They say that nostalgia is at its strongest when the era to be nostalgic about occurred twenty years prior. For instance, people of the 1970s were way into the 1950s by way of things like Grease and Happy Days. And the 1990s saw Dazed and Confused and That 70s Show. So following along that logic, the 2010s should be hearkening back to the 1990s—and that certainly seems to be the case, especially with a focus on 1990s video game nostalgia in recent years.
If you need proof that people are hungry to relive the 1990s gaming scene, look no further than not only the constant clamoring for a Nintendo 64 Classic but the upcoming release of the PlayStation Classic. With pre-orders sold out within days of its announcement, the PlayStation Classic is going to be one of the hottest items this holiday season, with million of gamers partying like its 1998—well, at least the way gamers partied in 1998, huddled around Sony's little grey machine playing Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid, and Tekken 3.
But the less-discussed side of nostalgia is how it plays tricks on us, and makes us forget the bad times associated with a given era. For all the great memories the PS1 gave us, it also frequently broke our hearts and betrayed our trust, sometimes in ways that are still with us to this day. Even with the PlayStation 5 looming on the horizon, many of the the wounds opened by the PS1 still sting, 20+ years on.
25 That's Why They Call It Window Pain
Gamers of a certain age have special memories of being absolutely spooked by the original Resident Evil. Our kids are going to make fun of us about it the way we mocked our parents for being so spooked by cheesy horror movies from the 1960s.
RE is also home to one of gaming history's most iconic jump scares: a zombie dog crashing through a window shortly after the player passes it.
To this day, we tense up a bit any time there is an unassuming pane of glass in any game with even the slightest horror bent.
24 He's The Mascot We Deserved
For much of the PS1's lifespan, the character Crash Bandicoot was front and center in most marketing campaigns for the system. One of the most famous PS1 ads saw a man dressed in a Crash outfit with a megaphone heckling Nintendo of America's headquarters. It seemed pretty obvious Crash was the PS1's official mascot.
Except he wasn't, as we later found out. He was always just another third-party character and went multiplatform the first chance he got, and hasn't even showed up in celebrations of PlayStation history like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale or the PlayStation Classic.
23 Tag Out
It was the biggest crossover event in video games up to that point—Street Fighter characters going head-to-head against X-Men characters, two of the biggest properties in 90s pop culture coming together.
In addition to the all-star roster, the biggest innovation introduced in X-Men Vs Street Fighter was the tag mode that let you switch characters mid-match.
It was kind of the game's "thing." So when it was ported to PS1 and completely lacked that entire feature, many fans felt burned—and the fact that it was a shoddy port even apart from that didn't help matters much.
22 Shaken And Stirred
Up through the mid-1990s, there wasn't reason to expect all that much from a video game based on the James Bond movies. But that all changed with the release of Goldeneye 007 for the N64, one of the most popular games of the era and beloved to this day.
Hype for the video game based on the next Bond movie was incredibly high, and what we got was...Tomorrow Never Dies, a bland, unpolished, and generally forgettable third-person action game. Hardly the game for PS1 owners to rub back in the faces of their smug N64-having friends.
21 Sweet Tooth(ache)
One of the franchises that was synonymous with not only the PS1 itself but the entire "PlayStation brand" for its first few years of life was Twisted Metal. After two stellar installments, anticipation for part three was at a fever pitch.
But what many didn't know at the time is that the original developers weren't involved in Twisted Metal III, and it was instead farmed out to now-defunct 989 Studios who just didn't have the chops for it. It's fitting that you spent half your TMIII playtime in an overturned car, since that perfectly summed up how disappointing this game was.
20 Black Ring Of Death
From the Xbox 360's infamous Red Ring of Death to the PS2's dreaded "disc read error" issue, almost every console of the last two decades has been plagued with a defect of some kind.
Those with long memories will also recall that even the PS1 had its fair share of problems. Anyone who had an early system remembers having to eventually turn it upside-down to prevent overheating. And many of us know the horror of removing a disc only to have the PS1's faulty spindle pop right off with it. We would never trust console hardware again...and rightfully so.
19 Chrono Triggered
In the early days of video game collecting, one of the holy grails was Chrono Trigger. The original SNES cart would regularly fetch $100+ on eBay and the like, and in an era when emulation was still touch-and-go, it was the only way to reliably play the game.
