The 60 Best Playstation Games
Ever since Sony entered the market as a dark horse during the console wars of the 90s, the PlayStation has always played by its own rules. Whether they were challenging Nintendo for mascot supremacy, making systems that stand for themselves, or battling their rivals in a format war, Sony has always had a plan.
They’ve co-opted the technology and ideas of their competitors and even blazed a few trails of their own. Love ’em for their fantastic original properties or hate ’em for their occasional bouts of cockiness, the PlayStation is once again the console to beat this generation, and the PS4 shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, even with the PS5 just over the horizon.
With that in mind, let’s get moving, and jump into the next round of our Sony celebration!
60 Best PlayStation Games of All Time
60 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Sixteen students are trapped in the best school in Japan. When they were accepted into Hope’s Peak Academy they thought that they were set for life – a qualification from the school almost certainly guarantees lucrative job offers upon leaving – but quickly they discover that there’s something sinister afoot. The students are forced into a deadly game by a hidden antagonist – the only way to leave the school is to murder one of the other students and get away with it. If the murderer can trick the other students into believing their innocence they’ll be released and the rest of kids will be killed, but if the students work out who did it, then the murderer will be executed and life will go on inside Hope’s Peak.
Danganronpa is part visual novel, part Phoenix Wright. Playing as one of the students within the academy, you must spend part of your time getting to know the other students and learning about their various quirks and traits, and then when a murder occurs, solve the crime to ensure the survival of the rest of the students. Featuring a colourful cast of characters, some fantastic villains, and an always engaging mystery story right up until the shocking finale, Danganronpa is an interactive page-turner that you won’t want to put down. (John Cal McCormick)
59 – Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
Nocturne is the first original Shin Megami Tensei game to come to the PlayStation 2, and it set multiple precedents for all the games that came after it. Things like Persona’s “One More” system and even the graphical stylings of games like Catherine have Nocturne to thank for helping ATLUS transition so well from 2D to 3D.
Set in then modern-day Tokyo, the world in Nocturne is turned into a demonic hellscape following an event known as the Conception. You have to fight and negotiate your way through encounters with demons as a human granted unearthly power. Along the way, you encounter what few other humans survived the Conception, and help them recreate the world in the shape of their desires. There’s also plenty of side-quests, a second dungeon, and even a cameo from a certain Capcom demon hunter.
Shin Megami Tensei III is no slouch on the difficulty either. Not many games out there are bold enough to give you the chance to game over from random critical hits in tutorial encounters, but Nocturne makes you earn the right to step outside the first area of the game. There are plenty of places where the game shows its age. Often times the way around a difficult encounter is to simply grind, Nocturne has plenty of bosses that act as notorious gatekeepers for both unseasoned and experienced RPG players. Clues and directions on where to go can be cryptic, making it confusing to figure out which +50 floor tower you need to be navigating at the given time. Underneath it all, though, is one of the best RPG experiences of the early 2000s. (Taylor Smith)
58 – Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando
As a kid, I remember once going with my mom to the late, great Blockbuster Video to browse their selection of games and movies and walking out with Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando. Not knowing anything about what I later found out was a sequel – I was drawn to the funny looking cartoon fella with the huge gun, I guess – I chose the game among a sea of others, excited for how I was going to spend my Thanksgiving break. When I got home, I placed it on the disc tray and almost immediately fell in love with what came next.
Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando picks up where the Lombax left off in Insomniac’s smash hit Ratchet and Clank, where the lovable heroes defeated the dastardly Drek. In that time, they have become galactic celebrities, yet their fame only proves to court further trouble. For the first Ratchet and Clank title, Insomniac introduced gamers to a brilliant and vibrant universe full of monsters hellbent on destroying our small, hairy hero and his metallic sidekick. The little guys weren’t helpless, however, as they regularly found weapons and over-the-top armaments of abnormal size and firepower. It was an amazing platformer, and Going Commando improved on it in every way. It was funny, exciting, and fascinating all at once, and at any given moment.
