The g1s Top 50 PS2 Games: #10-1
It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. We’ve been through four entries, going over some of the best games ever made for the PS2, and now we reach the finish line. These are the ten greatest PS2 games, and we’re starting off with what is now considered a modern classic. We even got one of the characters from the game to talk about it!
10. Resident Evil 4 [Written by The Merchant (WhatThePuck)]
Path to Closure
Psst. Stranger. Over here. Welcome, I've got a selection of good games on sale, stranger. You'll find exactly what you want to play on this console. Ah, this one? Stranger, stranger – now that's a game. Quite unlike anything else available on the machine, that one is. Quite the odd origin that game has, stranger. The man who built it for the GameCube, and said that if it ever came to the PS2, he would cut off his own head. Well, here it is now, stranger, so I guess Shinji Mikami must be overdue a good couple of haircuts by now, eh?
Let me tell you somethin', stranger. Not only will you need skill, but you'll need guts to play THIS game. This game was made at the height of the PS2's renaissance of Japanese survival horror, and stranger, it really shows. The atmosphere, the enemies, the visual design, all of it comes together in a way that makes the sense of dread at what you'll be facing never seem to go away, no matter how powerful you get. The scares come with a real weight too, stranger – if you are careless or inattentive, you will die and die often.
Not that you won't have the tools to fight back stranger. Courtesy of meself, you're able to take on anyone who comes up against you with a huge assortment of weapon, raging from pistols, to sniper rifles to shotguns, to a zombie destroying laser. And whereas before you would find these weapons according to the story, here you must earn them through finding cash and treasure to sell. In practice this gives you more options in how you play, rather than just shoving a weapon into your hands right before you need it. All upgradeable too, stranger – gives the player a real sense of purpose in exploring the world, with a feeling of progression in terms of power that is matched by the enemies. Mix this with the new over the shoulder third person shooter style – the first time this style was used, stranger, and the way that has since become a standard – you feel a great sense of control and freedom than in previous games. You will always feel suited enough to take on what is coming at you – no more, but no less.
The story is what it is, stranger, but there's a real charm in how willfully stupid it is. So long as you aren't looking for high drama, its an enjoyably bad distraction in between killing zombies. The characters, too, are gloriously over the top – the villains are chewing the scenery with wild abandon, your allies act and look like they've just stepped off a John Woo movie, and even the resident escort mission with Ashley is made more enjoyable by her being hilariously badly written – a 20 year old that keeps talking like she's 12. Heck stranger, even I will admit to going a bit over the top on some of my lines. There is no character here who is not memorably enjoyable in some way or another, and between that and a story that defines so bad its good, the cut-scenes are all a hoot to watch. Really, that's all you should need from Capcom.
From top to bottom the game is quite the treat, stranger, but several things were added for the PS2 to make it all the sweeter. Among them, endurance rounds like The Mercenaries, based around multiple characters scoring the most kills, and Separate Ways, which filled in more of the plot and gave replay value to certain areas. Added together, Resident Evil 4 is one of the better games on the PS2. Now that I've told you all about it, tell me – what are you buyin'?
Thoughts from other g1s:
Dark Side: This is the only Resident Evil game I have played. Also, it constantly gave me a boner. There's a reason people consider this one of the single greatest games of all time, and that's because it's a master course on game design and building tension through said design. Also, Leon is a black hole of personality made completely of personality and he's amazing. "No thanks, BRO!"
Bygjuce: Resident Evil FUCKING 4! You love this game! I love this game! Everybody loves this fucking game! So what if it was the beginning of survival horror's demise? This game let me SUPLEX GUYS' HEADS OFF! I loved all the action in this game, and I especially loved the improved controls over its predecessors. A close buddy of mine and I used to play the hell out of this game. We had to have beaten it at least a dozen times. We'd take turns and swap the controller whenever we got to a part that we "hated," even though we didn't hate a single part in that entire game. We're a couple of dumbasses, I guess is what I'm saying. Anyway, point is, this game is great. If you don't like it, you're small-time.
someperson: Few games have earned the right to be described with "what's left to be said?" like Resident Evil 4 has. Thrilling, tense terrifying, bold, revolutionary; so many seemingly hyperbolic words can fittingly describe this game. It's all these things, and an absolute blast to play.
9. Devil May Cry 3 [Written by Dark Side]
Devils Never Cry
If GOD HAND is mechanical perfection, then Devil May Cry 3 is a slightly less perfect game with a far more fun sense of freedom. The Devil May Cry series has seen a lot of ups and downs over the years, with a starting game that has poorly aged to the downright disappointing sequel, dividing forth game and very mixed reboot. However, all that can be forgiven solely because of this one game. Devil May Cry 3 is one of the single best games ever made, and just about everyone who has played it agrees completely with this sentiment. What makes it so good? Just about everything.
First off, the story is surprisingly good for this series. Devil May Cry has always had some serious writing problems ("FILL YOUR DARK SOUL WITH LIGHT", Nero, "FUCK YOU *VOMIT*"), but DMC3 found a sweet spot between the drama and the ridiculous action and dialog. Dante is a slacker who just wants to kill demons for fun and constantly hits on anything of the opposite gender, Vergil is pure serious, Lady wears a school-girl style uniform, and Jester simply exists, meeting the ridiculous requirements. However, there's more here than you'd think. There's a surprising amount of subtle development here, such as Dante starting to take his role as a demon slayer more seriously, or Vergil's true motivations. Arkham manages to be a truly vile and effective villain, while Lady's story arc comes to a tragic and deserved ending. No game in the series has ever had such a perfect cast of characters, and all the demon bosses have their own memorable personalities. All the while, you have scenes of Dante riding a motorcycle up a tower and using motorcycle-fu, pulling of a billiards shot in mid-air with a bullet, demons getting grenades shoved in their mouth and riding on live missiles like a surf board. Somehow, the game finds the right balance between all these elements and makes a truly well done tale with characters with far more complexity than it would first appear.
