The PlayStation 1 had a ton of great games. But, the RPG genre really took off on this system.
Before you scroll down and roll your eyes at the #1 choice for the top PlayStation 1 RPG, I want you to know that making this list was one of the most involved projects I’ve done as a writer.
In my mind, no system comes close to the PSX in terms of the sheer number and quality of RPGs that were released. Looking at this list, which is still missing some quality games, you see several hundred hours of fun and action.
If you’re a retro gamer and you’re looking for something new to try, ignore the rankings. Play any of these games and you should have a fantastic experience.
Now, in terms of the games ranks. I did my best to organize the lower-ranked games, but some of them were too close to call between one or two numbers. However, when you get to the top 10 PlayStation 1 RPGs on this list, those were carefully placed.
31. Ehrgeiz: Forsaken Dungeon
Did you know that there was a Final Fantasy fighting game on the PlayStation 1? Ehrgeiz was a really cool, but flawed, fighting game that had a secondary playing mode called Ehrgeiz: Forsaken Dungeon.
How does a game with about 10 hours of content get onto the list of the top PlayStation1 RPGs? Well, the unique aspects of the game as a dungeon crawler set it apart in such a significant way that I can’t imagine creating a list without it.
The dungeon crawler let you take control of two different characters. If one of them died in the dungeon, the other could go and find their body and recover your gear. Speaking of equipment, this game was steeped in the world of Final Fantasy, with several familiar weapons, like Cloud’s Buster Sword and Sephiroth’s Masamune appearing in the game.
The story is weak and the gameplay is middling, but the connections to other games and the ability to take part in the wine selling market kept me occupied for hours.
30. Chocobo’s Dungeon 2
Chocobo’s Dungeon 2 came out during that time in my life where Square could release a game related to Final Fantasy and fans would gobble it up. Before the 100 spinoffs from FF7.
As the title suggests, you play as a Chocobo. You go treasure hunting with Mog, and things get a little out of hand. Before long, you’re helping to rescue people and bumping into other series mainstays like Cid.
The gameplay is pretty simplistic. You go through the dungeon to complete your quests and collect items. The combat wasn’t all that fantastic. It’s turn-based, and Chocobo can attack with magic or claws.
Now that I’ve taken a second look at the game after all these years, I see that the dungeons were really uninspired, too. Still, there is no denying that the music was catchy and the idea was fun. In fact, this wasn’t even the last game in the series, but it might be the best. Or it’s just my favorite.
29. World of Dragon Warrior: Torneko: The Last Hope
As someone who is a fan of Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest) games, Torneko: The Last Hope seemed like a cool side story to pick up. What I found was something a lot more interesting and complex.
The game picks up the story from Dragon Warrior IV, where Torneko was a member of the Hero’s party. Torneko returns home to help his village get rid of a curse that was placed there while he was away.
The concept of the game is silly because this chunky shopkeeper isn’t the kind of person you call upon to be a hero. That’s what made him one of my favorite main characters ever. He’s an older married dude that just happens to have ice water in his veins to get the job done. He’s not some young kid that gains superpowers.
The graphics weren’t the best, but the game featured over a hundred monsters that were hand-drawn, so that was a feat. The gameplay itself was more of a dungeon crawler RPG than a typical JRPG. It is very similar to Azure Dreams, for better or worse.
Every time you enter the dungeons, you start at level 1. It’s painful to get used to. The music is a little repetitive, the random dungeons can be annoying, and the hunger meter, as funny as it was, could be very aggravating.
All in all, it’s an interesting game that you should check out if you like the Dragon Warrior world or if you played Dragon Warrior IV.
28. Parasite Eve
If you learned nothing else in high school, you know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Building off that idea, Parasite Eve features a villain and protagonist with mutated mitochondria that gives them fantastic abilities that use Parasite Energy.
You fight around New York City because it’s the 1990s and that’s just what we did back then .The game had elements of the survival horror genre in there, too. The game had a dark atmosphere that helped me settle right into it. The cityscape and supernatural worked so well.
I think the most noteworthy part of this game is the combat. The combat is similar to an active time battle from Final Fantasy, so you can move around the field of battle while waiting for your turn to shoot enemies.
