Sony’s PlayStation helped change the games industry, ushering in the arrival of Sony as a major player, and delivering the beginnings of many key current franchises. Here we pick out 10 of the best games that every gamer needs in their collection.
Although her star has waned a little over the past few years, there’s no denying that Lara Croft remains one of videogaming’s most enduring icons. Her 1996 debut was actually on the Saturn, as developer Core Design had traditionally supported Sega’s consoles. However, it was the PlayStation version – released shortly afterwards – that was truly responsible for firing the delectable Miss Croft into the realms of global superstardom. Sequels followed as it firmly became a PlayStation series and arguably improved on the template, but the original game retains a near-legendary status.
Gran Turismo 2
The first Gran Turismo was possibly the most technically groundbreaking release of the 32-bit era, and this sequel beefed up the already considerable experience by adding more cars, more tracks and even a rally mode. The title’s visuals – already pretty mind-blowing in the original release – pushed the 32-bit hardware to the absolute limit, with Polyphony Digital’s unique development software eking out every last drop of power from the PlayStation in its final years. Spanning two discs, Gran Turismo 2 is arguably the definitive racing title of that era and still plays great today.
Final Fantasy Tactics
Released only in Japan and North America, this strategy RPG arrived around the same time as Final Fantasy VII, which caused some confusion when gamers discovered that they actually had very little in common. Developed by the team behind Tactics Ogre – Square snapped up studio Quest prior to producing the game – Final Fantasy Tactics showcases gorgeous visuals, breathtaking music and a surprisingly mature and complex plot. It was recently released on the PSP in a slightly enhanced form.
Metal Gear Solid
Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus set a new high watermark for storytelling in videogames, as well as introducing an entire generation to the wonderful stealth sub-genre. Solid Snake has gone on to become a household name, starring in more technically impressive sequels on the PS2 and PS3 consoles. However, hardcore fans maintain that this instalment remains the best, thanks largely to its tight plotting, memorable characters and judicious use of the host hardware.
Resident Evil 2
The first title established Capcom’s reputation as master of the ‘survival horror’ genre, but it was the second game in the series that truly confirmed the company’s god-like status. Offering the ability to play the story with two different characters – one to each of the game’s two discs, with differences depending on which you play first – Resi 2 mixed relentless zombie slaughter with intriguing puzzles and some of the best visuals seen on the PlayStation up to that point. It’s unsurprising that series fans hold this entry in the utmost regard.
Tekken 2 had proven that Namco was more than capable of taking on Sega’s illustrious Virtua Fighter, but it was the third game that dazzled the most. Sceptics had feared that it would never appear on the 32-bit console, but Namco’s expert coders managed to squeeze in every aspect of the coin-op to create a fitting pugilistic swansong for the ageing PlayStation. While the Tekken Force and Tekken Ball modes were superfluous additions to the domestic port, all of the important features were present and correct.
Famous for being Square’s one and only entry in the shooter genre, Einhänder is an incredible achievement. The team involved had no previous experience with this type of game, yet it managed to create a classic that is still talked about in hushed, reverent tones even today. Featuring a unique weapon system based on grabbing the ordnance of fallen enemies, Einhänder’s brilliance is made even more remarkable when you consider that Square hasn’t ventured to the genre since its release.
Final Fantasy VII
Having sold over 10 million copies worldwide, Final Fantasy VII needs no introduction. Cited as the game that sold the Japanese RPG to the Western mainstream, this three-disc epic made the most of the PlayStation’s technical capabilities to deliver hours of turn-based entertainment. It remains arguably the most popular entry in Square’s evergreen franchise and has recently spawned several spin-off games and other projects, such as Crisis Core on the PSP and the Advent Children CGI movie.
Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
The PlayStation has a reputation for being something of a duffer when it comes to 2D titles, and to a certain extent, this is true. The console had only 2MB of RAM compared to the Saturn’s 4MB, and this resulted in some lacklustre conversions. However, titles like Symphony Of The Night – coded with Sony’s hardware in mind – were mind-blowing. Fusing 2D and 3D effects, Konami’s designers created one of the most mesmerising titles of the generation. Look out for the limited edition European version, complete with art book and CD.
One of the most ambitious role-playing games of the 32-bit era, Vagrant Story is epic in every sense of the word. Produced by the same team responsible for Final Fantasy Tactics, the game featured a deep and sometimes disturbing storyline, and lead character Ashley Riot has to rank as one of the most hard-edged protagonists in videogame history. Vagrant Story was recently re-released on Sony’s PlayStation Network and can be purchased and downloaded for play on both the PlayStation 3 and PSP, and it even lives on through its shared universe with the Final Fantasy Tactics series and Final Fantasy XII.