The Sony PlayStation is a wonderful console, but it was also designed and supported by a lot of people who were constantly trying to figure things out as they went along. That approach resulted in a surprising number of games that were truly ahead of their time.
Actually, the PS1 may be the most influential console in the gaming industry since the 1990s. While its popularity as such is a testament to its technological advancements and expansive library of great games, it also speaks to the many PS1 games that seem to be more relevant now than they were previously.
Before we talk about those games, though, here are a few guidelines/selection criteria to keep in mind:
- The phrase ahead of its time is obviously somewhat subjective. For the most part, though, I tried to focus on games that featured some kind of technological or mechanical innovation that wouldnt become standard (or appreciated) until after that games release.
- While this list includes some games that were successful in their day, I excluded obvious examples of innovative games that were widely appreciated upon their release. That is why games like Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, and Gran Turismo are not on this list.
- Any game released for the PlayStation was considered eligible for this list. However, preferential treatment went to games that were released exclusively or initially for the PS1.
Here are 20 PS1 games that were far ahead of their time, with that out of the way.
Alien Resurrection survived a lengthy development process only to be hailed by disgruntled players. While most of the game is quite forgettable, Resurrection deserves all the credit in the world for its pioneering use of the dual-analog stick control system, which is now standard for PS1 FPS games everywhere.
Alien Resurrection is the earliest PS1 game that included a dual-analog control scheme, while previous games included lesser versions of that control scheme in the options menu. Quite humorously, some others at the time claimed that the controls made the game unplayable. Within a couple of years, that control scheme would usher in a new era of console FPS masterpieces.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, there were a few great horror films that were dismissed as Resident Evil knock-offs. Although it's worth reintroducing more into that particular topic another day, I feel like Galerians might be the PS1 horror game that made a bigger impact.
Galerians, which is based on its protagonist's psychic abilities, is brilliantly implemented. I've yet to see many other survival games that emulate this feeling of sympathy.
18.R4: Ridge Racer Type 4
After all, R4 was a fairly successful and well-reviewed game at the time of its release. My main reason for including it was the fact that it is a stunningly beautiful game that pushes the PS1 to its limits in 1998. This game alone puts it in the running for the best-looking PS1 title ever.
R4 is a good choice because it encapsulated the future of racing games. At a time when games like Wipeout and Gran Turismo were pushing racing games to the extremes of arcadey and realistic, R4 argued for a compelling balance.
Wild 9 is one of those strange games that made me wonder if you should be ahead of your time. Given the visual quality of 3D games at the time, this quirky 2.5D action game appears to be a bit behind its time. However, many critics simply did not grasp what to make of this throwback with a few fresh ideas.
Regardless, I think Wild 9 was designed ahead of its time. In 1998, Wild 9 was perceived by many as a weird passion project that seemed to deviate from the PS1's capabilities. Today, we appreciate developers that understand how to create excellent 2D or 2.5D games that are built on current technology and original concepts.
Team Buddies didn't make much of an impact when it was first released. Not only did it arrive late in the PS1's lifespan (September 2000), but it's kind of difficult to define what Team Buddies is. For the purposes of this discussion, it is best to think of it as a slightly more shooter-like take on Worms that also contains a surprising amount of vulgarity (wellat least the original uncensored version).
I don't remember who said it, but someone else stated that Team Buddies would have been an instant hit if it were released in the online multiplayer/Twitch era. Its humor, its varied modes, its enjoyable (yet accessible) gameplay, and optional character skins all feel like something we'd expect from a modern multiplayer game today.
I've talked before about my fondness for Bushido Blade, and I'll probably stop talking about this game until it receives a modern remake, remaster, or sequel. Even then, Im not sure that a modern Bushido Blade game would fully capture the punchline of this titles kill shot mechanic.
The first time I saw a Bushido Blade player kill their opponent with a single well-placed strike seems so simple, and it kind of is. However, Bushido Blade stood out at a time when most fighting games allow you to make heroic moves only to remove a small piece of their health bar.
It's difficult to summarize Jumping Flash without mentioning that you have to see it through the eyes of 1995. In fact, this first-person 3D platformer might appear to you as one of the most unplayable things you've ever seen.
If Jumping Flash was a technology demo meant to demonstrate PS1's potential, it would have been fantastic. It's simply amazing. It's a game that allowed you to actually play it in 1995.
I honestly fear Im not giving some of those games the respect they deserve by leaving them off this list. Suikoden has always stood out as a game that probably shouldn't have existed in 1995.
Yes, there were a lot of great RPGs on store shelves in 1995, but none of them featured Suikoden's wacky mix of complicated concepts. I must admit that I admire the games' elaborate combat system, unique character traits, and mature storytelling, as well.
Disruptor was certainly ahead of its time from a strictly technical standpoint. What makes this one special, though, is its many attempts to change the FPS scene despite obvious technical and control limitations.
Disruptor was a narrative-driven sci-fi FPS accompanied by a clever Psionics mechanics that essentially gave players RPG-like magical abilities. Again, this was Insomniac Games' first project.
Driver 2 isn't a particularly enjoyable game, at the very least, it fails to be as tight and engaging as its predecessor. Despite its shortcomings, it's difficult to talk about the PS1's most ambitious title and forget about the game that basically attempted to give PS1 owners their own version of GTA 3 a year before the PS2 release.
