Earlier this week, the PS1 (or PSX for our US readers) turned 20 years old since its Japanese birth in 1994. Think about that, we’ve been playing PlayStation for 20 years. There have been some incredible innovations and games from the multiple generations of PlayStation. But let’s take a look at seven of the most influential brands that shaped the original PS1’s success and turned the gaming world upside-down.
7: Gran Turismo
Racing cars and video games have gone hand in hand for as long as we can remember. But they were always very much experiences set in a fictional world of kart racers or repetitive scrolling roads. Then Gran Turismo happened. The handling was more realistic than anything that had come before. The graphics seemed as close to reality as we thought possible (hey, we were all young once) and the number of cars and tracks included meant that the experience lasted for months, even years. No other console was even attempting to do things Polyphony were doing and the PS1’s sales soared accordingly.
6: Final Fantasy VII
It may well be the seventh game, but this title introduced a series and a whole genre to millions of gamers, myself included. For hours I had no idea what was going on every time I got into a fight. Why can’t I move? I want to attack now! Stop hitting me! How was I to know that turn-based combat was about to take over my life as I spent 60 hours hammering through the adventure, and then over 100 hours on a second playthrough? The RPG genre’s continued existence in such a popular state in the gaming world owes a huge debt to this masterpiece. Now, about that remake...
For years, arcade machines were known as having better graphics than the home consoles. So when a game came along that matched the arcade cabinet experience in your home, gamers bought it in spades. We are of course talking about Tekken. The 3D graphics of Namco’s brawler left jaws on the floor and arguably started the decline of the arcade scene. Why pump money into a machine when you can have an unlimited experience at home? It didn’t matter that Street Fighter II was the better game; this was in 3D and rocked people faces back in the day. Cool people remember Virtua Fighter as the best brawler though, right?
It’s not just the then-incredible graphics, or the stunning track design or that intuitive handling with independent air brakes and nose tilting that made WipEout on the most essential racing brands ever made. This game played a huge role in the marketing of the PS1. Sony had loads of machines set up in night clubs all over the UK. The dance music soundtrack struck a strong chord with clubbers and the sharp design of the game’s aesthetics fit in nicely with the tunes. This was one of the pioneering titles that told the UK that this was a games machine for adults.
3: Crash Bandicoot
You still needed a healthy family-friendly audience too though. The PS1 was spoilt for choice with quality platformers. Spyro had huge open worlds way ahead of its time and was a delightful precursor to the likes of Ratchet & Clank or Jak & Daxter. Who knows where they’d all be without this odd little furball. The Crash Bandicoot series was one of the most heavily advertised on TV and led to tonnes of console sales. The 3D platformer didn’t have the open planes of Mario 64, but its fast-paced level design was a continued success throughout the PS1 generation. Things have been grim since, but perhaps a comeback is just around the corner?
2: Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider was never a PS1 exclusive, but you’d think it was back in the day. With sales of the mega-expensive Sega Saturn dropping, Lara Croft’s debut’s sales soared to insane levels on Sony’s machine. The series went on to continued success on the PS1 (and beyond with Lucozade ads and mainstream press coverage) and the brand became synonymous with PlayStation for generations to come. Next year’s Rise of the Tomb Raider marks the end of the long-running relationship as it will be a timed-exclusive on Xbox One. No wonder people took it poorly.
1: The Dual Analogue Controller
A design that has truly stood the test of time. The dual analogue design proved to be one of the biggest innovations in control pad history and has continued to evolve over the years, but with only the slightest of changes, it’s essentially gaming’s version of the great white shark. Unless you like your left analogue stick and d-pad swapped around like on Xbox platforms that is. The second stick has been used extensively in FPS titles, driving games and third-person action titles. Would it kill Sony to get Ape Escape back on the dev cycle again too?
By honourable mentions, I probably mean shameful omissions. The PS1 of course had loads of classic brands which formed key parts of our gaming past and also lead the way in their genres. Just look at Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Or the rebirth of Solid Snake in the incredible Metal Gear Solid. Dammit, Colin McRae Rally -the daddy of rally games! Tony Hawk! Grandia! GTA! Arghh, no I’ve changed the Top 7 enough already. As ever, be sure to let us know your thoughts.