I also enjoyed the ability to develop your weapons so they’re stronger against certain enemies. While the graphics were nothing to write home about, the opening FMV was straight fire. All in all, this isn’t the best RPG, but it was a good one for sure!
27. Legend of Mana
Legend of Mana might be the outcast in the series, but it was still a fine game in its own right. I know it might not be a popular opinion, but I really liked the graphics style in this game. I mean, look how charming everything looks! The downside, of course, was that it lacked the 3D graphics that were all the rage at the time.
Of course, graphics aren’t everything, and this game had a lot to live up to. The story was interesting, but too fragmented for many players. You didn’t so much as plow through a story as you did weave together all the different storylines. Not helping matters was the fact that you could technically finish the game without having to finish all the previous arcs.
So, we were left with a somewhat interesting story, some very pleasant musical tracks, and a combat system that kept you on your toes. That is in sharp contrast to some of the other JRPGs at the time that you could mindlessly tap X and finish. This was a good game, and maybe it’s better than this rank shows.
26. Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu
If you want to talk about games that had a lot of potential, then Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu was one of them. You play as Levant, a young man that becomes a “Cocoon Master” aka Pokemon trainer.
A great deal of your world is overrun by Minions, or monsters. Unfortunately, early in the game, your village is attacked and you’re one of the few remaining survivors not affected. Your job is to go out, catch minions, purify their spirits, and make use of them. You can train a monster to fight for you, combine them into new monsters, and even spin them into silk to sell if you don’t want multiples.
The game is unique, and not all of that is good. It has a rough translation that confused fans (like me) and the game was really short. All told, there are four major dungeons not counting the New game + area.
The combat in the game is mostly a rock, paper, scissors duel. Every monster has a type advantage, draw, and weakness. That system can be a little frustrating if you don’t pack the right minions. Speaking of minions, you could invite a friend over to fight in the multiplayer mode, but I don’t think I ever had another person play this game and stay into it long enough for that to happen.
One thing I loved about the game was the voice acting. For a PS1 game, it wasn’t bad. The pre-rendered backgrounds in the game were nice to look at, too. One thing that I will hate forever is the Dream Man. He beats the crap out of you and taunts you for the game’s opening. If you can get past that, though, there is a fun little game to play.
Back in the days before every action-adventure game was called a Diablo clone, we got a Diablo clone called Darkstone. This game could not have come with a less creative story. The evil Lord Draak, who can turn into a dragon, comes back after a long time and it’s up to you to kill him.
But, the game still managed to be fun and entertaining because it had such interesting gameplay. You could take on the standard warriors, wizards, thieves, and monks, each of which has a male and female counterpart.
I really enjoyed the thief because they could throw knives and actually steal from monsters. The maps weren’t these confined dungeons like in Diablo, either. Several of them were wide open spaces where you could steal from the mobs and go back and sell the stuff. Eventually, you could buy some decent stuff.
The graphics weren’t the stuff of legends, but you had a blocky character and enemies rendered in 3D. The dungeon designs were a little repetitive, but all in all, the game was fun.
An interesting part about the game was the music. On your way out of the main hub town, there was a woman who you could pay to sing for you. Next to her was a lute player. Yet, if you listen to the whole song with all its painful lyrics, you’ll hear backing vocals, drums, guitars, and bass. It was one of the most interesting moments in the game.
Darkstone didn’t break any records for originality or sales, for that matter. However, it was a fun game to play.
24. Breath of Fire III
I didn’t expect to see Breath of Fire III this far down the list. Sometimes, you have to take off those rose-tinted glasses and look at a game for what it is and not how it made you feel.
The story is a little bland. You can see the twists and betrayals coming a mile away, for the most part. I loved the start of the game, though. Ryu trying to play Robin Hood and getting the life beat out of him was not something I saw coming.
In true JRPG fashion, though, the story goes way off the rails entirely too fast for its own good. The player has to deal with some pretty hefty time jumps that disconnect you from the story. The plot is also complicated by the fact that your enemies go from thieves and bullies to frickin’ deities in the blink of an eye.
I won’t ruin the surprise, but there is a way to end the game on such a sour note in terms of story that it might make you twist your controller in half in sheer frustration.
Aside from the story, the game had above average traits. The music was quirky but not overly memorable. The battles were always interesting with the character’s abilities, especially Ryu, but they also had the tendency to be very slow.
