Let’s keep this short. Today marks the 20-year anniversary of PlayStation! To celebrate the launch of the iconic console, we reached out to some of our favourite game developers and key figures inside PlayStation. Their mission: name their top three PSone games of all time.
Read on to see the selections, and leave yours in the comments below!
Dylan Cuthbert, Executive Producer, The Tomorrow Children
Rage Racer: This is the third entry in the Ridge Racer series and was an amazing game to play on the PSone. I really liked the way they introduced hills and you had to shift down gears to climb them. I also liked the overall structure of the game, and probably put about 50 hours (at least) into this. I bet it’s still a ton of fun to play.
PaRappa the Rapper: The only music-rhythm game that I have ever liked! This really opened the doors for everyone in this genre and was a smash hit here in Japan and elsewhere. The music was cool, the animation was quirky and it was just simply a load of fun.
Wipeout: Stunning graphics, stunning gameplay, and a stunning soundtrack, I must have played this for hundreds of hours and I can still hear Orbital’s F.U.E.L. in my head as I think back to it. That’s how closely entwined the game, visual design and soundtrack were. It was probably the first game to use an actual design company for the UI too, Designer’s Republic, and it showed!
Mike Laidlaw, Creative Director, Dragon Age: Inquisition
Chrono Cross: I came a bit late to PlayStation, and Chrono Cross was my first RPG on the system. What a way to start. An intriguing story kicked off by the mysterious betrayal in the opening cutscene had me hooked early. The exceptional “field” magic system, and end-of-battle auto healing were just a few of the mechanics that kept you enjoying this epic.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver: Soul Reaver was made of exceptional ideas. The protagonist from the first Legacy of Kain game turned into a strangely sympathetic villain to drive the story. Smart mechanics then carried the gameplay, like using the environment (Wall Spikes! Sun beams! Water!) to slay vampires or changing “realities” to alter the topography of a room to solve puzzles.
Metal Gear Solid: No matter how many times you heard “Snake? Snaaaake?!?” it was worth trying again, because there always seemed to be another tactic you could use or bit of the environment you could exploit. And just when you thought you’d seen it all? Boom: Psycho Mantis.
John Ribbins, Creative Director, OlliOlli
Bushido Blade: I loved that this was a fighting game without a health bar. The fact you could be killed in one blow made fights super tense, and gradually chopping your opponent down and toying with them was brutally awesome.
Thrasher Skate And Destroy: My favourite skateboarding game of all time. I still have my disc and the memory card. Ragdoll slams and having to land your tricks really captured the difficulty of doing even the simplest things. And the soundtrack was all hip-hop, which was a nice departure from the more rock-focused offering in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Die Hard Trilogy: Looking back at the visuals now, it looks a little ropey, but I remember at the time being blown away. THREE GAMES IN ONE! Die Hard 3 was the driving one (two years before GTA), and at the time the city was insane, pedestrians and parks and all kinds of detail. The 90s were a dark time for movie-tie-in games, but Die Hard Trilogy was actually really cool.
Shuhei Yoshida, President, World Wide Studios
Note: There are so many amazing games on the original PlayStation, I’ve decided to choose games that I personally worked on, so this is my very personal favorite PSone games.
Ape Escape: This title was the game I was most involved in the creative aspects of the development among the games I produced during the original PlayStation era. Designed only to work with DualShock, it was fun to come up with many gadgets that took advantage of the twin sticks like Sky Flyer, Dash Hoop and Monkey Rader. The game became very popular among kids in Japan, and we were so happy the game got critical acclaim outside Japan.
Gran Turismo: As the studio head, I helped the team led by Kazunori Yamauchi to develop this game that has changed the racing game genre forever. I could not believe what I was seeing when I first saw the reflection mapping on beautifully modelled cars in the game. This game was the start of Kaz’s long history in developing a close collaboration with the car industry, bridging the two industries. I’m very happy to see Gran Turismo celebrate its 17th anniversary this year as PlayStation celebrates its 20th.
Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped: I was the producer of the Crash Bandicoot series for the Japanese market from Crash 1 through Crash Team Racing. Crash 1 was an important game for me as it was the very first game that I ever produced, but Crash 3 was the apex of the series in terms of variety of gameplay that you can enjoy in the game. Naughty Dog put “Crash Dance” in the game, which we originally created for the Japanese TV commercial for Crash 1. Crash 3 sold over one million units in Japan, a phenomenal achievement by a non- Japanese game.
