The Dreamcast (like most other 6th generation game consoles) outputted most games in 480i, with some supporting 240p and 480p. If you’re not familiar with those terms, I highly recommend you read my 240p page before continuing.
All 480p Dreamcast games look great through VGA and if you have a display that supports a 480p input, then that’s by far the best output method in most cases. If you use an RGB cable, the few 240p games that are available will look great, but all other games will only output in 480i. As a result, an RGB cable is only a good option if you’re using a display that only supports 240p and 480i.
Output Options (analog options above, HDMI options below):
Analog Options (can be combined with a converter to get HDMI):
RGB / SCART:
Retro Access Dreamcast SCART Cable (you can choose cable type from the drop-down)
Retro Access Dreamcast BNC Cable (choose length and audio connector from the drop-down)
Component Video (YPbPr)
Retro Gaming Cables offers a Component Video cable that’s switchable between 15KHz (240p/480i) and 31KHz (480p) modes. They should be compatible with all displays and scalers that can handle those signals: https://retrorgb.link/rgcdcypbpr
HDRetrovision will (eventually) have their component video solution, which supports all modes and outputs the correct sample rate to HDTV’s. The release has been suspended indefinitely though, for unknown reasons: https://www.hdretrovision.com
Boxes made by Beharbros:
My current favorite solution from the Behar Bros is the Kuro Plus: https://www.beharbros.com/kuroplus
In my opinion, the Kuro Plus is the perfect solution for people who have two monitors: An RGB monitor and a VGA monitor. This one box can do both for a very reasonable price! It’s very similar to the Toro, but without a scanline generator. For more info, check out the toro’s review: http://www.retrorgb.com/toro.html
VGA / SCART Cable By The Foo: https://ebay.to/2OVIFL3 – These seem to be good quality and the sync combiner works well, however the SCART adapter is often out-of-stock.
The DC Digital is the ultimate HDMI solution for the Dreamcast. It requires a complicated internal installation that requires cutting a hole for an HDMI port, but no other video output solution comes close to the quality. It’s zero lag and outputs up to 1440p: https://www.pixelfx.co/product-page/dcdigital-kit
Cheap HDMI Cables:
Most of the plug-and-play HDMI “cables” I’ve tried for the Dreamcast work very poorly. Most aren’t compatible with any 480i/240p game, some have a very soft output and others barely work at all. Luckily, they don’t seem to add lag, so they don’t completely ruin the experience. In my opinion, these are only good if you need a very cheap solution, or if you just need a temporary solution to hold you off: https://amzn.to/42mszMv
Decent HDMI Cables:
Gekko & Akura made by Beharbros: https://retrorgb.link/gekko / https://retrorgb.link/akura
In my opinion, the only “Dreamcast HDMI Plug-and-play” that does a decent job are the Akura and Gekko boxes by the Behar Bros, which are simple analog to digital converters; Using a switchable analog cable and the OSSC will output a better image, but the Gekko is only $55, making it a good contender for people who only need HDMI output from their Dreamcast.
One thing to note is no VGA analog to digital converters won’t be able to correct the aspect ratio and sampling issues. More on that below.
Output Options (videos):
480p Aspect Ratio / Sampling Line Issues
By applying the wrong sample rate you not only lose 43 pixel columns, but neighboring columns also get fuzzy and blurry and since the 43 columns are evenly distributed across the screen your whole image gets a rather fuzzy look. It’s funny, because there were many times over the years I saw a Dreamcast’s signal and thought it looked a bit soft. Looking back, I wonder if this was what I was always seeing.
A huge thank you to Fudoh for helping with this, as I still find it massively confusing.
Progressive Scan (240p & 480p) compatible games:
Not all Dreamcast games are compatible with VGA, but a very large amount are. I found a site that shows which games are compatible and even shows you how to force a VGA mode in most others!:
To access the 240p mode in Dreamcast games, a few games ask if you’d like to start the game in a “progressive” mode (Bangai-O) and some Capcom Dreamcast games (Third Strike) can be forced into a 240p mode by holding Start+L (or Start+Z on the Arcade Stick) when you turn the system on, before the Capcom logo appears. As far as I know, these are the only Dreamcast games that support native 240p:
Street Fighter Alpha 3
Black Matrix A/D
Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes
Street Fighter Zero 3
Street Fighter Zero 3 for Matching Service
Princess Maker Collection
The King of Fighters Dream Match 1999
Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure
Street Fighter 3: Third Strike
The King of Fighters 99 Evolution
Last Blade 2: Final Edition
Street Fighter 3: Double Impact
Twinkle Star Sprites
Forcing Widescreen mode / Aspect Ratio:
Some Dreamcast games have been hacked to run in widescreen mode. If you play these games on an HDTV, this is definitely worth checking out: https://segaretro.org/List_of_Dreamcast_widescreen_codes
Also, the aspect ratio of Dreamcast is a bit weird. I plan on updating this section soon with detailed information. For now, check out Fudoh’s great post about it and how it can be fixed with the OSSC: http://shmups.system11.org/viewtopic.php?p=1201520#p1201520
Some games aren’t RGB-compatible:
I know that probably sounds crazy, but a few game discs will output composite and S-Video, but not RGB! Some games can be fixed with an ISO patch, however the very few games which are effected won’t run in RGB from their original discs. Here’s some games that are effected, as well as a forum link to fixes:
Effected Games (most): Giga Wing, Skies of Arcadia/Eternal Arcadia, Street Fighter Alpha/Zero 3, Super Street Fighter 2 X, Touken Retsuden 4 , Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service, Pop ‘n’ Musci (all 4).
Converting 480p to 240p for a “retro” look:
If you run the 480p VGA signal through an Extron Emotia, you can force a 240p mode. I’ve tested this method and in my opinion (when using a display that doesn’t support 480p), a “forced 240p mode” looks better than 480i. Check out my 240p page for more information.
If the original game is under 800MB and you use good quality (Tayo Uden) discs, you can safely play backups on VA0, VA1 and some VA2 Dreamcast consoles using a software patch. Using cheap media is very bad for your GDROM drive and will absolutely wear your drive much faster than with regular games! Also, games over 800MB (GDROMs can be over 1GB) will either have to be compressed or split to multiple discs. Overall, improper use of CDr’s are not recommended and using an ODE is overall a better choice.
Optical Drive Emulators:
You can replace the Dreamcast’s GDROM drive with an ODE that allows you to launch games from hard drives or flash media. My favorite at the moment is the GDEMU, but here’s a page showing them all: http://retrorgb.com/dreamcastode.html
Hardware Tips and Tricks:
Here’s a video that shows all my favorite tricks for getting the best out of your Dreamcast:
– If you’d like the best analog output from your Dreamcast, purchase a video output solution that supports both video modes. You’ll be able to play your favorite games in a way that looks best on every display you use it on.
– Using Dreamcast on a flat-screen can be complicated. The best way at the moment is using the DCHDMI or an OSSC.
– I like using ODE’s to play my DC games, as patching and options are applied much easier.
– If you’d like digital audio, you can try this TOSLINK mod: https://assemblergames.com/threads/saturn-dreamcast-toslink.57670/