The PlayStation 1 enjoyed a very successful lifecycle and allowed Sony — a newcomer to the console market at the time — to enter the video game industry in commanding fashion. By the end of its run, the PlayStation had 1,284 titles released in North America, giving it one of the vastest game libraries in console history. The PlayStation was home to some of the most influential games of all time and gave rise to several new genres such as survival horror and rhythm-based games. In celebration of the outstanding quality of the PlayStation, here are the 25 best games ever released for the console. How well they hold up today is weighed equally with the lasting mark they left on the industry.
25. Tomb Raider II
The Tomb Raider series has managed to survive multiple console generations and while the older games don’t hold a candle to the modern ones when it comes to visual fidelity or gameplay, Lara Croft’s early days on the PlayStation made quite an impact. With her signature outfit and twin pistols, Lara Croft quickly became one of gaming’s most recognizable heroes at a time when playable female characters were few and far between. Released in 1997, Tomb Raider II looked and played very similarly to the first game but expanded upon core concepts while also introducing new mechanics, such as actually allowing players to ride in vehicles as opposed to just watching Lara drive around in cutscenes. This was also the title that made Tomb Raider synonymous with the PlayStation brand, as it was a Sony console exclusive after Eidos Interactive decided to pass on the struggling Sega Saturn.
24. Chrono Cross
The sequel to what is widely regarded as being one of the best role-playing games of all time, Chrono Cross may not have been the Chrono Trigger sequel many had expected but it was still a masterpiece in its own right. From its excellent battle system to its impressive visuals to its branching story paths, Chrono Cross is a standout PlayStation RPG, which is really saying something given how many incredible ones were released for the console. That being said, the game is viewed by many fans of the original as being an inferior sequel, with the game’s story and short length being particularly contentious points. Then again, trying to improve upon a game viewed by many to already be perfect would be a near-impossible task for any developer and Square should be commended for taking risks with Chrono Cross rather than trying to attempt to make a second Chrono Trigger.
23. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
2D platformers diminished in popularity following the release of Super Mario 64, with its incredible three-dimensional graphics and design, but some developers managed to keep the genre alive by releasing games that were such high quality they were hard to ignore. Such is the case with Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, a game that stuck a near-perfect balance between its action and puzzle elements, adding up to an engaging platformer that proved 2D design still had a lot of life left in it. Abe’s Oddysee also had beautiful art direction, which has helped it hold up much better than many of its 3D peers with their ugly polygonal textures. The one main knock against the game is that it was made needlessly difficult and frustrating by its restrictive save structure but luckily, this issue was rectified by the excellent “New ‘n’ Tasty!” remake released in 2014, which is the definitive version of the game.
Best known for creating the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series, Neversoft also released a completely different kind of game on the PS1 that ended up being one of the greatest superhero video games ever made at the time of its release. Neversoft’s Spider-Man still holds up as one of the better video game adaptations of Marvel’s wallcrawler, creating the blueprint for all future 3D Spider-Man games to follow. Neversoft’s game captured the feeling of web-swinging like never before and the combat system, while simplistic, made great use of Spider-Man’s web abilities.
Most importantly, Spider-Man was presented as a celebration of the character, pitting the hero in memorable battles against nearly every famous enemy in his large rogues gallery. While later Spider-Man games would expand and improve upon Neversoft’s work, this is still regarded by many fans to be one of the best and a true standout title on the PlayStation.
21. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
The second installment in the beloved cult Legacy of Kain series, Soul Reaver represented a major departure for the franchise at the time as Crystal Dynamics decided to make a third-person action game instead of following in the footsteps of the original Legacy of Kain, which was a top-down action RPG. The gamble ended up paying off, as Soul Reaver earned praise for its action gameplay, interesting story, and visual and audio elements, with the voice acting in particular being highlighted as a standout feature.
