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.
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 keep things PlayStation focused, here's our list of the best PS3 games. Don't forget to check out our roundup of the modern re-releases of retro consoles too.