Our Best (And Worst) Memories Of The PlayStation, 25 Years Later

Photo: Evan Amos, Public Domain

On this day 25 years ago, the Sony PlayStation released in Japan. A lot of us here at Kotaku have pretty fond memories of the PlayStation, from bartering for access with our siblings to sitting in dark, dusty basements, illuminated only by the light of an old TV and some sharp, sharp polygons. Take a walk down memory lane with us.

The original PlayStation hit Japanese shops on December 3, 1994, and was available around the world by the end of 1995, launching a legacy of consoles and games that would endure for decades to come. The humble home console begat countless mascots who became household icons. PlayStation brought us Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, and Parappa the Rapper—not to mention a deep list of role-playing games that would solidify Squaresoft’s chokehold on the RPG scene for years to come as well as being a launching point for studios like FromSoftware.

The PlayStation debuted juggernaut series like Guilty Gear, Wild Arms, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Persona, Tekken, Suikoden, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Soul Edge, the precursor to the Soulcalibur series. It was the first home console to host series like Bloody Roar and Grand Theft Auto. And who could forget Bubsy’s first foray into 3D?

PlayStation also had several cult classics, like Alundra and Vagrant Story and Xenogears and Fear Effect and Bust a Groove and a bunch of other games you probably wanted to be on the PlayStation Classic but weren’t.

As we wish the original PlayStation a happy 25th, here are some of our fondest, funniest, most knuckleheaded PlayStation memories.


Photo: Ethan Gach

Ethan Gach

When I agreed to turn over the stack of bills and change I kept stored in a small brass chest like Scrooge McDuck, I only knew a few things about the PlayStation. My older brother, or my parents, or both, told me I had to pay him $US30 ($44) or so to play it. He had bought it with his own money from working the summer at A.C. Moore, an arts-and-crafts chain based in New Jersey that just last month announced it was going out of business after 34 years. Months of stocking the shelves with fall foliage garland and adjudicating arcane sales on picture frames had netted him a machine which could play Final Fantasy VII.

My net value at the time didn’t quite add up to $US30 ($44), but it was really the principle of the thing that mattered. I wasn’t so much buying a stake in the console as I was paying tribute in exchange for the positive externalities associated with having a brother six years my senior who was forced to share. The PS1 wasn’t the first console of his that I got to play, but it was the first I had contributed to in some small way.

I’m not sure when I first became aware of the PlayStation, but I remember seeing the screenshots of a Final Fantasy prototype for the N64 in a copy of GamePro and later seeing a commercial for Final Fantasy VII on TV. I realised that the box my brother had brought home would be able to take me to the grainy, industrial dystopia I’d seen months ago.

I don’t know if I’ve ever played the opening of a game so breathlessly since. I was sure some inkling of the next millennia had injected itself into my consciousness via the 32-bit light beams pummelling my eyeballs. Then I proceeded to save over my brother’s file—level 15, just left Midgar, in the midst of Cloud’s first flashback—and that brief but beautiful epiphany was replaced by calculations of how long I could survive on my own living in the ravine five blocks down.


Photo: Chris Kohler

Chris Kohler

Doesn’t really seem like it’s been 25 years, huh? Well, that’s probably because unless you were an early adopter living in Japan, it hasn’t. 25 years ago, we were at the midpoint of the lifespan of the 16-bit systems in the U.S. I got Final Fantasy III and Donkey Kong Country for Christmas that year and have fond memories of playing one of those. I knew that PlayStation was available, of course, being a thorough reader of every video game magazine I could get my hands on, but I’d be lying if I said I had any desire for one. I didn’t really want a 3DO or a Jaguar, either! They all seemed like the same sort of beast—expensive multimedia machines with lots of futuristic features but no must-have games.

It wasn’t long before that situation got flipped on its head. I bought a Nintendo 64 two years later, but by the next summer, it was PlayStation with all the games and Nintendo asking us to wait months and months between major releases. With Final Fantasy VII on the way, I had little choice but to buy one. (It helped that the U.S. PlayStation, which had launched in September 1995 at $US300 ($439), cost just $US150 ($219) by March 1997.)

Then came Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Street Fighter Alpha 2, and Wild Arms, and Parappa the Rapper, and what’s a Nintendo 64? Yeah, it launched in 1994, but it was really the events of 1997 that cemented PlayStation’s status in the world of games. If you didn’t have one, you simply weren’t plugged in to what was going on in the world of gaming. I’m not sure if that will ever be the case again.


