[The PS2 is now officially discontinued! We wanted to give this mighty system a proper farewell so we're dedicating an entire week to it.]
We’ve spent the entire week discussing the PS2 and all of it’s magnificence. It was a beaut. Well not really, but it was functional and had a lot of fantastic games on it. Now though we must hold those games up to the light and judge them.
We have to choose the best of the bunch, and let me tell you, that’s not easy. Read on as we reveal our favorite games.
Mike Eaton’s Favorite PS2 Game:
Back in May 2002, my wife and I got into playing video games together. Our first try was with Ico, but that was a total misfire. Look, I know that like EVERYBODY loves that game, but we just ended up getting pissed off at Yorda. Anyway, we ended up settling on a game that has become kind of lost in the massive pile of great PS2 exclusives; Dark Cloud.
Dark Could is a neat game in that it combines dungeon crawling with town building — kind of like the SNES classic ActRaiser. Your character goes into dungeons, meets a companion who has special abilities to help out, and retrieves pieces of the town that are to be reassembled in the overworld. Being completely honest, it wasn’t the best-looking or most revolutionary game out there, but it was perfectly balanced for each of our preferences. I enjoyed plowing through enemies and taking on bosses, and she loved reassembling the towns.
One regret I have about the Dark Cloud series is that we never got to play the sequel — for some reason it would never work in my PS2.
Tyler Humphrey’s Favorite PS2 Game:
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Especially when talking exclusives, there are very few games that I think are acceptable answers to this question. The two most acceptable, in my opinion, are Jak II and Metal Gear Solid 2; both of which are brave sequels to beloved franchises.
When it comes right down to it, though, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is the proper choice. The graphics, the gameplay, and the production were all mind-blowing at the time of release. I legitimately can’t remember a more universally lusted after trailer than the original E3 trailer for Sons of Liberty.
Despite the hatred for Raiden, the choice to change protagonists is one of the most courageous I’ve ever seen in the industry. Taking a beloved main character and replacing him with one who couldn’t be more different (even more so considering how well it was kept secret,) is nearly unheard of.
From slipping on bird poop to catching cold in the rain, it was the attention to the minutia that made MGS2 what it was. Even if you can’t enjoy it due to the ridiculousness of the story or the changes it made to the series, it’s hard not to respect what Kojima & co. did with that hardware.
Trey Highland’s Favorite PS2 Game:
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Picking the best PS2 game is near impossible. So many amazing games came out for it. Persona 4, the Metal Gear games, Devil May Cry, Dynasty Warriors (yes really)… but one that stands out to me is the original Disgaea. I’ve been a hardcore Final Fantasy Tactics fan for a long time, and prior to discovering Disgaea one fateful game shop visit, there wasn’t anything out there to really cure my Strategy-RPG itch. Nothing reasonably priced anyway.
The story and characters are unforgettable. It was a true heaven for stat junkies. With randomly generated worlds and, at the time, mind blowing mechanics (STACKIN BITCHES) you could realistically still be playing it today if you had bought it on release. It’s a blast to play if you’re into the genre, and it really stands out as one of the best on the system.
Josh Whitehurst’s Favorite PS2 Game:
After spending essentially my whole childhood watching horror movies and playing games of the violent, mature nature, there was one game that made me feel something I had not felt since Blair Witch Project 2 (go ahead and laugh) — fear. This is where Manhunt comes in.
Manhunt is a game that I could not put down, simply because I was sucked into this dark, gritty world so much. James Earl Cash may not be the best character, but the thought of being thrown into a game show of life or death was more than enough to hold my attention. With numerous enemies, tools-o-death, and a gripping and terrifying story, most of the time I spent was in shadows hoping nobody could see me.
With brutal, shocking scenes of murder, cheap scares, adrenaline-rushing stealth, and Piggsy, Manhunt may not be the best game of the PS2 generation, but it is certainly the most memorable in my opinion. I have not felt genuine horror in a long time form a game, but I will hold my breath and jump out of my seat every time I see Piggsy for the first time.
Andres Ruiz’s Favorite PS2 Game:
Katamari Damacy gained notoriety when, at first glance, it came across as a blatant product of its creators on many drugs, possibly all at once. While that is hilarious, that is not what made this game great. This is one of my favorite games on the PlayStation 2 because of the entire bundle, from the incredibly creative gameplay to the wildly infectious soundtrack and yes, the batshit insanity that courses through every fiber of the game. There is nothing normal about Katamari Damacy, and that is precisely what lured me to it in the first place.
Playing any Katamari game is like jumping into a pool of crazy, but it’s so much fun. How many other games allow you to mercilessly roll up entire buildings as you hear the blood-curling screams of its innocent (as far as you know) inhabitants while quirky Japanese jazz beats will serenade you? If any other games come to mind, please enlighten me, because I will now have something else to play. Regardless, that is just one example of a possible moment in Katamari Damacy. While the series never really progressed past that, it didn’t matter. What they had going from the beginning was magical and never needed to change regardless.
In spite of all of its lunacy, it was actually a pretty relaxing game. There was never a lot of pressure put on you, but you would still get mildly scolded for mediocrity. As you are playing the game, however, odds are you will end uphaving so much fun that you’ll completely forget why you’re rolling up all this trash. There is just something so satisfying about going from a ball the size of a marble to a cluster of garbage and human lives the size of the Moon. Over 8 years later, Katamari Damacy still overflows with charm and manages to be one game I will never forget, standing as one of the best games I ever played in the days of the PS2.
Keith Chima’s Favorite PS2 Game:
Dynasty Warriors 3
My choice for the Best PS2 game might surprise you. Dynasty Warriors 3. Due to the sheer number of identical iterations of the series that have been released, people may forget how great the Dynasty Warriors series actually is. It was the perfect iteration- late enough in the series to have perfected the formula, but early enough that gamers weren’t fatigued with it.
The combat was fantastic, and each of a multitude of characters had their own set of interesting moves. The scripted events in levels, discoverable interactions between characters, stat upgrades and unlockable items make the game hugely replayable, and the co-op makes the game an exercise in bonding. My friends and I each had our small set of go-to guys- Zhao Yun and Gan Ning were my bros. I may have spent more time on DW3 than any other game, and the “Xtreme Legends” expansion added more fun to the mix, and after I put down the controller on that one, I’ve never successfully picked up another Dynasty Warriors game for any amount of time.
Chris Hadlock’s Favorite PS2 Game:
Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love
I was going through my mountain of PS2 games and came down to about 5 I really liked. Katamari was taken by Andres (even though he chose the wrong one like a dummy), Disgaea was claimed by Trey, which means I can just have fun raving about Sakura Wars without feeling guilty about those other games getting left out.
Sakura Wars was one of those really late entries in to the PS2 life cycle. It was however my RPG of 2010. For those sitting there thinking that’s not so big, 2010 was the year Mass Effect 2 dropped. This PS2 JRPG was better than that Bioware monstrosity. It was better because it has more heart.
What we got from Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love was a love letter from Japan. The setting is a steam punk New York City viewed from the eyes of a Japanese man reassigned to save the city with his steam powered robot super team. It’s as bizarre as it is fun. This fifth version of Sakura Wars will likely be the only one we will ever get. Through some miracle of not caring, Sony finally let a dating sim (thinly disguised as a SRPG) in to America. Shockingly, it’s good as these girls all have strong and lovable personalities powered by a split decision choice system that works so damn well.
I liked GTAIII, FFX, GT3, and plenty of other PS2 games. This one however made me giddy and that’s why it is my favorite PS2 game.