A history of greatness
The PlayStation brand has been around for 20 years now. That's a good long time. And if you're going to last that long doing something, you're going to have to be pretty damn good at it. The first sentence of this paragraph being entirely true (which it is), Sony's gaming career thus far is packed with standout moments, great games, and all-important turning points for the whole industry.
In fact it's really easy, if you've been around long enough, so see gaming as two distinct periods; before PlayStation and afterwards. The culture, technology, and scope of video games have just changed that much since the PSone kickstarted the second wave. So we figured it was time to round up the hits, and put together a megamix of PlayStation's greatest moments since it all began. So here they are. All 20 of them. Lap them up, get all embassarringly misty-eyed, and then wipe away the tears as soon as you're interrupted, and get all stoically chin-stroking, and "Hmm, yes, here-here". Then have a happy weep when you're on your own again.
Naughty Dog's first Sony game
Although Naughty Dog made games before their exclusive partnership with Sony, no one remembers Keef the Thief except geeky senior citizens. Everyone remembers the crate-bashing Crash Bandicoot, star of their very first PlayStation platformer and the consoles best mascot until anthropomorphic animals went out of style. The game consummated the relationship between Sony and Naughty Dog in a completely non-sexual way, and the rest is history. But not boring history filled with old people and wars, but cool history featuring the likes of Jak and Daxter, Nathan Drake, and The Last of Us Joel and Ellie.
Although in 1996 Nintendo was the first to plonk an analogue stick on their controller to prepare everyones fingers for three daunting dimensions, a year later Sony built upon the concept, giving their DualShock pad two of the blighters, which have weirdly not come to be known as mini joy stalks. As well as a D-pad, players now had a masterful level of 360-degree control, allowing for precise movements, proving that you can have your cake and wiggle your thumbs all over it too.
Metal Gear Solid
Hideo Kojimas masterpiece simultaneously raised the bar, pushed the limit and was really quite good, establishing one of gamings most iconic franchises and shifting perceptions of the entire medium. Complex characters, hidden secrets, supreme world-building and a man with an eye patch called Solid Snake, this game has it all. Stealth action wasnt really a thing before Metal Gear Solid; 17 years later, its a pretty big thing. Well done, Hideo, as you were literally the only person who worked on this game.
Final Fantasy VII
Before Final Fantasy VII, if you were to walk up to a counter in a game store (remember those?) and ask for a Final Fantasy game on a Sony machine youd have almost certainly received a punch to the face. This is because there wasnt a Sony machine before Final Fantasy VII, you dolt, and the series was a strictly Nintendo joint anyway. While that doesnt excuse the face punch, it does mark Sonys pilfering of the ironically long-running Final Fantasy series from under Nintendos nose as a key cstrike in the console war. Who would they steal next? Watch out, Nintendo, they coming for yo girl!
Dont tell her this, but Lara Croft was an accident. It happened when her artist, fiddling with the dimensions of her character model, inadvertently slipped his mouse and caused her chest to increase by 150 percent. Well, thats his story. Sure, it resulted in a crude (and pointy) look by todays standards, but the star of Tomb Raider is a bona fide cultural landmark as one of the first women to star in a videogame. In fact she was probably the first game character of any gender to become legtimately mainstream-famous above and beyond her series. A genuine e-celebrity, and one who rapidly became synonymous with PlayStation, accelerating the profile and fortunes of the both during the late 90s. Shes grown with the times, too, becoming entirely more relatable and less ridiculous, and thus remaining as relevant now as she ever has been. Thanks, man with uncontrollable hands.
Vrooooooooooom! Thats the sound of Gran Turismo racing into the hearts of PlayStation owners everywhere when, in 1998, Polyphony Digital released their masterful racing sim. Five years in development, 140 cars, 11 tracks, and 10.8 million copies sold worldwide made Gran Turismo a roaring success, and with its stunning (at the time) visuals and convincing AI, worthy of its many accolades. Later Gran Turismos got even better, with the PS2s Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec the high point. Check that 95% Metacritic rating.
