PlayStation 2 Turns 20 Years Old: 20 Essential Games You Should Play
If you needed a reminder that time is a relentless turd and our bodies are constantly decaying from the moment we are born, the iconic PlayStation 2 is now 20 years old. Two decades. Excuse me while I go and have a little lie down. And possibly cry into a pillow.
My own sadness at the passage of time aside, I'd like to say Happy Birthday to the PS2. With close to 160 million units sold worldwide to date, the iconic console has secured its place in history as one of the most successful, well-loved, and influential consoles of all time.
It achieved this feat in no small part thanks to its truly massive library of games, and... well, you can see where I'm going with this, can't you? Read on for the 20 games that we here at GAMINGbible feel constitute the essential PlayStation 2 experience. Enjoy, and maybe dig that old PS2 of yours out of the loft, wardrobe or from under the bed - wherever it's collecting dust, basically - and show it some love this weekend, eh?
Okami (Capcom, 2006)
A properly gorgeous Zelda-style adventure game that's heavily inspired by Japanese mythology and folklore. Quite possibly one of the most underrated games of all time, and well-deserving of a spot in any gamer's library.
Katamari Damacy (Namco, 2004)
Oh god, Katamari Damacy is so bloody weird, but it wears that wonderful weirdness on its sleeve. The end result is a game quite unlike anything you've ever played in your life, as you roll around a tiny ball - a tiny ball that, eventually, becomes a massive ball, obvs - collecting household objects, pets, and even human beings in an effort to grow your ball and impress a cruel mocking sky king, aka your dad. Totally normal.
Guitar Hero (Harmonix, 2005)
It's not the best the series ever had to offer, but the original Guitar Hero kicked off a revolution in rhythm games that really brought the tactile side of rocking out into the comfort of your own home. With the likes of Queen, Bowie, Motörhead and Incubus all represented on the soundtrack, there was a solid mix of rock-tastic tracks, and accessible controls to help even the most musically-challenged feel like a real star.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (Neversoft, 2002)
This was the pinnacle of an excellent series - game number 5 aside, of course - with that familiar combo-based gameplay combined with larger, more ambitious environments (San Francisco was a highlight). Plus, you could play as Eddie from Iron Maiden which is just... metal AF.
SSX Tricky (EA Vancouver, 2001)
Who doesn't love SSX Tricky? Nearly two decades on, this is one of those games that fans everywhere are desperate to see get the remake treatment. It's not hard to see why. An incredible soundtrack, thrilling courses, and addictive gameplay made this the definitive virtual snowboarding experience.
Psychonauts (Double Fine, 2005)
Not to be another voice telling you Psychonauts is a massively underrated game that you should play but... it is, and you should. A game that plays by its own rules in every sense, Double Fine's 2005 gem is an experience unlike any other. We can't wait for the sequel, which should finally be with us later this year.
Kingdom Hearts II (Square Enix, 2005)
The Kingdom Hearts series will forever be one of those game franchises that you either love with all your heart or cannot stand. While I personally belong to the latter camp, I have to applaud Square Enix for so effortlessly merging the bright and colourful worlds of Disney with the melodrama of a typical JRPG. It's good stuff, just not my cup of tea.
Bully (Rockstar Games, 2006)
Bully is one of the most unique, well-written, and genuinely funny games to have come from Rockstar... so where the hell is our sequel? It's been 14 years, and fans still can't stop asking. A testament, I think, to the quality of this scholastic adventure, and the skill that went into to crafting such a believable world for players to explore.
Ico (Team Ico, 2001)
Has Ico aged brilliantly? No. Is it still one of the most unique and captivating games on PS2? You bet. Some people try to argue that Ico is superior to Shadow of the Colossus, but those people are clearly just lying to try and look cool. Regardless, it's an atmospheric and emotional journey that's worth a look if you can get past the controls.
Resident Evil 4 (Capcom, 2005)
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A bold, brilliant evolution of the Resident Evil franchise, and one that manages to find that sweet spot between thrilling action sequences and genuinely hair-raising moments of horror. Resident Evil 4 is a perfectly paced, endlessly re-playable piece of work. It's still at its best on Wii (don't @ me), but the PS2 port is an incredibly worthy investment all the same.
Gran Turismo 4 (Polyphony Digital, 2004)
Gran Turismo 4 was one of the best looking games of its generation, with a graphical flair and attention to detail that blew our minds back in the day. If we're being honest, it still kind of holds up. Kind of. It remains the definitive racing game of the PS2 era: Immersive, thrilling, and so much fun to play.
