Compared to other forms of media, video games have a long way to go, at least in the eyes of the more mainstream media. A lot of the time when a story is praised, it is usually accompanied by the phrase “for a video game,” which diminishes the importance of that statement. It is an ever-evolving medium, and things just keep getting better. These PS1 stories are not perfect by any means, but we still think they are some of the best the system and medium of video games have to offer, even if others don’t agree.
10 Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy VII is generally considered the best game in the series, but it does have a rather convoluted plot. The same goes for its follow up and spinoff, Final Fantasy Tactics. What makes Final Fantasy IX the best of the PS1 for its simple approach to a fairytale-like adventure.
The cast is well rounded and fully integrated into the plot. There is love, loss, and a global conflict moving everyone forward. It is the most classic example of what makes this series so great.
9 Metal Gear Solid
Speaking of convoluted stories, Metal Gear Solid is the king. This reboot, as it were, made more sense than its sequels, but it still had some pretty silly stuff in it. There were crazy bosses with quirky skills, a virus that attacked right on cue before any secrets were given, and, of course, a giant robot was armed to the teeth with nukes. It is crazy off the wall, but that is why we like it so much. It is truly one of the most memorable narratives in all of gaming.
8 Resident Evil
Resident Evil 2 has better characters and an expanded library of cool mechanics, but we still like the original’s concept more. Imagine being one of these local cops who gets trapped inside a spooky mansion only to find the dead still walking.
Not only that, but a well-known pharmaceutical company is behind it. Further still it is revealed that the group’s captain, Wesker, is in cahoots with Umbrella and is in some ways culpable for what goes on. It is literally a horrific mystery that still haunts us to this day.
7 Silent Hill
Another great horror icon on the PS1 was the first Silent Hill. What begins with a father searching for his lost daughter slowly starts to feel like a rip-off of the aforementioned Resident Evil concept. The big difference here is the town being stalked by things not of this world. These monsters are not mutants, but more like manifestations of human fear. On top of that, the game's fog made for one killer aesthetic choice that made every creepy jump scare that much more terrifying.
6 Vagrant Story
Because we only wanted to include one Final Fantasy on here and couldn’t have that entry be tied with Final Fantasy Tactics, we chose Final Fantasy IX, knowing we could also put a stronger related story in here.
Vagrant Story isn’t really related to Final Fantasy in the traditional sense, but as it does take place in Ivalice it is at least tangentially related to Final Fantasy Tactics. Anyway, the political drama is more, let’s say, coherent in this tale compared to its counterpart. It also has a feel like Resident Evil with Ashley exploring a dilapidated estate filled with monsters.
5 Parasite Eve
Parasite Eve also borrows from the survival horror genre but puts an RPG spin on it. While attending an opera with her awkward date, Officer Aya Brea witnesses the stage players burst into flames as a monster sprouts forth from the darkness.
She then discovers that mitochondria are mutating the citizens of New York City, but that hers gives her supernatural powers. Part Resident Evil, part Final Fantasy, and all amazing. The mystery as to why this is all happening is exhilarating like a Stephen King novel.
4 Mega Man Legends
Let’s get away from anything related to scary stuff and instead embark on a lighthearted adventure with Mega Man Legends. The main story of a group of Diggers looking for treasure and hunted by pirates isn’t that original. What makes this game stand out then are the characters.
This is especially true of said pirates via the Bonne family. They are like Saturday morning cartoon villains like Jesse and James from Team Rocket in the Pokémon anime. They may be evil, but they have a heart of gold.
3 Suikoden II
Many games and specifically RPGs try to create global conflicts by implementing end of the world scenarios. Usually, this is never represented that well, which is to say there is a lack of urgency. Suikoden II manages to create this scale more realistically. At its core, it is about amassing an army in order to thwart an evil empire. This doesn’t mean creating a party of six to seven highly trained fighters either. No, we literally mean this is about building an army. On top of that global conflict, there is a lot of heart in the characters as well.
Neon Genesis Evangelion can be thanked for influencing a lot of other shows that came after it. There are even cases in video games as well like with Xenogears. What we mean by this is that this and its other spiritual successors are heavily steeped in religious mysticism. No one religion is safe, either, as there are obvious ties to Christianity and Judaism and that is just the half of it. Plus there are giant robots. It is truly a remarkable piece of work even though it was never technically finished.
1 Soul Reaver
Revenge is a typical plotline in popular media, as are vampires and yet Soul Reaver managed to make its mark on the world. Torn apart and left for dead, Raziel is on the hunt for those that stripped him of his powers. Be it ma or monster, nothing can stand in his way.
While the gameplay may feel a bit clunky now, the writing and voice acting are still some of the PS1’s finest.