When I went to college in 1994, I got out of console gaming. We all had laptops at our college and thus mostly focused on PC gaming, and (hard as it is to believe today) only a small handful of us actually owned TVs in the dorm. So during a good chunk of the 90s I was mostly ignorant of what was going on in consoleland — and generally OK with that.
My return to consoles came in the summer of 1998. I was living in an apartment away from home for the first time in my life and feeling lonely now that my friends had left until the fall. A certain “must have” killer app for the PlayStation caught my eye and convinced me to cough up cash for it. And that’s where our list begins…
I sort of believe that Final Fantasy VII was the key factor in the PlayStation crushing the competition and becoming the “must have” console of that era. For me, it was absolutely amazing: a multi-CD adventure featuring 3D graphics, the biggest Final Fantasy story yet, a huge world, tons of cinematics, and logically impossible giant swords. I was so instantly addicted to this game that I called off work for three days straight to play it non-stop, something I’ve never done since. Now, it’s fashionable to bash FF7 these days and say that it really wasn’t as good as nostalgia has us believe, but whatever — it was and still is a great game that was a blast to play.
Along with FF7, Resident Evil 2 was one of my initial PlayStation purchases based on the power of strong reviews at the time. I certainly got my money’s worth, as I played the heck out of this survival horror zombie title. There were a few parts that had me jumping every time, and I loved the bonus stages they threw in.
Silent Hill had so much good buzz that I knew I had to buy it, even though I was starting to wise up to the fact that my temperment was too weak for survival horror games. This game equally fascinated and terrified me, as I stumbled around the fog-shrouded town of Silent Hill trying to find my daughter while avoiding getting killed by everything that moved. The devs were brilliant in how they used limited visuals and sounds (such as radio static) to enhance the experience.
After the super-serious and somewhat ambitious Final Fantasy VIII (which I really did not like), it was terrific to see the series lighten up and get a bit more cartoony with IX. It was like a love letter to the entirety of the Final Fantasy franchise and honestly an enjoyable ride from start to finish.
Nobody, the least of all me, is going to argue that Chrono Cross was better or even as good as Chrono Trigger. But you know what? It was a really terrific game in its own right, with parallel world-hopping, a fun combat system, and the ability to collect many, many party members. One of the very last PlayStation games that I bought.
To this day, I don’t even know what Parasite Eve was about or what kind of game it was. It was like part contemporary RPG, part survival horror, and part bizarre science fiction. It did have a kick-butt theme song and was interesting enough to play through at least once, and any game that lets me take shotguns to dirty mutants is a good time.
I’m not normally one for racing games, but in Wipeout’s case, I’ll gladly make an exception. It was a fast-paced racer with a toe-tapping techno soundtrack that just got me pumped every time I played.
Metal Gear Solid was something special and different from the rest of the pack, and it made that apparent right away. It was an endlessly clever and inventive “tactical espionage action” title that had me surviving torture, breaking necks, sneaking through halls in boxes, sniping targets, crawling through ducts, and hoping desperately that I wouldn’t be spotted. Seriously one of the best console games that I ever played.
The PlayStation was, in some ways, the successor to the SNES. It’s where the Final Fantasy series went (not to mention a lot of the fans), and it’s also where the “good” Castlevania sequel landed. Symphony of the Night was absolutely tremendous, from its soundtrack to its RPG-like inventory and stat system. There were just so many types of weapons to try and a huge sprawling castle that, once beaten, could be replayed upside-down.
This strange Halloween-flavored platformer became an instant favorite due to its Tim Burtonesque landscapes and its bizarre skull-headed protagonist. They did a lot with the basic PlayStation graphics, making them cartoony and spooky-ooky in the vein of atmospheric haunted houses. Loved it.