Last month I went back in time and fondly remembered all the bangers that came with my PS3 on Christmas morning 2008. It was a magical time for a little gamer like me, but now we’re turning the clock back even further to the generation that preceded it.
The PS2 was also bought by a family friend for pennies and I still remember my parents smuggling a used PS2 around the living room with a copy of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 on it. I noticed and the surprise was totally ruined, but I was still so damn hyped about it.
We’ve got a healthy selection of absolute smashers, so let’s get started. Keep in mind that these games don’t cover the full lifecycle of the console and so will be missing some gems, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them.
final fantasy 10
So many of the PS2 exclusive games were ahead of their time. It was an era before photorealistic graphics, developers were still experimenting with 3D worlds to see what worked and what didn’t. Final Fantasy 10 was a huge step forward for the series, making everything that came before it seem archaic, even if we still loved it.
The characters had voices for the first time, while the environments were vast and filled with obscene amounts of detail, without ever sacrificing the rewarding storytelling. The combat system was incredible too, although the younger Jade got stuck countless times on bosses that her older brother had to help with. The game has aged incredibly, all because it has combined a classic JRPG formula with modern technology to create something masterful.
Silent Hill 2
My parents didn’t give a fuck about age ratings. They kept me from watching certain films, but games were still an unfamiliar medium so couldn’t affect me in the same way. Tell that Silent Hill 2 did some horrible things to my brain at the ripe old age of eight. This game was (and still is) a morbid nightmare of psychological horrors and grotesque creature designs meant to unsettle. Its atmosphere is unparalleled, with the subversive storytelling and dense fog that permeates the entire city, making you feel lost in a self-made hell. It cemented my love for the series and gave me a greater appreciation for survival horror, which is still going strong.
Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc
My dad didn’t pay child support, nor did he ever join us, but he bought me a handful of PS2 games for Christmas to celebrate the arrival of the console. He may not love me, but at least he’s a certified player. Hoodlum Havoc was one of those games, and for many the last great game from the Ubisoft mascot until Origins and Legends over a decade later. It was incredibly fun as a kid, and I still remember watching the commercials all over TV before it was released, making me beg to have it for Christmas. I got my wish and this game still stands the test of time.
Result: 8/10 (5/10 for my father)
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom
Now remastered for modern consoles, Battle for Bikini Bottom was one of the best-licensed platformers of its time, and acted as the benchmark for the animated sponge and his line of underwater homies. I loved this game as a kid and still love it, but it showed me how much sharper and more experimental platformer could be on more powerful hardware, and to this day reminds me of a time in the life of the genre when there was so much more to it to offer.
Considering I didn’t ask my mom to buy half of these games, she has killer taste. Ico and Silent Hill 2 waiting under the tree the same morning? What a day. I have to admit though that this game kind of got out of my head at the time and I didn’t pick it up again until years later when I played Shadow of the Colossus and started to understand what all the fuss was about.
Nowadays I love it and admire its beautiful simplicity and subtle approach to storytelling that was overwhelming back then. Nobody does it like Fumito Ueda.
Jak and Daxter: The Legacy of the Forerunners
Back when I first played Jak and Daxter, I didn’t even realize it was from the same team that brought us Crash Bandicoot. I wasn’t a games journalist back then (fortunately) and played games for pure enjoyment rather than scouring them for content to appease the SEO gods. It was a simpler time, and The Precursor Legacy remains my favorite in the series for pushing the platformer genre without overcomplicating things. The sequels did exactly that and kept kicking my butt for being bad at it.
Tekken Tag Tournament
This was a PS2 launch title that really showed what the console can do. It had arcade quality graphics and took a popular franchise before turning it on its head. Tekken Tag Tournament remains a tight, satisfying, and stylish entry into the series that so many fondly remember, and I’m not the least bit surprised. Future games and the sequel to this very title have long since surpassed it, but the first has a brilliance that I still admire.
Dynasty Warriors 2
I forget how much fog there was in ancient China. You couldn’t see a meter ahead as a battalion of soldiers marched closer and closer. Luckily, you were able to take them out with a single swing of your spear before marching to the goal. Dynasty Warriors 2 is an amazing game and was created at a time when the musou genre was far from old hat.
If anything, it was a technical showcase for the PS2 and unlike anything we’d seen before in scope and scope. The huge levels had so many enemies on screen and the playable character list offered different ways to tackle each of them and tremendous replay value for a small player like me. This one is still clapping.
Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4
This game was insanely gnarly, bro. Epic shred.
*does the cool hand sign with my thumb and pinky*
Next: Scorn Review – A dark, beautiful and grotesque mess of hopelessness