Earlier this week, Sony confirmed that production of one of the most successful game consoles of all time, the PlayStation 2, has finally ended.
This was a tremendous run by any console’s standards. By comparison to the consoles in existence at the time of the PS2, the Dreamcast was released in 1999 and discontinued in 2001, the Gamecube and original XBox were released in 2001 and both were put to pasture by their respective owners in 2007, meaning the PS2 outlasted its competition by twice the amount of time. It even sold well after the release of the PS3 in 2006. Finally, the last PS2 title released in North America, Pro Evolution Soccer, came out just last month. The support Sony has given the PS2 bodes well for those who own a PS3 and may not yet be ready for the next generation to come.
With the completion of what was nearly a 13-year life cycle, we decided to take a look back at some of the best games released for the console. The PS2 had many epic gaming experiences, but we’re going to stick to a quick and dirty top 10 list, one of which I’m sure will be rife with controversy, as everyone’s experiences on the PS2 could be ranked differently. Some of you will agree, some of you will vehemently disagree, and I urge you to post thoughts on your top 10 PS2 games of all time in the comments section. Without further adieu, here’s mine.
NUMBER 10: Indigo Prophecy
Also known as Fahrenheit outside of North America, this title, in a word, mind-blowing. Coming from Quantic Dream, the makers of Heavy Rain, this should be no surprise. The game starts with one of the 4 characters you’ll play throughout the experience, Lucas Kane, stabbing a man to death, and then the story branches in many possible directions from there depending on how you play through the experience, leading to 1 of 3 possible endings. This game made me a Quantic Dream fan for life, and if you haven’t played this, I suggest you find a copy right now.
NUMBER 9: Star Ocean: Till The End of Time
The 3rd game in the fantastic Star Ocean RPG series, Star Ocean is definitely one to be experienced. Like its predecessors, the setting is on an “underdeveloped planet”, featuring several races, species of aliens, and a form of magic known as “Symbology”. Instead of menu-driven combat that is typical of RPGs, Star Ocean’s is real-time interactive combat, similar to the .hack or Tales series. There’s also an extremely in-depth item creation system that allows you to create or upgrade a ton of items through cooking, alchemy, engineering, and black-smithing. This also contained ending variations based on the affection level the main character had with the rest of his team. If you love yourself an excellent RPG, this one should be on your list.
NUMBER 8: The Bouncer
While I’m sure this one won’t make everyone’s list, it was one of the first major titles to come out for the PS2, and is still one of the most memorable experiences I had on the PS2. This was a fantastic beat-em-up, mixed in with cinematic sequences to help the story along. After each sequence you got to choose the character you wanted to play the next segment with while the other 2 characters on the team are controlled by the AI. Any BP gained at the end of each segment could be used to boost character stats and unlock new moves, and only by playing through the game as all three characters can the complete story be revealed.
NUMBER 7: Hot Shots Golf 3 and Hot Shots Golf Fore!
Sure, if you’ve played one Hot Shots Golf, you’ve played them all, sort of…that doesn’t stop these games from being any less fun. Certainly not as photo-realistic as EA Sports’ Tiger Woods series, Clap Hanz outdoes themselves by keeping things simple and fun while increasingly challenging as you level up your golfers with points gained during play, and unlock new courses and adversaries. Hot Shots Golf Fore, was the first one to introduce other PlayStation mascots as playable characters as well, with Ratchet and Jak make an appearance here.
NUMBER 6: The Tony Hawk Pro Skater series
I couldn’t pick just one here, the entire Tony Hawk Pro Skater series released on the PS2 was great, each one getting better than the next, I looked forward to each yearly iteration to see what Neversoft had in store for us next, manuals, reverts, and jumping the craziest gaps ever were just part of what made this game as much fun as it was. Unfortunately, the formula got tired and stale and it was all downhill starting with Proving Ground on the current generation of systems, but it sure was fun while it lasted.
