Blink long enough and twenty-five years might pass. At least that’s what it feels like with the original PlayStation, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary today.
Sony’s iconic disc-based gray console debuted in Japan on December 3, 1994. Throughout its 10+ year run, the PS1 sold over 100 million units worldwide and laid the foundation for a brand that is now synonymous with gaming.
Truth be told, I didn’t play much of the PlayStation when it first came out. My parents bought us a Nintendo 64 in 1996, both because it was $100 cheaper and my mother was wary of a not-yet-10-year-old Kyle and his younger brother handling a game disc. A cartridge was less likely to get destroyed in the Bell House, she reasoned – probably wisely so.
So my street cred with the original PlayStation is less than with the Nintendo 64, but I respect its place in gaming history and love the franchises that it spawned. It was PS2 – not PS1 – that won me over as a convert, and I’ve been buying PlayStation consoles ever since. But PS1 still has a place in my heart.
Anyway, that’s enough about me. Today is a day to remember the PlayStation. And to that end, let’s look at ten different reasons why it’s a system that people still love a quarter-century later.
The CD revolutionized the gaming industry. Not only were they cheap to manufacture, but they also vastly increased the amount of storage for developers to include assets such as music, cutscenes, and voiceovers. Storytelling went to the next level during this time period, and PlayStation led the way.
It also introduced the concept of a video game console as a multimedia device. Aside from playing games, the original PlayStation could also play music. For a lot of households, the PlayStation acted as the sole CD player in the house. Several years later, PS2 would build on that legacy as a multimedia device with its adoption of the DVD format.
The bottom line is this: PS1’s technology and the success behind it made today’s games with their high-definition in-game assets, breathtaking cutscenes, and massive soundtracks possible. It wasn’t the first disc-based console, but it achieved mass-market success where others failed.
I’ll be totally honest. I am not a car lover. In fact, I’d rather walk or take the train to most places than drive a car. But I do love a good racing game. And, boy, is Gran Turismo a good racing game. Scratch that; it’s a great racing game.
While other racing simulators existed at the time, Gran Turismo basically introduced the concept to a mainstream audience. Its authenticity, cutting-edge graphics, and difficulty set it apart from most other racing games, a genre where arcade-style games dominated.
In development for five years (amazingly, development started in 1992), Gran Turismo is a racing game far ahead of its time. And the general public took notice. It’s the best-selling game on PlayStation, having achieved over 10 million in sales worldwide.
The original PlayStation didn’t actually launch with a DualShock controller. It launched with what is known as the PlayStation controller, which lacked analog sticks. For younger gamers, if you bought a PlayStation Classic, that system came with the original PlayStation controller.
The DualShock was not released in the US until 1998, three years into the system’s North American run. It introduced more precise controls and dual-motor vibration feedback (i.e. rumble). The same basic design was used for DualShock controllers on PS2 and PS3 with slight alterations. The PS4’s DualShock 4 is the biggest change to date – introducing a touchpad, light bar, and a new share button – but it still looks similar.
The DualShock’s release was an important milestone for the original PlayStation, so much so that developers re-released games like Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 to support it. After all, it wasn’t possible to just send out a patch via the Internet like it is today. New titles like Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Spyro the Dragon, and Tekken 3 also supported the new controller.
Speaking of Resident Evil, Capcom’s original game in the series may look low-budget and campy today – and it was pretty cheesy even then – but it revolutionized horror games as we know it. It came out during a time when slasher films were all the rage. However, Resident Evil was more Night of the Living Dead than it was Halloween – and not just because of the zombies.
First and foremost, Resident Evil was a game about survival. The developers did a fantastic job of building tension through the use of fixed camera angles that lured you down hallways, groans that clued you in that a zombie was lurking nearby, and loading screens that left you wondering what was behind the next door.
Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto came from pretty humble beginnings. Originally released on PC, the game was ported to PlayStation in 1998. Its sequel, GTA 2, was released simultaneously on PC and PS1. Both games featured dated-looking graphics with a top-down bird’s eye perspective.
The series didn’t really hit its stride until PS2. Grand Theft Auto III was released in 2001 as a PS2 exclusive – although it was later ported to PC and Xbox. GTA III sold over 14 million copies worldwide.
Despite being considered something of a black sheep, the original GTA deserves a mention here simply for starting the franchise. Without the two original PlayStation games, it’s hard to imagine GTA III and the rest of the series ever getting off the ground.
Compared to today’s standard of having a hard drive or flash memory built into a console, memory cards stink. But at the time, they helped ensure that data could be stored and even transported to a different console. You can think of them as the precursor to a built-in hard drive.
For those of you too young to remember, here’s a quick history lesson. Before home consoles had memory cards, game cartridges either needed to have built-in battery-backed RAM for saves or you had to beat a game in a single sitting. Of course, there was a third option: leave your system on all night. Aside from wasting energy, you also risked having a parent or sibling turn the console off.
As for the PlayStation memory card, it had a distinct advantage, too. Unlike the Sega Saturn’s memory card, PlayStation’s could easily fit in a small pocket – perfect for a young kid going to a friend’s house.
Final Fantasy VII
Over 20 years after its original release, people still talk about Final Fantasy VII as the best game of all time. That enduring legacy has led to Square Enix announcing the highly-anticipated remake Final Fantasy VII Remake for PS4, which is coming out in March 2020.
Funny enough, Final Fantasy VII almost wasn’t a PlayStation game at all. Development for the game started on the SNES, but it was moved to PlayStation after delays and due to the advantages with a CD for using full-motion video. The game became the first in the series to use 3D character models, which were put over pre-rendered 2D backgrounds.
Despite a recent resurgence with Crash Bandicoot N Sane Trilogy and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, the Crash Bandicoot franchise post-PS1 has not done nearly as well as the other franchises mentioned on this list. Still, he’s such an iconic character – he is the unofficial PlayStation mascot of the 1990s, after all – that I would be remiss not to mention him here.
Metal Gear Solid
The Metal Gear franchise existed before PlayStation came out, but the series gained notoriety with the release of 1998’s Metal Gear Solid. Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece practically invented the 3D stealth genre, and it helped to establish video games as a powerful storytelling medium. After this game came out, it was clear that video game blockbusters could go toe-to-toe with films.
The PlayStation Brand
Without the original PlayStation, there would be no PS2, no PSP, no PS3, no PlayStation Vita, no PS4, no PlayStation VR… no PlayStation anything.
Let’s put it another way. If Sony had not entered the console space, three of the top five best-selling video game systems of all time would never have existed. Video games – and really, modern culture more broadly – would be radically different.
Why do you still love the original PlayStation? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!