The top ten are usually overdone and this is because of the constant peer pressure of creating the overall technically best, or highest-scoring best, or what’s socially acceptable as the best. Most people are afraid to do their favorite they grew up with. Some may have never played Final Fantasy VII like me. In fact, the only Final Fantasy game I played on PS1 was FF8. Back in the day, we were limited to the games we could play. What our parents couldn’t afford to buy we rented and what we couldn’t rent we talked about. There were no Let’s Plays on YouTube or video walkthroughs. It was all word of mouth, reviews in magazines, and what your friends talked about in school and at the game store. Usually, all you could go buy was what was on the back of the box and I miss those days. This is going to be my personal top ten favorite PS1 games.
10. Vandal Hearts — This was one of the last PS1 games I bought while games were still available in retail stores. I wasn’t too big into SRPGs at the time, but I loved Final Fantasy Tactics on GBA and thought the darker and more violent tone would appeal to me more. The story is something I have forgotten over time, but I’ll never forget those cool bloody animations when you defeat an enemy. Blood explodes as the characters disintegrate into gore and it was so satisfying to see. The game was fast-paced and brutal, but rewarding if you thought about every move first. I remember trying so hard to finish this game and the difficulty got the better of me.
9. Die Hard Trilogy — This may seem like an odd choice, but it was a random purchase toward the end of the system’s life and was only $10. I popped the game in and was instantly hooked on the first game that was a light gun shooter. It was a blast and felt challenging and fast-paced, I’m still not sure if I ever beat that one. The second one was a third-person shooter where you wander around a building climbing floors and killing everyone inside. This was more brutal than the first and I never made it past floor ten. The third game was a driving one and it was so hard and confusing I never got past the first five minutes, but even to this day I still pop this game in every so often and kill some bad guys.
8. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped — This was a game I picked up towards the end of the system’s life, but I had rented it earlier on. The game was challenging and getting 100% on every level was so addictive, and I remember the game played so smoothly, looked great, and combined everything that was amazing from the first two games and made it better. More mini-games, more variety in levels, and just more to do. This is one of the most polished platformers ever made, and thankfully Naughty Dog went on to create more masterpieces.
7. Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon — While I played and finished the first two games, the third was is the most polished of the three and the last good Spyro game on consoles (the GBA versions were pretty decent). There were more mini-games, more levels, more enemies, and just more everything plus it was polished and sparkly. This is one of the best platformers ever made and shows just how amazing the PS1 library was.
6. Mortal Kombat Trilogy — I spent more time on this game than most and it was because the 64-bit era wasn’t full of Mortal Kombat games. The only game in the main series released was MK4 and I didn’t play it all that much as I had a preference for the 2D versions. Mortal Kombat 3 was ported, but Trilogy was a “best of” for the series at the time. I played this to death on N64 as well, but the PS1 was the best as it had more characters and played smoother. Having every single character up to Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, playable bosses for the first time ever, every level ever made including some from MK1, it was just fantastic. It was a gore fest and is still my favorite MK game to date.
5. Gran Turismo — This game got me into racers and simulators, to begin with. With Gran Turismo, I wouldn’t appreciate or know what I do about cars today. While I’m not a mechanic I know more than the average person and can identify nearly every car on the road. My dad was the one who pushed me to play this game and I learned to be patient with this game. A seven-year-old playing a 100 lap race is a rare sight. The graphics were amazing and the car physics were astounding. I skipped GT2 and went on to master Gran Turismo 3 for PS2.
4. Final Fantasy VIII — Believe it not, and as embarrassing, as it is to admit it, FF8 was the first Final Fantasy game I ever played. I probably never would have played even that if I hadn’t received it as a trade with a neighbor for some SNES games. I remember the opening FMV cinematic was unlike anything I had ever seen and I still remember the music to this day. I never beat the game though as it was very difficult and required dozens of hours and maybe one day I will. I loved the story, characters, art, enemy styles, and everything about it. It was also the first PS1 game I ever saw that had 4 discs. However, it helped propel me into the JRPG scene and was probably the first one I ever truly played. Yes, I never played a single one on SNES or Genesis, but I got there eventually didn’t I?
3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 — This game impacted my childhood more than any other. It made me actually start skateboarding. I rented books from the library on how to do tricks and was even before I got into Tech Decks. I played THPS1 quite a bit, but I didn’t quite get into it as I did with THPS2. The levels were perfect, the gameplay was perfect, the trick system added manuals and the graphics were better. There were more levels (I live right to Ventura where Skate Street used to be located). I remember saving replays on my memory card and taking them over to friends’ houses and they couldn’t believe the lines I could do. The cheats were super fun and the game has endless replayability. It still doesn’t beat out THPS3, but that version was awful on PS1.
2. Silent Hill — This was actually accidental for me. I forgot the name of Syphon Filter as my dad has just returned it and I had only gotten through a few levels. I knew it started with an “S” so I just picked up a two-word game starting with “S”. I popped it in and immediately realized I was wrong, but I was still intrigued. The game was frightening but not at first. It just felt like a gloomy horror game, but this was my first 3D horror game ever. When I got to the alley with the gurneys and skinless dogs I screamed, turned off the PS1, and my mom returned the game right away. For the longest time, she wouldn’t allow me to re-rent it or even buy it. I got only two hours into the game, but it’s two hours I will never forget.
1. Syphon Filter — This game is one of the closest games to my heart. It was a bonding experience with my dad (who passed away last year) and is the game I played the most on PS1 growing up. It was the first third-person shooter I ever played and something about the story, characters, level design, and gameplay amazed me. It was addictive, fun, and I have probably finished this game close to dozens of times. My dad and I would sit and learn every enemy placement, patrol path, every weapon location, and every box and crate on the level. We would compete to see who could finish the game the fastest with and without the one-shot kill code. Syphon Filter 2 was just as big of an impact on my gaming life as the first, but the original was the beginning.