To be perfectly honest, I've never liked Metal Gear Solid. Me and stealth games generally don't get along too well. But even I have to admit that it is one of the most essential games in the PSOne's library. It was one of the first to effectively blend cutscenes and gameplay, bringing games closer to a cinematic style than ever before. Though the cutscenes and story in the series have gotten a bit out of hand lately, Metal Gear Solid was a textbook example of how to perfectly update an 8-bit franchise for the third dimension.
There could easily be a whole separate list just for PSOne RPGs, so narrowing it down to give other genres a shot was no easy task. Suikoden II, Vagrant Story, and Xenogears all made strong cases for their own spot, but Grandia just barely stole the show. Put simply, the Grandia series had the best battle system I've seen in an RPG. It managed to combine simple turn-based combat with timing and movement across the battlefield for fast-paced, strategic encounters. Combine that with a lighthearted coming-of-age story, as well as a skill system that rewards you the more spells and special attacks you use, and Grandia is a PSOne game that RPG fans shouldn't have missed out on.
Before the rhythm game craze took off, PaRappa the Rapper was laying down some of the goofiest rhymes around. The genre simply couldn't have been done justice before, requiring a CD format for rich music with fully voiced lyrics, and PaRappa led by example. But it led in more ways than one, showing developers that there was still room in the industry for more experimental games. Creators of games from Rez to Viewtiful Joe to Katamari Damacy have credited PaRappa as an inspiration.
Arguably the best 2D action-platformer ever made, Symphony of the Night defined the "vania" half of the commonly referred to "metroidvania" genre. As Alucard, you could wield a vast array of weapons and items, not to mention the occasional spell or two, to dispatch Dracula's forces and explore every nook and cranny of an enormous interconnected castle. And just when you think the game is reaching its finale, the inverted castle unlocks, offering brand new challenges with an entire second half of the game to go. Featuring some of the most iconic moments and bosses of the series, Symphony of the Night remains the game by which all Castlevania games are judged, and none have surpassed it yet.
While the numbered Final Fantasy games tend to get most of the attention, this strategy RPG spin-off is the real crowning jewel of the series. Rich melodrama-free plot full of political and character intrigue? Check. Deep character customization? Full of it. Engaging and thoughtful strategic battles? Yep, that too. More hours of content than all three numbered PSOne Final Fantasy games combined? You bet. While the game's difficulty can tend to spike at the most inopportune times, it has remained to this day one of the pinnacles of its genre.
Date: February 13, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*