The best PS1 games are likely wrapped up in layers of nostalgia by now. The system released in 1994 and had a transformative impact on the shape of the video game industry, thanks in no small part to its incredibly diverse and varied library of games. The best PSX games include some of the greatest action, adventure, horror, racing, role-playing, and stealth games of all-time – formative experiences that shaped their respective genres and inspired countless generations of game developers.
That's why picking a list of the 25 best games on PS1 isn't easy, let alone ranking them! But for as massive as that library is, there are some games that stand above the rest. There's truly something for everybody here, and it's easier than ever to play many of these classics thanks to the new PS Plus Premium games list – which is bringing PS1 titles to PS5 and PS4 via the reworked subscription service. So, let's get into it: here is our selection of the 25 best PS1 games of all-time.
25. Bishi Bashi Special
If you need a multiplayer game that anybody can pick up and play, this mini-game collection should definitely be in your library. Bishi Bashi Special is a compilation of Super Bishi Bashi and Hyper Bishi Bashi, containing 85 different button-bashing challenges with a variety of bizarre themes, ranging from kicking mobsters to chucking custard pies at your wedding guests. Up to three controllers are supported at once so you’ll need a Multitap to get the most out of the game, but if you’ve got a larger session going on everybody can still get involved, as eight players can take part in the party mode.
24. Street Fighter Alpha 3
The PlayStation version of the final game in the Street Fighter Alpha series felt replicated the excellent arcade original faithfully, though with some concessions to the console’s limited memory. If it had simply done that, that would be one thing. But this version did so much more, adding new characters to complete the inclusion of the Super Street Fighter II cast, as well as a World Tour mode that allowed players to customize their characters via fighting challenges. It felt absolutely stuffed with content back in 1999, and remains satisfying for both lone players and those of a more competitive nature.
23. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Is it fair to say that Tenchu was one of the first authentic ninja games ever? We think so. While the shadowy assassins had never been short of videogame representation, they had typically appeared in action games. By requiring the player to exercise caution and stealthily assassinate targets, Tenchu really re-examined what ninja games should be, and played a part in the growing stealth-action genre. The game offered a great deal of freedom in terms of carrying out your objectives, but was not for the impatient – observation was key as you tried to identify the perfect time to strike. Getting it right is still a thrilling experience.
Neversoft’s first try with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man really stood out from the crowd, and not just because it was a great superhero game in an age when they were far from common. The combat and stage design are solid regardless of the license, but the development team really nailed all the great things about Marvel’s hero. Whether you’re swinging between buildings, ensnaring bad guys with a web shot, or even just hearing Spidey's little quips when he handily defeats another grunt, Spider-Man is a satisfying experience for both long-term fans of the character and players who just want a great action-adventure game.
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Shoot-'em-ups are definitely outside of Square’s RPG comfort zone, but that didn’t stop it from making a real impact in the genre. Einhänder is a decidedly conventional shoot-’em-up, but one that has been produced to a very high quality with great visuals and strong game design enhanced by the combo-based score system and modular Gunpod power-ups, useful for taking down the big bosses. There are some really great shoot-’em-ups on the PlayStation – R-Type Delta, G-Darius and Gradius Gaiden to name a few – but we’ve highlighted Einhander because it’s wholly original, rather than developing on the legacy of an existing series.
20. R4: Ridge Racer Type 4
The original Ridge Racer was emblematic of early Nineties arcade excess and was a major hit at the PlayStation’s launch. Player expectations had changed by the late Nineties though, so Namco shifted its approach to the series to match. Where the original was a loud, colorful game that you played for a good time, not a long time, Ridge Racer Type 4 offered a relaxing contrast with pastel-colored skies and a more relaxed soundtrack. The excellent drift-heavy racing remained though, and the game had some fun stories, plus more cars and tracks to play with than any of its predecessors.
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19. Final Fantasy Tactics
As one of the biggest names in the Japanese RPG landscape, Final Fantasy’s foray into strategy RPG territory was hotly anticipated, and it didn’t disappoint. This one dispenses with the high budget 3D spectacle and sci-fi leanings of mainline PlayStation counterparts like Final Fantasy VII and VIII, instead offering up more complex battles featuring 2D characters on isometric 3D stages, with job classes that call back to the more traditional fantasy roots of the series. Though combat is a big deal here the plot hasn’t been skimped on, with a depth and maturity that belies the cuteness of the character designs.