Overall, the game is solid but it could have used a little more work outside of the art and story to make it feel complete.
23. Wild Arms 2
Do you like John Wayne movies? Do you like JRPGs? Then you’ll love Wild Arms 2. Personally, I found some of the naming conventions to be a little hilarious in this game, such as the evil organization being Odessa.
Anyway, the story is a little out there, but you can’t help but love it. You’re in an Old-West setting that manages to integrate monsters, demons, and various levels of technology. It’s like Wild Wild West, but good.
The combat was something that I enjoyed. It wasn’t completely revolutionary, but the specialties of every character made battle fun. So, too, did the 3D graphics in battle which is odd because the rest of the game had a mix of 2D and 3D. Weird, right?
The game is heavy on the puzzles and scenarios that relied on the player using tools to get past them. I’ve never been a fan of puzzle games, but the rest of the game made up for it.
The graphics weren’t very good, but that wasn’t a problem. The game managed to create an atmosphere that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. Part of that atmosphere comes from the setting and another piece stems from the music. The battle theme still gets stuck in my head to this day!
22. Final Fantasy V
Am I cheating a little bit by including this game? Kinda, but it was the first official port of the game in English, and it arrived in 1999 as part of the Final Fantasy Anthology.
This game had a lot going for it, but the story wasn’t one of those things. Unfortunately, when you’re making an RPG, the story counts for a lot, so this game isn’t high on the list.
Still, anyone that played this game will remember the amazing job system that they had. Any character could be used in any situation, so you could completely balance your team or break the game with a bunch of GP-throwing ninjas.
The graphics were standard for a SNES game because, well, that’s what it was. The other downside was that the PlayStation port was slower than the SNES version. The same happened for Final Fantasy VI where getting into and out of the battle could take as long as the fight itself.
This game was good enough, but by the time it came to the PlayStation, we had collectively seen about four other entries in the series, each of them better than this one.
21. Brave Fencer Musashi
Some people went absolutely nuts over this game, but I was not one of them. If the game didn’t try so hard to be ridiculous with the names, like the Thirstquencher Kingdom, Gingerelle, and Flatski. I suppose the fact that the game had so much going for it and went with full-on absurdity was a tad disappointing.
I distinctly remember the great voice acting. At one point, Scribe Shanky says “O-h! Sir Musashi! Been waiting for you!” in the most asinine tone possible. The voices and cool setting, combined with the decent graphics, built up a fun atmosphere in the game.
The combat is where the game shined the most, in my opinion. Fights were action-based, so you didn’t wait for turns. You used weapons and magic powers to destroy your enemies. Some of them were really formidable, too. The Steam Knight near the beginning of the game was a serious monster to take on when your character is about three feet tall.
The game’s day and night schedule was interesting, as was the fatigue meter. The puzzles were neat, too, but every once in a while the graphics and color scheme in the game made them harder than they had to be. Overall, this is a solid RPG.
20. Dragon Warrior VII (Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past)
The sheer magnitude of Dragon Warrior VII made it one of the best games I’ve ever played on PSX. Summing it up here seems absolutely futile. You can easily put in 70-80 hours and still not do everything..
Starting out with the combat, I loved the class system in the game where you can develop your characters into powerful warriors, thieves, rangers, paladins, and more.
While we’re on the topic of characters, everyone remembers how this game lets you recruit people from the towns you visited to go live in Immigrant Town. I was enamored with this idea and I wanted as many characters as possible.
The game was great at making the party members feel like they were part of the world, and the world itself felt lived in. That’s something very hard for a game to do, but this game made it easy.
The world is huge, the quests are varied, and there is always another side quest or place to visit. The graphics were just alright, though, and that stopped a lot of people from liking it along with the fact that the story didn’t really take any risks.
Still, you can’t have a list of the best PSX RPGs and not include this game. If you’re not doing anything for a week, then you should give this game a shot.
The first Diablo game was released on PlayStation 1, and since I didn’t have a computer at the time, it was my first experience with the game. Anyone else that has played this game realizes now that it came with a very big drawback: crazy loading times. Seriously, a town portal spell was long enough for you to take a frickin’ nap.
