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 (1997)
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!
FF VII 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 (2000)
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 (1997)
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.
4. Xenogears (1998)
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 (1997)
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 (1998)
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 (2000)
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 (1999)
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 (1997)
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 (1998)
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!
11. Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
Final Fantasy VIII takes the 11th spot in this list of the best PS1 RPGs, adding another Square title to the list.
Maybe Sony should have just rebranded their machine the Final Fantasy-station or the PlaySquare and had done with it!
Unsurprisingly, VIII is the eight game in the Final Fantasy canon. Though for those of you who aren’t up to scratch with your roman numerals, that might be a bit of a shock.
FF8 is brimming with all the turn-based action and nerdalicious plotlines that we’ve come to know and expect from these amazing games. If you liked the other FF titles above, then you’re going to love this.
Experience the mystery and thills of an unknown world, get up close and personal with a sci-fi-sorceress, and battle monsters bigger than a soccer pitch.
FF8 is one of the biggest, most immersive games for the PS1 and will certainly keep you occupied for a couple of months at least!
Oh, and as if we need to mention, the graphics look spectacular on this game too. This could easily be something that you’d find on the PSP or the PS2, yet another mind-blowing title on Sony’s first-ever console!
12. Chrono Cross (1999)
Chrono Cross is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my favourite RPGs of all time.
Remember when we covered Chrono Trigger back in our list of the best rare SNES games that need to be in your collection? Well, Chrono Cross is the sequel to that epic game, and it’s an absolute masterpiece.
Everything about it is perfect. Apart from the big licks that we gave it, pretty much every other critic gave it full marks across the board too!
For those that don’t know, the plot is very interesting and handled very cleverly. It’s all based on parallel universes and a boy who dies in one but is alive in the other. Can you avoid the fate of that other universe and try to figure out what connects the two worlds together?
Of course, I t would be a pretty boring game if there weren’t any evil minions and annoying enemies to stop on the way.
All the usual RPG elements such as collecting innumerable items and dungeon exploration play a big part too, forever distracting you from the terrible fact that you’re dead in another world…
And, I’ve saved the best bit till last. The elemental magic system is one of the best in any RPG, allowing users to up their powers as they level up in spectacular fashion.
With each character holding a mysterious secret about their backstory and tonnes of NPCs to converse with in order to uncover more elusive information, there’s certainly a lot to sink your teeth into!
13. The Legend of Dragoon (1999)
Next up in our list of the best PS1 RPGs is The Legend of Dragoon, a game that’s choc-a-bloc with Dragons wherever you turn!
Listen, if I tell you that this game cost over $16 million to make, then does it make you just a little bit intrigued? How about when I add that over 100 people worked on it from start to finish too?
Yep, this might not only be one of the best PS1 RPGs ever, but it could also be the most expensive!
And that soundtrack… who else can remember those epic tunes? Slaying monsters using massive swords and basically playing through an epic fantasy novel with filmic tunes was incredible!
Ok, what separates this from other RPGs? Well, how about having the ability to develop super-strong armour with wings attached to it in ‘Dragoon Mode’?
Yeah, that’s pretty damn cool!
Gamers take control of a dude named Dart, assumedly named after the thing you throw in pubs. He’s an orphan, and now he’s hunting the monster that killed his parents.
Not only does he have to get vengeance for his family, but then dragons start causing a ruckus and all hell breaks loose.
Give a guy a break!
Collect items, battle strategically, and do whatever it takes to stay alive. It’s not the most original RPG of all time, but it’s 100% one of the best!
14. Parasite Eve (1998)
Parasite Eve is up next, bringing a touch of horror to this list of the best PS1 RPGs!
Bring me the Horizon don’t just sing about any old rubbish, you know! This is one great game with some seriously freaky action.
How would I describe Parasite Eve to someone who’s never played it before? Well, imagine Silent Hill with turn-based battles, and you’re somewhere near!
Players control Aya Brea, a woman on a mission to stop The Eve from destroying the human race.
This horror RPG uses the same type of gameplay that you’ve become used to through games like Pokemon and Quest 64. The main difference, however, is that Pikachu ran for cover as soon as he saw the front cover of Parasite Eve…
Unlike Parasite Eve II, all of the enemies in the first game are hidden and only appear when Aya walks over certain areas. The battles are random and can be SUPER ANNOYING at times, but it doesn’t stop me enjoying pumping zombies full of lead.
Once again, this game looks as though it should have dropped on the PS2 or Xbox. It’s visually way ahead of its time and a real alternative RPG for people looking to add a few thrills to their collection.
15. Grandia (1999)
And finally, Grandia takes the 15th spot in this list of the best PS1 RPGs of all time!
How many PS1 games do you know of that boast over 80 hours of epic gameplay? Yes, Grandia is one heck of a title and takes a while to finish, giving you great value for you money and a massive replayability factor…
… one of these days that’s going to become a real word, I’m sure of it!
Grandia gets two things incredibly right.
The first is the development of each of the characters as the story progresses, and the second is the watertight magic system. They feel so natural and work perfectly. Twinned with the exciting turn-based fights found throughout, they make for a game that constantly feels fresh and exciting.
I’ve done it again, haven’t i? What about all the people that have never even played Grandia!