The gameplay needed to only be better than the last game. It ended up being than everything that came before it in the entire action genre. To wit, DMC3 introduces weapon and gun switching DURING combos, which established a new in-depth combat system unlike anything we had ever seen before. You could combine a missile shot, a stringer charge, a lift, a strike down with the Beowulf gauntlets, another strike up, some mid air gunfire and a finisher with your downward slash, and that's just for starters. Making things even crazier was the style system, where you got four styles based around evasion, offense, defense and gunplay, along with two later styles that let you stop time and make a duplicate of yourself to assist in combos. People still explore the incredible combo system to this day, releasing videos of near impossible stunts and fights just because the game allows them to really flex their creative muscle.
It helps that this free and insane battle system is absolutely necessary if you want to thrive. DMC3 was known as one of the hardest games ever made for a few years, and for good reason. Enemies could really take punishment and fuck you up fast. You had to know how to properly use your weapons and styles to get the edge, trying to do it all in style. If you were a real perfectionist, you would create combos based around not using the same move twice for maximum points on the final mission score, along with trying no hit runs on bosses and barrages of demons. You even had a tower you could climb by facing different challenges, and the people with real balls would tackle each and every single floor. Mastering Devil May Cry 3 is not an easy feat. It's something you have to earn, much like GOD HAND, except finding that perfect plan was all the more difficult.
The special edition was even better, offering bonus fights with Jester and getting to play as Vergil. Holy shit, Vergil. He controls completely different from Dante, with a very different weapon set and style. He was more about zoning, powerful single strikes and teleportation, which never stops being fun but can easily be punished in the hands of poor players. Like his brother, being good with Vergil took practice, and it was just as rewarding. Those awkward jump arcs and fixed camera angles can easily be forgiven, just solely by how satisfying everything else is. They really knew what they were making here, punctuated in the ending credits, where you fight an endless swarm of reapers with whatever you brought with you to the badass final battle. I could go on and on about the rocking soundtrack and gothic art design, but that doesn't really get to the heart of why DMC3 is so good. All you really need to know is that it's one hell of a party.
Thoughts from other g1s:
Jack_Red89: In my opinion the greatest Devil May Cry game ever. This game totally nails everything the original does. You get some nice boss weapons to help you out. You can keep your save in between all difficulties. You can play around with plenty of costumes. Bloody Palace Mode is very addicting to play. What can I say about this that already haven't been said. This game is simply mind blowing action that keeps bringing you back for more.
beastochahin: Dante is awesome + more swords/guns that's all we have to say about it.
Bygjuce: DMC3 was one of my favorite games on the PS2! It was incredibly difficult with very smooth and satisfying combat.; I always felt like I was in control with Dante, which added to the game's awesomeness. I also loved the fact that Dante was trying to be so cool but was a total freaking dork. I couldn't help but to love him! And those fights in the cut scenes! That were freaking ridiculous! DMC3 exemplifies what a goofy, well-made, well-executed action game should feel and play like.
8. Dark Cloud 2 [Written by Whatthefnu]
Time is Changing
As I look back on life, I find my teenage years are unusually fuzzy, replaced by incredibly fond memories of this game. Either I suffered a major concussion somewhere along the line, or I actually lived inside Dark Cloud 2 for a while. And you know what? I would be totally okay with that. The world Level-5 contained within this disk is a truly magical place, filled with imaginative characters and awe-inspiring sights, all encountered along an adventure that spans time and space itself. From the Starlight Temple’s galactic glory to Ocean Roar Cave’s calming beaches, from the deepest depths of Rainbow Butterfly Woods and the mysteries it holds to the countless floors of the Gundorada Workshop, every single chapter of this game holds a wonder that will stick with you for eternity. The journey of Max and Monica will take you to places unlike anything you’ve ever seen or will see since, making it hold up to this very day.
But Dark Cloud 2 isn’t just one of the most wonderful RPGs ever made; it’s also one of the most complete. The team behind this game went all out, dumping every good idea they could think of into their latest creation. Piloting a massive robot whenever you want? This game’s got it. Transforming into the very monsters you’re fighting? Oh yeah. A unique crafting system that turns virtually any item in your inventory into power-ups for your equipment’s stats? Pioneered, expanded on, and mastered all in the same title, even allowing you to evolve those weapons into new and more powerful forms when those stats are high enough. And then you’ve got spheda, fishing, and the recruiting of various townsfolk to act as assist characters for your journey, just to keep you busy on the side. And make sure you collect those medals. Monica ain’t gonna change into that kitty costume herself, y’know.
Let’s also not forget the brilliant Georama system, which allowed you to alter the future by changing the very land it would happen on tree by tree. I was a tad disappointed at first that every tiny little change didn’t have a direct effect on the years to come, but you can only do so much with the PS2’s hardware. But speaking of disappointments, I am a big enough man to admit that the dungeons themselves can get extremely tedious. Seeing the same chunks again and again, even if they are randomly generated, can get tiring very quickly. At least the brilliant music of Tomohito Nishiura is there to alleviate some of this (we are talking about the man who would go on to compose Professor Layton, after all), so boredom will only really set in if you allow it to. Besides, any modern combat system that rewards you for quick reflexes instead of hollow strategy and character min/maxing is worth an automatic gold star.
Now, a lot of people have been clamoring for Level-5 to go back and make a Dark Cloud 3, and after all the praise I’ve dumped, you’d think I’d be on that train as well. Not necessarily. Don’t get me wrong: I’d explode with glee to hear that Max and Monica are not only coming back, but in HD and with modern design sensibilities. But at the same time, I’m so satisfied with the original game, that I’d probably be just as happy if it never happened.
