I’m not a huge Banjo fan. I never was as a kid either. I felt the game was really tedious and easy. The only interesting parts of the game were the platforming and collecting everything, and even that got dull after a while. I personally feel it’s a very much overrated game and is one of the most nostalgia blind games in existence. I tried out Grunty’s Revenge for GBA, and it’s exactly what I expected. An over simplified version of an already pretty simple game.
The story is mostly nonsense, but Gruntilda has created a robot form of herself and you need to stop her. The end. Yeah, Banjo was never much for story. I do have the say the yapping voice samples are incredibly annoying and repeat themselves over and over again. It’s some of the most annoying voices I’ve heard in any game. It’s just irritating noises, they don’t even sound like voices. Never mind that though, your goal is to run around collecting Jiggies, musical notes, honeycombs, and various other odds and ends to acquire abilities to gain access to new areas. The levels in this game are fairly small but well designed. I have to say the level design overall here is great and I never got lost thanks to memorable landmarks which are key to a game with no map. You talk to a mole fellow who will grant you a new ability once you have enough notes. I never ran into an issue with this as exploring alone will give you more than enough notes. Abilities range from smacking enemies with your pack to a roll. Once you acquire Kazooie you can get the ability to fire eggs, batteries, a jump glide, and an aerial attack.
I do like how the abilities keep coming and in quick succession. It was satisfying to get back to the hub world and gain access to new abilities such as ladder climbing and diving. Thankfully just exploring on its own saw me collecting and completing 100% of each level with ease. There are boss fights and these are painfully easy and never change. The boss has an electric field around it and you just run around dodging attacks. Once the field is down you can attack. The life counter will go down with each attack and you are rewarded afterward. Enemy encounters are pretty much the same and enemies constantly respawn. Some enemies require more than one hit, but I found it annoying that they would get in the way of a platforming segment after I’ve killed them and only got knocked down to come back around have to kill them again. It was hard to judge depth with some platforms and it would lead to cheap falls.
I do have to say that while the game looks decent the pseudo-3D look makes everything look quite bland. While it’s by no means ugly I never cared for the art style of Banjo. Everything is just green and yellow in this game is it gets old after a while. There are only four large levels and the game can be finished in less than four hours. Thankfully you can save anywhere, and dying doesn’t even reset the area. You just start off at the next closest spot or platform so I didn’t see the point in having a life bar if there were no consequences to dying. The only thing that kept me going was the completionist in me wanting to 100% every level and acquiring the next ability was fun.
Overall, Grunty’s Revenge is a decent isometric platformer, but other games did it better such as Spyro. The visuals are kind of muddy and blurry and a bit hard to see when it comes to platforming, but the levels are designed well. The story is nonsense and there’s zero challenge outside of just the platforming. If you want a short and light-hearted pseudo-3D platformer for your GBA then you can’t go wrong here.
The Nintendo DS. The system that has the better half of itself. The Gameboy Advance 4 because there’s two screens in one. The system your grandma probably at some point may have played Brain Age or New York Times Crosswords on. The system that had a library just as strong as the GBA’s and had so many different models. It could play Gameboy games, GBA games, and then it all went away when they took the GBA slot away to give us cameras. Yeah, no thanks. The DS has a vast library of amazing games, but the system is becoming more and more collectible as time goes on and your favorite childhood DS game may be over $100. Metroid Prime Hunters? Yeah, forget it. Hamsterz Life? Yes! Castlevania? Not going to happen. My Baby Girl? You got it! In all seriousness there are cheap games that aren’t shovelwere, quite a few in fact. Also, don’t even bother with the few horror games on the system Japanese release only or not.
Complete in box games are hard to come by and can be expensive, so I dug into my own collection and will be talking about these games that are under $20. Of course there’s shovelware if your a glutton for punishment, that stuff can be bought by the truck load off of eBay and paid by the pound. There may be a few games here you don’t have or just got a shiny DS or have a 3DS and want to dive deeper into this backlog of goodness.
Age of Empires: Age of Kings – Backbone Entertainment/Majesco Entertainment – 2006
Yes, the Majesco that killed off Psychonauts and made the crappy Game Gear re-release in 2000. That Majesco. That’s okay as Age of Kings is a fantastic strategy game on DS and there aren’t many. The touch screen allows for some better controls over buttons and remember this is a tile based game rather than real-time like on PC. It’s a lot of fun, but slow paced and nothing flashy or pretty. It’s great for relaxing on a quiet day and exercising your brain.
Alice in Wonderland – Étranges Libellules S.A./Disney Interactive – 2010
This game came out late in the system’s life, but what is this even?! A good Alice in Wonderland game? A good DISNEY GAME? It looks like Okami?! C’MON! This is a fantastic platformer with a gorgeous art style and thankfully has nothing to do with the terrible Tim Burton movie. I’m surprised it’s not worth more as it’s pretty unknown and was overlooked on the shelves because of the terrible timing of the movie. It’s dark, pretty, and a lot of fun.
Band Hero – Vicarious Visions/Activision – 2009
Band Hero is probably the most peripheral heavy game on the system. They packed an entire band in here! The great thing is you can still pick this up new for under $20 because no one cared about it. Sadly, it’s a great game! It comes with a guitar grip and a weird rubber drum condom. It has great licensed songs and play better than Guitar Hero on DS. It’s a game you can’t really emulate well or watch. It’s an experience of the senses. You of course need a DS with a GBA slot so that pesky DSi won’t due. It’s made by the Crash Bandicoot team so it’s got to be good right?
Big Bang Mini – Arkedo SARL/SouthPeak Interactive – 2009
This is a fireworks shoot ’em up hybrid that utilizes the touch screen very well. It’s super colorful and bright and a lot of fun to get into. There are mini-games and the challenge ramps up as you go on. It’s super colorful and tons of fun with varied boss fights and enemies. This is a must have.
Brain Age Academy – Nintendo – 2006
Well it’s brain teasers, math problems, timing tests, reaction tests, and many things you probably did in school, but it’s fun because it’s a VIDEO GAME. This series was actually quite fun and you can sink several hours into the game and don’t want to stop. Your grandma probably didn’t want to stop either. The entire series is pretty much the same just with new ideas and mini-games and problems. They’re solid and utilize the touch screen well.
Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day! – Nintendo – 2007
Around this time people were tired of Dr. Kawashima’s crap and sales dropped. Brain Age 2 is the best of the bunch and is less mini-game like from Big Brain Academy and more educational. These brain exercises are great for anyone studying in school, children, or just plain fun if you want to utilize that fancy touch screen. It’s nothing pretty to look at but a seriously interesting piece of software that only could be done on the DS.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – n-Space/Activision – 2007
Can you 360 no scope in this game? Probably not, but it’s a great single player experience with decent visuals and it feels like a portable Call of Duty game. The only way to get it portable as Roads to Victory wasn’t too hot on the PSP. This was built from the ground up and n-Space were excellent developers for the system back in the day. These are highly overlooked because they’re not big bombastic console versions, but they are quite solid on DS.
Classic Action: Devilish – Starfish Kaihatsu/UFO Interactive Games – 2007
Well this game got shit on a lot because it was unchanged from the Genesis/Game Gear version, and that’s okay. It just stretches the play field out across both screens, but it’s still fun. This plays like a shoot ’em up mixed with Arkanoid. It’s not an instant classic, but that BOX ART THOUGH! Yeah, it looks nothing like the game, but you can still pick up sealed copies of this game because no one knew it existed. That’s okay. At least you do now.
Well this was a popular Java mobile game series and also on PC and it came to DS. I love time management games as they are so addictive and you can’t put them down. Diner Dash may not look amazing but it’s super addictive and a ton of fun. You will sink more hours into this game than you will want to admit. Guilty pleasure indeed.
Feel the Magic XY/XX – Sonic Team/Sega – 2004
This was a launch title for the system and was super weird. So the game is all about rubbing things, and no you can’t feel up Sonic I looked, and it was rather fun. It was zany Japanese mini-games that utilized the mic and touch screen really well. You won’t sink hours into this, but it’s cheap enough for some quick fun.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes in Time – Square Enix – 2009
One of the few Final Fantasy games on the system under $20. This was the better half of the Crystal Chronicles series released on GameCube. It’s a top down real-time combat action game with RPG elements. It’s rather fun and unique and different from what we’re used to in the series, especially at this point in time. Even if you don’t care for Final Fantasy this is worth a look.
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings – Square Enix – 2007
One of the other few cheap FF games on the system, this was a turned based RPG with a slower pace than its console brother. It looks good and has 2D sprites which just look good. You can play the entire game with just the stylus so your screen will finally get it’s mileage if it hasn’t already. It’s a longer RPG that takes around 30 hours to finish so it’s a great time sink and if you are already an FF12 nut then add this to your collection.
