17 years ago, Sony launched a home video game console that revolutionized the industry. On September 9th, 1995 Sony released the PlayStation, a polygon-pushing system that set the standard for post-sprite gaming systems. The gaming landscape has changed a lot since then, but we will never forget the classic titles the paved the way for a slew of new series and genres.
In my trip down nostalgia lane, I dug up my old PlayStation and dusted it off to revisit some of the games that made my childhood and the gamer that I am today. There are at least fifty different games that deserve recognition, so it was difficult to narrow the list to just ten selections. That said, there are my favorite PS1 games.
Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring
In 1998, Squaresoft released Ehrgeiz, an arcade-style fighting game that features characters from Final Fantasy VII. I can tell you that there are few things more satisfying than playing as Zach Fair and laying a beat down on Sephiroth after completing FF VII and feeling like I didn’t get enough valid hits in on the uber-boss.
Ehrgeiz is an one-on-one fighter, but unlike titles such as Street Fighter where you battle face to face against your foe, this game features a 360-degree battle arena that allows players to move about the field using side steps and high/low ground to their advantage. The movements are a bit slow and choppy at times, but combos are relatively easy to chain together and you are quick to recover from knock downs.
Ehrgeiz also features a “Quest Mode” that lets players visit the individual storylines of each character in the game in a dungeon crawler-style adventure. With the incentive of unlocking hidden characters such as Yuffie, Vincent, and Zach, Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring is a game Final Fantasy VII fans should check out.
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII. You love it, you hate it. You hate it, you love it. The most debated entry in Square Enix’s long-running cash cow was released in the US n 1998 to staggering success–it sold half a million copies within its first three weeks of availability. Sure, people harp upon FFVII‘s marketing as the reason for its success–commercials featured mostly CGI cut scenes and not much gameplay–but it has one of the vastest maps I’ve ever seen, an intense storyline, chocobo breeding, and unforgettable characters that gave birth to a new breed of fanboy.
The smash hit put dollar signs in Square’s eyes, which resulted in spin-offs like FF VII: Dirge of Cerberus (PS2), FF VII: Crisis Core (PSP), and FF VII: Advent Children, a CGI movie that is a direct sequel to the game. FF VII fans have clamored for a remake seemingly forever, but Square has given reasons why that may not happen. Still, FF VII remains one of the PlayStation’s finest, and one of the most important games of all time.
The classic SNES RPG that’s the brainchild of Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy), Horii (Dragon Quest), and Toriyama (Dragon Ball) sees you play as a young boy named Chrono who finds himself time traveling through many eras thanks to a series of unfortunate events. You meet many companions along the way who become party members, including one of the main enemies whom, if your actions line up in the correct fashion, will join your team giving you the power of one of the most powerful dark mages that history has ever known. This time-tripping and story flexibility, along with the charming characters and revamped Active Time Battle 2.0 system, made it an instant hit upon its 1995 release.
The PlayStation port’s in-game graphics aren’t dramatically different from the SNES version’s, but new cut scenes that come courtesy of monster animation studio TOEI demonstrates the power of Sony’s console. The Active Time Battle system 2.0, unfortunately, suffers a few glitches in the transition; you have to quickly choose your actions quickly due to the fact that enemies don’t adhere to the “turn based” aspect of the fight and continually attack until you make your selections.
Still, Chrono Trigger on PlayStation means playing the game with a new controller, which is beneficial. The extra buttons let gamers program quick commands and toggle though characters and attacks with greater efficiency. All in all, this is a great game that I still revisit often due to the fact that I’ve yet to see all of the games various endings–a whopping 13 in total!.
Say the words “survival horror” to any gamer and one franchise comes to mind: Resident Evil. Though the original 1996 game features cheesy dialogue (who could forget the Jill sandwich?) and locked camera angles that make it hard to see what’s lurking, this title is a brilliant starting point for a series that exploded into a multimedia dynamo.
Resident Evil features two playable characters: Jill Valentine, the master lock picker, and Chris Redfield, the sharpshooter. Both are members of S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Squad, an elite squad within the Raccoon City Police Department. They head into the mountains in search of the lost Bravo Team and that’s where the dark story unfolds. Playing as either character offers its own distinctive advantages, but Jill’s lockpicks are a far better plus. Walking a narrow, far-too-quiet hallway only to have a zombified dog burst through a window is still a scare point.
Nothing’s safe from infection: dogs, people, and even plants want to tear you apart and hinder you from reaching the next save point. Oh, and let’s not forget the save points. You preserve your game by using ink ribbons with typewriters scattered throughout the environment, and let me just tell you, those ink ribbons are almost as scarce as the ammo that you need to conserve for dire situations.
This makes Resident Evil outshine its two PlayStation sequels. You need all of your wit to survive as you have very limited items and ammo. Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis practically hand you stronger and more potent weapons to help sweep through the game, rendering weapons like the knife virtually useless. The first Resident Evil‘s problem-solving and item hunting is quite arduous at time, but still builds for a thrilling and spine-tingling adventure.
