While its current flow of releases has all but slowed to a trickle, there's no denying the Sony Entertainment Network has developed a healthy library of classic games over the past near-decade.
The only problem, then, lies in finding these fabled games. Thanks to the quirks of modern UI, unless a particular classic ends up in some featured section of the SEN marketplace, you'll only be able to find it by searching for its specific name. That's fine if you've got a hankering for a certain game, but not if you're in the mood to browse through the hundreds of oldies available. Somehow, sorting products by their respective platforms has become a technology lost to the ages.
Don't worry: Your friends at USgamer are here to help with this thorough examination of the classic games currently available on SEN. What follows isn't just a simple list, but rather a guide to PSN broken down into three categories: Essentials, games worth playing, and games to avoid. This piece will receive updates whenever new (well, old) games appear on SEN, so be sure to check back if a current release has piqued your interest!
Page 1: Intro & PlayStation Essentials
Page 2: PlayStation Worth Playing (Coming soon...)
Page 3: PlayStation Games to Avoid (Coming soon...)
Images courtesy of the Let's Play Archive and Hardcore Gaming 101.
Though its chunky polygons may look shockingly primitive today, Sony's PlayStation helped usher in the age of 3D gaming, and went on to dominate the 32-bit console generation with a library like no other. Playing the emulated versions of these classics won't give you too many perks over using the original hardware, but what's offered is certainly worthwhile—like virtual memory cards for each game, and screen-smoothing options to help make those jagged polygons more presentable. And if you're playing on a Vita, you'll have the added bonus of being able to configure the controls any way you want, which can really help with the awkwardness of early 3D games. But no matter which platform you choose for your classic PlayStation experience, you won't be able to rely on savestates—so be sure to save often (you know, the old way).
Arc the Lad II
Sony Computer Entertainment/Working Designs, 2002
The PlayStation's first-party RPG series—mercifully brought to the States by publisher Working Designs in 2002—hits a high point with this second installment. While the first Arc only took a few afternoons to cruise through, this fleshed-out sequel provides over 50 hours of fun for anyone who enjoys turn-and-tile-based battles. If you recently got into the genre thanks to the wonderful Fire Emblem, consider giving this one a shot.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain
Silicon Knights/Crystal Dynamics, 1996
Silicon Knights' legacy might be clouded in shame, but Blood Omen remains one of the best of their very few releases. Think of it as The Legend of Zelda for the mid-'90s PlayStation set, with the typical overhead combat, puzzles, and exploration coated with a thick layer of edginess. Blood Omen's darkness might be a little silly in retrospect, but it still holds up as a good PlayStation game, especially for 1996.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
If you're looking for a great PlayStation game to play, why not start with one of the greatest of all time? And that's not hyperbole—Symphony of the Night mixes the gothic style of past Castlevanias with a new, open-ended approach developers have been copying ever since. Dropping the tough-as-nails difficulty of the past games, SoTN places more of a focus on items and exploration for what stands as one of the finest entries in the series' 30-year legacy.
If you're looking for a faithful follow-up to the SNES' Chrono Trigger, look elsewhere: Cross deviates from its predecessor in just about every way you can image. But, taken on its own terms, this strange sequel stands up as an excellent RPG, with one of the best soundtracks of all time to boot.
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back
Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment, 1997
Since its 1996 debut, the Crash Bandicoot series has been farmed out to hell and back, but let's not forget these 3D platformers once had a serious amount of hype behind them. And the first sequel definitely stands out as the best of the bunch: It takes the straightforward gameplay of Crash's debut and refines it, while adding a few interesting features for good measure. Simply put, there's a reason Naughty Dog has hung in there as one of the best American developers over the past three hardware generations.
Final Fantasy Origins
If you're looking to play the first few Final Fantasy entries, but aren't sure if you can handle some of their more antiquated quirks, give this compilation a try. Collecting both Final Fantasy I and II, Origins modernizes some of their more tedious elements, while still allowing them to feel very much like old-school RPGs. Definitely the most painless way to get a lesson in RPG history.
