Another fervently worshipped entry on our best RPGs of all time list, Suikoden is a brilliant classic JRPG that spawned an all-too-short series of sequels. It has a huge cast (Pokemon fans will enjoy catching ’em all) and is based on the classic Chinese novel Water Margin. The politically-charged tale of a rebellious group led by a former prince against his own empire is arguably more compelling than the high-faluting fantasy of competing titles, too.
If you like JRPGs even a little bit and you haven’t played Suikoden you’re really not doing yourself any favours. Both Suikoden and its excellent sequel have finally made it to the PSN on both sides of the pond, so save your pennies and grab it when you can.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Like Dark Forces above, this was a sequel that spawned its own series separate from the original. Super Mario World was alright, but Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island took the Yoshi riding bit everyone likes so much and put it at the centre: you play as Yoshi and his dinosaur buddies, while Mario is reduced to a helpless infant.
None of the later Yoshi games have really captured the delight of this first effort. It’s funny how the hand-drawn art style has aged so well compared to more “advanced” graphics from the same era, and that makes it quite pleasant to revisit.
Tales of Phantasia
Tales of Phantasia didn’t come west in 1995, which is pretty much the story of the series it spawned right up until a few years ago: patchy, delayed localisation. Western fans didn’t get a look in until the 2006 Game Boy Advance re-release (it’s also available on iOS as of last year).
Its legacy makes Tales of Phantasia so important, but in Japan it still ranks highly among RPG classics. It spawned at least 14 mothership sequels as well as numerous spin-offs and re-releases.
Bless my soul, Tekken has not aged well! The gameplay still holds up, although later entries in the series are probably better balanced, but the graphics look appalling. Released early in the PSOne’s lifetime, it has all the hallmarks of early polygonal titles, like janky hair, and janky muscles, and janky eyes, and janky – look, it’s pretty janky, right?
Still, Tekken was great. The series has gone on to become one of the top modern fighting franchises while its early 3D rivals like Virtua Fighter and stable mate Soul Calibur are more niche games. Everyone has their favourite characters, from the cat-masked wrestler to the bear to the cyborg ninja with laser swords, and as creator Katsuhiro Harada gets more and more eccentric it has only become more ridiculous and delightful.
The 1995 Twisted Metal is the only game on this list I wasn’t able to find a decent high res asset for, so please enjoy this much more recent art showing off Sweet Tooth, the franchise’s iconic insane clown mascot.
Another vehicular combat game, released one month after Destruction Derby, Twisted Metal is much more about the guns than your skill behind the wheel – although both are needed for success. This was David Jaffe’s first original IP, and its characters are tied together by a storyline that continued through the later sequels. Pretty good effort for a game about blowing up cars.
Warcraft 2: Tides of Darkness
It was really Starcraft that propelled Blizzard’s name into the limelight but you shouldn’t underestimate Warcraft 2’s popularity and appeal for all that – after all, it was Warcraft 2’s success that gave Blizzard the impetus to create the sci-fi spin-off.
Releasing just one year after Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, Warcraft 2 opened multiplayer up to eight players at once and introduced a map editor. Like Command & Conquer, it took the RTS formula which first gained popularity in Dune 2 and developed it, and continued the story later picked up in Warcraft 3 and World of Warcraft. In short, it had everything it needed, and the reviews were exceptional.
Worms has been around for so long that it’s hard to remember it ever had a beginning – but this was it. The progenitor. The original. The first side-scrolling tactical combat starring earthworms, exploding sheep, dragon punches, and many other very silly things.
A nice geeky party game thanks to round-robin multiplayer tournament support, Worms spawned many, many sequels, ports and remakes, as well as unending rivalries. I will never forgive you for getting out a ruler to check the angle of your bazooka shot, Adrian; it was cheating, and that’s why I wouldn’t hold your hand at the year seven disco.