It wasn't the Nintendo GameCube or the GameBoy. It wasn't the Sega or the Xbox. No, my preferred video gaming console growing up was the Playstation 2 (which I guess was pretty popular with a lot of other video gamers too).
Classic name-brand franchises like God of War, which made its PS2 debut in 2005; Final Fantasy, which saw three of its main titles released on the system; and Sly Cooper, which sported a trilogy of its own before a fourth installment was released for the Playstation 3, are just a select few among the seemingly limitless library of gaming options the system offered.
In revisiting a couple of my favorite PS2 titles over the elongated holiday weekend, I thought why not go full throttle with the nostalgia and make a list of games that I grew up with? And so here we are.
Below you'll find some of the best PS2 games that ever there were, ranked loosely from No. 10 (I-Could-Easily-Spend-An-Afternoon-Playing-This) on down to No. 1 (I-Never-Want-To-Put-The-Controller-Down!).
But first! The honorable mentions:
- Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002) — Tommy Vercetti wasn't all that nice of a guy, but it sure was fun to terrorize virtual Miami Beach while playing as him.
- SSX 3 (2003) — Everyone seems to have a hard-on for SSX Tricky, but this snowboarding game was cool too, dawg.
- All-Star Baseball 2005 (2004) — Rented this one from Family Video one too many times before realizing it might be better just to buy a copy.
- Ratchet & Clank series — I never quite got into these games but I would have to be deluded not to mention them. My younger brother thought they were the bee's knees besides.
And now! The Top 10:
10. Tekken 5 (2004) — I know there's Mortal Kombat and whatever else, but Tekken was always one of my favorite fighting games. The main story revolving around the Mishima bloodline makes the whole thing a bit more dynamic, with Devil Jin being an absolutely awesome character to embody and Jack-5 providing another go-to.
9. SOCOM II: U.S. Navy Seals (2003) — What I like to think of as the predecessor to the wildly successful Call of Duty titles that we're seeing on later generation consoles nowadays. This game was hard, and required a good deal of patience. The running-in-guns-a-blazing approach never worked out very well; it was all about stealth and waiting for the right time to make your move, necessitated by few checkpoint opportunities.
8. Evolution Skateboarding (2002) — Half-pipes, wipeouts, sick tricks, vampires — this one had it all. No idea who any of the skateboarders were but that was no matter. Though it received a lot of negative reviews and critics claimed it couldn't compete with Tony Hawk skating games, I thought Evolution Skateboarding was challenging and fun. And I'm not kidding about the vampire; you actually have the chance to fight one, along with his mini army of skeleton soldiers. Did I mention the soundtrack is sweet?
7. Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (2001) — I could easily have gone with Crash Twinsanity (2004) here, but The Wrath of Cortex was an earlier and more-classic-feeling title that featured varied gameplay and elemental bad guys (i.e. earth, water, fire, and air), which is always a plus. The player, as Crash, was required to clear five levels in an area before taking on a boss empowered by one of the elemental baddies. Who wouldn't want to face villains named Wa-Wa and Lo-Lo?
6. Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights (2002) — My absolute, no-holds-barred favorite cartoon character as a kid was also the main protagonist of a number of video games, including this villain-stuffed title that I once borrowed from a friend and forgot to give back. Boss battles included Redbeard's Ghost, the Black Knight, and the Green Ghost, among a couple of others. I was always ready to find a clue with Scooby-Doo. (RIP Casey Kasem.)
5. NFL Street (2004) — Hands-down the best virtual football I have ever played. I couldn't count the number of times I created my own team and ran them through the gamut that was NFL Challenge. (Or the number of times I blew a gasket when I got beat by the Eagles at The Pit.) Also really appreciated that the developers chose the Detroit Lions' Barry Sanders as one of the game's NFL Legends.
4. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Duelist of the Roses (2001) — All right, here's me being a nerd. I used to be a huge fan of the card game back in the day (and I am still the proud owner of a solidly-stacked deck) and there was a point where I played this non-stop. I went on a nostalgic bender with this one as recent as this summer. For the record, curse Mai and her Harpy Ladies Sisters.
3. Sly 2: Band of Thieves (2004) — This was the best Sly Cooper game ever made and I don't see that changing, even if they come out with a fifth one. With eight episodes (levels), the initial introduction of multiple character playability (you could only play as Sly in the first game), and a roster of villains that were simply awesome in the Klaww Gang, Sly 2 checked all the boxes and then some. Favorite antagonist? Jean Bison. Favorite episode? Too difficult to choose.
2. Kingdom Hearts (2002) — A boy. A key. The eternal struggle of light versus darkness. And the game that started it all. I was initially attracted to Kingdom Hearts because of its ties to Disney, but I fell in love with the game because of its intricate storyline — and because I got to fight Disney villains, of course. Organization XIII is what makes the KH universe most attractive to me — and they don't appear until the second game — but I figure I have to give credit to the game that got me hooked in the first place.
1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) — Numbers one and two were hard to distinguish for this list, but I eventually gave the nod to San Andreas due to the likely fact that I logged the most game hours playing this expansive GTA installment. The wide variety of missions, the drivability of so many different vehicles (including that giant-ass plane), the sheer volume of clothing and dating and home-buying options, the gargantuan map with cities mimicking Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas — all of these things made San Andreas amazing.
But it didn't even stop there. The plot was incredible for a GTA game, as well, with gang-related skirmishes, two-timing "friends," crooked cops, and a host of whack jobs along the way. More recent GTA games definitely built upon things first attempted in San Andreas and I will forever have fond memories of throwing molotov cocktails into crowds of innocent bystanders because of this game. Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the greatest fake radio station of all time: K-Rose, for all your country favorites with host Mary-Beth Maybell (how did she manage to play that harmonica again?).