Top 5 PS1 RPGs on PSN that Aren’t Final Fantasy
5. Grandia (Game Arts, 1999)
First released on the Sega Saturn in 1997 (but never released internationally for Sega’s system), Grandia was developed by the creators of the Lunar series. Grandia is a fantasy adventure featuring turn-based combat. Enemies roam wildly in the overworld, and can be avoided or attacked by the player, as opposed to the often-lamented “random” battle system of some RPGs.
Starring gallant knights, hopeless romantics, and plenty of whimsical characters (rabbit people!), Grandia saw numerous sequels after the huge success of this debut title. The battle system is deep, even by today’s standards, and the classic RPG theme of nature versus technology still resonates strongly.
4. Xenogears (Squaresoft, 1998)
On first glance, Xenogears may seem like a fairly by-the-numbers RPG: it features turn-based battles, a fantasy/sci-fi setting, and a protagonist with amnesia. But Xenogears’ high-concept themes make it standout among its peers.
Xenogears’ unique synthesis of giant robots, existentialism, and theological principles/designs, have solidified its place in the crowded world of Japanese RPGs. Xenogears is influenced by world mythology and lore, which elevates its somewhat- standard mechanics. You’ll come for the giant robots, but you’ll stay for the philosophical and psychological weightiness that is rarely broached in video games.
3. Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (Silicon Knights, 1996)
A riveting gothic tale frames this classic action RPG. Developed by Silicon Knights and released in 1996, Blood Omen sees the immortal vampire Kain scour the medieval landscape for magic, weapons, and abilities in a quest to cure his curse. The adventure is bloody and violent, though rich with mythical ambience.
Combat is controlled in real-time, reminiscent of older 2-D Zelda, as is Blood Omen’s approach to items and puzzles. For example, you’ll unlock abilities allowing you to morph into a wolf or a bat, enabling you to access previously cutoff parts of the levels. This is the first entry (and arguably the best) into the Legacy of Kain series, which continued onto PS2 and the original Xbox.
2. Vagrant Story (Squaresoft, 2000)
Hailed for its unique medieval gothic setting, Vagrant Story is an action RPG from the developers of the sublime Final Fantasy Tactics. Combat is similar to action games, as you engage enemies in real-time and perform light platforming, like running, jumping, and puzzle solving. Rhythmic button presses can extend your combos, giving Vagrant Story’s combat a distinct feel, not unlike the classic SNES title Super Mario RPG (also developed by Square).
Vagrant Story bucks tradition by ditching common RPG tenants like stores and shops, and limits character interaction. Emphasis is on battle strategy, and weapon and armor selection. This highly influential title is a must-have for Playstation fans.
1. Chrono Cross (Squaresoft, 2000)
The sequel to the SNES masterpiece Chrono Trigger has enormous, daunting shoes to fill. Luckily Squaresoft delivers a sprawling adventure befitting of its SNES brethren’s pedigree.
Released towards the end of the PS1’s lifecycle, Chrono Cross received unanimous critical praise for its deep RPG systems and complex plot. Like its predecessor, Chrono Cross sees an exceptionally lively cast of characters time traveling and hopping between dimensions in an epic quest. Combat is turn based, but rather than occurring randomly, enemies appear on the playfield.
Perhaps having only two titles in the Chrono series enables such a high standard of quality. Regardless, Chrono Cross is a delightful game to play and stands as a prime example of developer Square’s keen RPG mechanics and sensibilities, and serves as historical proof of how the Japanese company came to be the genre torchbearers they are today.