Top 10: Playstation 2 Classics from the Early 2000s

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.

Jack-5 versus Mokujin in Tekken 5.

Jack-5 versus Mokujin in Tekken 5.

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?

Crash bandicoot prepares to take on a bonus area in The Wrath of Cortex.

Crash bandicoot prepares to take on a bonus area in The Wrath of Cortex.

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.

Joey Harrington is ready to play defense against the Bears in NFL Street. Ha.

Joey Harrington is ready to play defense against the Bears in NFL Street. Ha.

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.

Sly Cooper surveys the Canadian landscape in Episode 6: "He Who Tames the Iron Horse" in Sly 2: Band of Thieves.

Sly Cooper surveys the Canadian landscape in Episode 6: "He Who Tames the Iron Horse" in Sly 2: Band of Thieves.

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?).