The unsettling adverts
The advertising, oh God the advertising. While their current This is for the players slogan feels as delightfully all-inclusive as a Harvester buffet, nothing in the 90s caused more furrowed brows with the elderly than Sonys subversive marketing department, except maybe the Spice Girls. Remember the inspirational alien lady? Or the telekinetic baby? Or the seriously sexualised French ads that featured a lady having a group encounter with a bunch of fleshy, hairy PlayStation symbols? Wed rather forget actually, cheers.
Music games for cool people
Theyre mostly on hiatus right now, but in the mid-noughties music games were bloody huge, and - in-keeping with the brand's philosophy that games weren't just for children and nerds any more - the PS2 scored the first major chart-topper with 2005s Guitar Hero, a rhythm-action game bundled with a small plastic guitar that uncool people would ridicule when they came round your house. Its success spawned the likes of Rock Band, which added drums and vocals to the mix to make your neighbours extra hate you, and Rocksmith, a practical music tutor geared towards more dedicated, long-fingered guitar heroes.
Multimedia hits the living room
Remember when all you could do on your console was play games? How quaint. It was a time when cameras only took pictures and phones only made phone calls, before media went multi. The PS2 changed all that. Now, as well as shooting the heads off countless Nazi hordes hellbent on the destruction of the free world, you could watch a DVD of Babe. You could listen to a CD track by hitmakers Chumbawamba. And later, on PS3, you could import all your awesome selfies, watch movies off a USB stick, and innocently browse the internet. Nowadays leaving your room is merely an option.
The 3D Grand Theft Auto games
GTA III, GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas are among the finest games ever made, and they all debuted exclusively on a Sony machine. Its easy to forget just how groundbreaking the first of these PS2-era open-world action games was, GTA III breaking with the top-down crime capers of before to give players a fully three dimensional, open-world city to wreck havoc in. At the time it was unbelievable. The sequels expanded the concept, taking it to new cities and new eras.
Everything Team Ico has ever done
Hey Team Ico. How are you doing there? Everything going well? Good, good. Were glad. Oh while youre here, how about you GET YOUR ASSES IN GEAR AND BRING US THE LAST GUARDIAN. Sorry, that was rude. Its just because your first two games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, are weep-inducing epics that represent the closest videogames have come to art, intimate, emotive, and visually astounding as they are. So I guess what were trying to say is, we kinda really need that next one, like, NOW.
The PS2 network adapter
Youve got the whole world, in your games. Youve got the whole wide world, in your games. That was the tune literally no one was singing when Sony launched their network adapter for the PS2 in America in 2003 and a year later in Europe, allowing gamers to play long-distance multiplayer with anyone in the world. No more splitscreen with people you pretend to like! Tactical military shooter SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs was part of the first wave of games to feature on the service, and among the first with voice chat. So the next time someone swears at you down the headset, you know who to blame.
Long before Xbox had Kinect, PlayStation had EyeToy, a Logitech-manufactured digital camera that launched in 2003, sold two million within the year, and kicked off the whole gesture-based revolution. Bundled with madcap minigame collection, EyeToy: Play, it lets you spin plates, box chumps, wash dishes, juggle UFOs, and boogie down using nothing but your terrible, gangly body motions. Later came software that took advantage of the in-built microphone for awkward video chats with friends, and horrifying face-scanning in games such as LittleBigPlanet and Tony Hawks Underground 2.
Sony backed the right horse, the right horse in this case a high-definition video format that you alas cant jump over fences without a lot of creative engineering. Toshiba had HD-DVDs, Sony had Blu-Rays. There could be only one. Key to Sonys victory was the fact Blu-ray functionality was built into PS3s, while Xbox 360 owners had to buy their HD-DVD drives separately. After a few months uncertainty/internet forum fights, Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox joined Sony Pictures in support of Blu-ray, and from there the chips fell into place. The chips in this case being other movie studios, and fell meaning schmoozed to death in L.A. Now Blu-ray is ubiquitous, and our eyes routinely massaged with the lush video quality.
