Top 10 PS1 games to celebrate PlayStation's birthday

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20 years, 6 consoles, and thousands of games. Barring Nintendo, PlayStation is the biggest gaming company in the world. With the PlayStation 4 coming into the height its life cycle, and selling like no console before, the PlayStation brand is bigger than ever.

So, why not take a trip down memory lane and celebrate what came before? Over the next 5 weeks, we will be counting down the best PlayStation games on every console, including PSP and PS Vita. So remember to check back next week for the PS2 countdown!

Today, we are looking at the very best games for the original PlayStation. By now it's fairly common knowledge that before the PlayStation existed, Sony and Nintendo had a deal in place to develop a console together. Nintendo decided to leave Sony hanging high and dry and partner with Phillips instead, prompting the Japanese technological behemoth to make its own console - a decision that seems to haunt Nintendo to this day.

The original PlayStation was an amazing console that introduced a lot of western gamers to Japanese RPGs, something the brand is now synonymous with. It also represented a more mature gaming platform that appealed to adults in a way Nintendo did not.

While the N64 was a great system with even better games, it was vastly overshadowed by the PS1. For many, the PS1 proved that games were not always going to be platformers with cute mascots.

10. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Often considered the best PS1 game, as quoted by many in the industry and the EGM 100 Greatest Games of All-Time (where it ranks 12th overall), Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a work of genius that helped spawn a genre.

Created by Koji Igarashi, Symphony of the Night is an action-adventure platformer that turns you into Dracula's half human son, Alucard. The game, along with Super Metroid, introduced a non-linear style of gameplay and RPG elements, creating a genre known as MetroidVania games.

Unfortunately, Konami hasn't handled the Castlevania IP very well in the past decade. The last game in the series was Castlevania: Lords of Shadows, a game that received middling reviews and effectively put the series on hold. Due to the mishandling of the property, Igarashi has since taken to Kickstarter and gotten a spiritual successor to the original games funded. His next game, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is set for release in March 2017.

The good news is you can still play Symphony of the Night as a PS1 Classic on your PS3 or PS Vita. This is one classic that everyone should play!

9. Street Fighter Alpha 3

Arguably the best fighting game on the PS1, Street Fighter Alpha 3 was a tour de force on the fight scene. This marked the first time that a Street Fighter game was best on the PlayStation, as the previous entries had been superior on Sega systems. IGN's 1999 review of the game said:

"The best 2D fighter just made its better-than-arcade-perfect landing on PlayStation."

Alpha 3 featured a bigger-than-ever roster of fighters, deeper gameplay, and new modes that gave the game far more replay value - not to mention the awesome Bruce Lee-inspired Fei Long.

While some people prefer Alpha 2, Alpha 3 is the bigger, deeper, better-looking game that gave fans so much more. Fighting games were uber-popular in the mid to late '90s, and this is definitely one of the best.

8. Gran Turismo 2

Gran Turismo 2 was the sequel to the PlayStation mega-hit and biggest racing game ever (at the time). While the sequel didn't sell as many copies as its predecessor, it was still a massively well-received game, commercially and critically.

Gran Turismo is a simulator racing series, and by far Sony's biggest-selling franchise. That's a fact that may surprise some people, but the series has sold over 70 million copies, putting it ahead of the 2nd biggest, Crash Bandicoot, at 50 million. Quite simply, Gran Turismo is Sony's crown jewel, and the biggest racing series of all time.

Gran Turismo 2 packed in everything the first game had to offer, and added so much more. GT2 boasts well over 500 cars, 27 tracks (49 counting mirrors and night-time), rally racing, a robust soundtrack, and even tighter gameplay. Many would argue whether the original or the sequel is a superior game, but the truth is, both are phenomenal and unrivaled for their time.

7. Metal Gear Solid

Ah, Metal Gear. Of course we're all still simultaneously reeling from the Konami/Kojima split and drunk on Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, so it's perfect timing that we take a look back at the game that (essentially) started it all.

Released in 1998, Metal Gear Solid on PS1 was the console's biggest selling point for a lot of people. Sure, it had seen some great games previously, but this was one of the first times we saw what games could really be.

For almost 20 years, platformers dominated video games - so much so that Mario and Sonic are still the biggest gaming mascots by a landslide. But suddenly, Metal Gear Solid arrived and gave us a glimpse of the future - a mature, gritty, weird, awesome future.

Not only did Metal Gear Solid show us a serious side to gaming, it also popularized the stealth genre, revolutionized gameplay (especially boss fights), and put Hideo Kojima on the map. It's hard to overstate just how big of a deal Metal Gear Solid was for both Konami and PlayStation, but it also defined the PS1 system and inspired a generation of gamers and developers. Kudos, Kojima. Kudos.

6. Chrono Cross

Many would argue that Chrono Trigger is the better game, and certainly I would say it's far better known than its sequel, but we won't be debating that. No, we're here to celebrate the great game known as Chrono Cross.

With a deep plot about parallel worlds and body switching, Chrono Cross didn't rest on the laurels of the first game, and instead completely changed the formula. Rarely do games tackle such complex plots, especially in 1999. But Chrono Cross didn't back down, and the protagonist and antagonist switched bodies, which was so creative at the time it was one of the reasons it was so well-received.

Additionally, Chrono Cross had some of the best visuals of its time and a really great battle system that many subsequent games have adopted. Unlike most RPGs of the time, Chrono Cross removed random encounter battles and allowed you to run from enemies. This was a feature in its predecessor, but perfected here. If you've never played it and want a comparison, think of Ni No Kuni, but deeper and with no random encounters.

