When Magic: The Gathering was on the Dreamcast


Magic Untapped takes a look at the Japan-exclusive Magic: The Gathering video game for the SEGA Dreamcast.

Magic: the Gathering has had an unusual history when it comes to video games. From Windows 95 to attempts at arcade games to modern day games with a variety of reviews. 

However, besides the Armageddon arcade game, there was a rare, Japan-exclusive console game that released in 2001.  It was simply titled Magic: the Gathering and it played kind of like Microsoft's Solitaire, had very out of place music, and it was a release that was exclusive to the Sega Dreamcast.

Here’s a few rounds in action just to enforce how much in line with the game it was at the same time being so bizarro to the entire card series:

In the game, you’re travelling from the unfortunately named town of Magic Heart going across the world through five different colored areas.  You can probably guess which five and what kinds of creatures are in each.  You then get dropped into daily standard Magic matches.  It's really not too complicated.

The video game's cards include the entire 6th Edition set, as well as a few selections from pre-6th Edition core sets, AlliancesTempest, and Stronghold.  Interestingly, the game also added ten new cards that were only seen digitally on the Dreamcast game.  Many of the game's unique cards rely on random effects that would be difficult to replicate in paper Magic.

The game play wasn’t bad despite a few odd choices and Japanese publications gave favorable scores. But, as anyone with a cursory knowledge of video game history knows, the Sega Dreamcast wasn't too long for this Earth.

Unfortunately, no tie-ins of any sort were added as (A) the game was only released in Japan and (B) the Dreamcast was scrubbed before any cards could be printed. It was definitely planned too, as much of the game had English dialogue, clearly getting ready for an English-language release.

Wizards of the Coast also caught a break with the Dreamcast flaming out as a console in the early 2000’s. Magic Online was to begin in 2002, and a video game release on a console would have dashed those plans pretty quick, or at least they would have seen far fewer people joining. Instead, it had a quick Japan release, the Dreamcast being out as a console by early 2002, and Magic Online swooping in by the summer.

Today the game is a little known footnote in the annals of Magic: the Gathering history, but it’s also a lucrative one: New copies today go for hundreds of dollars. But it’s also the game that helped prove that Magic could make it as a more widespread. Without the Dreamcast game, who knows if there would have been a Magic Online?

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.