Happy birthday week, PlayStation 2.
You were quite a juggernaut during your heyday, slaying even the mighty Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo Gamecube with your plethora of games and exclusives. Heck, you still were selling consoles by the boatload even when the Xbox 360 and PS3 were still going through their gaming lifespan.
You weren’t as powerful as the original Xbox hardware-wise, but you had the most games and unique offerings, as well as huge support from your motherland. That, and you were easy to mod for the benefit of most third-world countries, but let’s not downplay your past triumphs.
In fact, we at Kakuchopurei had to take a day or two to sift through the 4,000+ games in its library alone. In the end, we picked three games each.
Here they are:
Star Wars Battlefront 2
I only spent a few hours with the Steam version. But back then, Battlefront 2 was probably my most-played game on the PS2. Whether it was re-enacting the Battle of Hoth, trying (and failing) to nail the space combat, or throwing lightsabers at Boba Fett in the Mos Eisley Hero Assault mode, Battlefront 2 was a game that provided much joy.
Although Heroes vs Villains was my favourite mode, I also liked the Hunt mode a lot. Fending off Wampas on Hoth was thrilling, while the fact that you could play as the Gungans on Naboo amused me.
What’s even more amusing? People in this age still thinking that the current Battlefront 2 is the better game. Heh.
Spartan: Total Warrior
I didn’t finish the game, but I played enough to fall in love with the combat and insanely high body count. I don’t remember the combat being particularly complicated, but slicing your way through hordes of Romans and barbarians was immensely satisfying and epic.
Spartan was also the first game where I really noticed the presence of scripted events. Being fond of my Spartan allies, I was always devastated by the scripted moment in the first mission where a catapult projectile slays an entire group of them. RIP Spartans.
Mortal Kombat: Armageddon
My most fond memories of Mortal Kombat: Armageddon comes not from the fighting game, but from its Motor Kombat mode.
As chibi versions of characters like Bo’ Rai Cho and Kung Lao, you engage in races while using special abilities to get ahead. Scorpion hook enemies and swaps places with them, Raiden electrocutes people, and Bo’ Rai Cho… pukes. It’s brilliant.
As for the actual game, I remember Liu Kang’s kick the most. I would just keep spamming it against the AI since it seemed so unstoppable (and hilarious). I liked how Armageddon had weapon styles for many characters, but with Liu Kang, I just never bothered.
Also, as I don’t really follow the Mortal Kombat series, my younger self was also wondering why Armageddon Liu Kang was a freaking zombie.
Alleef “Comicslord” Ashaari
Ratchet And Clank: Going Commando
I remember playing 2003’s Ratchet And Clank: Going Commando by Insomniac Games for the first time, marvelling at the awesome power of all the crazy weapons and planets I could visit. All of this made for a zany and fun experience unlike any other third-person platformer out there.
The over-the-top weapons are a joy to use, one of which can turn enemies into sheep or ducks, which when upgraded will then turn those animals into balls of exploding flame. There are even cannons that project black holes, gloves that summon small robotic companions, and even shotguns that disintegrate enemies into a shower of 8-bit pixels.
What made me fall in love with the game was more than all that; of how open and vast the galaxy felt like in the Ratchet And Clank universe. The Ratchet And Clank games on the PS2 were phenomenal Metroidvania platformers with a sense of exploration and adventure that I sorely miss. I wish Insomniac would at least re-release remastered versions.
Persona 4 was the first Shin Megami Tensei game that I ever played, which led me to other great titles like Persona 3 and Devil Summoner. Even now, it remains one of the best JRPGs I’ve ever played. It had characters and companions that I cared about, memorable music that I still listen to, and addicting turn-based gameplay.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I even cried at the very end of my 100-hour journey, especially when Never More played during the credits. It is superior to Persona 5 in almost every way. It’s a testament to how great Persona 4 was and still is, that Atlus didn’t even change much of the game’s core mechanics for Persona 5.
Oh, and Rise Kujikawa is still best girl.
Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves
Most people may know Sucker Punch as the developers of the Infamous games or the upcoming Ghost Of Tsushima, but they will always be the developers of the amazing Sly Cooper trilogy on the PS2 for me.
In a time before Assassin’s Creed, Sly Cooper 3: Honor Among Thieves feels ahead of its time, a platformer stealth game with exploration and Metroidvania elements. It even had naval battles before Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, though not exactly as deep.
I had a lot of fun planning heists with Sly Cooper and his merry band of thieves, as well as taking part in ridiculous mini-games like one that involves taking part in a drinking competition before ending up in an all-out barside brawl.
Like Insomniac’s Ratchet And Clank, Sly Cooper oozes charm and heart that’s often missing in today’s hyper-realistic games.
Jonathan “Mr Toffee” Leo
Twinkle Star Sprites: La Petite Princesse
You know that phrase “3D does not make a 2D game automatically great”? Yeah, me neither, but I think this Twinkle Star Sprites sequel had the best of intentions but with the worst of colour palettes.
