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Can you believe it's been two decades since the PlayStation 2 first released in North America? While those of us in the UK didn't get our mitts on it until November 2000, our friends across the pond had already spent a blissful month with incredible launch titles like Tekken Tag Tournament and Timesplitters.
The PS2 is an iconic console that went from strength to strength, of this there can be no doubt. Boasting one of the largest, weirdest, and most consistently impressive libraries of any home console, it can be a little hard to narrow down just ten of the best. That's why I decided to look at reviews aggregation site Metacritic to see what the general consensus is on the best PS2 games of all time. I am a coward, yes.
There can't be anyone out there who'd argue with this one. Once a prototype for a new Resident Evil, private investigator and supernatural investigator Dante has gone on to become a beloved video game hero in his own right. A brutally challenging slash/shoot 'em up, guiding Dante through increasingly demented series of levels and enemies was an experience only the PS2 could ever have offered.
It's a little bananas to think that it took Activision 13 years to release Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 following the release of the excellent fourth entry. It's even more bananas to think that Activision managed to screw it up so badly when Neversoft and Vicarious Visions so perfectly nailed the formula well over a decade before.
Ah well. We'll always have Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4, one of the most perfectly and lovingly put together skateboarding games of all time. In fact, I'd argue there's only one PS2 skating game better than it - can you guess what it is? Probably.
I could comfortably write down what I know about American football on the side of a 5p coin, but it's clear to me that Madden NFL 2003 did the business. Critics praised it as an astounding technical achievement that was ridiculously generous in the level of content on offer. Not something you typically here about sports games these days, is it?
What can I tell you about Gran Turismo 3: A Spec, other than it's a masterpiece? I don't even like racing games and I sank hours into this beast. It was effortlessly one of the most gorgeous games on PS2, rocked a killer soundtrack, and controlled like a dream. Each car handled differently, and there was a genuine challenge involved when it came to getting to grips with all of the vehicles and courses. Perfection.
I feel like I can say pretty much everything I just said about Gran Turismo 3: A Spec here. Vice City is... well, it's Vice City, isn't it? It's one of those games every single one of us has heard of, even if we never played it ourselves. It dominated playground conversations for an entire year, helped a generation get into 80's music, and featured a stunningly crafted open world filled with detail.
San Andreas is such an important game to so many of us that I've no doubt some of you are up in the arms right now. Not just because it's not the highest-rated PS2 game on this list, but because it's also rated the same as Vice City.
There's certainly an argument to be made that San Andreas is the better game, of course. Bigger, bolder, and more ambitious in almost every way, I'm still not entirely sure what satanic rites Rockstar invoked to get a world this big onto PS2. I'm just glad they did.
How does one begin to describe Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty? In terms of story, it is ludicrous. It's brilliant and makes some incredible points throughout its runtime, don't get me wrong, but it is ludicrous. The good news is even if you're not willing to follow the many strange and twisted threads put down by Hideo Kojima, there's still a phenomenal stealth adventure to be found here.
Resident Evil 4 isn't just one of the best PS2 games ever, it's one of the greatest video games of all time. Frankly, it still blows my mind that this was originally a GameCube exclusive. Obviously Capcom realized it was too good to keep on just one platform and decided to port this bold and brilliant reinvention of the survival horror franchise to Sony's console. Fast forward 15 years and Capcom can't seem to stop porting it. Although to be fair, I can't seem to stop buying it.
I know, I know. I was surprised to see GTA III rated hire than Vice City and San Andreas too, but I guess it was the first 3D GTA game. Without it, we wouldn't have the franchise as we know it, so in that respect it absolutely deserves its place here at the top. The characters and story might not be the most memorable, but GTA III was still an ambitious and varied gangster adventure that was years ahead of its time, all while laying down the groundwork for the future of the series. Just be grateful Rockstar didn't call it GTA 3D.
Is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 a better game than Tony Hawk's Skater 4? I'd say so, and I have the full might of Metacritic to back me up. While both are great, and 4 arguably has more content, 3 just feels like a better designed game and more of a leap forward from its predecessor. From snowy Canada to the streets of Tokyo, each level is an intricately put together wonderland inviting you to closely examine every rail, half-pipe, fence, and staircase in a quest to get the highest combos - and look good doing it.
Featured Image Credit: Sony
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