Final Fantasy VII might be the PS1 RPG that everyone remembers, but Chrono Cross might just be the best.

5. Final Fantasy IX

Speaking of Final Fantasy, this probably isn't the installment you were expecting to see. While VII is the game that is seemingly remembered most fondly, as well as the most talked about these days, it's Final Fantasy IX that holds the highest rating (of any FF game) on Metacritic.

IX took a more classic Final Fantasy approach to the game design by simplifying the ability system compared to VII and VIII. While the story was considered a bit too familiar and safe, the visuals and translation were amazing, the gamplay as solid as previous installments, and the game had a huge well of secrets to be discovered.

As is often the case with Final Fantasy games, IX was scrutinized upon release, but became a fan favorite over time. FFIX had the weight of the gaming world on its shoulders after following two of the best games of the generation, but it more than met the challenge to become the best Final Fantasy on the PS1.

4. ISS Pro Evolution

Some of you may not know this, but Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series was a huge competitor with FIFA back in the day. Since the PS3/360 days, FIFA has been the undeniable champion of football games, but before that, the market and mind share was much more even.

When ISS Pro Evolution released in 1999, it was widely recognized as the best football game ever made - a claim endorsed by Play Magazine, Official PlayStation Magazine, Computer and Video Games Magazine, and more. The gameplay was great, the graphics crisp, and the attention to detail startling. It marked the first time club teams could be played with and the player/team/stadium editor was unique for a football game.

The biggest addition to the series was that of the Master League, a feature which exists to this day and pits the best teams in Europe against each other. Konami has always had a hard time licensing the teams and players, considering FIFA owns it all, and this is definitely more of a glaring issue now than it was 16 years ago. Back then, gameplay was king and photorealism was less of an issue, a fact that surely helped ISS Pro Evolution reach the heights it did.

3. Gran Turismo

It's hardly surprising that the PlayStation's biggest series makes this list twice. Despite Gran Turismo 2 packing so much more into the game, it's the original that sold more and got slightly better reviews.

The game that started it all was, at the time, leaps and bounds ahead of every other racing game. Gameplay-wise, Gran Turismo still has no real rival. The precise handling of each car as well as the ingenious drivers licenses meant GT offered a more complete package than any racing game before it.

While it might not look so hot today, Gran Turismo has always been known for its cutting-edge, often incomparable, graphics - and the original was no exception at the time, winning various awards for its looks. Considering the legacy of this game, it's no surprise that it fits in the top 3, let alone the top 10.

2. Tekken 3

Tekken 3 is the best fighting game on the PlayStation and the second best of all-time, behind Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast (which was closely developed with Tekken 3). When it was released, Tekken 3 was the first game to receive a 10 from EGM under its new review system. Gamespot scored it 9.9, saying:

"Needless to say, Tekken 3 is the best PlayStation game to come along in a long time, and this one won't be topped anytime soon."

Tekken 3 used a new system board, meaning it had significantly better graphics and character models than the previous two games. Indeed, Tekken 3 is easily one of the prettiest PS1 games. On top of this, the game featured new modes, faster gameplay and 15 new characters - including Bryan Fury, Eddy Gordo, Julia Chang, Forest Law, and my personal favorite Hwoarang.

The fighting genre has seen something of a resurgence recently, with Mortal Kombat X reviewing and selling incredibly well, Killer Instinct's resurrection, PS4 exclusive Street Fighter V getting great buzz, and Tekken 7 (arcade) being very well-received in Japan. This is all very exciting for the future of the genre, but let's not forget what made them great in the first place: simplicity and awesome gameplay.

Before we unveil the #1 spot, here are some honorable mentions:
  • Tomb Raider
  • Resident Evil 1-3
  • MediEvil
  • Twisted Metal
  • WWF: Attitude
  • Wipeout XL
  • Driver
  • Grandia
  • Spider-Man
  • Silent Hill
  • Final Fantasy VII
1. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Was there ever any doubt? Well, I'm sure some of you are surprised - especially younger readers who don't hold the skating genre or the Tony Hawk series in high regard. However, on the PS1 and PS2, the Tony Hawk games were among the very best the consoles had to offer. Perhaps most telling is the fact that THPS2 is the second-highest rated game ever on Metacritic, just behind The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

The reason the first few TH games were so widely praised and beloved was due to the fact that they offered a pure skating experience. The subsequent games opted for a more GTA-inspired approach, which meant a juvenile story, breaking everything, and (worst of all) getting off of your board. Personally, I enjoyed Thug 1 & 2, as well as American Wasteland, but they definitely took away the sheer simplicity of skating and performing tricks that the first games gave you.

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is widely considered one of the greatest games ever made. The fact that it is a skateboarding game is unimportant. This represented the best in level design and pure gameplay brilliance that the PS1 had to offer.

And that wraps up the very best of the best on PS1. I'm sure there were a few surprises in there, but bear in mind that they are the best games as per Metacritic ratings. I'll admit, I'm a little disappointed that Spider-Man wasn't on there (I'm still campaigning for a PSN Classic version). However, the quality of these games is undeniable.

The PS1 was a breath of fresh air for many gamers. It showed us that games could be mature, innovative, and emotive. These tenets were represented in the bastion of amazing titles on the console. Furthermore, the PS1 introduced a ton of western gamers to JRPGs, which rarely left Japan or fell into obscurity on the NES/SNES beforehand. So, next time you turn on your PS4, just take a second to remember where it all began. Wherever, Whenever, Forever.

What were your favorite PS1 games? Are you shocked by any games on the list? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back next week for the Top 10 PS2 Games, only on GameSkinny!

Published Sep. 5th 2015

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