Glory of Heracles – Paon Corporation/Nintendo – 2010
If you don’t like JRPGs then look elsewhere. It’s about a JRPG-y as it gets here. At least the skills and powers and done with the touch screen which is nice, and it’s nice and lengthy and a good time sink. It was a late bloomer in the system’s life cycle and didn’t see many sales, but the DS is one of the best handhelds when it comes to JRPGs.
GRID – Firebrand Games and Entertainment/Codemasters – 2008
A racing game that didn’t look like poopoo on the DS? Color me surprised. Racing games weren’t a strong suit for the DS due to the lack of power and anyone willing to create a hand-tailored engine for the system. Either you played Mario Kart DS or didn’t. That was it. Then GRID came along and was a game changer for the system. It looked fantastic and ran at a good framerate and was an actual good racing game. It also wasn’t an arcade racer and more of a sim game, or at least as sim like as you can get on the DS. This is a must own for any racing fan.
LEGO Rock Band – Backbone Entertainment/Warner Bros. Interactive – 2009
Well, if peripherals and weird condoms aren’t your thing then this might be. This was a peripheral-less Rock Band game featuring Legos. You used the DS buttons or touch screen and looked good and had some great licensed tracks. It’s one of the better rhythm games on handhelds and shouldn’t be passed up over the kid-like appeal.
Mario Kart DS – Nintendo – 2005
This was an early instant classic on the system. It’s considered one of the best in the series and actually had online play. It’s fantastic Mario Kart goodness and it’s all in 3D rather than the Mode 7 style of the past. It was a big deal as it was the first portable Mario Kart game in 3D and took the world by storm. Everyone was playing it and so should you.
Meteos – Q Entertainment/Nintendo – 2005
A early puzzle game for the system that was a smash hit. It’s bright, colorful, fast paced, has great music, and you can sink hours into it similar to Tetris. It’s honestly one of the best portable puzzle games ever made. It was created by none other than the Rez man himself Tetsuya Mitzuguchi. This is something that can only be experienced on the DS as it utilizes both screens. You match blocks and they shoot up like rockets at the top screen and you need to chain them. It’s a lot of fun for such a small price.
New Super Mario Bros. – Nintendo – 2006
Well this is why Mario 2D platformers returned. It was the first one in 15 years. New Super Mario Bros. was a mega-hit and the formula of the physics, looks, art style, and identity is all due to this game right here on the DS. It’s an instant classic and just as good as any older 2D Mario game. While the series burned itself out on 3DS it’s feel more energetic and innovative here.
Orcs & Elves – id Software/EA – 2007
I’m surprised this isn’t worth more being an id Software game and an obscure one at that. This was a Java port using the mobile Doom engine from the mid-2000’s. It’s a fantastic FPS game of might and magic and should be owned by everyone who likes Doom or classic dungeon crawlers. It uses the dual screens well and I’m sure it will eventually shoot up in price at some point. You can’t get the mobile version anymore so this is it.
Ridge Racer DS – Nintendo/Namco – 2004
Ok, here me out. A PlayStation exclusive racing series developed by Nintendo for a Nintendo handheld. What kind of sorcery is this?! Yeah, Nintendo made this while Namco published it. So, it’s not Mario Kart that much is obvious and it’s why no one bought it. If you’re a Nintendo racing game and you aren’t Mario Kart you’re going to have a bad time. Here’s the thing, it’s one of the better racing games especially being an early title for the system. It’s not GRID pretty, but it looks and plays really well. The system is anemic with the racers so get this if you can.
Skate It – Exient Entertainment/EA – 2008
Welp, it’s not Tony Hawk. While American Sk8land was much better this tried to bring the Flick-It system to the DS using the touch screen and it mostly worked. It has a high learning curve, but for those patient enough to stick with it you will have a good time.
Super Mario 64 DS – Nintendo – 2004
This was a launch title for the DS and holds up well today. It’s a full remake of the game and is still the best version. There are more characters to play as with different abilities, an expanded quest, and more stars to collect. It’s the definitive version of the game yet not many people talk about it. It’s far superior to the N64 version and is a must own, probably top 5, for the system especially with how cheap it is. You will probably always find at least one copy at every used game store.
Thor: God of Thunder – WayForward Technologies/Sega – 2011
This was released so far into the system’s life it barely sold anything and hardly anyone noticed. It’s made by the talented Shantae studio as well. Ignore Chris Hemsworth on the cover and ignore the movie license tie-in. This is through and through one of the best best platformers on the system bar-none. Don’t believe me? It’s made from the ground up and doesn’t follow anything from the movie. It looks fantastic, isn’t in 3D, bosses fill both screens, and it’s a blast. It’s not a fast paced platformer, and there are a few flaws, but it’s always overlooked.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 – EA Tiburon/EA – 2007
Welp, there was Tiger Woods at the beginning and then there was 08. You can’t get miracles here. The series skipped a few years and returned due to the popularity on the PSP. This is probably the only good golf game on the DS as it wasn’t a popular genre on the system. It looks decent, plays well, and uses the touch screen for the swing meter. It’s dirt cheap and if you are a golf fan then this is a no-brainer.
Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land – Vicarious Visions/Activision – 2005
An early game on the system, American Sk8land on GBA and DS was better than the console versions by a long shot. It had a unique art style, better controls, less dull, and got rid of the stupid skate park building system that wasn’t any fun in the console versions and had a better one. There was wifi mode on the DS which was a blast. This is probably the best skateboarding game on the DS.
Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam – Vicarious Visions/Activision – 2006
Downhill Jam was a pretty awful game, but the limitations of the DS pushed Vicarious to make a pretty good game. While not as good as Sk8land, this downhill racer is just that, but with Tony Hawk stuff thrown in. I much prefer the open levels, but this is still fun and a nice change of pace. Just stay away from the console versions.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife – Atlus – 2005
This game is hard as nuts. It’s solely unique to the DS hardware as you can’t do it anywhere else. Pulling out glass shards, zapping polyps, and stitching up patients. It has a crazy anime infused storyline about terrorism. The last few puzzles are so hard I have never finished them to this day, even on the Wii port. It’s still a lot of fun and has that Atlus difficulty curve thrown in for good measure.
Game collecting has skyrocketed due to the lockdown of COVID and the general boredom of a new generation of gamers stuck inside. With the easy access of information from YouTube, Wikipedia, and various streams and let’s-plays, retro gaming is seeing a renaissance. To collectors this is usually a bad time to buy up games. A game that was once maybe $30 can easily shoot upwards above $100 because of it’s obscurity, rarity, or going viral on a popular YouTube channel. You may think you want to pick up Tekken for $5, but you might look on eBay and see $60 price tags and go, “HUH?!” Your favorite childhood PS1 game like maybe Symphony of the Night isn’t a quick $20 steal and the different versions matter. Original black label releases always cost more than the Greatest Hits versions. This is because the black labels were a smaller print run because the games weren’t popular yet. Don’t fret though. Your favorite game may not be cheap but there are so many fantastic games you and others have never heard of that are worth playing. You won’t see any survival horror here as that genre is highly coveted because of its niche. The PS1/PS2 era of survival horrors are considered mostly cult classics. You won’t see a lot of Mega Man games, JRPGs, or a lot of obscure and rare titles either.
The PlayStation is one of the most diverse 32-bit systems when it comes to genres and overall games available. The system saw numerous entries for any genre imaginable and it can be intimidating to start collecting today. I’m going to cover games that you can pick up complete in box for under $20 to help start your collection. These may not be rare, or even popular, but they’re interesting and fun for sure. These are actually all games in my personal collection so I’m going to stick with that rather than research every single PS1 game and find prices on eBay…that would take months.
Akuji is a game I have played all the way through and it’s from the creators of Tomb Raider. It looks good and has a great atmosphere, but it does feel a bit clunky in spots, but not to the point you can’t finish the game. There are a few frustrating mechanics at play, but if you want a good looking action game then pick this up.
Ten Pin Alley is one of the best bowling games on the system and who doesn’t love Animaniacs? It isn’t stuffy like most pro bowling games and has great animations and one-liners from the triplets. It has great sound effects and just feels like the show in general.
Army Men: Air Attack – The 3DO Company – 1999
This is a fun Choplifter clone starring the green toys. It has tight controls, fun objectives, and just plays well overall. It can get a little repetitive, but the miniaturization of everything is great and is one of the best Army Men games made in this era.
