The Top 10 Essential Games for the Sony PlayStation (PS1)

The Playstation’s (PS1) release shook the gaming establish unlike any console that had previously come on the scene, and it produced a stable of games that are still classics by today’s standards and are perhaps best-of-all-time examples of what the industry has to offer.

Keep in mind that the system is literally brimming with high-quality, amazing titles and this list represents only a small portion of the total treasure trove. Here are the 10 top PSX games according to our tastes:

10. Resident Evil 2

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Why the sequel to Capcom’s name-brand horror series and not the first entry itself? Ask anyone who has played Resident Evil 2 (also known as Biohazard in Japan) and they will tell you that it is one of the most epic experiences any gamer can have on any console from the PSX era.

Originally conceived as an entirely different game, the Resident Evil 2 that was finally delivered to market ended up becoming a complete master class in how to do a sequel: Everything bigger, everything better, to put it succinctly.

Like the first game, RE2 gave the player the option to choose between two different player characters, Claire Redfield, sister of RE1’s Chris Redfield, and Leon Kennedy, another STARS agent who went on to become the star in Resident Evil 4.

The game takes place immediately following the events of the first game at Spencer Mansion with the nearby Raccoon City having now succumbed to the plague released at the conclusion of RE1. Infested with zombies, the city provides a much more varied and epic landscape than the mansion from the first game all the while reimagining key features and tropes introduced in that entry.

Everything is familiar but bigger and the setting helps create a much more epic experience. Tasked with escaping a zombie-riddled city while simultaneously unraveling the mystery behind the world’s most malevolent corporation this side of Weyland-Yutani, and you have one of the best games of all time on your hands.

9. Gran Turismo 2

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One aspect you might notice about this list is the recurrence of sequels – sequels to series that were established on the PSX for the most part, but sequels nonetheless. Gran Turismo 2, like Resident Evil 2 above, improved upon its predecessor in every way.

Beautiful graphics, a varied model lineup, and enough simulated gameplay to whet any racing fan’s appetite, Gran Turismo 2 pushed the PSX to its max and capitalized on the success of its predecessor in every way to go on to become one of the premier names in racing games.

8. Twisted Metal 3

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Twisted Metal brought Mario Kart style combat to the PSX but with a twist: Rather than cutesy characters with somewhat innocuous weapons, Twisted Metal introduced the gaming world to insane creations with psychotics bents and murderous ways.

Some of the characters were sympathetic, others were not, and some were downright iconic. If you are looking for a game that embodies the early years on the PSX, the Twisted Metal series throughout its run on the PSX never lost this spirit.

7. Silent Hill

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Konami’s answer to Resident Evil’s B-movie horror romp Resident Evil, Silent Hill is really its own creature entirely.

Made iconic in a film that brought the titular town to the awareness of the wider world, Silent Hill explores common horror tropes overlaced with deeply psychological themes and a haunting soundtrack that sticks with players long after they have completed the game.

6. Tekken 3

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The second sequel to Tekken, one of the most anticipated games on the Playstation before its release, is a master study in executing arcade-style graphics on a system whose power may not be up to the task.

Noted at the time for its near arcade-perfect execution, Tekken 3 in many ways signaled the end of said gaming venues – without the need for arcade cabinets with vastly powerful chipsets, gamers could have the same experience on a console at home. Tekken 3 was the first evidence of this transition, and later games like Soul Calibur 2 for the Sega Dreamcast were the final nails in the coffin for the beloved American arcade.

5. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver

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An action-adventure game with role playing elements may not stand out in today’s crowded field of games, but during the PSX era Legacy of Kain was not only unique, it was amazing. The story was dark and memorable, with well-developed characters and detailed backstories that made the world that much more alive.

One of the many games on this list gamers today should experience, Legacy of Kain showed the nascent beginnings of gameplay tropes that are commonplace today.

4. Final Fantasy VII

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Square’s reason for leaving Nintendo in the dust, Final Fantasy VII was a cinematic experience that is considered by many JRPG fans to be one of the best games of all time. Enjoyed for its quirky, epic story and ridiculous, over-the-top characters, Final Fantasy VII stayed with gamers long after its release.

A complete sensation when it came to American shores, Final Fantasy VII took the JRPG genre to new heights and led to the PSX’s dominance in this area. Few systems before or since have had so many high-quality JRPG games released and gamers can thank Final Fantasy VII for this flood.

3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2

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The only sports game on this list unless you count Gran Turismo 2, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, like many other sequels on this list, took everything great about the first game and amp’ed it up for the sequel. In fact, this game was so widely praised, its sequel, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, went on to become one of the most highly rated games on MetaCritic of all time.

Placed in the role of a skateboarder and performing stunts, tricks, and racing in different venues around the globe, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 took what was a niche sport for many years and placed it in the mainstream zeitgeist for the next decade. Not only is Tony Hawk the name in skating video games, in many ways it has become the Madden of the genre, for good or ill.

2. Metal Gear Solid

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Konami’s dominance of the PSX’s masterpieces list should come as no surprise to anyone that followed the game company’s trajectory during previous consoles. Its games were always more adult, its storylines always a tad more epic, and its approach to the industry just a little bit more edgy than its competition. Many of its games felt like they wanted to mix movies and gaming but did not have the technology available to do so.

The Playstation gave them the technology they needed to do just that and it gave us one of the best games ever made – Metal Gear Solid. Hideo Kojima’s genre-defining masterpiece was originally planned for the ill-fated 3DO system and then transferred to Sony’s then-unknown-quantity: the Playstation.

Featuring voice acting, fourth-wall-breaking gameplay elements, and an epic soundtrack to accompany an equally engaging storyline involving high-stakes international conflict, Metal Gear Solid executed its game plan flawlessly on every level. If you have never experienced this game, you need to do so today.

1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is the marriage of the best of the 16-bit era before the PSX, and the power that came with the new console.

Beautiful graphics, extended, remixed, and inverted gameplay modes that provided endless replay value, a combat system second to none, and an entry in the story of a long-running series that provided more backdrop and fleshed out more of its previous entries than any Castlevania game before or since.

While associated with the Playstation, the game has gone on to become a canon requirement among the classics of video gaming.

Honorable Mentions:
Parappa the Rapper

This game anticipated the rhythm genre crazy that came with the Guitar Hero series but is still such a quirky, odd game that it needs mentioning. Featuring strange yet beautiful graphics that mimic a Nicktoons Saturday morning cartoon, Parappa the Rapper puts you in control of the title named rapper as he progresses through his career.

An interesting time capsule and a worthy game even by today’s standards, Parappa the Rapper both symbolizes the PSX’s bold approach to gaming as well as the fusion of approaches many genres were beginning to take – a move that is not only common but expected now.

Crash Bandicoot

The Playstation’s platforming star, Crash Bandicoot is a platformer that does everything right and few things wrong. Recently re-released, gamers today can re-experience this classic from the PSX era with all of its quirks intact.

Suikoden II

Konami’s sprawling JRPG that placed gamers in command of large armies and star-fated characters, Suikoden II is what you get if you take the best of JRPG’s and tactical strategy games and mix them with a deep storyline and a cast of characters that would make a soap opera blush. Try this game out if you’re a fan of JRPG’s – there are few better than it.