While the 3D looks serviceable and the character art is saccharine overload, it doesn’t look that appealing and energetic in practice. Yes, it does get chaotic when you activate Fever mode like in the old games, but the slightly muted pallette makes it even harder to see where your character is at all times. Even at the highest resolution, your player characters and enemies don’t stand out as much compared to the original.
The gameplay also received some tweaks. Bosses are easier to kill, and you get to carry your meter over in the next round. The new characters have pretty cool Extra Attacks with tricky flight patterns ranging from the nurse furries Ryetam & Merry riding on a syringe with their loop-de-loop bears, to the angel duo with their swiveling thingies.
Granted, it’s not the same as the 1996 original, but I’ll give SNK Playmore props for attempting to resurrect the versus shooter. Heck, the company took chances with a 3D KOF and a few Metal Slug entries with some varying degrees of success. And when that failed, they ported their Atomiswave fighting games. That balances things out, I guess.
Viewtiful Joe 1 & 2
Part tribute to Kamen Rider, part tribute to 2D action games with tough-enough die-hard sections, Hideki Kamiya’s directorial work here is full of fun times, cute humour, and a pretty awesome slowdown/fast-forward mechanic that made sense in its universe. It led to brilliant level design & action setpieces, and thrilling boss fights.
Without the Viewtiful Joe games, we probably didn’t get the ballsy approach to game design from the studio that will eventually become PlatinumGames. And we also won’t be getting the best game that totally flopped during its launch week: Okami. While I have to bring up that game and even Godhand, I cannot ignore the first-ever Clover Studio franchise that ended up being crushed by Capcom’s own method of oversaturating and overmarketing. The less said about the animes & DS spin-offs, the better.
PS: Capcom, can you port these onto PC please? Thanks!
Def Jam Vendetta/Fight For New York
Hardcore rappers and artists beating the crap out of each other in 3D arena fighting glory. Seriously, that’s all you need to sell most people on a “wrestling” game idea, or even a fighting game idea, period.
The fact that it was made by AKI Corporation, the folks behind WWF No Mercy (a wrestling game so good, not even a memory card-wiping bug can taint its legacy), and published by an EA that was still a douchebag but would still publish the real version of Dead Space 3 and Shadows of the Damned, meant that the stars truly aligned to make this duology work. A huge roster of fighters, each with their own fighting style and Blazin’ mode finishers. Yes, you can pin opponents, but why do that when you can be stylin’ and pull off a hard-hitting triple powerbomb or a gravity-defying vertabuster.
Honestly, I’d rather play these two games than the current versions of the WWE games any day of the week.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock seems like a weird entry to sliding into the chorus of this article. However, there are a few legible reasons why I thought it deserved a spot here.
This was my gateway to a lot of earworms, such as Shotgun by The Outline and the final battle song, Through The Fire And Flames by Dragonforce. My battered iPod Nano was filled with great bangers from this era and the era before. The latter song broke my guitar peripheral I bought with my hard-earned cash, which prompted me to relearn the entire game using a controller.
Shotgun by The Outline is also a track in my other top PS2 game, which is…
Ah, what a great arcade racing game made by the great people at Criterion, way before the publisher, EA, became the EA we know now.
Burnout Revenge had everything; high octane soundtrack, cars crashing into cars that crash into more cars, and explosions! This game is the epitome of stress release. All this illegal action paired with the banging music was a perfect recipe for the angsty teen that was me back then.
Speaking about being an angsty teen…
Bet you didn’t expect this one!
There’s a story to this one. During the transition from PS1 to PS2, I used to play some of the Tony Hawk titles on the PS1, so when the sketchy PS2 seller asked me if I liked skating and bike games, I nodded, and he slipped a disc into my PS2 bag. When I arrived home, this was it. This was that game, and the 12-year-old me instantly had a weird sensation in the land down under.
What happened that day was a rite of passage. A memorable event that turned me into a man, sort of.
It was the closest thing one could get to quality smut back in those days, and because of that, it deserved a mention here.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater/Subsistence
It’s hard to look beyond Hideo Kojima’s greatest opus when we talk about the best games on the PS2 which is Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (and its definitive version subtitled Subsistence). A technical marvel even by today’s standards, MGS3 ticks all the boxes which make a great game – engaging storyline, revolutionary gameplay, epic soundtrack, and a killer twist.
The survival aspect adds another layer to the challenges thrown at the player as they have to navigate through the dense Russian jungle teeming with Spetsnaz soldiers. And then Kojima throws this curveball your way – allowing you a moment to contemplate and recall how far you’ve gone through the game.
Snakes and ladders. Geddit?
a ton some sexual innuendos and double entendres into the game and you have a title which encapsulates Hideo Kojima at his very best. A man who wears his heart on his sleeve, delivering a unique and visionary look at world politics and how wars have, are being and will be fought.
I won’t deny Kojima dialed up the cringe and dramatisation levels in many parts of the game. But in the words of Goldilocks: they were just right. Metal Gear Solid 3 was, and still is, proof that you can crank things up to eleven and still deliver a palatable game.
I said it before and I’ll say it again; Kojima peaked in this era of gaming.
Tell us your favourite PS2 games here or on Facebook. Long live play!