When a port of Chrono Trigger was announced for PS1, everyone was understandably excited. Finally getting a more affordable version of the game—and with new animated sequences to boot—what was there to worry about? Apparently, plenty, from graphical glitches to long load times. A lazy port that preyed on nostalgia.
18 Puppet Master
There are many moments in Metal Gear Solid that made us unsure of whom or what to trust, but we decided to go with the switcheroo that the game spent almost its entire playtime building up to.
It feels like half of our allies in MGS double-crossed us by the end, but one in particular was definitely the most sinister.
At least Naomi had what she felt was a valid reason to turn on us. Liquid spending the entire Shadow Moses mission pretending to be Snake's old friend Master Miller was trust destruction on a whole other level.
17 All Fogged Up
Some of the most iconic things in gaming history were born out of technological limitations. For instance, Mario was given a hat, mustache, and overalls to make it easier to give him human features. Years later, the "fog" that many early 3D games used to mask pop-up was used in a similar—and spooky—manner.
The worst thing we thought was lurking behind video game fog was a building that the game hadn't drawn in yet. But that all changed after the first time a twitching demon emerged from just beyond our field of vision in Silent Hill.
16 Grab Some Tissues
The PS1 was one of the first consoles to amass a sizable library of so-called "hidden gems," great games that get lost in the shuffle of bigger releases and don't get the attention or sales they deserve.
One of the great PS1 hidden gems is definitely Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, easily one of the best platformers on the system.
And while Klonoa largely felt like a bright, cheery experience, those who finished it were blindsided by an unexpectedly sad ending that definitely led to more than a few gamers having "something in their eye" by the end of it.
15 Missed It By That Much
No, this entry isn't about people who actually believed there was cheat code in Tomb Raider that let you take Lara's attire off. That's on you if you spent hours trying to get that to work.
Where Lara truly caused trust issues for PS1 gamers was in her strict grid-based movement system that meant that everything had to be just so to work properly. We lost count of how many times a ledge was seemingly lined up perfectly, only to watch Lara jump out to grab it, miss, and go plummeting to her doom, complete with shudder-inducing bone crunch noise.
14 Too Good To Be True
As soon as CGI became accessible to game developers, their marketing departments decided to focus on those impressive scenes to sell games rather than actual gameplay shots.
But with Final Fantasy VII, it was a little worse than simply trying to pass off that breathtaking shot of Midgar as gameplay footage.
We saw countless images of a tall, slender Cloud in ads for FFVII, only to get the game and find out that we spend the bulk of it playing a version of Cloud more akin to a child-like Popeye who doesn't have a nose or mouth.
13 Where My Girls At?
At the turn of the millennium, we were (briefly) in the grips of Charlie's Angels fever, with two feature-length movies and an inescapable Destiny's Child song.
In fact, Charlie's Angels was so popular that a company called XS Games decided to snatch up an old Saturn shmup called Gunbird and port it to the PS1 under a different title—Mobile Light Force—and with cover art that made it look like a third-person shooter starring three Charlie's Angels types. The game wasn't that at all, and anyone who bought it looking for that was immediately disappointed.
12 Empty Pockets
There have been many examples of being hyped up for games that we are under the impression will be localized for the west, and for one reason or another it never ends up happening. But far less common is a video game accessory dealing with that same fate.
Anyone who read a lot of video game magazines in the late-90s remembers being excited for the PocketStation, with the promise of it releasing in the west and enhancing several upcoming games like FFVIII and R4. Sadly, Sony decided to cancel all plans for Pocketstation leaving Japan. Ouch.
11 The (Mega) Man On The Moon
Mega Man games release at a slow trickle these days, with fans excited for every little crumb that Capcom throws them in regard to its iconic blue robot. But there was a time when we were almost drowning in MM games, including the well-received 3D offshoot Legends games.
It seemed certain enough that there'd be a third Mega Man Legends that the second game ended on a major cliffhanger that saw Mega trapped on the moon. We're currently at 18 years and counting with no Mega Man Legends 3 released or even officially in the works. Poor guy...
10 First They Giveth...
It has become something of a trope in so-called "Metroidvania" games to have there be some arbitrary thing that happens that causes your fully-powered hero to lose all of his or her abilities and have to reacquire them in some manner.
But when Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was first released, it was still a novel concept, and we weren't expecting that the godlike Alucard that we got to spend the first moments of the game massacring bad guys with would soon be stripped off all his powers and items by the Grim Reaper—complete with mocking laughter.