Asteroids – Syrox Developments/Activision – 1998
It’s Asteroids but in THREE DEE. This was a common thing to bring back 8-bit games into 3D and some succeeded while most didn’t. Asteroids is fun and fast paced and looks modern, for the time, and it’s one of the cheapest games you can pick up on the system complete.
It’s a Zuma clone before Zuma. It’s the best way to explain this. A lot of people compared it to Puyo Puyo at the time, but it’s obviously nothing like it in reality. It’s a fun match three puzzle game that’s dirt cheap and will provide tons of fun.
Black Dawn – Black Ops Entertainment/Virgin Interactive – 1996
Black Dawn is a great looking helicopter sim with great controls and a lot of fun missions. These types of games were clunky in the 32-bit era, but Black Ops managed to make a helicopter sim on a home console playable. PC was where all of the flight sims were home to back in the day, but a few managed to make it on consoles.
Bust-A-Move 99 – Taito Corporation/Acclaim Entertainment – 1999
Bust-A-Move is one of my favorite puzzle games of all time. I still remember beating the grim reaper boss on the SNES version and getting past that 100th level. The music is great, the graphics are colorful, and the puzzles are addictive and the difficulty slowly ramps up. The PlayStation version is a great puzzle game just like the classic and you can’t really go wrong here.
C-12: Final Resistance – SCE Studio Cambridge/SCEA – 2001
C-12 was released late in the PS1’s life cycle, in fact, just after the PS2 launched. The game looks fantastic and pushes the system to its limits, and it’s a very entertaining action game. It didn’t sell well due to the hype of the PS2 and a lot of consumers were over the 32-bit era by now. It plays similar to Syphon Filter and has a great sci-fi atmosphere. It’s very underrated and overlooked by most. I believe this was the last first party title developed on the system.
Another late releasing PS1 game, Motocross 2001 is a solid circuit style dirt bike racing game. It had great physics and looked good with some excellent sound in there as well. This was one of the best dirt bike games before the MX series came along. The game also feels fast paced despite slightly slippery physics. The system couldn’t do too much and Gran Turismo was about as realistic as you could get on the system, but that was years spent studying the hardware.
Codename: Tenka – Psygnosis – 1997
Most FPS games are coveted on 32-bit systems because it was the era just before they became mainstream on 128-bit systems. Tenka is an odd Doom clone set in a sci-fi universe with over 20 missions. It’s hard and sometimes frustrating due to poor checkpoint placement, but it requires patience and slower movement than Doom. It’s a great alternative with full 3D graphics, while not the best FPS on the system, it is still a lot of fun for the low price of entry.
Colony Wars: Vengeance – Psygnosis – 1998
Psygnosis were masters at their craft during the 32-bit era both on consoles and PCs. Colony Wars: Vengeance is considered one of the best games on the system and it’s surprising it’s so cheap despite this claim. While it didn’t sell too well space combat lovers will get a lot of fun out of this. The game looks fantastic, has a lot of variety in missions, and just feels good to control. This was actually one of the first PS1 games I ever bought that kick started the collector in me. I didn’t own a single PS1 game outside of Mortal Kombat: Trilogy and this was a must have.
Darkstone – Delphine Software/Take-Two – 2001
Another game released late into the system’s life, and a Diablo clone of all things. Now this game is something that you either love or hate. It’s still one of the best Diablo clones on any console system as these just didn’t really exist back in the day. It has a decent story, lots of loot, and looks pretty good. It may feel clunky compared to later games like Champions of Norrath, but it’s well worth the time it takes to get into it.
Descent Maximum – Parallax Software/Interplay Productions – 1997
Descent is considered one of the best PC games of the 90’s and this is probably one of the best PC ports to home consoles at the time. This is essentially Descent 2, but was put in a new engine and had 36 levels retooled for the PS1, so essentially this is a PS1 exclusive Descent game. You play in a first person view and can rotate 360 degrees and you shoot down things in mines and tunnels. It’s fast paced and a lot of fun. You can’t go wrong here.
Probably a little better than Maximum, Descent has players trying to find a reactor core in each level and you get 45 seconds to find the escape hatch afterwards. It’s a lot of fast paced fun and was one of the best PC-to-console ports of the time. It takes advantage of the DualShock controller and looks great in the process. Even the longbox version of the game is cheap right now.
This is one of the best games on the system and is so cheap because of how well it sold. There’s a lot of copies out there. The game looks great for being an early title on the system and is more of the same but just tweaked and improved upon. Pit stops are a thing now and there are more tracks with more cars. More is always good, right?
Brought to you by the creators of Destruction Derby, Reflections were some of the best out there when it came to fast paced arcade racers. Driver went the more realistic route with one of the best looking games of the entire era and had an open world with excellent driving mechanics. Some may find it boring, but some may love just how modern it feels. It’s not for everyone, but if you want something that was really genre defining for the system then this is it.
Duke Nukem: Time to Kill – n-Space/GT Interactive – 1999
Duke Nukem made a strong presence on PS1 and was the only console ever to have this much mainstay. Duke Nukem had a series of games set in the third person and Time to Kill was probably the best of them. It had the same fun humor, multiplayer, and great controls and level design. If you want a great third person shooter, this is one of the best on the system.
Final Fantasy Origins – Square Enix – 2002
So this is a weird one. You can still find sealed copies of this game, the Greatest Hits version, because it was one of the last PS1 games ever released. I picked up a sealed copy a few years ago for $20 and was shocked. It contains great ports of Final Fantasy I and II for a low price. While these aren’t the best games in the series, this is great for those who want to play the older NES/SNES titles in a higher resolution with slightly upgraded visuals.
Final Fantasy VIII – Square – 1999
This is an instant classic, but also a lot of people’s least favorite in the series. It did a lot of things different like the stupid magic system for one, which I can’t stand, as it’s based on cards instead of mana. However, the story, characters, setting, and overall atmosphere are memorable. Just be prepared to sink nearly 40 hours into this game as it’s long and only for diehard JRPG fans. The pre-rendered cut scenes look fantastic and overall it’s a great looking game.
This is a game I spent a lot of time on as a kid. My sister got this from a game store used and we sunk so many hours into it despite it being hard as balls. If you didn’t like the classic arcade Frogger you won’t like this one here despite the 3D graphics. It doesn’t look the best, but it’s challenging platforming fun.
G-Police – Psygnosis – 1997
Hey it’s them again. G-Police is a helicopter game set in the distant future. You are tasked to destroy things, follow suspicious packages, maneuver through billboards and skyscrapers, and it’s rather fun despite being a really dark looking game. It’s one of the better flight games on the system and a must have for anyone who likes this genre.
Gran Turismo – Polyphony Digital/SCEA – 1998
Ah yes, the game that actually made me care about cars and allowed me to identify EVERY single car on the road just by tail lights, badges, or silhouettes. That’s how good Gran Turismo is and the amount of detail this game sucked out of the PS1 is astounding. It took the world by storm and for once PC gamers were jealous of console players. This was the most advanced racing sim of the generation and it was on a puny console? I spent dozens of hours trying to get gold in the license trials and doing 100 lap endurance runs. It’s a fantastic game, but of course you can just get the sequel instead unless you want to see how the series progressed.
Gran Turismo 2 – Polyphony Digital/SCEA – 1999
Yep, more of the same but better-er. It somehow looked better, had more cars, tracks, upgrades, modes, and was just the best racing sim of the entire generation. It came out late in the console’s life and would pave the path for Gran Turismo 3, the single best console racing sim of the 2000’s. Unless you want to see the series progression just pick this one up as it holds up surprisingly well today. I can easily pick this up and spend an entire day racing and having fun.
This was an early title for the system and unless you like capture-the-flag don’t bother. It’s fun and challenging as you run along the paths of different levels and requires some strategy. It’s mindless fun and great in short bursts and it’s super cheap. It has a weird art style and isn’t the best looking game, but it’s also fun with another person.
Grind Session – Shaba Games/SCEA – 2000
Probably one of the best Tony Hawk clones, Grind Session offers some slightly different gameplay, skaters, and levels of course. While not quite as polished it’s still fun. It’s only competitor at the time was the first Tony Hawk and Thrasher. It also featured a fantastic licensed soundtrack and just looked good with smooth frame rates as well. Sadly, due to Tony Hawk‘s popularity, this game wound up in the bargain bins as a rip-off and nothing more.
Gubble – Actual Entertainment/Mud Duck Productions – 1998
Umm, what the hell is right. I’m sure no one has heard of this game at all. It’s a fun puzzle game in which you break apart levels to free your race from invaders. It’s kind of like a tower defense game, but different. It’s super weird, looks ugly as sin, but that’s kind of the charm with this game. If you want a quirky puzzle game then look no further.
