Take a walk back in time, to 20 years ago. There are no smartphone games, because there are no smartphones. Every console manufacturer is struggling to find their respective mascots. 2D sprites are evolving into 3D models. Tony Hawk is still super cool. Ah, those were the days.
It was a different time, and PlayStation was at the centre of it all, with Sony's first wade into the console market breaking all sorts of records, with sales numbers that still impress today, 14 years on from its original release. So what better way to pay our respects to little grey box that could, than by running through the 25 very best PlayStation games of all time?
25. Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins
Yeah, Metal Gear Solid is the pinnacle of stealth games, but for everything that Snake embodies, he's still not a bona fide, authentic ninja. Rikimaru and Ayame are though, and their adventures in Tenchu 2 make for some high-quality stealth action.
While playing the game had its merits, the true excellence of Tenchu 2 lies in its mission-creation modes. We could build our own assassination mission from the ground up; we could create everything from level layout to objectives, allowing us to stretch our creative talents into crafting the perfect setting for a kill. We probably spent more time making missions than completing them, but we don't care.
24. Klonoa: Door to Phantomile
Even though Klonoa was targeted more at children than adults, people young and old could appreciate the brilliant universe and unique game design. It was a cute, fun, simple platformer that relied on a relatively new approach to grab gamers’ attention.
The 2.5D (3D game engine with a mostly 2D style of play) design was a perfect way to keep the accessibility and desirability of older 2D platformers while simultaneously acknowledging the industry’s almost unanimous jump into the 3D realm. It made for very fresh platforming and a progression that never got stale. Klonoa may not have created the legacy Namco had hoped for, but at least he’ll always live on in our hearts.
23. Suikoden 2
If you’ve never played or heard of Suikoden 2, it was probably because you just couldn’t get your hands on a copy. Despite high review scores and a passionate following (that perhaps formed too late), Suikoden 2 was never reprinted after its initial limited run. Which is a real shame, because that forced one of the greatest PlayStation RPGs to fade into relative obscurity.
Story was the standout component here, and not just the one involving the game’s protagonist. You spent much of the game recruiting up to 108 allies to fight alongside you. It was a bit like Pokemon, only these allies could speak, kill, and were never constrained by magical ball-prisons. Hmm, OK, maybe it was nothing like Pokemon...
22. Driver: You Are the Wheelman
A '70s car chase movie come to life, Driver turned you into the tough guy undercover cop that you always wanted to be. We'd spend hours driving through impressive urban areas, eluding authorities and wreaking havoc while completing our main missions. New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Los Angeles were our playgrounds, and we were ready to play.
Car physics were as authentic as they could be back in those days, with every crash leaving some kind of mark on our vehicles. While we wanted to be indestructible (and who doesn't?), Driver's realism and fast-paced action left us wanting more anyway.
21. Spyro the Dragon
Besides Crash Bandicoot (who we'll get to later), Spyro was sort of the Mario of the PlayStation. The cute, purple dragon had a number of adventures throughout the years, though his finest moment was arguably his first, in 1998.
Spyro was a very capable little guy, despite being the smallest of his kind. Through a combination of jumping, gliding, breathing fire, and headbutting enemies, Spyro fought against the villainous Gnasty Gnorc and his mooning minions. Plus, you get to play as a dragon. A dragon! And he's adorable.
Now here's a game that delivers a true Spider-Man experience. The PS1 Spider-Man adventure made us feel like we were actually ol' webhead himself, climbing rooftops and beating up bad guys without breaking a sweat.
We could shoot webbing, we could swing across rooftops, we could do everything Peter Parker could while saving the day. But more than his abilities, this game captured the spirit of Spider-Man. There was no better comic book game available when Spider-Man was released, and we're hard-pressed to find a better Spider-Man game even now.
19. Vagrant Story
From the first five minutes, we knew we'd be hooked on Vagrant Story. There isn't a better introduction to a video game anywhere else. Any self-respecting gamer who watches that has to continue to play. There's no way around it.
Luckily for us, the rest of the game is just as fantastic. The battle system, despite being one of the deepest we've ever played, never feels too intimidating. Graphically there's a lot of brown, but this is one of the few games that makes it work. Finally, of course, is that story... like we said, once you're in, you're hooked. Vagrant Story is a masterpiece overshadowed by more big-time names. We can't recommend it enough.
18. Mega Man X4
When Mega Man X made the jump to the PlayStation, some fans worried that the overall quality of the series would be compromised. One look at Mega Man 8 did not earn Capcom a lot of confidence. Thankfully, Mega Man X4 maintains the quality of the SNES titles, bringing the X series to a whole new level.
X4 allowed you to finally choose between X and Zero for the entire game, creating two incredibly different playing styles. X played more like the normal Mega Man experience, but Zero's sword capabilities made him quite intriguing. X4 feels like two games in one thanks to that choice, making the entire experience that much better.
17. R4: Ridge Racer Type 4
Though they may have looked similar graphically, R4 was far from the racing sim Gran Turismo 2 was. Ridge Racer was always about arcade controls, drifting, and most importantly, accessibility. This meant that even gamers who weren’t so good at driving games could escape the degradation of kart racing and feel like a true pro. R4 was the last and best Ridge Racer game on the PlayStation, and despite the franchise continuing on to the present day, some still consider R4 to be the pinnacle of the series.