Scott Rohde, Senior Vice President, World Wide Studios America
Driver: This was my first real experience with an open-world driving/action game. I could finally hop into a muscle car and endlessly wreak havoc with dozens of cops fruitlessly trying to stop me. Sheer bliss. The floaty physics somehow made the experience even more spectacular. And that FILM DIRECTOR. Oh… how many hours of my life were wasted finding the perfect camera angle to show that amazing multi-car stack up? In many ways, this was a foreshadowing of what was to come on the next gen platforms, specifically GTA3.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2: I literally cannot count the hours I spent playing this game. The game mechanics were almost flawless in the first THPS, and then they added the manual, allowing me to extend my combos infinitely. The H-O-R-S-E matches were absurdly competitive due to the open ended structure. Amazing. In addition, this game birthed the infamous term “Rohde Reset” — the act of starting a challenge, and instantly restarting whenever I made the slightest mistake. This franchise generated so many great memories with my friends and my young kids. I will always believe that this game helped propel skating into the mainstream.
Monster Rancher: This game captured my attention for months on end. As soon as I converted my first Disc Stone and realized that my personal CD collection could have an effect on my collection of monsters, I was hopelessly hooked. Breeding new monsters, training them for battle, and living with them side by side through all the ups and downs of… errr…. monster life… what an amazing experience! There’s something that’s very special about creating a unique monster, impacting its success and failures, and then watching him retire, or even (gasp!) die… it’s a totally unique experience that’s much different than assuming direct control over a game character.
Matt Thorson, Designer, TowerFall
Bushido Blade: A multiplayer classic and my first fighting game. Fantastic tension — one mistake and you’re dead.
Twisted Metal 2: Blowing up the Eiffel tower to hit jumps across the rooftops of Paris with your friends.
Jumping Flash!: Something about the sensation of leaping through 3D space captured my childhood imagination.
Neil Druckmann, Creative Director, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Metal Gear Solid: One of my favorite games of all time, Metal Gear Solid redefined what it meant for a game to be cinematic. So many memorable, surprising characters, gameplay moments, story turns. The Psycho Mantis boss fight will go down as one of the most creative combinations of story, gameplay, and hardware.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: I grew up on the original Castlevania games on the NES. I loved the connected world of Simon’s Quest along with its RPG elements; Symphony of the Night was a true “next-gen” version of that idea. A massive, sprawling world filled with a myriad of monsters, weapons, and secrets. Beautiful 2D graphics and solid platforming/fighting mechanics solidified its classic status. Easily the best of all the “Metroidvania” games.
Resident Evil: The granddaddy of survival horror. Resident Evil was oozing with atmosphere and mood (and cheesy dialog). At the time it was the most immersive game I had ever played. Who can forget the zombie-dogs jumping through the windows?
Cory Barlog, Creative Director, Sony Santa Monica
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: This game pretty much blew my mind on many fronts. This was an adventure that took hold of me and never really let go. The writing is freaking terrible, but it simply did not matter: the concept, execution and play are utterly brilliant. I still play this game every few years and STILL I find something new. I have stolen…err…I mean been inspired by this game throughout my entire career. One day I hope to create something half as good. When I do I will retire and sit on my porch constantly saying things like “In my day..” and “Get off my lawn!”
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater: I got a copy of this demo with some PlayStation magazine from a games store not having any clue how much time it would suck from my life – and that is just the demo, for the love of Zeus!! The first time I ollie kick-flipped to a grind and stuck the dismount I was hooked. The series eventually went downhill after the third game but nothing can compare to the weekends wasted on that warehouse level utterly transfixed on how freaking amazing I was with a fake digital skateboard.
Silent Hill: The Zelda series taught me so much about the feeling of adventure but it was this game that first showed me the true power of atmosphere and tone, the constant feeling of tension and dread slapped me around for the duration of this game. I loved the more relatable protagonist in a time when most were “generic soldier archetype x”-type personas. This game messed with my head and drove me to many sleepless nights in pursuit of the alien abduction ending.
Tim Schafer, CEO, DoubleFine Productions
Tomb Raider: A lot of endangered gorillas died so that I could explore those tombs in peace, but it was worth it.
Final Fantasy VII: Pretty original, right? I’ll bet I’m the only person who likes this.
PaRappa the Rapper: Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind! STILL. Every single song, still stuck in my mind. And I love it.