Hot Wheels: Turbo Racing – Stormfront Studios/EA – 1999
This is seriously one of the most fun games I have played on the system. It’s face paced, colorful, there are a lot of imaginative tracks and cars, and it feels like a Hot Wheels game should be. The framerate is also pretty smooth and also includes a heavy metal licensed soundtrack. It’s such an underrated arcade game on the system and is always overlooked for Need for Speed or Wipeout.
The Italian Job – Pixelogic Limited/Rockstar Games – 2001
This came out towards the end of the system’s life cycle and while it looks fantastic it isn’t for everyone. It’s a checkpoint based arcade racer with realistic physics and art. The game has you evading the mafia, police, and others as you race through twists and turns in the city. It doesn’t have much variety, but it plays well and is a fun alternative if you’ve burned out all the popular racers.
Jet Moto 2 – 989 Studios/SCEA – 1998
A fun jet ski game and there aren’t many of those. This was a racing series Sony milked for the longest time but never saw an entries past the PS1. It’s fast paced, fun, and looks great and runs at a steady framerate. It at least does have a good sense of speed, but the physics may feel wonky if you aren’t into jet skis.
It’s more Jet Moto if that’s your thing. This time Sony gave up the publishing rights and it was created by a new studio. This is by far the best entry in the series and one of the best arcade racers on the system. It has a whopping 19 tracks and you can now race across land and use a grapple to take turns. It runs smooth and looks great. A must have if you love arcade racers.
Lemmings an acquired taste and mostly PC gamers will remember this from back in the day. It’s developed by what would become Rockstar Games, the same team who made GTA. It’s a reverse tower defense in which you must manipulate the levels around you to guide the lemmings to safety. There are a ton of levels and a lot of different lemmings to use. This is probably one of the best console ports for the system. It’s slow paced, so if you want a cerebral puzzle game then go for this.
Mass Destruction – NMS Software/American Softworks Corporation – 1997
This is a top down shooter in which you drive a tank and blow everything up. It looks kind of ugly but plays well and has a good sense of speed. It’s one of the earlier titles for the system and didn’t garner much sales. If you want some quick jump-in-and-play action then this is for you.
Medal of Honor: Underground – DreamWorks Interactive/EA – 2000
While the first game was great the second game is even better. It plays a little better, improved graphics and more varied missions. You could say this was the birth of the modern military shooter and you can see the blueprint here. It’s a great game to play through and is probably one of the few good 3D FPS games on consoles in this time. It was a late PS1 release thus it didn’t see as many sales as the first game, but it’s still impressive nonetheless.
Medal of Honor – DreamWorks Interactive/EA – 1999
I remember seeing a demo of this at a local gamestore when I was a kid and was blown away by the graphics and just seeing a PC FPS game on the PS1. I had played Quake before this and was just surprised. This game revolutionized first person shooters on consoles. It felt modern, close to PC versions, and just looked and handled really well. It was also the birth of the modern yearly shooter releases we have grown to loath over the years. While Steven Spielberg sold the rights to EA after the release of Underground, the formula and blueprint staid with the series with Allied Assault being considered the best entry in the series. While not as good or as polished as Underground is a cheap way to discover the birth of modern FPS on consoles.
Moto Racer World Tour – Delphine Software/Infogrames – 2000
This game just looks amazing for the system. The detailed cockpit view is astounding and the tracks look great. It’s no surprise as this was released late in the console’s life so most developers were pulling every trick in the book on the PS1. It has great bikes, physics, controls, and has a great sense of speed. It’s fun for any motorbike fan.
Ms. Pac-Man: Maze Madness – Namco – 2000
This is a great 3D remake of the original classic. It looks the part, sounds great, and has well designed levels. You just can’t go wrong here as it’s one of the better 8-bit remakes of the time. There are a lot of levels and it features a stupid story even. Gotta love it!
N2O: Nitrous Oxide – Gremlin Interactive – 1998
This is a fast paced on rails tunnel shooter and man is it hard and exciting. While the tunnels are kind of boring the enemies are fun and the game is a blast to play through with varied levels. The game is all about taking down real world insects so if you are afraid of bugs you probably won’t want this. Power-ups and items to find as well. It’s a fun take on the vertical shooter.
Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit – EA – 1998
Of course everyone knows this series. While it did get better during the next generation of consoles, Hot Pursuit is considered by many the pinnacle of the series. While it looked best on PC, the PS1 version is no slouch. A good amount of modes, high speed real-world cars, great tracks, a good sense of speed, and nice physics all add to a top quality arcade racer. This is some of the best the generation had to offer.
Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed – Eden Studios/EA – 2000
Handed over to a different developer this time around, Porsche Unleashed is all about, you guessed it, Porsches. There are a whopping 80 cars and two completely different game modes to go through. Race as usual or become a test driver for Porsche. The physics model is updated once again and is such a fun time all around. This is still where the series peaked and is one of the best racing games of the generation.
Norse By Norse West: Return of the Lost Vikings – Blizzard Entertainment/Interplay – 1997
Yes, this was developed by the good Blizzard. This is an action puzzle game where you play as 3D sprite Vikings. It doesn’t look super pretty, but it’s fun and has some interesting levels to play through. It’s also slow paced, so don’t go into this expecting Jazz the Jackrabbit stuff here. If you want something to just chill out to and love puzzle solving then this is a great pick up for you.
Nuclear Strike – EA – 1997
This is a top down helicopter flight game that is fast paced and looks really good. The levels are varied and the gameplay has multiple objectives to complete. It controls really well to and has a good sense of speed. It’s honestly one of the best top down helicopter games of the era and shouldn’t be passed up.
O.D.T.: Escape…or Die Trying – Psygnosis – 1998
See, that name showed up again! Psygnosis made some great classics or underrated gems. ODT is an action adventure platformer with some light puzzle solving. It has a sci-fi settings and controls fairly well despite not being super fast paced. It’s fully 3D and looks pretty decent too. I actually picked up a copy of this still sealed a few years ago for under $20. These were over produced as Psygnosis thought they had their next Tomb Raider on their hands and it was just lost in the shuffle. 1998 was a major year for game releases as we were in a mature stage of the 32-bit era.
Pac-Man World – Nacmo – 1999
Pac-Man World is actually a fairly good series spreading out on the PSP and Xbox. It controls well, it’s a lot of fun, and doesn’t try to stick to the Pac-Man formula too much. Pac-Man World 3 even has an insane plot that takes itself really seriously. It’s not the best platformer on the system, but it’s still a lot of fun if you like Pac-Man.
Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle – Activision – 1998
Pitfall made it’s 3D platformer debut here and it’s actually not bad. The animations are good, the levels are varied, and it feels like a modern Pitfall game. You gather crystals, complete levels, and enjoy the platforming. You don’t even have to like the original game to enjoy this one either.
Pong: The Next Level – Supersonic Software/Hasbro Interactive – 1999
It’s Pong, but in THREE DEE! It’s actually quite good with great animations, fun levels, and varied takes on the series. This is probably the best Pong remake ever made and it’s one of the cheapest games on the system you can pick up. Usually less than $5 complete. lt’s more fun with other players, and even supports the multitap, but it’s great pick-up-and play to kill an hour or two.
Project Overkill – Konami – 1996
One of the earlier releases on the system, this is an isometric action shooter and is actually quite fun. There’s around 50 levels and you just run around mowing every one down. It’s a lot of fun, and while looking a little rough, it still plays well. You think something this obscure and “hidden” would be more expensive, but I guess people haven’t caught on yet.
Quake II – id Software/Activision – 1999
This was one of the best console ports around. It featured every level and even multiplayer and was just solid and ran at a good frame rate. I sadly only had the N64 version which wasn’t as good, but I still played this game to death and even more so once I picked it up years later. If you haven’t experienced the perfection of Quake II this is a great console port and one of the best FPS games of the generation.
RC de GO! – Taito/Acclaim – 2000
A late release for the system, but the miniature car top down racer is a lot of fun. There are over a dozen tracks and cars and it just runs well, has great visuals, and a good sense of speed. If you don’t like top down racers from the 16-bit era than pass this up, but the camera does a good job keeping up with the action.
Rampage World Tour – Game Refuge/Midway Games – 1997
This is Rampage, but 3D! It actually plays very close to the arcade classic with nice cartoony graphics and tons of levels and power-ups to use. It’s a lot of fun and you can easily get addicted and sucked into the game for hours. If you don’t care much for the simplicity of arcade games then pass this up, but otherwise it’s a must have.
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 – Midway – 2000
While not as polished as the PS2 version this is still a great version of the game. A boxing game with funny over the top characters and Michael Jackson. It’s hilarious and is a lot of fun in short bursts especially with others so you can laugh together at the humor. The game feels more like a regular fighter than a boxing sim so don’t take it too seriously.