Natalie Degraffinried

It was dark and dusty in my parents’ basement, and with an abiding fear of spiders that endures to this day, it took a whole hell of a lot to lure an 8-year-old me down there. That whole hell of a lot was the PlayStation resting in the basement’s bowels, attached to the only TV that my parents would suffer me to use while they were trying to watch television. Sunk deep into a puke-green chair that was several decades older than me, I played game after game. I was terrible at most of them, but it was character-building, I think.

I rented Heart of Darkness from Blockbuster, got to the very first swimming section, and quit permanently, my small hands clammy with fear. I played Monster Rancher Battle Card: Episode 2 almost to completion but got stuck with a deck that couldn’t win me the last card I needed and no recourse to fix it without waiting several in-game cycles. I wouldn’t touch the Final Fantasy series until X, but I fell in love with Square’s lesser-known Threads of Fate, which has remained one of my favourite games to this day with its memorable characters and outstanding soundtrack. I played Crash Bandicoot, was buns at it, and later played Crash Bash against my friends with a shameless fervor. I played Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage and threw my first controller on one of the time trial challenges. I played Digimon World, hated it, then played Digimon World 2, and hated it. I learned a valuable lesson about doing the same thing and expecting different results: Thanks, video games.

Most importantly, the PlayStation cultivated in me a love of rhythm games, starting with my friend’s copy of Bust-a-Groove, which would produce heated battles as we promised each other we wouldn’t antagonize each other with our attacks (we lied) and also somehow created a strange spinoff fanfiction between sentai superstar Kitty-N and disco dude Hiro. It extended to my first home DDR purchase, Dance Dance Revolution Konamix, along with a dance mat that was about as durable as a sack of paper. After playing Parappa in a store and hating it because I was stupid and didn’t understand how to play, I later poured hours and hours into Um Jammer Lammy and can still recite every word of every song by heart to this day.

Good looks, PlayStation Classic, for giving me rhythm, bops, and exercise. Eat your heart out, Nintendo.


Chris Person

The PlayStation remains one of my most cherished consoles, but it’s also one I got accidentally. As a kid, I really wanted a Genesis Nomad. If you’ve never heard of the Nomad, that’s a reason for that. It was a big, awkward portable version of the SEGA Genesis that came out late in the system’s life-cycle and was sold exclusively in America. The concept of having a full console experience was very cool. The reality was not. That thing ripped through 6 AA batteries in less than one car trip, making the experience of playing it on the go extremely expensive and unreliable.

After a month we returned the cursed thing to Toys-R-Us (RIP) and they took it back for store credit, no questions asked, as if to say, “Yeah, that’s fair.” With a bunch of store credit, I bought the only other thing there that made sense. I got the relatively new PlayStation and what I assumed were two good games: Beyond the Beyond and Bubsy 3D.

Reader, these were not very good games.

The situation did not improve until I bought Bust-A-Move Arcade Edition, a game with the most needlessly weird box art I’ve ever seen.


Screenshot: Sony, OldsXCool

Gita Jackson

When I was around six, my older brother had a PlayStation and the game ESPN Extreme Games. Because it was a two-player game, he allowed me to play this one with him. For the most part, what you did in this game was race, either against the computer or against another player. It offered three modes of transport: rollerblading, mountain biking, and street luge.

For my entire adult life, the phrase “street luge” has crossed in and out of my mind. What is street luge, and why? These were the questions that my brother and I asked each other upon playing ESPN Extreme Games, and they are the same questions that I ask myself today.

Street luge, as depicted in ESPN Extreme Sports, involves laying on what appears to be essentially a skateboard, strapping yourself in, and screaming down a hill. As a child, I wanted nothing more than to try this. It looks absolutely hilarious. When my cousin came to visit from California he brought his Game Shark, and he and my brother changed the parameters on the street luge racers, making them go well over a hundred miles per hour when racing. I can still hear their laughter echoing into the night when I visit my parents’ home.


Mike Fahey

Image: Sony

After giving up console games in favour of PC games and dating toward the end of the Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis era, I decided to give TV-based gaming another try in late 1996. Unfamiliar with the year-old PlayStation or the brand-new Nintendo 64, I found a local comic book store that was renting the consoles so I could try before I bought.