Keiji Inafune, Founder, Comcept
Resident Evil (aka “Biohazard”): This game was an epic title that changed “a game” into “the experience.” This gaming experience was made possible only with the specs of PlayStation. Many people at Capcom at the time, including myself, couldn’t quite understand the entertainment of this game right away. But oh god, it was so scary…
Silent Hill: I never thought that there would be a game scarier than Resident Evil…but obviously I was wrong. Silent Hill. The overall atmosphere and the world of insanity that this game illustrated was just amazing. It was a great game with a strong scenario and story. This game really pushed out the boundaries of a true “gaming experience” for me.
PaRappa the Rapper: This game truly changed the idea of gaming for me. The character design and innovative game systems may seem ordinary today, but it was a true surprise to me back in the day. The “OTOGEE” (“sound game” in Japanese) brought a new sensation and changed the definition of gaming all together. This made videogames more stylish than ever.
Hermen Hulst, Managing Director & Co-Founder, Guerrilla Games
Rayman: I simply had to include this, and not just because it’s the first title I ever worked on. Given how much of a household name Rayman has become, it’s easy to forget that releasing a new 2D platform hero was considered quite risky in the 3D-obsessed days of 1995. But Ubisoft pulled it off with confidence, imbuing Rayman with colorful, whimsical characters and an amazing soundtrack.
Metal Gear Solid: An obvious choice perhaps, but then few games on the original PlayStation can match the sheer graphical quality and engrossing gameplay of Kojima’s stealth-based action adventure. Metal Gear Solid’s cinematic presentation became a noticeable influence on almost every action game that followed, including Killzone.
Gran Turismo 2: With its realistic driving models and compelling progression curve, the first Gran Turismo was rightfully heralded as a landmark in racing games. However, the sequel has always remained my favorite racing game on the original PlayStation, due to the more forgiving brake dynamics and the seemingly endless number of cars to choose from.
Shawn Layden, President and CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment America
Tekken: The first PlayStation launched in Japan on December 3rd, 1994. I was working for Sony in Tokyo when the original PlayStation launched, and we received an early version of the hardware. With it came two of the most iconic PlayStation titles of all time: Ridge Racer and Tekken. And while I played the devil out of both titles, I must say that Tekken is the one that captured the majority of my time. A near pixel-perfect rendition of the game center version of the game, PlayStation really did bring the arcade into your living room. The speed, the action, the unforgettable characters, and the humor of the cut scenes were frankly remarkable. And my go to fighter? Marshall Law, of course. Bruce Lee brought back to life.
Tomb Raider: This was a great leap forward for gaming. The scale and scope of the story, the natural feel of the control scheme even in third-person 3D space, and the strong female protagonist made this an unforgettable title for me. It recalled a bit of Prince of Persia on the Mac (my first true obsession) as it required buy-in to the story, technique, and puzzle solving. The full package. I spent hours at a stretch absorbed in the adventures of one Ms Croft.
Formula One: Perhaps an unexpected choice from an American, I worked with the production team localizing the title for the Japanese market at the time. Going into it I really did not know much about this particular motorsport (thought they really looked like Indy Cars) but over the course of the project I really got to love it and understood why the Japanese market was so enthralled. The title was developed by Bizarre Creations (out of Liverpool) and in its accuracy it was quite unforgiving in the handling. But that’s the nature of that sport!
Happy 20th PlayStation. You’re looking better than ever.
Sid Shuman, PlayStation Blog
Tekken 3: I’ve never invested more time in a single game. Tekken 3 was an instant sensation when it launched on PSone. And before long, me and my circle of friends were engaging in intense competitive matches every single day — a ritual that managed to last for years. Intense rivalries and strained relationships soon followed, up to and including intense arguments and silent treatments over one cheap combo or another. A game that drives you and your friends this crazy just has to be brilliant.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver: This game just dazzled me on its release in 1999, at the tail end of PSone’s reign. Its haunting protagonist, gorgeous art direction, and progressive combat and puzzle design were gripping. But the mature, thoughtful story written by the great Amy Henning put the game on an entirely different level. Soul Reaver was the total package.
Metal Gear Solid: Kojima’s masterpiece revolutionized both videogame storytelling and emergent gameplay. Before Metal Gear Solid, videogame plots tended to be crude, juvenile affairs. MGS introduced a sympathetic cast, mature themes, and some truly sensational plot twists. But Kojima’s genius was the way he encapsulated that narrative confidence in the frame of a big-budget action game that empowered players to use their wits to quietly bypass enemies without resorting to mindless blasting.
Fred Dutton, PlayStation Blog
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: As a huge platformer fan, this was a real milestone for the genre. It was one of the first side-scrollers to add exploration and sophisticated RPG elements to the formula, not to mention offering a rock solid challenge. Returning to it for the first time in over a decade earlier this year I was very happy to find that it hasn’t aged a day.
