At the turn of the year, I presented a Beginner’s Guide for the Super Nintendo where I came up with a list of 15 games that anyone who was giving the console a go for the first time should look to pick up if they were going to build themselves a collection. Seeing as I enjoyed that, I decided to do one for the PlayStation as well, mainly because I myself am currently trying to add new games to my own personal collection.
I’ve compiled a list of 15 games that will give a newcomer an overall flavour of what the console was capable of, along with a mixture of different game types. A few of the games do appear on the PlayStation Classic, but where it’s possible to include an alternative to a game on the Classic, I have done so. In some cases though, I felt it would just be wrong not to include a certain game, so I’ve listed it here, even though it’s already on the Classic.
Please feel free to list any games you feel I have unfairly left out in the comments section. This isn’t a list of what I would consider the actual “best” games on the console but rather what I think would be a good base for someone who wanted to get into the PlayStation for the first time.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
We open up with a platform game, which is always a good place to start when you want to sample a console for the first time. I went with Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back over the first and third games in the series because it is still the one I have the most fun playing, and it’s often regarded by fans of the original trilogy of games to be the best one. It builds nicely on the ground laid in the first game, and it’s a good primer for the changes that come in the third release. The gameplay is tightened from the first game, and there is more of a story this time as well, with the nefarious Dr. Cortex pretending to be your mate as long as it suits him to do so. As far as platformers on the PlayStation go, this is a good place to start.
From platforming we move on to first-person shooting with a game that helped revolutionise the genre in its early days. Doom had won many a fan on the PC, but its home console ports had seen mixed responses at best. For every reasonable port, like the Jaguar or 32x version, there was an awful one on the SNES or 3DO. With fifth gen hardware getting a step up in power and performance, it only made sense for Doom to get a port to the PlayStation, especially as the console had the ability to do the game justice with a near perfect port. The only downside is that the classic metal-inspired soundtrack has been replaced with a more generic set of scary tracks. Aside from that though, it’s one of the best Doom experiences you can get, and it’s certainly something you should look to get your hell-spawn blood-drenched hands on.
Final Fantasy IX
Next up we take a look at a Japanese role-playing game in the form of Final Fantasy IX. VII is normally the FF game most associated with the PlayStation, but IX has its healthy share of fans too, and it’s often considered by fans of the genre to be one of the best J-RPGs you can play. VII is included on the PlayStation Classic, so I decided to list IX here instead. Personally, I’m not a fan of this genre and have only the briefest experience of playing both of the games mentioned, but if you are into the genre or have just a passing interest, then Final Fantasy IX is likely a game you’ll want to sink some hours into.
Metal Gear Solid
This game is included on the PlayStation Classic, but I really couldn’t justify excluding it here. Ostensibly an action game, Metal Gear Solid ups the ante by including cinematic cutscenes and some treacherous stealth to create a game that really nothing else on the PlayStation feels like. It sounds cheesy, but at times MGS is more of an experience than a video game, with Hideo Kojima directing the heck out of the big set pieces and a tremendous voice cast really bringing the characters to life. There are times when you will get all kinds of frustrated playing it, especially in the first half where you are comparatively underpowered in comparison to the enemies you face. However, the story and general ambiance will likely grip you, and you’ll be hooked from then on. A great game and one that always comes to my mind when thinking about this console
This is also a game included on the PlayStation Classic and for good reason as it is almost assuredly the best 3D fighter on the entire console. Tekken 3 takes what the first two games in the series did well and refines it to a near perfect form, with engrossing combat and an assortment of bat-poop characters all lining up to smash the others’ gobs in. There’s even an enjoyable beach volley ball mode included in it, as well as a side-scrolling beat ’em up-like mode called Tekken Force. Seriously, if you own a PlayStation, then this is a game you need to have!
WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role
The SmackDown series of games were always well regarded for their accessibility. Even if you weren’t a particularly big grapple nut, you could still enjoy the arcade-styled fighting. But hardened fans of suplexes and hip tosses could still find plenty for them too, including a tremendous Create-a-Wrestler suite, an engrossing Season Mode and also the ability to put together your own pay-per-view wrestling cards. Know Your Role should entertain you regardless of your familiarity for the genre, and for that reason it should be high on your list of PlayStation acquisitions.
The PlayStation had a healthy number of shoot ‘em ups, with R-Type Delta being one of the better ones. It combines 3D graphics with 2D shooting and still looks a treat even to this day. The gameplay is the usual hectic shooting and dodging that I’ve always been pretty rubbish at, but I can still appreciate what R-Type Delta brings to the table, and it’s a good example of the genre.