The standout gameplay feature was easily the switching between physical and spectral realms, which led to a number of fascinating puzzles. While the game was surprisingly easy for having such mature subject matter, this has done little to diminish Soul Reaver’s legacy (no pun intended), as it’s still regarded as being a highly influential early game in the 3D action genre. Plus, it’s a vampire-revenge fantasy — how can you go wrong?
20. Twisted Metal 2
The car combat genre largely rose and fell in popularity during the original PlayStation’s run and while that has more to do with shifting tastes than anything, perhaps it’s also because the Twisted Metal series largely perfected car combat in only its second outing. While most fans are divided between Twisted Metal 2 and the PS2’s Twisted Metal: Black when it comes to the question of which game is the best in the series, it’s hard to deny that TM2 was the best car combat game to come out on the PS1.
Whereas the original Twisted Metal set all of its car combat mayhem in Los Angeles, the sequel went on a “World Tour” and introduced all sorts of exotic environments, from Paris (complete with a destructible Eiffel Tower) to the ice shelves of Antarctica. While the game could be enjoyed in single player, Twisted Metal 2 shone brightest in multiplayer, with a split-screen cooperative mode that stands as one of the console’s best.
19. Mega Man X4
Following the disappointment of Mega Man 8, it was hard to know what to expect from Mega Man X4, which was the first game in the Mega Man X series to make the jump to the PlayStation. Fortunately, it turns out that fans needn’t have worried, as Mega Man X4 was a worthy successor the first three SNES games that also took the series in some exciting new directions. X4’s most significant addition was the ability to choose between Mega Man X and Zero as playable characters for the entire game, meaning that players could go through the game twice with very different experiences. Thanks to how differently the two characters play (X is more classic shooting abilities, while Zero favors sword attacks), X4 was essentially two games in one and the best Mega Man game to ever hit the original PlayStation.
18. Crash Team Racing
While Mario Kart may have come first, Crash Team Racing was arguably the superior kart racing game, as least when it came to the fifth console generation. CTR took the basic design template of Mario Kart 64, added in an adventure mode reminiscent of the one found in Diddy Kong Racing and combined them with the colorful personalities of the Crash Bandicoot universe to create a mascot racing game that simply played better than the competition.
The controls were tighter, the tracks more wildly designed and varied, and the game simply looked better from a visual perspective (though it’s not like any of the era’s cart racers have aged well in that department). Crash Team Racing was Naughty Dog’s final Crash Bandicoot game before they moved on to the Jak series on PlayStation 2, but it’s a swan song worthy of the developer’s talents and one that still holds up as one of the PlayStation’s very best racers.
17. Ape Escape
Though it never quite reached the same level of popularity as other PlayStation titles like Crash Bandicoot or Metal Gear Solid, the original Ape Escape was nonetheless an important game for Sony’s first home console. Released in 1999, Ape Escape was the first game that made the DualShock controller mandatory, as the game’s controls centered around the use of the controller’s twin analog sticks. That being said, Ape Escape was more than just a game with a control gimmick, being an entertaining platformer in its own right.
Sure, all you really did was run around and catch monkeys in a net, but Ape Escape kept things fresh by throwing a bunch of cool gadgets at you (rotating the right analog stick to use Spike’s propeller gadget blew my 10-year-old mind). Plus, you got to bash monkeys in the head with a weapon that looked like a lightsaber. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
16. Silent Hill
Arguably the scariest game released for the PS1, the original Silent Hill was full of psychological thrills. Playing this game was an anxiety-inducing experience thanks to the brilliantly ugly, unsettling creature design and a terrifying environment, replete with dense fog and overbearing darkness that was unnerving to say the least. Whereas Resident Evil gave players the tools to deal with its horrors, Silent Hill put the emphasis on the “survival” part of survival horror, casting you as a regular dude who sucked at fighting.
This was a game where avoiding combat was not only encouraged but often essential, as trying to fight off Silent Hill’s deadly monsters would often result in a quick game over screen. Konami would perfect the formula with the game’s PlayStation 2 sequel, but the original Silent Hill is still a classic and one of the most influential titles in horror gaming.
