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Best PS1 Exclusives

Highlights

  • Ridge Racer Type 4 revolutionized racing games with stunning visuals and innovative mechanics.
  • Tenchu: Stealth Assassins set the standard for stealth gameplay with advanced AI and sandbox environments.
  • Silent Hill redefined horror games with psychological scares, eerie atmosphere, and outstanding storytelling.

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During the explosive console wars of the mid to late 1990s, exclusive games started becoming a much bigger deal, and in the case of Sony, they made sure that they had an incredible line-up of games that could only be played on the original PlayStation. The staggering amount of exclusives that eventually landed on the console went a long way in helping to rack up its sales numbers, but with that being said, these weren’t just small titles that were shoved out the gate just for the sake of making a quick buck.

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Instead, the majority of these titles were incredibly innovative and unique for their time, with most of them going down as iconic within the video game industry. With that in mind, it’s time to turn back the clock to look at what PlayStation exclusives are often considered among the very best, and why so many people came to love them in the first place.

Because this list will be focusing on exclusives, it will not be counting any games that were later remastered or remade for other systems later down the line and will solely consider titles that can still only be played on the original system.

7 R4: Ridge Racer Type 4

Metacritic User Score: 8.4

Grey car driving through a race course

R4: Ridge Racer Type 4

Released
May 4, 1999

Developer(s)
Namco

Genre(s)
Racing

Although racing games became incredibly popular during the early years of the PlayStation, many developers decided to prioritize gameplay over graphical fidelity, meaning a lot of them tended to play well but looked a little rough around the edges at the same time. Ridge Racer Type 4 managed to perfectly execute the adrenaline-pumping core gameplay of its competitors but also looked stunning for its time, primarily thanks to its usage of Gouraud Shading, which had rarely been seen before.

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Additionally, Ridge Racer Type 4 was also one of the first racing games to use many different music styles that helped separate it from other arcade racers, which many people argued could feel a little too “Game-like” due to their one-note soundtracks and visuals. The game also places a massive emphasis on its drifting mechanics which, while easy to get used to, can take a lot of time to master, granting the game an incredibly high skill ceiling.

6 Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Metacritic User Score: 8.5

Ninja hanging off a ledge with a solder patrolling above him

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Released
February 26, 1998

Developer(s)
Acquire

Genre(s)
Stealth , Adventure , Action , Fighting

1998 was the year that saw the stealth genre skyrocket in popularity thanks to two specific games; Thief by Looking Glass Studios, and Tenchu: Stealth Assassins by Acquire. Although the former is a first-person game which is ultimately quite linear in the way it plays, Tenchu takes a third-person camera angle and pits players in the middle of a large sandbox where they are free to navigate around the environment in any way they can think of, including being able to swing between rooftops with the use of the handy grappling hook.

What helped to make the stealth gameplay of Tenchu so immersive, and allows it to still hold up to this day, is how advanced the enemy AI was for the time. Rather than being able to spot the player from miles away, enemy troops will gradually become more suspicious of their surroundings upon hearing small noises, which makes every encounter very unpredictable and intense. The staggering number of items, along with the two very different playable protagonists, also adds a lot of replay value to this critically acclaimed stealth classic.

5 Einhander

Metacritic User Score: 8.6

Small aircraft firing at a large purple mech

Einhander

Released
April 30, 1998

Developer(s)
Square

Considering that Einhander was developed by Square during what many people consider to be their golden years, it should come as no surprise that the game has an absolutely amazing and extremely memorable story. Set during a war between the inhabitants of the Moon and Earth, the player fills the boots of a pilot during the Second Moon War, who must wreak havoc upon Earth’s capital cities and acquire as many resources as possible to take back home.

However, as the story goes on, it’s revealed that both sides aren’t quite as upfront and honest as they may seem, resulting in a plethora of twists and turns, along with a jaw-dropping final scene. Considering that no significant shoot em’ ups had been released for the PlayStation at the time, this also helped Einhander‘s thrilling gameplay stand out from the other genres that many players were already tapping into.

