If you’re of an age to remember the Sony PlayStation’s release, prepare yourself: that little grey machine is now almost 22 years old.
Still, hard as it may be to believe so much time has passed since the mighty PS1 brought the world of pixels and polygons into the homes of people who felt they might have outgrown video games (such a thing is impossible, by the way), some of the console’s titles actually still hold up pretty well today.
In a world of 3D environments that seem to live and breathe like the one beyond your window, populated by characters with ever more realistic features, the PS1’s visuals might be a tad tough to take, but the gameplay of the classics itself often remains as fresh as ever.
So, whether you know the PS1 through first-hand experience or you’ve only heard your older siblings or parents babbling about it, prepare to delve into the 10 games you must play again for old times’ sake …
Die Hard Trilogy
The Die Hard movies may continue to shuffle on like some rotten zombie that just refuses to call it quits, but few can deny the quality of the first three instalments (in spite of some flaws). Back when the series was merely a trilogy, developers Probe created a hit PS1 adaptation of all three films, with a bold approach.
Rather than simply cobbling together a single game based around John McClane’s adventures at Nakatomi Plaza, Dulles Airport, and on the streets of New York, they actually delivered three different experiences in one package.
Die Hard is a glorious third-person run-and-gun shooter set in the labyrinthine corridors of the Nakatomi building; Die Hard 2 is a first-person on-rails blaster in the tradition of Virtua Cop (big at the time); and Die Hard With A Vengeance is a hair-raising vehicular race through various iconic NYC locations, with players using the unconventional bomb-defusing technique of simply driving over them.
The graphics may be a little rough around the edges today (to put it politely), but the gameplay is just as fun as ever. The score, too, is the perfect soundtrack to so much carnage, with a mix of pulse-pounding beats and Christimassy bells jingling. Load it up and enjoy this genius package for a night, and you’ll be right back in 1996.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain
The Legacy of Kain series was a decent hit across both the PS1 and PS2, but it all began with Blood Omen, a basic-but-gripping game based around a sword-wielding vampire out for revenge. Follow-up Soul Reaver put a totally different spin on the series, moving to a 3D plane with innovative dimension-hopping gameplay, but Blood Omen is a more traditional action-RPG affair.
In Blood Omen, players take on the role of the titular Kain himself, as he tracks down the assassins who killed him. From then on, the story expands to explore a wider world of intigue and ghoulishness, with plenty of hacking and slashing of enemies along the way.
Kain picks up more and more abilities throughout the game, including shape-shifting and spells, making him feel like a real force of nature. One to check out.
Since Tekken 3 landed on the PS1 waaaay back in 1998, multiple sequels have hit consoles, but this is still one of the best entries in the series. At the time, the graphics and gameplay were absolutely stunning, bringing arcade-quality brawling to players’ bedrooms (or living room, if you were old enough to have your own place by then, as many PS1-owners were).
Even today, while Tekken 3 can’t live up to the beauty of the latest fighting games, it’s still gorgeous to look at, and the gameplay itself remains smooth enough to enjoy. The range of features packed onto the disc also continues to impress: as well as the standard Arcade, Survival, Time Attack, and Practice modes, there is also Tekken Force (a side-scrolling beat-em-up, a joy to behold) and Tekken Ball (a beach volleyball minigame which is as fun and bizarre as you imagine).
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
Let’s be honest: it goes without saying that, if you decide to dive into the PS1’s catalogue of games, playing the first two Resident Evil games is a must. However, the third entry is a creepy, action-packed experience not to be missed.
Set in Raccoon City before and after the events of the second game, Resident Evil 3 stars returning heroine Jill Valentine, though the real star of the show is the Nemesis himself.
This huge, horrifying creature pursues Jill throughout the game, showing up to barge through doors and walls while uttering “S.T.A.R.S” in an underwear-compromising voice. Resident Evil 3 also introduced the Mercenaries minigame, which went on to become a crucial addition to future games.
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Ninjas are awesome. Everyone knows this. With their hand-to-hand combat skills, ability to sneak into any location undetected, shadow-hugging stealth, and generally cool outfits, ninjas make ideal leading characters for video games.
Tenchu: Stealth Assassins is easily one of the best ninja-based games ever made, providing a more authentic experience than the likes of Shinobi.
