10 Amazing PS1 Games Never Released Outside of Japan

Rakugaki Showtime
Rakugaki Showtime

Given the fact that the PlayStation originated in the Land of the Rising Sun, it’s not surprising to know that there are an incredibly large amount of games that launched in Japan which never made it over here. If you want to know what some of the best ones are, either for collecting purposes or just because you’ve got an emulator and feel like seeing how the other half of the world lived, these are some excellent PS1 games that never came to the West.

 

1. Pepsiman

No, listen. Pepsiman actually was pretty good. Stay where you are and learn the truth of your one true lord and savior, the Man of Pepsi.

Japan is known for their love of absolutely ridiculous television adverts, with the Segata Sanshiro adverts for the Sega Saturn going down as the stuff of broadcasting legend. PepsiCo weren’t immune to this trend either, creating Pepsiman as a superhero mascot to star in a variety of outlandish and ridiculous adverts about a guy in a rather fetching skintight blue and silver number, dashing through obstacles and other dangers to deliver the cold refreshing taste of Pepsi to those in need. Damn, we wish Pepsiman would bust through the back door and give us some Pepsi right about now. This isn’t sponsored, we promise.

Anyway, the Pepsiman video game for the PS1 never released outside of Japan, despite the fact that the entire game is pretty much playable in English, complete with catchy theme song. Like the adverts, the Pepsiman game sees you running to help citizens in need of refreshment, dodging all manner of ridiculous traps and hijinks along the way. Meanwhile, the levels are interspersed with weird, live action segments of some fat American guy drinking Pepsi. It’s a “seen to be believed” game if ever there was one, which makes it a shame that Pepsiman never received an official release outside of Japan.

 

2. Policenauts

Despite being referred to as some of visionary auteur Hideo Kojima’s best work, Policenauts has never received an official release in the West. Perhaps that’s due to the fact that his previous work, Snatcher, was released in the West on the SEGA CD in 1994, but ultimately flopped harder than Ric Flair selling a wrestler’s offense. Meanwhile, Kojima’s popularity and recognition only began to explode with the release of Metal Gear Solid in 1998, so it’s weird that Policenauts has never been given a proper re-release, especially after August 2009, when fans provided a full English translation of the game that could be played via emulators. Now that Konami and Kojima’s relationship is fractured, we’ll probably never see a proper release, but that doesn’t stop Policenauts from being an excellent PS1 game.

Set in the far-flung future of 2040, if you can imagine, players control a police officer by the name of Jonathan Ingram, who back in 2014 was one of five officers known as Policenauts who could patrol the space colony known as Beyond Coast. An accident left Ingram frozen in space for over two decades, with the lad now working as a private detective in Old Los Angeles. However, he’s been visited by his former wife Lorraine with a mission: head back to the now bustling Beyond Coast and investigate the disappearance of her now-husband. Naturally, the case leads to Ingram’s past and present colliding in this point and click adventure game that stands among the best of the genre.

 

3. Slap Happy Rhythm Busters

Have you ever been sold on a video game just by name alone? Slap Happy Rhythm Busters is one of those examples, largely because it’s not only ridiculous and memorable, but informative too. You can already guess from the title that it’s a music based brawler of some kind, and while anyone expecting a beat ‘em up in the style of Fighting Force or Crisis Beat will likely be disappointed, those who were hoping for a 2.5D fighting game will be over the moon. Unfortunately, Slap Happy Rhythm Busters never made it to Western shores, despite also being mostly playable in English and boasting a wonderful cel-shaded style years before Viewtiful Joe really took the aesthetic and ran with it.

On the surface, Slap Happy Rhythm Busters seems like a basic, 4-button fighting game, with two kicks, two punches and a few special moves for each character. However, the music of the game really comes into play once you’ve filled your special meter and activated your Beat Combo. Here, you’ll need to time your button presses to the music to deal the most damaging combos, which is amazing for anyone who wants a little bit of Beatmania or Bust A Groove in their fighting games. With plenty of unlockable characters, each with their own story mode and endings to unlock, Slap Happy Rhythm Busters is an excellent addition to any fighting game fan’s collection.

