Earlier this week, the studio behind the wildly successful Skylanders toy/game behemoth announced the remastered, hi-def Spyro Reignited Trilogy. This remake of the first three PlayStation-era Spyro games isn’t unexpected, given how critics and the general public love Crash Bandicoot’s recent return from the wilds. With all these remakes, remasters, and nostalgia–heavy franchises flooding pop culture, the time is ripe for a PS1 renaissance. I loved both the Spyro and the Crash games as a kid, which got me thinking: what other PS1 classics should get the remastering treatment? DISCLAIMER: This is a totally subjective list and does not include obvious classics like Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi (just kidding!).
Tomb Raider 1-4 Anthology
The first four adventures of Lara Croft are classics of the PS1 era. They’re packed with atmosphere and personality, feature a variety of locales that would make Indiana Jones jealous, and rarely play down to their audience. The music and sound design were landmarks in game design and cultivate an air of mystery (I’ve written about how important music was for Tomb Raider before). The mixture of puzzles, adventure, and exploration were perfected by the first two games—imagine what these games could do with modern controls, 4K visuals, and updated inventory management.
A tale as old as time: a feral human (?) boy-child pursues a long and torturous war against the evil pigs that continually screw up his life. Tomba! and its sequel are happy, psychedelic side scrollers that fall into the same vein as other 90s platforming classics like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, or a certain nameless plumber on another console. Tomba! 2 is particularly ambitious and beautiful for a game two decades old and made by a developer than went out of business after this game was published (it even has full voice acting!). The calls for remastered versions of these games has been consistent over the years but nothing has happened thus far—hooves crossed!
King’s Field II
FromSoftware has been on a tear over the past ten years. With Demon’s Souls it kicked off a massively popular series that redefined the role difficulty should (or shouldn’t) play in games, a bonafide global phenomenon. Games aren’t made in a vacuum, though, and From cut its RPG teeth making King’s Field for PS1. Many features gamers think are creations of the Souls series—slow, methodical fighting; enormous 3D worlds; danger around every corner, even from low level opponents—appear first in King’s Field (which is actually King’s Field II in Japan).
Jet Moto Anthology
Cutting-edge graphics? Check. Hoverbikes that can take races over almost any landscape or environment? Bingo. Blazing fast racing with zero room for error? You bet your sweet DualShock. Jet Moto is famous for being a fun, XtReMe racing game from the PS1’s golden years that has serious potential for online multiplayer and streaming.
Perhaps the most idiosyncratic game on this list, Bushido Blade is a fighting game that isn’t interested in being a game. There are no health bars or timers, only six playable characters, and one huge environment that can be climbed or used to avoid combat for an indefinite amount of time. Also, most hits with any of the weapons (a variety of mostly Japanese blades) will immediately kill an opponent—but fighting “dishonorably” against the Bushido code will end the story early.
Medal of Honor 1-2
One of my favorite eras in Steven Spielberg’s career is the late 1990s/early 2000s, when the director’s fascination with World War 2 and “the greatest generation” led to some of his most inspired work in film (Saving Private Ryan) and television (Band of Brothers). Spielberg has always loved videogames, and he decided to create Medal of Honor as a companion piece to his other WW2 creations. The first game and its sequel, Medal of Honor: Underground, are full of the historical details that elevate Spielberg’s WW2 creations to works of humanity. Being great first-person shooters are just icing on the cake for these remarkable games.
Vigilante 8 Series
Twisted Metal is rightly remembered for pioneering the car combat genre, but let’s be honest: that series can be a real bummer. The gameplay is fun, but the whole Rob Zombie/Stephen King pastiche is tiring and overly dark (picture it like this: if Twisted Metal is the DC movie universe, Vigilante 8 is Marvel). If you like your destruction derbies with a little funk, Vigilante 8 is your jam. Bright, colorful, and full of 70s-era Americana on steroids, the two Vigilante games are just plain fun. Levels are highly interactive, weapons and power-ups significantly alter gameplay, and the characters and plot are delightfully over the top.