We move on to the puzzle arena, with Kula World being my personal favourite example of the genre. This game sees you moving a ball around a floating 3D stage, with the goal being to exit the stage in one piece. It’s a simple enough idea, but the levels can get really treacherous the further you progress. One of the best parts of the game is the chilled out background music that just always hits my nostalgia button. The only major downside about Kula World is that it packs quite a punch to your wallet, with it likely to cost you £40 at least if you look for it online. Still, if you’re willing to dig around and try to find yourself a bargain, then it’s definitely worth it. An alternative would always be Kurushi/Intelligent Qube, which is a game you can find on the PlayStation Classic that sees you having to destroy blocks before you get squished or knocked off a platform. Both are good examples of the puzzle genre, but Kula World is my personal favourite.
Tomb Raider III
The original series of Tomb Raider games is always thought of going hand-in-hand with the PlayStation, but it originally hit the SEGA Saturn first before moving over to become PlayStation royalty when SEGA’s fifth gen console bit the dust over in the West. Tomb Raider III would be my personal favourite of the initial Tomb Raider games as you are given the choice of picking what order you want to tackle the levels in, and Lara’s trademark dual pistols finally feel like they have some actual punch to them. It looks great, the enemies are merciless and the puzzles are fiendish. The fifth gen Tomb Raider games haven’t exactly aged fantastically, but a PlayStation collection really needs to have at least one, and Tomb Raider III is the best of the bunch, in my opinion.
ISS Pro Evolution 2
This is the last football game Konami made before releasing Pro Evolution Soccer on the sixth gen, and it represents the absolute best kick-about you’ll be able to have on the PlayStation. The gameplay has been refined to an enviable level of smoothness that the FIFA games of the time couldn’t hope to hang with, and it looks the best it’s ever looked too. If you want yourself a virtual game of togger on the PlayStation, then ISS Pro Evolution 2 is what you’ll want.
Though it may seem a tad dated now, Ridge Racer was a huge milestone for the PlayStation as it showed that arcade-quality experiences could now be enjoyed from the living room. As a game it’s still fun to play though a little light on longevity, and it’s also pretty easy to get a copy as well. Better overall racing games might have come out for the PlayStation, but this is still pretty much the game that started the PlayStation’s march to victory, and it should probably be one of the first games on the list when you start that collection.
For a bit of strategic turn-based battling, Worms is just what you want, with a host of weapons to choose from and plenty of sniggers to be had. Playing as a squad of four worms, you must take out up to three other teams in order to be the sole survivors. You can do this with standard weaponry, like bazookas and machine guns, or take a step into wacky warfare by flinging a grenade that sends out explosive bananas to take the opposing squadron apart. Great stuff and still a lot of fun to play today.
For some lighthearted yet also quite fiendish sports action, then Everybody’s Golf is a great game to indulge in, especially as you can invite friends down to tee off with you for that extra bit of sand wedging fun. Everybody’s Golf reminds me quite a bit of Mario Golf on the N64 in that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but there is still a good game of golf to be found if you’re inclined to look for it.
PaRappa the Rapper
One of the best things about the PlayStation is that sometimes it would surprise you with something totally out of left field that you weren’t expecting, and PaRappa the Rapper is definitely an example of that happening. Playing as the titular pooch, you are required to press buttons at the right moment in time with the beat to recreate raps. It’s totally bonkers but also a lot of fun, especially as you can add some of your own flavour to it, and the game will reward you so long as it sounds good. Seriously, check out some videos of people smacking out their own fat beats whilst playing the game, it’s great stuff. PaRappa the Rapper is an odd game, but it’s the sort of oddness that the PlayStation did well, and it’s certainly worth a place in your collection.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
I was tempted to list Resident Evil here, but it’s on the PlayStation Classic, and Soul Reaver manages to combine dark and scary enemies with a more action-orientated gameplay that I personally enjoyed more. Soul Reaver is not only a fun game to play, but it also benefits from having barely any loading times once you start playing it, which is kind of incredible for a game from the fifth gen. It’s stupendously voice acted, with the late, great Tony Jay making an appearance, and it’s a dark, gothic game that tells an interesting and weaving story. I’d strongly recommend it to anyone who was thinking of starting up a PlayStation collection. I wouldn’t say it’s a hidden gem because enough know about it not to be, but it’s certainly a game that I sometimes think doesn’t get the full credit it deserves for being so good.