Reflections Interactive, a developer, allowed players to get out of their cars and explore open 3D environments on foot. While it's unfortunate that the Driver 2 team was unable to replicate that concept with PS1 hardware, you have to admire their determination.
10.Dino Crisis 2
Dino Crisis 2 is my go to game when I am looking for a reason to write a sequel. Not only do I believe it to be one of the greatest sequels ever, but I believe you may argue that it is one of the finest gaming experiences in terms of action and horror.
Dino Crisis 2 demonstrates the entire scope of this franchise and how it might be distinct from some considerable competition. Its kind of a forgotten curiosity nowadays. If this franchise ever does return, it must be reimagined as an even better version of this genre-defying entry.
9.Brave Fencer Musashi
It's difficult to overstate the dangers of being different from the rest of the business. For instance, Square should have been able to use their own incredible legacy to sell people a different type of RPG. Instead, they had a difficult time convincing global audiences to take a look beyond Brave Fencer Musashis strange name, cutesy graphics, and real-time ARPG gameplay.
Brace Fencer Musashi is without doubt one of the PS1's most engaging RPG experiences. The game's unlikely star may be the many sidequests and optional activities that it offers you. Similar to the Yakuza and Persona series in 1998, it was a fairly difficult sell.
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There were actually a few notable titles that attempted to elevate the popular space combat genre at the time of its 1997 release, but the games' remarkable mission/story structure easily earns it a place on the list.
Colony Wars offered different campaign paths and rewards based on your choices throughout the game. While there were RPGs before Colony Wars that included similar strategies, players were expected to find them in a sci-fi action game. Besides, Ill still argue that the ways this game adapted to your victories and losses are still more impressive than many modern examples of similar concepts.
Terracon is a well-designed game that combines gameplay from the collect-a-thon, shooter, and resource management strategy genres. Most of the games levels involve you traversing broad areas as you complete various tasks and gather the resources necessary to activate missile defenses. Though there are certainly elements from some contemporary hybrid strategy titles in its design.
Terracon is a legitimate reason to be on this list. While the large levels and the freedom you're given to navigate them are impressive enough, it's really this titles particle effects and smooth animations that keep me hooked to this day.
6.Tenchu: Stealth Assassins
There were stealth games before Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, and there were ninja games before Tenchu: Stealth Assassins that were built on the actual ninjas' stealth techniques. Personally, I can say that I knew quite a few people who gave up playing this game when they realized they couldn't run around and shoot up waves of enemies.
Tenchu's brilliance is more powerful than ever before. Teams behind games such as Nioh, Sekiro, and Ghost of Tsushima have cited Tenchu as an influence, while the slow decline of the stealth genre has only bolstered the reputation of the best games from that genres glory days.
5.Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
During a research on forgotten video game franchises, I recently had the opportunity to discuss this game, but it is never a bad time to praise one of the most beautiful, advanced, and innovative PS1 3D adventures.
Soul Reaver is absolutely fantastic from a technical standpoint. It may just be the finest PS1 game ever, and it holds its own against early Dreamcast and PS2 titles as well. On top of all that, the game's narrative was able to deliver epic narratives that were normally reserved for role-playing games.
Catch me on the right day, and I may try to argue that Vagrant Story is the finest PS1 game ever created. Today, though, Im much more interested in talking to you about how this game was so far ahead of its time in many ways.
Vagrant Story demonstrated that the PS1 still had a lot of work to spare during its dying days. From a gameplay standpoint, I'm not sure there was ever a game that made strategic combat feel this fluid. Even then, its complexity, slow pacing, and late release date pushed it into the dustbin.
3.Germs: Nerawareta Machi
During my exploration of the weirdest PS1 games ever, I had the pleasure of talking about this game, but I do not want anyone to think Germs was some bizarre curiosity. No, this game was far ahead of its time in just about every aspect.
Germs is a 1999 PS1 open-world game that has been dubbed the PS1s' version of Shenmue. It was a body horror mystery game that shunned many forms of traditional gameplay in favor of the thrill of experiencing a virtual world that was far from perfect. It was strange, it was rough, and it was even barely all that great.
2.Future Cop: LAPD
If the PS1 had one genre Achilles heel, it would be third-person action games. There were several excellent third-person action games on the PS1, but you have to remember that developers at that time were still figuring out how even basic genre concepts (most notably camera controls) would work. This game has never needed any help when it comes to impressing anyone who plays it or puts its eyes on it.
The Future Cop: LAPDs campaign offered simply outstanding mech-based action gameplay that even supported cooperative action. It's the core capturing mechanics of Precinct Assault Mode that really earns it a spot on this list.
Kings Field was released in 1994. It was actually just a few weeks away from being one of the PS1s Japanese launch games at a time when almost every other developer was imagining what the next generation of gaming would be like. FromSoftware, the creator of Kings Field, was laying the foundations for what gaming would be like in the future.
Kings Field is the spiritual successor to Demons Souls and Dark Souls in many ways, but the similarities are far greater than the differences. From character designs that are more rooted in gear and situations than raw stats to levels filled with chilling atmospheric storytelling and deadly traps, Kings Field is packed with ideas that were only recently grasped.
Kings Field is my most noteworthy example of creative experimentation that took place throughout the PS1 era. It reminds us that the true benefit of more powerful gaming hardware isnt improved graphics, but rather the ability to dream.