In 1994, the 16 bit wars between Nintendo’s Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and the Sega Genesis had reached its zenith. But it was also when the 16-bit era was coming to a close, as 32-bit consoles were rising in popularity. By this time, the fifth generation of video game consoles had already started with the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer and the Atari Jaguar. Sega itself was set to debut its Sega Saturn by November of 1994 while Nintendo was skipping the 32-bit hardware and moving forward with the Nintendo 64. However, one company would come out of nowhere and dominate the 32-bit console industry: Sony. The Sony Playstation 1 (also called the PSX) would be the undisputed champ in this era.
Interestingly, both Nintendo and Sega had the opportunity of working with Sony, but due to various factors, Sony would move toward building its own console. Those circumstances and the story behind them would be great to explore in detail, but not in this article. Instead, we are looking at the key element that make video game consoles great - that is, the outstanding games that you can play on them.
That Sony was able to thrive in an industry as a novice and completely lord over the competition is no mean feat. The Sony Playstation managed to draw the most popular and prolific third-party developers of this era to create games on the brand new console. Capcom, Konami, Electronic Arts, Squaresoft, and many famed brand names in the video game industry flocked to the Sony Playstation, creating one of the most impressive libraries ever.
This is the Xfire list of the 20 greatest Playstation 1/ PSX games of all time!
What Do We Base Our Rankings On?
Our team of gaming experts and journalists follows a set standard for these lists of greatest games in every major console. The parameters are:
- Only Sony Playstation 1 or PSX games. No Japan or European only exclusives. If it has both an NTSC and a PAL release, that counts. Basically, the aim for this parameter is to ensure the games selected are available to the widest range of audiences. We will, however, look at these regional exclusives and rank them in a separate list.
- We do not look at historical sales records. That may seem like an odd factor to eliminate, but sales do not necessarily make a game great. It often just means the game was hyped and marketed heavily. Consider this: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Electronic Arts, 2001) outsold Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2, and Tomb Raider. Let that sink in.
- Only one entry in a series for each gaming genre. The Sony Playstation was the host for a large number of popular titles as well as their sequels. Tomb Raider had as many as FIVE from 1996 to 2000 that appeared on the platform! Note that properties with multiple genres can have more than one entry. Crash Bandicoot and Crash Team Racing, for instance, are based on the same brand, but are different genres.
- We limited the list to 20 games. We could easily have gone up to 50 and it would still be scratching the surface of the Sony Playstation’s library of 1,300 game titles for the North American market (and over 7,000 overall). But we may post an updated list at a later date.
- WE PLAYED THE GAMES. This is the most important part. We did not rely on nostalgia or past memories alone in determining the entries in this list. In fact, we gave no value to any nostalgia with the scores. We also compared the games to similar ones that have been released since their first debut. After all, if it cannot stack up to the games today, then it would not be fit in a list of the greatest. And we struck down looking at reviews from other sources. We were doing this legit (so some of the team played these games for the very first time).
- On that note, the games are rated as they are presented in their original form. Remasters and remakes are not considered when chosen and played by the panel. The games here should have a timeless quality, with high marks on such categories as control, design, fun factor, graphics, replayability, sound, and overall presentation.
After a multitude of hours playing, comparing notes, debating, fighting, a ton of expletives and good-natured heckling, and finally voting, Xfire presents the 20 greatest Sony Playstation games of all time.
A word of warning: Expect some unexpected, and even shocking, results along the way!
Greatest Playstation 1 Games (from least great to greatest)
Mega Man Legends 2 (Capcom, 2000)
Capcom experimented with Mega Man before, subverting expectations through games like Mega Man Soccer (SNES 1994) and Mega Man: the Power Battle (Arcade 1995). But an action RPG hybrid was new territory that could be explored and that is exactly what Capcom did with the Mega Man Legends series. Although the first was good, Megaman Legends 2 was the superior of the two entries that appeared on the Sony Playstation 1 thanks to smoother controls, cleaner graphics, and a more fleshed out story.
In Mega Man Legends 2, players take control of Mega Man Volnutt. Unlike the Mega Man X series which was a direct sequel to the original Mega Man, the game and characters are set in a different universe and continuity, but the basic premise of Mega Man being an intelligent robot that has a pure heart remains in place. The storyline is also quite darker than what most fans are used to, with Volnutt having a shady past as a Purifier.
Gameplay-wise, the Mega Man Legends series breaks off from the sides-crolling action and instead has Mega Man being able to move and interact in a 3D environment. Mega Man uses a lock-on feature, enabling you to target and shoot at enemies directly in front. Mega Man is also able to kick and lift objects and enemies. And whereas the original Mega Man collected weapons from defeating Robot Masters, here you can upgrade parts such as Mega Man’s helmet, armor, and arm cannon as upgrades become available.
One point that is often missed when talking about Mega Man Legends 2 is how good the graphics are. Series creator Keiji Inafune and the team did an impressive job milking the Playstation 1 capabilities for all its worth. Mega Man Legends 2’s in-game graphics look like they’re from an early Playstation 2 or a GameCube game of that era. That is not a small achievement.