NUMBER 5: Yakuza 1 & Yakuza 2
Never has there been a more satisfying feeling than picking up a bicycle and beating the shit out of someone with it, and in the Yakuza series, that’s just one of the over-the-top ways in which you can dispatch your would-be dispatchers. The games follow the story of the “Dragon of Dojima”, Kazuma Kiryu, a former yakuza who much like Michael Corleone in the Godfather III, just when he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in. He returns from prison to find his friend is missing and the clan he was once a part of had 10 billion yen stolen from them, and the entire Japanese underworld is now looking for it. One of the highlights of this series, however, main plot aside, is the multitude of ways you can spend time on side quests, from hostess club mini games, karaoke, batting cages, and the hundreds of people that need your assistance in beating up X to get Y, these games make for long and fun experiences as you level up your attacks and unlock even crazier ways to take out the half of Japan that seems to be after you.
NUMBER 4: Final Fantasy X
Say what you will about the Final Fantasy series, if you had to pick one “good” one for the PS2, it was this one. Many would argue FFXII was the gem for this generation, but this was mine. Was Tidus this generation’s Cloud Strife? Not exactly, but you have to admit Blitzball was pretty fun once you got the hang of it. In typical FF fashion, you meet playable characters along your journey to defeat the evil big bad whatever it is (in this case the enormous… whale… demon… monster… known as “Sin”) that will undoubtedly destroy your way of life if you don’t. This game contained some of my favorite characters in Auron and Lulu, and clearly was at least some people’s favorites, as it spawned one of the first FF sequels, in Final Fantasy X-2.
NUMBER 3: Burnout 3: Takedown
This game cemented my love for all things Criterion. This is perhaps my favorite racing game of all time, being able to force your opponents off the road with take-downs certainly makes for an interesting race, the cars ALL drive great, with little differences here and there based on the kind of car you’re driving. Burnout 3 also boasted one of the best sound tracks for racing of all time. Perhaps, however, one of the most fun things to do in this game is crash your car in Crash Junction mode, to see just how much damage you can rack up, and as evidenced by the fact they made an entire game out of this on our current generation, it’s clear this was a favorite of many as well.
NUMBER 2: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and Persona 4
This was a hard choice for me to leave out of the top spot, as the Persona RPG series went from great on the original PlayStation to un-freaking-believable on the PS2. 2 of the best RPG stories of all time, mixing in a sort of “student-life simulator” with the fantastic dungeon crawler of its predecessors, and of course the Personas themselves, a “part of you” that can do all sorts of magic attacks, I implore you, if you have never tried, Persona 4 The Golden just came out on the Vita, go, get, play.
As if there was any doubt here…
NUMBER 1 WITH A BULLET: Grand Theft Auto III/Vice City/San Andreas
Without a shadow of a doubt, these were THE defining game(s) of the PS2. Open-World sandbox style games had never really taken off before GTA, and after going from that crappy birds-eye view of the first 2, Rockstar went into full 3D with its 3rd iteration and subsequent sequels, and they took us on a cinematic journey of the seedy underbelly of the crime world in 3 of the most interesting settings ever seen at this point, Liberty City (a New-York clone), Vice City (Miami), and San Andreas (The Los Angeles/San Fran/Las Vegas area), with each game introducing new and exciting additions, like gang neighborhood warfare and boats and planes. These games were riddled with controversy, from the argument that “violent video games make people violent”, to picking up hookers in your car, to the hot coffee sex game hidden in the San Andreas code, but you can’t argue that these games were a hell of a lot of fun.
So that’s my list, do you agree? Disagree? Did I leave off a favorite of yours? Let us know in the comments below.
A part time gaming journalist and radio practitioner, and one of the first editors here at Default Prime, Mike has been gaming since birth, starting back with the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64, on through to the PS3, PC, and whatever comes next. He is educated in communications and is a project manager by trade.
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