I’ve only played two Rayman games in my life: Rayman Origins, which I loved to bits and pieces, and the original Rayman on PS1. Origins is the more difficult game (by a lot), but otherwise they’re not so different.
For starters, the game’s graphics are still great to look at. While 32-bit 3D games tend to age like Al Davis, Rayman has done so gracefully. The sprite graphics offer a timeless look, and the lush backgrounds and buttery smooth animation will be instantly familiar to anyone that played Origins. Of course, the game is also fun to play, offering all the platform hopping and enemy punching you can handle. Rayman is even the all-time best-selling PS1 game in the UK, topping the likes of Gran Turismo and Tomb Raider 2.
If you haven’t checked it out, it’s available from the PlayStation Store for a scant $5.99.
Midnight Club: Street Racing (PS2)
I’m not sure if the original Midnight Club was a great game available for the PS2 at launch, but what I do know is that it’s the game that I played the most. So let me tell you about Midnight Club: Street Racing, will ya?
Hitting around the same time as The Fast and the Furious, Midnight Club capitalized on the street racing craze and helped to pioneer the non-linear racer by doing away with circuit tracks. Instead, players were let loose to race across New York City and London. While you had to hit checkpoints, you were free to hit them in any order and drive wherever you pleased to reach them. There was also a free roam mode, where you could either learn shortcuts or simply dick about by hitting jumps in the cars you could unlock (which included taxis, buses, and emergency vehicles).
Looking at YouTube videos of it now, and Midnight Club is kind of an ugly game. Bland textures, heavy fog to hid pop-in, and awkwarddamage modeling are all present. The driving mechanics aren’t even that great. But I like it, so there.
Madden NFL 2001 (PS2)
There are a number of different reasons for why the PS2 mopped the floor with Sega’s Dreamcast, and Madden is one of them. While the Dreamcast had to make do with the (excellent) NFL 2K from their Sega Sports studio, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Meanwhile, the PS2 launched with a shiny new Madden and showed sports fans what the next generation of games was all about. It served up the classic gridiron action that fans had loved for years, but an awesome TV-like presentation and spruced up graphics pushed it way over the top. It had many people second guessing whether I was watching a broadcast or playing my PS2 as they walked past. It’s ridiculous now, obviously, but that’s how things were twelve (12!) years ago.
Madden NFL 2001 was not only one of the best games available at launch, it also helped bury the Dreamcast in a very real way.
We’re at the end of this list, and we’ve only gotten up to the letter L. Weird, but more importantly I get to talk about Lumines again after mentioning it in my article about Vita launch sleepers.
The original game managed to be the breakaway hit of the PSP launch back in 2005. While it didn’t have the big name power of Metal Gear and Twisted Metal, it got everyone’s attention after arguably being the best game to come out. One part Tetris and another part techno jukebox, Lumines was immediately the addictive puzzler that is essential to any portable game machine worth its salt.
It’s also worth noting that Lumines indirectly allowed you to install custom firmware on your PSP, which is why it goes for triple the price of its sequel on eBay. So there’s that.