The Playstation 1 was hands down one of the best consoles ever, and the best PS1 RPGs were one of the primary reasons many gamers wanted this console so badly.
Released in 1995 throughout USA and Europe it was the start of the console wars, things were heating up between Sony, Nintendo and XBOX but fortunately the PS1 came on top and with that came and abundance of some of the best PS1 games ever made.
Developers were getting excited, and gaming took a leap into 3D and 2D RPGs that captivated gamers for hours on end. The storyline were intruguin, characters memorable and the gaming experience addictive.
This is when gaming REALLY got interesting and with that came a lot of money to make for Sony and games developers.
We’ve put together the ultimate guide that shows of the best PS1 RPGs of its time, featuring big names that are still going to this day, down to the small one of a kind games that you may have never heard of.
So, put down your controllers and lets take a look at the best PS1 RPGs of all time.
1. Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII was released in 1997 and developed by Square in Japan but was sold worldwide by Sony themselves. As the title suggest it was the seventh game in the Final Fantasy series and it was so popular that in 2020 there was a remake made for the PS4 console 23 years later.
FF VII was the first in its series to have a PAL release, something that Square didn’t think they needed to do until now. Who knows the mass over sales they could have missed in previous games! The game was such a big project that the development team had a budget of over $80,000,000, and that’s in the 90’s!
The game follows the main character Cloud Strife, a mercenary who’s trying to stop a world-controlling mega corporation from using the planet’s life essence as an energy source.
The game sends Cloud and his friends on missions and small quests in hopes to kick Sephiroth‘s butt (the bad guy), who happens to be one of the most known enemies throughout the FF franchise.
In game you get to explore three modes of play: the field, the world map, and the battle screen. The world is 3D and is the first in the FF series to use full motion video a 3D graphics, making it a must have for older Final Fantasy gamers.
The map is filled with towns, ruins, forests and environments for you to discover. When you get into a battle scene you take turns to battle it out, using your knowledge, skills and items to beat them and ear EXP.
It’s crowned our best PS1 RPG game of all time. It’s immersive, large, and it was ahead of its time which is why he sold so well. Still to this day it’s classed as one of the best Final Fantasy games ever, and that just says it all because there’s a lot of them!
2. Vagrant Story
Vagrant story was released in 2000, and published by Squaresoft, now also known as Square Enix. It has also been re-released through the Playstation Network on PS3, PS Vita, and its even one of the best PSP RPGs out there too!
Many of you may find some similarities with Final Fantasy tactics (which is also on this list) and that’s because it was produced, written and directed by the same guy known as Yasumi Matsuno.
The game takes place in the Kingdom of Valendia and into the ruined city of Leá Monde. Ashley Riot is the main character, an elite agent code named Riskbreaker. No, not Wristbreaker, that’s what we accidentally use to call him in the 90’s.
You must investigate the link between a local cult leader and the senior parliament member known as Duke Bardorba. This investigation takes you through a brutal world filled with myterious monsters, evil thieves, undead and even giant dragons.
The battle sequences are very rewarding, as it used a targeted attack sequence that lets you select a part of the enemy to attack. Sometimes the head is best, sometimes the leg, and sometimes the wrist breaker is best, only time will tell and you must learn how to destory your enemies efficiently.
The fact that this game has giant dragons and has a some what a more “mature” approach to the RPG genre is what made it so popular. It was also a fairly hard game to complete, making it more rewarding when the time officially came.
It’s a game that must be played by RPG fans everywhere, even if it means just getting to the dragon part! This is one to add to your retro gaming collection.
3. Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
Some will say Castlevania: Symphony of the Night isn’t an RPG, but we disagree. It was developed and published by Konami in 1997 exclusively for the PS1.
The game features Dracula’s son known as Alucard as the main protagonist, he explores the castle in which he was resurrected and comes across a wide number of different enemies while doing so.
It takes a slightly different turn compared to previous Castlevania games and that’s due to the non-linear level design and small RPG elements that was first experimented with in the past.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night didn’t sell well to begin with, many called it a “slow burner”, but once gamers starting putting in the hours they released it was a grower, not a shower.
