The PlayStation 2 holds a very intimate spot in too many people’s hearts. Many of us spent our childhood and teens transfixed with an endless supply of fantastic titles.
Let’s look at some titles that truly stood out, omitting some obvious hits in favour of a few more obscure titles deserving of the limelight.
This strategy game, set in feudal Japan, revolved around the war between the Tokugawa and Toyotomi clans for control of Japan. Allowing you to control tens of thousands of soldiers, this was a very epic look into Japanese history.
Players would order their generals around, each one hosting up to ten-thousand footmen. One could engage another platoon in simple hand-to-hand combat, or decimate an army with special commands such as cannonades, spear-walls and raids, in which a general would leap into an enemy unit and begin devastating the enemy solo like a true samurai.
This game had many awesome battle sequences, with countless enemies being impaled on spears, blown apart by cannons and trampled by charging horses. There were also lovely FMV sequences detailing the personal lives of Tokugawa and his subordinates.
Shadow of the Colossus
The sad tale of Wander and his quest to resurrect his beloved is one of the most powerful in the polygon medium. Tasked with taking down numerous behemoths by a mysterious God-entity, each stage was a massively immersive hunt into magnificent territories in search of said giants.
After finding your colossal target, a heart-pounding approach to the staggering monster would ensue, followed by a tricky climb to find the weak spots on the creature which Wander would then impale for maximum damage.
With a hauntingly gorgeous sound-track, magnificent graphics and unique gameplay, SotC is in a league of its own. Many fans still play the game in search of hidden code and areas, as well as the possibility of discovering discarded colossi.
Based on the ’70s cult-classic, this is one of the most enjoyable beat ‘em ups ever made by the lords of violence, Rockstar. Loosely retelling the film’s story, players fill the shoes of The Warriors’ members and must make it through a night of pursuit from all the other street gangs in New York.
Combining gratuitous beat-downs with stealth and mini-games such as stealing car radios, The Warriors was a scintillating party pack of inglorious mayhem. Ramming faces against walls, jumping on heads and slitting throats; this game has some seriously sadistic gameplay typical of Rockstar games.
This game also had a solid multiplayer which allowed you to create your own personalized gang and go head to head with other players in various game-modes such as king of the hill. Also worth mentioning is that the cast from the film all returned to bring their characters to life.
Another brilliant beat ‘em up from Rockstar, the Ghost in the Shell-inspired Oni streamlined shooting and poundings beautifully, as well as having a gritty anime design.
Set in an over-polluted dystopian future, Oni followed Konoko (whose character-design was inspired by Major Kusanagi), a member of an elite anti-terrorist outfit called the Technological Crimes Task Force (TCTF).
Konoko and her TCTF are pitted against their main rival, a shady terrorist organization known as the Syndicate, and it’s Konoko’s job to beat the hell out of every member using one of the most versatile and enjoyable fighting systems in any game.
Oni also had a great story and setting and was so entertaining most players probably clocked it a few times at least. There was also a magnificent cheat that allowed you to turn into any NPC and utilize their fighting style. How many times have I played this game? You will never know…
Final Fantasy X
The wondrous epic showcased the PlayStation 2’s capabilities admirably, and was so chocked full of emotion even your dad cried. Taking Tidus and his crew on an explosive journey through Spyra, players levelled and bonded with each character to the maximum.
The game boasted a highly polished turn-based system and an innovative ‘Sphere Grid’ levelling system which devoted players completed fully before beating the baldness-causing side-bosses.
There was also the most exciting FF mini game ever implemented, Blitzball, as well as completing the Al-Bhed dictionary to unlock the meanings of much of the game’s dialogue.
Tear-forming romance, titanic bosses, lovely paradisiacal environments and, of course, glorious FMV sequences. This game was an RPG Godsend that undoubtedly deserved an HD glossing for the PlayStation 4 (along with its bastardized sequel).
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
The cell-shaded Level-5 RPG was one of the most heart-warming experiences on the PS2, lovingly designed by Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. The game had simple turn-based and experience-based levelling gameplay that was nevertheless challenging at times.
DQVIII has a fairy-tale-like story involving a cursed king transformed into a troll, an unnamed protagonist and his party must return to normal. Spanning across various anime-like lands hosting a plethora of cute fiends, this was a very accessible RPG even those without a penchant for the genre would enjoy.
One of the great features of this game was how characters actually wore the gear you equipped them with; something awesome to see in older RPGs. DQVIII has everything a successful RPG needs: lovable characters, smooth battles, overpowered abilities and side-quests beyond the main story.
The legendary futuristic FPS translated excellently onto the PS2. Whilst not the best-looking title on the console, it certainly was one of the most involving. Set in an ugly future filled with mass-corruption and widespread poverty, you play as JC Denton on his moral rollercoaster-ride through ruined cities, massive laboratory complexes and government bases.
Continually juggling with loyalty to various shady, clandestine organizations, navigating through hazardous situations (either as a plasma-sponge, a stealthy agent or a silver-tongued negotiator) and helping out the common man, Deus Ex was so layered it took various playthroughs to fully rationalize its greatness.
Players would upgrade JC to perform better at hacking and shooting, bolster health and regeneration and to become stealthier. There were multiple endings and many different outcomes to each pivotal situation, offering the player an enlightening freedom not seen in many games of its time.
A dying samurai is taken in by an ancient clan of spirits who grant him the power to defeat a horde of demons. Being given a magical gauntlet that can absorb spirits and an arsenal of fearsome, elementally charged weapons, young Samonuske sets off to eradicate the demon army and rescue a kidnapped princess.
Onimusha is a brilliant hack and slash, survival horror title set in a feudal Japan infested with voracious demons. After defeating each enemy, they would evaporate and their souls could be absorbed by Samonuske’s gauntlet, allowing the swords to be imbued and upgraded.
The fleshy, visceral combat was what really stood out in this game. There was a highly satisfying weight to each swing and a finely tuned muscle memory was required to parry the advances of corrupted samurai and an assortment of possessed Pokemon.
I could go on forever about each beloved classic on the PS2, there are just too many that come to mind. What were some of your favourites?