Ridge Racer – Namco – 1995
This was a launch title for the system and it shows. It looks really rough and is really simple, but it’s fast paced racing and worth a pick up just to see how the series progressed over time. While Ridge Racer 2 is much better this one is incredibly cheap and fun to play through for a few hours.
Road Rash 3-D – EA – 1998
Road Rash was one of the best racing games on the Sega Genesis and it transitioned to 3D really well. The game is fast paced, looks good, and has a lot of tracks and bikes to choose from. At this time EA pretty much dominated the console arcade racing scene and they were at their prime here. Road Rash is a must have for any fan of arcade racers and the combat just adds a layer to the already sweet cake.
Road Rash: Jailbreak – EA – 2000
A late console release, Jailbreak was a little more arcade like than 3D, but still fun nonetheless. It pulls the camera back some and adds a few changes to the formula, and while not as good as 3D, it’s still a lot of fun and worth owning. All the 3D Road Rash games actually turned out great and that’s kind of a surprise honestly.
Rollcage – Attention to Detail Limited/Psygnosis – 1999
While this was just published by Psygonsis, it’s still an insane arcade racing game in which you can drive on the wall and ceiling. The sense of speed is incredible and I was blown away by this game as a kid, however, the controls take some getting used to as they can be quite finnicky at first. Once you master the controls the levels look good and the game is just a blast. There’s no other racer like it on the system.
Rollcage Stage II – Attention to Detail Limited/Psygnosis – 2000
A late release for the system, Stage II adds more tracks, improves the visuals, and even the handling. You can now double up on power-ups, but the tracks are shorter this time around. It’s overall a little easier than the first game, but both are worth picking up because of the difference between the two.
Sentinel Returns – Hookstone/Psygonsis – 1998
This is a…um…well, it’s a game. This is one of the weirdest games ever released on the system. This is one par with weird Japanese PS1 games. You play in a first person view and you must absorb objects and build a robot tower that can defeat the evil Sentinel in the center of the level. The eye rotates and absorbs things other than trees and that includes you. It’s something that requires explaining the from the manual and takes getting used to, but it’s one of the most interesting and original games ever released on the system.
SimCity 2000 – Maxis Software – 1996
Well, it’s a good port of SimCity 2000. It’s pretty much just a straight port and it works surprisingly well on a controller. If you don’t like SimCity or sim type games then this will bore you to death, but the key here is being patient and spending a few hours learning the ins and outs of the game and then it becomes addictive and hard to put down.
Sled Storm – EA – 1998
If you don’t like snowmobiles stay far away! Honestly, it’s the only game of its kind and it’s actually really solid. It’s not super fast paced, but there’s tricks, it controls well, and it’s a lot of fun. The snow looks boring, so there’s not much to look at, but it’s another solid racer by EA at the time and shouldn’t be passed up unless you have a thing against snowmobiles.
Soviet Strike – EA – 1996
An early release for the system, and doesn’t look as good as Nuclear Strike, it’s still a solid helicopter action game and these were the last of their kind honestly. You mow things down, complete objectives, and mow more things down. It’s fun to play through it in an evening and just have a lot of fun.
Space Hulk: Vengeance of the Blood Angels – Key Game/EA – 1996
Yeah, EA owned the Warhammer license at one point. Scary right? Well, there’s more reasons for you not to play this game, but it’s not for everyone. It’s slow, and early release title, probably really for only Warhammer fans, and it’s weird and confusing to understand. It’s a mix between tactical planning and an FPS. Yeah, it’s hard to get into, but once you do there’s a surprising amount of depth to be had. Don’t go in expecting an 3D action game or even a full strategy game port as Warhammer Dawn of War wasn’t a thing yet at this point.
Spyro the Dragon – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 1998
Well, this game doesn’t need an introduction. It’s one of the most iconic games of all time, and sure you can play the new remake, but the classic PS1 versions are solid and hold up well today. While the first game is rather simple and easy it has a lot of charm and it’s fun to play through each game and see the progression of the series. The controls are solid, the game looks great, and it’s Spyro man!
Better than the second in terms of scope and level design. The game just feels bigger, has a more involved story (still don’t care about it) and has more characters. All three games are solid on their own and should be owned and played by any PS1 collector. These are just must haves and icons in the gaming industry.
Spyro: Year of the Dragon – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2000
Believe it or not, these used to run upwards of $40 each shortly after the remake was released and right after it was announced. Yes, it was a late release, but helped the PS1 go out with a bang! This game is full of so much content. Mini-games, skateboarding, better graphics, more levels. It’s just the best Spyro game in the entire series outside of the GBA games. So yeah, this is seriously one of the best games on the system.
Star Trek: Invasion – Warthog/Activision – 2000
A late system release, but it looks damn good and is one of the best Star Trek console games ever made. It plays similar to Colony Wars because it’s made by the same devs so you know you’re in good hands, and is narrated by Michael Dorn and Patrick Stewart and not some knock-offs. If you are a Star Trek fan this is a must own and is one of the best space sim games on PS1.
Street Sk8er – Atelier Double/EA – 1999
Don’t go into this expecting a Tony Hawk clone. It’s more of an arcade style game with racing events, half-pipe events, and things like that. The trick system is more basic and it doesn’t feel as fluid and tight as Tony Hawk or even Grind Session, but is a fun alternative if you are tired of the Tony Hawk clones. This one is from EA as they wanted a piece of that late 90’s skateboarding pie. It still has a rocking licensed soundtrack though.
Supercross 2000 – MBL Research/EA – 1999
This isn’t the best motocross game on the system, but it’s a fun arena racer rather than outdoor tracks. It’s more realistic and serious than other games like Motocross 2001, but still solid nonetheless. It’s also slower paced and more physics based. If you are fine with other motocross games and have your favorite then you can pass this up. It’s just less than $5 complete and worth a pick up.
Supercross Circuit – 989 Studios/SCEA – 1999
Again, the same as above except this one is outdoors and faster paced with less realistic physics. It plays more like a kart racer, but don’t let that discourage you. It has tight controls, but still not the best the system has to offer. It’s just these late console release motocross games were the best on the system and there’s at least a variety from various studios to choose from.
Syphon Filter – Eidetic/989 Studios – 1999
The best game for the system hands down. Okay, that’s just my love for this game talking but it’s my personal favorite for the entire system and one of the best that still holds up today. Clever and amazing level design, fantastic controls and gun play, and it honestly was the game that got me to recognize real world weapons. Gabe’s voice is also iconic and while the story itself isn’t very interesting the game has a great pace of stealth and action. It also has insane replay value and I actually play this through once a year.
Syphon Filter 2 – Eidetic/989 Studios – 2000
A late console release, but it helped the system go out with a bang. Y2K was a great year for the PS1. Syphon Filter 2 is probably the best game in the series. It came on a whopping 2 discs and has the same excellent level design and you can play as Lian in this as well. The graphics are improved and the story is expanded upon with better pre-rendered cut scenes. Good times were had for me as a kid because my late father and I spent countless hours perfecting our runs of this game and rented it many times. I even remember we had a “birds and the bees” talk on the way to the mall to pick this up when I was 10.
Syphon Filter 3 – Sony Bend/SCEA – 2001
Oh man was this a fart in the series. I imagine a timeline where this was pushed back a year or two and released on PS2 and Gabe didn’t look like Dan Aykroyd. It’s not a terrible game, but it was released so late in the console’s life and the PS2 was hot on the scene. It has worse level design and just doesn’t feel as good overall. It plays just fine and all that, but it’s not my favorite. Still, it’s worth a play if you already played the first two. Funny enough, this was the damn game I got when I picked up my used PS2 in 2002. The price had dropped to $200 and I just had an N64 for the previous three years. I wanted to play this so bad and was kind of let down. Sad times man.
Tempest X3 – High Voltage Software/Interplay Entertainment – 1996
If you haven’t experienced vector graphics from the 80’s than you’re missing out. It’s an iconic thing to look at and IS the 80’s Tempest was a popular arcade game featuring these graphics and is hard as balls and also addictive. It’s a top down shooter where enemies climb up a tunnel and you kind of spin around on the rim and shoot down. It played well with the pseudo 3D of the vector graphics back in the day and X3 is one of the best version so this game.
This was a huge hit back in the day. So much so, that while I didn’t understand the game and it was too hard for me I remember my dad talking about it with co-workers at his job. We even picked it up from one of his friends to borrow it was such a big deal. It’s a fantastic stealth action game with a grappling hook mechanic. The levels are well designed and varied and it looked great. It’s a must have if you like Metal Gear Solid or other early stealth games.
