Sony’s first console had a tremendous impact on my life, introducing to me a wide variety of unforgettable interactive experiences that were unable to happen on the consoles I had previously. While many retro game enthusiasts may not look upon the the first generation of 3D consoles as fondly as their 8 bit and 16 bit counterparts, some of the games on this list I hold as dearly to my heart as I do my very first gaming experiences on the NES and the Sega Genesis, if not more so. Before I get to the list, I just want to say that all of these games are here for anecdotal reasons. This is a personal top 10 list; mainstream popularity or review scores are not a factor here. That’s why you aren’t going to find a Final Fantasy game on this list (gasp!) So without further ado, I present to you: Turbo Mango’s Top 10 PlayStation Games!!
Resident Evil 2
The original PlayStation was without a doubt the home for survival horror during its era. Although Resident Evil began its life on the Sega Saturn and did eventually show up on the Nintendo 64, you needed Sony’s first console to get the best scares that video games had to offer. And as far as Resident Evil goes, no title in the series comes close to the perfection that is Resident Evil 2. With the exception of REmake for the GameCube, no other Resident Evil game quite nails down that dreadful atmosphere. Who can forget the moment they caught that purposefully brief glimpse of the licker crawling across the window, just outside of Leon’s peripheral vision? I remember being terrified of leaving that room, dreading the monster that waited for me on the other side of the door. Resident Evil 2 might’ve been the first game to literally keep me awake at night because of how scary it was.
It didn’t occur to me then, but since hindsight is 20/20, I think I know now why I liked Tomba! so much. To put it simply, Tomba! feels like a Nintendo game. Colorful, charming and challenging, Tomba! is a one of a kind game that kept me enraptured all the way to its end. The story follows a wild boy who goes on a perilous adventure in order to catch the crew of evil pigs who stole his grandfather’s priceless bangle. The gameplay is mostly a platforming affair, but is structured around completing missions, obtaining items, unlocking secrets, etc. This style of gameplay was very engrossing, and stood out among the typical library of games I had to choose from when I was a kid. I don’t even think I bought this game, but rather borrowed it from a neighborhood friend. Which is a shame, considering that it didn’t do very well sales-wise. In fact, this isn’t the only game on this list that I also didn’t own, but that was the nature of discovering video games as a kid before YouTube. Now, kids just go watch someone else play through games they are curious about. Damn, now I feel old.
It was Christmas day. The year: 2000, probably. Under the tree were two new games: Megaman 8 and Megaman Legends. I started with Megaman 8. After getting the soccer ball powerup, I promptly turned off Megaman 8 and popped in Legends to see what that was all about. After reading about it in EGM and seeing some screen shots, it seemed like something I would like. I never knew it would be something I would love. There’s just something about Megaman Legends that was so interesting at the time. It had an open world feel to it, and man, I had no idea how much I loved kicking cans into open market stalls before Megaman Legends. I just wanted the dark blue armor! In all serious, the anime-esque graphics and story alongside its action-adventure style gameplay blended well to create something unique enough for its namesake – unique enough to establish a cult following.
As a kid, only one thing was cooler than video games: dinosaurs. Badass giant lizards that roamed the earth; how couldn’t you be fascinated? Growing up in the 90’s afforded kids like me plenty of dino entertainment. Stuff like Dino Riders, the Jurassic Park movies and games, and books all about the different pre-historic periods where dinosaurs ruled the earth dominated my childhood. Dino Crisis called to my love of dinosaurs and Resident Evil, coming together to form what essentially was my video game dream-come-true. In my opinion, Dino Crisis is, in a way, the best Resident Evil game. Dino Crisis featured all of the elements that made Resident Evil great while improving on the formula in a number of different ways. Tighter shooting controls, improved cinematography (including cameras that followed the character in some cases) and faster, smarter enemies is what made this game infinitely replayable. And no matter what, velociraptors will always be scarier than zombies. period.
Crash Bandicoot 2: The Wrath of Cortex
My introduction to video games had me jumping on turtles as Super Mario on the NES. A few years later, my parents bought my brothers and I the Sega Genesis, which had me running through giant loops and saving tiny woodland creatures as Sonic the Hedgehog. To keep up the pattern of non-brand loyalty console purchases coinciding with an iconic platforming mascot, the next system that accompanied the living room TV was the Sony PlayStation, and the game that naturally came with it was Crash Bandicoot 2. Something was different about Crash though. He was all…3D and stuff. Crash Bandicoot 2 was my first foray into the 3D platforming world. With a behind the back perspective and a variety of fun gameplay mechanics (couldn’t get enough of riding a baby polar bear,) Crash 2 was a game I revisited repeatedly, even after beating each stage. Crash Bandicoot 2 was also the first game in which I attempted 100% completion, obsessively searching for the six hidden gems to see the secret ending.
