Nintendo had a brilliant idea when they released the NES Classic a couple of years ago, and doubled down on that unit’s success with the even more popular SNES Classic last year. Quickly it became clear that there was a market for these miniaturized, plug and play consoles, so it should surprise no one that Sony is following suit with the PlayStation Classic which is set to be launched this December.
On paper, this is a very exciting announcement for old school PlayStation fans like me. The PlayStation was my first non-portable console and a lot of the games, and even the aesthetics of the system and its controller itself, are extremely nostalgic for me.
Even so, Sony has already made some decisions regarding the console with which I do not agree. I hate the fact that they are including the original PlayStation controller design rather than the obviously much higher quality DualShock controllers, and I’m also disappointed by the lineup they’ve announced so far. Final Fantasy VII and Tekken 3 are no doubt must-haves, but Ridge Racer is no Gran Turismo, and I’ve never even heard of Jumping Flash and Wild Arms. Even if you’re a fan of those titles, they are certainly a far cry from the mass appeal that the SNES boasted with Super Metroid, Final Fantasy VI and Super Mario World.
At this point, it’s a little too late to recommend what all 20 games should be on the console, but as a huge fan of the system, I quickly went about making a list of the 20 I would have included had I been in charge of the project. And it didn’t take me long. The PlayStation was a console with unprecedented depth, and it’s really impossible to include all of its greatest games with only 20 slots. But if I had to narrow it down, here’s how I would do it.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
To many, including myself, Symphony of the Night was the peak of Castlevania. It boasted state of the art graphics that hold up even today, addicting as hell RPG elements, Metroid-vania exploration, and an absolutely fantastic score. Also, Alucard looks like Sephiroth, and that’s always a plus.
I know a lot of people that loved Chrono Trigger aren’t the biggest fans of Chrono Cross. But, especially for its time, it really is an RPG of incredible depth and the graphics look like they could easily have been from a PS2 game. Nintendo blew it when they didn’t include Chrono Trigger on the SNES Classic and I would hope Sony doesn’t make a similar mistake.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
You can’t have a PlayStation Classic without Crash Bandicoot; he was the mascot of the console in its war with the N64’s Mario and though his original outing came up short (particularly now that we have the much improved PS4 version), Crash Bandicoot 2 is simple platforming at its finest. It doesn’t deviate from the formula set in motion by the original Crash, but it improves on it in every way to the point where it would be absolutely foolish to include the original in its stead.
Crash Bandicoot Warped
As great as Crash Bandicoot 2 is, though, it can’t replace Warped. Warped brought to the table a staggering amount of variety to the point where Naughty Dog had to build multiple engines just to get all of the different levels to work. With some great bosses, inventive levels and a Mega Man-esque upgrade system, Warped is the peak of the mainline Crash series and should absolutely find a home on the PlayStation Classic.
Crash Team Racing
With two controllers included with the system, it would be downright foolish not to include the best multiplayer game on the PlayStation. Crash Team Racing wasn’t just a hell of a kart racer for its day, for many (including me), it remains the peak of the genre. Mechanically sound and dripping with character, Crash Team Racing is simply one of the greatest games in PlayStation history and it would be ridiculous to not include it.
Final Fantasy VII
Thankfully, Sony has already announced that the legendary Final Fantasy VII will be included on the system. How could it not? Final Fantasy VII is the reason many players picked up a PlayStation in the first place and why even more gamers became RPG fans for life. I didn’t have the fortune of experiencing Final Fantasy VII when it came out, but after beating it for the first time just a couple of years ago, I can honestly say it changed my life. No villain has gripped me more than Sephiroth, no world has entranced me more than Gaia and, until I beat The Last of Us last week, no game could stand comfortably alongside Final Fantasy VII that I have ever played. Quite simply, it’s a masterpiece.
Final Fantasy VIII
Though Final Fantasy VII struck a chord with most, there are those that consider Final Fantasy VIII to be even better. Released just two years after VII, VIII boasted massive graphical improvements and doubled down on the science fiction aesthetic kickstarted by Final Fantasy VII. Even if you think Final Fantasy VIII is the weakest of the incredible trio on the PlayStation, it still deserves a spot amongst the console’s best and would add even more lengthy value to the PlayStation Classic lineup, especially considering that it hasn’t been re-released since the PlayStation 3.
Final Fantasy IX
As many people as there are who think that Final Fantasy VIII was even better than its predecessor, even more, including legendary Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi cite Final Fantasy IX as the peak of the series. As the last entry Sakaguchi personally oversaw, he designed it as a love letter to the history of the franchise that he had birthed on the original NES and that love and emotion shines through throughout the adventure. Without a doubt, Final Fantasy VII is the most essential entry on the PlayStation. But Final Fantasy IX is right there with it.
Final Fantasy Tactics
Not only did Final Fantasy have three phenomenal mainline games on the PlayStation, it also introduced its highly successful Tactics series which continued on the Game Boy Advance in the years that followed. Many consider Final Fantasy Tactics to be among the greatest Final Fantasy games ever made, even over the likes of Final Fantasy VIII and IX. And while I may not agree with that perspective, there’s no denying that Tactics brought a completely new and addicting playstyle to one of gaming’s most beloved franchises. It’s a slam dunk for the PlayStation Classic.