Test Drive 5 – Pitbull Syndicate Limited/Accolade – 1998
Test Drive was a very weird game in which it was all over the scale in terms of quality with each release. Test Drive 5 is probably the best in the series and I fondly remember a friend’s little brother playing this on a portable PS1 back in 2001 and was hooked by the fast paced racing and licensed cars. While it may seem generic compared to classics like Need for Speed or Ridge Racer, it still had it’s own feel and it was big on track variety, nearly 20, and licensed cars which Ridge Racer didn’t have.
Time Commando – Adeline Software/Activision – 1996
This is a slow paced PC port and if you have the patience you might have something super deep and fun to get into. The game has pre-rendered backgrounds and plays similar to Alone in the Dark, but this isn’t a survival horror. You warp through time to different periods and you fight enemies, level up, and solve puzzles. It’s clunky, but fun once you get into a groove. One of the more obscure and brave titles on the system and released early in its life.
Tomb Raider – Core Design/Eidos – 1996
It’s clunky, feels slow, and is old. It’s not the best in the series, but worth a play through if you want to see how the series started. It’s not a terrible game but the improved upon sequels just show how old and clunky this game is. You can skip this if you aren’t a die hard Lara fan, or want to jump into the better games.
Tomb Raider II – Core Design/Eidos – 1997
Tomb Raider II is a great jumping in point as it controls better, looks better, and overall doesn’t feel as experimental as the first game. Unless you want the entire series to collect this is a great start. The game is classic, iconic, and one of the best in the series.
Well, it’s more Lara. This game is still up there as some of the best in the series and it looks much better than the previous two games. Lara is less polygonal looking, controls better, and the overall series has just progressed in a positive way. This is also a good jumping in point if you want a better looking and playing Lara game.
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation – Core Design/Eidos – 1999
This is probably still up there with the best and might be the best playing on the system. While the gameplay is more or less the same it’s still rock solid and looks even better if you can imagine that. Lara Croft was probably the only character to see so many sequels on the same system. The game has a larger level design this time around in which you must complete puzzles in one area to access another. New ideas are good right?
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 – Neversoft Entertainment/Activision – 2000
While the first one is also cheap, I don’t own it, and it just feels clunky compared to this one. This is the best in the series outside of THPS3 so you might as well just jump in here unless you want to see where the series started. Yes, you can play the remake, but the PS1 version here was one of the best sports games ever made. While the Dreamcast version superseded this one it’s a great game to pick up. Now, if you don’t care for skateboarding then obviously don’t bother. I spent countless hours on the N64 version, yeah I didn’t have a PS1 for very long as a kid, and the soundtrack is fantastic as well.
Warhawk – SingleTrac Entertainment/SCEA – 1995
Yes, it’s an early adopter, but man is this game awesome even today. It feels so face and fluid and controls so well. If you like arcade flight games like Heat Seeker for Afterburner than you want to pick this game up. It doesn’t look super pretty, since it released shortly after the PS1 launched, but it still looks clean and the level design is great.
Wild 9 – Shiny Entertainment/Interplay Entertainment – 1998
This was created by the brilliant minds who made Earthworm Jim. It has a similar art style and is a fun 2.5D action platformer that isn’t Earthworm Jim 3D, so it has that going for it. The game’s gimmick is an electric lasso that you can use to whip enemies and move objects. It’s really fun and a hidden gem for the system (God that term is overused in this day and age isn’t it?).
World’s Scariest Police Chases – Unique Development Studios/Activision – 2001
This was released way late in the system’s life and it’s no wonder it didn’t sell anything. You have to take down criminals with your car, bullets, or other means. It’s a more open world type of game and is a lot of fun once you figure out what to do. If you like Driver you will really like this one.
I’m not the biggest Metal Gear fan. I’ve played most of them all the way through, but it takes a certain kind of patience to finish an MGS game. Whether it’s the stealth trial and error or the sometimes nearly hour-long cut scenes and convoluted story, MGS is an acquired taste. I hesitated on Acid for years and years because it was a slower-paced strategy game set in the MGS universe. Normally this would be okay as plenty of action games adopted strategy gameplay and it worked. Acid also uses a card-based system that determines what moves you can make and this is the bullet in the foot for the game.
The story is pretty basic MGS stuff. Nothing really interesting, but you do play as Snake who is trying to rescue a US Senator who is aboard a plane that has been taken over by a terrorist. A typical weird MGS villain. It’s nothing as deep as the console games but it’s there. Once you get based on the first cut scene (there is no voice acting here) you are introduced to the game’s tutorial. You move on a tile-based system and you will be dealt a random set of cards. These cards have actions like healing, guns, grenades, melee attacks, camo, a box, etc. However, the first major flaw is you must sacrifice a card for a move turn. Each card has a move option and once the move is complete the card is gone. Why? This makes no sense. Why can’t I keep my cards for strategic actions, but now I have to throw away cards I could be using later on and this happens all the time. You get a deck refresh after all your Cost points are depleted.
Once you move you can pick a direction to face and whether to stay in the current position, crawl, or flatten against a wall so you can knock on it and distract a guard. The second biggest issue is not being able to tell what the guard patterns are or being able to move around the map and see what’s ahead so you can plan. The whole point of a strategy game is to plan, but Kojima wants you to do things on the fly with a turned-based card system What? Most of the time I restarted levels over and over because I got stuck in a situation in which I was spotted, the alarm sounded, and I had too many enemies on me and not enough fighting cards. The alarm runs down three phases at 15 seconds each and it takes around three turns to get to the next phase. You’re in alarm mode for about nine turns! What?!
A lot of times you can’t see an enemy make a move on their turn unless they are in view which is so dumb. I will just walk into a hallway or around a corner and there’s a guard there. I either have to kill him or run away before his turn. You usually get two moves per turn and that’s it. The same goes for cameras. I walked down hallways just to get spotted by a camera I didn’t see or couldn’t do anything about because I ran out of moves. Not being able to see what’s ahead is a serious detriment to this game. I wish I could at least bank cards I want to keep until the next turn and not sacrifice them for moves. The enemies also seem to have random times when they turn around and move. Sometimes they would take three whole turns before moving, then the next guard would do it every other turn, then some guards alert the whole area right away and some don’t. You either have to go full strategy with this or don’t bother.
The game looks good. The game is sharp and looks like MGS2 and that’s about it. There’s nothing special here, and while finishing missions gives you new cards for your 30 card deck, I just set the thing to auto. The game is also very long-winded and can take you 20 hours or more to finish if you end up restarting a lot, and that’s just too damn long for a handheld game. As a launch title it was fine, but not the strongest. We didn’t get much of a choice and it was the only strategy title for the longest time until Field Commander blew it out of the water. Acid just doesn’t mesh MGS action with card strategy. It’s a dull, dry, and downright boring game that only the most diehard MGS fans will want to play. Even strategy fans won’t want to bother at all here. Clearly, Kojima didn’t want to part with conventional MGS gameplay elements like knocking on walls as an actual move, being able to see ahead, shortening the alarm stages, etc. These all could have just been cards dealt by the enemy. Real-time actions don’t mesh well with a pure strategy like this and it shows.
I’m not up to date on the After Burner series, but I do know Sega has put it on the back burner for a long time. They brought it out for the PSP and boy is this a bland and boring game. A stupid story, repetitive level design, and just insanely boring gameplay are peppered throughout the game with almost zero redeeming qualities.
I will give the game the token for a sense of speed. You do feel like you’re flying incredibly fast over oceans, jungles, deserts, or cities. I just wish the gameplay reflected this. You start out with a comic book-style story based on one of the three generic pilots you pick that literally has no difference in the actual gameplay. This was clearly filler to try and convince you it’s worth playing through this long laborious campaign three separate times. You then pick your jet which most are locked behind cash. You can then pick your paint and buy any weapon upgrades and go. There’s no tutorial here so the manual would help some, but it’s fairly simple. Green circles are for ground missiles and blue circles are jets for air missiles. You also have a gun to fight off any planes that come up from behind you.
An arcade game like this needs simple gameplay like this. Just three buttons and you can boost and barrel roll as well. The first issue I can across is that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t dodge missiles. They homed in on me no matter what unless I barrel-rolled, but you can’t shoot while doing this. Your field of movement is restricted and I could only move around and boost through missiles, but no matter what I always took damage. You have bonus objectives you can complete to earn more cash such as reaching a certain score, shooting down certain enemy types, etc. Every single mission is exactly the same with no differences say maybe a boss. You can shoot down ground units or the same five jets over and over. Even the attack patterns start repeating. It got a little fun when I had tons of enemies coming up and I had to alternate between ground and air missiles, and if you do this you get combo awards in form of health or lame power-ups like slowing down time which is useless.