I tried the N64 first, putting down a massive security deposit for the console, Super Mario 64, and Pilotwings 64. I was impressed but not won over. I needed more games. I transferred my deposit over to the PlayStation and fell in love immediately with Jumping Flash, the 3D robot rabbit game. It had robots, rabbits, and 3D. Futuristic racer Wipeout was everything I’d ever wanted. Plus I could play music CDs on it. MUSIC CDS!

That’s how the PlayStation won my personal console wars. Well, after the guy at the comic book store told me the 3DO had already been discontinued.


Image: MobyGames

Joshua Rivera

I used to play this game called Pandemonium! Not a lot of people talk about it these days. It was a side-scrolling 3D platformer about two pals, a jester named Fargus and a young sorceress named Nikki who accidentally cast a spell that ruins their hometown; the bulk of the game is spent trying to get to a wishing well in order to undo the spell. It was fine, a friendly game with goofy characters for all ages. It wasn’t a PlayStation exclusive, but I didn’t put much stock in that. We had a PlayStation, and that was pretty cool.

It was my dad’s console, mostly. The switch to games on CDs made him skittish about the kids using it too much, so I spent most of my video game time on the Genesis. But sometimes, I’d play Pandemonium!, a good game for bridging generations of more than one type, as my dad would watch me play and I in turn would watch him play Resident Evil 2 or Metal Gear Solid.

At some point, a sequel to Pandemonium! came out, also for PlayStation. Aesthetically, it was almost unrecognizable. Nikki, the intrepid young sorceress, was sexed up with a halter top and biker pants. Fargus was now, uh, twisted—kind of insane and leering over Nikki. The game itself was still a solid 2.5D platformer.

The PlayStation would be the last console I played for some time; I skipped the next generation and returned to games in the middle of the one after that. I came of age largely away from video games but acutely aware of what was happening when I left, as Lara Croft became a weird video game sex symbol and video game marketing exclusively for young men reached a fever pitch.

Now we’re all older and a little embarrassed by all that, as we should be. It would be folly, though, to think that there are no lingering effects from juvenilia of games’ coming-of-age. Happy 25th birthday, PlayStation. Growing up isn’t always pretty, but it’s a good thing to do—and you never really stop doing it.


Comments

    I somehow managed to convince my parents to get me a Playstation for my 11th (I think) birthday. I remember bringing it home, and my whole family and 2 friends sitting around the TV to watch it.
    I can't imaging that happening again!

      Maybe a vr console would get that kind of awe, I took my free Samsung vr headset to work and also a family gathering a couple of years ago and everyone was lining up to try it as none of us had ever seen vr before.

    My first experience with PS1 was hiring one from Video Ezy.
    I was hooked from the first go and saved up money from various sources to purchase my own.
    The only bad experiences I ever had is when a disc got worn and scratched, never to work again.

    I’m gonna have Bust a Groove stick in my head all day now.

      Did exactly the same thing.. It was great being able to hire the games too.

    I think I had multiple events worth of savings ready for the ‘Ultra 64’. When Nintendo postponed its release I grudgingly used my earnings to pick up a PlayStation. First couple of games I bought were really bad. Knights of the Round... Iron and Blood. Then finally Suikoden, followed shortly by FF7. That’s when I knew I made the right choice.

    My best memory was when my console finally stopped working after near constant use a friend told me you could fix it by turning it upside down, and he was right. The thing kept going for a year or 2 after that.

    The PS1 was the second console I bought for myself (firstly was SNES in its death throes).

    Best memories, FFVIII, SotN and Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Megamix (and getting my mum playing the latter).

    Worst... finding what would become one of my favourite games (Devil’s Deception aka Tecmo’s Deception) taking up pretty much an entire memory card by itself.

    Ultra worst memory: Biting the bullet and buying one of those third party memory cards that was like a dozen in one... that then got corrupted and lost hundreds of hours of gaming.

    I think my most fantastic memories of the Playstation was playing Naughty Dog's Crash Bandicoot 2 Cortex Strikes Back as well as Insomniac Games Spyro The Dragon and Spyro Year of the Dragon.
    But now Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon's licensing rights now belong to Activision.
    My worst memory of playing the Playstation was Abe's Odyssey as well as the Playstation playing up on me every time I start up a PS1 game.
    It's now 2019 and 25 years of me playing the Playstation has been a lot of fun happy 25th birthday to you Playstation. Hopefully we'll see another 25 years bring us smiles to us gamers.