15. PaRappa the Rapper
The title that pretty much invented the rhythm game genre and paved the way for games such as Dance Dance Revolution, Amplitude, and Guitar Hero, PaRappa the Rapper turned players’ DualShock controllers into an instrument, as you needed to time button presses to match specific beats. While the rhythm-based gameplay was addictive in its own right, it wouldn’t have been half as engaging if it weren’t for PaRappa the Rapper’s charming sense of style, with paper-like animations, interesting character and most importantly, catchy tunes. Really, the only bad thing about the game is that it’s all over too quickly. If you somehow never got a chance to play this PlayStation classic, a remastered version was released for the PlayStation 4 in 2017. You gotta believe!
14. Gran Turismo 2
On a technical level, no game pushed the PlayStation hardware as far as Gran Turismo 2. With more than 600 highly detailed vehicle models and (at the time) photo-realistic graphics, Gran Turismo 2 was the pinnacle of simulation racing design at the time of its release and solidified Polyphony Digital as one of the most important development houses in Sony’s stable. While still aimed largely at the car enthusiast crowd, Gran Turismo 2 was surprisingly accessible and lot of that had to do with the sheer variety of different cars, tracks, and race types on display. While there’s really no reason to go back and play Gran Turismo 2 now considering how far simulation racers have come since the PlayStation era, it remains a remarkable achievement and — at least for a time — was the best racing game that had ever been made up to that point.
13. Tekken 3
Tekken has become one of those fighting series that continues to release new games every few years, but it’s hard to know if anyone really cares anymore. Many fighting games, such as Street Fighter and Injustice, have continued to find ways to innovate and push the genre forward but Bandai Namco seems largely content to rest on its laurels when it comes to Tekken. That being said, during the PS1’s heyday, there were few 3D fighters that could best Tekken, with Tekken 3 standing alongside Street Fighter Alpha 3 as the best fighting game to ever hit the console.
Tekken 3 was not only one of the best-looking games on the console but one of the most feature rich, with a large cast of characters (many of them new) and a variety of fun mini-games, in addition to all the main fighting modes. To this day, Tekken 3 is still regarded as one of the greatest 3D fighters ever made and though its visuals may have aged, its gameplay is still as fast and fluid as it was 20 years ago.
12. Xenogears (1998)
It’s a true testament to the quality and depth of a console’s library that when discussing the PlayStation, one of the best Japanese Roleplaying Games (JRPG) of all time is often forgotten. However, Xenogears is absolutely one of the best games on the console and holds up better than expected when judged in today’s landscape. Xenogears represented yet another epic RPG from developer Squaresoft, who had an uncanny knack throughout the generation for releasing top-notch quality games.
Despite releasing so many titles on the console, Squaresoft was always able to keep its games feeling fresh and unique from the others, and Xenogears was no exception. Xenogears contained a twist on the classic battle system in the form of a combo attack system. Stringing together a series of different physical attacks, the combo system is simple yet innovative. Xenogears shines throughout the lengthy experience and is an essential game for everybody to experience.
11. Spyro: Year of the Dragon (2000)
One of the finest adventure games of all time, Spyro: Year of the Dragon contains absolutely massive worlds that beg to be explored. The third Spyro the Dragon title in Insomniac’s beloved series, Spyro: Year of the Dragon was the culmination of two outstanding efforts on the console that brought a significant amount of findings and experience for the development company. While the character’s future would become highly questionable, Insomniac’s final ride with the franchise and the final time the franchise would appear on the PlayStation 1 was a runaway success.
Witnessing how far the quality of the series has deteriorated today can cause severe depression, but fortunately, Spyro: Year of the Dragon has the appeal to overshadow future Spyro efforts and is one of the best PlayStation titles ever released. With a myriad of mini-games and an incredible amount of variety throughout the game, Spyro: Year of the Dragon never gets stale and will remain a timeless classic forever.
10. Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1999)
Widely regarded as the best 2D fighter of the generation and one of the very best fighting games of all time, Street Fighter Alpha 3 is a gaming juggernaut that brings an authentic arcade experience to a home console. During this generation, Sony’s PlayStation was digging its heels into any avenue it could exploit. Seeing value in various new genres, the PlayStation made some risky moves in bringing adult-themed games to the console and creating new genres. However, the idea of bringing classic fighting games back into the fold was further advancement in gaming technology than anybody could have anticipated.
With the Nintendo 64 lacking an outstanding 2D arcade fighter, and the Sega Saturn (which had previously housed the best games in the fighting genre) being nearly defunct, the PlayStation stepped up and topped its own Tekken 3 with the fabulous Street Fighter Alpha 3. It was an outstanding port of the 1998 arcade hit and proved consoles could support an identical experience to the arcade.
9. Final Fantasy Tactics (1998)
Final Fantasy Tactics is a worthy competitor to both the Fire Emblem and Shining Force series for the title of greatest turn-based strategy franchise of all time. The first offering in the series arrived on the PlayStation in North America during 1998, and it became evident very early on that it was an incredibly special game. Strategy RPGs remained an untapped resource in North America as there weren’t that many of them to be released. In fact, the Fire Emblem series remained exclusive to Japan until 2003, when the seventh main game in the series was translated and released in North America.
Final Fantasy Tactics attempted to enter the genre by flaunting the name “Final Fantasy” in its title. Following the enormous success of Final Fantasy VII, this was an effective strategy to have audiences look at the game. Fortunately, Final Fantasy Tactics doesn’t rest on its laurels by cashing in on a name. Instead, it contains the deepest, most emotional story ever told in a strategy RPG, offers a seemingly infinite amount of characters to recruit and has addictive, rewarding gameplay.
8. Vagrant Story
2000 was an incredible year for JRPGs, especially if you were a PlayStation owner, with classics such as Legend of Mana, Chrono Cross, and Final Fantasy IX all releasing that year. Vagrant Story was also released in 2000 and while it tends to get overshadowed by Square’s other seminal PS1 titles, it stands alongside any of them as one of the best role-playing experiences of the era. Featuring an impressive cinematic storyline and a deep, but surprisingly accessible battle system, Vagrant Story has become one of the PlayStation’s most enduring titles and, depending on who you ask, the best RPG to ever be released for the console.
7. Crash Bandicoot: Warped (1998)
Despite receiving overwhelming praise, the first two Crash Bandicoot titles on the PlayStation were flawed games. While still quite fun, the horizontally-scrolling levels seemed to always want to burst into fully open 3D environments, and the series seemed to be a victim of the console’s limitations in hardware. Crash Bandicoot: Warped proved that these limitations didn’t exist when a developer had experience producing content for the console, and it offered one of the finest classic platforming experiences of all time. Crash Bandicoot: Warped was the third title that developer Naughty Dog released on the console, all of which were Crash Bandicoot titles.
Whereas their future PS2 series Jak and Daxter would incorporate massive gameplay changes between titles, the Crash Bandicoot series didn’t deviate much and instead offered a similar experience throughout each title, except with refined controls and improved level design. Not many people anticipated developer Naughty Dog later elevating their work to greater levels and becoming one of the best third party developers in the world; however, with the quality they were able to deliver with Crash Bandicoot: Warped, it should have been obvious they were a very special company destined for greatness.
6. Resident Evil 2 (1998)
The original game may have invented the survival horror genre, but the sequel Resident Evil 2 is the one that claims the title as the best Resident Evil on the PlayStation. Resident Evil 2 takes place two months after its predecessor and offers a pure survival horror experience. The game is truly terrifying with certain scenes and surprises still giving seasoned players shocks. Resident Evil 2 offers different scenarios for each of the playable iconic series characters: Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield (sister of Chris Redfield of the original game). This has the effect of giving the game extended replay value. With an HD remake on the horizon, it’s time to get excited about Resident Evil 2 once again.