The controls were a little clunkier, too. However, the game had the most important feature: you could sit on the couch and play with another person. No LAN connection, no online multiplayer. Just you and a friend sitting there slaying beasts on the way to hell.
Aside from the port benefits and drawbacks, the game was simply amazing. You descended into a cathedral in a town that was populated by stragglers, people too stupid to leave, and Deckard Cain.
The music, spooky graphics, and voice overs created an atmosphere like no other. The game’s light radius around your character along with the inability to see through doors allowed you to be ambushed by eager demons.
The isometric graphics and the perspective weren’t for everyone, but they worked for me. Diablo was a hell of a game and a solid port to the system.
18. Parasite Eve II
I’ve been saying for a while now that Parasite Eve II needs a sequel, and I’m not talking about something a little better than The Third Birthday.
The game picks up in the aftermath of the original, and it does everything better. The story is more fleshed out and breaks from a pretty common convention of the survival genre: making the first entry seem like it didn’t happen.
In fact, Aya Brea is now working with the government to suppress the neo-mitochondrial creatures that have appeared since the first game. You get powers with more development in this game as Aya gets more control over the Parasite Energy. You still get to take part in semi-turn-based combat while running around.
The graphics were actually decent in this game, and they were good enough to render some pretty crazy boss fights. It’s obvious that Square learned a lot from the first game. The developers even extended the game with Bounty Hunter, Scavenger, and Nightmare modes.
17. Final Fantasy VIII
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Final Fantasy VIII is often left out of the top PlayStation RPGs, but it shouldn’t be. The game took a sharp turn away from just about everything in Final Fantasy VII, and that is something the series needed.
The game focused a little too much on the romance and that turned people away. A lot of others didn’t like the fact that the monsters leveled with you and the entire junction system.
Still, the game had a lot of cool parts. For one thing, the graphics were an upgrade from FF7; some of the cutscenes were simply mind blowing. The combat focused on making use of each party member’s unique characteristics, specifically their limit breaks. The Guardian Forces, or summons, came with amazing graphics, even if they did get a little old after a while.
I liked that you had so many different ways to break the game such as using card battles, drawing magic, or messing around with the level system to maintain an advantage.
The story was wacky, there’s no two ways about that. Politics, assassinations, time travel, and sorceresses. It was a fun game in which you could comfortably sink 50 hours. Was it the best Final Fantasy? No, but I don’t like when people pretend it’s the worst.
16. Breath of Fire IV
Breath of Fire IV has a story that doesn’t mess around at all. There is a dude trying to become a god and destroy everything, and it’s up to you to stop him. I will say that the amount of amnesia that people get in this series is a tad annoying. Looking at you, Ryu.
The story takes a little while to get going, but it has most of the standard gathering of party members, figuring out Ryu’s abilities to turn into a dragon, and such. The coolest thing is that the game puts a lot of emphasis on the villain, Fou-Lu. I’m not gonna ruin the end result, but it’s sweet.
The graphics were not great, but they were pretty and easy on the eyes. I liked them, but a lot of people hated them for not pushing the limits of the system like other RPGs. The music wasn’t too memorable for me. The combo system in the combat was reminiscent of other RPGs that I had played, but it was welcome nonetheless.
Overall, this might be the best Breath of Fire entry, and it deserves a high spot on this list.
15. Azure Dreams
Azure Dreams is a video game that never got enough love and appreciation in my opinion. The game was good enough that it got a port on the Game Boy Color, and I wish they made a sequel.
The gameplay of this title is kinda similar to World of Dragon Warrior: Torneko: The Last Hope in that it is a dungeon crawler RPG that has randomly generated levels.
You play as Kou, a red-haired young man that climbs the big monster tower in the northern part of town. You go into the tower, collect monsters, use them to battle, and gather treasure. You can take that treasure back to the town, upgrade weapons, breed monsters, and build up the struggling community.
The only downside is your character starts at level 1 every time you enter, and that can be a pain to deal with. Your monster can keep gaining levels and fighting with you, though. The story isn’t the strongest, but you have a goal in mind when you enter the tower: find out what happened to your dad.
The music is downright addictive even though it’s not something I would listen to on a soundtrack. The turn-based combat has you fight alongside your monsters, and you have to hope you set them correctly and that they avoid traps.
