Twenty years ago today, the original gray-box Playstation debuted in Japan. Originally intended as a CD-ROM adapter for Nintendo, the Mario factory soon spurned Sony, so Sony decided to do it alone, which changed the face of gaming in the process. When it finally came to American shores in September of 1995 and my grandma bought me one that Christmas to the immense dismay of my parents, I quickly tumbled down a gaming rabbit hole that I still have yet to recover from.
The original Playstation brought 3D graphics to console gaming and neither Sony or I have ever looked back. So many titles that define gaming today were started on that 32-bit box, so here’s your trip back down memory lane to commemorate the gaming greatness that was unleashed on the world 20 years back. I present to you the top 16 Playstation games of all time. Jesus, I feel old.
16. “NFL GameDay 99”
Before Madden’s exclusive contract and before the 2K series changed the game, NFL GameDay was the Playstation football series of choice. Compared to Madden, it was simply the better game. The 99 version had Terrell Davis on the cover, and if you can’t remember who Terrell Davis is, you’re too young to be reading this list.
15. “Syphon Filter 2”
A generation before Sam Fisher, Gabe Logan saved the world from danger in the ultimate spy series of the ’90s: “Syphon Filter.” A killer virus was about to be weaponized, and only you could hunt down the men with the cure. Even after you save the day, your girl gets shot by a traitor and you blast him into the tail rotor of a helicopter with an automatic shotgun. There were few things cooler to an action movie-obsessed 10-year-old.
14. “Tekken 3”
Fighting games were never my thing, but it’s hard to deny the graphical prowess of this arcade transfer. Before this, all fighting games were 2D SNES-style sprites. Tekken changed the game, quite literally, by showing the pure power of the Playstation’s graphics processor. You used to have to leave home with a sock full of quarters for this kind of gaming. Now, you could play on your couch, quarters and socks intact.
13. “Vagrant Story”
Perhaps more important than the Playstation’s graphical advancements was the more mature take on video game storytelling. Sony proved that while there is a place for collecting cute creatures, saving the princess over and over again, and making an Italian plumber stomp on turtles, gaming could also be an art form. The incredibly detailed and mature plot in “Vagrant Story” was crafted brilliantly, effortlessly merging storytelling and gameplay.
12. “Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2”
For all that the Tony Hawk series accomplished in the ’90s, perhaps most impressive was that it made skateboarding actually seem cool. By ramping up the tricks and dialing down the gravity, millions of kids who had no interest in ever actually being a sk8er boi would be popping tricks left and right on their televisions. “Pro Skater 2” improved on the original and turned the series into a must-play when hanging out with your friends to see if you could beat each others’ scores.
11. “Silent Hill”
“Silent Hill” didn’t try to scare you with hordes of monsters you had to gun down with an assault rifle. “Silent Hill” never jumped out at you to make you scream. Silent Hill was just creepier than all hell because it messed with your head. The game instilled a sense of psychological terror way beyond what anyone could have expected from Sega or Nintendo in the years before. While your parents told you games were for kids, “Silent Hill” had you try to find your missing daughter in a creepy town populated by a murderous cult.
10. “Breath Of Fire III”
You’ll learn through the rest of the top 10 that old school RPGs were a big part of my gaming preference, and “Breath of Fire III” makes the list not because of its graphics, which were no giant leap forward, but because of its very adult story and undeniably addicting gameplay. God tried to save the world from the dragon people, and to do so, he savagely murdered them all while they refused to fight back. Doesn’t that just beat all? Questioning religious dogma is a stage everyone goes through as a teenager, whether these questions affirm their beliefs or abandon them, and the idea that the god of this world might not be as omnipotent as it seems perfectly struck a chord with me at that age.
9. “Crash Team Racing”
“Crash Team Racing,” or “CTR,” was undeniably a blatant “Mario Kart” knockoff during its heyday. While its origins may be uninspired, the gameplay was most definitely not. Capitalizing on why “Mario Kart” was fun in the first place, “CTR” used the characters from Playstation’s “Crash Bandicoot” series to great effect and stole countless hours of my life as I zoomed around tracks with my brother. It’s an easy enough game that literally anyone can play, but nuanced enough that only the best can win every time.