4 Silent Hill

Metacritic User Score: 8.9

Silent Hill 1 Sewers Segment

Silent Hill

Released
January 31, 1999

Genre(s)
Survival Horror

Resident Evil may have been the game to popularize the horror genre within the industry back in 1996, but it was Silent Hill that proved the many different ways that developers could go about instilling fear in players through their games. While there are quite a few jump scares scattered throughout the game, Silent Hill leans more into psychological horror, using haunting imagery, creepy characters, and unnerving dialogue to shake players to their core.

The actual setting of Silent Hill itself also made a huge impact on fans because of how eerie and mysterious it was, with the entire area being covered in a thick layer of fog which, although used as a way to make up for the draw distance, ended up adding so much extra atmosphere to the whole experience. Paired with an incredibly compelling story and some outstanding enemy designs, it’s easy to understand why Silent Hill is often touted as one of the best horror games ever made.

3 Gran Turismo 2

Metacritic User Score: 8.9

Gray car racing with a large city in the background

Gran Turismo 2

Released
December 11, 1999

Gran Turismo took a slightly different direction from a lot of other games in the racing genre at the time, as rather than going the arcade route, they instead tried to provide a much more realistic and immersive driving experience for players to enjoy. The first game managed to pull this off pretty well, but Gran Turismo 2 knocked it out of the park, with the game’s advanced physics adding a lot of weight to each vehicle, which made them a little easier to steer, and much more formidable when crashing into other cars during a race.

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The game also greatly increased the total number of cars that players could unlock, along with a ton of visually stunning tracks and a Simulation Mode, which allowed players to live the dream of becoming a professional racer by building up their reputation and winning numerous tournaments. Anyone who has even a small interest in racing owes it to themselves to pick up and play this classic entry which still stands the test of time as one of the greatest games ever seen in its respective genre.

2 Vagrant Story

Metacritic User Score: 9.0

Ashley slashing skeletons with a sword

Vagrant Story

Released
May 15, 2000

Developer(s)
Square

Genre(s)
JRPG

Vagrant Story is an incredibly unique and innovative RPG in more ways than one. Not only did it essentially introduce the idea of creating and modifying weapons, but it also included far more puzzle-solving than a lot of its contemporaries. All of this perfectly complements the beautifully told story, which contains plenty of political drama and a plethora of unexpected revelations and plot twists to ensure it never becomes too predictable.

Although the battles do follow a familiar third-person real-time combat system, the emphasis on chaining together attacks and combos is even slightly reminiscent of future hack-and-slash games like DMC and Bayonetta, which hadn’t even been thought of yet. This provided the perfect remedy to the usual RPG battles, which could often become a little tiresome and bland after a while, since players were always encouraged to reach a new high score with every encounter, keeping the action engaging from beginning to end.

1 Tekken 3

Metacritic User Score: 9.0

Jin fighting Ogre

Tekken 3

Released
May 1, 1998

Developer(s)
Namco

Genre(s)
Fighting

There’s a reason why every Tekken game after Tekken 3 has pretty much just built upon that game’s combat, and it’s because Namco had managed to perfectly nail down the core fighting gameplay to make it as fluid, fun, and satisfying as possible. The addition of sidesteps added a whole new level of strategy to battles, and jumping was balanced out to be much heavier and riskier to use, making it far less overpowered than it was in previous installments. Faster knockdown recovery, reversals, and easier juggle combos also made Tekken 3 a massive improvement over its predecessors, which could often feel a little clunky in how they played.

Alongside its absurdly fun gameplay, Tekken 3 also greatly expanded upon the lore of the series, and provided a surprisingly heartfelt story that followed Jin’s journey of overcoming his mother’s murder by becoming stronger to eventually face Ogre once and for all. It also can’t be understated just how many new characters were first introduced in Tekken 3, with the likes of Hwoarang, Eddy, and Bryan still being fan favorites even to this day, with the game becoming a benchmark for all fighting games going forward.

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