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18. Twisted Metal 2: World Tour
Whether you were speeding through Hong Kong’s railway tunnels or blowing up the Eiffel Tower, there was no doubt that expanding the car combat to a global scale was a great move for the Twisted Metal series. As well as these more complex and expansive arenas, the second game in the series introduced some iconic vehicles such as Axel and Mr Slam, as well as a co-op mode that allowed players to tackle the tournament together. The only downside was missing out on the endings, which could only be viewed by solo combatants – they remain memorably, deliciously evil today.
17. Time Crisis
If you were being shot at by a horde of really angry people, you’d want to hide behind something for a bit of protection. It seems so obvious, and yet light gun games just didn’t let you do it until Namco literally changed the game by introducing the cover pedal in Time Crisis. This PlayStation version is an excellent likeness for the arcade classic, but what really puts it over the top is the inclusion of a totally original second scenario set in a hotel, which is exclusive to this version. It justifies the purchase of a G-Con gun by itself.
16. Driver: You Are the Wheelman
Developer: Reflections Interactive
Reflections might have accidentally created one of the hardest tutorial stages ever, but getting past it was well worth it. Inspired by the great car chase movies of the Seventies, Driver gives you plenty of different driving missions to take on as an undercover cop, from getaways to tailing other cars. What makes Driver unique on the PlayStation is that its four city environments – Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York – are proper open worlds with plenty of freedom to choose your own route, which is crucial to making your evasion of the cops feel organic and satisfying.
15. Vagrant Story
Square had fully mastered the PlayStation hardware by the time Vagrant Story arrived, and the game is absolutely stunning when you consider what the developers were working with. While the cutscenes are breathtaking to behold, they’re not the key focus here – in fact, Vagrant Story is a surprisingly streamlined take on its genre, with action and adventure taking priority instead of the usual RPG fetch quests and NPC interactions. There’s some real depth to the combat, too – you can even target the individual limbs of enemies, in order to strategically break them down and reduce their ability to function.
14. Spyro the Dragon
Developer: Insomniac Games
It seems like a silly question looking back, but there was once a real debate over whether or not the PlayStation could actually do a 3D platform game – a proper one, with big open stages, not the corridors and caverns of Crash Bandicoot and Croc. Spyro The Dragon was the emphatic answer to that question. Not only could the PlayStation do a 3D platform game, but it could do one very well indeed. It’s not the hardest PlayStation game you’ll play, but the locations are wonderful to explore, and controlling Spyro feels great, so you’ll enjoy breezing through to the end.
13. Tomb Raider
Developer: Core Design
While there are five PlayStation games to choose from, it’s Lara Croft’s first adventure that really does the trick for us. There was simply nothing quite like Tomb Raider when it first launched in 1996 – that combination of exploration, puzzle-solving, and gunplay in a 3D environment was wholly unique. It’s also quite a different experience from its successors. Though it features memorable set pieces like the famous dinosaur encounter, the original Tomb Raider is more reliant on mental challenges than action, and sticks closely to the theme of tomb raiding rather than venturing out into the open air.
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12. Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants
The very first Oddworld game put you in the role of Abe, a poor meat factory worker who accidentally discovers that he and his Mudokon buddies are about to be turned into tasty treats. Your job is to liberate as many of your fellow enslaved Mudokons as you can, by ordering them about, telepathically controlling dangerous enemies, throwing grenades around, and more. It’s something of a hybrid puzzle platformer, with the cinematic ambition of Another World and the character management of Lemmings, but with the added bonus of some excellent pre-rendered visuals and rather dark humor. Also, Abe can fart.
11. WipEout 2097
The original WipEout had done a lot to establish the PlayStation as a cool console, and the fast futuristic racing action was just as exciting the second time around. WipEout 2097 was far easier to get into thanks to more forgiving collisions and the new Vector speed class, a slower standard to ease people in. But the challenge hadn’t been stripped away – you could now destroy your rivals with new weapons like the iconic Quake Disruptor, and the Phantom speed class and secret Piranha team awaited master racers. Licensed music from The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers just sweetened the deal.
10. PaRappa The Rapper
Apart from being a brilliant source of canine rhymes, PaRappa The Rapper is a poster child for the creative, whimsical side of the PlayStation. As well as being a whole generation’s introduction to the concept of music games, the colorful cartoon graphics, strange paper-thin characters and bizarre situations that PaRappa gets into are a world apart from anything else on the system. Plus, PaRappa himself is perhaps the most relatable character ever to star in a videogame – after all, his main concerns are getting a cute partner, learning how to drive, and having a desperately needed poo. We’ve all been there.