 

4. Growlanser

It’s not a revelation to say that ATLUS hoards RPG franchises like a dragon with its gold, as the Japanese company has access to a huge array of franchises. Heck, we’d be here all day just talking about the Shin Megami Tensei series alone, never mind the various spin-offs like Digital Devil Saga, Devil Summoner and the most famous one of them all, Persona. Another RPG series that was a core part of ATLUS’ plans from the late 90s through to the early 2010s was Growlanser, a tactical RPG franchise that boasted six games, a couple of collections and a few remakes across the PS1, PS2 and PSP. While ATLUS and developers Career Soft did release most of the Growlanser series in the West eventually, the original title has never been ported or re-released outside of Japan.

Originally conceived as a spiritual successor to Career Soft’s earlier work, Langrisser, the first Growlanser game follows a young orphan called Carmaine, who has been taken in by the Kingdom of Rolandia’s resident magician, Lady Sandra. Now that Carmaine has reached adulthood (barely), he sets out to explore the world, ultimately becoming an officer for the King of Rolandia and finding himself embroiled in an ongoing conflict between the kingdoms of Rolandia, Burnstein and Ranzack. Throw in a tactical RPG combat system not too dissimilar to the likes of Baldur’s Gate and you’ve got the makings of a real underrated whipper.

 

5. Cyber Org

Perhaps the most annoying name for a PS1 game ever made, considering my brain just wants to auto complete it to “cyborg”, Cyber Org is yet another game that features mostly English text and voice over, meaning it would have been easy enough compared to some other games to bring this over to the West. Unfortunately, that never came to pass, and the reason why is still unclear. This hybrid action adventure, platforming and beat ‘em up gameplay was published by Square and released in 1999, so you have to believe there would have been some spare Final Fantasy VII money left lying around to bring Cyber Org to the West, but alas no. Then again, it probably doesn’t help that the developer, FuzzBox, seemingly only made Cyber Org before disappearing off the face of the Earth.

The story isn’t much to write home about, even though the developers wanted to refer to Cyber Org as a Space Opera. You control one of three characters looking for a kidnapped ambassador, which essentially boils down to you exploring a series of rooms filled with puzzles, platforming challenges and enemies alike. Each character has their own weapons and abilities, and the action is pretty fast given the console it was released on. It’s by no means the best game the PS1 has ever seen, but the combos are fun, the gameplay is decent, and some of the character design artwork shown in the game’s cutscenes looks like it’s been lifted straight from an anime. It’s another example of a studio going most of the way to ensuring a game is ready for a Western release, only to fall or give up at the final hurdle, which is a shame as Cyber Org could have been a real PS1 hidden gem for a lot of the Western audience.

Yes, that was a cheap plug.

 

6. Rakugaki Showtime

We’re big fans of Treasure around these parts, even if we’re still struggling to forgive them for how bonkers hard Alien Soldier is. While the company isn’t as active as it once was, their back catalog of bangers would put most video game developers to shame, even if the majority of those games featured some kind of combination of platforming and shoot/beat ‘em up gameplay. Sometimes Treasure would step away from their niche though, and unfortunately for us in the West, we never got to see one of their best efforts, Rakugaki Showtime. If games with eye-catching and unique visuals are enough alone to get you interested in a video game, Rakugaki’s crayon-based characters and world should be right up your alley.

A four player 3D arena fighting game not too dissimilar from the likes of Power Stone, Rakugaki Showtime drew plenty of comparison to dodgeball thanks to its emphasis on projectile based gameplay. However, it’s the paper and crayon-based characters and art design that help Rakugaki Showtime really stand out, giving the game more soul than Paper Mario if that’s possible. What’s perhaps most heartbreaking about Rakugaki Showtime though is that the game was going to be used as a basis for a fighting game based on Tiny Toons, titled Tiny Toons: Defenders of the Universe, which would have been released on the PS2 and GameCube. That project was quietly canceled, though it did leak onto the internet years later.

 

7. King’s Field

We’re not breaking any new ground by saying people love FromSoftware these days. Okay, maybe that love has been frayed somewhat now that Elden Ring’s DLC Shadow of the Erdtree has dropped and is seemingly kicking everyone’s ass, but back in the days of the PS1 and PS2, FromSoftware’s work was largely unappreciated by the gaming masses. It’s only through the popularity of Dark Souls and subsequent follow-ups that people have begun to take notice of From’s earlier work, with the King’s Field series being the biggest example. Most of the King’s Field series did make its way over to our shores at some point, but the original game is still stuck in Japan. You can’t fool us by dropping the “2” in King’s Field 2, we know there was a previous game.