Unlike some odd attempts at expanding the Mega Man franchise (like Mega Man Soccer), these new approaches were a welcome change of pace and it remains a fun alternate reality adventure of the Blue Bomber. Perhaps the only downside to Mega Man Legends 2 is that it ends on a cliffhanger that, as of this date, remains unresolved. The planned Mega Man Legends 3 has been quietly abandoned.
Wipeout XL (Psygnosis, 1996)
The SNES had F-Zero as the sci-fi racing game that encapsulated what players expect. Physics-defying velocity, high octane music, and frenetic gameplay were the hallmarks of these games. For the Sony Playstation 1, that crown would be with the Wipeout series. Of the three entries that was released on the console, Wipeout XL (also known as Wipeout 2097) narrowly edges out its brethren.
The first Wipeout was set in the year 2052. It set the standards for the Wipeout games to follow with its high speed races and challenging tracks. Wipeout XL improved on these standards, having better controls with an increased emphasis on turning. Using air breaks is critical with making key left or right turns to keep yourself at pace and avoid flying off the track. With competitors also able to use weapons, this added a level of skill and spatial awareness to keep the game fresh.
In addition, Wipeout XL continued the trend of having a great soundtrack. With tracks performed by such talents as The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers, Wipeout XL had some of the best music in any Sony Playstation game of its time.
Vagrant Story (Square, 2000)
Vagrant Story is the closest the Sony Playstation 1 had to a game like Legend of Zelda. That may seem like an oversimplification, but not inaccurate. Moreover, that comparison is a credit to how good Vagrant Story is. And with the same team that developed Final Fantasy Tactics headed by Yasumi Matsuno, the game had a high-quality pedigree to build with.
In Vagrant Story, you play as Ashley Riot, exploring the ruins of Leá Monde, a city in the kingdom of Valendia. Vagrant Story takes an uncommon approach to action adventure roleplaying. For one thing, there are no shops to speak of. All the weapons and equipment in Vagrant Story are crafted in designated areas found in the map. Ashley can collect various materials and elements for crafting by defeating enemies. The affinity mechanic with crafted equipment allows the player to take advantage of weaknesses and strengths against certain types of enemies and their attacks. Later on, you can also combine different weapons and armor to produce new ones. Another unique feature of Vagrant Story is the actual combat.
By entering the Battle Mode, you can target different areas on an enemy’s body. This opens up chaining attacks that creates combos that deal more damage or produce other effects. Another battle feature unique to Vagrant Story is the Risk system. Attacking increases Risk, but it is a double-edged sword. The higher the Risk level, the lower Ashley’s defenses get, but it also raises the chance of a critical hit.
Vagrant Story takes several new approaches to the action RPG genre that would later be emulated by later games such as Monster Hunter and Dark Souls. It is really an underrated gem.
Crash Team Racing (Naughty Dog/Sony, 1999)
Let’s get this point out of the way: Crash Team Racing (often shortened to CTR) is a blatant attempt at cashing in the popularity from Nintendo’s Mario Kart games. There is no denying that. But Crash Team Racing accomplishes that goal quite well, creating its own distinct flavor and personality.
In the game, Crash Bandicoot and an assortment of other characters from his game franchise are racing to save the Earth from the game’s extraterrestrial bad guy, Nitros Oxide. This is the first appearance of the villain and the first element that separates it from the Mario Kart games. There is actually a plot and rationale for why the heroes and villains in Crash Bandicoot’s world would be racing against each other, beyond just as a recreation.
In terms of gameplay, Crash Team Racing adds a wrinkle to the tried and tested combat mechanics for console kart racing. There are multiple maneuvers and items that players can use, which is why CTR is best enjoyed using controllers with the Playstation analog stick. One of these maneuvers is the power slide, which triggers the Turbo Boost meter when performed correctly. This can quickly change the rankings during a race, so it is critical to master. With 5 racing modes (Adventure, Arcade, Battle, Time Trial, and Versus), players have a lot of variety, especially when you add in a Playstation multitap to have up to 4 human controlled racers.
And then there are the unlockable content. 3 multiplayer arenas and 6 secret characters can be unlocked by accomplishing solo play tasks (usually getting 1st place in different Cups and modes). Crash Team Racing did so many things well and remains one of the best combat kart racing games today.
NBA Live 2000 (EA Sports, 1999)
EA Sports’ long-running NBA Live title and its sequels always offer a solid gameplay experience. If one wants great games that capture the action and intense play-by-play of the number one basketball league in the world, NBA Live is the best at delivering these. But with 8 titles to choose from, starting from NBA Live 96 to NBA Live 2003, which one is the undisputed champ? Arguably, that glory belongs to NBA Live 2000.