After completing Going Commando a few days later, starry-eyed and sore from laughter, I begged Mom to take me back to Blockbuster to snag the original Ratchet and Clank. Been playing them ever since. (Tyler Sawyer)
57 – Yakuza 4
While the Yakuza franchise has been a staple of Japanese console gaming since it debuted on the PlayStation 2 in 2005, the series has struggled to find an international audience due to its foreign nature and strange gameplay. Conversely, it is this unique approach to an open world that ended up drawing players to the games, cultivating a small, but dedicated community that has clamored for faster localizations of newer entries.
Originally released on the PlayStation 3 in 2010, Yakuza 4 expanded on the games’ signature action-adventure style, beat-em-up combat, by introducing three new characters that the player followed, in addition to series mainstay, Kazuma Kiryu. Joined by the escaped criminal Taiga Saejima, crooked cop Masayoshi Tanimura and wisecracking loan shark Shun Akiyama, the player is returned to the fictional Tokyo red-light district of Kamurocho to fight their way through hordes of criminals in a crime drama of epic proportions.
While the press is quick to compare Yakuza games to the Grand Theft Auto series, they are only comparable in terms of theme and scope. Although both focus on the complex inner workings of criminal organizations, Yakuza 4 has a more self-aware and absurd tone with higher emphasis on melee combat. Combat occurs in the form of both random encounters with rival street thugs and narratively impactful showdowns between legendary fighters. Players must make use of surrounding items, acquired weapons that range from baseball bats to nun-chucks, and special “Heat” moves that can only be performed upon stringing together elaborate combos. Additionally, each character has their own play style, with Taiga controlling like a juggernaut, Shun emphasizing rapid kicks and Masayoshi requiring quick defenses.
Defeating enemies nets experience points that can be spent on characters individually, gradually turning their attacks into over-the-top move sets more akin to Dragon Ball Z than actual martial arts. Surrounding the base fighting gameplay is one of the most interactive and richly detailed settings in all of gaming, Kamurocho. Streets are lined with Hostess Clubs, Karaoke Bars, Casinos, Hot Springs and Massage parlors, highlighting the unique cultural facets of Japanese society. Yakuza 4 also adds explorable rooftop areas, back alleys and underground segments that give an already lively world even more depth, making up for the sub-par graphics with amazing art direction. Whether pummeling Yakuza bosses on top of skyscrapers, refilling health at a sushi restaurant or merely wandering the red-light district, a somewhat unreliable targeting system is more than worth working through to experience a criminal underground you have never seen before. (Matt Bruzzano)
56 – Demon’s Souls
If you pay even passing attention to the gaming world as a whole, you’ve probably heard of a little series called Dark Souls, even if you’ve never deigned to actually play it. That’s okay, it’s okay not to be a masochist. But for the rest of us, this is where it all started.
Demon’s Souls is an incredibly difficult (but also incredibly rewarding) action-RPG from…well From Software. With the scope the series has since reached with the Dark Souls trilogy and Bloodborne, a game like Demon’s Souls comes across as little more than a proof of concept at this point. Back in 2009 though, it shook the gaming world right up and down to its foundation.
The return of the old schoolyard days of chatting with friends to see how they got through a certain part or toppled a particular boss was back, and the revolutionary messaging system hammered this concept home even further, as gamers were allowed to help or mislead their fellow miserable souls with scrawled hints here and there. The summoning system, which allowed you to call in a friend for help, and the invasion system, which allowed more malicious gamers the chance to ruin your day, also made their debut here. In fact, almost everything that made the Souls series great premiered right here in the first entry, even if these ideas were only perfected as time went on.
It may be a touch archaic compared to the games that followed it, but Demon’s Souls is still well worth playing and might be, to this day, the cruelest and most challenging entry from this infamous series. Wanna really “git gud”? Then crack open this gem and see what you’ve got. (Mike Worby)
55 – Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal
After Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando introduced an abundance of new ideas to Insomniac’s action-platformer series, its sequel, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, improved and expanded in less-developed areas to create the most refined entry in the franchise. The story follows Ratchet and Clank’s mission to reform the “Q-Force;” a team of space cadets that Captain Quark once led to fighting evil, in order to stop the robotic Dr. Nefarious from destroying all organic life in the galaxy.
