April 3, The PlayStation 1 was a bastion for some of the greatest role-playing games RPGs of all-time, many of which have still yet to be surpassed to this day. Here are the best role playing games for the original PlayStation. Unlike many lists, there are no restrictions on entries per franchise so expect to see multiple entries from Final Fantasy. Games that are remakes, such as Chrono Trigger, or the Lunar Star series will also not be considered.
Symphony of the Night is missing from this list for that very reason as well as a game like Brave Fencer Musashi. My own personal objections were mostly confirmed by a very unscientific poll. It's not a highly specific definition and today, almost every game has elements of an RPG, but for the original PlayStation, an RPG was much more easily definable and the crossover genres hadn't really begun.
Games that were primarily released on another console, especially from the generation prior will not be included either. Two prime examples are Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, which is widely considered one of the best releases on the PlayStation, and its sequel, Lunar: Unfortunately, both of these games, in their original iterations were released on the Sega CD.
So for this list, the traditional RPG from the fifth generation is what will be considered. Innocent Sin Persona 2's Students Part of the now hugely popular series focusing on a group of high school students in which Persona 4 was the first really true "hit". Persona 2 was the first game in the series that first caught attention, and was discernably better improving on the first entry in the series. Vandal Hearts II Hardly the Best Game on the List Vandal Hearts II received complaints for its storytelling, and its combat, but there is something to be said for just being very direct in clearing a dungeon of all of its enemies.
Released at the height of the digital pet craze of the late s, Jade Cocoon also features solid RPG mechanics centering on a elemental basis, where each of the proverbial earth, wind and fire have strengths and weaknesses and featuring a similar art style to the Studio Ghibli movies.
The combat is pausable and uses an Active Time Bar to designate the next attack, However, while the Active Time Bar fills, the player can still move around the field defensively, dodging enemy attacks.
It also featured a female protagonist, one to rival Lara Croft of the era, but sadly the series didn't continue after two sequels one on PS1, the other on the PSP. It was relatively short, and the gameplay, while good, was also repetitive.
Attack damage is based on the usual traits; equipment, strength, speed, etc. But initiating the attacks are done much more tactically, choosing where to attack an opponent based on the aforementioned traits. It's essentially a button combo, almost as you'd see in a rhythm game, that is the biggest determinate of success.
The bigger and more complicated the combo, the more damage that would be dealt. This was a big differentiator in the time of turn-based combat and helped set Legend of Legaia apart. Similar to Legend of Legaia, Legend of Dragoon featured timed button presses that helped to break up the monotony of the turn-based combat and keep players engaged.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons for this is that the combat wouldn't be nearly as engaging without it, so in that respect it is a bit of a gimmick. However, the story is grand, the graphics, particularly during battle, are nice albeit a bit bland and for all intents and purposes it feels like you are playing the FF series, in a good way.
And while there is definitely some Zelda influence, as the action is viewed in a similar, top-down perspective, Alundra is more about solving puzzles than it is about traversing the landscape and exploring dungeons. The puzzles in Alundra are remarkably difficult, especially by today's standards, yet the game was received incredibly well by critics. The action and controls are not great by today's standards, and while the sprite-based art style is nice is nice, it doesn't stand out.
It comes down to the mature, dark plot about nightmares with the proverbial good and evil and the back-breaking puzzles, that makes Alundra stand out as one of the top RPGs on the PlayStation. Enemies, however are given their own turn and do not combine attacks with one another. To streamline the one turn, team-based attacks, each character is assigned one of four buttons. It's an intuitive system that really works to differentiate Valkyrie Profile from other RPGs on the PS1 and as the system grows throughout the playthrough, it becomes deeper and deeper.
The game is good at slowly building up the system as you progress, never feeling overwhelming, and combined with the wonderful story, Valkyrie Profile gives weight to progression.
Grandia Grandia's Battlefield Grandia is another PlayStation role-playing game that moves away from the traditional turn-based style of so many others. Grandia's battles play out on a 3D battlefield where free movement in between choosing your actions is possible. Grandia is still "turn-based" when deciding your action, but because your character positioning is what determines not only your attacking success and choices, but also of the enemies, there is more strategy in the free movement.
Despite existing on a three-dimensional battlefield, Grandia's graphics are sprite-based, played from an isometric-like perspective not quite top-down. Another way in which Grandia was ahead of its time was that there were several characters that have voice actors, a rarity for not only PS1 role-playing games, but the PS1 in general. Dragon Warrior is known for its pedigree in a similar vein as the Final Fantasy series, and like that series, the games are similar in gameplay style.
It has turn-based, simple battles, massive exploration and an epic story where an unlikely hero must save the world.
It sounds generic, but it is all done so well, and has been mimicked so well, it's important to remember why. Breath of Fire III continues the series before it, where as IV is a completely new experiences with only slight nods to the previous games and that is where the heart of the argument lies.
Regardless, most of the trappings found in the best games in the role-playing genre are found here and they are done well. It definitely has more of an colorful but antiquated look, hardly standing out from an artistic design perspective and combined with good characters but only an adequate story it's all fairly generic, but every thing is done well enough.
Legend of Mana was received well, but it couldn't quite match the critical acclaim as its predecessor. Legend of Mana was no doubt a beautiful game and kept maybe of the same gameplay conventions as the Secrets of Mana, however there was an overreliance on side quests which did little to buoy the main story and offered little relevance to the characters.
The innovative, yet cumbersome "Land Make" system, in which the player generates the structure of the game world by placing artifacts on points of a map is where the secondary or side quests were created.
