The Sony PlayStation (PSX, PS, or PS1) and the Nintendo 64 (N64) were loaded with great and memorable games. PlayStation was trying to make its mark on an industry that had been previously dominated by Nintendo and Sega, while the N64 was developed to follow in the footsteps of the juggernaut that was the SNES.
So, how did the PS1 come out on top?
Realistically, there were a lot of factors that led to the PS1 becoming the system that sold more consoles. Still, if it was the games that made the difference, I’d bet that it was some of these.
Gran Turismo 2
Gran Turismo 2 was a fantastic sequel and a great racing game. You could obtain hundreds of different cars throughout the game, customize them, and race them in all kinds of competitions.
Gran Turismo 2 did have a couple of dull spots, though, like having to get licenses to take part in certain races. Other than that it was fast, fun, and had enough content to keep you coming back for more.
Personally, I loved the endurance races because you could spend over an hour ripping through an area in a souped-up car and lapping the bots.
In terms of quality and depth, this game did a lot to ensure that people would rather fire up their PS1 than go for some of the racing titles on N64. (I still love you, Mario Kart 64).
The Legend of Dragoon
Although it sold over 1,000,000 copies, I think it’s still fair to say that The Legend of Dragoon was overshadowed by many other JRPGs on the PS1. That being said, the reason that I put this game here is that it was innovative, and that’s something that gave PS1 an edge.
The combat was actually engaging because you got a bonus strike for timing your attack and pressing your X button. Best of all, you got the “dragoon” form which gave your character a cool transformation and enabled magic in the game. The story was pretty decent, too.
When you add in the great cutscenes and music, you come away with a complete game that doesn’t have Square, Enix or Konami on the label. If the small studios were able to put out games like this, it’s no wonder that N64 games had trouble measuring up.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
The story in Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver has a lot going on. You’re betrayed, tortured, killed, revived, and then given a new purpose in the first 10 minutes of the game. From there, you take control of the vampire wraith, Raziel, and you have to fight your way across a dying landscape to take down Kain.
The game had a very unique world where you would go between the spectral realm and the land of the living to fight monsters, solve puzzles, and fight some awesome beasts.
The graphics weren’t fantastic, but the game designers made the most of them. Soul Reaver was dark and gloomy, the voice-overs were memorable, and the atmosphere was enhanced by a brooding soundtrack.
Titles like this showcased the versatility of the PS1, and demonstrated that the system could handle somewhat complex action-adventure games with ease (and without a convoluted controller).
Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid changed gaming for me because it was the first game I played that had a stealth mechanic. I was so used to other games where the only reason I stopped shooting at my enemies was to reload.
This game had some very interesting gameplay that relied on keeping your head down and weaving through levels while avoiding detection. Not only did this help popularize the stealth genre, but it worked some innovative mechanics into the gameplay that had not been done as successfully in older titles.
The music was reminiscent of spy movies, and sometimes it didn’t help to have it playing in a situation when you’re running for your life.
Personally, my favorite part of the game was the boss battles. I loved the whole Psycho Mantis schtick (I won’t ruin it for you) and Metal Gear Rex fight, even though I got killed more than a few times because I honestly sucked at this game.
Metal Gear Solid started a whole new series of Metal Gear games and inspired the genre, something that makes it stand head and shoulders above N64 titles like Winback.
I could go on…
PS1 managed to top N64 in sales for a lot of reasons, and one of them was that the PlayStation had a large number of games that were simply top-notch like the ones I talked about here.
That’s not to say that N64 didn’t have some of the best games, though. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was one of the best games of that decade, and Goldeneye 007 changed the way that people everywhere played shooters. It just helps when you can get a system like the PS1 knowing that it has a lot of great games from each genre.