Yesterday was a big milestone for Sony’s Playstation console, as the system reached twenty years of age. In those twenty years we’ve seen the birth of some fantastic franchises, four consoles plus revisions, multiple handhelds, the evolution of the Playstation Network, including cloud software, streaming and a bunch of other cool shit. But it all had to start somewhere, and twenty years ago, on September 9, 1995 the original Playstation console launched in North America.
For a trip down memory lane, you can see videos, pictures and get some written history of the console at the Playstation Blog.
The author of that post asks “Where were you 20 years ago?” I was in junior high at the time. I didn’t end up purchasing my own PS1 until about ’98, but there was a “family console” in the house that I had limited use of. When I received Final Fantasy VII for Christmas in ’97 it was apparent that I would need my own console lest no one else would have use of the TV. I still played my Sega Genesis in my room though, and it was traded in so that I could purchase that PS1 of my own. Friends owned one as well, so there were a plethora of games I played throughout its lifetime, but my absolute favorites come from that period of time while I owned the system. The following is a list of 20 of my favorite PS1 games to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the console. As there are something like 2500 titles, it’s obvious that I couldn’t choose all of the best games for the system, and like any favorites list this is completely subjective (this is also in no particular order, just how they came to mind). With that said, let’s dive into the list!
1. Final Fantasy VII
This game was literally a console seller back in its day. The family had a Playstation in the house a bit prior to its release, as we had originally purchased a Sega Saturn and then abandoned that ship as it was sinking. So no, this wasn’t the first Playstation game I had played, nor did I have my own console prior to owning the game, but I did purchase one shortly after receieving FFVII as an Xmas gift. Still, my original statement rings true, as I’ve heard many a story where FFVII was the reason why people bought a Playstation. The characters, the storyline, the combat, the materia system, the new-at-the-time full 3-D polygonal RPG was something everyone wanted. It still holds up in certain aspects to this day, but man those graphics are horrid. The hand-painted backgrounds still look great, but the polygon work is atrocious to look at. Thankfully, as was announced at E3 2015, there is a remake in the works, and this story can once again be introduced to a new generation of gamers.
2. Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy VII was my first experience with the franchise, as I never played the original on NES (though I always wanted it) and didn’t own a Nintendo system after that, so the US versions of IV and VI (called II and III in NA) weren’t available to me either. After playing VII, I played all of the prequels via emulation to get a feel for them. I didn’t complete any though, so my love for the series was still mainly tied to VII. When VIII released, a friend of mine picked it up and through watching him play it, I was disenchanted. I never played that game since, though I hear it isn’t as bad as I once thought. When IX came out, I was skeptical but found that the game felt more like VII in every way, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It is actually the last Final Fantasy game I’ve played all the way through. I loved the character designs, the sense of humor, and the more high fantasy setting (compared to the steam-punk feel of VII) of the game.
3. Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics is still one of my favorite turn-based tactical RPGs of all time, right up there with Shining Force 1 & 2. I’ve raved about this title many times and have placed it on other lists from years past. The job system is a great idea and brings back that feeling of customization of your team from the original Final Fantasy game, along with the ability to promote characters into other things (Shining Force implemented this idea as well). Otherwise it’s got a very religious and politically charged narrative, awesome grid based tactical combat, and the typical RPG tropes of levels and gear. I still loved it, and can still play it to this day with a high level of enjoyment. I have since played further games in the series and find them to be enjoyable as well.
Suikoden is one of those games that is sort of rare. I would never have heard of it were it not for my best friend at the time who was extremely invested in JRPGs. In many ways, Suikoden was a traditional JRPG, it featured running around on world maps, turn based battles with menu systems, and quests to complete. However the game also featured some grand strategy, a headquarters that you had some control over and a staggering 108 characters that can be recruited for your force. That was the big collection quest of the game and something we’d be earning achievements for today. Some of the characters were hard to come by or required certain actions to be recruitable. It was a big task, but one that I endured happily. The series has had a number of sequels over the years but this is the only one I played. I still recommend it!
5. Resident Evil: Director’s Cut
I didn’t have a Playstation yet by the time Resident Evil first released, but it was always a game I had my eye on. To that point, it had been a very long time (like back in the days when my Dad used to play Shadowrun and Uninvited) since a game had truly scared me while playing it. By the time I had my own PS1 and money to buy games with, the Director’s Cut had been released and though I don’t know specifically what’s different between it and the original version, I loved it. I picked up the game just before Halloween that year (probably 98?) and spent the night at my friend’s house playing it into the wee hours, in the dark. We had trouble sleeping to say the least. But that spawned my love for the franchise and eventually lead to…
6. Resident Evil 2
…Picking up Resident Evil 2. RE2 did everything the original game did but better. Now there were two playable characters. The story was more involved, the creatures more gruesome, the jump scares more unrelenting. The tension this game would create is something very few games managed to muster for a long time. The voice acting and dialogue was an improvement over the laughable original. This was the final Resident Evil game I would play on the PS1, though I did watch a friend play the third game a bit here and there. There have been six games in the series so far and I’ve enjoyed them all in varying degrees, but I think 2 and 4 were probably the best of all time, and I should also note that most of the spin off titles were pretty terrible.