Striking a good balance between the series’ staple absurd humor and genuinely funny character interactions, Up Your Arsenal rationalizes our protagonists’ adventure across the universe and manages to convey an entertaining narrative without tripping into the pitfall of taking itself too seriously, which future sequels have suffered from. Returning characters such as Helga and Big Al were a joy to series veterans, while original characters like the robotic pop star sensation Courtney Gears and the antagonist Dr. Nefarious kept the plot fresh and surprising. Aside from the nostalgia of returning faces and locations, gamers with save files of the first two games were also rewarded with discounted items at vendors.
Featuring a good mix of both classic and new weapons, Ratchet’s arsenal was more diverse than ever, with everything from disk blade guns to plasma whips. As weapons are used, they can be upgraded a total of five times (eight if including challenge mode) to dramatically alter their range, damage or effects – assuring that no two playthroughs will ever feel the same. Thankfully, the game did away with the awkward space combat and racing diversions in favor of less clunky platforming segments that tie into Captain Quark’s story. Additionally, a fully developed arena mode dubbed “Annihilation Nation” offered survival modes, weapon challenges, new bosses and gauntlets for the player to be repeatedly destroyed in. If the arena wasn’t difficult enough, Up Your Arsenal introduced online and split screen multiplayer to the series, allowing gamers across the world to beat each other to a pulp with wrenches and weapons of mass destruction. Although the game’s campaign was somewhat shorter than the second game and its multiplayer was fairly basic, the variety of weapons, great level design, and signature Ratchet & Clank tone make Up Your Arsenal the pinnacle of the franchise. (Matt Bruzzano)
54 – P.T.
On one fateful day in August of 2014, a strange game by the name of P.T. appeared on PSN, developed by an unknown “7780s Studio”. Within this game, players controlled an unnamed character in first-person, walking through a series of endless hallways in a haunted house, with each loop bringing about changes to the repetitive structure, seemingly at random. With each loop, the presence of a heavy-breathing radio noise ghost-woman became more and more apparent; sometimes appearing behind a window or at times right behind you, ready to pounce and kill on sight.
As this strange puzzle became an overnight phenomenon, players around the world banded together to find an escape, involving all kinds of specific, cryptic steps. These solutions, mulled over on message boards, sub-reddits and livestreams, often seemed to verge on conspiratory lunacy; blurring the edges of the feasible and the ludicrous.
But, eventually, the game was beaten, leading to the revelation that P.T. was masterminded by none other than Metal Gear’s Hideo Kojima, with help from horror director Guillermo del Toro, as a stand-alone “teaser” for Silent Hills – a revitalization of Konami’s Silent Hill property, starring The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus as the lead character.
This triumphant reveal was, however, soon tarnished, as Silent Hills was canned shortly after by Konami as a result of their now-infamous falling out with Kojima; a confusing decision for many in the face of the tremendous success P.T. had received, and the sure success Silent Hills would have been. Not only that, P.T. was taken off PSN, unavailable for re-download, existing only for those who still have it installed on their PS4 hard drives.
P.T. is now more of an event, or a memory, than a game. With an atmosphere and presentation unlike any other game before it, P.T. had taken its indie horror game inspirations to a meaningful meta level, all the while also making a truly horrifying experience. Its legacy is already etched into gaming history and, while dwelling on what could have been is upsetting, its sole existence cannot be undermined either. (Maxwell N)
53 – WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role
It could be said that WWF SmackDown! 2 has an unfair grasp on gaming nostalgia thanks to its development during the iconic Attitude Era of professional wrestling, but that does the game a tremendous disservice. Pro wrestling’s golden era had itself a more than able tag team partner in the video games medium, as PS1’s SmackDown! series went head-to-head with the N64’s Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy for the crown of ‘Best Wrestling Game Ever,’ and there’s a significant argument that there are still no new entrants in that fight. The fact that they were all published by THQ is quite astounding, but demand was so high for wrestling games in the late 90s/early 2000’s that both SmackDown! 2 and its predecessor were released in the same year.
Still standing as the best-selling combat sports title on a single platform, SmackDown! 2’s iconic legacy is richly deserved. A significant update to the career mode was the key selling point, and playing a co-op tag team career as the Dudley Boyz was enough to send a friend and I literally running home from the store clutching our “halfsies” copy on launch day. The game’s new tag team finishing moves may have been awkward to pull off, but nailing a Dudley Death Drop to win the titles alongside a pal was pretty special.
