20. I.Q., Intelligent Qube (Sony, 1997, 21 points)
This is the real deal as far as puzzle games go, a superb exploitation of the intergenerational jump to 3D that’s brimming with dread uncharacteristic for the genre. On a disembodied barge made of cubes, you solve puzzles by clearing some of these cubes when a gigantic cube rolls over them. Jeez, that was awful — I really can’t explain it, but it’s tremendously fun and eerie in equal measure. (Ben Beck)
19. Suikoden II (Konami, 1998, 21 points)
If you’re not a fan of JRPGs, well, this list may not be for you. The PS1 was overflowing with an abundance of JRPG goodness, and as good as Suikoden is, its sequel eclipses it. Konami’s take on the strategy RPG, not usually my favourite genre, is brimming with life and terrific art and design. A classic. (Terri Rose)
18. Tomb Raider II (Eidos, 1997, 23 points)
While Tomb Raider II wasn’t as formative for me as it was for countless others who discovered their sexuality through the polygonal curvature of Lara Croft, it’s still a darn good game that I loved in the 1990s, and I love it now. A big improvement on the original, and its sequels unworthy to carry the Tomb Raider name, TRII is among the 3D platformer’s finest hours. (Nicholas Tristan)
17. Parasite Eve (Squaresoft, 1998, 24 points)
Parasite Eve is that rare beast, a Square horror game that’s not a traditional RPG, and is also excellent to boot. Parasite Eve is an action-RPG with heavy J-horror overtones, blending survival horror with some well-balanced action and role-playing mechanics. Parasite Eve is adapted from a great horror novel by Hideaki Sena, and the game’s excellent plot and dialogue show how much care Square put into their 1990s products. (Terri Rose)
16. Incredible Crisis (Polygon Magic, 2000, 24 points)
File under “not for everyone”: some people hate Incredible Crisis, a mini-game arcade extravaganza that couldn’t be more Japanese if it possibly tried, and some love it. Put me down in the latter camp — this is one of the console’s most invigorating and effervescent titles, just a joy to play from start to finish. (Ben Beck)
15. Final Fantasy VIII (Squaresoft, 1999, 26 points)
All you nerds who hate FF8 can eat it, this game rules. Is the Junction system byzantine, busted mess? Of course it is. Does the story strain credulity even at its better moments? Yes, clearly. Can Squall and Rinoa be obnoxious? Duh. Are some of the side quests legendarily awful? Yes, but this is a Final Fantasy game after all.
Listen, Final Fantasy VIII is easily the most imperfect game that I truly love with my entire heart. The game’s attention to detail and world-building is a series high point, and the time-skipping flashbacks make for a great balancing effect with the game’s story. Serious care and game design chops went into this game, and while it will never emerge from VII’s shadow, it’s a classic in its own right. (JCM)
14. Final Fantasy Tactics (Squaresoft, 1997, 27 points)
I am blessed with a competence in tactical RPGs that I lack in, say, FPS games, so cracking open a new tactical RPG is a comparatively breezy affair for me. Final Fantasy Tactics broke this mold, showing me just how tricky these games can be with exceptional design. And great design was happening at Square in the 90s, that’s for sure.
A gorgeous isometric view shows off some of the generation’s best sprite work, and while the plot is kind of nothing, it never distracts from the real fun of the game. (Nicholas Tristan)
13. Crash Bandicoot (Sony, 1996, 31 points)
The 3D platforming adventure is back, baby, and everyone can stop complaining about how much they hate them because they are actually…pretty good. Crash Bandicoot has never been topped in its myriad sequels and spin-offs, though the recent remaster of the original trilogy for the PS4 comes close if it counts. Crash Bandicoot is fast, frustrating, and a true treat for fans of the genre. But let’s be honest — how many of us was this game too hard for as a child? Asking for…a friend…who is me. (David McDougal)
12. Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee (GT Interactive, 1997, 34 points)
The ads for this game gave me nightmares as a kid. I think it’s important to let you into this slice of my psyche.
Oddworld is a tremendous cinematic platformer, showing off some of the most gorgeous 2D seen on the PlayStation. I love games that effortlessly integrate you into a totally new world, and the fantastic combo of creepy surrealist world design with cutting dark humour and a doe-eyed protagonist does the trick better than most games even today. (Nicholas Tristan)
11. Resident Evil 2 (Capcom, 1998, 37 points)
While I think the original PlayStation Resident Evil is better than many say, and certainly not a wholesale rip-off of Alone in the Dark as you’ll see insinuated, it’s impossible to argue that Resident Evil 2 isn’t the better game in every measure. Tank controls and stagey angles remain, but for people like me that’s part of the game’s enduring appeal and horror. It doesn’t feel like a modern horror game, and these mechanics and aesthetics allow for an occasionally truly terrifying game. (JCM)