5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater may have revolutionized extreme sports video games, but it was Neversoft’s superior sequel that perfected the template. The perfect kind of sequel, THPS2 improved on everything from the first game while also adding more than enough new ideas to justify its asking price. New skaters, levels, and tricks were just the tip of the iceberg, as THPS2 introduced new gameplay elements that opened up the addictive combo-heavy skating like never before.
Most notably, the addition of the manual allowed players to chain together their combos in new ways that allowed for all sorts of experimentation. Throw in one of the of the greatest gaming soundtracks of the era and it’s easy to see why Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 turned a whole generation of young gamers onto skateboarding on its way to becoming one of the PlayStation’s best pieces of software.
4. Final Fantasy VII (1997)
Final Fantasy VII engrossed audiences and popularized JRPGs in North America. There’s a reason that Final Fantasy VII was as influential as it was. An addictive materia system deepened the game by allowing all nine playable characters to become magic users. Furthermore, the customization allowed in the materia system is unparalleled and some wicked combos can be created. A simple yet successful materia combination includes one that circumvents death by casting “Phoenix,” a summon spell which brings every party member back to life, and casting it as that party member dies, thus immediately springing back to life.
The main game is easy enough that it never requires players to exploit materia, but the system is so addictive that players won’t be able to help themselves while fiddling away within the materia menu. With a highly sophisticated plot that involves many twists and turns, exceptional mini-games such as snowboarding and a motorcycle chase, and even optional bosses, Final Fantasy VII’s continues to stand tall as an RPG favorite today.
3. Final Fantasy IX (2000)
Final Fantasy IX makes old be new again, as the developers at Squaresoft take a stroll down nostalgia lane and deliver an authentic throwback experience drawing from the gameplay and overall spirit of classic Final Fantasy titles released before the series moved to the PlayStation. Final Fantasy IX successfully pleases die-hard fans of the series as the game plays just like a classic Final Fantasy title would, and even contains similar visual cues and artistry. Of course, Final Fantasy IX also happens to be a title released late during the console’s lifespan and is therefore one of the most visually striking games of the generation.
The highly impressive FMV cutscenes hold up today, and while they are no longer as breathtaking and jaw-dropping as they were during the year 2000, they manage to remain gorgeous and are fully functional. It’s clear, even for those that never experienced Final Fantasy IX during its initial release, that Squaresoft was able to push the PlayStation to its absolute limits in order to bring forth this legendary game.
2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was the biggest sleeper hit of the decade. The game initially suffered from limited commercial success; it was only years later that it became a cult classic and mandatory gaming for any serious player. When Symphony of the Night was initially released, three-dimensional video games were the rage. A 2D side-scrolling game such as Symphony of the Night was dismissed during this heightened craze on 3D environments. Fortunately, the game has become quite popular in the years that passed and more people have gotten to enjoy this fantastic title.
The series borrows even further from Metroid’s gameplay than ever before, with Symphony of the Night stressing exploration and non-linear design. It’s the best Castlevania title ever made and simply one of the best games overall. The graphics that audiences once believed were archaic have aged tremendously well and still look fantastic. Many other games that pushed the system’s capabilities looked great at the time, but now find themselves in need of an HD remaster. Symphony of the Night looks as great as it did during 1997, proving it will continue to age gracefully.
1. Metal Gear Solid (1998)
Metal Gear Solid is a masterpiece that is one of the most influential modern games of all time, as well as one of the very best video games ever made. It gave rise to one of the most gripping and enjoyable series and revolutionized stealth gameplay everywhere else. A cinematic tour de force, Metal Gear Solid proved that plot-driven games can still contain action as well as stellar gameplay. Metal Gear Solid presents an excellent case to be the best PlayStation game of all time, which is a remarkable feat considering the quality of its competition in the PlayStation library.