Pro wrestling is all about big, iconic moments, and SmackDown! 2 was more than able to provide a virtual equivalent. Most notably, the addition of the Hell in a Cell match changed the game forever. From thereon in, no multiplayer HiaC match can ever be competed without a gentleman’s agreement to climb up to the top of the cell as soon as possible and let the battle to powerbomb your opponent through the cell roof begin. An absolute classic that remains a wildly playable flag-bearer of arcade rasslin’ at its very finest. (Alex Aldridge)
52 – Gran Turismo
For years, the advent of a racing game on any console was an opportunity for developers and hardware manufacturers alike to strut their stuff, rev their engines, and take a nascent gaming device for a spin around the block – putting the pedal to the metal to really see what it could do.
The static nature of the cars themselves, as well as a guided, predetermined environment that is being passed through at high speed means that many of our best looking and most impressive games, at least in the early years of a console release, orbit the racing genre in some shape or form. In its day Gran Turismo was unabashedly one of these titles. Melding both realism and impressive graphics into a single game was until this point almost unseen in the home console market, making it not only the beginning of one of Sony’s most prominent and successful series of all time, but the grandfather of a genre that continues to flourish to this day. The most recent Gran Turismo may not be the go-to racing game on modern consoles, but one thing is for sure: every racing sim released post-1997 has its roots planted firmly in Gran Turismo on the PS1.
For its time, the game was a stunning showcase of a 3D-rendered environment for the player to compete in, with vehicles that felt more realistic than many had ever experienced. Having been very used to arcade-like racers for years, Gran Turismo was a welcome step towards realism that car fans had been craving since the inception of the home console. Cars looked and felt more like the real thing than they ever had before, with players being forced to learn how to drive each car they took control of if they wanted to get the best out of them.
What do PUBG, ISS Pro Evolution Soccer, Goldeneye, Halo and Half-Life all have in common? They are all classics that have since been surpassed in quality, but an entire genre or gameplay style has them to thank for its continued success. Gran Turismo is that game for racing fans. (David Smillie)
51 – Gravity Rush 2
The original Gravity Rush for PS Vita is a fun novelty in a rough-around-the-edges package. Gravity Rush 2 is more of the same, but bigger and better. Players control charmingly likeable protagonist Kat in an anime-like cel-shaded world that boasts bundles of environmental variety. Oh, and it also has the Gravity Rush map alongside new Gravity Rush 2 locales – sweet!
The combat may be clunky, the side quests may be scattershot, and the story may be forgettable, but these take a backseat to the Gravity Rush 2’s overwhelming positives. Firstly, Kat’s adventure is chock full of charm. The quirky characters and interactions meld with eye-popping environments, from the grungy browns of Hekseville’s Old Town, to Lei Colmosna’s bustlingly modern marketplace. Exploring Gravity Rush 2’s world is a joy, and said exploration is bolstered by Kat’s miraculous moveset, bringing us to our second point.
Holy cow, the gravity manipulation mechanics in Gravity Rush 2 are fun! The shining quality of its predecessor, they’re given an extra lick of paint before players are allowed to run wild. Soaring through the sky, manipulating the pull of gravity to ‘fall’ to one’s destination, Gravity Rush 2 nails travel and traversal better than any game I’ve played. Fast travel is redundant when such a consistently fantastic mechanic is at play, and for that reason alone Gravity Rush 2 is more than deserving a spot on this list. (Harry Morris)
50 – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Naughty Dog has an impressive track record for producing some of the best video games over the past decade and is responsible for some of PlayStation’s most visually striking experiences. From the survival horror of The Last of Us to the breathtaking Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the Santa Monica-based developer showed no signs of slowing down when it released Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Originally intended as a downloadable expansion to Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy was later expanded and promoted to a standalone release at a reduced cost. It’s shorter than the other entries in the series (taking eight hours or so to finish), but it’s also a fully developed, satisfying adventure packed with the exciting action and memorable characters we’ve come to expect from an Uncharted game.
