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The PS2 is officially dead, with Sony ceasing production of the last-gen console on December 31, 2012. In Japan at least, when the existing stock of hardware runs out, Sony will not be offering any more consoles to retailers. Not that the PS2 has done badly, with a lifespan of 12 years, six as Sony’s flagship console, six as the budget machine playing second fiddle to its successor, the PS3.
The PS2 hardware may be dead, but the games are not. In total there are reported to have been more than 11,000 titles released on the PlayStation 2 to date, with several more still to come. This makes it a mammoth task trying to pare the games down to the very best of the best, but I’m here to serve, and serve I will.
What follows are five+ PS2 games that are still worth playing today despite their age and the fact they are far from cutting edge. Some may be available on other platforms, or have enjoyed an HD remake on the PS3, but they really should be enjoyed on the console they were originally made for. Especially as they’ll be available for just a few dollars each.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty may just be the best Metal Gear game to date. The first title suffered from being on the original PlayStation, and Metal Gear Solid 4 on the PS3 was, though technically unrivaled, too difficult and complex for most people to even bother with. This game, on the other hand, was, and still is, accessible to all.
The storyline is a little convoluted, but it’s still easy enough to follow if you concentrate and take in the full glory of the (often-epic) cutscenes. The gameplay is intense but enjoyable, and the difficulty level is nicely pitched to challenge most gamers. Despite the last-gen visuals Metal Gear Solid 2 is still eminently playable.
Don’t Forget: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
God Of War II
God Of War II is one of two games from the series to appear on the PS2, and it’s insanely playable despite its age. As in all of the God Of War games you play Kratos, the God Of War of the title. The game is played from a third-person, fixed-camera perspective, with brutal slaying, awesome boss fights, puzzles, and QTEs (Quick Time Events) the order of the day.
Those who joined the series late, perhaps only playing from God Of War III onwards, would do well to seek out this older title. All of the games in the series are connected in terms of both storyline and characters, so it’s really only the visuals that risk spoiling your enjoyment of this game. Thankfully even they are up to scratch, with this title making full use of the capabilities of the PS2.
Don’t Forget: God Of War
Ico can be described in many different ways, all of which are accurate. It’s beautiful, simple, minimalist, immersive, emotional, and tough. In an industry famed for endless sequels and formulaic releases, Ico offered something new, fresh, bold, and exciting. And time has been kind to the game, as it’s still immensely playable.
You control the titular Ico, who, after being shunned by society, finds a purpose when he encounters Yorda, a girl of about the same age. Together they seek to escape from the castle they are both captive in, but various puzzles and shadowy foes await on their path to freedom. This is a game created to move as much as entertain, and it still does both over a decade after its original release.
Don’t Forget: Shadow Of The Colossus
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was the last of the GTA games to be released on the PS2, and it was also the best. By quite a margin. It holds the distinction of being the best-selling game on the console, and with good reason. With so many copies out in the wild there’s a high probability of picking up the game for pennies.
Like every GTA game, including the new Grand Theft Auto V, San Andreas is an open-world sandbox adventure with crime as its main focus. There’s an engrossing storyline that will take a while to complete, but it’s the sheer freedom, variety of missions, and things to see and do that mark this game out as one of the all-time greats. Absolutely unmissable, no matter how old and outdated it may appear to be.
Don’t Forget: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII is one of the best games in the series, sitting comfortably alongside Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X as one that stood out in the genre. The PS2 was actually blessed with a lot of great Japanese RPGs, but this is arguably the pinnacle on the Sony console. Unless you have a particular dislike of JRPGs or the Final Fantasy series then Final Fantasy XII is a must-play game.
It features a strong mix of series regulars and innovations. So while the chocobos and summons remain intact for the long-time fans, random encounters and a controllable camera help make this a good RPG for newbies to grapple with. The visuals have aged as well as could be expected, and if picked up on the cheap this should provide several weeks’ worth of entertainment.
Don’t Forget: Final Fantasy X
It’s often forgotten by hardcore gamers that not everybody owns the latest console on the market, and there are still millions of people playing what we’d classify as retro machines. Sometimes by choice, often by necessity. Whatever your reason for being a PlayStation 2 gamer, these titles should be in your collection no matter what. Hunt them down, whether it be in retail stores, in flea markets, or on eBay.
With only five games featured there’s a high probability that many of you will be wondering where Title X or Title Y is. Below is the comments section where you’re invited to add to the list. Other readers can then look past my five choices and add yours to their collection as well. Otherwise feel free to air your views on the PS2, its imminent death, or the state of the games industry as a whole.
Image Credit: Phyllis Buchanan