That’s how powerful the experience known as Dark Cloud 2 is. It’s a self-contained masterpiece that accomplishes every single thing it set out to do with flying colors and exceptional style. I’m not even ashamed to admit I shed a tear the first time I heard “Time is changing” despite how corny the lyrics are, because it meant my time in this place was almost over. Yes, time will change, but the memories will not. Those will always be an inseparable part of who I am, and the very reason I became a developer in the first place. The day I create a game that is to someone else what this game was to me, my work in this industry will be done, and I can retire happy. Thank you, Level-5. Thank you.
Thoughts from other g1s:
Okami5567: What I would consider to be one of the last great JRPG dungeon crawlers. The weapon system was so much fun to play with it almost reminded someone of Monster Rancher while the ability to take pictures to create inventions could leave one to waste hours simply photographing everything in sight. Honestly, I'm extremely disappointed Level 5 never released any sort of sequel or HD collection for the PS3. Good graphics, game play, characters, and story.
Marduk: A great game that kept everything that was wonderful about the original, this is a solid JRPG. The weapons creation system was also a very interesting addition but the randomness of some of the combinations ruined it for me. It's nearly impossible to get the best equipment without systematically combining every picture you can take or looking up a walkthrough.
Dark Side: I still need to finish this game, and I've reached the near end point at least twice now. The style of this game is just unlike anything else, and the ways it improves on the first Dark Cloud are amazing. I'd love to see a return of this series with all that modern tech for an explosion of content.
7. God of War II [Written by Woodyman]
The End Begins
God of War II was one of the most anticipated sequel to any game released during the Playstation 2’s lifecycle. It was released by Santa Monica Studios in 2007, and is one of the best received games of the generation. To truly understands the impact of God of War II, we need to take a brief look at the original. The first God of War was unique, it was a 3D beat-em-up that focused on combos and quick time events… this was before QTE’s overstayed their welcome. Everyone loved the first God of War, so they were waiting at the edge of their seat for a sequel, they weren’t disappointed.
The first God of War ended with Kratos killing Ares and thus becoming the true god of war. The sequel begins with Kratos still haunted by his past, but enjoying all his newfound power. He sees his fellow Spartans attacking Rhodes and decides to join in on the fight against Athena’s warning. He is then stripped of all his godly powers and killed by Zeus, and that’s just the beginning.
The rest of the story involves Kratos trying to reclaim his power and get his revenge on Zeus. However, there is much more than that to the story. God of War II is the beginning of a war. When Kratos dies he is rescued by the Titan Gaia. As it turns out, the Titans used to rule the land until they were usurped by Zeus and the gods. The Titans were beaten and abused by the gods, and they want their revenge. Kratos with the help of the Titans visits the Sisters of Fate and is able to force them to send him back to when he was betrayed by Zeus. He is able to rewrite fate and then leads an army of Titans to Mount Olympus.
God of War II is pretty similar to the first game in terms of gameplay. It’s a 3D beat-em-up with some light platforming and puzzle elements. You play as Kratos and are destined to kill various monsters from Greek mythology (griffin, gorgon, harpy, etc…). Your main weapon are the Blades of Athena (two blades attached to Kratos’ arms by chains. When you weaken an enemy, you are prompted with a quick time event that will finish the foe in a gruesome manner. In addition to the Blades, Kratos is given other weapons to dispatch his foes. These include the Barbarian Hammer, the Spear of Destiny, and periodically, the Blade of Olympus. In addition, Kratos will learn magic such as a long range bow attack, an area attack, a freezing attack and more. Finally, Kratos has a Rage of the Gods mode where he becomes ultra-powerful for a short amount of time.
God of War II is a sequel in every sense of the word. The story is more epic, the music is better, there are more combos/weapons/magic, more enemies, more puzzles, more platforming, there is more everything. In addition, this game pushes the PS2 to the brink of its processing power with gorgeous backgrounds and settings. If you liked the original, you’d love the sequel.
Thoughts from other g1s:
Jack_Red89: One of the few sequels that tops the original. To be honest I did get pretty far into the game. The story totally blows my mind many ways. You fight more of a variety of enemies. You get some of the best moves. Again I like looking at each location from where I stopped. This game truly nails what a PS2 game needs to be. Some of the best boss fights in it's genre.
metabro: The first game to give me goosebumps. Amazingly polished hack-n'-slash game with huge cinematic style. Kratos' adventures in the Island of Creation features possibly the most brutal combat on the PS2 as well as some of the greatest bosses in video game history. From the legendary battle with the Colossus of Rhodes to the time spanning fight with the Sisters of Fate, God of War II is filled with moments that stay with you and shows what the PS2 is truly capable of.
Dark Side: While I have a load of issues with the greater mythology of the God of War series, God of War II is one of the finest games I've ever enjoyed. It really does improve on just about everything problematic with the first game, and each new area is truly something to behold. There's so many memorable moments, from seeing the giant horses and traveling down their connecting chain, to the mid-air battles with the demonic hordes, and especially the entire battle with two of the Fate Sisters. The game hits a perfect sweet spot between cinematic style and gameplay, and Kratos himself is developed into a much more interesting character. It's a fantastic time.
Tuxmanv2: Continuing your adventure on wondering how Kratos doesn't have HIV.
6. Shadow of the Colossus [Written by That Guy Named X]
This is one of those games that everyone likes to put forward whenever a “Games Are Art” debate comes up, often cited as a hallmark in game design and interactive storytelling, even I have defended this game before as pretty much one of the best things this medium has to offer. And for good reason, the game is great. It’s large, it’s well designed and most importantly, any game in which you spend half your time climbing up and taking down giant beasts with a tiny sword is instantly a classic in my book.