Gran Turismo 2
If you’re going to have a racing game on the PlayStation Classic beyond Crash Team Racing, Gran Turismo 2 should be the one. Blowing out the already incredible depth of the original Gran Turismo, GT 2 expanded on the original’s attention to detail making it one of the most addicting and important racing games ever released. Gamers agreed; the only games that outsold Gran Turismo 2 on the PlayStation were the original Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy VII.
This may be the biggest stretch of my collection, but I absolutely loved MediEvil. It wasn’t a runaway success, but it did have a cult following with gamers that still cite it today among their favorite games ever made. Its Tim Burton-esque aesthetics were infectious, its combat, while choppy, came with a certain satisfaction, and the RPG-like gear collection and upgrades provided it with a gratifying loop. I think people will be pleasantly surprised if it’s included, and even more will be impressed if they pick it up.
Metal Gear Solid
Is there really any doubt here? Other than Final Fantasy VII and maybe Gran Turismo 2, Metal Gear Solid is an essential for the PlayStation Classic. It shot the now legendary series into the mainstream and provided a cinematic scope that was really unprecedented. And the boss fights, especially the iconic encounter with Psycho Mantis, set a new bar that has still rarely been surpassed. Any game that focuses on character development, high-budget cinematics, and/or stealth-centered gameplay owes a huge debt to Metal Gear Solid.
Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus
Although it was Abe’s Oddysee that set the table for the haunting, fascinating and intriguing world of Oddworld, its follow-up Abe’s Exoddus improved so much on the foundation of the original, that it would be impossible to recommend its predecessor over it. Oddworld is one of the strangest and most interesting video game series ever made, and controlling the lovable Abe on his quest to save his people through Exoddus’ dangerous world is an essential PlayStation experience.
Resident Evil 2
No PlayStation collection would be complete without a Resident Evil entry, and though the original set the standard, many consider its follow-up to be the superior game. I’m torn on the matter myself, but considering the fact that Resident Evil 2 almost doubled the sales of its older sibling, it seems that PlayStation gamers aren’t. It’s interesting that the game is being rebuilt from the ground-up as we speak for its highly anticipated remake, but for those who missed out on the original experience, the PlayStation Classic would be a great place to try it out.
Spyro the Dragon
Super Mario 64 took the headlines, but for me, the Spyro trilogy is the premier destination for great platforming at the tail end of the ’90s. While Spyro the Dragon was later surpassed by one of its successors, it’s still a phenomenal game that boasts some of the greatest platforming level design I’ve ever seen. It also gives Spyro many opportunities for long flights, which are the most mechanically satisfying elements of the game. Each hub world was unique, memorable and lovingly crafted and the sense of progression is impressive.
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage
While I consider Spyro 2 to be the weakest entry in the trilogy, it’s still a fantastic game that outpaces just about every other platformer from the era. While the home worlds are fewer in number which stifles the sense of progression achieved by Spyro’s first and third outings, the levels themselves are packed with character and though some of the orb challenges can be arduous, the majority of them are good fun and offer much more variety than what could be found in the original game.
Spyro Year of the Dragon
Of all of the great platformers that came out on both the PlayStation and N64 during this time period, Year of the Dragon was the best. Boasting an unprecedented amount of variety thanks to the game’s five playable characters, a shockingly dark villain, several story developments that continually raise the stakes, and a brilliant incentive for saving all of the dragon eggs, Spyro Year of the Dragon is collect-a-thon platforming at its peak. If you’re going to include any platformers at all in the PlayStation Classic, this should be at the top of the list.
As you can see from this collection, the PlayStation was revolutionary for not only the number and quality of its games, but the variety of genres that made their home on the console. As Square broke new ground with Final Fantasy VII shooting into the mainstream, Resident Evil introduced the horror genre, and Gran Turismo turned racing games into heavily detailed realistic sims, the Tekken series redefined what a console fighter could be. As great as Tekken 2 was, Tekken 3 really broke through to a new level, becoming the fourth best-selling game on the console. Without a doubt it is an essential must-have for any PlayStation collection.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
As crazy as it may sound to those who weren’t there, for a lot of people the first name they think about when they hear the word PlayStation is Tony Hawk. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came at the peak of “extreme sports” fascination. In particular, the skateboarding craze was at the forefront of a lot of adolescent media and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater led the charge. Together, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1, 2 and 3 sold nearly 10 million copies on the PlayStation alone, before the series progressed to the PlayStation 2. And of that bunch, Pro Skater 2 was definitely the peak. It’s inclusion is non-negotiable.
Twisted Metal 2
Believe it or not, until Crash Bandicoot took the marquee space at E3 1996, Twisted Metal 2 was slated for that spot. And even though it wasn’t the revolution that Crash was, the Twisted Metal series had a strong following on the PlayStation as it offered yet another style of gaming, vehicular combat, that nobody else had. While the games themselves were fun, the real secret to Twisted Metal’s success was its ridiculously over-the-top cast led by the deranged Sweet Tooth, a homicidal clown with fire constantly burning his skull. The ’90s were a completely different age. Even so, the appeal of causing mass destruction in an ice cream truck would still strike a chord today, making Twisted Metal 2 a necessary inclusion.