The PlayStation 2, in addition to still reigning supreme as the best-selling gaming console of all time, is one of the most beloved platforms in history. With, arguably, the most dominant lineup of AAA platform-exclusive games ever, the PS2’s fanbase spreads far and wide, and includes several of our editors right here at PSXExtreme. In celebration of the console’s 20th anniversary earlier this week, the editors and contributors at PSXE decided to look back through time and reminisce about some of our favorite games from the PS2, and what they meant to us.
If you feel like we missed anything, which may certainly be the case given how many truly excellent games graced the PS2, please let us know in the comments!
Christopher D. Anderson (Managing Editor):
Silent Hill 2 and 3
Okay, I might be cheating a little on this one but the Silent Hill series is still my favorite series ever. Even if it does go a bit downhill in later games. And I won’t even get into Silent Hills. The first game blew me away and changed how I think about games and even horror in general. I’ve played them all however and Silent Hill 2 and 3 are some of the best games to date in my opinion. These games reign when it comes to atmosphere and very few games have been able to capture a similar feel.
Shadow of the Colossus
I missed Ico when it came out but I jumped right in with Shadow of the Colossus. I really liked the isolation spotted with epic battles against gigantic beasts. Great open land that begged to be explored and an amazing soundtrack rounded out an amazing experience. I always felt bad about taking the colossus down too. Defeating these giants was satisfying followed immediately by sadness and maybe even a bit of regret. Except that last one. That one was a jerk.
Devil May Cry 3
While I fell in love with this series because of the first game, it was the third one that really did it for me. I thought I was a Devil May Cry expert when I loaded up this game, only to be destroyed in the very first level. But I kept trying. And dying. And trying. And dying. Until I beat it and it was a very satisfying experience because of that. Dante’s attitude and the flashiness of the gameplay is icing on the cake. But the challenge was amazing.
God of War
Kratos is one angry dude. And maybe I was a little angry in my younger years as well. Set this big angry dude in a Greek setting that includes fighting the gods and monsters from ancient greek mythology and you have a formula for a truly epic game. The action was intense and satisfying and while fairly one dimensional, Kratos was a bit of an antihero. Which for me, at the time, was a novelty. The series has grown a lot since then with the latest offering in some surprising ways. I still pop this one in from time to time.
Beyond Good and Evil
This game was one of the first games I played that included a lot of heart. Interesting gameplay and awesome characters made this niche title one of my favorites. I spent a lot of hours taking pictures of hidden animals and exploring the world. This game also had excellent world building. Because of the special place in my heart (and many other gamers) this game has stuck itself firmly in my list of favorite PS2 games and even games in general.
We all know how awesome Kingdom Hearts is. The combination of Disney and Square Enix was a surprisingly satisfying experience. Lots of hours exploring and grinding through the story was just the beginning of a pretty wild ride that is this series. Being a great game aside, the main reason this is on my list is because of one particular battle. The secret battle with Sephiroth. This battle was a harrowing challenge and I just would not give up no matter how many times he beat me. To top things off when you finally do defeat him he doesn’t even die per say. He’s just like “Alright, that was fun. Laters.” And vanishes. It’s still one of my greatest gaming accomplishments though.
Ryan Hartmann (Senior Editor):
Soul Reaver 2
The Legacy of Kain is both one of my favorite franchises in gaming history, and one of the most disappointing. Always wonderfully written and directed, the franchise peaked once Amy Hennig (who would later go on to write and direct the first three Uncharted games) took the helm as lead writer and creative director, and Soul Reaver 2 was the apex of a series loaded with atmosphere and overflowing with ideas and unrealized potential. Sadly, 2003’s follow-up, Defiance, was mostly a disappointment that ended on something of a cliffhanger, and the state of the franchise’s licensing rights makes any future sequels or reboots highly unlikely, denying fans such as myself any reasonable expectation of closure any time soon.
Final Fantasy XII
I have an odd habit of absolutely hating games that I later come to consider among my favorite of all time, and it’s something that happens frequently enough that it’s not mere statistical noise when it happens. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mirror’s Edge, X-COM Enemy Unknown and many others fit this pattern, perhaps none more closely than Final Fantasy XII. A huge Final Fantasy fan at this point and eagerly awaiting a non-MMO follow up to the amazing Final Fantasy X, the macro-management and tactical focus of XII threw me so hard that I shelved the game after just 15 hours, content to never play it again. Eventually I was prodded into giving the game a second chance, and over the subsequent 15 years the game has become not only my favorite installment in Final Fantasy, but my favorite JRPG of all time. It’s still a shame that Square-Enix literally focus-tested Vaan and Penelo into the game, derailing what would have been a much better-balanced story following the original ensemble cast of Balthier, Fran, Basch and Ashe, but with a little patience and effort the game’s tactical nature truly begins to shine and creates a JRPG experience unlike anything else, except perhaps its inspirational cousin, Final Fantasy Tactics.
