The Sony PlayStation came about thanks to a botched deal with Nintendo. Originally, Sony was to develop a CD add-on peripheral for Nintendo’s SNES console, but the deal fell through, leaving Sony with a whole bunch of CD-ROM gaming research and nowhere to put it. They channeled that research into the PlayStation, which rapidly took over the gaming landscape. To this day, the PS1 is still the sixth best-selling console ever made, and that’s thanks in part to its amazing library of games. In no particular order, here are the 25 best PS1 games of all time.
1. Final Fantasy VII
All three major Final Fantasy outings are going to appear on this list, but let’s start with the big one. Final Fantasy VII represented a massive step up from the SNES’ Final Fantasy VI. It featured full motion video cutscenes telling the story, as well as polygonal 3D for its battles and certain elements of its world. Cloud and company’s battle against Sephiroth is probably the most influential JRPG of all time.
2. Metal Gear Solid
Just as Final Fantasy VII represented a step up for its series, so too did Metal Gear Solid. Before the launch of this game, Hideo Kojima’s stealth series was relatively primitive, but the 3D capabilities of the PS1 launched Metal Gear Solid into the stratosphere. Its melodramatic, complex tale of military orphans and mech warfare are still a huge part of the public consciousness today.
3. Final Fantasy VIII
After the world-beating success of Final Fantasy VII, Squaresoft (as they were known then) took some risks for its followup. Final Fantasy VIII scales the scope back a little, choosing to focus on a group of students in a sort of mercenary high school instead. The turn-based battles were still there, but Final Fantasy VIII also included some innovative systems that alienated some and enthralled others.
4. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped
The first Crash Bandicoot game is great, but it’s fairly primitive by modern standards. Crash Bandicoot 2 expanded the palette with new level and enemy types, but it was with Crash Bandicoot 3 that Naughty Dog truly spread its wings. This is a confident, varied platformer with a huge amount of ideas and content crammed into it. Crash 2 might be tighter, but Crash 3 is the crowning achievement.
5. Spyro the Dragon
Just like Crash Bandicoot, we’re only going to include one of the purple dragon’s outings on this list. Suffice it to say that if you like Spyro, you should check out the sequels too, but for our money, there’s a simplicity to Spyro 1 that means it outshines its more complex and muddled successors. There’s no hint of some of the fiendishly difficult minigames that would damn Spyro 2 and 3 here.
6. Final Fantasy IX
For its final outing on the PS1, Square knew that Final Fantasy needed to do something special. Final Fantasy IX was a celebration of the series as a whole, and it’s full of adorable little nods to the franchise’s past (Vivi’s design, for example, or the white mage robe Garnet wears at the start). It’s also a great JRPG in its own right, packed with memorable music and great characters.
7. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Forget Lords of Shadow: this is where Castlevania truly feels at home. This sprawling exploration platformer gave birth to the term “Metroidvania”, used to describe a game with interconnected pathways that unlock as you gain more powers. Michiru Yamane’s soundtrack is iconic, and that famous mid-game twist – which we don’t want to spoil here – is just as shocking today as it was then.
8. Vagrant Story
Yasumi Matsuno’s Ivalice games are something of a mixed bag. On the one hand, we have Final Fantasy XII, an unfinished experience that never quite feels as it should. On the other hand, there’s Vagrant Story, a strange PS1 RPG with some incredible presentation and one of the most surprisingly intuitive combat systems around. If you like your RPGs to subvert norms, this is where you should go.
9. Silent Hill
The original Silent Hill is far from the best of its series, but that just goes to show what a stellar franchise this is. You are Harry Mason, and you must look for your adopted daughter in the titular town of Silent Hill, where bad stuff is happening. Konami’s game used the technical limitations of the PS1 to great effect; the muddy fog that covered the town didn’t just limit draw distances, but also created a sense of disorientation.
10. PaRappa the Rapper
Don’t play the shoddily-handled 2017 remaster; play the original instead. Unlike the PS4 version, the PS1 game doesn’t have any issues with input timing, making it a tight and responsive rhythm-action game. You are the titular PaRappa, and you must rap your way through six increasingly difficult stages, each one populated by new and interesting characters full of charm.
11. Tomb Raider III
The direction Lara Croft has headed in the remakes might be divisive, but there are few naysayers for the original PlayStation days of everyone’s favourite adventurer heroine. Tomb Raider III is the best of her PS1 outings; it features a fully explorable Croft Manor, complete with secrets to discover (and, yes, butlers to lock in the fridge). The main adventure is great, too
12. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Lofty, ambitious, and occasionally pretentious, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver nevertheless birthed an incredible fanbase that still clamours for new games in the series to this day. You are Raziel, a vampiric wraith cast into the Abyss for having the temerity to evolve before your vampire lord. Throughout the course of this grim action-adventure title, you must seek out Kain to get your answers and potentially get revenge.