The dungeon system in the tower can be troublesome, but it’s fun and moves the game forward at a fast pace. This game can last a while if you do everything or it can go quick, but it’s something I think everyone should try.
14. Legend of Legaia
It is easy to misjudge RPGs when you first hear the concept. In Legend of Legaia, your main character fights with his fists and your success in combat relies on using combos that you have to discover and input on your own.
It’s an exciting RPG that took the combat in a unique direction. That would almost be enough to get it on this list on its own, but some of the other elements are interesting as well. The story is neat. Basically, humans had a bond with creatures that turned sour, and now there is a mist that spawns creatures and threatens anyone who leaves town.
It’s interesting to be placed into such a hopeless little world. The music was a little more upbeat than what you would expect in a game like this, the world felt properly populated given the setting, and the combat just kept me coming back for more.
This was a very interesting game even though it didn’t sell close to what many of the others on this list managed to.
13. Vandal Hearts
I don’t know what it is about tactical RPGs, but they tend to have some crazy stories. That is certainly the case with Vandal Hearts, and it might be the most defining part of the game.
The combat is very similar to other tactical games, except it doesn’t have the depth of some of its forerunners. For example, there aren’t too many classes in the game and the “type advantage” concept requires you to maintain more balance in your combat party than I prefer.
There are several things about this game I enjoyed. I already mentioned the story, which is a little deep to get into here. The combat is very good and requires some thought before each move. The learning curve is a little less severe than in other games, so you have time to get a handle on it.
Other things that I enjoyed about the game include the music and the relative simplicity. I feel it’s easier to get into this game’s combat than similar games like Final Fantasy Tactics. You don’t have to micromanage as much to be successful.
The only big downside is that the game feels a tad too linear. There aren’t too many side paths you can enjoy while you’re traversing Sostegaria. All in all, this is a very good RPG, though.
Grandia was a breath of fresh air for me because I played it right after Final Fantasy VII. Instead of the bleak world and high stakes I’d dealt with for 100 hours, I got something more lighthearted than before.
Grandia is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Of course, you’re the big heroes in the story, but your main journey at the outset of the game is to find your role in a world that is filling up with new technology. Fewer mysteries remain and the edges of the map are being filled in. So, you go off in search of adventure!
The story gets deeper as you go, but it doesn’t lose that sense of fun and wonder throughout. The game didn’t try to reinvent much in the RPG genre, but it did very well to fine tune the existing elements.
Personally, I liked the skills system to empower your characters. The combat itself was pretty straightforward, but you could focus on improving certain elements of your characters in a very direct way.
Grandia’s music was another high point for many fans, including myself. It fit every scene and battle so well, and the voice acting was pretty good considering it was on the PlayStation 1. Grandia is a game that some people never got their hands on, but it’s worth the play.
Do you like massive games with lots of playable characters? I mean lots and lots of playable characters. Then, Suikoden is the game for you.
Everyone lists it as a positive and I will, too. You can recruit up to 107 different characters throughout the game’s story. Not only does that set a hell of a goal for you right out of the gate, but you get to learn about most characters that you bring along into fights.
The vast number of characters also lends itself to a rich, full world that you experience as you seek to seek down a corrupt empire.
The story itself is intriguing, and it’s made even better when you play through the various subplots for your 100+ friends that you make along the way. The game’s music is nice, the graphics are average, and the combat is smooth yet somewhat basic. This is an above average RPG that really didn’t make many mistakes in my book.
Still, it lacked the oomph to make it into the top 10 PlayStation RPGs in my book.
10. The Legend of Dragoon
Alright, we’re in the endgame of the list. The top 10. These are the top PlayStation 1 RPGs that stand apart from all others, and we have to start it off with The Legend of Dragoon. With such a glut of amazing RPGs coming out in the mid-to-late 1990s, not enough people managed to pick up a copy of this game.
The in-game graphics were nothing to write home about, but the cutscenes and character designs for the game were gorgeous. Even the discs had beautiful art on them.
The combat was interesting in two ways. First, every time you used a regular attack, you had the chance to time it correctly and do extra damage. That pulled you away from the grindy RPGs where you could just not pay attention to what you were doing half the time.
The other cool thing was the transformations. When you got the dragoon powers, the game changed dramatically. Not only did they look nice on the screen, but every character’s individual contributions were increased. You had to think about how to use these transformations to get the most out of them, too.
