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A brief history of the PlayStation

7 min read

In the late 80’s there were really just two major players in the console space: Nintendo and SEGA. As We’ve explained before, Sony was contracted to create a CD add-on for Nintendo’s cartridge-based Super Nintendo, but soured relations and an 11th hour bit of treachery halted what could have been a beautiful relationship.

It’s probably for the best; Sony went on to develop the PlayStation, arguably one of the most important, influential, and awesome consoles ever created.


After being burnt by the failed Nintendo partnership, Sony’s Ken Kutaragi wanted to keep at it, caught by the allure of videogames and convinced Sony to take the risk. After a few years of development, Sony brought the world the PlayStation. They used technology, like the fancy sound chips from the cancelled Super Disc/Play Station, upgraded it and developed a console that gave Nintendo and SEGA a run for their money.
Developers were intrigued  by the console thanks to the CD-ROM drive that would carry its games. It gave them far more space, at a significantly reduced cost. It also, thanks to the 33mhz SGI-powered chip and whopping 2mb of system memory, allowed developers to use 3D graphics, an alien thing compared to the Atari Jaguar and rather underpowered 3DO of the time.


The PlayStation was released in December of 1994 in Japan, within weeks of the competing Saturn from SEGA. It sold considerably better than SEGA’s machine though, thanks to the 3D graphics that SEGA’s decidedly 2D console just couldn’t pull off.

It saw release in North America on September 9, 1995 and in Europe on September 29, 1995 – debuting on South African shores just a few weeks later in November that year. 5000 units were imported to South Africa, but just half of them actually sold through from the initial shipment.

Sony’s new gaming division went on to become the company’s most profitable, with the PlayStation selling 102 million units in the ten years it was on shelves before being discontinued in 2005.

The Controller


The X, Square, Circle and Triangle buttons that are on the face of the PlayStation controller have become a symbol for videogames. Though the PlayStation originally launched without any analogue sticks, it soon, after iteration, became the very first console to have twin-analogue sticks. The controller was indeed very iterative; starting with just a d-pad, the controller soon (and briefly) got a model that had just one analogue stick, then later a dual analogue, before finally getting rumble motors as well and becoming the Dualshock that’s served as a template for Sony’s controllers since.

Defining Games

The PlayStation was home to some rather incredible games, and was the birthplace of many of the gaming franchises you know and love today. Thanks to some lax third-party licencing and the relative low cost of production, the PlayStation is also home to some of the worst examples of shovelware. We’re not worried about those though.

Some of the games that helped defined the console include:

Final Fantasy VII


Right up until final Fantasy 6, Square and Nintendo were bedfellows, but the move to CD (and the full-motion video that allowed) let Square take the reigns off of its creativity and wallow in its recently acquired love for Silicon Graphics workstations and 3D polygons.

We’re glad, because what we got is one of the finest games and some of the biggest swords the JRPG genre has produced.

Resident Evil


Jill, here’s a lockpick. It might come in handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you.
Capcom’s Resident Evil was Shinji Mikami’s take on Alone in the Dark, and he managed to created a survival horror masterpiece that’s still one of the benchmarks of the genre. Playing as a member of the Special Tactics And Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S.) Alpha Team law enforcement task force trapped within a creepy, puzzle-filled mansion, Resident Evil had you killing zombies, conserving ammo and using herbs to heal yourself. It also had you frequently change your underwear.

Metal Gear Solid


Snaaaaaaaake! Hideo Kojima took his convoluted, incredibly successful MSX game series Metal Gear and breathed 3D life into it on the PlayStation. Sited as one of the games that popularised the stealth genre, Metal Gear Solid had Snake liberating hostages from the clutches of FOXHOUND, confronting nasty terrorists and hiding in boxes.

Crash Bandicoot


Sony had a great console, but it didn’t have a Mascot like Nintendo did with Mario, and SEGA had with Sonic. Naughty Dog’s Crash Bandicoot became, for a while at least, that mascot. That crazy, wombat-looking bandicoot smashed boxes, collected apples  and spun about like a maniac, showing Cortex who’s boss.

Symphony of the Night


Featuring a pretty expansive (mirrored!) expansive map, RPG elements, unlockable skills, and the sort of backtracking found in Metroid, Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night essentially created the “Metroidvania” sub-genre. Unlike many games of the era, Konami avoided the temptation to go 3D, instead using the PlayStation’s power to make it a damned sexy 2D game – meaning it still holds up pretty well today.

Parappa the Rapper


Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind! Parappa The Rapper paved the way for rhythm games, giving us inventive characters, wacky songs and timed-to-music button presses, presaging games like Bust-a-groove, Guitar Hero and Rockband. Plus, it had an onion teach you Karate.



Sony purchased developer Psygnosis, later Studio Liverpool, who brought us the futuristic, techno-infused, anti-gravity pod-racer Wipeout that was Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s popular F-Zero. With weapons. With a real-sense of speed, Wipeout was an adrenaline-fuelled frenzy.

Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee


Abe’s Oddyssey, a game about a mute factory worker leading a revolt to free workers from a meat-processing plant is one of the most cerebral, and tightly designed  puzzle-platformers ever created. Featuring a beautiful, strange world and enemies with genuine personality, Oddworld certainly lived up to its name. Follow me? Ok!

Gran Turismo


Though it looks a bit silly by today’s standards, Gran Turismo blew minds when it was released in 1999, after five years of development. Infusing his genuine passion for cars with video games, Polyphony Digital’s Kazunori Yamauchi created one of, if not the most influential driving sim on the planet. To this day, Gran Turismo is the PlayStation’s biggest selling bit of software, having shipped nearly 11 million copies.



