You know me, I love lists. So when I heard that the Playstation 2’s fifteenth birthday is here, I knew I had to make another list of my favorite games for a console. I did this most recently with my 20 favorite Playstation titles during its 20th anniversary, and before that with my 25 favorite Sega Genesis games when it turned 25. Keeping with the themes of those lists, I’ll be picking fifteen of my favorite games from the console, corresponding with the amount of years the platform has been in existence. These are subjective of course, and you’ll have to let me know which ones you agree with, and those you don’t understand being included. You’ll be wrong, but that’s okay! Here we go, in no particular order:
15 Of My Favorite PS2 Games
Silent Hill 2
I knew of Silent Hill’s existence prior to the sequel’s release, but I wasn’t overly interested in the title because I had been obsessed with the Resident Evil series and despite Silent Hill being Konami’s own version of survival horror, I wrote off the original as a cheap copy. I didn’t play the original until years later, but Silent Hill 2 will always be the Silent Hill experience that resonates with me most. One of the major reasons being, that guy right there, pictured above. Not only was Pyramid Head a complete enigma for the entirety of the game, but he was so strange and horrifying that all you could do was run from him. Silent Hill 2 took things to a different level than Resident Evil did, in that the sound of the game played a huge part in freaking you out, and the near-helplessness you would feel while running from Pyramid Head and other enemies was something that I hadn’t felt before. Silent Hill gets into your head, confuses the shit out of you, and leaves you wanting for more. I only played one more title in the series after this one, but was disappointed that further entries weren’t well received so I have avoided them. Unfortunately the return to greatness that was going to be Silent Hills is now a dead pipe dream, so looking back on this title is the best way for me to keep Silent Hill close to my heart.
Grand Theft Auto III
I’ve mentioned it many a time, but Grand Theft Auto is as a series is one that I have mixed emotions about. I loved GTA2 when the perspective was still top-down and the graphics were still two dimensional, mainly because it did things that other games weren’t doing at the time. GTA3 took the series into three dimensions, and at the time the graphics were amazing. I absolutely loved being able to run amok in a huge open world and being able to find the most creative ways to gain max stars while trying to survive as long as possible. Cheat codes were still a thing back then as well so I remember turning on infinite ammo, god-mode and just going to town for hours. I even borrowed my friend’s console and the game for a weekend once because he was going out of town and I hadn’t yet purchase my own PS2. I would become less enthused about further entries in the series and really haven’t liked another as much barring the newest iteration, and that only because of the innovations brought about by the online modes and the PC’s modding community. Still, credit it where credit is due, GTA3 is the father of the modern open world game that exists in many flavors today.
Devil May Cry
The classic beat-em-up game that successfully mixed visceral combat, an in-depth combo system and some anime inspired art and lore that was equally confusing and awesome. Devil May Cry was an amazing game when it first released. I played a couple of the sequels as well but none held the same appeal as the original, not even the DmC remake from a couple of years back, though it did come pretty close. Dante was a bad ass, and his mixture of pistol and sword wielding made for an interesting main character, with some supporting characters and a decent storyline to boot. It didn’t do much for beat-em-up gameplay, where button mashing is really what ends up happening most of the time, but it was interesting enough to make this list.
Need For Speed Underground Series
I fell in love with racing games long before Need For Speed Underground released in the early 2000’s, but outside of Gran Turismo, it is the penultimate racing game in my eyes. Yes, further iterations of the series have been plagued by bad design choices and churned out far too fast for my liking, and other racing games have come out since that further streamline the racing experience, but NFSU did things that were very important to me at the time. You see, I hung out with a bunch of guys who were street racers. We actually went to races — illegal ones — and all had vehicles that we customized to some degree. This was the video game adaptation of that. It had a little too much “Fast and the Furious” going on with the story line, a bit too much dudebro, but the cars were amazing. The racing was tight. The open world map where you could pick and choose which events to do and in what order, the ability to win money street racing and then use that to upgrade and customize your car gave the career mode a fun twist. Being able to win races was cool, but being able to do so in style was even better. I loved it, and I loved it’s sequel just as much. Being able to drag, drift, and challenge people to races on the world map were all great for variety, and being able to compete split screen made it all that much better. Seriously, I would love a carbon copy of this game with today’s graphics to play all over again. Well, it could use better writing, but otherwise I’d be good.