While later titles improve on some things here and there, NBA Live 2000 is the total package. Mainly because it focuses on the fun aspects of basketball console games. Sure, the physics engine is not perfect and the A.I. can sometimes make unwise decisions (bad if it’s the A.I. on your team), the downsides are few and far in-between. On that note, you can truly appreciate that the computer opponents will have an equal level of making shots as your players do. Setting the difficulty higher affects how fast the computer reacts and makes defensive choices, but you are still on an even ground when it comes to shot percentage.
Defense is key here, as this was a time when the NBA was more physical and hand-checks are completely allowed. Unlike the current NBA where 3-pointers are more common, new players might have to make adjustments. But the simulation of the options available through the keymapped button presses is intuitive.
NBA Live 2000 also does well with the game mode choices, some of which debuted right here. Aside from the standard exhibition mode, full season, and playoffs modes you can also choose 1-on-1 mode, practice mode, 3-point shootout, and NBA Legends modes. The NBA Legends is very cool, as it brings NBA superstars from the 1950s through the 1990s. For the first time, players could finally settle which championship team from one era could have dominated the current (at the time) rosters.
And, of course, we cannot forget one of the most important additions to the NBA Live franchise with the release of the 2000 iteration. Two words: Michael Jordan. NBA Live 2000 was the very first time His Airness became available for play and to play against. There is just something special about the addition of the G.O.A.T. in the roster, even if you can only play with him on a Legends team or go on a one-on-one game of street ball. It took many years, due to Jordan’s licensing agreements, but Electronic Arts managed to secure it for the first time. And it was well worth it!
Front Mission 3 (Square, 2000)
One of the lesser known franchises under Square, the turn-based roleplaying strategy game Front Mission has a massive cult following. And quite unlike its franchise siblings like Final Fantasy or Seiken Densetsu (aka the Mana series), Front Mission focuses on high technology, through the use of the main units in the game, the giant robot mecha suits called Wanzers. What is interesting to note is that an official North American version of the games would not arrive until Front Mission 3 (which is the fifth in the entire series, including spinoffs), particularly with the popularity of properties like Transformers and Gundam already high in the mid-1990s.
Front Mission 3 offers a lot of the usual gameplay elements in a tactical, turn-based game. However, it shifts the emphasis from the nuances of the combat itself to being more of a hybrid RPG. There are more character interactions and moments in Front Mission 3 than in prior entries. However, it did open up the narrative for creative options, which in this case is creating two separate stories. Both stories are distinct, though it does follow a similar progression for the locations. These stories essentially doubles the playability, as there are different characters, plot elements, and ending for each path.
Where Front Mission 3 truly shines is the customization. Wanzers can have different parts and weapons mixed to form custom builds, but it all has to be balanced. Loading up a Wanzer with the best of everything isn’t possible due to the limits of engine power vs. weight ratio. And then there are skills to consider, as pilots do not learn skills by themselves, but instead dependent on what the Wanzer can teach.
Crash Bandicoot: Warped (Naughty Dog/Sony, 1998)
Crash Bandicoot: Warped (aka Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped in the European release), is arguably the best of the Crash Bandicoot series on the Playstation 1. We find Crash pitted against Doctor Neo Cortex once more, as the villain teams up with Uka Uka and Doctor Nefarious Tropy on a time traveling heist to collect special crystals and gems. Sounds vaguely like the Avengers: Endgame plot, if you ask us!
This time, you play as both Crash and Coco Bandicoot, depending on the stage of the game. Taking the familiar elements of the previous Crash Bandicoot games, you can run, jump, spin, and stomp your way through the various platforming levels, destroying boxes that contain power-ups and fruits. Although you don’t need to find and collect all of them, there is a completion mechanic in the game which takes into account all the. Get a 105% completion and you can find a special scene at the end.
While the previous Crash Bandicoot games were good, Crash Bandicoot: Warped truly showed a growth and improvement that honors its earlier entries. The graphics are clean, the controls are smooth, and the variety in the regular and bonus levels all make this the true gem of the bunch.
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature (Natsume, 2000)
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature is the Playstation 1 version of another game, the N64’s Harvest Moon 64. Although the gameplay and the look are very similar, there are some modifications that separate the two. For one thing, the characters have slightly different dialogue, personalities, and even occupations between the two games. For instance, perennial favorite Elli owns a bakery in Harvest Moon 64, but in Back to Nature, she’s a nurse at the local hospital.
As expected with the Harvest Moon games, you are the inheritor of an old farm that has seen better days. However, in this game, you have a time limit of 3 years. At the end of that period, the mayor will evaluate the overall performance and decide whether you are doing well enough to continue running the farm. That additional gameplay element gives a little bit of pressure which is good for keeping the players on their toes while still managing to develop relationships with the townsfolk.
And on that note, what Harvest Moon game would be complete without the dating and marriage element? In Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, you get up to five possible romances from the quiet and academic Mary, the caring Elli, hardworking Ann, bubbly Popuri, and the hot Karen to woo and ultimately marry. But you also have rivals for each girl’s affections, so you have to stay consistent with your gifts and conversation. As each girl has their own likes and dislikes, you have to approach each one differently.