Final Fantasy Tactics
Square/Sony Computer Entertainment, 1998
Often considered the greatest strategy RPG of all time, Final Fantasy Tactics builds off of the Super Famicom's Tactics Ogre in just about every way imaginable, while adding plenty of trappings from the long-running Square series. The result is a very playable and extremely customizable experience that's received little competition during its nearly two decades of existence. While some prefer the vastly improved localization of the PSP port, that version also suffers from added loading times and visuals improperly squished to fit the wider aspect ratio of Sony's portable system.
Final Fantasy VII
While it might not be the most playable Final Fantasy on the PlayStation, part VII definitely stands as the most important, and remains a cultural touchstone for anyone who grew up during the '90s. To date, it remains Square's most popular game, which could explain why they're currently on their second attempt at expanding the VII universe. In any case, it's worth playing, if only to see what all the fuss is about.
Harvest Moon: Back to Nature
Victor Interactive Software/Natsume, 2000
If you've got a craving for the laid-back world of Harvest Moon but don't have access to the excellent indie Stardew Valley, look no further than Back to Nature. This alternate take on Harvest Moon 64 builds off the somewhat basic SNES debut for one of the more memorable takes on farm life the series has ever seen. If you haven't yet experienced the joys of petting digital chickens, start here.
Jumping Flash! 2
Exact/Sony Computer Entertainment, 1996
Jumping Flash!'s brilliant concept fully embraces the then-new world of polygonal gaming: In it, you're strapped into the cockpit of a robo-rabbit, and tasked with bounding through bizarre worlds. FPSes still have problems with platforming, but Jumping Flash! Absolutely nailed it 20 years ago by pointing the camera downwards while you're airborne. If you don't suffer from motion sickness, this sequel improves enough on the original to make it the worthier choice.
Klonoa: Door to Phantomile
Released at a time when side-scrolling mascot platformers were deader than disco, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile shouldn't exist—so be very happy it does. This ingenious puzzle platformer bucks the 32-bit era trend of growing complexity with a colorful romp through imaginative 2.5-D worlds. And, for as cute as it is, Klonoa isn't afraid to break your heart: Be sure to have the Kleenex ready for its unexpectedly bittersweet story.
Mega Man Legends 2
True, you might not want to start with Legends 2 if you're looking to play through the entirety of Capcom's trilogy, but this sequel overhauls the clunky controls of the first game for a far less frustrating experience. Legends might not be the Mega Man game you're expecting, but its more adventure-y qualities make it unlike any other take on the character out there. After playing it, don't be surprised if you start pining for a sequel along with the rest of us.
Metal Gear Solid
After nearly a decade of absence in America, Metal Gear returned in 1998 to become one the most popular and influential games of all time. While its abundance of narrative may grow more tedious as the years stretch on, the original Metal Gear Solid absolutely stands as an essential PlayStation game—if not the essential PlayStation game. And thanks to its impeccable sense of design, Hideo Kojima's blockbuster holds up extremely well close to 20 years later.
The Misadventures of Tron Bonne
While it may exist as the oddball of the Mega Man Legends trilogy, the charming Misadventures of Tron Bonne's collection of various game types is still worthwhile. In fact, it's a bit like our modern interpretation of Metal Gear, involving base management, solider training, and raising funds for development. And it's all wrapped up in the delightful antics of the Bonne family: villains who are simply too good-hearted to be bad guys. It's frankly a miracle Tron Bonne is available on SEN, so show your gratitude to the Capcom Gods by giving it a try.
Namco Museum Volume 1
Of all the Namco collections, this one might contain the most notable (or important) arcade games by the Japanese developer, with Pac-Man, Galaga, and Pole Position featured as the standouts of this collection. And, as is the case with every Namco Museum, the extras, options, and adorably awkward 3D framing device makes the whole experience worthwhile. Plus, there's bound to be some Toy Pop fans who were waiting for that game to have its moment in the sun...
Namco Museum Volume 3
You also can't go wrong with this third volume of the Namco museum, with notable hits including Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dig, and Galaxian. Plus, you can finally see what all the fuss over Tower of Druaga is about... before quickly becoming baffled and angry. For the most part, you can find Namco's greatest American hits in volume 1 and 3, though you can always explore the rest of the museum series to check out oddities like Baraduke and Dragon Buster.