Resident Evil 4
I have a confession; I am one of “those people”. You know who I’m talking about, the ones who hated Resident Evil and relentlessly mocked the franchise’s absurd nature at every turn. The hamfisted tank controls, the ridiculously amateurish voice acting, sophomoric writing… it was all just a little too damn silly for me. At least, that is, until I played Resident Evil 4. With a revamped (but now still horrendously obsolete) movement system, greater focus on action and cinematic production values and a story that leaned into its absurd nature with subtle winks to the audience, RE4 was truly a rebirth for the franchise. Of course, that’s also why so many diehard, original fans hate it, but given its importance in the direction of the recent remakes of Resident Evil 2 and 3, I’d have to argue that this game deserves the accolades it’s received over the years.
Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner
I will be the first to admit that I am a huge fan of Hideo Kojima, perhaps even to a point of irrationality, but that’s just the inevitable byproduct of the man delivering, over the course of 35 years, games that feel like they were custom-tailored for me. Zone of the Enders is the best possible example of this, as I’d always loved the style and allure of the huge mechs in Japanese media, but absolutely hated the clunky, slow, janky gameplay that accompanied most games in that genre. Suddenly, here is Kojima with the world’s first “High Speed Robot Action” game, one where these massive mechs were as fast as greased lightning, as devastatingly powerful as they were fun to pilot. While the first installment was little more than proof of concept (and a great way to push the demo for Metal Gear Solid 2, at the time the most anticipated game in history), Second Runner got a much more personal touch from Kojima, with a deeper story that played well with the anime trappings of the production values.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
It’s kind of weird to look back at all the criticism that Metal Gear Solid 2 received from dissenters upon its release in 2001, given that most of it centered around how ludicrous its plot was, how impossibly stupid it was to suggest that governments would try to control the masses with directed electronic information disinformation, spyware, privacy intrusions and, most laughable of all, the concept that we would ever turn over our nuclear arsenal to an artificial intelligence.
Except now, in 2020, the game looks downright prescient, given that our government has either announced, or been exposed for doing, all of these things. Yes, including trying to turn over our nuclear weapons programs to an AI.
More importantly, though, Metal Gear Solid 2 became the first truly killer exclusive app for the PS2, one that showcased all the horsepower the system could muster to create a game that, in terms of production quality, visual fidelity, and attention to detail, stood head and shoulders above the rest of the pack for years. A gorgeous game with flawless stealth action gameplay, and a story that feels more like a documentary than science fiction these days, but you know what my all-time favorite thing about this game was? Shooting buckets of ice and watching the water melt in real time:
Alex Moretti (Contributor):
Yu-Gi-Oh: Duelists Of The Roses
While most games in the Yu-Gi-Oh series are only aimed towards seasoned veterans, Duelists Of The Roses was a fun, unique spin-off title that re-imagined Yu-Gi-Oh’s cast as 16th-century icons who have recruited you to fight with them, either on the side of the Lancastrians or the Yorkists.
It was an incredibly fun strategy game with a lot of passion put into it. If only we got more unique games like this from Konami nowadays.
Monster Rancher 4
I remember this game for having a unique mechanic exclusive to the Playstation 2. This simulation game was all about raising monsters, and one of its features was letting you go to a shrine, swapping out the PS2 disc with an audio CD, and watching as a new monster is randomly generated from the said shrine. I spent hours testing out all sorts of different CDs just trying to get the best monsters.
It’s a shame that we haven’t gotten a new game in this series since 2010.
With over 300 hours on record, Persona 4 is my most played game on the PS2. The PS Vita version, Persona 4: Golden has also recently been ported to Steam. While not as dark as previous entries, this title helped establish Atlus as a prominent developer in the JRPG space.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 3 was already a fantastic game. Subsistence added to it dozens of hours worth of bonus missions, and the debut of Metal Gear Online, giving gamers one of the best value propositions of all time. With a deep camouflage system and a unique health system that rewards patience and exploration, not to mention a narrative more laser-focused than previous entries but still every bit as emotionally powerful, there is just so much to love about this game.
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
As a fan of both anime and space operas, this game offered everything I could want in a turn-based RPG. Epic Boss fights and set pieces, fantastic character introductions, and great setups with deserved payoffs. Over 80 hours of story, and over 130 hours for completionists, with so much extra content to unlock, the only real way to experience this game is to play it for yourself.
Tyler Harvey (Editor-in-Chief):
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
To say that I’m a GTA fan, or a fan of Rockstar in general, would be a pretty big understatement. Not only do I own every GTA ever made, I own multiple copies of them. And yet, despite having three copies of GTA 5, the one game I always find myself going back to is GTA San Andreas. I have such fond memories of SA, with my most memorable being a tad odd. I was sitting in front of my fathers 53″ plasma TV, when a commercial for San Andreas came on. Welcome To The Jungle blasted. It was such a magical moment. One I’ll never forget.
Oh boy, Guitar Hero. I know most people likely think of Guitar Hero, and imagine the PS3 or Xbox 360. And sure, it definitely reached its height on those consoles, but it all started on the PS2. That’s where I got my first taste of the plastic guitar. Shredding in the living room with friends. Trying to get the highest score possible. I’d usually win, of course.
This list could have gone on forever, and nearly did before editing began and we were forced to make some tough choices on what to include and what to leave out. So what games did we miss? Lots! Shout out in the comments and let us know what your favorite PS2 games were and why!