The story took a little while to build up, but I really appreciated the ending. I won’t spoil it, but most games don’t have the guts to go in that direction. This game is amazing, and I wish we could get a new entry to continue the story or go back to that world.
9. Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete wasn’t originally released on the PlayStation 1, but the port to the system helped it gain a lot of attention.
Now, a lot of people will look at the graphics and wonder, how did this game get into the top PlayStation 1 RPGs. The graphics in the game are a weak point, and they look like they belong on a SNES.
However, the game comes loaded with what feels like a movie’s worth of cutscenes that were painstakingly included to keep the story moving.
There are several things that make this game great, starting with the fact that the port to PlayStation offered a deeper and overall better gameplay experience than the Sega Saturn. We got added content that helped expand on the story a bit.
Speaking of the story, that is definitely the best part of the game. It’s long, it is intriguing, and it picks up 1,000 years after the original. If you like games with some real depth in their story, you’ll love this one.
The cast of characters isn’t as large as some others, but it’s substantial enough. You feel like you get to know each one of them rather well, and that is what makes an RPG worth it. The game did not reinvent combat, but it shined in other areas like music, world development, and pacing. If you can get past the graphics, then this game should be on the list for every person looking for the top PlayStation 1 RPGs.
The only downside is that getting your hands on a copy of this game is hard because it’s both somewhat rare and expensive. Really, really expensive.
8. Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX was simply great, but it had the misfortune of being released at a bad time. Not only was everyone still hyped about FFVII, but they were also put off by FFVIII. Moreover, the PS2 came around the same time, so this game didn’t get the attention it deserved simply by being released on an older machine.
I’ve written about Final Fantasy IX before. This game took the series back to its roots and sought to bring back the fantasy that people desired. Instead of giving every character the ability to do everything like in the prior two games, your characters had pretty specific uses. The game spent tons of time developing the characters’ personalities and motivations.
The graphics were solid and I appreciated all the unique designs that went into making the world. From Alexandria to Cleyra, no two parts of the world felt alike. As a nerd, I enjoy the whole meta theater of the game, too.
The combat was rather boring, only saved by the ability to combine attacks, in my opinion. At the end of the day, the battles over power between kingdoms and the villains really sold the game for me. Sure, the final boss seems out of place, but the game was a refreshing experience given the previous entry in the series.
If you haven’t played this one, play it.
If I had to sum up this game in a single word, it would have to be: iconic. The game pulls you in as a pretty typical JRPG and then comes in hot with some mech action later on. Once the Gears come into play, the combat gets taken to the next level.
Seriously, the combat is loads of fun, but the game has more going for it than just that. For starters, the story is downright amazing. You know how some JRPGs have a tendency to build up from a normal place and then go way off the deep end? The story in Xenogears goes a step beyond that and it’s just so much fun.
The graphics in the game aren’t fantastic to look at. However, the benefit is that it comes with many cutscenes and animations that enrich the story.
The soundtrack is another high point of the game. You can get lost in the music that’s played throughout the game. It’s not the typical RPG music that you expect, and that just makes it even better.
The one thing that holds back the game from being higher on the list could be the translation. Anyone familiar with the game can think of how many times the translations and word choices were less than perfect.
Other than that, the game has the story, combat, music, characters, and much more that you’d expect in a fantastic game!
6. Star Ocean II
Star Ocean II is an absolutely incredible game. Personally, I think it’s the best in the series by a large margin. The game picks up after the first in the series, and you have a choice of playing as two different characters, Claude and Rena. Each character starts on a different path that eventually collides.
The choice that you make with your main character follows you throughout the game, impacting the lens through which you see the story as well as the characters that you can recruit throughout the game. Right away, you can see that the game is seriously deep and necessitates two playthroughs.
The story is strong for the first three-quarters of the game, but it falls off a bit in the second half when things get serious. The ultimate villain(s) feel like an afterthought in a way. Yet, the conflict in this game isn’t necessarily what drives the game forward. It’s the connections your characters build.
When you enter a town, you have the option to start “private actions” that are similar to Final Fantasy IX when you can see what other characters are doing when they’re not with you. Those private actions can shape the way your characters interact, allow you to learn more about the world, and give you the chance to get access to certain areas and items.