With so much to do in Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, no two games will ever be exactly the same. And with how popular farming simulation and roleplaying games are today such as Stardew Valley, Harvest Moon: Back to Nature still holds up, and was even ported to the Playstation Portable later on.
Tomb Raider (Core Design/Eidos Interactive, 1996)
Tomb Raider. Just the name alone screams 1990s gaming. And for good reason. Lara Croft was the first certified multimedia video game superstar. But all of it began with the first Tomb Raider game, and surprisingly, it has aged quite well even after a quarter of a century later.
In Tomb Raider, you take control of Lady Lara Croft, heiress to a family fortune and adventurer on the hunt for relics. One part Indiana Jones and one part Doom, Tomb Raider’s action adventure elements blended well with the puzzle solving mechanics. The variety of actions you can have Lara do is impressive especially for the limits of the technology of the time. Run, jump, roll, and swim across four zones across the world, from Peru, Greece, Egypt, and finally the fabled city of Atlantis. Although Tomb Raider uses the love-it-or-hate-it tank controls, it is not as annoying as in other games like Alone in the Dark or even the first Resident Evil.
On that note, the action in Tomb Raider is intense. But fortunately, Lara gets a wide assortment of weapons. Along with her trusty twin semi-automatic pistols, she can acquire shotguns, Uzi submachine guns, and the more powerful Magnum .44 pistols in the course of the game. Switching between weapons is also a breeze, which is important with getting good with the twitch heavy combat. Although the graphics have improved in later installments on the Playstation 1, the first Tomb Raider is surprisingly less choppy. And the unrealistic proportions are actually less distracting compared to its sequels. The sound is also noticeably cleaner, which helps with the immersion and staying focused.
The Tomb Raider franchise has seen better days, but the first game is still a great game that ages like fine wine.
Chrono Cross (Square/Electronic Arts, 2000)
How do you do a follow up to the greatest game on the SNES and capture the same level of quality, entertainment, and innovation? The answer: you can’t. Chrono Trigger set the bar too high. The absence of any of the superstar creators that were involved from that game also did not help matters any. Having said that, Chrono Cross is still a great game in its own right.
Whereas Chrono Trigger’s key plot thread is time travel, Chrono Cross uses the concept of parallel realities. In some ways, this is tougher to pull off, but it also opens up new narrative directions. We follow the journey of Serge as he tries to discover why he traveled to a reality where he does not exist. Along the way, he meets up and recruits a large group of characters. With 45 characters, Chrono Cross boasts one of the largest group of playable characters in a JRPG. However, you cannot recruit all of them in one play (due to conflicting story events), you will have to run through it again in a New Game+ (a tradition carried over from Chrono Trigger).
In terms of features, Chrono Cross adopts the Tech mechanic, letting each character learn new solo, Double, and Triple Techs as they improve. There are also no random battles, as enemies can be seen and are possible to avoid if you move correctly. However, there are also new mechanics that are unique to Chrono Cross. Elements can be equipped which allow magic and skills to be used (similar to Final Fantasy's Magicite or Materia). There is also no XP. Instead, players choose which stats to grow after each battle, limited by a certain number of upgrades until you defeat a boss. Actions are also limited during combat depending on the Stamina. Every action takes Stamina, so you can either choose to use one big effect or chain a series of lesser effects.
Another difference is that weapons and armor are constructed, instead of bought straight from shops. Materials can be collected that let smiths create new items and old gear can be disassembled, broken down to materials for use with later construction. Slightly more complex, but also more flexible, which is far better than the usual sell old items to the shop tendency of other RPGs.
While Chrono Cross does not have as memorable a story, it is a worthy tribute to its more famous pedigree.
Silent Hill (Konami, 1999)
At the time Silent Hill first came into being, most dismissed it as a Resident Evil clone cashing in on the survival horror craze. But this Playstation 1 classic has a different direction and theme. It emphasizes less on the action, having a more quiet menace and moody atmosphere.
You play as Harry Mason, a widowed father traveling with his young daughter Cheryl. But stopping in the area of Silent Hill for a vacation may have been a big mistake. Soon, Cheryl goes missing and Harry must find her, amidst a fog-covered and perpetually snowing locale while avoiding monsters of unspeakable horror. The fact that Harry is just an ordinary man with no formal training or experience adds to the dramatic tension. While you do find weapons and ammunition, they are not as reliable or even as abundant as in the Resident Evil franchise, so you have to be more careful and selective with your targets.
Another noteworthy feature is actually a medium of compromise. The foggy environment of Silent Hill was necessary as a workaround of the limits on the graphical hardware. This lets the Playstation render the background comfortably, but the fog also gives off an eerie mood not unlike that of old horror movies. The beings and creatures in the hellish Silent Hill are also very creative and memorable, with Pyramid Head, the Grey Children, and the Nurses becoming the iconic representatives of the franchise.
With 3 different endings depending on your choices, the game offers ample replayability. All in all, Silent Hill may not be the most famous survival horror property on the Sony Playstation. But it offers something different while carving out a legend of its own that influenced future games of the genre.
Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998)
We go from one survival horror franchise to another. And in this case, it’s the most popular of them all. And while Resident Evil 1 started the wheels turning, Resident Evil 2 set the standard for the entire series.
The game returns to the Raccoon City setting of the first, but this time the action moves from the secluded mansion to locations in the city proper. You play as either rookie cop Leon Kennedy or spunky Claire Redfield, the sister of S.T.A.R.S. operative Chris Redfield from the previous game. One innovation in Resident Evil 2 is the branching paths of the 2 protagonists. In order to complete the game, you have to run both characters on separate playthroughs. More than that, there will be differences with choosing whether to run Leon’s or Claire’s stories first before moving to the other.
Most of the familiar elements from the first Resident Evil are in the sequel, but there are new things as well. The character’s health will be reflected visual, with a moderate wound forcing the character to hold their stomach and a critical health level reducing them to a limp and unable to run. This adds urgency to the situation, exacerbated by the limited number of healing items in the game. You also have to consider that taking items will mean that the second part will deny the other character access to them. You also get to use a secondary character involved in the plot at various times (i.e. Sherry and Ada Wong).
You can also unlock new features, such as alternative costumes, weapons, and bonus games. The tank controls from Resident Evil 1 return, but the movement is more fluid and aiming matters more, especially against enemies with vulnerable areas. The puzzles are also more creative, though the arbitrary “find an item, get another item, use that item to unlock the next area” formula is still here.
The survival horror genre has evolved further with games like Left 4 Dead and The Last of Us. But Resident Evil 2 perfected the template many years before.
Suikoden II (Konami, 1999)
If there was one game on this list that represented why initial sales and fanatic popularity are ignored with determining its greatness, it is Suikoden II. Truly an ambitious game, Suikoden II managed to accomplish so much by being traditional while adding its own signature stamp. Crafting a tale of childhood friends in the Highland Army fated to clash with Luca Blight, the prince of Highland, Suikoden II presents a very long and complicated tale of rebellion, defiance, and heroism in the face of tyranny.
Although the basic premise of Suikoden II is fairly arbitrary, getting from the start to finish is anything but. This is especially emphasized by the variations of gameplay that other JRPGs rarely accomplish well. For in Suikoden II you have three different combat mechanics.
First, there are the standard party battles, but you have up to 6 members of your party (where most JRPG parties of the time had 3 to 4). Second, there are duels, which limits to one character and actions to Attack, Defend, and Wild Attack. Unlike standard battles, the action choices are like a rock-paper-scissors game, as one action beats another but is also beaten by one other. Finally, there are the army battles. These last types of battles sets up your characters as leaders to command units such as cavalry and support over a large battlefield.
And how many characters can you recruit in Suikoden II? 108 characters. And did we mention you get to build your castle with these characters serving various roles, leading to more events and mini-games? Konami’s Suikoden II is so epic in scope and fun to play that you will not even notice the hundreds of hours you sink in, or that it uses 16-bit style graphics in an era where CGI polygons were becoming the standard.
Gran Turismo 2 (Polyphony Digital/Sony, 1999)
There are many straight up car racing games on the Playstation 1. But if we are choosing the best of them, it would have to be Gran Turismo 2. While Gran Turismo was a great start, Gran Turismo 2 just straight up ran away with the checkered flag.
Gran Turismo 2 offers two main modes of racing: Arcade and Simulation. The former offers the usual arcade style racing while the latter presents a more nuanced simulation of racing circuits and tournaments. Simulation offers the most variety, as it requires players to earn licenses, trophies, and spend their winnings in order to acquire new cars and unlock race tracks. There is even an option to race events that the player prefers, which is a freedom that is usually absent in such racing games. And with over 650 different cars and 27 race tracks, you will need to sink in a lot of time to get everything.
For a pure racing game, Gran Turismo 2 offers a metric ton of content. Thanks to a great physics engine, the driving mechanics feel accurate. The braking mechanics, a pet peeve of the first Gran Turismo, does a better job here, helping keep the immersive experience at its maximum. That you will keep saying ‘just one more race’ while playing Gran Turismo 2 is a testament to how good this racing classic truly is.
Final Fantasy VIII (Squaresoft, 1998)
This is probably going to be the most controversial entry in this list. We can hear people going ‘OMG! Final Fantasy VII is the bestest evarr!’ or ‘WTF! Final Fantasy VIII sucks!’ And to both reactions we say ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’. Final Fantasy VII is a great game, no doubt. But taking away the rose colored glasses and after playing all 3 Final Fantasy RPGs (along with FF IX) and stacking their pros and cons, we found glaring flaws that paints a different picture.