THAT Killzone 2 trailer (and the game that followed)
The question on everybodys lips after witnessing Killzone 2s spectacular E3 2005 trailer was, well, it was more a breathless splutter of excited syllables that went up at the end, quizzically. When the dust settled, so did expectations. Is this for real? people said to each other repeatedly. It turns out that no, it wasnt for real - because reality was even better. Well, visually anyway. Check out this comparison video, which impressively highlights how Guerilla Games final product actually exceeded their trailers pre-rendered target footage. The likes of Killzone 2, Motorstorm, Resistance and Heavenly Sword cemented the PS3 early on as a technological powerhouse.
All those shiny buttons, blorpy tunes and the presence of Stephen Frys velvety hug of a voice might make you think LittleBigPlanet is nothing more than a twee distraction. Its far more than that. It invites a thimble-fingered army of creatives to create their own levels, offers whole new ways to play and share, and inspired a bunch similarly creative games in its wake (none of which were as good). And hey, if youre not into yarn and kindness, you can always force Sackboy to pull a sickening rictus grin as you burn him. Were not saying you should. You just could.
What do you do to attract the millions of people on a rival service? You give them a better deal. Thats what Sonys premium bolt-on to their otherwise entirely free online offering was. Pay a small fee a month and youll get subscribed to monthly deals on PS3, PS4, and PS Vita games, as well as two free games on each format each month - six freebies altogether. Its a lot better than suddenly introducing a mandatory online charge to your loyal customers, and because of it, PS Plus provides consistently great value for money.
PlayTV might not be as iconic as Ico or as glamorous as GTA in the PlayStations long and storied history, but its just as important to remember. Thats why this feature exists. YOURE WELCOME. This hardware add-on launched in 2008 and allowed you to watch HDTV through your PS3, and record video to the hard drive. Grandma could even watch her stories on the go, providing she knew how to operate a PSP over Wi-Fi (unlikely). PlayStations edging out of the bedroom and into the living room continues.
The Share Button
Social media is pretty big right now, I dont know if youve heard of it? You know, sharing, liking, reblogging, loling and all that stuff. Sony made it simple out of the box with the PS4s share functionality. Simply press the share button on your controller to take a picture or record a video of, say, your FIFA players limbs going all mental, then upload it for major kudos from your peers. Major, major kudos. They definitely wont think youre annoying if you keep doing it. In fact, share this feature. Share it now.
Witchcraft. This is basically witchcraft. Combining technology, social play, and creative thinking in a fundamentally PlayStation way, the notion of having a friend (who is not in the same room, or even house), jump in to join or even take control of your game (as if they are in the same room, in the same house, whether they own the game or not) still feels like an impossible, Jetsons-style sci-fi dream. Yet it exists, and its happening on PlayStation 4s all over the world right now. Its all the fun and camaraderie of having a friend pop around to help with a game, without the need for them to actually be there. Which is great if, you know, theyre an inconvenient distance away when you get stuck, or just smell a bit.
So there are some of PlayStation's most notable achievements and landmarks over the last two decades. But where are we going to go next? With the PS4 just out of the block, but already building to a sprint, anything seems possible. Hell, you would have been arrested for grand lunacy if you'd told a a 1998 MGS player about Share Play. Even if you'd been Kojima. And he probably would have predicted it, via some manner of lengthy monologue. Anyway, any other favourite PlayStation moments? Drop them in the comments.
And while you're here, check out some of our other favourite celebratory PlayStation content. Our list of the 25 best PS4 games so far is a good start, and if you want to start looking forward, check out 45 upcoming PS4 games for 2015 and beyond.