The game’s plot is deceptively simple. You are a young guy named Wander who travels to (or, one could say, wanders into) a forbidden valley in order to make a deal with a dormant, possibly evil god or godlike entity named Dormin, to bring a girl named Mono back from the death. The catch is that in order to do this, he has to kill 16 giant beasts that exist within the valley. It’s a simple enough story, except for one thing: Throughout the game, and right up since you start this quest, it’s made very clear that this is a really, really bad idea and anyone with half a brain would just stop and go home before maybe releasing a probably evil god out to the world. Why exactly this is a bad idea, that’s never made explicit, much like everything else in the game. And this is a heavy undertone that lingers over the entire plot of the game. This aspect of ambiguity surrounding the prototypical “save the girl no matter what” plot sets the game apart from other “save the girl no matter what” stories in games, by juxtaposing the awesome boss fights that would otherwise feel triumphant and epic with the overwhelming feeling of dread and questioning just what is going on in general, coupled with the music going from grandiose and epic to slow, eerie and somber tunes to fit the narrative tone.
Juxtaposition is something this game does really well (and it’s also a big word so I have to use it as much as possible), both thematically and in terms of gameplay. Half the game is spent battling the colossi in big epic throwdowns that involve climbing them and them taking them down by delivering acupuncture to their weak spots with a magic sword. These are some of the most memorable boss fights you’ll see in any games period, mostly because they all use the same basic formula in unique and different ways. Getting on top of the colossi is half puzzle and half platforming. Some of them require you to use the environment to jump onto them, some others are flying, some are underwater and so forth. This makes each boss battle more or less unique and memorable on their own rights, since trying to get on top of a giant flying snake by jumping off your horse at full speed is an entirely different thing than shooting a sandworm in the eye with an arrow and making it crash against a wall. With a couple underwhelming exceptions, the bosses are easily steal the show.
The other half of the game is there to contrast these fights. Whenever you’re not fighting a boss, you’re going to be making your way to them in the vast open world map, through which you travel by horseback. The thing about this is that even though the map is huge, it’s also completely empty. There are no enemies to fight, there’s no NPC’s, the only living things besides you and your horse are lizards and birds that occasionally fly by, other than that the whole place is completely barren. There is no music while you travel, making traveling a surprisingly quiet and enjoyable experience. The environment design is absolutely gorgeous to look at and explore as you wander around to the sound of the wind and your horse, where the only thing standing between you and your next objective is the distance to get there. This serves to punctuate the boss fights. The calm and quiet travel provides a great contrast with the boss fights, as such they both prevent each other from becoming tiresome or repetitive. It’s all about achieving balance by way of contrast. A game that is nothing but big epic battles will eventually get boring, because then you get used to big epic battles and they lose the appeal. Conversely, the traveling wouldn’t be half as enjoyable without the anticipation of another big epic boss fight.
And these elements make the game so great. There’s the plot that manages to set the tone and underlying themes of the narrative with almost no dialog up until the end of the game, and the fantastic boss fights contrasted by exploring a beautifully designed landscape, both of these things make this game frankly unique. To borrow a quote from Yahtzee, There's nothing else like it, and it's just damn good. Damn damn good good damn good damn damn… Good. Oh, and the horse that accompanies you through the game is the most fucking metal horse I’ve seen in my life. I can’t say why without spoiling a major plot point but suffice to say that by the end of the game you’ll start to think that this could’ve been easily solved if the horse killed the colossi. It totally could, that fucking beast.
Thoughts from other g1s:
Marduk: Once again a unique art style and game mechanic combined with all the necessary elements to make a game great. Shadow of the Colossus is a must have for any PS2 collection.
Shoggoth8852: Shadow of the Colossus is a one of the few games that really makes me feel small. The sense of scale and, scope is unmatched.
SanjiSasuke: The part in Shadow of the Colossus when you first jump on top of the bird...truly engaging.
Dark Side: The atmosphere of this game is awe inspiring, from the music to the empty spaces. I sometimes have trouble believing that this was a PS2 game because it looks so amazing.
5. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas [Written by Phroday]
Ice Cube - It Was A Good Day
Grand Theft Auto is a series everyone knows. A series that spawned from the desire to make games for adults. San Andreas is what I think of when I think of Grand Theft Auto. GTA 3 and Vice City set a precedent for the sprawling cities, beautiful graphics, natural driving, fun stories and unbridled carnage. San Andreas brought all of it and more to a new level, redefining the genre. Bigger in every scope.
And really, where to start? The setting is one that stands out most. A call back to earlier in the series, San Andreas is designed to be a combination of San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles from the late 90’s. Portions of it feel lifted straight out of Boyz in the Hood and Menace 2 Society. This is the image that has come to define the game, mostly because the first third of the game is centered on Grove St, taking over and defending the hood. But it isn’t all smokin' indo and sippin' on gin and juice. From this tiny cul-de-sac, you eventually branch out into the barren countryside and forest laden mountains that definitely do not house Bigfoot, but totally contains a massive pot field you have to torch down before the cops show up. Then you start flashing your gat in the mafia and triad controlled Las Venturas where you can actually gamble yourself into enough debt that hitmen come after you.
The small, but important, changes gameplay elements are what is most noteworthy about the game. You could recruit homies to jump in the car with you to do battle. The auto-targeting system was excellent. Hand to hand combat was useful and you even learned new styles later in the game. This was the title that introduced vehicle modification to the series. However, the most important element is character progression. You are not the same CJ at the end of the game as when you started. You start as some skinny kid who is garbage behind the wheel and couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with a sawed off shotgun. By the time the credits roll, you are a pile of muscle that can weave a Banshee through a traffic jam then snipe enemies from two blocks away with dual-wielded AK-47s. It was crazy specific though. Each gun had its own level of expertise. So, you quickly started favoring specific weapons. The maxed out Sawed-off shotgun was my personal favorite. It was dual-wielded, super powerful and way more accurate than it had any right to be. Vehicle mastery had a bit of lopsidedness as well. When you start driving motorcycles, your control is iffy and you fly off the bike the moment you make contact with anything. Several hours of riding later and you can damn near win a head-on collision with a dumptruck. Oh, and finally you can swim.