Final Fantasy VII was great for its time, but the blocky graphics of the characters took out the immersion, especially when you get to the cut-scenes where the shift is just jarring. Also, it is incredibly grind heavy. And at endgame levels, watching Knights of the Round go off by linking it with W-Summon a million times is more of a chore than fun. Even the minigames are generally more frustrating than being entertaining on their own merits. The overall story lacks cohesion, the villains one-note (even fan favorite Sephiroth), and the list goes on. There are many, MANY stumbling blocks with FFVII that hardcore fans are willfully ignoring in order to place it on a pedestal. While later remakes and spinoffs have improved on its weaknesses, the original release was far from perfect. That’s just the facts.
Final Fantasy IX, on the other hand, was a much better game and a stronger candidate. But where it is lacking is the memorable characters and moments. Zidane is extremely generic as the quick-witted rogue. Dagger/Princess Garnet is also extremely bland. And the rest of the main cast range from caricatures (Steiner) to forgettable (Amarant). The main antagonist, Kuja and the rivalry with Zidane just was not satisfying. With the Black Mage Vivi being the only character that actually has a memorable character arc and growth, it hurts the overall score of Final Fantasy IX. And as far as the gameplay goes, it is also too grindy and the learn-support mechanic is annoyingly clunky.
But why does Final Fantasy VIII, often a pariah in the mainline series, get the nod in this list of the best games on the Playstation 1? There are multiple factors, many of which are not immediately apparent for those whose judgment is clouded by biases.
First of all, let’s talk about the characters. Every single one of the main FF VIII characters is memorable. Squall, Rinoa, Quistis, Zell, Selphie, and even the late addition Irvine had his moment when he finds himself with a crisis of conscience. Even the supporting characters Seifer, Laguna, Kiros, Ward, Ellone, Cid and Edea, Fujin and Raijin have interesting and memorable personalities and stories, however briefly they are explored. Themes of growing up, fighting and later accepting your destiny, finding true love, teen angst, nature vs. nurture, and more are explored amidst the adventure. The connections and how each one contributes to the narrative leading to the epic conclusion is worthy of any top-notch novel.
Squall’s journey, in particular, is far more complex than it has been given credit. Learning why he developed such a stand-offish persona through the course of the storyline keeps a player invested. And, let’s be honest, compared to Cloud’s cliché personality development and relationships with the rest of his cast, Squall’s is downright touching, less contrived, and nowhere near as artificially convoluted (especially after Crisis Core and later stories retcon his memories as a SOLDIER really being Zack’s). Considering that Squall is a 17-year old teenager at the peak of his rebellious stage of adolescence who suddenly has to become the headmaster of Balamb Garden and the savior of the world, his aloofness is understandable. The growth of Squall from lone wolf to competent and stoic leader is one of the best in the franchise and is often misunderstood.
Furthermore, FF VIII handled the RPG elements with more thought. The Guardian Force, Draw, and Junction systems are all easy to learn but hard to master. And so it is for the Trigger system of Squall’s iconic Gunblade and the Limit Breaks of each individual character. And having the enemies scale with your levels? That is a brilliant design choice, keeping players on their toes instead of being able to power level through grinding. It is no stretch to say that these gameplay elements in FF VIII were way ahead of their time.
And then, there’s Triple Triad. Arguably the best minigame within the main game that the Final Fantasy series has ever produced. The rules of Triple Triad are fairly simple. Players use cards that represent monsters and characters in FF VIII. Each one has ranks in the X and Y axis, as well as elemental attributes. Players take turns putting cards into play in a 3x3 square grid. Ranks are compared vs. a card in play and, if your rank is higher, the opposing card is flipped, changing its color. You win if the majority of the cards in the grid match your color. But certain regions in the game have modified rules that add a random rock-papers-scissors feature that increases the challenge. Thus, even having the best cards does not guarantee a win and the A.I. in FF VIII’s Triple Triad is extremely adaptive.
Why is Triple Triad so significant? It’s like Magic: The Gathering but within the game. And this is before such elements were added to AAA titles in the modern era such as The Witcher’s GWENT. Having a minigame that you can play and enjoy on its own and remains a constant challenge adds a lot of fun and replayability factor to an already excellent RPG. That it was reborn and improved upon in Final Fantasy XIV is a testament to Triple Triad’s lasting legacy.
And we have not even touched on the award-winning soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu. Or the groundbreaking graphics and cutscenes that pushed the franchise and its peers from the jarring shifts to consistent scaling of characters and set pieces. And there are layers upon layers of other things in FF VIII that deserve their own article.
The bottomline: While Final Fantasy VII may receive the glory, Final Fantasy VIII is the superior game on nearly all the relevant categories. That later games like Final Fantasy X through XV borrow far more elements from FFVIII than any other is the true testament of its greatness. Thus, it is the best of the series in the Playstation 1 era. PERIOD.
Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2 (Neversoft/Activision, 2000)
From here on, like in our previous greatest games lists, the top 5 can arguably be interchangeable. Each one is so strong in all areas that any one of them could reasonably be at the top spot of the greatest Playstation 1 games of all time. And when it comes to all-time greats, Tony Hawk Pro-Skater 2 definitely fits the bill. But why is Activision's Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2 so high that it breaks the top 5 over other perennial favorites? There are a a number of reasons.
Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2 uses the same basic engine as its elder brother, but greatly improves the graphic fidelity and responsive controls. This greatly enhances the gameplay experience as you play through the different skating competitions. The character customization is a huge draw, as well as the wide array of skateboarding tricks to perform and that can be acquired.
This sequel also took great liberties with the in-game physics, and this was a great development choice. Instead of focusing on realism, Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2 paid more attention to creating entertaining, science-defying stunts, eventually chaining different skateboarding tricks. While you get a small number of tricks and basic equipment at the start, you can upgrade to better stuff and more outrageous tricks as you progress the character’s career.
Aside from the addicting gameplay, getting all the unlockables greatly enhances the replayability. And if you need one more reason why Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2 is one of the greatest Sony Playstation 1 games of all time, note that one of the unlockable characters is Marvel Comics’ friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
Final Fantasy Tactics (Squaresoft,1997)
The roleplaying strategy game has grown by leaps and bounds in the past couple of decades. The mobile gaming generation is certainly inundated by so many of them, whether from big studios to small indie developers. But back in 1998, it was a very small niche, with the Fire Emblem and Ogre Battle series being the few properties that did it well. But leave it to Squaresoft to create not just the breakout strategy RPG that would influence others after it, but remains one of the best ever made.
Final Fantasy Tactics casts the player as Ramza, a noble in the kingdom of Ivalice who must come to terms with the tyranny in his midst, while forced to do battle with his best friend, Delita. In between the main quest, you can take mercenary jobs through the course of the game. And there are random encounters when traveling the map between cities.
The Job System returns and is applied wonderfully in Final Fantasy Tactics. New Jobs can be unlocked as each Job skill is mastered. It is possible for one character to learn nearly all the standard jobs like Knight, Monk, and Priest to exotic ones like Ninja, Oracle, and Calculator. And you can recruit and develop new units, including key characters that are part of the main narrative (and a very special one that comes from Final Fantasy VII). This gives Final Fantasy Tactics nearly endless playability.
Final Fantasy Tactics combined such a rich tapestry of story with so much minute customizations without sacrificing fun along the way. While other tactical RPGs like Fire Emblem have come before, Final Fantasy Tactics successfully melded the familiar elements from Square’s famous franchise while creating its own legacy that many later games would emulate.
Tekken 3 (Namco, 1998)
Capcom has the Street Fighter series and Midway/NetherRealm Studios has Mortal Kombat. Meanwhile, Namco has Tekken. And of the three Tekken games on the Playstation 1, there is no doubt the best of them is Tekken 3.
You know the drill: Tekken is about the head of the Mishima family and organization setting a tournament of King of the Ironfist. Fighters from around the world (and some from beyond it) pit their mojo and skills to become the champion for their personal reasons. Tekken 3 introduced new characters to the series, such as Jin Kazama, the son of Kazuya Mishima and Jun Kazama. In fact, Tekken 3 brought in a whopping 18 characters. This plus the 6 characters returning from Tekken 2 made Tekken 3 one of the biggest fighting game rosters assembled for its time.
New mechanics introduced to the series are unique sidesteps and dodging for characters in the Z-axis. The jump heights are also less ridiculous and there are more reliable counters to grabs and tackles. Combos and juggling have been enhanced from Tekken 2 with both the animations and the speed of execution. There are also modes that carried over from the previous entry while also introducing new ones, such as the beat-em-up style Tekken Force and the combat volleyball game called Tekken Ball.
What’s really impressive about Tekken 3 is how well it translates the arcade version. Initially, there were doubts that Tekken 3 could be ported well on the Playstation 1 hardware. But even with the compromises made to the visual quality, it does not distract from the enjoyment of the game.
Namco pulled out all the tricks in the book to make Tekken 3 as close to the arcade experience as possible. Add to that a great soundtrack from Nobuyoshi Sano and Keiichi Okabe, as well as some of the best FMV produced on the Playstation 1, and it’s no wonder Tekken 3 is often included in many lists of the greatest games of all time.
Metal Gear Solid (Konami, 1999)
Stealth action games. This is a genre in video games that most people were not aware of before Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation 1. That is how significant this game is. And it manages to do it on a 20+ year old game console while remaining nearly unparalleled with its ambition and seamless execution.
Metal Gear Solid brings us back in the shoes of Solid Snake, the protagonist of the original Metal Gear titles. Retired and living off the grid, Snake is lured back into action in order to resolve the terrorist takeover of a top secret weapons facility. But what he uncovers is a deeper conspiracy that connects the entire modern history of civilization and his own origins. That is a very broad gist of what Metal Gear Solid’s narrative comprises. It has elements of the super-spy genre sprinkled with the paramilitary action that was popular at the time. If you cross James Bond with Rambo, this is pretty much what the story in Metal Gear Solid boils down to. But while the plot has some familiar tropes, the presentation and scope are definitely greater.
