Rock & Roll is the devil’s music
Sony’s inaugural console had a pretty deep library, so it’s no wonder the list of standout titles is so long. However, the PS1 is also well-trodden territory now. Also, I don’t really like Metal Gear Solid, and I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about how Metal Gear Solid wouldn’t be on my top 10 list of games. Plus, you probably already know what you think about Metal Gear Solid.
So rather than being insincere, I’m just going to talk about 10 games you should play on your PS1 if you haven’t already. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but let’s start with these and then you can get back to me.
Um Jammer Lammy
Parappa the Rapper is a staple of the PS1 library. When I think of its most prominent titles, it sticks out. But the PS2’s 2001 title, Parappa the Rapper 2, wasn’t the follow-up, it was actually Um Jammer Lammy. Instead of following the lyric spewing dog(?), you play as Lammy, the riff-rocking lamb.
It’s quirkier than the original, and while there’s nothing quite as good as Cheep Cheap’s rap, the soundtrack is overall a bit better. The only problem is that the North American version changed the part where Lammy is sent to Hell. Rock & Roll is the devil’s music, after all.
Rogue Trip Vacation 2012
After a confusing series of contracts and acquisitions, Singletrac, the original creators of Twisted Metal were unceremoniously ripped away from the series following Twisted Metal 2. They went to make a range of games before they were closed down. One of these was a similar vehicular combat game titled Rogue Trip: Vacation 2012.
While the premise still involves cars flinging missiles at each other, it also includes a monetary system that allows you to trade cash earned from shuttling around tourists for upgrades. Was it better than Twisted Metal 2? No. Vigilante 8? Not really. But is it a better option than Twisted Metal 3? Most definitely.
This one is a bit more high-profile, but I feel like a lot of people still missed it. It’s a Squaresoft title, but while they would normally lean into fantasy, Parasite Eve is more contemporary. It’s still an RPG, but while it uses an active-time system, it allows you to move in realtime. It’s also stylish as hell, full of melty people and flesh monsters. It goes in a few batshit directions when it comes to narrative, but works as a disaster plot. I just wish it would have cooled it with all the talk about mitochondria. It gets a little Kojima-esque with its exposition at times, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.
I really don’t know why EA chose to just call this one Road Rash, as it’s not a remake of the original, and it came out on the 3DO before Road Rash 3 hit the Genesis. Regardless, it’s probably one of the best titles in the series if you don’t find Road Rash 64 side-splittingly hilarious. While the gameplay follows the same formula, it plays a bit smoother on 32-bit consoles, and I feel that’s sort of key. It also had some really tacky cutscenes, which is a good taste of how tasteless that era of gaming was.
Army Men Air Attack 2
I talk about the Army Men series often, and whenever I do, someone usually says, “Oh yeah, I liked the helicopter one.” There wasn’t a single helicopter one. If you only count original titles and exclude some markedly different ports, there were three of them: Air Tactics, Air Attack, and most importantly, Air Attack 2. Yes, a lot of people talk about Air Attack and don’t even realize there was a direct sequel.
There was, and there’s nothing wrong with it. The plot is extremely goofy, but the gameplay is the same action-heavy helicopter action lifted from the Strike series (Desert Strike, Jungle Strike, etc.). If you liked “the helicopter one” you should probably play this one.
Okay, so we didn’t exactly get Moon over here in North America until 2020, but it’s one of the first examples of Love-de-Lic’s formula of helping people for the good feels. It’s technically a parody of the typical RPG, containing no real combat and the simple goal of spreading altruism about. While Love-de-Lic would only release three games before disbanding, the feel-good formula would be carried on by its star players in games like Chibi-Robo and Chulip.
Medal of Honor Underground
If there’s one area that the N64 trounced the PS1, it was in first-person shooters. While Goldeneye 007 and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter haven’t aged the greatest, what did the Playstation have? Not none, but while I can list off quite a few decent N64 games in the genre, with the PS1 it’s a bit more difficult without adding the caveat “I guess.” Medal of Honor, however, is easy to appreciate since it helped launch the WWII shooter sub-category that dominated the shooter space after.
Medal of Honor: Underground is one you might have missed, however. A big score for me was its female protagonist, Manon Baptiste, but it also added enemy tanks and friendly soldiers to the mix. It isn’t necessarily better than the original, but it is more of the same that you might not have already experienced.
Another one of Squaresoft’s often-overlooked PS1 titles, Vagrant Story is a ridiculously deep RPG with a number of intricate systems all mashed together. It’s something that shouldn’t work, almost doesn’t, but somehow does. It actually won a bunch of awards from various publications, but unfortunately released alongside games like Final Fantasy IX and Chrono Cross. Because of that, Vagrant Story is unfortunately left out of many discussions of Squaresoft’s glory days. We’re long overdue for a remaster.
In the wake of Dark Souls’ success, the often-overlooked King’s Field series has been re-examined. The localized King’s Field for PS1 is technically the Japanese King’s Field 2. It’s a shame we never got the first one, but the second title presents the same dungeon-crawling goodness. Although it was the inspiration for FromSoftware’s later hit, Demon’s Souls, you shouldn’t go in expecting the same experience. Dark and murky, sure. Sometimes cryptic, yeah. However, it shares more with early PC dungeon crawlers than it does with later FromSoftware titles.
The progenitor to the “Little Tail Bronx” series by Cyberconnect, Tail Concerto technically shares the same floating universe as Solatorobo: Hunter the Red and Fuga: Melodies of Steel. Each game is a little labor of love which makes it all the more confusing that you can only really download Fuga these days. The second-hand market has Tail Concerto, in particular, pegged at a ridiculous price.
Is it worth it? I’d probably argue that no game is worth as much as a North American copy of Tail Concerto, but it’s still one you should check out if you can. Bright, charming graphics, a simple but unique narrative, and inventive gameplay that harkens back to a simpler time. It’s just unfortunate that it’s so short.