Looking Back at PlayStation 2: Ten Unforgettable Classics

The best-selling console of all time, Sony PlayStation 2, has already retired. The company announced that early 2013, following it up with the next-generation PlayStation 4 device shortly after. After 12 years of production, over 3,800 titles produced, it’s time to take a look at those few which made for unforgettable experiences on the black box. In no particular order, here’s an easy list of ten classics.

 

Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition

There’s one action hero who defined the console more than others. When half-demon half-human Dante arrived on PlayStation consoles, he didn’t just bring a combination of gothic aesthetics and high profile bullet-time action, but also a hellishly difficult experience. Although the first game solidified Capcom’s entry into making one of the most memorable hack n’slashes of the genre, number 3 “special edition” balanced the game, gave us Dante’s brother to use and a Bloody Palace to play in. As difficult as it is, making artful combos is really a sign of the skilled, hardcore gamer.

Fun Fact: When you’re fighting Arkham with Vergil, a second player can join in by pressing start. Try this with Dante’s doppelganger powers as well.

 

Shadow of the Colossus

Few games have captured not only the hearts of gamers, but also the widespread admiration from proponents of games as an art form like Shadow of the Colossus. You spend half of your time horseback riding and admiring the mystical, peaceful surroundings, and the other half figuring out how to topple colossi many, many times bigger than you. Couple that with a mood-heightening symphonic soundtrack and a fascinating story, and you have a title that is unlike anything else.

Fun Fact: Secret gardens, an extra colossus, flying on birds… the game is just riddled with secrets and myths.

 

Final Fantasy X

The “When Harry Met Sally” of video games, this edition of Final Fantasy is the first on PS2 and also one of the first titles on the console. X features turn-based combat, a slight derailment from the recent titles. Tidus’s story is the first Fantasy to have voiceovers as well. Whether you wanted to play the mathematical Blitzball, or dodge lighting 200 times, before you knew it, the game counter was at 60 hours.

Fun Fact: Tidus’s name is never spoken during the game, since he can be renamed. However, in Final Fantasy X-2 it’s not either, even though he isn’t a playable character. Rather, he is referenced as “Star Player of the Zanarkand Abes.”

 

Soul Calibur II

Technically the third entry of the series, Soul Calibur II released on PS2 with the rustic Heihachi. Though not as impressive as Spawn or as famous as Link, the Sony version in particular featured graphics that seemed well ahead of the console’s possibilities. More than graphics, though, this was definitely Namco’s heyday and this entry is widely considered to be the best in the series. Other than console exclusives, about five new characters made their debut.

Fun Fact: A lot of side characters can be seen in the opening sequence of Weapon Master mode, like Algol, Hwang, Rock, Li Long, Edge Master.

 

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

The MGS that “made things right” over the second game’s faults, Snake Eater gave the fans more gameplay and the spotlight returned to Snake. The camouflage system, the toys at your disposal, and the environments gave birth to a successful stealth game into the outdoors, mostly. But MGS 3 itself is filled with unforgettably moments: the boss fights, the story twists, Snake healing his wounds. And Kojima proves once and for all that he can even make climbing a ladder a standout time.

Fun Fact: Snake describes wearing the Raikov mask as “nostalgic.” Raikov’s appearance is based on Raiden, the main character of Metal Gear Solid 2. At the end of the conversation, Snake asks what he should do if he meets “that guy,” with Zero responding that he should “beat the crap out of him.”

 

Grand Theft Auto III

The first 3D GTA made its debut on the PS2 before any other platforms in 2001. Liberty City became a stage for many memorable shenanigans, but GTA III also made steps into the more “sim-like” features of GTA. You can try missions as a taxi driver or paramedic, own a car, repaint it, and so on. Radio, a subtle inclusion, became a famous feature and series staple onward. GTA hardly needs explanation or introduction, and the games after this one improve significantly. But back in 2001, this was the game to get on Sony’s console — yet another title that made it a must-have commodity.

Fun Fact: GTA III and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 are the highest-rated PS2 titles on Metacritic. Both score at 97.

