Why not top 20? Because you can guess the first 5.
I took the PlayStation Classic for a spin recently. And while a few of the games deserved to be on the retro-throwback cube, I felt that there should be other worthy titles in the mix.
As it stands, the motley of games on the mini retro console is, how shall I put it, lacking. I’m not saying I know better, but as someone who lived through the 90s and has experienced parts of high school and college with the PlayStation 1….well, I guess I do know better. Heh.
Just a heads up: I won’t include the following games because they’re already on the PlayStation Classic and they totally deserve to be on the machine to highlight the glory days of the PlayStation gaming arm. Plus, they don’t need much introduction.
- Final Fantasy VII: best PS One JRPG that pushed JRPGs to the mainstream.
- Metal Gear Solid: best iteration of Kojima’s stealth game-slash-movie yet.
- Tekken 3: third time’s a charm for this classic fighting game.
- Jumping Flash: best retro 3D platformer that showcases the PS 1’s horsepower.
- Oddworld- Abe’s Oddysee: combines dark humour with a deep layer of 2D platforming and puzzle-solving bits.
- R4 Ridge Racer Type 4: the best final form of the classic racer from Bandai Namco.
- Arc The Lad 2: great JRPG that succeeded its prequel; on the JP version of the PlayStation Classic.
And now, let’s bring up the best PlayStation One games that also should have been on the PlayStation Classic. The ones that deserved the “system seller” & “killer app” moniker because they stood out from the rest, be it for the niche crowd or mainstream players back in the PS1’s heyday.
Bushido Blade (1997)
In a sea filled with too many one-on-one beat-em-ups, even ones with weapons like Samurai Shodown, Squaresoft (back before they morphed into Square Enix for good and ill) and developer Light Weight took a stab at the fighting game genre. And it worked like a charm.
Nevermind the fact that the 3D graphics haven’t aged well; the fact that the game emulates the art of swordfighting well in a 3D versus game is a testament to its uniqueness. Unlike other fighting games, you kill your opponent with just one stab. No lifebar, no time limit: just you, your opponent, and the battlefield in which to wander in. You can either go for the fatal blow quickly or just disable their limbs bit by bit.
With the landscape layout, selectable characters with their specific weapon proficiencies, and the various blades -each with their own quirks- there’s a ton of depth to be found in this classic unorthodox fighter.
Tetsuya Takahashi’s opus for Square Enix is fondly remembered for its Judeo-Christianity themes interlaced with sci-fi mecha battle action. It’s also known for its long-spanning narrative, likeable heroes like Fei, Elly, and Citan, and mechs. Tons of turn-based combo-savvy mecha and kung-fu action. And pretty grating platforming sections.
Has time been kind to this game that was clearly influenced by the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion? Kind of. While the second disc leaves a lot to be desired in terms of progression, the rest of the game is still a joy to play. Three-fourths of the game revolves around semi-open world JRPGing and turn-based fighting with your mechs, all to an epic score composed by the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda.
If you ever wonder how games like the Xenoblade Chronicles series got its start, its stride, and its mecha-obsession, look no further than this flawed-but-well-meaning and grand experiment.
WipeOut 2097/XL (1996)
Why isn’t this classic futuristic racer on the PlayStation Classic? It boggles the mind; without this version of WipeOut, there wouldn’t be PlayStation 1 units sold across the world.
This racing game is the bastard child of F-Zero and Super Mario Kart – a fast and frenetic weapons-based racer that comes packaged with its own style, physics, racing controls, and crazy-sleek futuristic visuals. While the first WipeOut introduced a generation to a more hyper-version of a console racing game, the sequel just added everything and the kitchen sink to make up a bigger and better package.
Chrono Cross (1999)
The Chrono Trigger sequel we need, and perhaps the one we deserve. The developers of this RPG challenged every single old-school aspect of JRPGs. From its colour-coordination-savvy battle system and multiple story routes featuring a huge assortment of recruitable characters, Chrono Cross is one heckuva trip.
One that’s masterfully scored by Yasunori Mitsuda. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a dirty, no-good liar.
Of course, this game came with a huge slap in the face for Chrono Trigger fans, since you uncover the dire fates of the beloved Chrono Trigger cast. But hey; I’d rather take this sombre sequel than a pandering fan-service heavy one any day of the week.
