Five PlayStation 2 games I still play today
November 21st, 2023 • By Faith Johnson
PlayStation 2, or PS2, is synonymous with our gaming culture. Not only is it the best-selling game console of all time, with just under 160 million units sold, but it was also home to some huge gaming franchises that laid the foundation for gaming as we know it now. I picked five PS2 games that I feel are worthy of giving some time to today.
By 2002, Grand Theft Auto III had cemented itself as the PS2 killer app and its follow-up, Vice City, built on everything that had gone before. I wasn't a huge fan of GTA III but appreciated why it was such an important game at the time. To me, Vice City was better and over the winter of 2003, I helped a friend finish the entire game. It was the first time I'd played a PS2 game for any length of time and it was a wild ride from start to finish.
There was something about the 80s setting, especially the excellent soundtrack, that appealed to me. I found the story was quite involved for a video game at the time and the controls had improved since the previous game. While the series would continue to improve, there was just something magical about the time I played Vice City and I do go back to it often, mostly just to drive about with the radio on.
I try not to get hung up on what my favourite game for each system is but if I had to choose one for PS2 it would be Burnout 3: Takedown. The truth is I played this more on Xbox but I remember helping a friend through some of the tougher races on their PS2. I just love the entire Burnout series and the introduction of the 'takedown' mechanic felt like a revolution to the crowded racing game genre at the time.
My favourite races are the Road Rage type where your mission is to take down as many computer-controlled opponents as you can in a set time limit. These races are filled with carnage and usually give lots of opportunities to find those 'signature takedowns' that acted as early achievements like we have today. Burnout 3 is the ultimate pick-up-and-play arcade racer that never gets old and is the perfect Friday night game to play with a friend.
I've been a huge, huge fan of extreme sports since the nineties and nothing quite compares to the majesty of Tony Hawk and his amazing series of skateboarding games. By the time the PS2 was hitting its stride, the series had four entries and then everything changed for the fifth game. The levels became larger and a new story mode had been included to break up the action. I wasn't that impressed at first but the new direction grew on me the more I played.
It wasn't just the deeper gameplay that was new either, the developers added many more options for creating your skater, designing your moves and giving a virtual sandbox of skateboarding greatness to play about in. Then there was the excellent soundtrack to skate along to! While I'll always have a soft spot for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Underground is a great skateboarding title that is one of the best games on the PS2.
Max Payne is another game that I first played on another system before trying the PS2 version. I was lucky to have a fairly powerful PC when this classic noir shooter was released and I played it over and over, even finishing the tough New York Minute mode. It didn't seem like the kind of game that would play that well on PS2 but it was always going to be popular and it wasn't long before I tried it on the console.
I was pleasantly surprised by how great it looked and was impressed by how intuitive the twin-stick analogue controls were. However, the graphics were downgraded from the PC original and there were a few moments of slowdown here and there. I still think I prefer my mouse and keyboard combo on the PC version, but Max Payne is very playable on PS2 and a game that I'll chuck on every so often for some blasting fun.
I just can't help myself but include a Sonic game in this list. Sonic Mega Collection Plus is still the best collection of Sonic games to this day. Not only does it include all the Mega Drive Sonic titles, but it also includes six Sonic Game Gear games and several unlockable Mega Drive games connected to the series. It's a quality set of games that provided excellent value when it was released.
It wasn't just the amount of games that made this a must-buy on PS2, if you play it enough you unlock secrets that allow you to connect the other Sonic titles to Sonic & Knuckles for even more ways to play. It was the ultimate classic Sonic experience and although there were a few issues with the emulation, Mega Collection Plus was my most played disc during this generation of consoles.
Game journalist and historian. I write about games in books, magazines and online. Sega, especially Sonic, is my favourite.
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