Unlike Resident Evil, you aren’t a cop, merc, soldier, or anyone with combat experience. You’re just an everyday civilian, Harry Mason, who finds himself in a hellish descent into the nightmare world of Silent Hill.
Mason enters the mysterious town after he wakes from a horrific car accident that results in his daughter going M.I.A. In his search for her, Mason encounters some of the most horrific monsters to ever appear in video game form. Konami never designed the game so that you never fell as though you can dominate enemies. When you find a weapon, you also find enemies; when you get a gun, the enemies get bigger and vastly more dangerous (the most memorable of which being the faceless nurses or the dreaded Pyramid Head).
Based on the actions you take, the game offers five different endings, one of which is a complete joke ending in which you are [[SPOILERS!]] abducted by aliens.
Many PS1 fighters could’ve claimed this position, but the one that left the biggest impact on me in 1998 was Tekken 3 as it’s the first game in the Tekken series to allow 3-dimensional movement. The benefit? It enables gamers to position their fighters for tactical advantage. Plus, it has a deep and varied roster representing many fighting styles.
What I enjoy most about Tekken 3 is the Tekken Force mini-game, which is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up that offers you the freedom to use all of your grab and combo attacks unique to each character. The benefits of playing this mode, minus the hidden character you can unlock, is that it delves deeper into Tekken storylines. Tekken 3, with over 23 different characters to choose from, is one of the best fighting games on the platform.
You play as the ultra-sexy English-born archaeologist Lara Croft, a treasure hunter who scours the earth for rare and priceless artifacts. The classy Indiana Jones type is also quite proficient with firearms; she dual-wields just about every gun available and has an almost limitless supply of ammo at her disposal.
Those guns come in handy because, of course, there are obstacles that only bullets can eliminate. These include everything from a uzi-wielding kid on a skateboard hired as a bodyguard by a multi-million dollar business tycoon to Velociraptors hidden away in an ancient untouched tomb.
The original Tomb Raider reigns over two sequels for a variety of reasons, but mostly because the artifact Lara Croft hunts in the first game is an item of unlimited power that can destroy the world if it falls in the wrong hands. The sequels lack that feeling of cataclysmic peril, though the artifacts that Lara hunts do have interesting back stories. The franchise would see a Hollywood film adaptation starring her real-life doppledanger Angeline Jolie, and an upcoming reboot that downplays Lara’s sexiness and ups the grit.
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage
Sometimes you need a little simplicity in your gaming. You play as Spyro in this 1999 game, a young dragon who must do battle though the three realms of Avalar to rescue his fellow elder dragons and undo the magical havoc that an evil sorcerer named Ripto has unleashed upon the land. Easy, right?
The plot is simple, but the levels get progressively harder. Fortunately, there are plenty of characters to meet along the way who aid Spyro in his quest and grant him new abilities like swimming, climbing ladders, and a super head bash attack. This separates Spyro 2 from the original, which limits your abilities, travels, and character interactions.
PaRappa the Rapper
Before Rock Band turned an entire generation into video game karaoke stars, there was a simple rapping dog with a motto of “I gotta believe!” PaRappa the Rapper isn’t remembered for its complexity, but rather its unique look and insanely catchy music.
The premise is cliché, but still cute nonetheless: PaRappa has a crush on a literal flower girl named named Sunny, but becomes intimated and insecure by the arrival of a dog named Joe Chin who tries to steal Sunny’s affection. PaRappa sets out on adventures to impress Sunny; adventures that require you to rap battle your way through tasks such as taking drivers ed to get a licence, or watching a cooking show to bake a cake for Sunny. You do this by pressing buttons in time with onscreen prompts.
It is a simple concept, or so you would think. The game can be very difficult if you aren’t nimble. All in all, PaRappa the Rapper‘s a highly underrated music game that’s worth a pick up.
Metal Gear Solid
And last, the Hideo Kojima game that changed everything. The title features three simple words that when said together, speak the name of a game that literally altered my perception of what a video game could be.
Metal Gear Solid follows the almost impossibly heroic stealth-based exploits of a man codenamed Solid Snake who’s sent into Shadow Moses alone — with only the aid of his two-way codec radio that links him to Foxhound — to take down a terrorist organization that threatens the world with a walking robo-dino that can fire nukes.
Unlike most other titles, Metal Gear Solid relies more on strategy and foresight than fire fights; knocking out a guard with a tranquilizer dart and stashing him out of sight is far more effective than hand-to-hand combat, as you have to deal with a damn near endless army of henchmen when spotted.
Boss fights require insane amount of cunning, especially when facing off against an enemy named Psycho Mantis who has the ability to read Solid Snake’s mind. As a result, he can dodge and counter every attack you throw at him — unless you pop the controller into the second slot, which would throw him off and make your movements untraceable.
This slick gameplay design would grow by leaps and bounds in several sequels that tap the world of conspiracy and political intrigue.