Chances are if you’re a PlayStation 3 owner, you’ve already subjected yourself to the seemingly endless delights found within Sony’s online PlayStation Network service. Aside from the obvious pleasures of scrapping it out with fellow gamers online or downloading your favorite movie and TV shows, one of the most attractive prospects on PSN is its copious range of PSone classics up for grabs. Undisputed nostalgic value notwithstanding, these magic moments are made even more tantalizing given the fact that- as digital mediums – there’s no fussing around with the disc or worrying about those pesky scratches hampering your enjoyment. They’re embedded on your PS3 console for life, accessible at the click of a button. What more could you want?
Indeed, while there’s still a substantial chunk of titles still awaiting release, Sony has upped the ante in recent months and given us a heap of some of the most critically acclaimed PlayStation classics from the late 1990s to digest, prompting us to compile a list of the top ten games that any self respecting gamer should add to their collection. Please note that our choices are based on the games available via the North American PlayStation Store, so don’t be surprised if there’s a few entries on there that haven’t made the cut in your native country. Without further ado, let’s get started.
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Final Fantasy VII
Evocative. Gargantuan. Compelling. Transcendent. These are merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of adjectives one can utilize to even begin to describe Square’s mammoth PlayStation outing. Originally conceived as a 2D SNES project before making the transition to Sony’s CD-based platform, Final Fantasy VII hit the shops in late 1997 to critical and commercial success, earning plaudits for its striking visuals, huge worlds, gorgeous FMV sequences and intricate storyline. In fact, Cloud Strife and company gained such a substantial following that Square ultimately decided to capitalize on the game’s legacy some years later with the likes of Crisis Core and FFVII: Advent Children, as well as a slew of mobile releases. Oh, and how could we forget to mention the enigmatic Sephiroth, possibly the greatest videogame antagonists ever conceived? In short, if you haven’t already forked out for Cloud’s spiky-haired antics, take the plunge and order it up – it’ll be the best $10 you’ve ever spent.
Metal Gear Solid
Pipped to the post by a spiky blonde bloke brandishing a rather large sword, Solid Snake’s inaugural PlayStation outing manages to stealthily slip in to our top ten at a well-deserved second place. Masterminded by legendary developer Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid marked the series’ transition to the realms of 3D and proved a roaring success, shifting over six million copies globally. Hopping in to the shoes of our beloved gruff protagonist, MGS see players infiltrating a nuclear storage facility in the year 2005 to subvert the plans of the unscrupulous Fox Hound rabble, planting the seeds of one of the most sprawling, yet ultimately compelling narratives in videogame history. Universally acclaimed, Kojima-san’s gripping tale married stealth with traditional action/adventure elements to make for a cohesive espionage thriller, as Snake creeps around corners surreptitiously dispatching armed goons while engaging in action-packed boss battles against the likes of Psycho Mantis, Vulcan Raven, Sniper Wolf and, of course, Liquid Snake. With Guns of the Patriots recently bringing Snake’s tale in the saga to an end, there’s never been a better time for newcomers to immerse themselves in Kojima’s original masterpiece.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Highly regarded as the cream of the crop among the Castlevania games, Symphony of the Night garnered universal acclaim upon its release on PlayStation in the mid-1990s, and subsequently went on to receive a multitude of awards over the years, including scooping up Electronic Gaming Monthly’s prestigious PlayStation Game of the Year award back in 1998. In particular, Konami’s blood sucking adventure fest was among a handful of games to spark renewed interest in the fledging 2D genre during the polygon pioneering days of 3D technology. Symphony of the Night was also noted for injecting a non-linear approach to exploring the game’s castle setting, a feature that deviated significantly from its predecessors (bar the NES offering, Simon’s Quest) and crams in everything you’d expect from a Castlevania game – ghoulish foes in all shapes and sizes, tons of power-ups to acquire, a superbly crafted score and heaps of replay value and exploration to boot. One of the most memorable 2D outings of all time, let alone a worthy addition to the PSone classics line-up. In short, it’s utterly brilliant.
Street Fighter Alpha 2
As far as 2D beat ‘em ups go, you can’t really top Capcom’s venerable Street Fighter series, and the mid-90s entry in the form of Street Fighter: Alpha 2 is no exception to this rule. Released back in 1996, the celebrated brawler offers more than a few mere incremental upgrades to its predecessor, chucking in 18 playable fighters, revamped cut-scenes and endings, an arranged soundtrack, in addition to a swanky new ‘Custom Combo’ mechanic. If there’s one 2D fighter you need in your collection, Street Fighter Alpha 2 ticks all the boxes.
While Capcom’s original zombie masterpiece may be almost indiscernible from the high-octane, muscle-bound parasite slaying shenanigans of Resident Evil 5, there’s a reason why the first Resident Evil game has managed to shove its way in to our top ten – it’s a bloody good game. Set in the American mid-west in July of 1998, RE stars Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield of the infamous S.T.A.R.S unit as they investigate a crumbling old mansion in the middle of a remote forest region following an outbreak of cannibalistic homicides on the outskirts of Raccoon City. Cue a gripping B-movie tale of flesh eating undead, gigantic snakes, hellhounds and an estate rigged with traps and riddles as our heroes attempt to rescue their missing S.T.A.R.S comrades and uncover the root of the horrific murders. Helmed by Shinji Mikami, RE’s tank controls and pre-rendered backdrops may be perceived as archaic by today’s standards, but its superb execution of fusing puzzles solving, exploration and combat – combined with creepy ambience and a stellar soundtrack – still affords players an immersive and cinematic gameplay experience some 13 years after its inception. Indeed, the only aspect more horrific than the shambling zombies and marauding Hunters is the horrendous dialogue – shocking stuff. At the end of the day though, while often overlooked in favor of its mammoth selling sequel, Resident Evil remains, unequivocally, one of the PlayStation’s all-time classics.
