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After 12 years of rotation, the Playstation 2 has been pulled out of production worldwide; so says The Guardian. It was inevitable, but as a gaming event the PS2 can look back at a tremendous lifespan with an equally impressive library of over 10 thousand games. You know what that means: It’s time to get nostalgic and look back at this great device. What you may not (care to) know is that I’m a classic gamer by heart. If I hadn’t gone into the trade of modern reviews, I’d still be talking about games from previous generations today. This experience brought me closer to a ton of great PS2 titles. Enough about my insignificant life though, this is about the games. To give our fallen friend a proper sendoff, we’ll recap some of its greatest feats throughout time in the only fitting way: A shallow and hardly encapsulating top list!
Managing my game library, I realized that the PS2 has a staggering amount of quality RPGs. However, few came close to the magnitude of the third Star Ocean iteration. The first of this franchise to drop on the second Playstation, Till The End Of Time (TTEOT) waves goodbye to sound logic and offers players hundreds of hours of content with a barely cohesive story. Still, this harebrained plot somehow becomes a lot more compelling once the end game twist puts the likes of Shyamalan to shame. As to not spoil too much: There’s a world inside of a world in Star Ocean that tackles topics like game addiction, artificial sentience, free will and the futility of existence.
Barring that, the swift and challenging combat and never-ending amount of dungeons feed off each other to provide new substance for ages. Characters can string together flashy combos with powerful blows, while an extensive leveling system makes sure to add enough as times proceeds. Then there is still side content with a unique item invention system, exploration bonuses and so much more. Not even the end of the game is actually the end. This title hasn’t stolen its tagline.
Granted, it’s strange to pick a random iteration of a title that offers similar takes on its racing formula throughout the series. Yet, Burnout 3 is the perfect balance of its high-octane power driving and adrenaline rush crashes. With its tracks alone it keeps players on the edge of their seats, as each bend requires total, unfiltered concentration to squeeze between the edges of platforms, beams and traffic. By using a powerful boosting system and blurring the screen, the sense of speed that comes from controlling any car feels more like trying to overpower a launching rocket. A risk and reward element compensates players for tenacious combat tactics that balance on the edge of a knife. Burnout 3’s gameplay is a limitless rollercoaster with exquisite precision.
Some additional gameplay modes take the concept of crashing beyond the races and instead let players experiment with wild destructive combinations. You haven’t lived until you’ve propelled a car into a busy intersection, effectively ricocheting a truck filled with gasoline into a triple-lane road, launching further traffic to the other side. Realism be damned; the ultimate pinball vibe in Burnout 3 keeps players coming back, just to share wild stories about random and hilarious results.
Undoubtedly, almost every Final Fantasy (FF) release creates a rather large wave, but the release of the first one on Playstation 2 caused quite a stir indeed. Even if there is discussion surrounding its game designs, this iteration of FF is a pure stunner in many categories. Aside from its cast of amazing characters that even spawned a spinoff, auxiliary combat elements once more keeps things lively throughout the dozens of hours of content. Skills can be unlocked with the use of a complex grid filled with nodes, which can be used by multiple people. Characters can hop in and out of battle and powerful Overdrive attacks require the player’s input, which keep the involvement at an all-time high.
However, a large portion of what makes this game great is the main mini-game. Each Final Fantasy has some compelling side attractions, such as Chocobo breeding or a card game, but FFX has the almighty game of Blitzball. It’s part handball, part football, but completely immersed in water. Through the use of turn-based actions within the real time sport, an interesting mix of combat, statistics and adrenaline make for a great pastime that wastes more hours than going through dungeons.
Again, this may seem like a random pick of a game with similar iterations, but Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (GTA) is also a convergence of many quality designs. Its predecessor GTA III took its series to new heights by bringing the action down into the streets, so that the player could get a direct perspective. Vice City goes further and adds Tommy Vercetti in a storyline that resembles many iconic mobster movies, influenced by more 80s references. The atmosphere in the game is nearly palpable, as the huge city map takes us through coastlines, huge cityscapes and nightclubs that all feed off this source material, accompanied by a compelling cast.
There is also a ton of activity within the game, outside of the story. Various mini-games and tons of collectibles are scattered through the game world, which gives players ample things to do without ever even trying to see the story. An ability to buy properties also adds authenticity to the rags to riches story. This perfect combination of elements has hardly ever been reproduced and even the excellent successor San Andreas did nothing more but reach for Vice City’s greatness, despite being a stellar feature itself.
Some of you may know this title as the lesser titled Dark Cloud 2, but you have to admit that Dark Chronicle just sounds better. Before developer Level-5 stunned us with Professor Layton titles, they already peaked in excellence when they created this masterpiece. Chronicle takes the shallower elements from its progenitor and builds upon that a marvelous story that is both charming and filled to the brim with substance. Never before was a title so elaborate in many game designs and perhaps this time might never come back to us again.
It’s almost impossible to list all the deeply involved mechanics that this game has. The main goal is to rebuild lost cities by also using a time element to restore the future. Then, there are random dungeons, resource gathering, weapon level systems, mech construction or an invention portion to create new things. That’s just one of the huge parts. Players can also stroll through dungeons to find places to fish and use these fish in their own features, such as contests. Dungeons can also be used as golf courses, which are even woven into the storyline somehow. Effectively offering many games in one make this the best Playstation 2 title ever.
Naturally, with a library of over ten thousand games, it’s a bit hard to come up with just 5 laureates to cover an entire generation. That’s why, in no particular order, these titles can be lobbed in to a certain degree with our prime picks.
Feel free to let us know in the comments which games made the Playstation 2 era for you. We’d love to find out!