(Sang to Kiss’s “Cold Gin”) It’s top 5 time again! Yes, it’s that time of the week where I posit a top 5 topic to the rest of the crew and they secretly curse my existence for making them pare it down to 5. This week I made it extra hard on them (and myself as well) and tasked us with naming our top 5 games on what could arguably be the greatest console of all time, the OG Playstation. That’s right, it’s The Top 5: PSone games.
5. Resident Evil 2 – I have a confession to make. I finished Resident Evil 2 when it first came out and thought it was a good game. Several months later, a friend of mine approached me and said that he was playing through the game again, with Claire’s scenario after beating Leon Kennedy’s scenario. Puzzled, I popped in Resident Evil 2, finished Leon’s scenario again, only to find out that there’s more Resident Evil 2 to be played! After learning that the scenarios would be changed, depending on who you started the game with, as well as many of the game’s nuances, Resident Evil 2 quickly became one of the best games I’d played on the PlayStation to date.
4. Silent Hill – The way Silent Hill was pitched to me by magazines at the time was that it was a game that was similar to Resident Evil, but closer to The Exorcist and Jacob’s Ladder in terms of mood. Boy, were they right. I appreciated that the game was created by only 5 people, especially with all the CG being created by just one of those five, and how they used the limitations of the PlayStation to establish a mood that not only made sense thematically but also technically. Silent Hill 2’s my all time favorite Silent Hill game of all time, but the original is what started it all.
3. Final Fantasy VII – I was having a difficult time trying to figure out where to put Final Fantasy VII on my list, given that I actually purchased the PlayStation just for that game. But I feel that, above all the ones I’ve already listed, Final Fantasy VII made storytelling more feasible in video games and I felt that the CG cutscenes were one of the finer selling points of the game. Sure, looking back, it’s dated as all heck, but nothing else matched Final Fantasy VII in terms of epic storytelling, how it told its story, and just the overall customizability of the magic/summon system.
2. Metal Gear Solid – I ate up every single bit of information I could leading up to the actual release of Metal Gear Solid, and for good reason. I recall learning how Kojima actually used LEGO bricks to plan his stages and created a very complex yet versatile 3D engine that allowed us to experience some of gaming’s most memorable scenes, from Sniper Wolf’s defeat to the epic battle with Liquid Snake on top of Metal Gear REX. And who could forget that moment when Psycho Mantis told you what Konami games you were playing? Since then, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has held the title of my favorite game in the series, but you can’t deny Metal Gear Solid’s influence on the later games.
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – This is by far the only game in the series that I replay and beat constantly. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night represents the height of the 32-bit era and delivers some impressive detail, rich colors, detailed pixel art, and some of the cheesiest voice acting in gaming history. Perhaps its most redeeming quality has to be its gameplay in which, several years later, I’m still getting loot that I’ve never encountered during my first playthrough. The sense of wonderment is still there, and while the torch has been carried by multiple directors after its release, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is the only Castlevania game that’s been ported on practically every single modern platform that’s out right now, excluding mobile phones.
5 just wasn’t enough for me this week, so in no particular order, here are my honorable mentions: Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy IX, Chrono Cross, Xenogears, Street Fighter Alpha 2, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Parappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy, Tactics Ogre, Wild Arms, Grandia, Vagrant Story, Suikoden, Alundra, Lunar: Silver Star Story and Lunar 2: Eternal Blue.
5. Final Fantasy Tactics – If all was right in the world, Tactics Ogre would have been the game that got me hooked on strategy role playing games, but the original Super Nintendo game never got released in North America and the PlayStation 1 version came out years later. Instead, Final Fantasy Tactics beat Tactics Ogre to the punch, and I loved it. It had a dark, mature storyline, challenging battles, tons of characters, a huge list of classes/jobs and one of the greatest soundtracks in the history of gaming. To this day Final Fantasy Tactics remains one of the best representations of the SRPG genre.
4. Metal Gear Solid –Metal Gear Solid is another game that opened my eyes to a video game genre I had never experienced before. I grew up playing mostly JRPGs and platformers, so I was like a fish out of water the first time I played Metal Gear Solid. I was so unprepared for that type of stealth action gameplay that I got caught and killed by the first guard in the game… repeatedly. I turned the game off in frustration and would not have thought about it again were it not for my friends that were absolutely enthralled by the game. So I tried it again, and sure enough, I snuck by that nasty guard without much of an issue and was finally able to experience and properly enjoy the game. Once I got used to the gameplay, I was able to appreciate the depth of the storyline, the hidden secrets, and the invaluable boxes and I learned just how fun the game was.
3. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Sometimes one genre just isn’t enough. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night took the classic series of platformers and added a map and exploration system similar to Super Metroid and a bunch of gameplay elements more commonly found in RPGs and combined them into one of the best games of all time. I could not put the controller down when I played through this game, and I was actually sad when I beat the game and the credits rolled. Imagine my delight when I found out that I was actually barely halfway done! To this day I don’t think there has ever been a better side scrolling action platformer than Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
2. Suikoden II – As one of my favorite JRPGs of all time, Suikoden II could have easily been #1 on this list. It has a mature and deeply emotional storyline with meaningful branches, an incredible villain, a great soundtrack, and a huge list of likable characters. And like the other games in the series, it allows the player to amass a huge army and build a gigantic castle to house and organize its recruits. Most RPGs let you develop a character or group of characters, but few let you develop a whole castle and its residents! In my opinion the Suikoden series is one of the best in the genre, and Suikoden II is the best game in the series.
1. Final Fantasy VII – I’ll never forget the release date of Final Fantasy VII. I was at Gamestop (formerly EB Games) with my pre-order receipt in hand, waiting for the shipment to arrive at the store as promised. I was surrounded by other gamers waiting for the same thing. This, in and of itself, was unusual. Throughout my entire life up until that point, my love of role playing games put me in a minority among my gaming friends. The genre had remained niche my entire life. And yet there I was, surrounded by all kinds of gamers that were all waiting for the same thing. The arrival of Final Fantasy VII was important not only to me, but to a much wider audience of gamers than the genre had ever reached before.
Of course, the shipment didn’t arrive on schedule. The store was able to determine that the delivery truck was still on its way, and kept the store open late into the night, even after the mall had closed. Finally, around 10:00pm, it showed up. By that time there were about 75 people gathered around the register, and by 11:00pm, I finally had my copy.
I rushed home, turned on my PlayStation and played Final Fantasy VII until the sun came up. I went to sleep. I woke up. I ditched school. I played more Final Fantasy VII.
A world of gamers played with me. Maybe it was the cumulative growth of the genre over the last several years. Maybe it was word of mouth spread by gamers who had loved Final Fantasy VI. Perhaps it was the ad campaign that featured full motion video instead of actual gameplay that enticed the masses. But whatever the case, one thing was clear: Final Fantasy VII had pushed JRPGs into the mainstream, and the genre has maintained that status ever since.
I don’t think that Final Fantasy VII is the best Final Fantasy game. I’m not even sure if it’s the best Final Fantasy game on PlayStation 1! But it is without a doubt the most significant historically, and an incredible game overall.
5. Syphon Filter – Syphon Filter is a third person shooter that had a government operative Gabriel Logan tracking down terrorists who were trying to unleash the Syphon Filter virus into the U.S. Normally this would just turn out to be the average PS1 shooter but the game introduced the greatest weapon of all: The taser gun! It’s got an incredibly long reach and sets everyone on fire. This was one of the funniest things I ever saw in a game and it stayed with me to this day.
4. Resident Evil 2 – Resident Evil may not have been the start of the horror genre but it was really good. Resident Evil 2 did something new that games hadn’t done before or since. It created the second scenario. The second scenario follows a different path than the main story to get to the end of the game. This fascinated me and caught my attention at the same time. I would play both scenarios, one right after the other, and I loved every minute of it.
3. Final Fantasy VII – Final Fantasy VII is the second JRPG I ever played. Years before, I played Final Fantasy III (VI) on the Super Nintendo and it was great. When I saw the box for Final Fantasy VII in the store, I immediately bought it. The game looked good and was fun to play. Then, Aeris died and I wondered what I did wrong. I restarted the game to see if I missed something just to realize that it was supposed to happen.
2. Metal Gear Solid – Metal Gear Solid introduced the character Solid Snake to me. It also introduced the concept of a sneaking mission. Sneaking took some time to get used to, as I was more used to brute forcing my way through a game, like in Syphon Filter.