 

Resident Evil 4

The Resident Evil that completely changed the direction of the series almost didn’t make it to the console at all. Originally intended as a GameCube exclusive, Shinji Mikami was quoted saying he would “cut his own head off” if the game made it over to Sony’s console. One key difference were smarter enemies – no longer braindead zombies – but devious villagers and cruel, medieval zealots. Even though the controls were still stiff, Capcom made the combat a lot more involving: a complex inventory, precision aiming and reaction, melee combat and interactive environments. Also, just look at how many games since this one implemented an over-the-shoulder camera.

Fun Fact: During the standoff with the Ganados in the cabin, shooting Luis enough times will trigger a cutscene where he will shoot and kill Leon, resulting in a game over. Also, remember to save the dog!

 

Silent Hill 2

Even though the controls in Silent Hill are unwieldy and “resident-evil-like” the symbiosis created from the atmosphere, gritty graphics and walking horrors forced incredible psychological effects on the player. Just walking to the end of a tiny, badly-lit hallway filled with shuffling sounds was a challenge. Silent Hill 2 focused mostly on exploration and puzzle-solving while knees-deep in the heavy ambiance, but the story as well deserves its own praise for being complex and mystifying.

Fun Fact: Akira Yamaoka took recordings of over 100 footsteps for the game. In “Making of Silent Hill 2,” he states that this was to add variety and to avoid redundancy.

 

Okami

“Magical” “wonderful” “artistic” are just a few of many words regularly used to describe this masterpiece. Nintendo may have Zelda, but Sony’s inspired tale of a Japanese sun goddesses’ incarnation as a wolf saving the world found its place in many gamers’ hearts. Wrapped in stylized cel-shading, Okami has platforming, combat, and cool brush mechanics. The Celestial Brush can be used to, for example, create wind or cut through enemies. An artful, climatic adventure that got to relive its glory with remasterings for the Wii U and the PlayStation 3.

Fun Fact: South Park referenced Okami in episode 161, Le Petit Tourette. The cover art for the game was visible in certain parts of the episode.

 

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4

A series whose primary home was in PlayStation and a familiar game in most households. It’s hard to believe that the “sports” series could be better after number 3, but Neversoft did it. The biggest difference is the fusion of Free Mode with Career, in which now you receive missions from random bystanders, skating as you will. And the skating never felt better, the controls masterfully refined, this was the game that gave your fingers a work out. The zany missions and sense of humor culminated in this powerful entry in the venerable series.

Fun Fact: Pornstar Jenna Jameson voiced the unlockable character Daisy.

 

What other games and why should make it on this list? Let us know in the comments!

the author

A young man hailing from the distant lands of Poland, Europe, Luke started his video game writing career with school publications and is continuing it with GameNTrain. When not putting in hours into Blazblue or other fighting games, he enjoys kittens, helping old ladies, and lifting weights. Follow Luke on Twitter: @LukeShooty

  • Kamille

    yo the PS2 was too intense!

  • andy

    Tony Hawk 3 was the classic. 4 was when the series went downhill. Soul Calibur 3 was like 2 but with even more characters, modes and even more perfect fighting mechanics so that makes it the better game. You forgot about Jak 2 too. Lol God of War 2? The first Devil May Cry was the best DMC game too.

    • Luke Siuty

      Ah I disagree about SC3 – more chars, sure, but way too buggy, unrefined, and the graphics actually felt like a downgrade.

  • Mike S

    Never any love for the dark cloud series….such a shame.

  • ol school gamer

    Sly cooper,Jax an Daxter,Contra shatter soldier,Neo contra,Gradius,R-type,Einhander,Raycrisis,Project Raiden loved those games. please re-make them Sony!!! first person shooters SUCK

  • Alex

    Nba and nfl street!!

  • KuchikiSentou

    I always feel like a top 10 PS2 games is simply not enough. Sure, there are games that are usually consistent to these, but the sheer size of the PS2 library makes it hard to narrow things down for me.

  • Chad Boban

    PS2 was such an amazing system, mine still works to this day!

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