The fifth generation made the jump to 3D and started using CDs to store larger amounts of game data than ever before. This meant that many of the modern mechanics we take for granted had to be conceived and explored. How to navigate a 3D space, what to do with CD music, and how to get games accepted by all ages were questions the Playstation had unique answers for. Let’s go over the most influential games from Sony’s first system.
F-Zero was a speedy, futuristic racer back in 1990, but Wipeout’s polygons and modern soundtrack felt fresh and exciting. It released one year later on the Saturn, but not before it gave the Playstation a must have title and a fantastic launch game for Europe and the rest of the world.
Wipeout’s use of alternative electronica licensed tracks not only fit the tone perfectly, but was the first to prove how important the CD medium would be to home consoles.
Sony finally got the mascot they needed to match Mario and Sonic. Like Sonic, Crash had more attitude and personality than Mario, but was more self aware and had a much better sense of humour. Sony found a gem of a comedian to play Crash in their hilarious commercials too.
Check out these outtakes
Sega, Nintendo, and Sony all took a stab at what 3D gaming would be. Sony’s method was to have 3D characters in a 3D environment running on rails to limit what they needed to design.
Nintendo’s free roaming Mario 64 would become the standard, but Crash gave many Playstation gamers their first taste of 3D platforming.
The Playstation significantly upped the cool factor of gaming and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was one of the coolest.
The overall package felt authentic to skate culture as both skateboarding and gaming were becoming more accepted by the mainstream. Soon after its release, millions of gamers knew what a pop shove it was.
The gameplay was tight enough on its own, but the CD format allowed for a large punk soundtrack featuring the Dead Kennedy’s, and TWO bands with names about suicide. This solidified THPS into pop culture.
Namco’s support for the Playstation was instrumental in Sony’s success over the Sega Saturn.
While Sega had incredible arcade hardware powering Virtua Fighter and plenty of fighting and racing games, Namco fought back with their cheaper alternative: the System 22 Arcade System Board that was designed to port nicely to the Playstation.
Ridge Racer and Tekken were important titles designed for this hardware that proved Sony could bring Arcade experiences home. This was the generation that eventually killed arcades, and these two titles were a huge part of that.
Sony was targeting an older crowd than Nintendo, and Resident Evil’s horror fit the bill. The CD format allowed for hours of dialogue, a haunting score, and gorgeous pre-rendered backgrounds.
This was a brand new genre and the level of cinematic storytelling was revolutionary at the time. It spawned far too many terrible clones with even cheesier dialogue.
Resident Evil gave the Playstation an experience Nintendo couldn’t provide until….
…Capcom pulled off an incredible feat and managed to port RE2 to the N64. It took 20 people, a million dollars, and the largest cartridge (64MB) to do it. The FMV and backgrounds were blurrier but the 3D character models were smoother. The resolution was also dynamic and would change depending on how many character models were on screen and whether or not the expansion pack was used.
Some form of Resident Evil ended up on the Saturn, PC, and N64, but Playstation had this groundbreaking experience first.
Gran Turismo released in 97/98 but development started way back in 1992!
The best selling Playstation game of all time took a whopping five years to produce its realistic visuals, attention to detail, and real-life physics. Producer and Designer Kazunori Yamauchi described the process:
“It took five years. In those five years, we could not see the end. I would wake up at work, go to sleep at work. It was getting cold, so I knew it must be winter. I estimate I was home only four days a year.”
Like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Gran Turismo authentically translated the culture of tuning and racing into a videogame, and looked ridiculously good while doing it.
Metal Gear Solid immediately raised the bar for voice acting and cinematic presentation in a video game. The incredible direction and presentation squeezed out of the original Playstation is best represented by Snake’s face.
Look at this. Instead of eyes, we get the pixellated suggestion of eyes. It was very off-putting when I first laid my non-pixellated eyes on it, but by the grace of Kojima, it all came together as a cohesive whole. I bought into the tone and was immersed in Shadow Moses and the wacky universe where hardcore military characters functioned right alongside levitating mindreaders and giant shaman.
MGS incorporated so many clever mechanics that had never been seen before. The Pycho Mantis and Sniper Wolf boss fights were exceptional, and the entire experience felt like a playable action movie.
When I first beat it, I put my controller down and paused to reflect on the experience I just had. That was the first time I had ever done that and the memory will stick with me until I’m senile.
The SNES dominated the RPG genre with a gluttony of incredible Square games. Chrono Trigger, The Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, and of course the Final Fantasy series were all stellar classics that are still worth playing today.
Square was originally going to bring Final Fantasy VII to Nintendo’s next console, but ultimately went with Sony’s CD format.
The hype was unprecedented. The CGI commercials looked so unbelievable that all of a sudden, everyone knew about Final Fantasy. It became the #2 all-time best selling PS1 game and must have sold millions of consoles by itself.
Square worked with Hollywood-level visual artists to create the cutting edge CGI used in the cutscenes and commercials. They needed three discs to cram everything in. It was my first and favorite Final Fantasy, and I’m sure that’s true for millions more.
I still listen to the soundtrack while writing and played through it again when it hit the PS4, enjoying it just as much as the first time.
That’s my list, let me know if I missed any.