The levels drag on for 10+ minutes as well. The checkpoints are unfairly placed and if you run out of lives you start the entire level over again. Just on the first mission, I had to play it five times in order to beat it and that was probably out of luck. You can’t change the difficulty without starting a new profile which is really lame. Outside of that, the graphics are bland as hell and the game slows down when there are lots of explosions. Everything just looks flat and lifeless. It’s not ugly just tiring and boring to look at. It’s honestly one of the dullest games I have played on PSP And this was a high-profile well-covered game as well. I can’t recommend this to anyone unless you are a fan of the arcade game. I would have liked to have seen the series brought to modern standards. This works in an arcade cabinet and not a home console.
For starters, I’m no Buffy buff. I never watched the show growing up, nor did I as an adult. That’s okay though, as there are many great video games based on movies and TV shows that are fun without needing to watch the material it is based on. Buffy seems like this kind of game at first. While it’s clearly geared toward fans of the show, I have no idea what’s going on in the story. You are basically trying to stop some evil vampire spirit from ending the world. That’s literally it. You chase him around as he possesses various characters from the show. It’s dull and rather uninteresting and the game is also poorly written. Buffy’s one-liners get old as all five of them repeat constantly throughout the game and so do the one-liners from the enemies.
That’s just the beginning. Buffy has an array of acrobatic moves and they are actually quite good for such an early 64-bit era game. The animations are well done and the combat, when it does work, is pretty awesome. Buffy can punch and kick and execute enemies with a wooden stake. She also has Slayer Power which allows her to add-on some powerful moves at the end of combo chains. This, again, seems great on paper, but it’s poorly executed. While the animations are nice there’s constant knockback and you can’t interrupt the enemies’ attacks. This is the key flaw in the entire combat system. There’s no dodge button, no parry, and no way to counter attacks at all. You just have to take it and fall down and get back up, but some enemies will stomp you, and then multiple enemies join in and you end up dying and losing health over cheap gameplay mechanics. The game is just very cheap all around.
Another issue revolved around this is the terrible jumping and extreme distance you get knocked back at. This leads to cheap deaths off cliffs as some of the fighting areas are tiny and are not designed around how far Buffy can be thrown. I would make it to the end of a level and die just because I got picked up and thrown off of a cliff due to the poor level design. It’s everywhere in this game including platforming segments that shouldn’t exist here. I never finished the game due to the second to last level having so many cliffs of death, tiny arenas, and platforming woes that after the 7th time dying from a cheap death I put the disc back in the box and shelved it. I’m not missing out on much anyway.
If that isn’t painful enough the level design is boring and trite. You walk down boring brown or gray hallways, fight a few enemies, flip a switch, and move on. The level design is just bad and every location is so uninteresting. A foundry, a high school, a sunken church, all just blandly designed. At least the character models look decent and the voice acting is all right. This also leads to healing and other items which leads to the biggest flaw this entire game has, and what I think, completely breaks it. All these other things would be doing if you didn’t have to execute every enemy with a stake. You can knock them down to no health and they won’t die until you execute them. This leads to more cheap deaths as instead of them dying when their health is down you then have to break through their constant blocking, get knocked around more, lose more health, just to get in an execution. They will not die unless you have a stake or the glaive. Enemies block every single move you do, making combat take way longer than necessary, and they also shouldn’t take so long to die. For a beat ’em up enemies should have more balanced health bars.
There are also items like holy water, hellfire, and a super soaker that contains both. This is a completely useless tool as it depletes within seconds and requires fonts to replenish and only a few levels have them. It’s mostly used just to take down certain force fields. Seriously, what a waste of time and effort. And that’s pretty much all Buffy has to offer. Some decent combat and animations are all the game has going for it but is horrendously broken with terrible gameplay mechanics throughout the entire game.
I honestly can’t recommend this to anyone unless you are a Buffy fan, and even then you aren’t missing out on much at all. The story is boring, the level design is uninspired and bland, and the game is nearly broken thanks to poor design decisions.
It might be common knowledge of the even the most casual fan of Arcade 1Up’s cabinets that mods are needed for quality of life improvements and to make it that much closer to the original that 1UP either had oversight on or just plain refused to include. Thankfully, these cabinets are fully moddable with real arcade parts and require little knowledge or knowhow to do. I’ve included the mods I’ve done to my cabinet to make things better and improve the quality of life and make it more unique and stand out from the crowd. There are plenty of other more involved mods like running a RetroPie which essentially makes the cabinet an arcade emulator (which I feel is pointless when buying a specific machine), LED coin slots (requires a lot of wire splicing and even a brand new control board), various sound mods like adding a subwoofer, new speakers, and amp. But these are more involved and some aren’t worth it in the end as they won’t greatly improve the playing experience.
While the artwork on these cabinets or gorgeous, high quality, and true to the originals, there’s a few things that have been overlooked. Mainly the screws and screwholes are eyesores. Seeing bare wood and silver screws is just plain ugly. This goes for the cabinets and risers on every single unit. Thankfully for a few dollars, or even free, you can change this with some time and attention to detail.
The first thing you want to do is get rid of those unsightly bare screw holes. These can easily be covered up with a black sharpie or a matching color of your panel art. Mine was easy as the MK cabinet is mostly black where the screw holes are.
The silver screws are unsightly silver and stand out against darker artwork. You can either paint your screws to match the artwork around them or buy kits online for a few dollars that include painted screws. If you pain the tops of yours, they must also be treated with an anti corrosive spray so it doesn’t wear off over time.
The buttons are the only major things that need to be swapped and can be the best upgrade and improvement you can do. Casual gamers might not mind them, but anyone familiar with real arcade hardware or fighting games in general might know the difference. This goes for any arcade game. The best option is buying already made kits available on diyretroarcade.com for around $50. This also includes awesome LED buttons, but you can also forgo that if you really want to. These are Happ button as regular Sanwas won’t snap into the wood deck as it’s too thick. The guys at DIY Retro Arcade have already wired everything up for most 1UP cabinets, including power splitters. The kit only requires you to plug stuff in and no changes to the design are required. These new buttons are like night and day, and the LED looks awesome.
If you want to turn the LEDs off without unplugging the machine, you need to buy the optional switch and this requires drilling a 1/4″ (6.5mm) hole in the slanted panel under the control deck to use. If you are too scared to drill, it’s not a big deal and you can practice on small wood squares from a local craft store.
The ones included in the Costco edition of the MK cabinet are actually great clones and most people won’t notice a difference between these and real Sanwas, however, some cabinets have terrible joysticks. Sadly the joysticks used are proprietary and have a smaller hole layout over the Sanwas and require drilling new holes in the deck which also isn’t that scary. DIY Retro Arcade also sells kits with pre-wired harnesses that allow you to plug these up without needing to solder.
Depending on the game you are playing, you need specific restrictor gates. These are plastic plates that go under the joystick to give it a movement pattern. Fighting games should be octagonal, and games like Pac-Man should be square or diamond. Sadly, 1UP didn’t have the foresight to include these for each machine and the MK one comes with a diamond gate which feels off. These are extremely cheap mods to make and super easy to install. They just pop off and on with no extra tools and can make a huge difference.
This is a super cheap mod that makes the joystick stiffer depending on the game you are playing. Fighting games should have stiff joy sticks for more accurate combo execution, but of course it’s down to preference. There are 2lb and 4lb springs as the ones that come with the 1Up arcades are under one pound and allow that floppy joystick feeling.
Let’s face it, we all want full size arcade machines, but they are either too large or too expensive to collect. Most arcade collector’s rent warehouse sized storage rooms or open an actual arcade room. You can collect a select few to keep in a room or basement, but they are very expensive to restore and maintain. They require a lot of knowledge and research and every machine is different. That’s where 1Up Arcade comes in. Some might say they are smearing the sanctity of the arcade scene but I say they are saving it. There are a lot of people who love arcades, but can’t get a hold of them. This allows these people to collect arcades at 3/4 scale and have a room of them without much knowledge. These machines run off emulator boards and are easily put together and are faithful to the originals.
I’ve always wanted a Mortal Kombat arcade cabinet and when I saw this get announced I flipped. It’s my favorite game franchise of all time and I couldn’t be happier with what has been released. The cabinet features the artwork of the Mortal Kombat II cabinet and looks beautiful. The installation process is rather painless, but does require a good 2-3 hours of your time to put together properly, as it’s large and there are a lot of pieces. The price you pay for these cabinets is about 1/4 the cost of a full size arcade minimum. Mine cost $350 from Costco and I will get to why this is a special version later.
