The PlayStation was such a huge success and brought so many people into – or back into – gaming that it’s no wonder the console had so many underrated PS1 games and a large library to chose from, many of which are still fondly remembered by gamers today.
For example, the PlayStation is closely associated with games such as Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VII, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Tekken, Gran Turismo, Silent Hill, WipeOut and even the 2D masterpiece Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
It doesn’t matter, necessarily, that some of those titles appeared on other consoles (in some case prior to the PS1) – Sony’s console was so ubiquitous and the brand so powerful that it’s difficult to separate those games from the PlayStation itself.
Perhaps inevitably with such a huge software library – of more than 4000 titles – games did get lost sometimes.
Maybe they launched aside one of those aforementioned games. Maybe one of those classics got there first in terms of their mechanics, resulting in a perfectly good game being overlooked.
Whatever the reason, there are lots of underrated PS1 games out there – let’s take a look at some, shall we?
It seems strange now – given that 2D, pixel art graphics are near-universally accepted as a genuine art form – but in the mid-90s there was a real prejudice against 2D games and visuals.
The lure of shiny, new, texture-mapped polygons was enough to turn critics and audiences off the more traditional visual styles – yet those early 3D visuals have aged horrendously over the years.
Rapid Reload was a victim of that anti-2D prejudice, being released at a time when everyone expected their 32-bit games to be making full use of 3D-capable hardware.
It’s a 2D run-and-gun game with beautiful pixel art visuals, frantic action, screen-filling special effects and huge, challenging bosses – it could almost be described as Contra meets Metal Slug.
Incredibly, it didn’t even make it to US shores, being released only in Japan (where it was titled Gunners Heaven) and the EU, due to Sony America’s utterly crazy policy of not publishing 2D games at the time.
Gaming these days is hugely diverse and inclusive, with an incredible range of experiences available to suit all skill levels and tastes.
Back in the mid-90s, however, things were different – and often, games that were difficult to pigeonhole or didn’t follow a traditional structure were unfairly criticised or ignored.
Aquanaut’s Holiday fits into the category: it’s a diving sim that strives to be realistic and relaxing, with no time limit, adversaries or any other obstacles to progression.
Players explore the ocean from a first person perspective, with the ultimate aim to build a large coral reef and attract as much marine life as possible to it.
Considering its age, it has some nicely designed marine wildlife and an incredibly laidback ambience; though criticised upon release for being ‘barely a game’, these days it’s as much a game as, say, anything that could be labelled a walking simulator – if not more so.
Oddly, the creator of Aquanaut’s Holiday (Kazutoshi Iida) was later responsible for one of the best Gamecube games titled Doshin the Giant – which was an underrated title itself (and appears on our Underrated GameCube Games list!).
Aquanaut’s Holiday itself was definitely a game ahead of its time – and is one that firmly belongs on the underrated PS1 games list.
Though turn-based strategy games were a bit of a rarity on the PS1, there were some absolutely stellar examples of the genre, including the earlier X-Com titles.
Hogs of War takes a more comedic approach than games such as X-Com, however, with squads of anthropomorphic pigs facing off against each other – the factions loosely based on nations that took part in World War I.
The late – and much-missed – comedian Rik Mayall was on hand to provide hilarious voice work at a time when celebrities appearing in video games was still relatively rare.
Despite the genuinely funny writing, voice acting, unique premise and addictive turn-based gameplay, Hogs of War’s critical reception was far more muted than it deserved – but it definitely should have hogged (pun most definitely intended) the limelight upon release and is a worthy entry on the underrated PS1 games list.
7. N²O (1998)
Part of PlayStation’s early appeal to lapsed or non-gamers was through the soundtracks now possible thanks to CD-based games; with Sony’s connections in the music industry, licensed soundtracks in games became huge selling points to young adults immersed in club culture.
The earliest example of this is with launch title WipEout – despite only three licensed tracks in the first game (from Leftfield, Orbital and The Chemical Brothers), this angle was heavily marketed and really opened the floodgates for other games to use music (usually, but not always, electronic music) from established, fashionable artists.
One of those games was N²O, a fast, smooth, arcade-style tunnel shoot ’em up with a phenomenal soundtrack by The Crystal Method. Taking inspiration from arcade classic Tempest, N²0 (or N²0: Nitrous Oxide, as it was more explanatorily called in the US) saw players hurtling very fast down techno-organic, kaleidoscopically coloured tunnels while avoiding and shooting enemy ships and projectiles.
For a PS1 game, not only have the visuals and sound held up really well, but the gameplay still shines too. Never getting the critical or audience attention it should have, N²0 more than earns its place on this list.
Perhaps because real pinball tables weren’t so scarce back in 1996, True Pinball didn’t make much of a splash on the PS1 – but it was a real leap forward from almost any other pinball game at the time in terms of its elaborate, realistic machines, mini game-laden dot matrix displays and pseudo-3D visuals.