Conceived by a rather talented bunch over at a little known studio named Eidetic, Syphon Filter snuck on to store shelves in early 1999, topping the U.S. software charts for over a whopping ten months in the process. Although initially compared to Konami’s stealth-action effort Metal Gear Solid, which released around the same time, Eidetic’s stylish shooter calved out an identity of its own and notched up an immensely loyal fan base in the process, spawning to further sequels on the PlayStation alone. Hopping into the shoes of Agency operative Gabriel Logan, Syphon Filter endowed players with heaps of fancy gadgets and weapons to ticker around with, not to mention, crucially, a decidedly meaty single player campaign to tackle. While lacking any multiplayer component, the original game proved a far more challenging and ultimately less linear experience than its successor (which is also worth picking up, we might add), boasting intelligently crafted level designs and ample replay value. In short, the first three entries in the series are worth a place in anyone’s PSone classics line-up, but the original Syphon Filter proved the most memorable. The embodiment of late ‘90s third-person action at its very best – don’t miss out.
As the sole entry in Namco’s venerable beat ‘em up phenomenon currently available on PSN, our decision to plump for Tekken 2’s inclusion in our top ten was an obvious choice, though by no means an indication of merely scanning through the line-up of PSone classics and arbitrarily plucking out the biggest games that caught our attention – after all, Tekken 2’s legacy speaks for itself, and more than likely would have still made the cut had further offerings in the series been included on the PS Store. It’s simply that good. Boasting some of the most impressive visuals of its time, Tekken 2 mixes in a stellar line-up of brawlers (some great, some odd and some downright absurd) with a sizeable repertoire of character moves, many of which have since become standards in subsequent entries in the franchise, such as the multi-chain throws, counter-attacks and ability to extricate yourself from grapples and tackles. Though the game hasn’t reached the sartorial heights of character customization and wall-pummeling pleasures seen in latter entries, T2 contains a surprising amount of depth, throwing in heaps of stages, multiple game modes including favorites such as Team Battle and Survival, along with a host of memorable fighter FMV ending sequences and ample replay value. Aside from this, it can prove excruciatingly difficult on higher settings, providing one of the most challenging Tekken outings of the ‘90s. Essentially, it boils down to this – if you want an early slice of 3D fighting from the days of Sony’s grey box of tricks, you’d be hard pressed to find something more rewarding than Tekken 2.
Konami’s foray in to the horror genre graced our screens a decade ago with the matured-rated Silent Hill, a twisted, 3D survival horror romp with a decidedly psychological twist. Taking place in the eponymous fog-bound town sometime in the early 1980s, players assume control of 32-year-old writer Harry Mason, who embarks on a quest to find his lost daughter, Cheryl, who disappears after Mason crashes his Jeep en route to the cursed town for a much needed vacation. Dodgy visuals aside, the game positively oozes atmosphere, thanks in no small part to its rotting, rusty aesthetic seen in the nightmarish ‘Otherworld’ segments and a heart-thumping soundtrack courtesy of the supremely talented Akira Yamaoka. Throw in a host of brain teasing riddles, heaps of ravenous, grotesquely misshapen foes and a dark, yet hugely compelling storyline, and you have what is considered by many to be one of the most terrifying videogame endeavors of the past decade. While it’s looking a little rough around the edges these days and may not be considered the best in the series by Joe public (although we’d be willing to argue otherwise), Silent Hill deserves to be experienced by any self respecting horror aficionados looking for quality thrills at a bargain price.
Tomb Raider II
Nimble Archaeologist adventurer and gunslinger Lara Croft does a running jump and grab in to our top ten with Eidos’ 1997 Christmas hit, Tomb Raider II. While we had ample pickings to chose from – with Croft’s first three PS outings up for grabs – PSU decided to plump for the second entry, which offers up a healthy dose of exploration, copious amounts of secrets to unearth and plenty of armed goods and mythical beasties to vanquish. The best of both worlds, you might say. While often criticized (we use that term mildly, though, as the series pedigree speaks for itself) for being too action-orientated at the expense of, well, raiding tombs, Croft’s second outing contains some of the most diverse and aesthetically stimulating locations in the franchise to date, such as the sprawling Opera House in Venice, the ominous, Titanic-esque wreckage of the Maria Doria, to the otherworldly Floating Islands and Temple of Xian. On the other side of the spectrum, meanwhile, players have a boatload of weapons at their disposal, such as Uzis, Grenade Launchers, Harpoon Guns and Shotguns, along with the crucial introduction of vehicles for the first time in the series, such as the motorboat and snowmobile. Oh, and then there’s the sadistically satisfying notion of locking the Butler in the freezer during the obligatory training mission at Croft manor, which is worth the price of admission alone (note, sentence may contain hyperbole). Throw in the obligatory heap of hidden goodies, brain-taxing puzzles and one heck of a meaty quest, however, and it’s not hard to see why Tomb Raider II has firmly cemented itself as one of the most enjoyable (and more than often, underrated) gems in the proverbial Croft crown.
Perceived by consumers and industry folk alike as Sony’s unofficial mascot during the mid-late 1990s, Crash Bandicoot quickly became synonymous with the PlayStation brand following his inaugural platform romp in 1996, and was considered by many to be the company’s answer to the competition’s antics in Mario and Sonic. While the series has waned over the past couple of years, one cannot deny the impact Naughty Dog’s (yes, that’s right, the same folk who would a decade later churn out the likes of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune) loveable crate-bashing Bandicoot has had on Sony’s fortunes, and remains one of the most enjoyable platform offerings from the Japanese giant’s grey box to date.