With gameplay being action-oriented and tight controls these side quests were manageable but eventually feel like a chore. It's a terrific game that should still be experienced but is not quite at the top tier of entries for the PlayStation. Those tactical elements are still heavily present but with a deeper RPG system behind it.
When certain conditions are met, there is a random chance that a pilot may learn a new skill from one of their wanzer parts, which can be programmed into the wanzer's battle computer.
Battlefields are much smaller and missions much more compact in size compared to previous games, which helps to speed up the gameplay overall. Front Mission 3 has little to complain about if you're a fan of the genre, however, gameplay can begin to seem shallow as the game progresses.
Simplifying the story by having only three main protagonists allows each to shine and be fully developed, giving the story an enhanced personal importance. The battle system of Wild Arms is also worthy of praise; traditional turn-based mechanics combined with very specific character abilities and the RES statistic, which is essentially speed help to differentiate Wild Arms.
The wild west setting isn't just that, it combines elements of the medieval and fantasy, with one character's primary weapon as swords with another's, magic. Chrono Cross Chrono Cross in Action Chrono Trigger is widely regarded as the greatest RPG of all-time, and Chrono Cross bears half the name and the same studio, but lacks quite a bit of the charm and storytelling of its spiritual predecessor.
Despite this, Chrono Cross is a marvelous game. The combat is varied, the graphics are vibrant and colorful in addition to terrific 3D models there is an additional huge world to explore. The negatives of Chrono Cross only stem from comparisons to Chrono Trigger, most notably the story.
If there is one aspect of Chrono Cross that isn't top tier, it's the that the story is convoluted. Unfortunately story is a huge aspect of role-playing games, especially when you're associated with the aforementioned Chrono Trigger, but Chrono Cross is still one of the best PSX role playing games.
Breath of Fire IV Breath of Fire IV Needs to be Seen in Motion to do it Justice Breath of Fire IV is beautiful, and probably always will be due to its animated sprites, however the graphics mix these with full 3D models, which do not hold up at all although they appear only infrequently in the game.
It's a shame really, because Breath of Fire IV would easily be the best looking game on the list, and still might very well be. Another aspect of the graphics that make them original were the 3D backgrounds, which was counter to most games of the time using pre-rendered graphics with 3D models on top of them. It's this process that helps the beautiful sprites stand out even more. Of course the graphics aren't the only thing that makes the game great; the Master System allows players to customize each character by having them apprentice under different masters found throughout the world is an original take.
The game also stands out from the series as either a prequel or a completely different world, making it more in line with a anthology type entry. This is for the better, and while many will argue that Breath of Fire III is the best in the series, it doesn't even make the list here.
With six main characters this creates a great sense of customization and combined with the expansive story, Breath of Fire IV is one of the best examples of PlayStation role-playing games that still holds up today. The Second Story has a wealth of replay value.
And fortunately, The Second Story is such a sensational game that it warrants multiple playthroughs. Unlike many RPGs on this list, the battles are played in real-time, are very action-oriented and only one character is controlled.
There are no limits to character movement during battles, and the other party members are controlled by AI. What really distinguishes The Second Story from its contemporaries is its story. RPGs are known for their ability to weave storytelling and gameplay and Star Ocean is one of the most effective. It's relatively mature even if the characters themselves are not and takes place within a true sci-fi setting, with fewer fantasy elements than most.
With the combat and story, Star Ocean: Say what you will about the Junction System, its advantages far outweigh its flaws, adding a very exact way to customize character attributes, even from early on in the game. While many do not consider it better than the two Final Fantasy games that bookend it, it should be considered at the same level.
Fans were more than delighted by the change as FFIX took a decidedly light-hearted tone, characters with a lot of class-specific specialties and a completely fantastical plot complete with royalty bloodlines and magic. FF IX definitely intends to exploit nostalgia which is both a blessing and a curse. It's just such a contrast when compared to the previous two in the series on the console that it was the perfect example of right time, right place as opposed to pushing another sci-fi setting.
Now it is a great and beloved game in its own right for reasons mentioned above, it's just not one of the three best PSX RPGs.
Suikoden II sets itself apart due to its relatively isolated story. And besides focusing on the character development which does still exist and is naturally fleshed out, especially between the main character and his friend Jowy, it is the overarching ancient conflict plagued by politics and the exciting and sometimes tragic twists and turns. The graphics of Suikoden II are not impressive by any means nor were they for any PS1 game at the time and gameplay, while solid, wasn't anything original, it is truly the remarkable setting and story that makes Suikoden II a terrific game.
Battles take place on a three-dimensional grid, with each space representing distance between movement and attack range which both are determined by character attributes and job class. These battles are turn-based but because of the grid, arranging attack position is much more tactical, naturally. Maturity can mean many things, but in the case of Xenogears, maturity is tackling topics such as philosophy, religion and psychology all within a science-fiction setting. Xenogears posed such deep questions that it sometimes overshadowed the rest of the game.
Luckily excellent combat, which differed in style and mechanics whether fighting on foot or in a mech, more than provided a reason not to get lost in existential thought. The ending can be downright devastating but it can be interpreted in different ways depending upon your personal beliefs. It can be preachy, or it can be thought-provoking, but either way it plays on your convictions and that was and still is extremely rare for a video game.
The fact that it was an introduction for so many gamers, not just to the series but to the PlayStation as well, is a testament to its quality. One of the only games in the series to have numerous spin-off properties expanding upon its universe, and a full-fledged remake, FF VII is still popular today. The first 3D game in the series, even if simple by today's standards especially the non-battle sequences was most of all, just so cool.