13. Final Fantasy Tactics
Nobody expected this strategy spin-off of the Final Fantasy series to work, but not only did it prove them wrong, it’s also one of the best entries in the franchise, period. It tells a densely-woven, complex political tale, complete with unsung heroes, morally grey villains, and much richer and more mature themes than you might expect from a Final Fantasy title.
14. Resident Evil 2
Here’s where Resident Evil gets good. The first game certainly had its fair share of great set pieces, but its campy vibe and wonky controls make it hard to recommend today. Resident Evil 2, on the other hand, upped the ante considerably, ratcheting up the grotesque factor on its enemies and increasing the tension. It’s the same tank-controlled survival horror you know and love, but bigger and better.
15. Crash Team Racing
For many years, Mario Kart has reigned supreme as the monarch of cartoony mascot kart racers. However, for a brief period in the late 90s, it looked like Crash Team Racing could knock Mario off his perch. Unlike Mario Kart, CTR actually has a solid and well-implemented story mode, with plenty of challenges to complete in each course. The racing is tighter and more technical, too.
16. Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Oddworld is one of gaming’s bleakest and most well-realised worlds, and Abe’s inaugural journey through its dark recesses is the ideal way to experience Oddworld Inhabitants’ creation. In this cinematic platformer, you’ll have to dodge Oddworld’s murderous denizens, all while rescuing your fellow Mudokons from the clutches of the Sligs and Glukkons.
17. Tekken 3
To this day, anybody who grew up with a PS1 will probably cite Tekken 3 as their favourite fighting game of all time. With a massive roster, a huge wealth of different gameplay modes, and a deep and technical fighting engine, Tekken 3 has yet to be surpassed within its own series (and some would argue it has yet to be surpassed as a fighting game).
18. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Most people who played Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 had never actually skated themselves, nor had they ever encountered a skater. This game was the closest we would ever get to actually skating, and it was tremendous fun thanks to arcade-style controls and tight time limits that kept us on track for our mission goals. You could even play as Spider-Man!
19. Medal of Honor
The story for this military shooter was created by none other than filmmaking legend Steven Spielberg, and it shows. This is a mournful tale of brothers in arms against the backdrop of World War II. Your goal is to navigate each level and complete a series of mission objectives; you might be asked to recover classified intel, for example, or to destroy a German U-boat.
20. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
If you’ve never played this movie tie-in game, then you may wonder how it could end up on this list. After all, movie tie-in games are universally bad, right? Well, not this one. You play through key scenarios from the movie, and occasionally, you’re let off the leash to explore a recreation of a city or location from Episode I. The core combat is tight, too, and the platforming is satisfying.
21. Jumping Flash!
If you look carefully in 2020’s PS5 launch title Astro’s Playroom, you’ll find a reference to Jumping Flash!. There’s a good reason for that: this is one of the most influential games of all time. It’s an early 3D platformer (played in first-person, no less!) in which you must explore each level to find secrets and power-ups, all while mastering the innovative control scheme.
22. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
Before From Software was well-known for its brutal action RPGs, it created brutal stealth action games instead. The story of Rikimaru and Ayame is dark, moody, and brooding, full of atmosphere and tension as you sneak around the grounds of a Japanese mansion and try to avoid its patrolling guards. You can see a lot of Tenchu’s DNA in 2019’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.
23. WWF Smackdown! 2: Know Your Role
To see a snapshot of the professional wrestling world during its greatest era, look no further than WWF Smackdown! 2. This wrestling game features all the greats: The Big Show, The Rock, The Hardy Boyz, Triple H, Too Cool…any Attitude Era wrestler you can name is almost certainly represented here. This game had a huge wealth of modes to choose from, as well as a surprisingly in-depth career mode.
24. Syphon Filter
Influenced by GoldenEye 007, Eidetic (as they were known then – they’re now Sony’s Bend Studio) decided to create a stealth action game. The stakes were high; the team’s previous game, Bubsy 3D, wasn’t exactly great, so this one needed to succeed. Happily, it did. Syphon Filter is hard, but it’s an excellent third-person stealth game that set the tone for the next ten to twenty years of Tom Clancy games.
25. Gran Turismo 2
It’s a tight race between Gran Turismo 2 and the original game, but we think the sequel just pips the original to the post. Gran Turismo 2 has an expanded list of classic and modern cars to race, as well as a wide range of missions, tournaments, and other game modes. Considering how primitive the PS1 looks by today’s standards, Gran Turismo 2 still holds up surprisingly well.