7. Gran Turismo 2
I played the original Gran Turismo at a friend’s house and though I enjoyed parts of it, I didn’t really see the appeal. It wasn’t until the sequel released and I picked it up on sale at some point that I was hooked. You can’t tell by looking at screen shots now, but Gran Turismo 2 was the prettiest game you could get on the system. The lighting effects, the polygon counts, the courses — they were all magical. The controls also shined, as the game was toted as “The Real Driving Simulator” and was supposed to have super realistic physics. There was a lot of depth in this game, with the ability to buy a junker car, fix it up, win some events, buy better cars and soup them up, rinse and repeat. I have fond memories of playing the endurance races with a buddy of mine, where we would switch off every ten laps. It was quite the accomplishment to 100% this game, and I managed to do it. Further entries in the series have been good, but none hooked me as well as this.
8. Street Fighter Alpha 3
This is still probably my favorite Street Fighter game of all time. We will see if Street Fighter V can knock it off of its pedestal, but I somehow doubt it. Of course I played most Street Fighter games starting out in Arcades and then on consoles, including SF2 + iterations, SF3, SF4, SFA1-3 and most of the Capcom vs. games, though not all of those came out on the Playstation obviously. The first two alpha games were pretty cool, but Alpha 3 had the most characters and melded the combat system into something so perfect and technical I fell in love. I played this game so often with friends that I became pretty damn good at it. I don’t think I’ve been as good at a Street Fighter game since, not counting the cross over titles that would come shortly thereafter.
9. X-men vs. Street Fighter
One of the first cross over games put out by Capcom (along with the Marvel Heroes one), I loved this game instantly. Not only could you play as some of your favorite Street Fighter characters, but also some of the coolest X-men characters? Sign me up! The combat was faster and a bit more loose in my opinion, but the game was a blast! Further iterations included Marvel vs. Capcom 1-3, Marvel vs. SNK 1-2 and others, but this was one of the first that solidified the concept and made me a Capcom fighter fanboy.
10. Crash Team Racing
Crash Bandicoot was Sony’s answer to Mario. He was the big time cartoony mascot that would become the face of the console (and coincidentally, Naughty Dog are still making face-of-the-franchise games). He had three base games and maybe other spinoffs, but the one I enjoyed the best was his version of Mario-Kart, Crash Team Racing. It had everything you would expect from a then-modern day kart racing game. There were the host of recognizable characters from previous iterations, go-karts, weapons to kill each other with, and crazy tracks. CTR was a little ground breaking with the whole world map concept, where you drive around and then go to the individual races, and also had a system of collectibles that you needed to open up certain things. Getting 100% on the game was a challenge and I loved it. There was also four player local multiplayer, so many sessions at my apartment were had, racing against each other or doing battle in the arena mode. Good times.
11. Twisted Metal 2
Credit where credit is due: The original Twisted Metal was a revolutionary concept. The car brawler hadn’t really been created yet, and as a first party title, Sony nailed it. Twisted Metal 2 was when things got really fun and interesting. Though I preferred the darker tone to the original game, the sequel kept some of that and opted for more brightly colored environments. Things were more wide open, there were hidden areas and destructible environments, along with environmental dangers. Each character had its own story line with comic book like panels that would play out between levels. Each would end quite horribly though, as Calypso isn’t a nice guy. Me and friends played the shit out of this game, but I actually had a more personal favorite:
12. Twisted Metal 3
Twisted Metal 3 was my favorite on the original Playstation. There’s one simple fact for this: 4 player splitscreen. Of course, playing with a small portion of a TV that’s already small enough (let’s face it, tube TVs weren’t ever that big) was a pain, but my youthful eyes could handle such torment. My best friend at the time had two younger brothers and another of our mutual friends would go over to their house with me and we’d have epic battles that usually ended in someone rage quitting. This was the point in time that the development went over to 989 studios rather than Sony themselves so many said the series tapered off at this point only to be revived by Sony once again with Twisted Metal Black on PS2. However, this was the high point for me.
