In the saddest news that’s ever faced the history of the globe, it was announced that the PlayStation 2, a console that reached no less than 155 million units sold, was to cease production. For many of the younger people in the games industry today, the PS2 was the first piece of hardware that truly showed how much further tech can push gaming. The Dusty Cartridge crew has had some great memories of the blue and black box so we’ve given them the chance to reminisce about their favourite titles from the now long-gone era.
1Brodie: God of War II
As far as swan songs go, the genre-defining sequel to Santa Monica’s God of War was as masterful a farewell party as Sony could have hoped for to send out its PlayStation 2 console. It received a plethora of acclaim and was the hack-and-slash darling for an entire generation of gamers.
It took an already great thing, evolved it and made it even better again as Kratos, determined to exact his vengeance and sate his blood-lust for patricide, pillaged his way through Ancient Greece. Blood gushed by the pint, heads rolled and Kratos bathed in the entrails of beasts as he tore them asunder, leaving nothing but twitching viscera in his wake. Much like the ash-clad anti-hero, the God of War games were an unrelenting tour de force.
I recall the awe that struck me when I first laid eye on Atlas after Kratos fell into the Underworld. The sheer scale of the towering titan, balancing the whole world upon his shoulders, was a lot to take in. Atlas is an apt allegory for the game itself, as are the other titans who helped Kratos along the way. God of War II was an unquestionable monster of unfathomable scope.
My personal favourite for best PS2 game? Okami. It was Game of the Year material back in 2006 and even today, it still holds up incredibly well. Incidentally, if you’ve never played it, go out and get Okami HD immediately. IMMEDIATELY! Trust me on this.
So why do I feel so strongly about it? I found it was as good as any Legend of Zelda game. I’m well aware that “them’s fightin words,” but I stick by it. Okami was fresh, it was different and it was novel. You could manipulate the world with a magic ink brush. It was set in a mythical version of ancient Japan, as opposed to the usual high-fantasy setting. It featured gorgeous visuals inspired by traditional watercolour paintings and Ukiyo-e art. Its soundtrack had a distinctly classical Japanese sound featuring a number of traditional instruments. Indeed I found it more aesthetically charming than any title in Nintendo’s legendary series.
Basically it took all the great elements of a Legend of Zelda game and added an Eastern flair to it. I can think of no greater swan song for the PlayStation 2 or for the late, great Clover Studios, who were tragically shut down shortly after completing Okami.
3Dan: Devil May Cry 3
When I think PlayStation, I don’t think Crash Bandicoot,
When DMC3 hit the PS2 back in 2005 it was exactly what the series needed. Fresh story direction, new characters and a combat engine, than turned it up and ripped the knob off. I can’t even begin to fathom how many hours I sunk into DMC3 as I attempted to uncover every secret and unlock every facet of gameplay.
But it never felt like a grind. I was constantly pushed to greater heights by my desire to drop a room full of demons while looking as stylishly badass as possible – and all to the sounds of Midnight calling. Mist of resolving. Crown me, with the, pure green leaf. Praise to my father. Blessed by the water. Black night. Dark sky. The Devil’s Cry. Truly one of the greatest action-come-slash-em-up titles of all time, DMC3 can stand proudly alongside the champions of the PS2 library.
4Mark: Jax and Daxter
Jak and Daxter was the very first game I played on my brand spanking new PS2. At the tender age of 11, I was only just getting used to my full length beard and rugged chest hair, so Naughty Dog’s colourful and friendly world was a source of comfort for me. Looking back, the game actually had a lot going for it. There were huge, open environments to explore, a variety of missions, a simple, yet incredibly well-executed plot… it was really, really fun.
It was also the first game that made me realise why people actually finished games. Up until Jak and Daxter, I was never particularly concerned with seeing them through to the end, either because I lost interest or simply perceived them as too hard. I had feelings of guilt; as if I was wasting my parents money or simply not gaming ‘right,’ but Jak and Daxter didn’t just have me hooked – it had me invested. I wanted to see the game to the end, I wanted to know what Daxter’s fate was and I was continually compelled to keep playing to see what happened next.
Without Jak and Daxter, I wouldn’t have realised why we play games at all.
I was never a fan of the plastic instrument craze that Harmonix created with Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The novelty of playing in a make-shift band did get the occasional “Oh this cool!” moments, but there was always one thing that held it back for me – the choice of music. See, my musical tastes live heavily in a solid dosage of hip-hop and electronica. Funnily enough, it was something heavily shaped by an earlier Harmonix game: Amplitude.