Hideo Kojima was able to realize his vision for the franchise since the original Metal Gear, thanks to the advancements of the technologies and the power of the Playstation 1 compared to the prior platforms like the MSX or the NES where the first game appeared. From the opening cinematic with Solid Snake taking the stealthy deep water approach toward the target location, to the very ending duel with his rival Liquid Snake, you knew this game was something special.
Taking the patient and stealthy approach to an action game was extremely unusual for the era Metal Gear Solid was birthed in. The prevailing trend for the action genre was to shoot everything in sight and barrel through the enemies all the way toward the end. Not so with Metal Gear Solid. Take that approach and you will find yourself frustrated and quickly overwhelmed by bullets. The alert status whenever Solid Snake was seen made sure it was impossible to take the bullet-heavy tactic. In order to succeed, you have to rely on stealthy dispatches of enemies while moving forward to each objective. Use everything from knocking on the wall to distract guards to using an inconspicuous cardboard box to hide until the coast is clear.
But when it does get to the action, Metal Gear Solid kicks butt. The grenade battle with the tank, the rooftop cat-and-mouse clash against a soviet attack helicopter, the tense faceoff against a new Metal Gear, and the hand-to-hand segue to car chase climax with Liquid Snake are stellar and worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. Three of these standout more than the others: the duel with Cyberninja/Gray Fox who used invisibility tech, the final marksman contest with Sniper Wolf, and the mental maelstrom against Psycho Mantis. These delivered a one-two gut punch of action and dramatic high points.
Metal Gear Solid remains a fun challenge and often imitated even to this day. The stealth action genre has grown to include hit titles like Hitman, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, and even the Batman: Arkham Asylum games. Metal Gear Solid paved the way for how to do these right while remaining entertaining and without making the mechanics a chore. And although the Metal Gear franchise has fallen on hard times (particularly with the series creator Kojima and company Konami having unresolved issues), the achievement of Metal Gear Solid Playstation 1 continues to looms large.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami, 1997)
It seems that Konami was the undisputed king of the best games for the Playstation 1. But where Metal Gear Solid revolutionized the stealth action game genre, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night blew the barndoors off the action adventure platformer, such that it created its own subgenre called the ‘Metroidvania’ style games. The original Castlevania games followed a relatively similar formula prior to Symphony of the Night. But by borrowing and expanding on elements from Nintendo’s Metroid franchise, it became something special that is so much more than just the sum of its parts.
The first time you play Symphony of the Night, you are treated to the climax of the previous entry Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. Even if you have never played that game, this prelude is a nice treat, giving a sense of continuity. As Richter Belmont, you face Dracula in a final battle. Victory leads to the progression of the story 4 years later. Now, Alucard (returning as a playable character from his first appearance in Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse) is tasked by Maria Renard to venture into the diabolical depths of Castlevania to find the missing Richter and defeat the new villain named Shaft.
From there, you will immediately notice the difference from the traditional Castlevania games before it. Although it retains many of the tropes such as collecting hearts to enable the use of special weapons like the dagger to holy water and the boomerang cross, Symphony of the Night opens up RPG lite elements. Alucard can collect and equip new weapons, armor, and shields. Gold collected is no longer just for points but can be used to buy from the Master Librarian’s shop. Relics can be activated to allow Alucard to use and access new locations. Spells and companions provide a wealth of new ways to defeat foes. This is a level of customization that was previously attempted in Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, but is far more comprehensive and effective in execution.
Where Castlevania: Symphony of the Night truly shines is the exploration and level design. Despite being a 2D sidescroller, the game feels much larger than the map would imply. And where prior entries in the Castlevania series were linear in its progression through the stages, Symphony of the Night provides more freedom. And should you make a critical choice midway through the game, the entire castle flips upside down, creating another layer of exploration and opening previously inaccessible areas! And depending on the decisions and accomplishments made during the game, Symphony of the Night provides up to four different endings.
So many games on this list of the Sony Playstation’s greatest influenced others that would come later. But Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has the widest and most indelible signature, particularly with the indie game revolution of recent years. With such a cornucopia of games that were built from its archetype like Axiom Verge, Shovel Knight, Hollow Knight, Cave Story, and even the spiritual successor Bloodstained, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night deserves to be on the royal throne of the Sony Playstation 1’s greatest of all time.
Playstation 1 Potentials
As with previous Xfire lists of the best games, there are quite a few that nearly made the cut. For instance, Final Fantasy VIII might have edged its siblings, but the scoring was extremely close. Likewise, Tomb Raider just barely edged out Tomb Raider 2 when the scores were tallied.
Other notable games that almost entered the top 20 include Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, Dino Crisis, Parasite Eve 2, Xenogears, Tactics Ogre, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Spyro, WWE Smackdown 2, Monster Rancher 2, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Twisted Metal 2, Legend of Dragoon, Tenchu Stealth Assassins, Driver, and about a dozen more masterpieces.
Do you agree with our list? What does your personal 20 Greatest Playstation 1 Games of All Time list look like? Let us know and keep your eye out, as we continue to review and rank the greatest games of every console ever made here on Xfire.com!