Quietly being the very best, like no one knew they were.
With the recent surge of remakes and remasters, it’s hard to deny that the Sony Playstation was home to some of the most memorable and well-known role-playing games of all time. From Final Fantasy to Legend of Dragoon, these games stand tall in the halls of questing greatness. But what about some of their lesser-known brethren? Being guilty of missing out on some of these myself. I’ve decided to try and shed some light on some of these unspoken gems of the PlayStation RPG library.
Without further ado, let’s get to it. Here are ten overlooked PlayStation RPGs you need to play before you die.
10. Jade Cocoon Story of Tamamayu (Genki, 1998)
I have to say; I love me some Jade Cocoon. It’s like Pokemon and Princess Mononoke all twisted into an RPG. You literally get to run around the forest and capture different types of monsters and have them fight for you, allowing you to sit back and relax while they do all the hard work.
Despite following a somewhat simple formula, Jade Cocoon is still a ton of fun with a decent story to pull you in and an exciting cast of characters to help bring its world to life. This game is, without a doubt, an adventure I hold near and dear to my heart.
9. Azure Dreams (Konami, 1997)
This one should be an absolute blast for anyone who is a fan of The Legend Of Zelda or just dungeon crawling in general. One that I regret missing out on in my youth, Azure Dreams feels unique while still capturing the classic roguelike elements. The one aspect that grabbed my attention was its turn-based battle system. Rather than hang around and wait to be battered by your hero, the enemies continuously shift around every time you move, making for an exciting take on the typical dungeon-crawler combat experience.
In addition to its innovative combat system, the game also takes an interesting approach to exploration. Progressing through the dungeons isn’t just dependant on the player, You also get to bring monsters allies into the depths with you, each with their own set of skills. Additionally, these beastly allies also have the lovely benefit of not returning to level one once you leave the labyrinth Dungeon-diving is hard work, folks. The variety this game presents is a load of fun, from town building to finding yourself a girlfriend, there’s a lot for you to do.
08. Saiyuki: Journey West (Koei, 2001)
I have to confess: this is one I didn’t get to experience until I stumbled upon it on the PSN one miraculous day. Saiyuki: Journey West is a strategy RPG based on the tale we’ve seen adapted a million times over, Wu Cheng’en “Journey to the West.” Surprisingly it manages to stay pretty true to the source material. You meet various shapeshifters along your journey, all who are named after their story counterparts, and they can transform into giant kaiju. I can’t lie to you guys. These sprites look pretty neat.
While the game doesn’t offer the most expansive narrative, it does continue to get progressively more challenging. If you can’t adapt and formulate a solid battle plan, get ready for endless death scenes. Believe me, I can vouch for it. Overall, Saiyuki: Journey West is something of a hidden treasure in the Playstation library and one that should’ve gotten way more love than it did at the time of its release.
7. Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena (Atlus, 1998)
If you like massive battles with hordes of monsters, warriors, arrows, and spells, then Brigandine is the game for you.
Admittedly, this tactical role-playing title can be a tad bit overwhelming as there is no tutorial whatsoever. Furthermore, you get a lot of things thrown at you all at once. However, after you manage to get the hang of the game’s various mechanics, it’s massively fun. With massive battalions at your disposal, battles became intense war games that will test your mind.
That said, be sure to take your time with this one and don’t give up on it. Things will get better once you start to grasp how everything works. It can be without a doubt a demanding adventure, but when everything clicks, it’s a magical experience well worth all the blood, sweat, and tears. If your a patient player with a knack for challenging SRPG’s, then Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena is certainly worth adding to your game collection.
6. Kartia: The Word of Fate (Atlus, 1998)
Excuse me for geeking out, but I have to get this off my chest. This game is freaking awesome, and I almost felt bad having it this low on this list. If you can’t tell by now, I love my strategy RPGs. And when it comes to the ones found on Sony’s 32-bit powerhouse, Kartia: The Word of Fate is one of my favorites of all time.
The game’s grid-based melees are straightforward enough. You still move your units around the battlefield in those little blocks as you work to outmaneuver your enemies. However, the game’s ace in the hole that makes it stand out from its contemporaries is the cards you can use that allow you to summon either spells or fierce creatures to make things a little easier for you. With the option of two protagonists to choose from, you get two entirely different stories as each character’s path differs from the other. Surprisingly enough, you rarely ever play the same stages between the two leads.
Of course, I can’t forget that soundtrack. Kartia’s stellar score will keep your adrenaline pumped as you plot your next move to topple the opposition. When all is said and done, if you enjoy a great story with a fantastic soundtrack and fun gameplay, then give this one a shot.