Phew, it’s hard to believe we made it to the end of this entry without succumbing to the urge to type out a certain meme. RIIIIIDGE-- no! Must resist!
16. Street Fighter Alpha 3
The PS1 gets knocks from retro gamers for popularizing polygonal visuals over 2D sprites, but that ignores a good number of games that kept hand-drawn graphics alive. A great example of that is the culmination of everything that Capcom got right with the Alpha series, Street Fighter Alpha 3 - aka the pinnacle of 2D fighters on the PlayStation.
SFA3 not only featured multiple playstyles and combo gauges to choose from, it also had an impressively rich roster. Fans got to see dream match-ups as Alpha originals like Rose and Sakura faced off against SF2 classics like Guile, Fei Long, and Blanka. Ultimately SFA3 was proof that old-school fighters still had a place in the era of polygons.
15. Tomb Raider 2
The original Tomb Raider may have pioneered the 3D action adventure genre, but when it was first introduced, the PlayStation was young and many gamers had never truly been confronted by a purely polygonal being before. By the time Tomb Raider 2 landed one year later, everyone knew who Lara Croft was. Everyone was ready.
And Core Design did not disappoint. The developer learned a lot from creating the first game, and in turn gave us a bigger, cleaner, more exciting world in which to maneuver. TR2 felt like a big step up from its predecessor - something we can’t really say about the slightly tweaked cash-in that Tomb Raider 3 turned out to be.
14. Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee
Dammit, Abe’s Oddysee was beautiful. Maybe not in a conventional sense (a forcefully muted slave leading a revolt to escape death by meat grinder is hardly soothing), but the high artistic value of both the visual design and soundtrack were hard to deny. Oddworld was exactly as its name implied, and that was a huge part of the appeal.
Even the game engine was unique enough to garner its own name: A.L.I.V.E (Aware Lifeforms In a Virtual Environment). Enemies and allies both had personality, and responded in different ways to specific stimuli as opposed to just predictably walking left or right. The result was a world that engaged you in a cerebral and contemplative way - a fresh concept for 2D platformers at the time.
13. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Soul Reaver was one of the most memorable 3D action adventure games on the PlayStation thanks to its dark story, impressive voice acting, and varied mechanics. It was surprising that it turned out so well, considering that stylistically, Legacy of Kain was a brand-new take on the series, its prequel being a top-down RPG.
Switching between the physical and spectral realms in order to solve puzzles was a fresh and fascinating element that helped cover up the fact that the game as a whole was pretty easy. But easy doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and we fondly remember kicking vampire ass with the Soul Reaver.
12. Final Fantasy 7
Of course this game is on our list. But really, there's not a whole lot we can say about Final Fantasy VII that you don't already know. This game raised the bar for the RPG genre; it's the Beatles of role-playing games. Cloud and Sephiroth have become icons in gaming, all because of their grand adventure in 1997.
Final Fantasy 7 succeeded at all three of the major gaming points: gameplay, story, and graphics. The Materia-based battle system still influences game design today, the story features one of the most tragic plot twists of all time, and the graphics (at the time) were beyond anything we'd ever seen. FF7 was a revolution, and everyone else just had to catch up.
11. Ape Escape
When the Dual Shock controller was introduced, few games took advantage as well as Ape Escape. Instead of using the right stick for camera movements, you controlled a multitude of unique and fun gadgets in an effort to capture increasingly elusive simians. Whether it was an ape squirming under your net or a revved-up dash hoop spinning around your waist, every precisely controlled action was rewarded with unprecedented tactile feedback.
And honestly, who wouldn’t want to travel through time bashing rogue apes over the head with something that looked like a lightsaber before scooping them up in a Time Net and instantly zapping them back to the present? The concept sells itself.
10. Tekken 3
It didn’t take much to sell a three-dimensional fighting game during the second half of the '90s, but Tekken 3 definitely wasn’t content to rest on its laurels. The arcade port pushed the boundaries of the PlayStation’s graphical capability, and the highly acclaimed gameplay improvements took the series even further into the third dimension.
There we so many new fighters and so many things to do (thanks to the addition of mini-games) that it was hard to believe Tekken 3 could even exist on the PS1. But exist it did, and it was awesome enough that many people still consider it the best of the entire series.
9. Worms Armageddon
Controlling worms has never been so much fun. Especially when those worms set out to kill other worms with an arsenal that would make the US Army sweat bullets. When another player gets involved, well, friendships will be tested.
Our worms have swung on ninja ropes, blown each other up with missiles, and sent plenty of their brethren into the watery depths below each stage. No matter how long we play, no matter how much we destroy, it never gets old. We still have a blast with it, over 10 years after we originally tried it. Our love for worm destruction will never die.
8. Gran Turismo 2
Remember that time when your parents walked into the living room and thought you were watching TV, even though you were actually playing a video game? Chances are, that happened during a race replay in Gran Turismo 2. Yep, it looked that good.
