Sony tentatively entered the video game market by partnering with Nintendo to develop a new, disc-based console in the mid-90s. After that partnership fell apart, Sony went on to release a console of its own: The seminal PlayStation launched in Japan in late 1994 (and the following year in the rest of the world). Although the original PlayStation wasn’t the first console to use CD-ROMs, nor was it the first to provide true 3D graphics, it created the breakout moment for both of those technologies in gaming.
Ranging from novel-length, narrative-driven RPGs to fast and furious races to mind-bending puzzles, games for the original PlayStation offered a wildly diverse lineup over its 11-year production run. While the prior generation of consoles was widely beloved and featured a lot of major advancements, the original PlayStation was one of the first mainstream indications that gaming would become a pastime for children and adults. It provided some of the most immersive fantasies gaming had offered to date, and many of the games that came out of its period of experimentation remain among the all-time classics. Take a stroll down memory lane with us as we count down the 50 best PlayStation 1 games ever made. Do they hold a candle to the best PS4 games? You decide.
1. ‘Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’
The Castlevania series was over a decade old by the time Symphony of the Night arrived, but it was absolutely the franchise’s defining moment. It radically expanded the series’ platforming with RPG loot and progression and non-linear exploration, lending its suffix to the subsequent “Metroidvania” genre as a result. Unlike previous Castlevanias, where you controlled members of the vampire-hunting Belmont family, SotN revolves around Alucard, the lazily-named son of Dracula, who fights the horrible monsters of the castle to protect humanity from his father. Symphony of the Night stood out immediately for bold choices like hiding more than half of the game behind a false ending, or using the CD format to make a massive game filled with rich, 2D sprites instead of the crude, early 3D the rest of the industry was pursuing at the time. One of the most influential action-RPGs of all time, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is still just as satisfying to play now as it was 20 years ago.
2.’Resident Evil 2′
While the first Resident Evil is beloved for creating “Survival Horror,” Resident Evil 2 perfected the formula. It picks up two months after the events of the original, as the Umbrella Corporation’s zombie plague spreads from the company’s labs to nearby Raccoon City. Like the first game, it features two protagonists, puzzles, exploration, and limited resources for ammo and saving the game, forcing careful and strategic play. It added the “Zapping System,” in which players could revisit scenarios multiple times as different characters, with unique challenges designed for each of them. Its presentation was also praised as improving upon the first game in virtually every way. Though the series has continued for decades — we’re up to Resident Evil 7 as of 2017 — many still consider the second the high watermark.
3. ‘Metal Gear Solid’
Between Thief: The Dark Project on PC and Metal Gear Solid on PlayStation, 1998 was the year that modern stealth video games were born. A sequel to two lesser-known games from creator Hideo Kojima, you play as special ops soldier Solid Snake, infiltrating the hideout of a rogue unit threatening the United States with a nuclear strike. Snake has a variety of tools for evading and taking out guards, making it one of the most taut and tactical gaming experiences available at the time. The series has since spawned four more critically-acclaimed main entries and various spinoffs, radically expanding upon both its deep gameplay and Kojima’s baroque, nuclear mythology. But the first Metal Gear Solid remains an unassailable classic.
4. ‘Final Fantasy IX’
Breaking off from the trajectory of Final Fantasy VII and VIII toward gritty sci-fi, FF9’s return to the stylized, chibi aesthetic and light-hearted fantasy of the series’ original entries left many fans turned off. In retrospect, it stands out as a fantastic synthesis of the franchise’s recent ideas with its classic mechanical and worldbuilding tropes. It follows the rogueish Zidane, the rebellious princess Garnett, and their assembled friends taking on the sinister Queen Brahne and her world domination plans. It’s classic Final Fantasy through and through, and is easily the most charming and fun entry from the era.
5. ‘Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2’
The original Tony Hawk Pro Skater was an enormous success when it launched in 1999, but it was the follow-up from the next year that truly cemented it as one of the most beloved sports franchises of all time. The action centered around arcade-style gameplay, with the player flipping and grinding over open levels to rack up as many points as possible from tricks and combos within two minutes. Collectibles and level-specific objectives keep it spicy, and the addition of level- and skater-creation tools gave it a ton of replayability. The series continued through the ill-received Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5 in 2015, but for many the second remains the definitive entry (and still one of the most highly rated sports games of all time).