But all of that is for nothing without the excellent story and rounded characters. You play CJ, a straight talking good dude, not unlike Franklin in GTA V. He came home from five years away after his mother was murdered. His old hood and crew is in shambles, so CJ decides to stick around and bring the families back to glory. Things go down and crooked Sam Jackson cop exiles you from the hood to start running with a conspiracy nut hippie, a government agent voiced by James Woods and a blind Triad boss. There are twists and turns. Deep drama and relationships. So much humor. San Andreas had the perfect mixture of over the top absurdity sprinkled over a bed of tense street action. Plus, if you have David Cross saying David Cross things, I want that… and some hot coffee.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is often considered one of the best titles to grace the PlayStation 2. And with good reason, too. The raw scope of what was possible dwarfed everything that came before it, and forced Rockstar to scale back when moving the franchise to the next generation. It had too many excellent radio stations. It assimilated combat mechanics from Manhunt. It eliminated loading screens for driving between areas. It allowed me to feed CJ lots and lots and lots of tacos until I could dress him up as a passable Fat Albert. It allowed me to pimp my ride to compete in hydraulic jump battles. It allowed me to fight turf wars. It allowed multiplayer… kinda. It gave me a jetpack that I had to break out of Area 51. Its got me opening up my steam account to install that sucker.
Thoughts from other g1s:
Jack_Red89: To many as one of the absolute best video games ever. GTA: San Andreas has one of the biggest worlds. You can customize your character how you want. The soundtrack is good but not as good as Vice City's. To be honest I'm kind mixed about the characters. Some of them I like while others I hate. This game is known for having an insane amount of codes. In fact most code books that list the game have to cover a few pages to get them all. WOW have you ever heard of an single game with that many codes. I honestly haven't as of yet amazing.
Finn: One of the greatest sandbox games of all time, brought the series to a whole new level by expanding in every direction and perfecting most of the things from previous installments.
Dark Side: I used to go to my friend's house all the time, just to listen to the radio in any of the GTA games. SA had the funniest talk shows, even if they were about as blunt as a hammer. GTA works best with tongue firmly in cheek, and all my best memories of this came come from watching and occasionally doing ridiculous shit, not the "OHH SO DEEP" story Rockstar thinks they're good at telling.
4. Okami [Written by PKDororostar]
The Sun Rises
Do you love Zelda? Ancient Nippon? Capcom before DLC existed? Gorgeous visuals with gameplay that gives a bang for your buck? Well do I have the game that you never played just for you, Okami.
Okami is an obscure title on the PS2, developed by Clover studios, which went defunct and later made up the studio we know of today as Platinum Games. Okami was also published by Capcom, and met generally universal praise from critics alike, so what does exactly make this game so special? You play through a Legend of Zelda like adventure in ancient Nippon (Japan), as a sun goddess wolf whom uses brush strokes to perform different elemental attacks, while the game is presented with graphics that are jaw dropping gorgeous due to the Japanese watercolor nature of the world. Pretty unique especially considering that the industry now fears change and taking risks since FPS gained popularity.
You are Amaterasu, the sun goddess, who has been summoned back to the world, after Orochi has been unsealed from his prison, and darkness is now plaguing ancient Nippon. The story develops as the game goes on, until Amaterasu, faces even larger foes. You meet a variety of colorful characters, both in personality and aesthetics, such as Susano, a warrior who lives under bravado to appear as an expert swordsman. The story is often engaging, dramatic, and is full of humor. It also depicts characters and monsters straight from Japanese mythology. Its best described as an epic that will bring several emotions out of you, as you care for the characters, and what happens as the game progresses.
Gameplay is relatively Zelda like, as you have an over world where Amaterasu will explore, find dungeons, defeat bosses, and roam to battle enemies, acquire new skills and collectibles, level up, and complete tons of side quests. Now how exactly does a white wolf battle ancient monsters? This wolf is the sun goddess, who is gifted with celestial powers. Combat is broken into fighting with a primary weapon, fighting with a secondary weapon, and then finally the most original mechanic within this game, the celestial brush. Ami’s brush will temporarily pause the action, and gives you an opportunity to draw on the screen of which you are battling. Different brush stokes will do different things. A straight line will be a slash, a circle with a tiny line coming out will yield a bomb, and as you progress, these techniques become more powerful as you level them up.
Amaterasu gains new techniques as the game progresses, which will be necessary for defeating later enemies, as they will differ, and require specific ways of defeating them. The enemy diversity is astonishingly large in this game, and the different brush strokes will be needed in certain situations, while other brushstrokes will prove ineffective, or not efficient. Sometimes you will need to draw a circle around an enemy to bloom it, in order to hit its weak spot, or utilize a certain element such as fire against an ice enemy, and it goes on to make battles more about figuring out there weak spot, then capitalizing on your several opportunities. The bosses in this game are also very fun, as the different brush stokes will come in handy to exposing their weaknesses, and defeating them. Getting to one of the bosses, Orochi, will require the use of all powers in your arsenal, as he has eight heads, each weak to a different power. This alone makes fights interesting, and fun as these powers become stronger as they build up, and make Amaterasu feel strong just as a god of this world would be.