9 EA: Angering Gamers Since The 90s
Many of gaming history's most well-known cancelled games—StarCraft: Ghost, Star Wars: 1313, B.C., etc.—still had significant development time ahead of them when they got the ax.
What makes Thrill Kill's cancellation significant was that the game was essentially finished and ready to ship before the plugged was pulled on it.
Game magazines were already promising to review Thrill Kill in their next issue when publisher EA—shortly after deciding to acquire it—deemed it too violent and risque to be released. Fortunately, a nearly complete version was leaked online and is pretty easy to find.
8 What's A Producer?
As we alluded to in previous entries on this list, there was a lot of corporate shenanigans during the PS1 era that made it hard to figure out who was actual making the games we were playing.
For as sneaky as it was not to be forthcoming about games having new developers, perhaps nothing was shadier than when the box art for the weird, on-foot racing game Running Wild proclaimed that it was "from the producers of Crash Bandicoot," leading people to believe—falsely, of course—that it was actually made by the same people. It wasn't...and it showed.
We don't even bat an eye anymore when a new game needs multiple patches. But once upon a time, console games were generally already polished and ready to go once they were on store shelves.
In the rush to get it out for Christmas, Gran Turismo 2 was released in a literally unfinished state.
Once it was discovered that players couldn't achieve beyond a 98% completion rate in the game, the complaints started pouring in, and Sony eventually had to start offering free replacement discs of the subsequent finished version to those who bought the first batch.
6 Fool Us Once...
Ah, the mid-1990s—video games seemed like they had no where to go but up, and we hadn't yet tasted true, crushing disappointment from a major, AAA game. And we certainly hadn't yet had any of our favorite game franchises break our hearts yet.
When word came that the classic action series Contra was coming to PS1, there was no reason to be skeptical of its quality. And then...we played it. Never again would we assume that a game was great—or even halfway decent—just because it was part of a familiar franchise.
5 State Of Flux
These days, MTV is primarily known for reality shows directed at teenagers. But once upon a time, it was home to some of the coolest animation of the 1990s.
There was Beavis and Butt-head, of course, but there was also the slick dystopian thriller Aeon Flux.
We were teased with images of a really promising-looking video game adaptation of Aeon Flux, but those plans were subverted when the series went off the air. Instead, the work that was already done on it was re-imagined as a game called Pax Corpus. Never heard of it? There's a reason for that.
4 Consolation Prize
One of the reasons that the PS1 is among the most beloved consoles of all time is its collection of RPGs, with many making the case that no other system has a better overall collection of great games from the genre.
Just like Final Fantasy, the Dragon Quest series made the jump to PS1 by way of the long-awaited Dragon Quest VII. And DQVIII was home to one of the nastiest trickster enemies in video game history: Mimics, creatures that looked liked innocent treasure chests until you tried to open them and they viciously attacked you.
3 She's A Man, Baby!
It wasn't until the processing power that Sony's first console allowed that we started to see digital divas worthy of the pin-up treatment. Besides the most obvious example of this—one Ms. Lara Croft—there was also the polygonal model that served as the face of the Ridge Racer series.
Her name was Reiko Nagase, and she appeared both within the games themselves and in promotional materials. And she was the object of much fanboy desire. Little did many of the drooling masses know that Reiko's face was modeled after her creator...who happens to be a man.
2 Journalistic Integrity
Nobody could've possibly known just how bad Bubsy 3D was going to be. We general don't expect any game to be quite that bad. To be honest, though, nothing about the game's box art or screenshots screamed quality. So how was our trust broken here?
Well, Bubsy 3D—generally regarded as one of the worst games ever made—had some strangely glowing box quotes. "Classic gaming action" is credited to Total PlayStation magazine, PS EXtreme gave it their "Gold X Award," and the usually trustworthy EGM called it "stunning" and demanded that gamers "check it out!" Wha!?
1 Lowest Common Denominator
Publisher Eidos is best-known for Tomb Raider—as well as the ads that prominently featured Lara Croft's chest.
With Fear Effect 2, they went off the deep end. Ads showed the game's two main protagonists embracing in weird ways and in various states of undress along with juvenile puns about female body parts. FE2 isn't that type of game, and is actually a pretty mature representation of a same-gender relationship—in addition to just being a really great game. But many gamers passed it by based on the ads that made it look like some shallow Cinemax-type of experience.