The PlayStation 2 ceased its run in 2013, but it continues to stand tall as a pioneering platform that delivered some of the best gaming experiences of the early 21st century. Sony promised a winner that could defeat the rivals of its time – namely the Dreamcast, Xbox and the GameCube. It succeeded, as evidenced by its string of hit titles.
Granted, many of the games released on the platform have since shown their age in one or more departments, be it graphics, controls, or gameplay refinements. Nevertheless, there are many titles that continue to hold their ground, right up till this very day.
10 Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
Metal Gear Solid 3 marked a significant departure away from the traditional franchise formula by opening up the game to a more non-linear design scheme. The result was a world that felt more open and explorable, in contrast to the previous game’s rather on-the-rails formula. With it came an improved sense of stealth mechanics that relied heavily on the environment for cover.
Though the original Snake Eater release wasn’t perfect, the enhanced version known as Subsistence tweaked the gameplay by adding a new camera system, plus a second disk loaded with content (including bonus sneaking and rescue missions). It’s considered the best version of Metal Gear Solid 3 and one that still holds up today.
9 Final Fantasy X
This entry in the Final Fantasy series wasn’t as widely accepted as previous installments in the franchise, but it did make significant waves on the PS2, thanks mostly to its realistic graphics, a fully-voiced dialogue system, and greatly improved cinematics. The storyline was a major boon for Final Fantasy fans, particularly when it came to romance.
Final Fantasy X was so well regarded that even when it came to an end, it spawned a standalone sequel; the first in the franchise’s history. It may not have the long-lasting cult status appeal of the iconic Final Fantasy VII, but it still manages to hold its own in a way that successive installments have not been able to.
8 God Of War II
While the first God of War game took the video game world by the throat, the sequel was where things really started to get good. God of War II is perhaps the most definitive title in the series. It took all the epic grandiosity of the first game and cranked it up beyond tolerance levels. Gamers’ minds were blown by the awesome action scenes unfolding on screen, driven by the primary anti-hero Kratos.
Technically, a game like God of War II shouldn’t even exist. Its scale and enormity defy all logic, as if the player were trapped in the coolest fantasy movie ever made. For it to debut on a console such as the PS2 is an even greater feat. Since it maximized the machine’s hardware to create such an impressive spectacle, it still holds up as one of the most amazing PS2 titles.
As a 3D platformer competing against the likes of Crash Bandicoot, Psychonauts stands on its own as one of the most unique and creative things to hit the PS2, and gaming in general.
While the 3D environments don’t hold up especially well in our current age, the gameplay manages to make up for it. There’s an excellent platforming system here, with a great camera to boot. Coupled with its zany story, loveable characters, and inviting atmosphere, it’s still a bonafide PS2 classic.
6 Beyond Good And Evil
This game still holds up as one of the most impressive feats enjoyed on the PS2. Beyond Good And Evil has it all, from a bright and colorful world to the cartoony, interactive characters, and a great combat system. It’s a combination of Tomb Raider, Tenchu, and even Wave Race 64, if one can believe it.
It’s still an old game, however, and not all things have aged well. The game world feels quite static and non-interactive compared to the titles the world sees today, but it’s hard to argue with BGAE’s accessible gameplay, quirky story, and inventive world. If the PS2 version is unpalatable, consider giving the HD edition a try.
Team ICO was responsible for such memorable minimalist hits as Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian, but Ico is the one that started it all. It’s all about the game world, and how the player interacts with it, with the story going light for the sake of allowing the player to make the bulk of it up in their own mind.
As a result of this, there’s little in the way of exposition or dialogue. Ico is all about emotion, be it solidarity, affection, adventure, or fear. It’s a symbolic experience that demands investment from the gamer, and that’s actually a plus. While the environments look rather flat and static by today’s standards, it’s the immersive atmosphere that continues to sell it as a winner.
4 Gran Turismo 4
The only thing about Gran Turismo 4 that does not hold up is the roster of available cars. Everything else is spot on, and it’s still one of the best racing simulators ever made. The Gran Turismo series may have had its thunder stolen by the Forza franchise in recent years, but a few hours with GT4 is enough to remind everyone why it was king of the hill.
Driving mechanics are still a highlight of the game, and it lives up to its moniker as a simulator by forcing players to become good or for them to hand over their driver’s licenses. Graphically, it’s a major step up from previous games, and it’s far more accessible than the controversial Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, which didn’t net many new fans. If there is someone who is a fan of classic cars, GT4 has a lot to offer.
As far as FPS shooters go, Black is still far, far too underrated. This is a game that should have seen simultaneous multi-platform release, with an HD re-release on PC, to boot. Yet, Black remains relegated to the PS2 and the Xbox only, which means it’s out of reach for many players.
Black took its action movie cues from games like Call of Duty, but went all-out on style. Weapon models are absolutely incredible, as are the environmental detail, explosions, and thundering sound. Missions are fast-paced and fun, with easy-to-understand parameters and goals. Replaying Black in the modern age still feels fresh and fun.
2 Silent Hill 2
The first Silent Hill game tapped into humanity’s primal fears by thrusting the player into an alternate dimension, bridging the gates of Hell, itself. Silent Hill was always designed as a vehicle for commentary about the nature of humanity, and the dark recesses of our souls that continue to threaten us.
The second game amped up the horror considerably and provided better storylines with a shocking climax. The clever use of darkness creates a never-ending sense of dread and paranoia as the player waits for the next disturbing horror to creep around the corner. The franchise was on such a hot streak that it even spawned a Hollywood movie adaptation, which is still argued as one of the best of the bunch.
1 Shadow Of The Colossus
Team ICO scored another massive hit when they followed up their first game Ico with Shadow of the Colossus. Not only is it one of the most epic adventure games ever made, but it’s also one of the most inventive and imaginative. The sole goal of the game is to seek out and slay a number of Colossi – massive and seemingly unstoppable creatures that each have a weak point that must be exploited by the player.
There are no towns, cities, or NPCs to interact with, and no other enemies on the battlefield (except for the Colossi). As such, all gameplay focuses on the puzzle elements and logic trials the player must face in order to take down each creature. If that sounds bad, it isn’t. In fact, it’s what makes the game so good. Shadow of the Colossus isn’t simply a game. It’s an experience.
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