Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
6. Suikoden (Series)
First on this list may not be entirely unknown to you if you’re a big fan of JRPGs. To some Suikoden is the lesser known Final Fantasy developed by Konami. It featured all the touchstones of the traditional JRPG like the world map, turned based combat, a party of adventurers and heroes. However, it also distinguished itself in some unique ways; there were 108 recruitable characters who could be used in a variety of ways either through combat or support. All games existed in the same world and timeline and featured massive battles where characters could die permanently. My favorite aspect of the game was the evolution of your headquarters. Each Suikoden game as you recruited and found more characters your castle, base or in one of them your boat, would get bigger and more complex and offer you more benefits and services.
5. Star Ocean: Second Story
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Star Ocean as a series, but Second Story was a special brand of JRPG. It had multiple discs and is one of the earliest games I can remember that boasted multiple endings. What was special about Second Story was at the beginning you choose who your ‘main’ protagonist was, Claude or Rena. You got both in your party, but depending on which you choose would determine who you followed during the story and whose perspective you saw the game from. Throughout the game you’d have to make choices that would lock you out of seeing other outcomes, or even getting other characters. It was one of the earliest games I ever played where choices really did matter.
4. Vandal Hearts
I’ve been told I remember this game with rose colored glasses, but I don’t care. This was my turn based tactics game. Even before I played Final Fantasy Tactics, there was Vandal Hearts. From what I remember of the story it was still a very Final Fantasy-esque game. But what always made it stand out to me were two things; as your characters progress in level you could choose one of two paths for them to upgrade or evolve along. This changed the abilities they had and morphed them in some cases into entirely different classes. Every single character was unique as well, it wasn’t just a ‘Knight’ or a ‘Mage’ they had a name, a background, a story and you had tons of them. Every character you picked up joined you on the battlefield, you didn’t have to choose who you left behind for this fight and it was epic.
3. Fighting Force
For me, this game was the beat ‘em up game of the Playstation era. I played it as fiercely and consistently as I did other games generations before like Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or even Golden Axe. It was always with friends, of course, level by level beat ‘em up action is always better in co-op. The best (read: worst) part of that was there was friendly fire. I have so many memories of playing through this entire game multiple times in a single night with friends throughout middle school years and beyond.
2. Ball Blazer Champions
This is a game everyone knows, but that no one actually knows about. Ball Blazers was a 1 v 1 game where you would choose from a line-up of vehicles with different strengths and weaknesses and get dropped into an arena with two goals, power-ups and a ball made of plasma that you had to shoot into the goal. It was Rocket League years before Rocket League. This might have been the first game I ever had for the Playstation and I think EB Games gave me .02 cents for it. Or maybe they said they would take it, but couldn’t pay me for it, I don’t remember. Rocket League does it much better…but the powerups, weapons and explosions made it a lot more interesting.
1. Yoshi’s Cookie Factory
This one goes all the way back to the NES and is the earliest game I can ever remember being exposed to. Yoshi’s Cookie Factory is essentially bejeweled but with Yoshi and Cookies and my Grandfather use to always play this with me. I, of course, was terrible at this because I was so young, so I enjoyed watching him play more than playing myself. What I remember most about this game was the ‘cut scenes’ and I use that term VERY loosely. Every few levels you’d get a little scene of Yoshi running across the screen, or Yoshi chasing a cookie or a bigger cookie chasing Yoshi. These were so fascinating and each time they got bigger and more involved and I needed to see what came next. It’s the earliest example of ‘narrative’ pushing you to accomplish more and more in games.
Check out some of our other lists:
7 Bosses Harder Than The Final Boss
Robbie’s Top 10 Single Player Games
Top 10 Ways for a Dungeon Master to Terrorize His Players