Metal Gear Solid
Packaged with my PlayStation was a very special demo disc. Among demos for classics like Spyro the Dragon, Medievil and Gran Turismo, there was one demo in particular that stood above all the others. While I never officially counted how many times I went through the Metal Gear Solid Demo, it had to be at least twenty times, easily. I learned the ins and outs of each nook and cranny of the tank hanger and adjoining heliport, from the hidden weapon locations to the guard posts and everything in between. Nothing was more fun than messing with the sleeping guard in the top left corner, knocking on a wall and crawling away, or leaving foot prints in a circle in the snow. By the time I finally got my hands on the full game, running through the introductory sequence had lost all of its carefully planned tension. Luckily, everything following the heliport was just as entertaining, albeit much more difficult. The Metal Gear Solid is today one of my favorite series of games, and it all started with that little demo.
Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey
Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey features a dedicated fart button. At the time, that was enough. Replaying it recently, however, opened me eyes to Oddworld’s nuances that cleverly paint its gameworld as a believable place, regardless of the strange creatures that inhabit it. Sneaking through each grime-encrusted factory floor to liberate Abe’s friends was a carefully constructed bit of challenging gameplay that forced out-of-the-box puzzle solving, which at times relied on twitch-based platforming and precision timing to complete. Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey is the PlayStation game that proved 2D, non-polygon graphics were still relevant in the first age of 3D games.
At first, playing Ape Escape felt very unintuitive. The first PlayStation game to utilize both analog sticks, Ape Escape had one of the steepest learning curves I’ve experienced on Sony’s first console. Once I got the hang of it though, I was thoroughly hooked. You know what’s cooler than catching mischievous monkeys with a giant net? NOTHING! The design of the monkeys, flashing siren hats and all, were never anything less than infectiously entertaining, making their goofy antics all the more hilarious. As an equally rambunctious kid named Spike, you used any tools at your disposal, such as a stun baton a slingshot and more, to capture and return these rampaging primates who have traveled back in time and threaten to unravel society as we know it! The adorable chimps had different personalities, which indicated what approach you needed to take in order to successfully capture them. The stages offered another degree of challenge, being designed to force the player to make good use out of each gadget they had on hand. It was an easy game to love, and still holds a very special place in my heart to this day.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 had better features, a wider selection of stages and characters, more tricks, etc., it wouldn’t be right for the sequel to dethrone the original. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is the game that made skateboarding cool again. This game let me do tricks that I couldn’t and still can’t do on a skateboard. Hell, I couldn’t even drop in on a 3 foot tall half pipe in my youth, nevermind jumping full accross one while pulling a sick 540 rocket air. And who can forget that killer punk rock soundtrack? I still find myself singing “Superman” by Gold Finger. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater put every adolescent kid on a skateboard who now wanted to learn how to ollie. And while I actually got into skateboarding before the game came out (hipster brag) it was the game that stoked the fire, getting me pumped and out there everyday trying to kickflip. I still get on a board every now and again, and I just know Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater has something to do with it.
Twisted Metal 2
Twisted Metal 2 was the game all the kids in my neighborhood played. The iconic car combat shooter was the go-to title for summertime play sessions between my friends and siblings. Co-op was the way to play, because whenever we would attempt versus mode, someone always used the cheat code to play as Minion, which destroyed any semblance of balance with his triple homing missile + freeze bomb combo. While there was at least kid who demanded to play as Sweet Tooth every round, there were enough interesting and fun-to-use vehicles to ensure the destruction never got boring. But let us not forget what’s most important; Twisted Metal 2 gave us all opportunity to blow up the Eiffel Tower, and to shoot missiles at the Statue of Liberty until she turned into a fat lady in a bikini. It was a hell of a time to be alive.
The original PlayStation had enough great games to last me throughout my adolescence – way more than 10, that’s for sure. Here are the games that didn’t quite break into my personal top 10, but deserved to be mentioned regardless.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night proved to me that while giant wolves can be killed in one shot, tiny skeleton men can actually kill you. This game demanded a little too much attention to detail for me to stay invested for a long time, but the gothic aesthetic was fun to experience.
I didn’t play the original Silent Hill until after I played Silent Hill 2. However, although the graphics were showing their age, the genuine sense of tension and psychological horror that Silent Hill delivered was enough to warrant sleeping with my light on at night. What the hell were those pterodactyls about though?
I didn’t grow up with an SNES, so I didn’t experience the Megaman X series until X4. Another one of those “I borrowed it from a friend” games, I played Megaman X4 up until the final boss encounter, whom I was too much of a scrub to actually defeat, even with Zero’s badass energy sword.
Spyro the Dragon
Spyro the Dragon was one of the first PlayStation games I played, but I wasn’t into it enough to care about the sequels. While I did play through it to completion, it wasn’t a game I thought about much afterward, and while I do have fond memories, it’s not a game I ever revisited.
Monster Rancher 2
Monster Rancher 2’s main gimmick was generating monsters by using other PlayStation games and music CD’s. I spent more time swapping discs and looking for cool monsters than I did actually training them, since the actual game part wasn’t as much fun. However, the monster collecting aspect was really addictive and hasn’t been replicated since.