The PlayStation is the undisputed champion of the fifth generation of gaming. Although the sheer quality of the Nintendo 64’s best games (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64) had a bigger impact on the industry than anything that was released on the PS1, it’s hard to deny Sony’s insane library of games.
The Nintendo 64 just couldn't compete when it comes to quantity, and Sony had so much quantity with the PS1 that there were more than enough high quality games to overshadow the shovelware. More importantly, the PS1’s massive library meant that many great games ended up obscured by more popular releases.
10 Rival Schools
The second game current Devil May Cry and Dragon’s Dogma director, Hideaki Itsuno, worked on, Rival Schools: United by Fate is an obscure Capcom fighting game that’s even more obscured by its cult classic sequel on the Dreamcast, Project Justice. The latter is the better of the two games, but Rival Schools certainly isn’t bad.
It’s a tight, charming fighting game with a surprising amount of content everywhere but the United States. Overseas versions feature minigames to go along the already fairly detailed story mode (for the era,) and a character creation mode that also doubles as a dating sim.
9 Parasite Eve
Half action RPG, half survival horror, and an adaptation of a novel of all things, Parasite Eve is one of the most unique games on the PlayStation. It saw two sequels— its direct one also on the PlayStation— but neither of which are totally comparable to the original. It has an emotional maturity that games still lack today.
It’s also genuinely scary unlike, say, the first Resident Evil. Parasite Eve arguably handles its horror better than that of the first Silent Hill as well. It isn’t as popular as either survival horror title, but anyone who’s actually played Parasite Eve will be sure to sing the game’s praises in relation to its contemporaries.
8 Wild Arms
Wild Arms is one of the most interesting RPGs on the PS1, not because of its quality, but because it feels like a game trapped between generations. It isn’t quite a Super Nintendo RPG, but it doesn’t match the level of presentation that later PS1 RPGs would become known for. It almost feels like an SNES game that was lightly remastered for the PS1.
That said, it’s still plenty of fun to play thanks to its battle system, fantastic music, and genuinely interesting world. Wild Arms is the rare wild west JRPG. While it does ultimately lean on fantasy-esque tropes, the setting is enough to make the adventure worthwhile.
7 Star Ocean: The Second Story
As far as unique settings go, Star Ocean: The Second Story is similar to Wild Arms in that regard. Taking place on an undeveloped planet, Star Ocean’s world is actually incredibly advanced— humanity has already reached space travel— but planets that are still developing are not meant to be interacted with.
Naturally, the main character ends up interacting with an underdeveloped planet while accidentally introducing them to advanced technology, but it leads into one of the better written RPGs on the PS1. Plus, the fast-paced and always chaotic action RPG gameplay is really second to none on the console.
Alundra is one of the most blatant and shameless Legend of Zelda clones on the market. It’s also undeniably the best of the bunch. Just slap the franchise’s aesthetic over the game and Alundra feels like a natural successor to A Link to the Past. It really is that good of a game and served as a nice counterpart as the Zelda franchise transitioned into 3D.
Alundra kept the spirit of 2D Zelda at a time where 2D Zelda had been relegated to handhelds. Its sequel, Alundra 2, isn’t nearly as good so it’s better to just stick with the first game in this case. It has a great story, great puzzles, and game design that genuinely does rival Zelda at its best.
5 The Misadventures Of Tron Bonne
A Mega Man Legends spin-off, The Misadventures of Tron Bonne is an incredibly strange game that combines Legends’ gameplay, first-person dungeon crawling, and puzzle solving. It by all accounts shouldn’t work, but it’s arguably the best game in the Mega Man Legends sub-series. If nothing else, it’s easily the most interesting.
Tron Bonne herself is a more compelling character than Mega Man Volnutt, so she adds something to her own game that he can’t. More importantly, the game helps flesh out the tone and style of Legends’ world. For anyone still reeling over Mega Man Legends 3’s cancellation, play The Misadventures of Tron Bonne.
4 Legend Of Legaia
Legend of Legaia is an incredibly strange game. Its script isn’t all that great, but its story is surprisingly mature and handled horrific themes with tact. Its out of battle models aren’t pleasant even for the era, but the world’s style and use of color make the visuals pops. The combat feels almost convoluted at first glance, but it leads to in-game depth that other RPGs lack.
Its sequel on the PlayStation 2 fails to impress, but the original Legend of Legaia is still worth playing today. It’s an RPG with plenty of love and care put into its finer details. It doesn’t always stick the landing, but it’s a cult classic for a good reason.
3 Tear Ring Saga
A Japanese exclusive (albeit one with an English patch,) Tear Ring Saga was directed by none other than Fire Emblem’s very own creator, Shouzou Kaga. Tear Ring Saga was Kaga’s not so subtle way of continuing the Fire Emblem franchise after parting ways with Nintendo following the release of Thracia 776.
Blatant rip-off aside, Kaga is the series’ creator and Tear Ring Saga is just as good as Fire Emblem’s best game. It has a great story, a fairly well-developed cast, and excellent map design. Tear Ring Saga would see a sequel on the PS2, but the franchise has been more or less dead in the water ever since.
2 Persona 2: Innocent Sin
Another Japanese exclusive, this one actually has an official English release to go alongside its English patch. Either way it’s played, though, Persona 2: Innocent Sin is a PlayStation 1 classic. It doesn’t quite manage to live up to its franchise’s legacy in terms of difficulty, but it easily has the best Persona story.
Better yet, it has a direct sequel in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment that— while not as good— manages to follow up Innocent Sin in an incredibly satisfying way. Both games are meant to be played back to back, though, so while Innocent Sin is a perfectly fine game in its own right, playing Eternal Punishment is necessary to experience the full story.
1 Legend Of Mana
Legend of Mana is a difficult game to recommend. It explains almost nothing to the player, expecting them to just feel out how to build a world and trigger three non-linear story arcs while completing miscellaneous quests, raising monsters, farming, and forging weapons along the way. It’s overwhelming, but it also just wants the player to do whatever they want.
Legend of Mana is a video game that really just wants to be a video game. It’s teeming with meaning and amazingly designed content, but the fact that it’s so freeform is what makes it such a good game. Players can do whatever they want whenever they want. What’s not to love about a game that embraces the medium?