Resident Evil 4
I didn’t play Resident Evil 4 right away. I actually didn’t play any between 2 and 5 outside of the spinoff title “Outbreak” which was punishingly difficult and didn’t hold my interest for long. A bit before the release of RE5, my roommate who still had a PS2 picked up a copy of the game, telling me that I needed to play through it with him. He knew I was a fan of the series and he had previously owned the game on GameCube, so he already knew it was good but wanted me to check it out. So we did, and it is definitely worth your time. I own the HD upgrade version now, but the original is still just as good and was a blast to play. The storyline followed familiar characters and still had the on-rails gameplay the series is known for, though the virus being fought this time around is different, along with there being different bosses, and a convoluted storyline that seems pretty weird but still works in the end. I loved it, but I’ve love all of the main games in the series, despite others feeling differently.
Marvel Vs Capcom 2
By far my favorite of the Street Fighter spin-offs out there. When it comes to the original series, 2 and 4 were good, and 5 is on its way and I’m looking forward to that. Street Fighter Alpha 3 was my favorite of the Alpha series. But Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was the most epic tag-team tournament fighter ever. Not only were my favorite Marvel Characters present, like Spider-Man and Wolverine, but my favorite Street Fighters and even some awesome Capcom characters were thrown into the mix. Being able to swap fighters to let the wounded heal, call teammates in to make basic attacks and combining super moves into huge amounts of devastation was amazing. I remember many hours played while having get-togethers, where I would have my roommate who played me constantly but mostly lost would be my gatekeeper so to speak. People would challenge me to a game, and I would make them play him and if they couldn’t beat him, I wouldn’t even bother playing them. Yeah, I had a bit of a reputation in that house as being the Street Fighter king. Later on I would meet people that would kick my ass though, and with the advent of internet lobby games, I found that I wasn’t the best in the world, but those were some good times.
Medal of Honor Rising Sun
Before Call of Duty was the biggest first person military shooter there was Medal of Honor. The PS1 had a couple titles, and there was one before this on the PS2 (further entries appeared on PC/PS3/Xbox360 as well, though this was after Call of Duty took the crown). I did enjoy Allied Assault as well, but Rising Sun did a few things better. For one, we had all experienced plenty of WWII games that took place on Allied or German soil, but none that dealt with the Japanese, which this game did. Having a different setting changed things up a bit, and there were some fantastic cinematic battles that took place throughout the story. There was the ability to play the game multiplayer which wasn’t offered previously, so you could play through the campaign co-cooperatively or even play multiplayer on the console with bots. For a console generation that added network functionality as an afterthought, this was big. AI Bots weren’t that intelligent, but it was enough to give a feel of a modern day multiplayer match before those types of expereicnes existed. A roommate and I used to play split-screen where the two of us were on a team against the maximum number of bots on the hardest difficulty setting and had played enough that we would win 9/10 times. It was fantastic and really added replay-ability to an otherwise standard single player title.
Capcom Vs SNK 2
Despite crowning MvC2 my favorite Street Fighter spin-off title, this was the other one that took up much of my time. It’s a close second, due to the fact that I loved some of SNK’s fighting games from years past, and even more recent ones, along with loving Capcom’s various fighting titles over time. Capcom vs SNK pulled from various Capcom fighting games like Street Fighter and Darkstalkers, while the SNK side of things provided characters from Samurai Showdown, Fatal Fury and King of Fighters. Two of my favorites are pictured above, in Haohmaru from Samurai Showdown and Ryu from Street Fighter. This game provided a multitude of different fighting styles and could be played in the 1v1 flavor ala most of the games I’ve already mentioned, along with tag team battles ala Marvel vs Capcom. I never heard of the series before the sequel, which was actually introduced to me by the same friend I talked about back in the GTA3 entry. When he mentioned it I knew most of the characters but was surprised I hadn’t heard or seen about the game itself. Regardless, we’d play this one nearly as much as MvC2, and we’d actually end up winning about 50% of the time each.
Champions of Norrath: Realms of Everquest
Something of a weird combination, Champions of Norrath struck me the day I saw it in a store. I hadn’t heard anything about it, but knowing that I loved some of SOE’s games, and recognized Norrath as the world of Everquest, I had to know more. I picked up the box, and looking it over I realized this game had little to do with Everquest outside of utilizing the name, but it turned out to be a very good game nonetheless. Many of you might remember the Baldur’s Gate titles that were released for PS2, which had little to do with the Baldur’s Gate titles released on PC years earlier, but were more akin to Diablo in mechanics and story. This was basically the same sort of game, that borrowed ideas from more popular IPs and created an action RPG that allowed up to four person couch co-op, which was starting to be a thing of the past at the point of its release. I don’t remember much about the story, and think it was probably throwaway anyway, but the gameplay made up for anything the story was lacking, and during a time when I didn’t have a gaming PC, it was a great alternative.
