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

The 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. It had a Hitachi SH-4 RISC CPU at 200 MHz with 16 MB of RAM and 8 MB of VRAM. It had a PowerVR2 GPU at 100 MHz, which theoretically was capable of pushing 3 million polygons/second on-screen. There is a 2 MB 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.. Sega also 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.

Sega collaborated with Microsoft 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 (or implemented well).

Emulators

Name Platform(s) Latest Version Libretro Core Naomi Atomiswave Windows CE FLOSS Active Recommended
PC / x86
DEmul Windows 0.7 Build 280418
redream Windows Linux macOS 1.5.0
Flycast Windows Linux macOS CI Builds
reicast Windows Linux CI Builds (Not Working)
r8.1 (Snap Store)
~
nullDC Windows 1.0.4 r150 ~
Makaron Windows T12/5 ~
WashingtonDC Linux git
Lxdream Linux macOS 0.9.1
Chankast Windows 0.25
MAME Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD 0.236 ~ ~
Mobile / ARM
redream Android Linux ARM 1.1.98 (Android)
1.5.0 (Raspberry Pi)
Flycast Android iOS CI Builds ~ ~
reicast Android Dragonbox Pyra r20.04 (Android)
Pyra Build
~
Console
Flycast Switch CI Builds
nullDC PSP PSP git 1.2.1 ~
nulldc-360 Xbox 360 git ~

Comparisons

DEmul
Has the highest compatibility and accuracy, but it' Windows-only and closed-source. It supports Windows CE games, but in general, they run worse than standard Dreamcast titles. It's also more resource-intensive than other emulators.
redream
Multi-platform and easy to use, but it's closed-source. Compatible with 90+% of the Dreamcast library (Windows CE now supported), 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.
nullDC
Can run a lot of games at great speed on mid-end PC and it's open-source, however, it's no longer 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
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[1], along with support for MAME's popular CHD format. Even full MMU support, which is needed to run WinCE-based games such as "Armada", "Half-Life" and "SEGA Rally Championship 2", 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.
Makaron
One of the only two closed-source Dreamcast emulators that can properly play Windows CE games.

Emulation issues

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

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

References

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