Colony Wars (1997)
Anyone who said that space flight sims don’t work on consoles should take a long hard look at this Psygnosis classic. While not as groundbreaking as LucasArt’s X-Wing and Origin’s Wing Commander, this game was built from the ground up for the PlayStation 1.
Instead of going insanely big and out of its scope, Colony Wars focuses on delivering a very focused and action-packed space flight sim experience with a ton of replayability.
Squaresoft had a hand in trying out the 2D shooter genre and nailed it with Einhänder, a shooter where you can snatch guns and energy blades from enemies. Like Colony Wars, it doesn’t break new ground; it’s basically the company’s version of the Thunder Force series.
However, it excels in delivering standout visuals, perspective shifts, and creative ship/boss designs in 3D. Plus, that soundtrack is trippy and EDM as all hell. This proved that the 90s truly was Squaresoft’s game since they could dabble in any genre and do no wrong.
Mega Man Legends, Mega Man Legends 2, Misadventures of Tron Bonne (1998)
I firmly believe all three of the PS1 Mega Man spinoff adventure games needed to be on the PS Classic, if only to show that if Capcom really tries, you can turn a long-standing franchise into a completely different and charming game.
This Mega Man game pits our main hero Mega Man Volnutt and his airship crew as they search for the special treasure called the Mother Lode on the island of Kattelox. What makes this adventure stand out is not just the action, but its setting. Kattelox is a lively island filled with recurring characters, a bustling town in which you help out because you’re Mega Man and you default as the good guy of the story, and a huge-ass labyrinth filled with ruins beneath the island’s core.
The story and main quests go from helping a pregnant woman to reach the hospital before she goes into labour to destroying a giant satellite from wiping out all life on the island.
Special props should go to the Castle In The Sky-inspired sky pirates called the Bonnes; they steal the show for all two games. Heck, Tron Bonne even got her own game and comes with its own gameplay mechanics, new location, and the ability to control her Servobot minions. Yeah, these little guys were, and still are, adorable AF.
Klonoa: Door To Phantomile (1997, 1998)
This charming Namco game (before the Bandai merger) was released post-Super Mario 64, so of course, it got lost in the shuffle of platformers and people jumping on board 3D games. But the first Klonoa game is perhaps the best iteration of a 2D platformer with 3D-powered aesthetics.
If you’re a fan of the first Yoshi’s Island on SNES, you’ll adore this game in a heartbeat. Main character Klonoa can hover briefly over platforms, grab and toss enemies like projectiles, and perform a double jump by using bad guys as leverage. The first Pandemonium game may be the first 2D platformer with 3D aesthetics, but Klonoa: Door To Phantomile does a better job at it thanks to great controls, a unique protagonist, smart level design, and a cute-yet-kinda-messed-up storyline.
All this from Hideo Yoshizawa, the man responsible for the awesomeness that is the NES Ninja Gaiden.
Incredible Crisis (2000)
You want to see the game that inspired the Nintendo WarioWare games? Well, Incredible Crisis is exactly that.
Born out of the mind of one Kenichi Nishi, it’s about a Japanese family who sets out to buy birthday gifts for their grandmother. Somehow or other, the nuclear folks end up foiling bank robberies and fight teddy bear kaijus in mini-game form.
This game proved that with the right medium and the power to stream an awesome soundtrack, especially from the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, any PS1 adventure game that can’t be settled on a predefined genre can blow your mind. Incredible Crisis did just that with its oddball premise and fun ride.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998)
Back in the 90s, fighting game fans flocked to the Sega Saturn because it handled 2D sprites in fighting games better than the PlayStation can. Of course, Capcom found a way around that and decided to cut a few frames of the PlayStation port of Street Fighter Alpha 3 in favour of a lot more additions, making it almost superior to its coin-op cousin.
Not only did this version featured fighters like the Alpha 3 incarnations of Fei Long, T.Hawk, Deejay, and Guile, it also featured new modes like the two-versus-one Dramatic battles and the RPG-esqueWorld Tour mode. PlayStation owners had it good with a fighting game that surpassed the console’s limitations.
