Magic, adventure, intrigue, and the 32-bit era of graphics.
When you mention the origins of our favorite role-playing video games, nostalgia runs rampant within us. We all remember our first, our favorite, and everything in between.
Role-Playing games have shaped the expectations of how many of us want to experience our gaming journey. The hardest part is finding which to choose. Which are best? What stories should you invest thirty hours of your life into?
Get ready to have another blast from the past! We are delving deep into the amazing games that made up the epic Playstation Roleplaying genre of the ’90s.
Here is our list of the best PlayStation RPG games ever!
The Best PS1 RPGs of All Time
1. Xenogears (1998)
When it comes to RPGs of such massive scale and scope, Xenogears should need no introduction. The story is all-encompassing and intense. It does not only does it entail the death of a god and dualism. Xenogears also has arching stories of reincarnation, religion, use of mass control, and brainwashing.
Xenogears centers around the main character Fei, an adopted young male in the village of Lahan. Fei was brought by a mysterious man while suffering from retrograde amnesia. During an attack on Lahan from Gebler, Fei pilots an empty gear and fights the enemy, accidentally destroying the village. As a result, Fei and Citan, the village's doctor, leave with the abandoned gear to get it away from the town.
From this point, you meet multiple supporting characters that very clearly also have skeletons in their closets.
Mixing a unique style of 2D animation with 3D backdrops, Xenogears focused on its anime inspiration with fully animated and voiced cutscenes. Gameplay centered around a stamina-based combat system. This is a playoff of the Active Time Battle system found in games such as Chrono Trigger and the Final Fantasy series.
Every character and inch of this game is worth exploring to experience the all-encompassing details and rich storyline. At the time, Xenogears was a groundbreaking game. This is a must-play.
2. Final Fantasy VII (1997)
If you haven’t heard of Cloud, Tifa, or Aerith, you have been living under some very large rubble in Midgar. Final Fantasy VII is considered to be by far the best Final Fantasy game ever made. So let’s talk about why.
FFVII's gameplay, story, and setting are almost unparalleled.
The Materia system was an excellent idea that contributed to altering character stats. The character list is filled with interesting personalities, even if they're not all brought into the open.
The world setting for FFVII is full of mystery and variety, from exploring the ocean depths in a submarine to zipping about the skies in your airship to traveling around on a Chocobo, it was about as dynamic as any interactive world could've been. Each town had a style and persona all its own, each area had a specific appeal, and how each character reacted to each region was also outstanding.
The depth of that story, the levels, and dimensions on which it operates, the pacing that seems just about perfect; it all combines to create a highly enjoyable experience. It has philosophical and psychological angles that few really appreciate,
And Sephiroth remains the greatest villain of all time for one big reason: He has mastered the art of being both sympathetic and completely brutal.
The game was so fantastic; the Final Fantasy VII Remake is the most requested and anticipated remake game of all time.
If you are looking for a fully immersive and enjoyable RPG experience that pulls you in from the moment you begin, then Final Fantasy VII should be the next game to pop into your system.
3. Final Fantasy IX (2000)
It is no surprise with how iconic the Final Fantasy series is that there would be more than one of them on this list. We talked about the iconic Final Fantasy VII, so now let us talk about Final Fantasy IX and why it is so crucial in the series.
There were concerns regarding how modern Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII were with more high-tech robotics and settings. When IX came along, we were transported back to the origin of the Final Fantasy game designs.
FFIX brings us back to pay tribute to its former classics. Traditional medieval fantasy setting and a cast of characters who resembled the classes of old. The characters included Vivi, the Black Mage, and Steiner the Knight, to name a few.
They even made subtle nods and references to previous games to kick that nostalgia up a notch.
The basis of the story? A theater troupe named Tantalus moonlights as a gang of noble thieves. They head to the city of Alexandria to perform their latest play and devise a plan to kidnap the royal princess Garnet. You play as main character Zidane, an actor and thief with a monkey tail. The troupe sets out to capture the princess, only to find that she’s been planning her escape all along.
What follows is a world-spanning adventure involving war, subterfuge, magical crystals, summoned monsters, and lots of clones. If you want to see how it all plays out, I suggest you grab yourself a copy!
4. Chrono Trigger (1995)
The first installment of what is referred to as the Chrono Series is the famous Chrono Trigger. Having been described as revolutionary, some of the elements of the game had never been presented before. These included its multiple endings, plot-related sidequests focusing on character development, unique battle system, and detailed graphics.