Square followed up the colossal success of Final Fantasy VII with this modern-day "cinematic RPG" based on a Japanese sci-fi novel, and it's one of their more interesting experiments to date. Clocking in at just a dozen (or so) hours, Eve stands as a refreshingly economical RPG that mixes familiar Square mechanics with the creepy, pre-rendered corridors of Resident Evil. To date, Square hasn't been able to produce a worthwhile sequel, making Eve's debut the standout of the series.
Resident Evil 2
While the original Resident Evil stands out for being so influential and iconic, the follow-up's improvements and increase in scope make it the more worthwhile experience. True, it's still survival horror, meaning you'll be tasked with managing limited resources and fumbling with awkward controls, but a restarted development cycle allowed director Hideki Kamiya and his team to create a much more refined take on the original. Plus, the very cool "Zapping System" lets you play through a second time via the eyes of the other protagonist—an ambitious little invention Capcom hasn't revisited since.
Rockman 2: Dr. Wily no Nazo
Ah, the immortal battle of Mega Man 2 vs. Mega Man 3... So, which one is better? When you can have both, who really cares? This Japan-only PlayStation port of Mega Man 2 presents the classic platformer you know and love, with some inessential extras that are still fun to mess around with. Granted, you're better off getting the Mega Man Legacy Collection if you own a newer console, but there's nothing wrong with this version.
Rockman 3: Dr. Wily no Saigo!?
Mega Man 3 takes the smart improvements from the second game and expands on them even further, giving Capcom's blue hero a new slide move and a robo-dog to assist him with various tasks. While it may be piling on a little too much, part 3 feels like the logical end of the Mega Man series—which obviously didn't happen for another few decades.
Konami took survival horror in a different direction with the enigmatic Silent Hill, which converted the punctuated surprises of the Resident Evil series into a sense of pervasive dread. The sequel might be the standout of the series, but Silent Hill's debut remains an interesting game, one that uses the technical limits of the PlayStation to its advantage with an ever-present fog surrounding the main character. While you may have to grapple with some awkward controls, getting to experience Silent Hill's twisted world is more than worth it.
Street Fighter Alpha 3
With so many Street Fighter Alpha games to choose from on the PlayStation (well, three), you may be wondering which one's the best. Unsurprisingly, it's the last one: Street Fighter Alpha 3. While the PlayStation was never known as a 2D powerhouse, this conversion feels just like the arcade game, with enough extras thrown in to justify a home release. Even if you don't associate the PlayStation with 2D fighters, the quality of Alpha 3 will surprise you.
Formerly one of the more expensive games on the PlayStation—thanks to its limited release—the great Suikoden II is now available for all to enjoy on SEN. While other Suikoden entries have their charms, part two stands as the best execution of the sprawling, 108-character concept. And while its 2D graphics were once considered a 16-bit throwback, they've aged much better than their pre-rendered and polygonal contemporaries.
Whoopee Camp/Sony Computer Entertainment, 1998
Coming into being during a very bad time for 2D platformers, the quirky Tomba! rethinks this old genre by giving its pink-haired cave boy a dense, quest-filled colorful world to romp through. At some points, it may be a little too aimless for its own good, but anyone interested in Metroidvania-style games will definitely find Tomba! appealing.
Um Jammer Lammy
NanaOn-Sha/Sony Computer Entertainment, 1999
A few years after the delightful Parappa the Rapper, developer NanaOn-Sha followed up their efforts with Um Jammer Lammy, which changed the focus of their rhythm series from rap to rock. Unfortunately, this bizarre and brilliant work of art never quite found an audience, possibly because the marketing downplayed Parappa's involvement when they could have mentioned he was not only playable, but also had five unique rap remixes of Lammy's tracks. Definitely a wholly unique game, but watch out for that input lag if you're using an HDMI connection.
The complexity of Vagrant Story may be a little cumbersome at times, but there's really nothing else like it. A wholly Yasumi Matsuno (Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII) experience, this RPG builds off the enemy encounters of Parasite Eve for a clever mix of real-time and turn-based fighting. And since knowing the ins and out of its deep customization system is essential to success, you'll definitely want to keep a guide handy to get the most out of Vagrant Story.
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