Final Fantasy Tactics (1998)
Who knew that a lone Final Fantasy offshoot from the Tactics Ogre folks from Enix could create what could be the greatest Final Fantasy narrative of all time? Think Othello and Hamlet but with Zodiac stones and chocobos. Even with the borked localization (thankfully updated in the War of the Lions PSP re-release and mobile ports), the game’s narrative is both epic and tragic.
Plus, the strategy game here is great too. You have the patented Final Fantasy Job system in place and a deep turn-based strategy system where positioning and elevation of terrain matters a heckaton. Just be careful of the bottleneck encounters; Final Fantasy Tactics taught me personally that a second or third save slot is VERY important.
I’m looking at you, Riovannes Castle at Chapter 3.
Resident Evil 2 (1998)
There’s a reason why Capcom took so long to remake and remaster a Resident Evil 2: because the PS 1 original is so legendary in being superior to the very first Resident Evil, which was admittedly a more polished Alone in the Dark (the original Infogrames one, not the one with the Keanu Reeves Edward Carnby lookalike). To touch it would mean to mess with a classic.
What made this RE title the best one? Why the setting, of course. Raccoon City is the perfect playground for your zombie/virus outbreak. The narrative and gameplay shifts between rookie cop Leon and first game protagonist’s sister Claire Redfield, whose paths cross to paint a full picture of the Raccoon City incident.
Like great sequels, RE2 expanded upon the first game with new cinematic moments, secrets, great action beats and challenges, and way more tension. At the same time, the tank controls, the fixed camera angles, and strict inventory system mean the game designers made sure that players were always tense and unsafe. Given the fact that a city is bigger and can fit in more zombies and biological terrors than a mansion, it’s no surprise that survival horror fans vote the second PS1 game as their all-time favourite of the series.
Castlevania Symphony Of The Night (1997)
I am well aware that the Castlevania Requiem collection exists and delivers this game on the PS4. But c’mon, Sony. Why not put the game that single-handedly created the most overused genre name that came with a stellar 2D action platformer masterpiece onto the PS Classic?
In any case, there isn’t much to be said about SOTN except (a) it’s well-designed from beginning to end, (b) the twist halfway through the game is still bonkers, (c) Alucard is a heckuva main character, and (d) the soundtrack is just bliss.
And to think this sequel to the poorly-selling Japanese version of Castlevania: Rondo of Blood for the PC-Engine would be the death knell for the Castlevania series. No, that honour goes to the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games. Zing!
Parappa The Rapper (1997)
This music rhythm game is the key to combining CD-quality audio into a contextual game. Combined with an outlandish story of a rapping dog who wants to woo the heart of a sunflower girl with the power of music, who also rap battles a driving instructor moose and a reggae-trippin’ frog at a flea market? Pure genius.
True, the game is short, but it’s nothing if not innovative and really pushes the PS1 to the limit. With the power of ever-changing raps when you do actually rap battle your opponents and a surreal adventure, it’s also proof that the best ideas usually happen if a publisher like Sony trusts their developers and studios.
Vagrant Story (2000)
To top off this extravagant list for the ages, we cap it off with the game that really needs to be shown to today’s generation of action RPG gamers: the one-time Yasumi Matsuno-designed Vagrant Story.
The game combines a fantasy horror story, a detective caper, and a Shakespearean script, coupled with detailed visuals and a soundtrack to back it up. The game itself uses a semi-turn-based RPG combat system that lets you target individual body parts of enemies and lets you deal critical damage and extend combos if you can keep up with the button presses and timings. The system also extends to platforming and puzzle-solving too, so it’s not just brute force that saves the day when wandering around in the depths of Leá Monde.
My only gripe? The game suffers from Mega Man syndrome where you have to fight previous bosses through a gauntlet. It’s more or less padding that’s holding back an otherwise stellar fantasy RPG experience. Even giving it the RPG mantle doesn’t do justice as to how unique this Squaresoft game was. If anything, this treasure deserves a remaster of sorts and also showcased Squaresoft’s ever-remarkable talent when not being burdened by the Final Fantasy name.
Know any PlayStation greats we didn’t mention here? Should these games be on the PlayStation Classic? Let us know!