Those powers, however, don’t stop there with their implementation, as they represent the items of this game. Instead of having to switch in the inventory to equip an item, all your brush stokes are ready on the fly with the bush of the button, and a flick of the stick. These powers will be used in the over world to interact. Each one can be used to solve puzzles, gain praise, money, and encourage exploration and different experimentation with these strokes. As the game progresses, the side quests are plentiful and allow for Ami to gain praise, and to help the people of the world. It really does feel that you are a god who is concerned for your people, so after helping an individual, the praise you receive from them helps to reinforce that with more interaction with the people, the more rewarding the adventure feels. Okami hits on all the right notes, as its addictive and has the best visuals of any Ps2 game to date. The cell shaded visuals combined with a watercolor filter, makes each moment, and still of the game look so gorgeous as the game feels like every angle could pass as a watercolor painting straight from ancient Nippon. Environments are lush and immersive, and very distinct, so you can easily take a look at the world, and not get lost, for such a huge game. I spent literal hours just wandering the world, staring at the pretty visuals as the colors immerse you with the world, further encouraging interactivity. I can go on about the hundreds of hours worth of playtime to beat the game, 100 collectible stray beads that will reward you by bumping you up to god teir, a new game plus, and the insane amount of content in this epic. If you love Zelda, and wanted one for a while, you can pick up Okami for the Wii, PSN for $20, buy the DS sequel, Okamiden or bust out the reliable old PS2, and insert the disc, and allow yourself to become enthralled in an epic that oozes style, and originality.
Thoughts from other g1s:
Marduk: Excellent story, good game mechanics, and fun combat can make any game fun to play but Okami combined that with a unique art style and an added mechanic that I was certain would fail miserably until I actually played the game and learned how smoothly the celestial brush works. No other game truly deserves the #1 spot.
RememberTheAGES: Oh MAN! Talk about an absolutely amazing game! You would think Nintendo had a hand in it, because it was similar to Zelda but no Clover Studios under Capcom. The game had length to it, many times I thought oh... it's finishing. Wait... it's still going. Awesome! So much learning about Japanese folklore woven into Okami with an excellent story, amazingly beautiful art, solid sound track. I could go on and on. Play this game, I can honestly say you wont be disappointed. It's just so much fun!
Bygjuce: So what if Okami obviously takes its inspiration from the Legend of Zelda series? Who cares? If you're going to copy something, copy from the best! The only thing is I actually like Okami more than I like most Zelda games. I loved the art style, I loved Amaterasu and Issun's one-sided conversations, I loved the story, I loved circling dead plants and bringing them back to life, I liked the combat (it could have been better), I loved the Celestial Brush mechanic, and I loved the ridiculous "WTF" ending. If you haven't played Okami, why? Why do you suck so bad?
Dark Side: The Zelda series wishes it was this awesome. Okami ranks high among my personal favorite games, simply through just being so damn filled with personality and weeding out all the unfun parts of the Zelda formula. Also, Issun is my spirit animal.
3. Persona 4 [Written by WhatThePuck]
Before his suicide in 399 BC, Socrates observed to Plato that the swan, though it sings through its life, will never give more beautiful music than just before its death. This observation has given rise to the idea of a swan song across most western cultures – that of the final great accomplishment before death that surpasses all those before it. Released in 2008, two years after the release of the PS3 and 3 years after the start of the 7th generation, Persona 4 came at a time that suggests it would make an ideal candidate for the title. But in playing it, you realize just how perfectly the game encapsulates what it means to be a last final triumphant hurrah of something as impactful and great as the PS2, that it becomes the truest definition of a swan song - that heartrendingly mournful, and yet, most joyous of sounds to hear.
Undeniably, the greatest aspect of Persona 4 is the strength of its writing, and its characters. The games pacing is just perfect for allowing you to get to know the people that surround you and the world they inhabit, and in doing so, they feel fresh. What seemed like cliched writing become deep, flawed, multifaceted people. Nearly every character has a deeply satisfying arc, and what makes them satisfying is how your direct involvement is necessary for them to mature emotionally. Character growth that mixes with the satisfaction of accomplishment to make it doubly memorable. And no-one can say it isn't effective to making you like these characters - I won't give any spoilers, but this game contains the only time I've ever cried over a character in a videogame in my entire life. I was 20 when I first played this game, and I've been gaming since I was 3.
Of course, the game itself gives alternate reasons other than the growth to help these characters. Spending time getting to know your party members and helping them grow as people rewards you with boosts to their fighting skills, as well as special abilities. Helping your other friends will reward you with a deeper understanding of yourself as well, which in turn is represented by a strengthening of the titular Persona's. These are the means by which you accomplish the RPG portion of this combination RPG/dating sim. When it comes time to fight, the battles feel strategic and incredibly enjoyable. The game improves on Persona 3 by adding the ability to directly control your party members, and it feels like a godsend, adding a huge level of depth to the strategy.
You can use this time in the dungeons to appreciate the stylistic art of the game, which looks absolutely gorgeous. Each level inside the TV world is unique and gorgeous, and actually add to the character development by being based on the inner psyche of the people you are trying to rescue. This same style extends to the boss fights, all of which draw on psychological imagery that tell you volumes about how these people see themselves. The Persona's themselves, on the other hand, draw from a wide pool of imagery, with sources ranging from Hindu religion to Victorian literature. How they fit together both with each other and the characters of the arcana they represent is utterly fascinating to consider, but their individual design is so intricate and detailed that at many points you won't even care about who they represent, you're so struck by how they look. Finally, special mention must be made of the story. Despite being a murder mystery, a huge amount of the story is just so joyful and happy – the little moments that you share with people you care about that makes life so much better. There are darker turns and bleak moments, but if you can play your cards right and find the True ending, the game is sure to leave you with a smile on your face.