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – Symphony of the Night taught me who Alucard was and why he is trying to kill his father. The game introduced numerous weapons including the Crissaegrim which hits enemies four time per swing. I found this weapon only once even though I played it multiple times.
5. Like a father can’t choose his favorite child I can’t choose between these amazing games. Tony Hawk’s Pro-Skater 2, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins and Driver were all ground breaking in their respective genre’s and are proof positive as to what a genius and varied platform the original PlayStation was.
4. Tomb Raider 2 – Tomb Raider was a genre defining game when it hit Playstation. Not much hype behind it but it sold well-enough to warrant a sequel because it offered something no other game did at the time. Huge, non-linear environments with brain melting puzzle and awesome action. Then came Tomb Raider 2 and did everything the first game did, but better and added vehicles. They don’t get much better than this.
3. Metal Gear Solid – This game blew my mind showcasing what games were capable of. Not just in terms of story and presentation, but also how games could be a commentary on games themselves. Breaking the fourth wall more than Burt Reynolds, Metal Gear Solid created a new book of tricks. Psycho Mantis boss battle? Mind blown.
2. Final Fantasy VII – Yep, I have it on my list too. How could I not? This was the game that made me jump ship from Nintendo. As soon as I saw that the next Final Fantasy game was going to Sony’s console and not to the Nintendo 64 I was done with Nintendo for good. No joke, I haven’t owned a Nintendo console since. Final Fantasy was that important to me as a gamer. And man, did Final Fantasy VII not disappoint. Huge, spawling, open, emotional, it was a truly amazing and classic game.
1. Resident Evil 2 – As a life-long fan of horror, you just know Resident Evil 2 would be on my list. Not only was it a great game, it’s an exemplary sequel – improving upon its predecessor in nearly every conceivable way. And best of all, it had a feature than no game in the series – or at all – has duplicated: the “zapping system.” That’s what Capcom called the feature that allowed for what turned out to be 4 different playthroughs depending on which character you started your game with. For the uninitiated, the player could choose “Scenario A” and start as Leon, play through the entire game, then continue with “Scenario B” and start as Claire and see the events from her perspective, even entering entirely different zones. Or, the player could play “Scenario A” with Claire and “Scenario B” with Leon. It was a fantastic design decision that not only added tons of replay value to an already fantastic game, but again and sadly, hasn’t been repeated, duplicated, or imitated. Resident Evil 2 remains, to this day, one of my all-time favorite games.
5. Gran Turismo – There really isn’t much to say about Gran Turismo. Honestly, its design was just executed to such perfection, and driving real cars is appealing to a lot of gamers. This not only sold a bunch of copies, but built brand loyalty with a lot of gamers.
4. Battle Arena Toshinden – When you went to the toy store or wherever to check out the PlayStation, Battle Arena Toshinden was the game that was likely being played. A launch title back in 1995, this fighting game opened up a lot of people’s eyes to make them realize what kind of experiences you wanted to have with the PlayStation. And you knew that you wanted to take this one home.
3. Crash Bandicoot – Nowadays, you don’t need a mascot to sell systems. But in the mid 90’s, it helped. Even though Crash Bandicoot is no longer owned or controlled by Sony, it was neat to see a loudspeaker-toting marsupial shout at Mario and tell him to man up. Crash Bandicoot was a game that was popular with a lot of different kinds of folks, and it really peaked with the release of Crash Bandicoot 3.
2. Metal Gear Solid – It came out right about the same time as Ocarina of Time, and as polished as that title is, Metal Gear Solid offered something entirely different. We hadn’t seen games as introspective or cinematic as this before. Funny as that may seem nowadays, there was NOTHING like Metal Gear Solid before it released. It opened all of our eyes to the kinds of stories games could tell.
1. Final Fantasy VII – In terms of getting more people interested in the PlayStation, or serving as a bellwether, none are as important as Final Fantasy VII. Call it the game that sustained GameFAQs or many other online communities for over a decade. No matter how you feel about it, the impact of Final Fantasy VII cannot be denied.
Whew! That was way tougher than we thought. And apparently way too tough for Ari and I, but there it is. The Top 5: PSone games by Gamer Horizon. Let us know your thoughts on our lists and your lists as well, in the comments below.