Chrono Trigger is a timeless role-playing classic where you embark on a journey to different eras. As the story unfolds, you will travel to the middle ages, future, prehistory, and ancient times. Chrono Trigger gives a new spin to the traveling and monster-killing that you’ll have to do.
The battle system, which is a new take on the “Active-Time-Battle” (or action RPG) system seen in the Final Fantasy games, is enjoyable and unique. You can perform special moves called Techs and even combine with a couple of your party members to perform a triple combo Tech. The use of Mode 7 graphics pops off the screen, and the level of detail is astounding. The overall visuals of the game are brilliant for the time.
Chrono Trigger was the third best-selling game of 1995 in Japan and shipped 2.65 million copies worldwide by March 2003.
It is widely considered one of the most unique RPG’s ever to hit console. It was also very well-deserving of a sequel!
5. Chrono Cross (1999)
Looking for time travel, changing your fate, and the concept of parallel worlds all rolled into one package? Say no more! Welcome to the fantastic must-play sequel, Chrono Cross!
Boasting some beautiful graphics for its time, and an equally brilliant score, it's also one of the first games to offer a ‘New Game Plus' for replayability in an RPG. For anyone that is an RPG fanatic, the replay value for a game speaks volumes.
Renouncing from the traditional turn-based combat system Chrono Cross went with a more stamina-focused approach. They added elemental magic to the mix as a means to sway the battle. You have the option of a large playable support cast wielding different affinities. Having the opportunity to mix different battle group combinations gives the player the power to create a lethal group against powerful foes.
Many say this was not necessarily the best sequel for Cross due to the change in platform. This game the opportunity for new graphics and options that could substantially adjust the game scope. However, it is repeatedly noted as being a brilliant game worthy of precious playtime.
6. Suikoden (1995)
Not long after the launch of the PlayStation, Konami released a 2D role-playing game with a killer soundtrack called Suikoden. Creator Yoshitaka Murayama opted to prioritize storytelling and atmosphere over the fancy 3D graphics that were just starting to take off.
The game centers on the political struggles of the Scarlet Moon Empire. The player controls a Scarlet Moon Empire general's son, who is destined to seek out 108 warriors or 108 Stars of Destiny) to revolt against the corrupt sovereign state and bring peace to a war-torn land.
Suikoden was widely considered the best RPG on PlayStation. It earned this title from fans due to its great premise, fast-paced combat, and emotional story. The game itself was so well received that it was worthy of a sequel.
7. Suikoden II (1998)
Continuing with its traditional 2D graphics, Suikoden II is brilliant in both narrative and storytelling. It avoids traditional world-destroying power/demonic force in favor of warring states and factions. The game itself follows with the same storyline and characters as the original. Unlike other RPGs, the Suikoden games are all set in the same universe, with recurring storylines, characters, and settings.
The game itself contains challenging dungeons and bosses, but there is no grinding necessary! Thanks to the auto-attack option, you can quickly and efficiently level characters, so they are always up to speed.
Not only do you have satisfying combat, a cooking mini-game, a top-ranked villain, and flying squirrels, you also get to run your castle.
8. The Legend of Dragoon (1999)
This RPG is another that has a well-known name, but for different reasons. Gamers found this one appealing and claim it is PS1’s most underrated RPG. That makes this classic worthy of a second look!
While it does offer many similarities and familiar aspects of a “traditional” RPG, Legend of Dragoon added the ability to change the nominal Dragoons into enhanced versions of themselves to aide in combat.
Much like Limit Breaks and Trance in FF, it enhanced combat from being turn-based and straightforward.
It had all the fluff and pizazz of a 32-bit-era Final Fantasy, but the CG cutscenes and pyrotechnics weren’t as up to par with its competition. The battle system also had some technicalities as far as healing and logistics that were a bit questionable. On the flip side, though, many loved how pleasantly straightforward it is.
If you're after something to fill that void between Final Fantasy but don't want to branch too far out, you can't go wrong with Legend of Dragoon.
9. Final Fantasy Tactics (1997)
More Final Fantasy, you ask? Absolutely! They did not earn their title as masters of RPG for no reason! So let us delve into another series gem, Final Fantasy Tactics.
Final Fantasy Tactics begins with Ivalice just recovering from the Fifty Year War against Ordalia. The game's story follows Ramza Beoulve, a highborn cadet who finds himself thrust into the middle of an intricate military conflict. This erupts into a full-scale war known as the “Lion War,” with either side using whatever means possible to secure their place in the throne. This includes bearing an illegitimate child, killing other potential heirs, betrayal, assassination, and false identities.