Aside from the story, the combat is a lot of fun. It’s active combat (you can make it more turn-based) and that means you can zoom around the field and fight enemies. The game doesn’t have all of its text spoken by voice actors, but every character has voices in combat that can be helpful, fun, or really annoying.
The graphics are a low point because they’re not 3D and the level of detail in this title doesn’t match the growing push for realism at the time. Still, they get the job done. As for the music and other sounds in the game, they’re some of the best. The town music is so peaceful and the boss music is downright erratic.
Overall, this is a game that deserves a ton of respect and playthroughs by PlayStation 1 RPG fans.
5. Vagrant Story
Vagrant Story usually appears a little higher on the list for me, but I gave it a closer look to refresh my memory, and it needs to be in the top portion of the list.
The game exists in the same universe as Final Fantasy Tactics, but that is where the similarities end between the two. This game has an active battle system that sort of reminds me of Fallout, where you could freeze the battle and aim at certain parts of the enemy’s body.
While many of the Top PlayStation 1 RPGs feature expansive overworlds, that’s not the case with Vagrant Story/ To some people, that made the game feel claustrophobic, but it just felt focused to me.
The story runs its course quicker than some of the other games on this list, but that is not due to any fault in the storytelling. You cover a lot of ground during the time you spend in the world. You don’t have as many side quests, but you get into platforming and puzzles that keep things fresh. Or frustrating if you suck at puzzles like me.
The music isn’t anything mind blowing; it’s subtle and you’ll appreciate it. The graphics were not bad, either, but I think the atmosphere the graphics make are a lot more important than the character models.
As a whole, this game is fantastic. It manages to be fun, exciting, interesting, innovative, and familiar.
4. Suikoden II
I get a fair amount of pushback on my appreciation of Suikoden II compared to the original. Still, the first game didn’t age as well as the second.
There are several things that set this game apart from the pack for me. For one thing, it’s not made by the Square juggernaut that was pumping out masterpieces throughout the lifespan of the PlayStation 1. That doesn’t really count towards the game itself, but I like when we get a little variety.
You get to control a silent protagonist (yeah, I know) and you wade into a muck of political intrigue. The story is long and dense, so you have to pay attention to what’s happening or you’re gonna end up confused. It’s not boring, though. In fact, the story is very exciting as long as you invest time into it.
The combat is where the game shines the most in my opinion. You have a typical RPG turn-based combat system, another battle form that is one-on-one, called a duel, and massive battles, which are large scale battles that use your players as unit commanders. It wasn’t completely innovative, but it was implemented in a fantastic way.
Aside from the combat and story, I have to give some props to the sprite work. It’s hard to make all these different characters for the game, but they managed to do it. You don’t get all the beautiful visuals of a 3D game, but the graphics don’t hold back the story in the least.
The music in this game is solid, but it’s not overstated. You would recognize it instantly if you played through the game before. At the same time, the music doesn’t saturate the game.
This game will make you think about strategy, get some chuckles, and leave you feeling pretty low at some points. It’s impactful, fun, and intriguing— that’s why it’s so high on the list.
3. Final Fantasy Tactics
I fell in love with the idea of Final Fantasy Tactics when I played the demo at Funcoland. I had just finished the Shining Force games, and this had the Final Fantasy title slapped on it as well.
The story was confusing at first, but as it develops, you learn that you’re playing something special. The political intrigue is like Game of Thrones in scope. So many characters are developed throughout the game that you might want to keep a notebook with you to remember who they are fighting for.
The actual story of the game is downright crazy, and it’s long enough to keep players entertained for a long time.
While the graphics in FFT aren’t the best, they do more than get the job done. They’re used to create a fun battlefield each time you get in combat. The character sprites are well-done and some of the animations on moves are downright fantastic.
Speaking of combat, the class system that was used for this game is similar to Final Fantasy V, but better. You can set up your party any way you want, giving you a lot of choices for the direction you wish to take in combat. You can balance the party, nuke everyone with black mages, or use monks early in the game to get super strong and blast people for the first half.
The music is another thing that shines in this game, starting from the game’s opening. If you love tactical games with turn-based combat, this is a fantastic game. I only wish the sequels and remakes were as good.