Tomb Raider 2: My entry point to the third person action adventure genre. Looking back, it might seem primitive now, but at the time Lara Croft’s adventures were completely immersive and, as a young lad with a passion for Indiana Jones, a joy to get lost in. Oh, and it was a British export, so it gets double points!
Resident Evil: Aside from a hazy recollection of being too scared to play a friend’s copy of Alone in the Dark in the pre-PlayStation days, Resident Evil was my first survival horror and as such, will always be cherished! That pervasive atmosphere of dread, the white-knuckle resource management, the unforgettably hammy dialogue, and the dogs… oh, the dogs. Can’t wait to play it again on PS4 in 2015!
Ryan Clements, PlayStation Blog
Final Fantasy VII: I doubt anyone could forget Aerith’s first tentative steps through that dark, Midgar alleyway. Final Fantasy VII crafted a world of unprecedented scope at the time of its launch. It enriched that world with a memorable cast of characters, and championed a battle system of immense depth. It looked beautiful, too. And it struck at the heart with a stirring score that still makes me well up when those familiar harmonies come crashing back.
Final Fantasy VIII: As a teenager, the love story between Squall and Rinoa was one of the first that I ever had an emotional investment in. It was the beating heart of Final Fantasy VIII, beneath all the war and politics and fractures in time. It was the normalcy to ground that world. It kept me going through dozens of hours of Drawing magic out of monsters, storing it away for multi-tiered boss fights. It had absurd Limit Breaks, outrageous summons, and a robust card game, true. But it all came back to Squall and Rinoa.
Azure Dreams: This one has been locked on my list of favorites since childhood. Azure Dreams had it all: dungeon crawling, monster breeding, town building, heart winning… the list goes on. I have distinct memories of trading stories with my friends – daring escapes from near-death encounters in the tower. Hidden romances to uncover in town. Powerful monsters to train. Decorations for your house! Azure Dreams collapsed so many of the things I love in video games into one focused experience, and I’ll never forget it.
Justin Massongill, PlayStation Blog
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: “What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!”
Symphony of the Night helped popularize the idea of exploration as a central gameplay mechanic, and it remains a masterclass in its execution. Nothing since has matched the feeling of gliding through Dracula’s castle as his vengeful son, seeking new shape-shifting abilities until you reach the story’s fateful, familial conclusion. From its inspired, gothic art direction to its generation-defining score. Symphony of the Night is the bar against which all “Metroidvania” titles have been — and will continue to be — measured.
Final Fantasy Tactics: Having been introduced to the Final Fantasy series by FF VII, I quickly snapped up Final Fantasy Tactics the day it launched, just to get another taste of Square’s sweet storytelling. Surprisingly, I became even more enamored with Tactics, which introduced players to Ivalice — a setting that was famously revisited in FFXII. Tactics’ character designs are still my favorite in the series, and the Zodiac Brave Story’s soundtrack is not to be missed. If you’ve got any love for strategy RPGs, Tactics is your game.
PaRappa the Rapper: Tim stole my “Kick, punch” line, so I’ll have to think of something else. Mooselini’s level is better, anyway. PaRappa introduced me — and most of the world — to rhythm games (which are just the best, I mean really let’s be serious here), and his indefatigable optimism continues to be an inspiration. Whenever I’m faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I just remember: “I gotta believe!”
Nick Suttner, PlayStation Developer Relations
G-Darius: I’m not even a huge fan of shmups specifically, but G-Darius swam right through the intersection of memorable, arresting art direction (every enemy inspired by sea life), a great mechanic of capturing any baddie to fight alongside you, and a branching level system that made it feel massive. Cybernetic shrimp, laser lobsters and furious flounders, oh my!
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night: SotN was that incredible debut album that both kicked off an entire genre (Metroidvanias) while at the same time positioned itself as its best-of-class peak. Really a holistically amazing game, as memorable for its haunting soundtrack as its hulking Granfalloon. And just when you thought it was over – surprise! – it was actually twice as long and twice as awesome.
Jet Moto: I first played Jet Moto in the lobby of the Rosemont Horizon stadium in Rosemont, IL during the Twisted Christmas II music festival, right before seeing Silverchair and White Zombie. How 90’s! It was my first exposure to the PS1, and the stomach-turning waterfall drops and white-knuckle magnetic cornering got my blood racing in a way I didn’t know it was capable of. If only Rob Zombie would have played Dragula that day, my super 90’s gaming memory would be complete.