Obviously, GT2 was more than just a super-sleek tech demo. The series popularized the racing sim genre with its faithful yet accessible action, and GT2 was simply as good as things got on the PS. Even those who were uninterested in cars and/or racing were drawn in by the influential power of the title. And let’s not forget the over 600 highly detailed vehicles and a realistically robust customization system. Good times.
7. PaRappa the Rapper
The precursor for rhythm games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Band, PaRappa the Rapper took the nifty idea of timing button presses to match specific beats and added charming paper-like animations, funny lyrics, and seriously catchy tunes. With songs about learning to drive a car and competing for a turn on the toilet, the tone was always light-hearted and extremely enjoyable.
It didn’t take much for that enjoyment to quickly devolve into a hilarious mess if you mistimed your button presses. Honestly, hearing PaRappa miss his cues and come in at the wrong times was just as satisfying as winning the game. Well, for spectators at least.
6. Silent Hill
Silent Hill wasn’t content with mere jump scares and ugly creatures. It aimed to psychologically devastate you, to ensure you were afraid to go to sleep. And for some reason, we absolutely loved it for that.
With its dense fog, smothering darkness, and multiple dimensions, Silent Hill created one of the most terrifying (and memorable) environments ever seen in a video game. Even more unsettling was that the game’s protagonist, Harry Mason, wasn’t some chain-smoking space marine: He was a normal dude who sucked at fighting. Whether this was an excuse for a poor control scheme or an intentional combat deterrent, we certainly gained a new appreciation for the term “survival.”
Running away is exactly what you would do if being chased by deadly monsters, and we’ll always appreciate Konami’s understanding of this idea. Also, an alien abduction ending was possible. Too cool.
5. Twisted Metal 3
As soon as cars were invented, drivers dreamed of mounting machine guns on them and wreaking havoc on other motor vehicles, violently and without judgment. Twisted Metal gave us exactly that. Then Twisted Metal 2 gave us more of it. Then Twisted Metal 3 gave us even more, wrapped it all up in a straitjacket, and set it on fire, creating one big ball of flaming absurdity.
Of course the extreme demolition-derby aspects were satisfying, but the settings in which the battles took place and the disturbing character portrayals injected personality into an otherwise mechanical and faceless game concept. Sony was banking on there being a demented sadist inside of all of us, and it was totally spot on.
4. Resident Evil 2
The original Resident Evil was a standout in its own right, but also contained a lot of flaws that kept it from true greatness (laughable FMV sequences come to mind). Capcom learned its lesson quickly, however, and bounced back two years later with Resident Evil 2: a game superior to the first in nearly every way.
Gore, horror, puzzles, developed characters, and of course, the anxiety of surviving as opposed to destroying everything in sight were elements essentially perfected (at least in terms of the PlayStation’s capabilities) by RE2. RE3 may have offered some enhanced gameplay, but it had nowhere near the personality or memorability.
3. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
If Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater effectively combined two of the coolest things in the world - skateboarding and video games - to create gaming gold, THPS2 was gaming unobtainium. It was an instant classic that didn’t just blow the mind of current gamers, it created an army of brand-new ones.
Increased level size, creating a custom skater, building your own skate parks, and using manuals to link combos were monumental additions proving THPS2 was way more than just a cash-in on a successful concept (though we can’t say the same for any Tony Hawk game released in the last 10 years). Plus, THPS2 is the reason why we all know Powerman 5000’s “When Worlds Collide” by heart, and why we still have an urge to bust out a frontside nosegrind every time we see an escalator, even if we aren’t skaters. Such was the impact of this incredible game.
2. Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid demanded a lot from its players. For one, we had to learn to stop mashing on our controllers like mindless sitcom actors for two seconds and simply watch a video game. When we did have control, there was a whole lot of careful sneaking and quiet killing. Go in guns blazing (well, as close as you could get to guns blazing in MGS) and you were often met with swift, crushing defeat. Why did we ever put up with it?
Because not only did MGS deliver a thrilling interactive experience, it was the next evolution in gaming. Its movie-like cutscenes and meticulously designed, stealth-centric levels were evidence of a production value not normally seen in a video game. Konami and Kojima tried for a lot here, and pulled it all off brilliantly.
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Upon hearing the Castlevania name, many gamers’ thoughts go directly to Symphony of the Night. And so they should; the game was amazing. If that descriptor seems a little too vague or generic for your tastes, that probably means you haven’t actually played this classic. And now we have a problem.
The expansive map, RPG elements, unlockable skills, and (enjoyable) backtracking of SOTN led to the coinage of the term “Metroidvania” to describe similar games. And, thanks to Konami focusing on using the PS’s power to amplify the 2D graphics instead of delving into the trendy territory of early 3D gaming, SOTN holds up extremely well. So much so, it’s considered one of the best games of not only the PS era, but of all time.
The original PlayStation was jam-packed with awesome games, wasn't it? These 50 just scratch the surface of the amazing, revolutionary system. What's your favorite game on the list? Let us know in the comments below!
And if you're looking for more of the greatest games from the same era, check out the best N64 games of all time . If you want to skip right to the cream of the crop, we've also got a list of the best games ever.