Heralded as the spiritual successor to Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins (NES), Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts (Genesis) and Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts (SNES), Maximo was just like those games but made the transition to 3-D. The first time I saw information on this game I knew that I had to have it. I absolutely loved the NES and Genesis games I just mentioned, so I knew I would like this one as well. It didn’t disappoint. It featured platforming gameplay in 3-D that had standards similar to other titles of the era, such as Spyro the Dragon, Jak and Daxter, etc, but featured a medieval theme. As Maximo, you are forced into the hero’s tale, and are armed with sword and shield and other various weapons, along with power ups that allow you to pull of new moves. Just like the GnG games before it, you start with normal armor, and if you get hit you drop down to just your heart-covered boxer shorts, and another hit will end in your demise. It was quirky, light hearted and fun, and markedly more family-friendly than previous titles, along with being less-difficult overall, but still a great title.
Guitar Hero III
Back in the days when Guitar Hero and Rock Band were all the rage, I didn’t own a PS2 anymore. Mine broke at some point, and I never replaced it as I ended up with a new gaming PC and ignored consoles for a few years. Still, I ended up going to gatherings and playing various incarnations of both series. I was less impressed with Rock Band, despite the fact that it included more instruments to play, as the guitar parts and song choices in Guitar Hero appealed to me more. I also think I knew more people with Guitar Hero, so that probably has something to do with it. The only title in the series that I actually owned was part 5, and that was on my Nintendo Wii. Still, GHIII remains my favorite for being the one that I played the most. I used to practice for hours, but still couldn’t do all of the songs on expert despite my best efforts. Many a drunken night ended with guitar duels between friends at our houses over the years, and I love the game for the social aspect more than anything else.
Red Dead Revolver
Before you ask, no I didn’t really care for Red Dead Redemption, but that’s because it came at a time when the market was over-saturated with open-world titles, and I just didn’t see it as different enough to make me want to play it (despite trying more than once to get into it). However, it’s predecessor, Red Dead Revolver on PS2 was different enough at the time to stick out from the (smaller) crowd. It featured a smaller world that was more linear and not quite so open. The game focused more on story than side-missions and there wasn’t wonky as fuck horse riding. It also featured a multiplayer death match mode that I played with friends quite often. I’m not big on westerns, but it was a good title for the time.
Twisted Metal Black
I’ve talked about my love for Twisted Metal and how much I wish a good title would emerge again. After TM3, the games in the series seemed to decline in quality, and TMB brought the series back to it’s darker, grittier roots. Along with being better looking graphically, the storylines were paid more attention to and it felt like a better product than what had been put out for a while. The controls were tight, and the characters (pictured above) were a mixture of familiar and not-so-familiar, bringing some that were previously unplayable to the forefront. There were multiple game modes and multiplayer as well, so the experience was everything you’d want out of a car combat game. If only the originators of this game series could make something just as fun to play on today’s systems, the world would be a better place.
Console shooters were very hit or miss during the PS2 days. Some were absolute garbage, because they either looked like shit or the controls were far too wonky for my tastes. One game that stood out from the pack for bringing something other than a military shooter to the table, but also bringing a sense of humor not found in the typical FPS was Timesplitters 2. There are actually two other games in the series as well, but this is the only one I’ve played so it made the list. It mixed science fiction and humor to a degree that I loved, where the story pit you against a variety of foes that all had some sort of humourous angle. The guns were a mix of realistic and outrageous. Various game modes were included, some of which were more frustrating than others, and AI bots were also included, along with the ability to play four player split screen. Another series I’d like to see modernized.
Beyond Good & Evil
Quite possibly the best action/adventure game of the generation, Beyond Good & Evil puts you in control of Jade, and along with the help of a supporting cast of characters, you uncover a story of deception and intrigue, along with government conspiracy. Not only does the game have a great narrative, but the controls and graphics are superb, the voice acting is top notch, and the variety of environments are fantastic. Combat is somewhat limited but effective, there are stealth portions, you get points for taking snapshots of various flora and fauna, and controling the hovercraft is a blast. Overall there are so many great elements in this game, and having a strong female lead was ahead of its time. Highly recommended, and HD updated versions are available all over the place, on the cheap. If you haven’t play this game, do yourself a favor!
So there you have it. 15 of my favorites from the PS2-era. Let me know what you think in the comments.