2. Chrono Cross
When I think about what I thought a sequel to Chrono Trigger would look like and measure it against Chrono Cross, the disparity is astounding. Usually, when that happens, it’s a mess. However, it actually works in this case. For starters, the world is nothing like you would expect.
The world in this game starts off in a tropical paradise, and you spend a fair amount of time getting accustomed to the world in that setting. It doesn’t take long for things to pick up, of course. You find yourself in an assortment of castles, dungeons, and towns.
The story is weird. Even though you don’t get the clear time travel aspect like you do in Chrono Trigger, the story still manages to be rather outlandish. In fact, I think the game designers’ willingness to go out on a limb made this game downright incredible.
You didn’t have the standard story. You didn’t have to grind levels like in other RPGs. You got more characters to play with than you knew what to do with. Well, you got 45, and they had well-developed backgrounds that made you want to collect as many as possible.
The graphics were pretty solid for the time the game was made and with the limits of the PlayStation. The only thing that I don’t actually like about the game is the silent protagonist thing. I get it; you’re supposed to insert yourself into the story as a player. To me, though, it didn’t land well with so much going on.
The music is very good and you’ll find yourself wanting to listen to it long after the credits have rolled. Speaking of credits, the ending to this game is strange, and I hope you get to see it.
1. Final Fantasy VII
You can call it overhyped and overrated. You can talk about how much has been said about it and how you’re sick of it. Hell, I even roll my eyes every time a new addition to the game’s mini-series is created. But, you can’t deny this game is incredible. In fact, in spite of all its flaws, I believe that it is the best on the system.
In another article, I wrote that the graphics were pretty good for the time, and I got blasted. I stand by that, though. Sure, the pre-rendered backgrounds weren’t anything amazing and the blocky hands and lack of mouths left a lot to be desired. Still, the Square started making the game in 1994 and finished in 1996— this wasn’t at the end of the PlayStation 1’s life cycle.
While you couldn’t see a hint of emotion on the characters, the graphics combined with the art managed to create an unforgettable atmosphere in the game. The doomed Sector 7 in Midgar, Nibelheim, Junon — each of these areas is unique and well-designed.
The combat system was not crazy or innovative, but the materia system helped maintain a fast-paced game that kept the player engaged and looking for new ways to optimize their characters. Also, the limit break system was finally more accessible and manageable than it had been in iterations past, giving each character a unique contribution to combat.
Final Fantasy VII’s music was another thing that set the game apart. Sure, we didn’t get voice overs for the characters, but we got the opening theme song, the overworld music, One Winged Angel, and Aerith’s theme. I, and many others, continue to find remixes of this game’s music to listen to while I work because it’s so engrossing.
Then we have the story. What a mind job. It’s one thing when your main character lies to others, and it’s another when they lie to themselves. Cloud’s brain is fractured, and you really don’t get an understanding of his true nature until much later in the game.
The game gives you the feeling that something is amiss with Cloud from the start, and then gives you plenty of time to guess what is going on. The rest of the story with the Reunion, WEAPON(s), Meteor, and all the little moments in between are absolutely fantastic.
There are tons of side quests to explore, too. Also, you can waste a few hours in the Golden Saucer doing chocobo races or fighting in the arena to get your ultimate attacks. The game is loaded with entertainment and a certain something that makes it funny.
The game was so good that it led to calls for remakes as far back as the PS2 launch. We finally got it, too.
Overall, there are so few games that are as good as Final Fantasy VII, and I can’t imagine putting another game here for the top PlayStation 1 RPG.
Final Thoughts on the Top 31 PlayStation 1 RPGs
When going over the list of the best RPGs on PlayStation, I was tempted to include more games that fit the bill but didn’t technically count. Games like Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger came to mind; they were certainly released on the system, after all. The only problem was that they were made worse on the system.
I could have included the games you made on the RPG Maker, too. I wasn’t desperate enough for numbers to include Harvest Moon as an RPG, though.
All that being said, I am sure I have forgotten someone’s favorite on this list. If I did, let me know in the comments and I can always update the list down the line.
As always, thank you for reading, even if you skipped down to the top 10. I like writing these lists and reminiscing about some of the amazing games released in the past. Look for some of my other works on RPGs on various retro systems!