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9. Silent Hill
Developer: Team Silent
Other survival horror games might have been bloody and even tense, but Silent Hill was one of the very first to be genuinely unsettling. A lot of that was down to the psychological horror approach adopted by Konami’s developers, but equally, they did a lot to make the small things matter. Sure, Silent Hill might be using fog to cover up a limited draw distance like so many other games of the era, but few of them incorporated it as an atmospheric touch in quite the same way. And that Dual Shock heartbeat when you’re low on health? Brrr.
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8. Gran Turismo 2
Developer: Polys Entertainment
Back in the late Nineties, it was hard to imagine how Polyphony Digital could have possibly improved upon the original Gran Turismo. The game was by far the biggest and most realistic racing game available on not only the PlayStation, but any console, and players had gone wild for it. The simple solution was to just have more of everything. While the racing felt pretty similar and the astounding graphics remained, Gran Turismo 2 features more cars and more tracks to race them on – including the brand new inclusion of rally tracks, introducing off-road competition to the series.
7. Crash Bandicoot: Warped
Developer: Naughty Dog
As the unofficial mascot of the PlayStation, you just knew the bonkers bandicoot would show up here. The first two games became famous for their high-quality platforming, across 3D into-the-screen sections as well as more traditional 2.5D areas. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, this third game just adds heaps of extra stuff to do. The game offers motorbike rides, jetski sections, underwater adventures, and more, all with the same excellent presentation you’d expect. That’s all great for newcomers, and the challenge is still there for fanatics, with some truly testing time trials to tackle for 100% completion.
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6. Tekken 3
The Tekken series was the premier 3D fighting franchise on Sony’s console from the moment it arrived, and the third installment was easily the pinnacle of Namco’s achievements with the series in that era. The core fighting action was refined, with animations that more naturally flowed into one another, and the visuals were better thanks to the high-resolution mode and more solid character models. That wasn’t all though, as Tekken 3 was packed with things to do. There were plenty of unlockables from bizarre characters like Gon to odd modes like Tekken Ball, plus the scrolling beat-’em-up Tekken Force game.
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5. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
The original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was an unexpected success thanks to its unique platform game-inspired take on extreme sports, and there were high expectations for the sequel. Neversoft knocked it out of the park, creating classic stages that are still amongst the best the series has ever had, and filling them with twice as many goals. The introduction of the manual massively increased the scope of the combos you could string together, and if you ever got bored you could just create your own park. Go on – crank up When Worlds Collide and feel that muscle memory returning.
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4. Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 is to Resident Evil what Aliens was to Alien. Don’t believe us? Think about the tension of that first game, how it built up to that first zombie encounter. Resident Evil 2 has more than that on the very first screen, marking it out as the bigger budget, more action-packed sequel. But as you take Leon and Claire through Raccoon City, there are still plenty of scary moments – the gun shop nightmare and that first fleeting sight of the Licker stand out. Plus, the innovative game design meant that your first play might even affect a subsequent run.
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3. Final Fantasy 7
It’s so easy to talk about Final Fantasy 7’s production values, and they do deserve recognition. It had beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds, stunning real-time spell animations, and a soundtrack that is up there with the best ever. But the tale of Cloud, Sephiroth, and the fate of the planet is an epic one, and it’s often overlooked for featuring some real warmth. For every dramatic moment, you’ll see something like the party complaining about endless staircases, a scene with the Turks, or even a sighting of a mad scientist relaxing on the beach, making it easy to become invested in their plight.
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2. Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
At a time when the world was obsessed with the move to 3D, this 2D masterpiece was a timely reminder that chasing graphical trends was no substitute for superb game design. The game dispensed with the linear progression of past Castlevania games, instead allowing you to explore a sprawling castle that opens up steadily as Alucard gains new abilities. The RPG elements are well integrated, the graphics have aged with grace and the soundtrack is truly excellent too. To understand this game’s impact, just consider this – this game is 50% responsible for naming the “Metroidvania” subgenre of exploratory platform games.
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1. Metal Gear Solid
What can you say about Konami’s classic? Few PlayStation games have such impressive 3D environments, nor such cinematic ambition. Many games owe a debt to Metal Gear Solid’s simple but effective take on stealth. But what really sticks out to us all these years later is just how inventive the game was. Whether it was hiding crucial information on the game’s physical packaging or giving you some ketchup to let you fake an injury – not to mention that boss fight with Psycho Mantis – Metal Gear Solid had plenty of out-of-the-box ideas, and rewarded players for having them too.
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