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It may be hard to believe, but PlayStation turned 20 this week, an occasion celebrated over the weekend with two days of gaming, partying and big announcements in Las Vegas known as The PlayStation Experience. For my part, I'm taking a brief look back at the console that started it all, highlighting my favorite games from the original PlayStation console.
Born of a failed partnership between Nintendo and Sony and pitching itself as the edgy, not-so-family-friendly counterpart to the house that Mario built, the PlayStation had its work cut out for it if it wanted to become relevant in a steadily building, increasingly crowded gaming market. In order to do that, they'd need to offer up games that you couldn't get anywhere else; big games with plenty of heart and attitude.
And that's exactly what they did, eventually building up a library of titles and a suite of services that would lead to four major home consoles and a pair of handheld devices. It all started with the original PlayStation, though, which kicked things off with its fair share of amazing games. In no particular order, here are a handful of my absolute favorites.
Metal Gear SolidFor me, there's no better place to start this list off than with the game that helped define a generation and build one of the best-known franchises in gaming history, the original Metal Gear Solid. Snake's first foray into the realm of 3D adventuring was jaw-dropping for the era, featuring unprecedented enemy AI, control and player choice. It laid the foundation for an entire genre, boasting features and mechanics that are still used to this day. The over-the-top story, cast of memorable characters and an amazing score certainly didn't hurt matters, either. When it comes to console-defining games, you need look no further than Metal Gear Solid.
Castlevania: Symphony of the NightMy favorite game in the Castlevania series sees players take on the role of Alucard, the pissed-off son of Dracula who uses magic and bladed weapons aplenty to take down the creatures of the night. I'm one of those folks who has actually enjoyed the vast majority of 3D Castlevania games but, let's face it, the original 2D exploration is the heart of the series, and that formula is at its best in Symphony of the Night. There's an amazing soundtrack, all of the iconic locations and enemies, and a game that actually doubles in size if you know how to beat it the right way. Few games are timeless, playing as well today as they did 20 years ago. Symphony of the Night is among those ranks.
The Legend of DragoonHere's an embarrassing confession: I've never played Final Fantasy VII all the way through. I distinctly remember renting the game a couple of times and finding myself bored within just a couple of hours. Admittedly, I was perhaps a bit too young and too dumb to appreciate what was on offer. A little bit later, I catch sight of this new RPG called The Legend of Dragoon and, holy crap, do those people have dragon wings?! I don't know what Legend did differently than FFVII but, for some reason, this was the first modern RPG to break through my defenses and absolutely floor me. I was instantly hooked and fell head over heels in love with this game, playing it to completion two times in a row. Most importantly, Legend of Dragoon introduced me to the magical world of RPGs, a genre that's responsible for some of my best gaming memories to date.
Crash Bandicoot 3: WarpedBefore the team at Naughty Dog was busy making the amazing Uncharted series or the gut-wrenching The Last of Us, their games were a bit more lighthearted, occasionally featuring a big, goofy critter that could spin really fast and relied on a floating tiki mask to guide his adventure. The original mascot of PlayStation, the first three Crash Bandicoot games were fantastic platforming adventures and, in typical Naughty Dog fashion, boasted great soundtracks, inventive gameplay and more. Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped was the best of the lot, allowing Crash and his tiger-riding sister to travel through time as they battled pirates, prehistoric creatures, genies and more on a quest to save history. Multiple paths, collectibles aplenty...there was a lot to love in this colorful romp.
Silent HillWhile Resident Evil introduced me to the survival horror genre and I certainly have lots of fond memories from that series' amazing early entries, it wasn't until I played Silent Hill that I understood just how terrifying a video game could be. Low ammo, creepy-as-hell audio and psychological thrills made for an experience that shambling zombies just couldn't compete with. For genuine chills and a nightmare-inducing romp through the foggy streets of an unforgettable town, Silent Hill is my vacation destination of choice.