Sure, it’s a formulaic adventure without apology – giving anyone who’s played the original four games a distinct sense of déjà vu – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t compelling. Yes, every shootout and every set-piece in Lost Legacy seem directly lifted from a previous game, but thankfully, Naughty Dog has a rare ability to turn a by-the-numbers summer blockbuster with seemingly cookie-cutter sequences into something majestic. It’s as stirring an epic as Hollywood has ever produced and is peppered with iconic moments – including the game’s finale, which deserves a special shout out for how thrilling it is. (Ricky D)
49 – Yakuza 0
Yakuza 0 is a prequel entry in Sega’s cult classic crime drama/tourist simulator series. Set in the late eighties, the game follows the exploits and mishaps of young Yakuza members Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima as they distinctly become intertwined in a bonkers scheme surrounding an empty lot of land in Kamurocho – the series’ version of Kabukicho, Tokyo.
The game’s story alternatives rapidly between serious, sometimes harrowing, character drama and goofy side-story shenanigans, and fans of the series wouldn’t have it any other way. Aiding the narrative is a visceral, responsive combat system with each character having access to four fighting styles, an RPG-style ability progression system, and a tailored open world environment accurately depicting 80’s Japan, packed with side quests and extra activities.
Yakuza 0 is the perfect entry point into a much-beloved series, and for returning fans, a fascinating insight into the origin of the Dragon of Dojima. With remastered ports of the remaining PlayStation 3 titles likely headed to the PS4 in the next year or two, there’s never been a better time to tear off your shirt and flex rippling, tattooed muscle atop skyscrapers. (George Cheese)
48 – God of War III
God of War has always been a series which was brimming with potential. The first game boasted a great engine and some of the best use of quick time events ever seen, plus its romp through Greek history was at least engaging, if not always spot on.
God of War II amped things up even more, inserting more crazy set pieces, more variety, better boss fights and a much tighter narrative. In fact, its insane cliffhanger ending made the anticipation for the third one as palpable as it could possibly be, and with the enhanced horsepower of the PS3, boy did it deliver.
God of War III‘s opening is the stuff of legends, as you scale Mount Olympus itself on the back of a titan before doing battle with the Ocean God, Poseidon. But this is only the first of a series of epic showdowns with Olympus’ best and brightest. From the sadistic underworld battle with Hades to the coliseum brawl with Hercules, God of War III doesn’t lack for earth-shaking intensity or world ending gravitas, however, it does flounder a bit in its attempts to redeem Kratos through a surrogate daughter figure. Joel and Ellie this is not, and this piece of the plot is so bad and out of place that it nearly derails the entire thing.
Luckily there’s plenty more to like about the game than there is to take issue with, and it regularly finds itself rightfully in the conversation for the best PS3 exclusives. An awe-inspiring journey to some of the most epic mythical locations ever imagined, God of War III is not to be missed. (Mike Worby)
47 (tie) – Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening
One of the cheesiest reveals in the original Devil May Cry focused on the fact that the honorable warrior of hell, Nelo Angelo, was actually –*gasp* — Dante’s brother, Virgil. Though the moment itself was slathered in that sweet, sweet, pizza-covering nectar, it did stick in the minds of fans, leaving them wondering what the point of a reveal like that would be, unless the series were going to come back to it some day.
Lo and behold, a few years later it did just that, with the prequel Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening. Here we find Virgil as the primary antagonist, and Dante at his cockiest and most defiant. The difference between the two could not be more disparate than it is here, and it’s one of the things that helps the game to succeed so markedly over its predecessors.
It certainly helps that there’s more variety here than ever before, with several new weapons, an incredibly satisfying set of bosses, and enough new characters to really shake things up after the forgettable second entry. Arguably the best game in the series, and certainly the hardest, Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening is one of the great action games of the PS2 era, and holds up surprisingly well even a whole decade after the fact. (Mike Worby)
47 (tie) – Devil May Cry
When gamers are asked to cherry pick their favorite games from the action genre, Devil May Cry is always a game that invariably pops up.
What began as a Resident Evil side story has since morphed into one of the most successful and recognizable action series in gaming history. Focusing on the cocksure half-man/half-demon, Dante, Devil May Cry is still seen as a PS2 classic, even all of these years later.