After time, the game became incredibly popular with all ages, selling over 700,000 units in the United states and Japan alone. The superb level design, awesome characters and innovative enemies made gamers want to keep on playing it, even after completing the game.
There was lots of extra bits to discover throughout the game too, so everytime you spoke to your friend, they’d come up with a new area for you to explore that you perhaps missed, and this maybe why word of mouth was its best piece of marketing.
If you’re after a bloody RPG, this one is for you.
Xenogears is yet another game developed and published by Square Enix in 1998. They really did know how to make the best PS1 RPGs!
Xenogears is based on exploring 3D environments on foot and in an awesome humanoid mecha known as “Gears”… hence the name. When exploring the world, like most RPG’s you come across enemies, and to fight them you use the turn-based system known as “Active Time Battle” in Xenogears.
The main character is protagonist Fei Fong Wong, who navigates through the world and aims to overthrow the all-powerful ruler of Solaris and uncover mysteries concerning their world.
The story integrates Jungian psychology and religious symbolism, which almost caused the game to never exist, because the developers worries that a religious game could receive bad press.
The world is large and filled with mystery, alongside weird and wonderful enemies for you to battle. It was originally a proposal for Final Fantasy VII, but it was allowed to be developed as its own project, first as a sequel to Chrono Trigger.
Even though many thought the game was rushed, the incredible storyline and well written narrative is what helped it sell over 1.1 million units worldwide. Yeah… that’s a lot!
5. Final Fantasy Tactics
Who would have guessed, another Final Fantasy game! Well, there’s more coming up too, and that’s because these games are simply the best PS1 RPG’s of all time. Period!
Final Fantasy Tactics is a tactical RPG game developed by Square Enix in Japan in 1997, and slowly made its way to the US and Europe in 1998. What made the game so great is that it uses a battle system unlike any other Final Fantasy game, and they were good mechanics too! Making old FF fans want a piece of the pie..
What made this game stand out too is the 3D, rotatable playing field that uses adorable retro sprites for the characters. It brings a touch of old school to the then modern console.
Final Fantasy Tactics is sen in a medieval kingdom known as Ivalice. You follow Ramza, a highborn cadet who gets thrown into the middle of The Lion War. Throughout the storyline you find out that there was a horrible plot behind this war, and it’s your goal to find out why.
Due to the addictive storyline, and adorble design it recieved critical acclaim from press back in the day and is titled by many as on of the best games of all time.
Square Enix then made another title called Final fantasy Tactics Advance which became one of the best Gameboy Advance games of all time, people couldn’t get enough of it!
If you love the look and style of sprites and are a fan of Final fantasy this is a game you just have to pick up.
6. Suikoden II
Suikoden II is a Japanese RPG developed and published by Konami in 1998, then 199 in USA and eventually 200 in Europe. I always think if that happened now with video game launches, the community would go wild waiting 2 years for a release!
One of the most memorable features of Suikoden II was the fact that you could choose from 100 different characters, 40 of them were even able to be used in combat. Crazy!
The game takes place years after the events of the original Suikoden game and puts focus on an invasion of the Jowston by the Kingdom of Highland.
The story has 27 True Runes, magical runes that allow you to do magical things and fortunately at the start of the game you and you best friend have half each. These runes bring horrible fortune to the two characters and its your job to get out of it all.
After release the public and press didn’t find it too interesting, the old 16-bit look didn’t appeal to anyone anymore and the word of mouth just wasn’t big enough for many to even pick it up.
But once gamers starting playing it they felt attached to it as the story was so captivating, pulling you into to play more and more. Even though the sales weren’t high compared to many on the lights, those who did play it all the way through ranked it very highly.
Still to this day many gamers say it’s one of the best PS1 RPGs out there and we couldn’t agree more.
7. Final Fantasy IX
This is the third Final Fantasy game on the list, and it’s coming in at Number 7 on our list. Dang, Square Enix were really in their prime in the late 90’s weren’t they?
Final Fantasy is another one of the best PS1 RPGs around being released in 2000 and officially titled the 9th game in the series. The story focuses on a war between nations in the fantasy world known as Gaia. A bandit ends up kidnapping the princess as part as a plan by the neighbouring nasty nation of Lindblum.