Shadow Of The Colossus (Team Ico, 2005)
Shadow of the Colossus remains an absolute and undisputed masterpiece. Team Ico's tragic tale is a stunning lesson in emergent storytelling and immersive game design. Thundering across a bleak yet beautiful desolate landscape on the back of your trusty steed as you embark on a personal mission to destroy a number of beautiful, fearsome giants made for one of the most unrelentingly depressing journeys in gaming.
Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac, 2002)
The PS2 is home to many Ratchet & Clank games, but for sheer nostalgic value, we have to give this spot to the one that started it all. Insomniac Games - who had previously given us Spyro, and would later go on to give us Marvel's Spider-Man - created a glorious 3D platformer to rival Mario himself. Ratchet & Clank introduced us to a bright, colourful, world stuffed with anarchic humour and sci-fi parody.
The weapons were hilariously over the top and helped the series stand apart from other platform games of the time. Meanwhile, the massive levels were packed with detail, secrets to find, and collectibles to hunt. Ratchet & Clank is as close to genuine platforming gold as you can get.
Silent Hill 2 (Konami, 2001)
Silent Hill 2 remains the absolute best the franchise has to offer, and a world-class example of how to do a psychological horror game properly. An atmosphere of unrelenting suspense permeates the entire game, as players are forced to fend off a gauntlet of genuinely grotesque creations and scenarios, touching on everything from mental illness to child abuse in ways that never felt tacky or exploitative.
Let us not forget, this was the game that introduced the world to Pyramid Head - an enduring horror icon. It's also the game that made us watch Pyramid Head have sex with a mannequin, so there's that, too.
Jak 3 (Naughty Dog, 2004)
In between Crash Bandicoot and Uncharted, Naughty Dog gave the world Jak and Daxter - a franchise which is, frankly, long overdue a revival. In this third instalment, players explored a dystopian open world full of intense action platforming that was remarkably well polished for the time.
Final Fantasy X (Square Enix, 2001)
Final Fantasy X was the first game in its long-running RPG franchise to come to PlayStation 2, and after Square Enix delivered a streak of perfect FF titles on the original PlayStation, the pressure was very much on for them to deliver with number ten.
Thankfully, Final Fantasy X offered an epic, gorgeous adventure that embraced the old but also welcomed in the new. Not everything about it worked - nobody on the planet likes blitzball, for example - but for the most part it was a worthy addition to the canon, with a fully voice-acted story packed with twists, turns, and unforgettable character moments.
Devil May Cry 3 (Capcom, 2005)
There's no game on the PS2 that will test your button mashing finesse quite like Devil May Cry 3. It's less of a game and more of a brutal, bloody dance in which the only way out is to shoot, stab, dodge, and kill until there's nothing left to shoot, stab, dodge, or kill.
If DMC 2 was a disappointing sequel to a promising debut - which, some may argue deserves a spot here instead of this choice, as the game that kicked the series off, and that's a legit opinion to have - Devil May Cry 3 is the game that finally delivered on the promise of the original.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Konami, 2004)
There are those who would argue that Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the very best the franchise has to offer, and I'd find it pretty hard to disagree, to be honest. Snake Eater is, in so many ways, the greatest espionage video game of all time. A 1960s Cold War era prequel that starred Solid Snake's dad, Naked Snake, as he fought to survive in a vast jungle and unravel the truth behind a typical Kojima yarn, full of twists and turns.
God Of War 2 (SIE Santa Monica Studio, 2007)
Bigger, bloodier, and altogether more gruesome than its predecessor, God of War 2 continued Kratos' epic quest for revenge, and even introduced a slew of new abilities, such as the power to swing across grapple points, Spider-Man style, and glide using wings that were, erm, 'borrowed' from Icarus.
With Kratos now living life as a single dad that you might actually be able to have sympathy for, it's always good to remember that once upon a time, he was an angry murderous jerk - and he was really, really good at it.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar Games, 2004)
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the most important games in the world to an entire generation, and arguably the very best game you can play on the PS2. For many of us, it was the first 18-rated game we ever managed to get our hands on. It was also the first truly open-world title that many of us had ever experienced, and the sheer size and scale of the thing - from Grove Street to Bone County - was simply mind-blowing.
Featured Image Credit: Sony