The lights are on
The launch of the PlayStation 4 is nearly upon us. Plenty of our favorite series are getting new PS4 entries, but the console also comes with the exciting promise of new franchises like Knack. We looked back at Sony’s first console and all the system-defining games it supported following its 1994 launch. These titles were not only required playing for gamers, but became successful franchise moving passed the PlayStation/Nintendo 64 generation. From Tony Hawk to Tomb Raider, these are some of the biggest franchises to get their start on the original PlayStation.
Twisted Metal – 1995
The vehicular combat genre gained mainstream popularity with the debut of David Jaffe’s Twisted Metal. The quirky title pits characters against one another including a psychotic clown driving an ice cream struck and a renegade cop driving a squad car. The simple premise, multiplayer, and nutty vehicle variety made Twisted Metal a hit on the PlayStation. The formula improved dramatically with Twisted Metal 2, then again on the PlayStation 2 with Twisted Metal: Black. The PS3 version may not have made waves, but that can’t undo the legacy of destruction that started on Sony’s console.
Tomb Raider – 1996
Lara Croft’s first adventure set the foundation for the long-running series. She explores dangerous ruins hunts for treasure, battles wolves and dinosaurs, and shows off her acrobatic prowess. A handful of iterative sequels expanded her adventures over the years, but the series slowly slipped from relevancy due to the varying quality of each entry. This year Lara returned in a much needed series reboot. This new vulnerable Lara and her quest for survival on a mysterious island captivated gamers and renewed our appreciation for the series almost two decades later. (Editor's note: Tomb Raider also released on Sega Saturn and PC, but given the PlayStation's popularity we decided to highlight this here)
Resident Evil – 1996
Capcom coined the survival horror genre alongside the release of Resident Evil. This moody, atmospheric title traps players in a zombie-infested mansion with limited ammo and health supplies. Where most action games focused on bigger guns and higher body counts, Resident Evil pulled in fans with its lethal encounters and ruthless scares. The series stayed close to these roots until the more action-packed Resident Evil 4 hit the GameCube, plotting a new gonzo course for the franchise. The clunky controls of the original PlayStation titles may not have aged well, but nothing will tarnish our memories of those close calls and jump scares.
Spyro the Dragon - 1998
One of Insomniac Games’ first titles ever stars a little purple dragon with a ‘tude tasked with saving his kin. The colorful worlds, chipper music, and inventive gliding mechanic made Spyro one of the PlayStation’s premier platformers. The franchise changed developers after three great PlayStation games and quality began to sag. The little winged hero has come a long way since his PlayStation days and gained a lot of new friends in the Skylanders series. Spyro may just be one collectible character among many in Toys For Bob’s big money maker, but we’ll always remember his early solo adventures.
Crash Bandicoot – 1996
Long before Naughty Dog created Uncharted or The Last of Us, the developer christened the PlayStation’s platforming presence with Crash Bandicoot. Crash’s adventure included the 16-bit generation’s familiar side-scrolling action, but also implemented 3D-scrolling levels. The unique perspective had Crash running either towards or away from the camera while avoiding hazards and collecting tiki masks. Crash Bandicoot wasn’t the genre-defining feat that Super Mario 64 was, but got the job done for PlayStation-owning platformer fans.
Grand Theft Auto – 1997
Before DMA Design became Rockstar North, the team created a PC/PlayStation title called Grand Theft Auto. This top-down game established the fundamentals still seen in today’s entries. Players carjack vehicles, accept open world missions, and gain attention from the police as they raise hell. Most gamers came to love the GTA series when it went 3D in the third game, but it wouldn’t have ever happened without this PlayStation classic.
Gran Turismo – 1998
Sony showed how seriously they take racing with this PlayStation title. Gran Turismo gathers a huge variety of car licenses and vehicles under a single roof. Realistic car handling satisfied gearheads hungry for a more realistic simulation. Gran Turismo was also among the most visually stunning games on the console. The series has lost some ground to Microsoft’s Forza franchise over the years, but still manages to be an important property for Sony.
Tenchu – 1998
Acquire kicked off its third-person ninja series with Tenchu: Stealth Assassins. Unlike previous ninja games like Shinobi or Ninja Gaiden, Tenchu guided these stealthy warriors away from the frontlines and back into the shadows. Players uses poison rice cakes, sneaky kills, and patience to get past sentries. The series struggled to live up to the reception of the original PlayStation title as titles of wavering quality released over the years. Despite its fading relevance, protagonist Rikimaru deserves credit for returning ninjas to their traditional role as covert agents.
Silent Hill – 1999
The PlayStation marked the beginning of not only one, but two of the biggest horror franchises ever. Konami released Silent Hill a few years after Resident Evil. It features similar conventions like limited save opportunities and rare resources, but carved its own path with more outlandish creatures and a shifting normal/hell world. The series’ potency dwindled over the years, but Silent Hill helped cement the PlayStation as a go-to source for scares.
Medal of Honor – 1999
The famous Medal of Honor franchise began as a collaboration between EA and Steven Spielberg to create a grounded WWII shooter inspired by Saving Private Ryan. This first-person shooter was one of the first to support the analog sticks of Sony’s DualShock controllers. The story-driven trek through Nazi-infested Europe set the ground work for the plethora of other military FPSs that would flood the market in the following years. Call of Duty is top dog today, but Medal of Honor paved the way.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater – 1999
PlayStation owners got a significant head start with the Tony Hawk series compared to Nintendo 64 fans. The game tasks players with skating through levels including a school and a mall while hunting down collectibles and performing tricks. The timed skate time, easy to learn controls, and trick variety kept both skaters and non-skaters engaged. Activision would proceed to squeeze every coin out of the license until releasing the disastrous Tony Hawk: Ride.
Important Series Reboots
These series didn’t get their official starts on the PlayStation, but were significant enough evolutions of their respective formulas that we want to mention them.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – 1997
The Belmont clan’s previous missions to kill Dracula almost always involved swinging whips and progressing through sequential levels. The half-vampire Alucard and his quest to kill his father, Dracula, was the biggest change up the series underwent since the NES original. Players use vampiric abilities like mist, bat, and wolf forms to explore the castle Metroid-style. Loot and a leveling system deepened the experience with satisfying persistent progression. Symphony of the Night spawned a lineage of equally impressive GBA and DS games. We’ll never forget the first time we popped the disc in a CD player and heard Dracula say “You have inserted a PlayStation black disc…”
Final Fantasy VII - 1997
The previous NES and SNES Final Fantasy games that were released in America were engrossing epics with complex battle systems. Final Fantasy VI is considered among the best 16-bit RPGs ever made. Despite how impressive FF VI, the beloved franchise’s leap to the PlayStation was staggering. The gorgeous prerendered environments, stylized 3D character models, and deep well of content kept FF VII discs spinning in PlayStations for years. Our game clocks may max out at 99:99, but for many that was just a drop in the bucket.
Metal Gear Solid – 1998
The Metal Gear series started with titles on the NES and MSX systems. But Solid Snake didn’t become the icon he is today until Konami released Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation. This multi-disc stealth adventure featured some of the best voice acting video games had at the time and took its story and characters seriously. For its time, the sneaking gameplay in Metal Gear Solid was considered the absolute best. Metal Gear Solid became such a defining entry in the PlayStation’s library, that Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty became one of the first must-own titles for the PS2. The series clung closely to Sony over the years, with MGS IV staying exclusive to the PS3. MGS V marks the first multiplatform launch for a new entry.