This is essentially the game that modern action gaming has been built upon, and going back to it, it’s not hard to see why. Battling back the demons of hell is as satisfying as it has ever been, and the many firsts seen in Devil May Cry cannot be overstated. When you’re not smashing bosses with your massive broadsword, you’ll be air juggling their minions with your dual pistols or blasting them to bits with a sawed-off shotgun.
It’s a wild ride, and even if the plotting and puzzle elements haven’t aged very well, it’s still a blast to play, especially in HD. (Mike Worby)
46 – God of War II
In 2007, the hugely successful God of War got itself a sequel. Not on the recently released PlayStation 3, but on the older PlayStation 2 – and it still blew the audience away. God of War II is a bigger and more graphically intense follow up that offered mostly the same and more. The world of the game is enormous and complex, not to the level of a Nintendo game or a Tomb Raider, but connected all the same – and just like the first game, the epic locations, and ledge-jumping traversal foreshadow something like the Uncharted series, with comparable cinematic flair.
Telling the brutal tale of Kratos’ fall from grace, the story picks up right after the end of the first God of War, revealing that the other gods are unhappy with Kratos’s disruptive ways since he achieved godhood. After Zeus himself descends to kill Kratos, the dethroned war god teams up with the Titans in order to gain revenge on the gods of Olympus – but first, he must go on a journey to regain his power by tampering with the Threads of Fate.
Kratos’ second quest is in some ways even more impressive and varied than the first God of War, taking Sony Santa Monica’s interpretation of the Greek Myths to new heights (and depths). In the end, the game is let down only by tending away from the meticulously curated art design and stand-alone structure of its predecessor.
Still, much of what is set up in God of War II would pay off in the blockbuster third installment, and on the whole, it remains a valued sequel to a legendary game. (Mitchell Akhurst)
45 – Until Dawn
Best described as an interactive horror movie, Until Dawn’s story-driven point-and-click game design does a great job in paying tribute to mainstream slasher films while also fully embracing the silliness of the genre. What could have easily been a straight-parody, instead cleverly deconstructs slasher movie tropes in what amounts to roughly twelve hours of nail-biting suspense, unexpected jump scares, and lots of gore.
Where a movie like Scream put a postmodern twist on slasher films, Until Dawn takes on the genre and twists even harder via its most powerful attribute (and something movies don’t offer): interaction. Though there are plot holes in the elaborately concocted scenarios, Until Dawn gets points for its sly wickedness – forcing players to make choices that will determine the final outcome. By the time the ride is over, the game has changed course dozens and dozens of times, nodding and winking but never once losing momentum. Graphically, the game is gorgeous and the sound design is top-notch, which goes a long way in getting players to jump out of their seats; meanwhile, the voice cast (mostly TV stars) all turn in great performances. If you like scary, bloody, gory, grotesque and twisted games – Until Dawn is right up your alley. (Ricky D)
44 – The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I & II
(Released in 2015 and 2016, respectively, for PS3 and PS Vita)
Telling grandiose stories has always been a strength of the JRPG genre. While famous franchises such as Final Fantasy and Tales of wipe the slate clean with each mainline entry, the Trails series says “No!” with all nine of its titles taking place on the same fictional continent of Zemuria; each of which is deeply interconnected to one another. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I & II are the latest in the series to be localized outside of Japan, and bring the conflict enveloping the continent to a frantic boiling point that is absolutely riveting to watch unfold.
It’s not just the main plot that makes Zemuria such a gripping setting, though, as its denizens are equally memorable. They speak with dialogue beyond the generic lines found in many other games and have genuinely interesting lives that develop as the game progresses. Characters get married, they get kicked out of their homes, they get into arguments with other; it’s witnessing these individuals live out their lives full of ups and downs without a “side quest” moniker attached that creates that extra layer of believability.
All this is punctuated by a deeply strategic, turn-based combat system that challenges players to the best of their abilities. While the graphics may not stand out as anything special, a phenomenal soundtrack perfectly captures every aspect of the game, especially for some of the more tender moments of the story. Fans of JRPGs, or even those that just appreciate fantastic world-building, owe it to themselves to embark on the Trails of Cold Steel. (Matthew Ponthier)
43 – Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII was always a contentious entry in Square’s storied series. While it was the first (offline) Final Fantasy to show enemies in the open world, and allow real time battles, it also had a cast of cardboard characters as your party, and one of the least exciting quests in the history of the franchise.