Though it was preceded by two months by Battle Arena Toshinden, arcade port Tekken really pushed the PlayStation’s graphical capability, especially with its sequels, which were very damned close to their arcade counterparts. And though it’s now on other platforms, if there’s one fighting game that’s synonymous with PlayStation, it’s got to be Tekken.


When it came to videogames, in 1994 Sony Computer Entertainment was nothing, a sapling. Until then the gaming world was dominated by Nintendo and Sega. Nintendo’s impending Nintendo 64 was expected to maintain the status quo, but Sony’s focuse on a wider audience and darker, more adult games paved the way for gaming’s mainstream revolution.

By the late 1990s, Sony’s PlayStation was synonymous with gaming, relegating Nintendo and Sega to second and third place. The incredible, millions-string install base and incredible third-party support paved the way for the PlayStation 2, which went on to become the best selling console of all time and, some say, was largely responsible for SEGA’s exit from the hardware business.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates  was quite impressed with the system, so much so that the company threw its hat into the ring for the next generation of consoles, pitting its giant Xbox against Sony’s PlayStation 2.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Last Updated: December 11, 2013


  1. VinTaco

    December 11, 2013 at 15:34

    Fun article, love stuff like this.

    One of the reasons PS beat out Saturn was the growing perception that 2D was ‘old’ and 3D was the way forward. Saturn could do MUCH better 2D and Arcade ports but awful 3D by comparison. It was also difficult to program on.

    A big boon in the popularity of the PS1 was E3 1995, when it was revealed to cost a full $100 less than the Saturn. That plus the surprise launch of the Saturn with its awful lineup gave it quite the boon it needed.

    I’ll stop rambling now.


    • ToshZA

      December 11, 2013 at 15:42

      That works for this gen too, just replace the Saturn with the Xbone. Far superior 3D grunt, $100 cheaper, better lineup. They say history is doomed to repeat itself…


    • Umar koeksisterRpgFan

      December 11, 2013 at 15:54

      Seems PS4 is also a full $100 less


  2. Umar koeksisterRpgFan

    December 11, 2013 at 15:50

    —That was too close. You were almost a Jill sandwich!

    —No one lives in the slums because they want to. It’s like this train. It can only go where the tracks take it.

    —What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets! But enough talk… Have at you!

    — Snake. We’re not tools of the government, or anyone else. Fighting was the only thing… the only thing I was good at. But… at least I always fought for what I believed in.


    • Devourer of Small Bunnies

      December 11, 2013 at 16:23

      you clever bastard you


    • hairyknees

      December 11, 2013 at 16:55

      You forgot one!

      —*Pffffft!*….”Hee Hee Hee!”


  3. Umar koeksisterRpgFan

    December 11, 2013 at 15:51

    Thanks for this article guys…..’Twas fantastic!


    • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

      December 11, 2013 at 15:51

      It is was?


      • Umar koeksisterRpgFan

        December 11, 2013 at 15:52

        Fixed lol


  4. Trebzz

    December 11, 2013 at 15:52

    I’m really excited for Friday 😀


    • MichaelMatusowsky

      December 12, 2013 at 00:17

      You traitor! Jokes <3.


      • Trebzz

        December 12, 2013 at 08:53

        How dare you find me 😀


  5. Devourer of Small Bunnies

    December 11, 2013 at 15:59

    <3 Right in the childhood!


  6. hairyknees

    December 11, 2013 at 15:59

    Abe <3 such an amazing game!


    • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

      December 11, 2013 at 16:00

      It really was, and still is. Have it on pc now. Such a unique game.


      • Exalted Overlord Geoffrey Tim

        December 11, 2013 at 16:03

        I have it on PSN,. Still play it on the Vita on occasion. ;P


        • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

          December 11, 2013 at 16:04

          I actually played it again not too long ago. Replayability is something a lot of the newer games are lacking.


          • hairyknees

            December 11, 2013 at 16:53

            I played it again last year… I can’t believe that I finished that game as a kid when I was struggling along as an adult 😛

        • Umar koeksisterRpgFan

          December 12, 2013 at 08:44

          You check the HD remake? Excited for that bastard!!


  7. DrKiller

    December 11, 2013 at 16:05

    My life is now complete that you included Tekken!


    • loftie

      December 11, 2013 at 16:43

      I still have my PS1 console with a see-through green dual shock controller, with Tekken 3 and FF7 and a really shit racing game with only 1 car to choose, Porsche Boxter, called Porsche Challenge. 🙂


      • DrKiller

        December 11, 2013 at 16:47

        Dude Porsche Challenge was AWESOME.. I used to play it on PC, with more than one car 🙂 When I have time someday, I’ll see if I can play Tekken 1, 2 and 3 on my Xbox.. Would love to play all of them again


        • loftie

          December 11, 2013 at 16:52

          i never finished it, could not beat the guy with the helmet in the black porsche in the last race. PS1 version only had porsche boxters lol


          • DrKiller

            December 11, 2013 at 16:57

            I think I’m thinking of the different game.. I played NFS Porsche 2000 (aka Porsche UNLEASHED).. Confused Unleashed with Challenge 🙂

          • loftie

            December 11, 2013 at 17:02

            aah lol, yeah I know the NFS version, that was fun 😛

  8. Brenz

    December 11, 2013 at 16:26

    Nostalgia overload!
    So many awesome memories with those games, truly defining games.


  9. Aussious

    December 12, 2013 at 19:46

    Defining games without Midievil one of the best platformers at that time, arguebly the PSone made the FIFA franchise and the ISS Pro Evolution series or the game that made XGames cool again Tony Hawks Pro Skater and WWE Smackdown series not to mention Call of Duty’s papa the original Medal of Honor.


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