The majority of rhythm games put you in control of one instrument, but Amplitude instead tasked you with hitting lanes of three notes for all components of a track (vocals, drums, synth etc). Keeping the song flowing while juggling each track’s notes was the name of the game here and while some sequences did borderline on insane, it didn’t stop it from becoming my new-found addiction. But it’s not the gameplay alone that warrants Amplitude on this list, but rather the effect it had on my future life.
Amplitude’s soundtrack introduced me to a world of music outside of radio and TV, evidently moulding my musical tastes to what they are today. Every time I listen to Quarashi’s “Baseline” I remember the many hours of the early morning, nailing a tough run, only to drop the ball, rage quit and start again. Ah the memories.
6Martin: Final Fantasy X
In the event of a zombie apocalypse with only enough time to take one video game with me, it would have to be Final Fantasy X. At the tender age of 15 Tidus and Yuna’s relationship struck deep within the heart. No game before or after has had such a profound emotional impact on me.
With breathtaking visuals, a rich storyline peppered with twists, an improved battle system (I hate ATB with a passion) and a crapload of endgame content pushing well into 100+ hours, it was the reason I play video games. It was also the last great FF title (except for perhaps Final Fantasy XII) before it descended into the filth the series has become. Currently under the microscope for some HD treatment, if you’ve never experienced FFX get ready for a mother of an RPG.
In the meantime drool over the sole gameplay footage of the much anticipated Versus XIII – in development for over 7 years and yet no-one has any idea when it will release. My bet is for the next generation of consoles, so look for further details at this year’s E3 when they are inevitably announced.
7Jackson: Shadow of the Colossus
The Dusty Cartridge overlords have informed me that I only have 200 words to talk about this triumph in video game history and that is not nearly enough to do it justice. What I feel for Shadow of the Colossus is deep and it’s real. It’s a video game that hardly even opens its mouth, carefully guiding the player from colossus to colossus with naught but a ray of light and a foreboding passage from a godly voice. It’s strange then that it has so much to say… such a rich story to tell. It’s it’s stranger still that the connection you form with it’s lonely protagonist, Wander, is something very few games (even today) have achieved.
Shadow of the Colossus is a video game about loneliness, hope, overcoming insurmountable odds, despair, friendship, love, heartbreak, growing up, sacrifice, life and death. Its orchestral score rides the highs and lows as you do. The pounding drums that kick in when you approach a colossi beats in time with you. Shadow of the Colossus is a game about the human condition and the extremes we can take ourselves to for love. It’s a game that you never forget playing and, wonky controls aside, it was certainly the best PS2 title that you could find. Hell, it’s one of the best titles of all time. Interrupting Kanye would be proud.
8Chris: Tony Hawks Pro Skater 4
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 was a game that received more than its fair share of love in my household. Being the fourth in the series, it was mature enough to encompass the perfect set of mechanics and young enough to still feel fresh and fun. You had reverts, gaps, manuals, grids and an assortment of other tricks to learn and master. The levels were particularly detailed for a game of its time and each brought its own special characteristics and challenges.
Keeping with the franchise, THPS 4 had an amazing soundtrack to boot. It included a perfect mix of trash rock, hip-hop and rap from artists such as The Distillers, US Bombs, Goldfinger, AC/DC and more. Its multiplayer was well thought out and brought a number of different game modes to try out – horse still being one of my favourites.
Simply put, THPS 4 was an outstanding mix of unique gameplay mechanics, interesting visuals, challenging levels and included a great soundtrack. Try it if you haven’t or play it again if you feel like reliving your rebellious skater self once more.
9Javy: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
In the last decade there have only been two games that have made me cry. The Walking Dead is the more contemporary one, but Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater broke my heart first. Admittedly, it’s a game I came to with low expectations, being one of the many to dislike Kojima’s decision to interrupt the narrative that Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty had established with a prequel that took place in the Soviet jungle.
But Snake Eater turned out to be my favorite of the “swan song” games for the PS2 and, for me, the most beloved entry in the entire Metal Gear Solid series. The game tries so many things and nails most of them: the camouflage system, the intricate healing system, and the exhilarating combat.
Not only was Metal Gear Solid 3 fun to play, but it was also the first MGS with an amazing storyline. Don’t misunderstand me: the previous games had great conspiracy plots, but Snake Eater eschewed a convoluted espionage plot in favor of a straightforward narrative with a heart-rending emotional core. Every time I play the game, the last half hour still crushes me. Every time.
So what are some of your favourite PS2 games? Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? Ratchet and Clank? Chime in below and let us know!