Considered by many to be a precursor to the themes, gameplay features and worldbuilding shown in the Souls series and other more recent FromSoftware games, the original King’s Field was actually a launch title for the PS1. Known as one of the first fully 3D, first person RPGs ever made, King’s Field followed the royal heir of Jean Alfred Forrester, who arrives at an infested monastery teeming with dark forces. You’ll explore the catacombs, find new weapons and level up throughout your time underground, all with the hope of maybe defeating the evil that’s been plaguing the land. Like other Japan-only games though, King’s Field did receive an unofficial English translation, so if you’re curious about some of FromSoftware’s earliest work, you can still check it out.

 

8. Love & Destroy

There’ve been many video games that have launched in recent years that have allowed you to romance the various NPCs you encounter or recruit to your party, so it wouldn’t be surprising if a game like Love & Destroy actually succeeded in today’s day and age. However, critical reception to the game back when it launched on the PS1 just before the turn of the millennium wasn’t great, so despite being published by Sony themselves, Love & Destroy was never localized for English speaking audiences.

As an unnamed high school student, you’re rescued from an alien invasion by three robot girls, their three mech suits and a sentient flying egg who serves as their instructor. All four of them are from the future, where humanity failed to hold off the aliens, so they’re back in the past, with futuristic weapons, all to save the present. All this is a long winded way of saying you’re fighting aliens in huge destructible environments, with the mech you choose, the choices you make in dialogue and your performance in the levels themselves affecting your relationship with the characters. If you think about it, Love & Destroy is just Eternights with mech suits.

Would it have popped off in a big way had Westerners been given access to it at the time? Probably not, but it’s interesting to see how ideas fall in and out of fashion.

 

9. Aconcagua

Good luck pronouncing this one in the video, Jimmy (or Will).

A stake through the heart of the idea that video games have only just started being political, Aconcagua features a story about the fictional South American country of Meruza, which is currently in the midst of an independence movement. The game starts with two of the main characters, activist Pachamama and Japanese journalist Kato, boarding a flight for a politically motivated independence tour, but things go awry when an anonymous terrorist leaves a time bomb on the plane. The plane crashes into the eponymous mountain, the highest peak in all of the Americas, with just five survivors left stranded in the wreckage. Fortunately, no one resorts to cannibalism in this plane crash tale.

The actual gameplay plays out like a third person adventure, with a mission based structure. Essentially, you control both Kato and Pachamama as you try to guide the rest of the survivors off the mountain to safety. Meanwhile, the terrorists have realized that their assassination plot failed, and will periodically send helicopters up the mountain to mess your day up even further, if that’s at all possible. Despite earning decent enough reviews, Aconcagua never received a Western release, and while the obvious reason might have been 9/11, Aconcagua launched in Japan a year and a half earlier. Perhaps the game was considered too niche, or maybe Sony opted to focus funding on the upcoming PS2.

 

10. Mizzurna Falls

David Lynch’s surrealist mystery series Twin Peaks probably deserves a lifetime achievement or a “services to video games” award from one of the big gaming award shows. Get on it, Geoff Keighley, or The Golden Joysticks. Games like Deadly Premonition and the original Alan Wake have been lauded for how they walked the line between small-town drama and bizarre, existential horror, but Human Entertainment beat them all to the punch with the release of Mizzurna Falls on the PS1, which is every bit as weird and ridiculous as you can imagine. No wonder Human Entertainment were also responsible for the Clock Tower series, while some employees went on to join Grasshopper Manufacture.

The plot follows the titular town of Mizzurna Falls, a fictional Colorado town based near the Rocky Mountains (with hopefully no political dissidents trying to survive up there). You control a teenager by the name of Matthew who has taken up the mantle of solving a mystery surrounding two high school girls, one who was found unconscious and another who has disappeared entirely. Set over seven days, Mizzurna Falls plays out in real time (ish, as five minutes equals an hour in-game), with every character following set schedules and events throughout the week. It’s up to you to explore, find the relevant evidence and be in the right place at the right time, following the breadcrumbs to the truth of it all. Like some of these entries, Mizzurna Falls also received an unofficial fan patch, so if you need more Deadly Premonition-esque sleuthing in your life, consider this your heads-up.

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