5. Koudelka (Sacnoth, 1999)
Koudelka is one that caught me by surprise and a game I regret not experiencing in my youth. Sacnoth’s creepy exploration and puzzle-based RPG plays like a fusion of Resident Evil and Shadow Hearts that left me floored.
The game takes you on a heart-pounding, fear-driven journey through a haunted mansion as you try and uncover its dark secrets. Still employing the ever-faithful grid-based combat movement, Koudelka takes you through one fantastic story. The game’s stunning character models, superb voice acting, and gripping atmosphere really come together to drive this haunting adventure forward.
If you’re like me and you love those classic Resident Evil-style tank controls, spooky atmosphere, and, of course, RPG’s, then this one is another that’s right up your alley.
4. Legend of Legaia (Prokion, 1998)
The first RPG that I ever really out maximum effort into, it goes without saying that this one was going to rank highly on this list. Prokion’s Legend of Legaia is a game that deserved was more attention than it first received, at least in my opinion. The cast was colorful, the character models looked great, and the story was pretty engaging.
You cannot talk about Legend of Legaia without reflecting on its combat system. My god, that combat system! The way the game handled its brawls was just incredible. It kept the classic turn-based formula the genre is known for but added a fighting game-esque input command system that allows your character to perform some genuinely over-the-top and flashy martial arts techniques and combos.
While you may be only limited to three characters, there are so many techniques to learn, fun mini-games and some extremely OP hidden bosses this game will keep you entertained for years to come.
3. Suikoden (Konami, 1996)
25 years since its initial release on the PS1, Suikoden remains one of the most memorable titles I have ever experienced, and unbelievably fun. Konami nailed it with this one. One of the first games to ever push me to power-level for hours on end and pull all-nighters, Suikoden manages to deliver an unforgettable journey.
The combat system is excellent. The rune spells are immensely fun to experiment with to see which characters work best with which runes. Suikoden also offers a staggering 108 Stars of Destiny that you’ll get to recruit, all with their own purpose to serve in your growing army.
In addition to the typical battles, Suikoden‘s highlights include a tactical mini-game that allows you to command legions of pint-sized troops as well as one-on-one duels that happen between your plucky protag and whoever decides to catch a beatdown.
Full of fun fights, beautifully drawn character sprites and portraits, and 108 characters to recruit to your cause, if there is one series that every RPG lover needs to give notice to, play, and enjoy, it is this series right here.
2. Vanguard Bandits (Human Entertainment, 1998)
Always something of a niche genre, strategy RPG’s tend to get lost in the sauce, and, unfortunately, this phenomenal offering was no exception. Vanguard Bandits is, simply put, one of the most exceptional games I’ve got to put my hands on. One that you often don’t hear too much about, this mech-fueled tactical RPG demands the attention of any fan of the genre.
Released in 1998, Vanguard Bandits has it all: excellent character development, grueling tactical battles, a solid story with multiple routes to give you replayability, and, of course, freaking mechas! It’s still another prototypical move-along-the-blue-squares RPG’s. However, when you encounter an enemy, you actually get to enjoy a little battle scene play out, much like an old school fighting game, which I thoroughly enjoyed. While it doesn’t stray too far from the standard formula, Vanguard Bandits is still a phenomenal all-around game and one you will find yourself getting invested in.
1. Thousand Arms (Atlus, 1998)
Ok, now hear me out. Perhaps I’m a bit biased here, but this game is my favorite RPG of all time. Everything about it is just fantastic to me.
Atlus and Red Company’s Thousand Arms is a turn-based RPG that takes place in a steampunk world. It has a pretty basic story, but the voice acting is pretty comical at times. The animated sprites during battle are some of the best I’ve ever seen on the PlayStation. The cast is different, to say the least, but all of them are pretty enjoyable and very well-drawn. The combat is, of course, the usual turn-based fare. But there’s a slight twist: it’s a one-on-one fight between the hero and his enemies, where your two teammates get to hang back and play a support role. The world itself is exceptionally colorful, and its always a joy to travel around and take in the sights.
Surprisingly enough, the one thing I consider to be Thousand Arms‘ best aspect is the dating game; yes, my favorite part is the built-in dating sim. You get to date every female cast member, and the way you interact with them affects how they feel about you. Their feelings also directly shape the outcome of the weapons you forge, adding additional spells and abilities to them.
It’s not the most epic tale of conquest and heroism, but Thousand Arms is so much fun and one game you absolutely should have in your PlayStation RPG collection.
So, what are some of your favorite lesser-appreciated PlayStation RPGs? Did we overlook your personal favorite? Sound off in the comments section below and let us know.