    I had heard about the PlayStation but never seen one in action. When I did I got in trouble for laughing at my friends very expensive new console. The 3D graphics were a joke, the controllers were a pain in your hand, the thing was more expensive than TVs of the time, and everyone I knew that had one seemed to become an elitist dick head after buying one. A PS original can be gotten for under $10 from a tip shop or Salvo's these days, a Nintendo 64 will set you back way more. I think Nintendo won that war.

    Subscribing to the Official PlayStation magazine and getting FF7 with it.
    Playing the Devil Dice demo to death. Now that's a game that needs to be rereleased.

    All I can say is Multi Tap. Nothing better then 8 player Micro Machines, NHL, FIFA and anything we could get our hands on. We used to have a heap of people meet at our place before heading out as the clubs were only 10mins walk from our place and drinks and multiplayer games were so much fun...

    Best and worst moment was buying the PS1 itself ... after persisting with my Sega Saturn for too long, which was clearly losing the popularity stakes. That was the day I learned what “sunk cost” meant.

    Pandemonium, Coolboarders, Twisted metal and Jonah Lomu rugby were my favs.

    All still in safekeeping, with a couple of ps1's and several controllers for good measure ;)

    I really wanted my kids to have the same progression from Atari pixels to VR, but they just wanna play fortnite. I screwed up.

    Last edited 04/12/19 9:46 pm

    I doubt PS1 will ever be beat as a console for me.
    Surely partially nostalgia for the good old days, but i have replayed a lot of my loved games from then and they still hold up.
    Just finished another playthrough of dino crisis not long ago, and man is that still a fantastic game.
    Other honorable mentions for recent-ish replays that confirmed my love. Syphon filter 2 and C1 final resistance (for something less popular).

    Best times was probably the splitscreen Crash team racing with my 3 siblings, that was the one games we all played a lot, plus were all decent at so competition was close.
    Worst would be losing a 100% crash bandicoot 3 save on the old 8mb memory card (which meant i never actually got around to 105%ing it)

    Best Time From The Playstation - Just the BOUUUUUUUZOOOOOOOOOOM noise everytime it would load up.. then actually load into the game when the disc was scratched. Jokes aside... trying to play FF7 without a memory card and not turning it off... That was my first memory of the system. It's funny, I always thought the SNES was the system of my life, but looking back there were a lot of amazing memories (some good, some bad) from playing games on that system. The library was just SOOO stupidly big, that you could always got to a store and just rent something new each time. Tenchu was a personal fave of mine. Absolutely mastered that ninja bidness (maybe why Sekiro was so easy for me). MGS... FF7, FF8, FF9 (although at the time I didnt appreciate it), Resident Evil 2 (which I finished first and gave me the courage to go back and finish 1). Parasite Eve, Silent Hill... It's funny. If i ever sat down and went through a list of every video game I've ever played, there would be titles on there I wouldn't remember, but probably sunk hours into... Weird how gaming is becoming our history and part of our actual child hoods and culture...

    Worst memory : Any of the Bad memories are actual amusing memories to look back at.... sheer disappointment when you'd load up some crappy 3rd party movie tie in and it was just complete ass. What an era of gaming to have grown up in.

    Not owning a PS1 but having friends that had one a few things stood out to me.

    1 was the incredibly jaggies and sometimes gaps between polygons. Not sure if that was certain engines or all games.

    2 was the way textures were wavy. Driving past a big building and the windows and brickwork were not straight as you approached it

    3 was the incredible (at the time) FMV, then you drop into game graphics. I remember not being able to stop laughing after watching a pretty cool FMV for a fighting game, then starting and one of the characters legs were literally 4 sided.

    Threads of Fate was such an underrated gem. I think this is the first time I've seen someone making it one of their picks for the console.

    I had been a Nintendo fanboy until then, having owned both their previous consoles, but when that generation came, although I very much wanted Mario and Zelda, the PS1 was tantalizingly shock full of incredibly looking games (for its time) like Gran Turismo. Moreover, it had become the exclusive platform for Squaresoft games of which I was a big fan. However, I remember clearly that the thing that made me finally bite the bullet and choose the PS1 over the N64 was Marvel vs Capcom. The fluid, beautiful animation that eschewed the blocky polygons of most other games of its era and almost looked hand-drawn made me feel like I had an arcade at home.

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