At its finale, Persona 4 sees you surrounded by these people you have grown to love and care for deeply, saying that though you have to go now, that this is not the end, but merely goodbye for now. And at that moment, not only is the character saying goodbye to his friends, but so are you. You say goodbye to these characters you have grown to love. You say goodbye to this brilliant game. And at the end of its swan song, you say goodbye to the PS2. Its been a great run, and you will revisit it when you can, to catch up on old memories, and even check out some classics you missed (I mean, see the rest of this list), but at the end of its many years, its time to put it away. There are so many new adventures to have out there, and its time to say goodbye to an old friend for now, and see what the new horizon brings. Roll on the new generation. To the new dawn! To the PS3! To Persona 5!
Thoughts from other g1s:
Bygjuce: Even though I'd never played a Persona game and I don't like simulations, I liked Persona 4. Its combination of simulation and dungeon crawling blended very nicely, and I got absorbed in the characters and plot. My only complaint is that the game was too freaking easy. I beat the game with hardly any struggle. I didn't feel any tension because I'd beat the dungeon and save the victim on the first day and spend the rest of the time boosting my social links. But I still had a ton of fun and found myself unable to put the damn thing down.
Dark Side: Five years later, this is still the single greatest game I have ever played. I got Persona 4 with The World Ends With You and played both back to back. I thought TWEWY was the greatest game I ever played at first, stuck on my bed for a week going through it. Then I played Persona 4, which I just thought would be okay, and ended up barely having any free time for roughly a month. The story is one of the best I've ever seen with absolutely fantastic characters, and the improvements made to the Persona 3 formula are top notch. This is as close to masterpiece the JRPG has ever gotten in every sense. Also, if you liked P4, look up Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love. It's very similar in the use of visual novel sections.
A Zero 2 Hero: In this ultimate friend simulator, you play as Yu Narukami as he ventures into a mystery packed with mythological creatures, tarot cards, and (for its time) controversial social issues rarely discussed in a game, as he goes from protagonist to protagonist. The RPG gameplay is alright. The only main gripe I have with it is that the weaknesses to some/most enemies make no sense, even after analyzing them, so at times battles result in using less strategy but more brute force and guess work. In the end though, this game proves that friendship is literally magic.
2. Kingdom Hearts II [Written by zerothethief]
The Other Promise
After taking two well known and beloved franchises and combing them to make the first Kingdom Hearts game, the people over at Square Enix had one real goal when it came to the sequel. That goal was to make everything bigger and better, and oh my goodness did they succeed!
The game picks up right after Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, which is an interquel between the first and second Kingdom Hearts games on the Game Boy Advance. Pretty much from the beginning of the game, you are wrapped up in questions by starting you off with an unfamiliar character with a mostly unfamiliar location. But once you get past the roughly two hour introduction, Sora is back and the plot thickens! Over the next 35-40 hours you'll spend saving Disney worlds while dealing with an overall arc of stopping Organization XIII from recreating Kingdom Hearts. While playing the game you quickly find yourself emerged into the story, wanting to know what happens next.
When it comes to the gameplay, Kingdom Hearts II has the same great experience and controls as the first game. Though there were two major fixes in the way of the camera relocating from L2 and R2 to the right analog stick, and with mapping overworld commands to the Triangle button instead of changing the top selection of the command weapon. These major fixes alone are enough to make any Kingdom Hearts fan content, but Square Enix added more new features. The first was reaction commands, which when prompted allowed Sora and/or his partner(s) to perform a special move based on something the enemies have done. Then there's the drive gauge, a new meter next to the HP and MP meters that when filled allow you to transform and change the tide of battle more on your side. And of course there was a general overhaul of the gummi ship, the vessel used to travel between worlds, that was an improvement as well. From a gameplay perspective Kingdom Hearts II is vastly superior to the first game.
The presentation of the game ...well, we can all agree the Kingdom Hearts series never pushed the envelope in the graphics department for the PS2, but at the same time the, graphics were not particularly bad by any means. In fact, the graphics always did a great job in delivering the general tone and atmosphere of the game. The general interface for the game was good, not too simple and not too complicated. Kingdom Hearts II found a happy medium when it came to it's menu system. Now one thing I definitely can't forget to praise is the game's audio. From the soundtrack containing great original tracks, well made remixes, and classic Disney/Final Fantasy tracks it was a job to listen to in game and even in real life. Then you have the fantastic voice acting littered throughout the game which includes most of the original voice actors for the Disney characters!
All in all the game leaves you with a lasting impression during the whole time you go through it. And the game even adds extra content to do post game including; getting the ultima weapon, a boss battle with notorious Final Fantasy VII villain Sephiroth, and unlocking a secret movie that teased the next game in the franchise! Kingdom Hearts II not only did all it set out to do but, it also went above and beyond what it needed to do.
Thoughts from other g1s:
Dark Side: Damn fine game. While I will stand by my belief that the KH series has the single dumbest, most fanfic-like story of all time, they actually managed to make me care during the Roxas prologue and hit me right in the sad. What really makes this game is the gameplay. Just by adding quick-time events to speed up combat flow and making the camera not shit, Kingdom Hearts II went from pretty okay action/RPG to a fucking fantasy action explosion. There were a lot of good ideas in this game and I'd like to see the series continue with the KHII base. Just without Nomura writing. Please don't let him write anything ever again.