Pretty intriguing, isn’t it? The plot sounds like a Game of Thrones spinoff!
The battle system is a traditional turn-based and is played out on three-dimensional, isometric fields. In battle, JP is rewarded for every successful action. JP is used to learn new abilities within each job class. Accumulating enough JP results in a job level up; new jobs are unlocked by attaining a certain level in the current job class.
Final Fantasy Tactics received universal acclaim upon its release, and critical opinion of the game has improved further over time. This one is definitely worthy of a spot on the must play list!
10. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)
Symphony of the Night is a platform-adventure action role-playing game developed and published by Konami in 1997.
Symphony begins during the ending of the previous game in the series, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, where Richter Belmont confronts and defeats Count Dracula. Four years later, in 1796, Richter goes missing, and Dracula's castle reappears. That is spooky enough to get my attention!
The game is non-linear, but most of the castle is inaccessible until various items and abilities are collected, including shapeshifting into a bat, wolf, or mist. It does have RPG based elements in the combat as well. Alucard's hit points determine the maximum damage he can withstand before dying while his magic points decide how frequently a magical attack may be cast. He has four other attributes: strength – the power of his physical attack; defense – his resilience to damage inflicted by the monsters; intelligence – the recovery speed of magic points; and luck – the frequency that enemies drop items.
Symphony has a massive, free-to-explore game world with numerous secrets to uncover. It has been praised for integrating RPG elements without compromising the series' basic gameplay. Multiple critics also made mention of the ingeniously designed enemies and the story's many plot twists.
The game has developed such an immense following that original copies are now considered collectors’ items. It has continued to receive critical acclaim and has appeared on many top games’ lists.
Make sure you grab a copy of this one. You will not be disappointed!
11. Star Ocean: The Second Story (1998)
What landed Star Ocean: The Second Story on this list is the aspect of quality over quantity. It may not be the biggest entry on the list, or even the most popular. What does it have? A story that could rival some of the greatest of those sitting on the throne of the RPG universe.
The overall storyline begins with the main protagonist Claude, son of Ronyx Kenny of the first Star Ocean, being transported to a mysterious world, where he meets Rena and a cast of enigmatic support characters. One of whom, Ashton, is cursed with having two dragon heads attached to his head, that bicker and talk over him. Talk about a permanent headache?
Your progress toward towns, and through dungeons toward the ultimate evil force. This all comes across as a fairly standard base of a PRG story.
The plot twist? This game has 87 different endings.
Some are minor changes, ranging from discovering the identity of one of the bosses, or if you paid attention to certain conversations throughout the game. But this added a new scope than the standard RPG game progression system.
The combat system was also impressive by doing away with being time-based and staying continuously active. It was a refreshing change over selecting through menu prompts.
While this may not be the most popular or classic game on the list, it is definitely one worthy of checking out!
12. Vagrant Story (2000)
Vagrant Story is a beautiful exploration into cult lore, mythology, and ancient magics. It is often referred to as a form of a “spin-off” if Final Fantasy Tactics due to Yasumi Matsuno working on both and set in the same fictional world of Ivalice. Doesn’t that name sound familiar?
Vagrant Story is unique as a console action-adventure role-playing game in that it features no shops and no player interaction with other characters; instead, the game focuses on weapon creation and modification, as well as elements of puzzle-solving and strategy. For many in the know of the ROG universe, this concept was almost completely different.
The gameplay is more of a 3D dungeon explorer, with each area of exploration/combat being broken apart as rooms or small arenas. It utilizes a form of a real-time active battle combat system. Activating combat brings up a personal space bubble, and any offending part of the enemy's anatomy that pierces that is asking for some battle damage. You can also chain together stronger attacks for a combo hit.
These combinations gave a fresh take on the adventure RPG genre. It would pave the way for new gameplay concept to come to light.
Vagrant Story is a lengthy yet wonderful fantasy journey through a largely rewarding game.
The list of amazing RPGs that were produced and released for the PS1 could go on for ages. Some may even consider this the golden age for RPG releases. It paved the way for amazing remastered games and fresh stories for modern-day gamers!
Original Playstation RPG’s truly take the digital cake for all that they encompass. Unique storylines, bold changes in new combat systems. You name it, and they produced it.
Whether you experienced this fantastic 90’s age of gaming firsthand, or are new to it and looking to explore, you will not be disappointed.
All that is left now is for you to pick a game and play! After all, no story would be complete without the player beginning their journey.
Where Can I find The Games?
Here are some primary locations to obtain these classics:
Are you looking for more? Check out our list of the Best SNES RPGs of All Time!