While heroes Rikimaru and Ayame are handy with swords and shurikens, they’re equally adept with stealth techniques, which makes up a huge portion of the game’s appeal. With a trusty grappling hook not unlike Batman’s in the Arkham series, players can scale buildings and cross rooftops. Hiding from enemies while preparing to drop down for a swift execution is great fun, and waiting for that perfect moment to strike is as addictive as ever.
Metal Gear Solid
With its bloated storylines and seemingly-endless conversations, the Metal Gear series may have lost a few fans along the way, but the PS1’s Metal Gear Solid is still an incredible achievement.
While stealth-based tactics are old hat now, back in 1998 they were an innovative addition. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins may have hit the market a few months before, but MGS was a totally different type of experience.
Starring Solid Snake on a mission to infiltrate Shadow Moses and stop FOXHOUD, a terrorist force, MGS is a basically an action movie you get to play. From that first sequence in which Snake swims into Shadow Moses and takes down the patrolling guards to the last, MGS is a gripping game filled with plenty of exciting moments.
Who can forget the boss fight against Psycho Mantis, or that final car chase with Liquid Snake? There’s still lots to see and do here, and for anyone who’s recently finished The Phantom Pain, a return to the PS1’s MGS will demonstrate just how far gaming has come.
Final Fantasy VII
It was tempting to leave this off the list, given how much has already been said about it, but how could we? Final Fantasy VII is an absolute masterpiece, and for players chomping at the bit for the forthcoming remake, revisiting it is pretty much mandatory.
We all know the story by now. Cloud Strife, former member of SOLDIER, joins rebel group AVALANCHE, who are determined to bring down the sinister Shinra corporation. Over three discs and potentially hundreds of hours, FFVII follows Cloud and his friends on an outstanding quest, taking in meteors, skyships, mutants, snowboarding, chocobo-breeding, and countless epic battles.
FFVII may look its age today, but it’s just as beguiling as it ever was.
Grand Theft Auto
As with MGS, Grand Theft Auto on the PS1 is proof of just how far gaming technology has come in 20 years. This classic title caused something of a stir back in the day, but was a huge success. Even at the time, the graphics were crude, and today they just about feel functional, but this was never a game about visuals to begin with.
The playability itself was always the key attraction for fans: this was a game far removed from most others at the time, allowing players to enjoy the cathartic release that only committing virtual crimes and atrocities can provide. Played from a top-down perspective, GTA takes place across three fictional US cities (Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas – locations we’d all come to know well over the following decade), sending its gun-toting hero on a journey through the criminal underworld.
With its wicked sense of humour, addictive gameplay, and laughable gore, any fans of the modern GTA games should give the original another try – even if only as a brief reminder of where one of the industry’s biggest-ever series began.
Like Resident Evil and GTA, the PS1’s first Tomb Raider went on to spawn a huge multimedia franchise that’s still going strong today. As the game that introduced the delectable Lara Croft to the masses, Tomb Raider is still available on Steam and mobile platforms (imagine going back to 1996 and telling your younger self you’d one day be able to play it on a phone!), and its gameplay remains surprisingly fun today.
The sense of isolation and venturing into the unknown still gives the game an eerie atmosphere, and the gradual discovery of long-buried horrors leads to some monster-heavy action towards the finale. While Lara would go on to develop a much bigger repertoire of moves and abilities in subsequent games (not to mention getting behind the wheel of vehicles), she’s still able to navigate levels like an athlete. The graphics might be unbelievably angular today, but Tomb Raider is one of the best adventure games of the PS1’s era.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Even if you’d never stepped foot on a skateboard, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was an irresistible game when it launched in 2000. Featuring fast, smooth, addictive gameplay, Pro Skater 2 allows players to either take on the role of an existing pro (such as Mr. Hawk himself) or build their own character from scratch. The massive variety of options allows you to capture your own look and deck yourself out in then-fashionable skate gear.
There is a wide range of skills to learn, tricks to perform, and things to find across the expansive environments. Skating along to the sound of punk and metal, like Papa Roach or Jimmy Eat World, is still an engrossing experience, and while it might feel a tad limited compared to modern skate-sims, Pro Skater 2 is definitely worth going back to for a quick tour of the ramps.
What are your favourite games on the PS1? Let us know!