The Sony PlayStation launched in North America on Sept. 9, 1995, making today its 20th anniversary. When I look back over the years at all the video game consoles, each of them has special memories and games I just love jumping back into in playing, but the PlayStation stands out the most.
The impact of 3D on my brain? The string of timeless JRPGs? The affordability of CDs? Importing games with relative ease? Whatever it was, the PlayStation hit me like a brick, dragging me from the clutches of Nintendo, and confirming my preference of third party companies over the console developers… even Nintendo.
The mid-to-late 90s were overflowing with wonderful games. Some have survived the test of time, others have faded as their impact trails further into the past, but when I look back at this magical console, these are the six games I enjoy the most and still play to this very day.
Yes, six games because I am an indecisive human being who can’t whittle it down any further.
Oh goody, we can keep this one simple! Just look back at my extensive Ron’s Retro Review published many years back for a more in-depth look at why this game is so special. If you are a bit lazy, I understand. I can summarize.
Alundra is the best Zelda-clone ever made. While Ocarina of Time evolved Link to the Past’s ideas through the new-found magic of 3D space, Alundra stuck to the tried and true overhead graphics and 2D sprites that proved successful for the series up until that point. Everything A Link to the Past does, Alundra does just as well. A few spotty jumping mechanics and overly difficult puzzles hold it back from true greatness, but it captures Zelda perfectly while taking advantage of the PlayStation’s superior ability to crank out 32-bit 2D sprites.
Trap all this in a beautiful world with a gut-wrenching story and great music, and Alundra is one of the PlayStation’s unsung greats. A steal for $6 on the PlayStation Network.
Final Fantasy Tactics
Of all the Final Fantasy games to survive the erosion of time, it is ultimately a spin-off that proves to be the most fun to play today. Final Fantasy Tactics’ story is still out of this world, both the new and old translation, but I think you’ll find few who will argue what this game is really about.
Final Fantasy Tactics was the first JRPG in North America to allow customization of characters on such a deep level. The nameless soldiers which make up your ranks are its true shining stars, and using these characters and the world, those with an imagination can find an infinite level of replayability. Run missions, tell your own story throughout the world. It’s all there for players to take beyond what Squaresoft ever dreamed of.
Admittedly, the menus and battles crawl at a snail’s pace compared to today’s faster games, but you’ll find few with such purely enjoyable and relatively accessible mechanics as this masterpiece.
Mega Man Legends
Mega Man Legends was doing the stuff Metal Gear Solid and Ocarina of Time were doing a full year before they took all the credit for it. In-engine cutscenes, excellent localization, lock-on systems, consistent 3D worlds and dungeons…
And it did these things so well that it still resonates with its fans today. Mega Man Legends’ setting and characters are unforgettable, and the embrace of Kattelox Island is always a setting I can just lose myself in. It overshadows the expansive, superior gameplay of its sequel thanks to being such a warm blanket of happy memories.
Magical game. I might have given up on a sequel, but I also think the gaming industry has moved beyond recapturing the progressive thought process that went into making it.
Parasite Eve took heat for being too short back in the day, instead electing to streamline its combat and tell an excellent story in under 15 hours. What might have been criticism back then has proven to be a compliment in today’s market.
A 15 hour JRPG with all the impact of the droning 40, 50, 80, 100 hour monstrosities that come out now? Sign me up! This Resident Evil cash-in’s story read like Shakespeare when I was a kid, and it admittedly isn’t quite that literary as an adult.
Who cares, though? Parasite Eve’s story is pure, amazing shlock, and its accessible combat and gun creation system make it a classic that is an easy commitment to jump back into. Plus, the PlayStation rendered New York is still my favorite video game rendition of the city.
Closing out Squaresoft with an unpopular choice. I won’t waste too much breath convincing anyone about this game, because when it comes to SaGa Frontier, you either hate it or you love it after years of hating it.
I fall into the latter. For many years, I loathed this title for being in my collection, and yet I always went back. It survived several purges of my gaming collection, and it wasn’t until my third time through all the characters many years later that I realized how much I adore this offbeat title.
It’s not for everyone, but those who dedicate the time to understanding the intricacies of its nearly random systems and unique sci-fi world will find a JRPG that excels in playing by its own rules.
No surprise here. We jump from the radical SaGa Frontier into a JRPG that survives on pure traditionalism. Suikoden II is my all time favorite video game, telling an emotional tale that refuses to treat its audience with kiddy gloves. War sucks, both sides have great and evil people, friendships and lives are destroyed, and we are all forced to make decisions we might not agree with.
Suikoden II sugar coats none of this, and it delivers its powerful tale with the aid of a simple battle system that sets a lightning pace through its 30 hours of gameplay. Not a second of downtime is wasted in Suikoden II, which features little need to grind, always bringing our hero to the next part of the tale with blistering speed.
Suikoden II is without question one of the the greatest JRPGs ever made, right up there with other 2D classics like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. Just $10 on the PlayStation Network also! Perfect for a Vita, perfect in absolutely every way.
That’s how I see them. I still enjoy plenty of the other tremendous hits and cult-classics, but when I need a fix for my turn-of-the-millennium coming-of-age nostalgia, these are the best games for me to bring it all back. I’m sure I’ve got them all spread over different top five lists and other editorials in some capacity, but this is the first time I’ve put them in a single place.
It is a far more interesting list than my Super Nintendo list, which is admittedly really, really boring. Let us know your favorite PlayStation games below.