8. “Tomb Raider 2”
While to me, “Tomb Raider 2” was the best game of this franchise on this system, really the entire “Tomb Raider” system deserves a shout out for innovations in gameplay. Of course, that’s only one reason why people played this series, as Lara Croft slinked, bounced, and shot her way through perilous situations wearing little more than shorts and a skin-tight T-shirt. This, of course, led to the “fantastic” Angelina Jolie movies, but more importantly for gamers, it inspired the amazing “Uncharted” series years later. Either way you look at it, “Tomb Raider” left an impact.
7. “Spyro The Dragon”
The previously mentioned “Crash Bandicoot” may have been the unofficial mascot for the PS1, but I always preferred the gameplay in “Spyro the Dragon.” The cute yet mouthy little guy could spit fire, charge, fly, light people’s pants on fire, and save all of his elder brethren from certain peril. Platforming games are a dying art, but the world of Spyro was gorgeous just to explore.
6. “Final Fantasy VII”
People might run me through with a sword for this, and don’t get me wrong, because I loved the game, but “Final Fantasy VII” was really only the third-best “Final Fantasy” game on the original Playstation. The story was fantastic, featuring more than a few settings and ploy devices that just happened to end up in “The Hunger Games” years later, and the characters were so real that when one famously died, real people cried over her passing. Considered both the best game on the system and the most overrated game of all time, I’m putting it right where it belongs. It’s a great game, but there are better titles to come.
5. “Gran Turismo 2”
As I previously alluded to, my parents were never big on video games. Sometimes my dad would play football games with me and then lecture me about sportsmanship after always going for it on fourth down. Sometimes my mom would call characters cute. “Gran Turismo 2,” however, stopped them in their tracks. More than once, the attempted to change the channel from whatever “car show” I was watching only to soon realize, dumbfounded, that the cars were coming from a video game. “Gran Turismo 2” was Sony flexing its muscles, pure and simple, with more than 600 different cars to tune and race.
4. “Final Fantasy Tactics”
Coming out around the same time as “Final Fantasy VII,” but to much less fanfare, “Final Fantasy Tactics” has one of the best video game stories of all time. Of course, back in the ’90s, you had to make your way through the hilariously awful Japanese translation to find it. Luckily, these days, you can play this tactical masterpiece in all of its intended glory and find a tale of class warfare, religious corruption, political treatises, false history, and characters most novels can only craft shades of. Games like this don’t get made much anymore, because they don’t quite fit the ADHD mobile gaming generation, but “Final Fantasy Tactics” was all of “Game of Thrones,” minus the incest.
3. “Resident Evil”
“Silent Hill” creeped me out, but I had never been scared by a video game before “Resident Evil,” and I still haven’t been since. When those zombie dogs crash through the windows and you have mere seconds to put them down with limited ammo, I jumped. My heart raced. My hands shook. Never had a game shocked me like that. “Resident Evil” had an odd control scheme and annoying inventory management, but there is a reason this game gets remade every generation and launched a genre, a video game franchise, and a movie series–it remains fantastic.
2. “Final Fantasy VIII”
The definitive Playstation RPG, and PS1 “Final Fantasy” title, is “Final Fantasy VIII.” Gone were the goofy looking character models. Gone were the castles and princesses. You were an introverted guy, trained at a military school to be a mercenary, and soon enough, the fate of the world fell onto your shoulders. Traditional gamers thought the main character was a dick, but perhaps tellingly, at 11 and 12 years old, no video game or movie character resonated with me more. Hormonal me understood Squall’s every annoyance, felt his every reluctance, and grew right alongside his thousands of battles. You can direct your nerd rage at me in the comments if you hated it, but I’m telling you ahead of time, you’re wrong.
1. “Metal Gear Solid”
Finally, we end on “Metal Gear Solid.” If you were expecting something else in the championship slot, you either have bad taste or your parents didn’t let you play M-rated titles. In “Metal Gear Solid,” you were Solid Snake, a spec ops soldier tasked with infiltrating a secret base to neutralize a renegade special forces unit acting as a terrorist organization. The Playstation’s greatest legacy, in my opinion, was raising the bar. The “Final Fantasy” games dominated on characters and plot. “Resident Evil” set the proper adult tone. “Syphon Filter” and “Tomb Raider” set the stage in terms of gameplay. “Metal Gear Solid,” in turn, took all of that and packaged it into an experience that felt like you were playing a movie for the first time. “Metal Gear Solid” was a revelation, a work of art, and a summer blockbuster than you could play all the time..