When you open the box everything is laid out nice and easy with good enough instructions. You are basically putting one side together with all the center pieces on its side and then you put the other side panel on. There is one ribbon cable that connects the video screen with the control deck and you’re all set. The cabinet may look heavy, but it’s very solid and light enough to move around with only one person. The control deck has an acrylic cover on top and the screen panel has instructions on how to select games. Once it’s plugged in and you’re booted you’re greeted with a 1UpArcade splash screen and the option of all three MK games. These are prefectly emulated arcade ports and you can even access the master options like in a real arcade cabinet to change things around.
Let’s start with the controls. These aren’t the best buttons in the world, but they do for casual users. They do eventually get a little squeky and don’t depress evenly across all buttons. They are concaved and look and feel decent enough. The joystick is actually a pretty good Sanwa clone and comes with nice bat tops, but the restrictor gate is a four sided one underneath despite this being an eight direction game so some mods will need to be made if you really care. Having only four directions feels off and the cabinet should have come with an optional gate. I also think the joystick spring should be a 4lb spring and not a half pound spring that’s included, but it’s all down to preference.
The sound quality is actually quite good and this game gets extremely loud. The single mono speaker has great sound and there are three volume settings. Off, normal, and extra loud. I found the sound was great across all three games and emulation in general is fantastic. There weren’t any glitches, slowdown, pops or crackles in audio. I felt like I was playing in an actual arcade. The screen is also fantastic as it’s a 17″ LCD with a Hor+ aspect ratio so the characters aren’t stretched upwards. The colors are bright and vivid and not pixelated. There are no brightness settings for the monitor, but it looks great at stock settings.
Let’s get into what makes the Costco version so special and superior over the regular MK arcade release. This version comes with a light-up marquee, bar stool, and MK riser as well as a superior speaker and monitor. The original monitor is a Vert- aspect ratio so everything is stetched upwards and the colors are off. There is popping and crackling in the sound and the buttons are a little better here. Overall, the Costco version is the only version I actually recommend for this cabinet.
With that said, 1Up’s MK cabinet is fantastic and a must have for any Mortal Kombat fan. It’s one of my favorite gaming pieces that I own and is a centerpiece for my gaming room. With various mods to the cabinet you can easily make it better and unique, but for the price I feel 1Up should have added some stuff. For one, there should have been real Sanwa buttons and sticks, it doesn’t cost much more. Second, stereo speakers would have been nice. You can add your own regular speakers as there is a 3.5mm jack on the back of the LCD, but something better stock would have been nice. The wood could have been slightly higher quality and black instead of silver screws would have been nice. These changes would cost little to no money and quality of life changes are a must for these cabinets.
Grand Theft Auto was an unstoppable juggernaut in the early to mid-2000s. With the rise of the PSP and it’s new near PS2 quality visuals it was a perfect match for the series. Liberty City Stories wasn’t simply a GTA3 port, but a whole new story and set of missions set within the same world. The exact copy of GTA3’s Liberty City is ripped out of the PS2 and copied on the PSP with grace and detail. I felt like I was playing GTA3 the entire time through my 10-hour campaign, but it came with caveats.
When you jump into a car for the first time LCS has that classic GTA feel. Arcadey physics, campy humor, and unrealistic everything else. You can run people over, get 5-star police wanted ratings, jump off cliffs, and everything else you could do in GTA3. It’s a sight to behold on such a small system. Driving is probably the most enjoyable aspect of LCS including the missions that have you driving the most. When you jump out of the car is when things go awry.
Combat is abysmal on in this game and really brings it down. Since there is no right analog stick you must rely on a lock-on system that just doesn’t work. Half of the time if you aren’t facing an enemy shooting at you there will be no lock-on causing cheap deaths. There is no cover system, so missions are tailored toward the console with slightly better controls. It’s impossible to gun down two dozen enemies while also only being able to take 4-5 shots before dying. This is the most infuriating thing about LCS and really brings the score down. I had to use cheats to finish the game. I died maybe 10-15 times on several missions even with cheats! Having only a few enemies is manageable and some missions felt tailored towards the PSP controls and some didn’t. There were missions I really thought were fun, but then I’d be thrown into a multi-part mission and die a dozen times on the last part just to have to restart all over again. It also doesn’t help that you don’t make much money in this game quickly so every time you die or get arrested your weapons are gone. Some missions I was stuck with no money and had to have a weapon so I had to use a weapon cheat. The game’s flow was not thought out very well.
At least the story and characters are entertaining. While not as fleshed out as later games in the series Toni Cipriani and his fellow employers are all classic GTA style characters and I enjoyed seeing them on screen. The radio stations are back and are one of my favorite parts of the game. Driving around listening to the hilarious commentary is gold. Due to the small volume space on the PSP disc, there isn’t much of it. I would start to hear repeated stuff about a quarter of the way through the game which is a shame, but the game supports custom soundtracks which is nice. There is a multiplayer mode, but it’s nothing really special. You and a buddy can basically wreak havoc over ad-hoc. You can participate in races, taxi, and first responder missions, but there’s nothing special here that wasn’t in GTA3 or is PSP exclusive.
The visuals of the game are pretty impressive, but there is a lot of slowdown and pop-up. LCS pushes the system to its limits, and the amount of detail is crazy. There are reflections when it rains, tons of traffic and pedestrians, large buildings loom over the horizon. The sound is great as well as it feels like a living breathing city despite how little interaction there is. But, on the surface, after the story is over there’s no real reason to come back unless you just want to ride around causing mayhem.
Overall, LCS is an incredible technical feat but is brought down by a mission structure not tailored for the handheld’s control system. It’s way too easy to die with missions that require sometimes dozens of enemies firing at you all at once, which leads to dozens of restarts and endless frustration. There’s a lot of slowdown and pop-in, and the radio stations start repeating after only a couple of hours, but that’s just the roughness of the original GTA open-world games. They weren’t perfect but were enjoyable thanks to their sense of freedom and great writing and character design. I recommend playing LCS, but keep the cheat sheet handy as you will need it since there are no difficulty options.
Max Payne 2 was released a little over a year from the original and a surprising amount of fat was cut from the original. It’s the same game, but more refined and updated and feels more tightly woven than its predecessor. A lot of problems were fixed, but new ones arose as well. The narrative continues right after the first game with Max still trying to avenge the death of his wife and child, still trying to get to the bottom of The Inner Circle, and a new love blooms: Mona Sax.
The game starts off similarly to the first game, we get some weird trippy dream sequences, but they aren’t nearly as awful with zero platforming this time. Once you are in control of Max you can instantly feel the difference. He has more weight, his animations are smoother, and gunplay overall just feels punchier and sharper. More weapons were introduced with many old ones coming back. The new M4 and Kolishnokov weapons are a great addition, but unnecessary. One assault rifle is good enough as well as the addition of the HP5, but the Ingrams do just fine for a sub-machine gun. While the older weapons pack more of a punch the new weapons just feel like they were added just to add to the weapon count, less would have been fine. A new dedicated projectile button has been added so you can throw grenades and molotovs without equipping them.
Bullet Time has been refined and fixed as well. Max can now spin around in a 360-degree motion while dodging and the bullets impact harder and there’s less of a delay when you shoot. There is also better feedback on enemies when hit as they stumble more and drop their weapons so you know they’re dead in bullet time. Max can also stay lying down while continuing to empty a clip so the delay in getting up doesn’t make you completely vulnerable as the first game did. The difficulty has been dialed way back and I died a lot less than in the first game. All these great fixes and additions make Max Payne 2 the better of the two games already.
When it comes to level design, Max Payne 2 has more interesting levels like a creepy funhouse, a sprawling mansion, a construction site, and some apartment slums, but there’s a lot of backtracking and I feel the overall scope of the game feels claustrophobic. The variety is better, but you explore those few areas longer and I just feel I wanted to see more of New York inside this noire world Max lives in. Also, gone are the boss fights so the game feels better paced and I felt a tempo of gameplay going that the first didn’t have. However, the game is much shorter clocking in at 4-5 hours. There aren’t any collectibles or anything like that so once you fly through the game it’s over and there’s no reason to ever go back honestly.
Max Payne 2 is a memorable ride. The story is still told in those awesome comic strips, and I feel at the end of the game we get to know Max and Mona well enough to understand their characters and want them on screen more. Their love story is a great centerpiece for this Mafia revenge tale and it makes Max and Mona feel more human. There’s still a cliffhanger at the end of the story, and a third Max Payne game didn’t come until a decade later, but what we get is one of the best single-player shooters of the PS2/Xbox era. It’s tightly compacted and solid and while its short, sometimes that means quality and that is rare even to this day.