With the launch of the Sony PlayStation, the gaming landscape made the shift from sprite-based graphics and into the third dimension. It goes without saying that gaming was changed forever. Its massive library of classic games was part of an era in which cinematic storytelling thrived in gaming. A time when we stopped looking at games as things to pass the time, and instead we began looking at them as immersive entertainment similar to film and art. These are our top 10 games of the PlayStation 1 era.
10. Street Fighter Alpha 3
When Alpha 3 hit the arcades you could see crowds huddled around cabinets as gamers lined up quarters to get next. Street Fighter Alpha 3 brought that experience to your home. With the introduction of 34 fighters and the new ‘isms’ system, Alpha 3 is among the best fighting games the PS1 has to offer. Instead of jumping into the 3D realm like Tekken or even Bushido Blade, Alpha 3 instead opted for a 2D, sprite-based style. Resulting in one of the best looking games of that era.
9. The Legend of Dragoon
In an era where RPG’s were dominated by SquareSoft and Enix, SCE created The Legend of Dragoon. Dubbed the “Final Fantasy Killer”, Legend of Dragoon set out to take on the impossible. The leaders of RPG and storytelling. The result was a cult classic. An RPG that featured an interactive combat system, fantastic graphical animations, and told a compelling story about the power of dragons and a world-ending God. Despite its following, we unfortunately never got a sequel or even a remake of Legend of Dragoon.
8. Vagrant Story
Vagrant Story is probably the most underrated game of the PS1 era. The commercial for the game introduced us to a highly cinematic action drama about betrayal and murder. It was a unique style that Square has rarely since replicated. A mixture of adventure, action, RPG, and strategy. Director Yasumi Matsuno has stated, “It encompasses all of these genres and at the same time it doesn’t fit info any of them…” Vagrant Story went on to become a cult classic. An absolute gem of SquareSoft’s golden era.
7. Silent Hill
The survivor horror genre was introduced to many gamers with the success of Resident Evil in 1996. Following its success, Konami jumped into the ring with Capcom and instead of scaring players with zombies and mutated dogs, Silent Hill scared players by creating a tense atmosphere and unsettling sense of the unknown. The result was more psychological horror than survival. Silent Hill’s maze-like town terrified players at what was around at every corner. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, after certain events, the main protagonist, Harry would cross into the ‘Other World’. A twisted, much darker version of the town of Silent Hill. A hellscape that had us terrified.
6. Gran Turismo 2
After the success of the first Gran Turismo, Polyphony Digital looked to create a successor worthy of the original and Gran Turismo 2 did just that. Adding almost 500 additional vehicles, all-new tracks, and even rally racing and real-life circuits. This was without a doubt the premier diving sim on PlayStation. Accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack featuring Rob Zombie, The Cardigans, and The Crystal Method among others. The gameplay was tight and felt realistic, and the attention to detail was amazing for its time. One can only wonder what Polyphony Digital has in store for gamers when Gran Turismo 7 releases on PS5.
5. Resident Evil 2
With the success of Resident Evil, Capcom had to make sure they exceeded expectations of the first game. With Konami’s Silent Hill joining the genre, Capcom upped the ante. Resident Evil 2 introduced us to Raccoon City. A city overrun by the mutated zombie virus, a puzzle-filled locale containing Raccoon Police Department. They also gave us two new protagonists to discover the events through their stories. Resident Evil took the original formula and perfected it in almost every way. Solidifying it as the franchise that we all know today. Last year Resident Evil even underwent a well-received massive remake for modern consoles.
4. Final Fantasy Tactics
Borrowing from the pages of Fire Emblem and Ogre Battle’s, Final Fantasy Tactics was a tactical RPG set in a Final Fantasy world. As SquareSoft continued to dominate the RPG space with the Final Fantasy franchise, they created a spin-off that moved away from the traditional turn-based system and instead adopted a highly customizable tactical strategy battle system. Final Fantasy Tactics has one of the richest stories and one of the deepest combat systems at the time. The game has been remastered a few times over the years, but we sadly never received another major Tactics game for modern consoles.
3. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Out of the dozens of Castlevania games released over the years, none is more iconic than Symphony of the Night. Perfect in almost every way—the 2D sprite-based game ditched its heavily linear predecessors and introduced a giant castle that expanded as you explored. Unlocking abilities and defeating bosses along the way. It even introduced new gameplay and RPG mechanics to the franchise. These ideas were heavily inspired by Super Metroid, so much so that this particular game style went on to be known as Metroidvania.
2. Final Fantasy VII
When Final Fantasy released in 1997 it was so big that it caught the attention of non-RPG players. In fact many attribute Final Fantasy VII to their introduction into the genre. The seventh installment in the mega-franchise took the series into the third dimension and introduced some of the most memorable characters in gaming. The Final Fantasy series went on to release 2 more games for the PlayStation 1, but none more impactful than the Final Fantasy VII. 22 years later and we have finally received a full Final Fantasy remake that isn’t just a retelling of the original.
1. Metal Gear Solid
The Metal Gear Solid franchise is one of the most recognizable franchises in gaming history. It birthed the modern stealth genre and made us believe that games could be as big, if not bigger, than any blockbuster film. Metal Gear Solid became a critically acclaimed series that touched on the ethics and politics of war and the effects they had on soldiers. With the departure of Hideo Kojima, the series game designer, Metal Gear Solid took a stumble with the release of Metal Gear Solid Survive. However, the original will always be an untouchable classic. Making it our number 1 game in our top 10 games of the PlayStation 1 era.