13. Tomb Raider
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the original because it pushed so many boundaries, not only giving us a female protagonist who was tough as nails but also because we were just then fully exploring what 3-D worlds could be like. After the original though, I just stopped caring. It was the same game over and over with only one or two new mechanics added in each time. I largely ignored the series until the recent reboot, which seems to have captured the magic of the original without feeling exactly the same.
14. Grand Theft Auto 2
Admittedly, I haven’t ever played the original GTA. I only picked up GTA 2 because it was one of those “greatest hits” deals were the game was dirt cheap. Yeah, I’ve been a frugal gamer for a long time now. Anyway, this was the last game of the main series to be done with the top down view, and despite that limitation it was still a ton of fun to play. You still have the same mechanics of story missions ranging from assassination to escort to racing, and the ability to go off the rails and just blow shit up. It was a bit harder to see things coming while you race around in sports cars though, so you probably didn’t pull off the same level of stunts you will in GTAV. I still loved this game and spent a lot of time with it, only to be blown completely away by GTAIII. But that’s a story for another day.
15. Breath of Fire IV
Breath of Fire was another series of games that made its start with Nintendo but then moved onto the Playstation. I didn’t play any of the other games in the series, though friends tell me they were pretty good. I wasn’t smitten with JRPGs (outside of those found on the Genesis) until the PS1 days, so this was the first game of the series I picked up solely on the word of my buddies. I wasn’t disappointed, as the series featured gameplay similar to Final Fantasy but stuck to 2-D anime style graphics. The main protagonist had the ability to shapeshift into dragons and that was cool right off the bat. This game isn’t magical like some of the others I have mentioned, but it was still a solid RPG on the console.
16. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
There was a post I wrote sometime last year about how this game was one of the few titles that features stealth mechanics that I really enjoyed. Somehow playing as a ninja is cool, but playing as a spy/soldier (Metal Gear Solid) or assassin (Assassin’s Creed) doesn’t appeal to me. Whatever the case, this game mixed a number of mechanics that I rather enjoyed and also featured a multiplayer death match mode that was quite fun. The storyline takes place in feudal Japan and was interesting from start to finish. I didn’t play further games in the series but I’d definitely play a reboot!
17. Twisted Metal: Small Brawl
One of the later purchases I made towards the end of the console’s life cycle, TMSB was Twisted Metal played with remote-control cars. Pictured above is the kitchen level, where you literally play in a kitchen blowing each other up. Other levels had similar scope and it was just different enough to make it fun. The game was pitched more to the kiddies, had a cutesy feel and lost the doom and gloom of other games in the series, but still managed to keep the car combat tight. I disliked Twisted Metal 4 and all of the carbon copy clones that came out during this era, but TMSB managed to reinvigorate my interest for a time.
18. Tetris Plus
I know, I know, it’s Tetris, and everyone knows what that is and has played a billion variants. This one just happened to be the one that came out for Playstation, I got via a greatest hits discount, and played the shit out of. Seriously, I still went back and played this even after I had a Playstation 2. I would still play it today if I owned it. It was classic tetris that we know and love, but then had a story mode featuring this cute adventurer guy who would die if you didn’t get him to the floor, in a variety of different puzzling setups. There was also a 2 player head-to-head mod where you attempt to last longer than your friend, while also dropping the spike trap lower and lower. It was just enough of a twist to have infinite replay-ability.
19. Theme Park
One of my earlier experiences with these sim management games, though not my first. I did play Sim City and other games like this on PCs prior to playing this, but it was my all-time favorite on the Playstation. Theme Park was fun because you could create your own dream theme park (and what kid doesn’t dream of doing that?) but then were tasked with managing it. You had to hire people to pick up trash, to maintain rides, to sell concessions and tickets, and yadda yadda. It was simple yet complex, and each new playthrough provided different results. I still enjoy these types of games from time to time.
20. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Yes, that’s Spider-Man skateboarding. That was a special costume you could unlock in the game. Tony Hawk came out at a time when I had already tired of skateboarding in real life. As such, my interest in the game wasn’t that high, so I skipped the first title altogether. When the sequel came out, I played it with friends and ended up loving it. It ended up being less about the skateboarding, and more about what crazy shit you could pull off and chain together to get the highest score. Playing through the game’s career mode was only a means to open up all of the levels and characters. Playing against your friends to get that high score was where the magic really set in. I probably spent more time with Pro Skater 3, but on the PS2. Still, this was my first entry in the series. I should also notate that the Tony Hawk series (along with Gran Turismo and some of the Need For Speed games) had some fantastic soundtracks that introduced me to a bunch of new artists.
So there you have it. 20 of my favorite PS1 games. Did I miss any of your favorites?
Was given Plant randomly. Don’t really care for plant. The speed is good, but feels weaker overall. My daily average is now world 3, and I’d like to push that further. Need more practice!