Sony didn’t get to four successful home consoles in 20 years on sheer luck (though lord knows it needed some after the PS3 launch debacle). The PSOne did things that changed gaming forever and some of those things were the creation of new characters that ended up being widely associated with the PlayStation brand’s popularity. Some of these characters still remain a big deal to this day, while others became a distant memory; however, they were all instrumental in the success of the PSOne and Sony’s continual existence in the console market.
There are spoilers here if you happen to be one of the six people on the planet who don’t know that Angel of Darkness was a terrible Tomb Raider game.
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Crash Bandicoot (Crash Bandicoot 1-3, Crash Team Racing)
Naughty Dog may be a colossal game industry figurehead these days thanks to the success of the wise-cracking platforming of Jak and Daxter, the blockbuster Uncharted series and the widely acclaimed post-apocalyptic horror in The Last of Us, but all that success and reverence was certainly built upon the initial triumph of its shorts-wearing orange marsupial on PSOne. Crash Bandicoot’s grinning mug became an unofficial mascot of the early PlayStation era, a time when your company mascot kind of had to be some sort of anthropomorphic platforming hero. It helped that his games were colorful and crazy rides that showed a darkly comic side whenever Crash would pop his clogs. The Bandicoot would star in three quality platformers during this era and topped it off with a decent stab at karting with Crash Team Racing. Alas, poor Crash has had little to grin about in the many years since, but the rumours continue to circulate that he may yet return to PlayStation and attempt to recapture that spark of insanity.
Lara Croft (Tomb Raider series)
While the other names on this list were to become firm favourites with gamers for years to come, only Lara managed to truly transcend the medium and put PlayStation into the minds of the masses. The games industry still being relatively immature at this time coupled with the rather buxom nature of Ms Croft certainly gave her an edge as her emergence dovetailed with the beginnings of a popularity for the lad’s mag style of journalism. Countless magazines—those based on games or otherwise—frequently used photo’s of glamour models dressed as Lara (none of which I ever saw of course) simply because that was the audience in their eyes. That really shouldn’t take away from how good the actual games were (not now mind, personally, I found they don’t age all that well). You were effectively getting to play as a female Indiana Jones, exploring ruins, caves, temples and tombs alike, encountering dangerous animals and mythical creatures along the way—all in the name of discovery and adventure. Lara has had some ups and downs since those glory days, PS2’s Angel of Darkness being the lowest point, but her recent reboot put the professional tiger-killer back in the limelight.
Solid Snake (Metal Gear Solid)
For better or worse, Hideo Kojima (for it is he) helped to push narrative-heavy gaming and stealth mechanics deep into the industry’s collective psyche like a bespectacled Psycho Mantis when he gave the world Metal Gear Solid, a 3D sequel to the previously 2D Metal Gear games. At the centre of it all was an 80’s-era Kurt Russell fan’s dream protagonist; Solid Snake. A gruff-voiced loner with a bandana and a penchant for smuggling cigarettes in his stomach. Well, he did it that one time, but still, that’s pretty badass. Snake was and still is a wholly likeable character, the sort of guy men want to be; well, obviously not the fact he’s a clone with a shortened life span and accelerated aging, but more the neck-snapping, smooth-talking stealthy kinda guy. Snake’s charismatic presence in the game more than compensated for the lengthy exposition as you didn’t want your time with him to end. Especially poignant when you realise you would only get to play as him in his prime just one more time for the next six games and sixteen years. Games like MGS, where intelligent narrative and adult tone prevail, really helped define PlayStation as a gaming platform for the more seasoned gamer.
Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)
Final Fantasy VII itself was a huge focal point in the early success of the PlayStation brand and it remains a firm favourite of many a gamer to this day. The connection with the characters was a big part of FFVII’s appeal, and as well-received Cloud, Aerith, Barrett et al were, it’s a villain that provides the defining moment of the game and in general gaming culture as well. Sephiroth’s slaying of doe-eyed flower girl Aerith shocked many players who had likely not seen such things happen in their games at that time and cemented the silver-haired badass as a villain that fans still obsess about some fifteen years later. Nowadays, with gaming having evolved in terms of narrative (though it does seem some established franchises have yet to get the memo on that), ol’ Sep comes across a bit one-dimensional, but that matters little to the many players whose hearts and minds he darkened with that one murderous act.
Parappa The Rapper (Parappa The Rapper)
Of all the characters on this list, poor Parappa is the only one who didn’t do gangbusters commercially, but the beanie-wearing pooch is still synonymous with the PlayStation brand years later because his first solo outing is so wonderfully charming. Simply pressing button combinations to make Parappa rap his way through his quest to win his flower-headed girlfriend’s heart may sound like nothing particularly striking (bar the whole flower-headed girl/rapping dog romance), yet the songs he—and whoever the mentor is—raps to in each level (menial task) are sublime. If you are of a certain age, hearing the line ‘’Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind’’ will quite possibly have you rapping out the rest of Chop-Chop Master Onion’s (yes, an onion-headed karate master) classic rhyme and the rest are equally as catchy. Sadly, though Parappa did get a sequel in 2001, it didn’t have the same hooks as the original and the Hip-Hop canine was banished to the PlayStation wastelands, only to be recalled recently to fill out the roster in PS All Stars: Battle Royale, along with a cameo from a certain vegetable-based martial arts expert.