The four included tables (Extreme Sports, Vikings, Babewatch and Ricochet) were all hugely varied in theme and ambience, with great soundtracks and the Pavlovian-audiovisual feedback that’s so important to the appeal of real pinball.
Though since superseded by advances in visuals and physics, at the time of release it was unfairly overlooked and – despite those aforementioned technological advances – True Pinball still plays a great game of pinball to this day.
Originating on the commercially unsuccessful 3DO console, Space Hulk was an excellent squad based first person shooter with well implemented real-time strategy.
Based on the Games Workshop board game and set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, players took control of Space Marines in their iconic, bulky power armour across a huge campaign that took them from a lone Terminator to being in charge of a full squad of powerful Marines.
It was atmospheric, scary and incredibly challenging; it was that latter point that critics hated, feeling that the game was too difficult and mechanically complex to be enjoyable.
Yes, it’s tough – brutally so, at times – but it definitely captures the feeling of the board game it’s based on and the grimdark atmosphere of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and it’s hugely satisfying to overcome the game’s challenges.
Though it was a commercial success, critics were not kind to Croc: Legend of the Gobbos.
There were a huge number of mascot-based platformers on the PS1 and Croc seemed to be a victim of fatigue from critics to that particular genre – it didn’t help that Super Mario 64 had been recently released to near universal acclaim (for good reason), as any 3D platformers released in its wake tended to be unfairly compared to Nintendo’s masterpiece.
Yet Croc is an excellent game with bold, colourful graphics and fun gameplay – despite the unfriendly critical reception it received, the PS1 audience voted with their wallets; Croc went on to sell over 3 million copies on the PS1. Take that, critics!
This just happens to be one of our founder Brandon’s best PS1 games of all time, he loves it!
Starting life as an entry in EA’s phenomenally successful ‘Strike’ series – which started way back in 1992 on 16-bit consoles.
The series began with Desert Strike, which was followed by Jungle Strike and Urban Strike, then Soviet Strike and Nuclear Strike, both on 32-bit machines.
Future Cop: LAPD was even given a trailer where it was named ‘Future Strike’ in the final moments of Nuclear Strike, but for some reason it was rebranded, despite the fact that the game played very much like one of the Strike games (albeit with an extra, MOBA-esque mode called Precinct Assault – as well as a splitscreen, co-op option).
In a reverse of the situation faced by Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, critics lapped up Future Cop: LAPD, whereas audiences were completely indifferent to its excellent third-person action – the game reportedly sold just 200,000 units.
Despite the last minute name change that removed the connection to the Strike series (which was likely a factor in its commercial failure), it was likely responsible for killing off any interest in the series continuing.
The development team disbanding and moved to other studios within EA after the game’s release and poor reception at retail. It’s a shame that the game didn’t capture the audience’s attention at the time – it’s a solid game that definitely belongs on the underrated PS1 games list.
Based on the 1997 film of the same name, this belated video game adaptation was stuck in development hell for years, finally releasing in 2000, long after the disappointing film had disappeared from the big screen (and had effectively killed off the Alien movie franchise for a good few years).
Going through several iterations during its creation – beginning life as a top-down shooter before morphing into a third person, Tomb Raider-esque title, then releasing as a first person shooter – the game’s development was clearly as painful and varied as the Alien’s lifecycle.
Alien Resurrection’s critical reception was mixed at best, but one complaint was fairly common – many journalists complained about the awkwardness of using a twin-stick control scheme in an FPS.
Yep, you read that right – back then, console FPS titles weren’t known for twin-stick control schemes and the game was marked down accordingly – it was unfairly lambasted for generally pioneering what would actually become the standard for console FPS games.
Not only are the controls actually great for a PS1 game of the era, but Alien Resurrection is still a hugely atmospheric, pretty scary game – much more terrifying than the film it’s based on.
An absolute triumph that was ahead of its time, Alien Resurrection should stand proudly in its place on the underrated PS1 games list.
Feeling like a game that, despite arriving late in the PS1’s life cycle, still arrived too early – as it would have been an absolute riot to play online – Team Buddies is a game that didn’t get anywhere near the critical or commercial response it should have.
Team Buddies was also perhaps a victim of confused messaging – though it looked like a colourful, cutesy third-person game, it was actually hugely competitive (for up to four players in splitscreen, across a variety of modes) and violent, albeit in a very cartoonish way – along with the fact that the limbless, appealingly toy-like characters really did have foul mouths!
The PAL version even came with a warning label to ensure parents were aware of the anarchic action behind the cute exterior.
If you only ever played Team Buddies in the US, you may be wondering why you can’t remember the swearing – but that’s because the version released across the pond was censored.
There were some unique mechanics in Team Buddies too, such as the collecting and stacking of crates in different ways to create new items, weapons and vehicles. A robust, 60-stage campaign meant that there was a lot here even for single players.
An excellent and often forgotten game, Team Buddies absolutely deserves its place at the top of the underrated PS1 games list.
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.