Well, players follow wannabe adventurer Justin has he heads out on a mission to discover how an ancient presence disappeared.
Unlike strict battle formats, Grandia gives the player more freedom to to attack in their own way. And the battles look fantastic too…
…I’m fanboying now; just get it and give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!
16. Chrono Trigger (1999)
Chrono Trigger takes the 16th spot in this list of the best PS1 RPGs of all time. It certainly has one of the coolest cover arts of any PS1 game, looking for all the world like a slice of a fantasy novel brought to life.
This game might cost an absolute bomb on the SNES, but it’s a reasonably priced on the PS1. If you don’t fancy knocking back up to $1,800 for a Ninty cartridge, then this could be the way to go.
There are some interesting new features on the upgraded PS1 version including an anime cartoon introduction that replaces the original game intro. It also boasts a movie theatre and lots of other unlockable content such as a beast gallery and music player.
Chrono Trigger quite often came shipped with Final Fantasy on the PS1. Still, it more than holds its own with said RPG titan and utilised an all-star developer cast to help the game become a reality.
‘All star cast?’ I hear you ask?
Well, the the game was made by the creator of Final Fantasy, the creator of Dragon Quest, and the Manga artist behind DragonBall Z.
Blimey, t was always going to be a success with that team behind it!
Work towards different endings, delve into epic side-quests, and interact with memorable characters that will stay with you forever. Chrono Trigger doesn’t make it into multiple ‘best of’ lists for nothing, you know!
17. Wild Arms (1996)
Wild Arms isn’t an early version of the Arms game for the Nintendo Switch… which is probably a good thing.
In this case, it stands for Ancient Relic Machines, and your man Rudy who’s front and centre on the cover above is the one with the ability to use them.
Even though he’s ‘the chosen one’, he ends up being thrown out of his village for having these incredible skills.
Bit harsh, right?
Well alongside a young princess and a treasure hunter, Rudy sets out on a mission to discover who he his, with his companions finding their place in the world alongside him.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Yes, the ancient relic machines look a lot like guns. Technically, they are, but they’re highly dangerous devices that represent a less sophisticated time…
… pretty much the same as now then, eh?
I guess you could be forgiven for thinking of Wild Arms as a sort of futuristic Wild West game. I mean, it’s got wild in the title, and a lot of the music sounds as though it’s been stolen from an old Spaghetti Western.
The game graphics might not look as exciting as the front cover, but it’s still a solid title that’s well put together with a lot of enjoyable gameplay.
18. Jade Cocoon: Story of the Tamamayu (1998)
Jade Cocoon: Story of The Tamamayu isn’t only one of the best PS1 RPGs for the system, but it also has the most RPG sounding name of any game in this list!
And yes, it did take me a couple of minutes to properly say Tamamayu out loud…
So, let’s try to unpack what’s going on here.
Plays control Levant, a boy on a mission to become a Cocoon Master like his father.
No, he’s not a giant caterpillar; a Cocoon Master purges the souls of evil monsters and makes them subservient to the people.
On the day Levant is supposed to marry his girlfriend, he sets out on a dangerous mission… which sounds like he got cold feet and sacked the wedding off.
This game has lots of Pokemon-style elements to it. Capture and use monsters to fight, breed them to make new evolutions, and upgrade them through battles.
Ok, so it’s exactly like Pokemon but for the PS1, with lovely graphics and a spectacular world to explore.
Sounds like a winner to me!
19. Vanguard Bandits (1998)
Seriously; why play a common old garden RPG when you could play a synapse melter like Vanguard Bandits.
This tactical RPG requires the cunning of Charlemagne and the bravery of a He-Man. Battle across the continent of Eptina while controlling massive robot fighters.
It’s like Pacific Rim and Power Rangers in an RPG battle-fest, and it’s one of the most addictive games on the PS1!
So what are these mega mechanical bots called then? Well, they’re ATACs, which stands for All Terrain Armored Combatant.
I’m aware that sounds like Atack… I think that was intentional…
The main map is shown in 2D, but the main battles are what sets this game apart. The camera moves into 3D side action for Tekken-style fights. These guys have huge swords too; it’s lethal!
Players control Bastion (which is kind of my name!) through a series of 56 levels as you try to save Eptina from itself!
Oh, and there are multiple endings too. Of course, there are, it’s an RPG!
20. Legend of Mana (1999)
Legend of Mana takes the 20th spot on this list of the best PS1 RPGs of all time!
Players take charge of a hero or a heroine as they work to build their own land using sacred artefacts. Find another mysterious item and learn a little more about the history of the land.
It’s not just fun, it’s educational (in a fantasy sense, at any rate!)
This game literally has everything. We’re talking raising monsters and controlling golems to batter back enemies. The storyline is huge, as are the weapons that you wield along the way.
I wouldn’t want to mess with anyone in this game!
In true RPG style, there isn’t a set order to the levels. Players can visit any area at any time and complete them in any order. It might be 22 years old, but the levels are still dripping in that fantasy, oldy-worldy vibe that makes quests like Legend of Mana so damn addictive.
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A 29 year old fella that’s had a Gameboy addiction ever since he was a child. Brandon is the founder of RetroDodo and created a YouTube channel with 240,000 subscribers dedicated to retro gaming products. He now wants to create the No.1 site to showcase the latest retro products from around the globe.