The main guest is to take down the Queen of Brahne who started the huge wars between the nation, between the mass story is great adventure, awesome characters and stunning environments.
Final Fantasy IX went back to its roots, it left the modern settings of FF VI, FF VII and FF VIII by returning to the old school turn based organics of its older games. It tried to solidify what made the old games great, and it do so with flying colours.
Final Fantasy IX was also ranked the highest Final Fantasy game ever, which is crazy in itself. Sony eventually released it on the Playstation Store in 2010, and support arrived for PS3, PSP and PS Vita shortly after in 2012.
FF fans downloaded it millions of times and in total from its 2000 release it sold over 5 million copies, making it one of the best selling PS1 RPGs out there.
This is one you just cannot skip on.
8. Valkyrie Profile
Valkyrie Profile is an RPG game published by Enix… no, not Square Enix, this is a different Enix and released in 1999 in Japan and 2000 for North America. Norse Mythology had a huge part to play in the character design and storyline of this game.
The game follows Valkyrie Lenneth as she travels through the oh so famous Midgard collecting the souls of slain heroes to serve as her personal companions for Ragnarok. Throughout the game you’ll find that Lenneth has lost her original human memory which is mandatory to becoming a Valkyrie.
As the game continues you figure out more of your memory which unlocks new challenge and quests throughout your journey.
The dungeon and world exploration plays more like that of a platform game, but its not until you start battling with demons, monsters and enemies that the real RPG layout starts to happen.
This style of gameplay is what made Valkyrie Profile stand out and it was so popular that it sold over 710,000 units with critics praising the in-depth and complicated gameplay.
If you’re into norse mythology, bad ass armour and RPG layouts then this is a worthy game for your collection.
9. Breath of Fire III
Breath of Fire III is one of the best PS1 RPGs developed by Capcom in 1997, it was later released in the US in 1998. It’s the first game in the Breath of Fire franchise to feature 3D graphics and voice acting, the PS1 allowed for this to become a reality due to the modern technology.
The story is based in a fantasy world where humand live alongside odd looking creatures. Ryu is the last of The Brood race, a race that can transform into powerful dragons, and he trys to find his people amongst the world.
Throughout the game Ryu becomes a man, and you have friends who join you along your journey. The game features an isometric top down style to the gameplay, giving the sprite and character a “3D” effect. You can move and tilt the camera which is an effect not seen in many RPG games.
Upon release the game received thousands of positive reviews and it went on to sell 679,000 copies in Japan and the USA. Due to the popularity and demand, Capcom re-released Breath of the Wild III for the PS Vita and PSP.
The game introduced a handful of new features to the franchise, including the Master System which allows any of the game’s playable characters to learn new skills and edit their statistics. Another cool feature was the Fairy Village, this gives the player the ability to grow a small town of faeries which gives you access to special items and bonuses.
It’s an all-round classic RPG that “fits all sizes” shall we say, plus its quite detailed, so those who like messing with stats and items should enjoy this one.
10. Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete was released in Japan in 1998 for PS1 by developer Game Arts. Even to this day many are wanting a new Lunar 3 game, heck, there’s even a mass petition to make it a reality that. you can join in with.
The game was originally one of the best SEGA Saturn games in 1996 but eventually went through lots of revisions, starting with enhanced graphics and video support. The game follows Alex, a young boy from a small town who starts getting adventurous and curious about being chosen as the heir-apparent “Dragonmaster”.
It’s funny how a lot of the best RPG’s feature Dragons. It must have been something about the 90’s that made Dragons so dang awesome.
Alex eventually must pass a bunch of trials set by ancient dragons to claim his place as a Dragonmaster. Once completed he must stop a powerful sorcerer who is trying to control the world.
The ingenious art, easy to use menus and incredible animations is what makes this one of the best PS1 RPGs to date. The game was so popular that Lunar 2 was a sequen in 1998 and then two more remakes were made in 2002 by Ubisoft.
This sits highly in our best PS1 RPGs list for good reason, and the animations for its time were something truly special!
So there you have a long look at our best PS1 RPGs of all time. Let us know on twitter @RETRO_DODO if you think we have missed one, and we’ll update this article every month, so be sure to keep coming back! Happy gaming.