version of Windows CE (with DirectX) on each disc. However, Windows CE wasn't mandatory to use, and most developers opted for SEGA's development tools instead out of convenience. Even in major emulators, this aspect isn't implemented well.

In the same year of Dreamcast's launch, SEGA released the NAOMI, an arcade system board with similar components to the Dreamcast. Sammy's Atomiswave arcade board was also based on the Dreamcast and NAOMI.

A few years later, a successor of the NAOMI board was released in 2001, called NAOMI 2. It was a bit more powerful than its predecessor, having one more Hitachi SH-4 CPU and another PowerVR 2 GPU.

Only 13 titles were released for this board.

Emulators[edit]

Name Platform(s) Latest Version Retro
Achievements
Keyboard
Mouse
VMU NAOMI NAOMI 2 Hikaru Gaelco
PVR
Atomiswave System
SP
Cave
CV1000
Windows
CE
FLOSS Active Recommended
PC / x86
Flycast Windows Linux macOS CI Builds
nightly (Flathub)
git(Flycast Dojo)
libretro core
~[N 1]
redream Windows Linux macOS 1.5.0 ? ~[N 1]
DEmul Windows 0.7 Build 280418 ~[N 1] ~
reicast Windows Linux r20.04
nullDC Windows 1.0.4 r150 ~
WashingtonDC Windows Linux git
lxdream-nitro Linux macOS git ~
Chankast Windows 0.25
Lxdream Linux macOS 0.9.1
Makaron Windows T12/5 ~
MAME Windows Linux macOS
FreeBSD
0.251
libretro core
? ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Mobile / ARM
Flycast Android iOS CI Builds
libretro core
~
redream Android Linux ARM 1.1.98 (Google Play)
1.5.0 (Raspberry Pi)
?
reicast Android Dragonbox Pyra r20.04 (Google Play)
Pyra Build
Console
Flycast Switch Xbox One CI Builds
libretro core
~
nullDC PSP PSP git 1.2.1 ? ~
nulldc-360 Xbox 360 git ? ~ ~
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 While these Dreamcast emulators can leverage the screen of the VMU while the game is running, none of them other than MAME allow you to play the minigames developed for it. See the main page on VMU emulation here for better emulators for VMU.

Comparisons[edit]

nullDC
Can run a lot of games at great speed on a mid-end PC, and it's open-source. However, it's no longer being developed, and the more recent forks have improved upon it.
reicast
Eventually, nullDC's author forked his own project into reicast, with the main objective to widen platform availability to smartphones and tablets. While wider availability is generally a good thing, this resulted in cutting accuracy corners from the nullDC codebase to achieve the speed goals necessary to run on these platforms. Advancements in mobile hardware should have led to the removal of such "hacks"; however, lack of developer resources and interest led to long delays in Reicast development, and the codebase remained virtually untouched for years before the RetroArch team began working with it as part of a "Reicast core", later named Flycast.
Flycast (NAOMI and variants compatibility) (servers) (servers#2) (servers#3)
Fork of reicast available as a standalone emulator and as a libretro core. Libretro collaborators, primarily flyinghead, dramatically improved Reicast in areas such as graphics, input, system clock, and Dreamcast VMU. Atomiswave and NAOMI SH-4-based arcade systems have also been added to great fanfare[N 1], along with support for MAME's popular CHD format. Even full MMU support, which is needed to run Windows CE-based games such as Armada, Half-Life, and SEGA Rally Championship 2. It has recently been tackled through an experimental branch (anyone following Dreamcast emulation over the years understands what a tough nut this is to crack). Aside from some audio stuttering issues in games such as "Looney Toons Space Race" and "Resident Evil: Code Veronica", this is a highly compatible and accurate emulator. Most Windows CE games run at low performance.
Flycast Dojo
Fork of Flycast with a focus on netplay features and replay. Also, available on the Fightcade matchmaking service.
redream
Multi-platform and easy to use, but it's closed-source. Compatible with +96% of the Dreamcast library (as of Q1 2022). It has a good user interface, is easy to set up, and can run without a BIOS. Runs on low-end machines provided that they support OpenGL 3.1. There's a payware premium version that provides high-definition rendering and additional slots for save states.
DEmul (NAOMI and variants compatibility)
Windows-only and closed-source. Used to be the go-to emulator. It supports Windows CE games, but they generally run worse than standard Dreamcast titles. It's also more resource-intensive than other emulators. As of 2022, you´re better off with Flycast or redream for Dreamcast emulation as they are multi-platform and have higher compatibility with Windows CE games. Having said that, DEmul is still highly recommended for SEGA NAOMI and variants.
Makaron
A closed-source Dreamcast emulator that was once noteworthy for being one of the few that could properly play Windows CE games. It has since been superseded by newer emulators.

Emulation issues[edit]

Developer interest in Dreamcast emulation was previously hindered by the availability of the closed-source but "good enough" Chankast, and by less interest in the console relative to other 6th generation consoles. For the emulators that are either mature or maturing, a very large percentage of games work well, but some games still have problems and glitches.

VMU emulators[edit]

While some Dreamcast emulators can leverage the screen of the VMU while the game is running, none of them allow you to play the minigames developed for it. See the main page on VMU emulation here.

Downloads[edit]

References[edit]


Dreamcast logo.png
Consoles: SG-1000Master SystemGenesis / Mega DriveCD32XPicoSaturnDreamcast
Handhelds: Game GearVMU / VMS
Arcade: System seriesModel 1Model 2Model 3Naomi