Enter The Zodiac Age. While we could argue the strengths and weaknesses of Final Fantasy XII until the moogles come home, one thing we can all agree on is that, over a decade later, the pacing of this game is awful. Luckily The Zodiac Age allows you to speed things up with the simple press of a button by either 2x or 4x the regular pacing of the game. This feature, also present in the PS4 version of FFVII, is an absolute godsend. Whether you’re grinding for levels or searching for a certain rare item, the ability to speed the game up at will improves Final Fantasy XII immeasurably.
Speaking of improvements, The Zodiac Age also re-tools the job system of FFXII, gives the game a face lift, and alters the item placement of the original game (though that last bit can be a bit of a pain). When you’re killing Yiazmat in 2 hours instead of 12, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you’re playing Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, which is absolutely the definitive way to play the game. (Mike Worby)
42 – Vagrant Story
Dark and moody dungeons, a melodramatic high-fantasy story full of drama and politics, a unique RPG combat system and ass-less chaps – if the combination of such things gets your attention in any sort of way, then Vagrant Story on PS1 might be your kind of game.
Part of Final Fantasy’s loosely connected (but not really at all) “Ivalice Alliance” series of games, which includes Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story is simultaneously nothing like the Final Fantasy games of its time, while harking back to the very early days of the franchise in its storytelling and faux-Shakespearean character and world creation.
Its character design, which sometimes resembles a high-fashion raid on a medieval army’s supply closet, is immediately fitting despite looking ridiculously out of context – something I can’t say for most Square-Enix RPGs.
What’s added is a layer of macabre, mostly boosted by the kind of low-poly, mysterious nature of a lot of PS1-era games, making the creepier environments of the game look even more unfriendly.
Though a cult fanbase exists today, it’s a crime that Vagrant Story remains largely unknown. Perhaps the “The Phantom Pain” title shown at the end credits of the game was an indicator of a planned sequel that we never got to see, or a glimpse into the creation of a broader series. Or, maybe it’s just a subtitle for the game. Who knows.
Looking back on Vagrant Story today, despite all the visual elements of the game not only aging well but becoming even more enticing and unique, it’s hard to say that the sometimes overly obtuse gameplay is all that welcoming. It’s definitely the kind of RPG that could use a little bit of a gameplay tune-up to even out a few of the rough edges. From Square-Enix’s unexplored back catalog, I can’t imagine a better candidate for a remastered treatment than Vagrant Story, maybe similar to FFXII Zodiac Age. (Maxwell N)
41 – Suikoden
Asking a gamer to think back on the golden days of the JRPG will more often than not result in a nostalgia-filled trip down memory lane, with specific stops during the 90’s to reflect upon things like SquareSoft and their genre-defining Chrono and Final Fantasy titles; games like Earthbound, Fallout, and Planescape: Torment among others would get mentions, but one game which seems to fall just short of most people’s lists is Konami’s Suikoden.
Playing as the son of a great army general, the game’s lead character learns of treacherous individuals within the upper echelon of his own kingdom, forcing him to abandon his home and join a rebellion to fight on the side of the oppressed, with the goal of overthrowing an empire. The game’s plot was praised for its originality when compared to its contemporaries, and its musical score is hailed as one of the greatest of the generation.
Graphically the game resembles SNES classics like Final Fantasy VI, but with more realistically proportioned sprites, and gameplay wise Suikoden often finds itself being compared to Final Fantasy VII. The game features 3 types of battle systems. Normal, turned-based combat is the primary form of conflict resolution, with the other two types being one-on-one duels and war battles, which are both resolved using a simple rock/paper/scissors system where the player selects one of three commands and hopes for the best. Perhaps the game’s defining characteristic is its insane amount of recruitable party members; throughout the 20+ hour journey you’ll be able to enlist the services of over 100 different characters known as the “108 Stars of Destiny”. Later entries in the series would follow suit by also having a massive amount of potential allies.
Suikoden may not have the heritage of Dragon Quest nor the pedigree of Final Fantasy, and even within its own series Suikoden II steals all the praise, but the original still holds a special place in the heart of many a gamer. (Matt De Azevedo)