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The PlayStation is 25 years young, this week. September 29th marks the day that Sony's original games console debuted in the UK and Europe - and all week on GAMINGbible, we're running content (on site and on social) celebrating everything this iconic grey box had to offer.
Quite incredibly, almost 8,000 games were released for the PlayStation, from its 1994 launch in Japan to its final official title a full decade later. You might think that'd make selecting just ten of the very best games to have come out for the PlayStation difficult. And, you'd be right.
While the original Tomb Raider is something of a PlayStation favourite - despite releasing first for the SEGA Saturn - its sequel is by far the better game. The second-biggest-selling PlayStation game in the UK, it found its developers, Derby's Core Design, put a number of learnings from the first game into effect, and the result is one of 3D gaming's first great action-adventure titles. It's a fantastic refining of the qualities of its predecessor, with tighter controls, new abilities - Lara can now climb walls - and greater variety in its action, with vehicles becoming usable. Its difficulty was a problem for some, but for those who saw Tomb Raider II through to its fourth wall-breaking ending, it's probably the definitive release of its series.
The PlayStation's launch line-up wasn't the most attractive of all time, but the one game that really stood out in Europe, and became the game at the centre of the console's marketing, was WipEout. The anti-grav racer really showed what the next-gen switch to 3D was capable of, and its clubland-orientated soundtrack was perfectly in tune with mid-'90s young adults. WipEout really made the PlayStation reach beyond the younger audiences of SEGA and Nintendo, and made it feel like a cooler product. Its sequel, WipEout 2097, improved the 1994 launch game considerably - better visuals, better controls, better beats from the likes of The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy - and it's a game that still holds up brilliantly today.
While its been surpassed in sales terms by its 2019 remake, the original Resident Evil 2 remains a masterful slice of survival horror - and such is its thick atmosphere of dread that the dated visuals don't adversely impact on the experience today. By moving its action from a mansion to the streets of a city overrun by zombies - and by much more awful things than the shambling undead, too - Resident Evil 2 really turned up the scale of its horrors, alongside the stakes for its twin protagonists, Claire Redfield and Leon S Kennedy. Its introduction of A and B scenarios felt groundbreaking, but let's be honest: it's the cheesy voice acting that we really loved, despite its awfulness.
Tekken was already long established as a celebrated fighting game series by the time of its third installment's arrival on PlayStation, a year after its debut in arcades. But Tekken 3 managed to make the franchise more approachable than it'd been before, emerging as a game that was easy indeed to get into and enjoy with pals, but tough to fully master. In an era where so-called arcade perfect home conversions were rarely anything of the sort, Tekken 3 came really close to bringing the excitement of its arcade version home, and added a healthy dose of breezy accessibility and over-exaggerated moves, making the game impossible to resist.
The third game in the Spyro series, Year of the Dragon represents the purple fire breather at the peak of his original PlayStation powers. It does what any good sequel should - it takes everything that worked in the games before it, tweaks that to an ever better standard, and then throws a load of new things into the mix. A wealth of mini-games and additional characters to control - including Bianca the Rabbit and Sheila the Kangaroo - brought depth and replay value to Year of the Dragon, and adaptive difficulty ensured that players of any experience to navigate their way to its eggs-collected climax.
A 2D, side-scrolling game couldn't not look old fashioned amid the 3D aesthetics of the 32-bit era. But Castlevania: Symphony of the Night hasn't just aged better than its contemporaries in terms of visuals, with pixel art still widely used in 2020, but also in terms of design. It, alongside Super Metroid, really represents the foundation for the metroidvania genre's popularity, as its nonlinear design encouraged exploration and its audio and graphics enveloped players in a gothic fantasy world. If you love games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Hollow Knight and Dead Cells today, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play this inspirational masterpiece.
The highest-selling game on the original PlayStation with over 10 million units shifted, Gran Turismo represents something of a turning point for the racing genre, with players able to either enjoy a sim-like experience or dive into more arcade-styled action. By adopting twin approaches, Gran Turismo not only gave itself some impressive longevity, but appealed to two very different breeds of racing gamer - those who loved the likes of Ridge Racer and OutRun could enjoy it, and so too the more serious racers out there. Crisp visuals, precise handling, a wealth of motors to select from and some very good (but very of-the-time) indie music on the OST made this one a superstar of its generation.
Officially the highest-rated PlayStation game, based on aggregated reviews, the second Tony Hawk game followed the tried-and-tested sequel model: a load of what you loved about the previous game, with a load of new stuff, too. Such an easy game to pick up and have fun with, and not too tricky to begin getting really good at, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 undoubtedly encouraged many a kid at the turn of the millennium to pick up a skateboard and start listening to pop-punk - and at least one of those is definitely a good thing.
The Final Fantasy series was hardly a cult-only concern before the arrival of the seventh numbered game in the West, but the adventure of Cloud and friends absolutely represented a breakthrough like the role-player had never seen before. A landmark release for Japanese role-playing games outside of Japan, and for RPGs in general, it had critics at the time concluding that it was the greatest game they'd ever played. Final Fantasy VII is the second-highest selling PlayStation game after Gran Turismo, and that alone shows just what a broad audience it attracted. Its story, its themes, its battle system and its music all hold up exceptionally today, with only the game's visuals really dating it.
Any arguments, here? Metal Gear Solid brought stealth gameplay to the masses, and at the same time introduced a new kind of cinematic sensibility to gaming. It's been expanded and remade in the years since its debut - and may yet receive a next-gen remake in the coming years - but to go back to the source is to rediscover a game that remains incredibly compelling. Smart and slick, complicated but never intepentrable, Metal Gear Solid not only set a precedent for its own series to follow - and sometimes deviate awfully from - but also pointed the way forward for what we call action-adventure games in the 21st century. It also got weird in ways that video games hadn't before, wholly breaking the fourth wall in a classic WTF moment. For many, it's the definitive PlayStation game, across all consoles and generations.
All cover art used courtesy of mobygames.com
Featured Image Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment, Square, Activision, Eidos
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