Bygjuce: KHII was a lot of fun. I remember playing it obsessively for 2 weeks straight. It didn't "wow" me as much as the first one, and the reusing of the same characters and worlds was a little disappointing, but there was still a lot to love. For instance, the different forms Sora could turn into were cool, and Mickey Mouse fighting like Yoda had me geeking out a bit even though I hate Mickey. Also, the final fight alongside Riku was amazing. The story had me hooked despite the fact I didn't play Chain of Memories, so I think that's worth mentioning. All in all, a magnificent game that's not as good as the first.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater [Written by Dark Side]
Metal Gear Solid 3. To be honest, I had no idea what was going to reach the number one spot on this list. There are just so many choices and so many games so many people regard so highly. There was no easy answer. But in the end, maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that the ultimate winner ended up being one of the few games I consider a masterpiece. Metal Gear Solid 3 isn't just the best MGS game ever made, it belongs in the pantheon of some of the greatest games ever created. If you do not agree with me, you are factually wrong, and I mean that with only half comedic hyperbole.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is the tale of Naked Snake, one day eventually known as Big Boss, the man who set all the major events of the Metal Gear series in motion. However, he didn't become the villain overnight. Going back to the Cold War during 1964, MGS3 shows us how the Big Boss started his journey towards rebellion against the world governments, and it tears out your heart in the process. As far as I'm concerned, Solid Snake's daddy is a far more interesting character than the son could ever be. His feelings towards his turned traitor teacher and his sense of duty to his country are at constant odds, and the sheer soul destroying ending of his journey couldn't have possibly been more perfect. Along the way, the game carries plenty of Kojima's trademarks, including 4th wall breaking comedy, manic villains that explode upon defeat (including a man made of bees), massive conspiracies under massive conspiracies, and a whole lot of homage to famous films and anime.
The game is the first MGS game to make a major change to the formula, and it worked better than anyone would expect. With the radar gone in outdoor areas, the name of the game became camouflage and clever sneaking in open environments, requiring much more thought than ever before. It was a natural evolution for a stealth game, and breathed new life into the series that could have possibly been worn out if Snake Eater stuck with what worked the whole way. Also new was an eating system, where you had to occasionally eat captured animals or rations to keep yourself going, encouraging a new hunting mechanic and making the game nearly into a new genre all itself for a large chunk. Of course, the real fun was the ability to use wildlife and nature as your weapon. Nothing more fun than fucking with guards by shooting down a beehive near them. Is there anything bees can't do?
The boss battles this go are some of the most memorable in the entire series. The Pain is hilariously batshit in both design and execution, while The Fury offered a thrilling game of cat and mouse, but with more burning. The Fear perfectly mixed in the new mechanics for the game, and the entire sequence with The Sorrow packs a nasty punch. The way to get out of the situation is brilliant, to boot. For course, everyone knows The End, an hour long sniper war with one speedy old man. I still can't think of a battle like it to this day. The most interesting parts might be the ways to completely bypass the fight, however, like letting the old guy age himself to death in real time or sniping him off hours before your fight when you first meet him during a spying job. Kojima, man. Volgin manages to be one cheesy baddie in his own right, but he just can't top The Boss. That woman may very well be the greatest character in the entire MGS saga, all parts admirable, pitiable, and endlessly tragic. When I finally fought her at the end, it was one of the hardest battles I'd ever fought. Not just because she was a difficult boss, but because I just didn't really want to fight her. The end of the fight remains one of the single most memorable moments in any game I have ever played.
Some games are special for being completely different from anything before them. Some games are special for perfecting everything about them. Some are special for offering unforgettable moments and experiences. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is all of these things. The style, the gameplay, the story, the characters, the humor, the drama, the shortcuts, the little extras. It's the complete package. This is not what every game should be, not at all. MGS3 was lightning in a bottle. The stars aligned and a genius in our industry managed something truly magical. To try and make another MGS3 would be folly. It's not simply the best PS2 game, as nearly everyone here agreed. It's not simply the best Metal Gear game. It's a masterpiece that just comes together perfectly, even the flaws like the camera angles, to make something that I can't possibly imagine in any other form. This is an amazing game by every stretch of the imagination. I really have trouble putting into words how magical I find this game, despite how many times I write about it.
Are there games I'd rank above MGS3? Absolutely. But for it to reach the number one spot leaves me satisfied. It tells me that when we all find something truly special, we can recognize it and praise it as it deserves. This is always going to be Kojima's Magnum Opus to me, and it seems a lot of us agree on that. Even in Persona 4, my favorite game, there are things I would change. But I would not change a single thing about Metal Gear Solid 3. To try and fix any fault of this game just feels unnecessary. I know that sounds crazy, but that's how I really feel about this game. It is a game filled to the brim with character, standing out completely from anything before or since.
And the theme song is pretty kick ass too, I guess.
Thoughts from other g1s:
Jack_Red89: To me this is the absolute best Metal Gear game ever. This game truly nails what a stealth game is. You get to explore jungles to a military base. Some of the best boss fights in history. A lot of entertaining easter eggs that make you want to keep coming back. It has some of the finest voice acting ever. The story by itself truly explains the series legacy perfectly. This game has so many features that should come back. I did like it being more of a survival stealth game. For some reason they remove those features. You can even play the first Metal Gear games. What can I say I really love playing this?
SanjiSasuke: Metal Gear Solid 3 took all the best from the first few games and really took it to the next level. The boss fights especially were just over the top amazing, The End going down in gaming history.
RememberTheAGES: I have been a fan of the Metal Gear series since Metal Gear Solid. MGS 3 wasn't initially my favorite of the series, I understood and enjoyed the camouflage to avoid detection. But the scene that did it for me was the final scene. I became so choked up, I think I teared up a bit. By far the most moving experience I have had since playing Grandia. Don't know if anyone will get that but that's ok.
Finn: One of the best games I've ever played, and one of only two games to ever make me cry. A perfect mix of stealth and action, unbelievable cinematic story, unforgettable characters with great voice-acting and an incredible overall experience.
WhatThePuck: One of the greatest prequels in gaming history, we are taken back to a time before nanomachines and otakus pissing themselves, to give us just a simple soldier against an insane madman who wants to take over the world. Survival is essential, but greatness is assured.
MadHero15: Probably the most accessible Metal Gear of them all, Snaaaaaaaake Eatttttttttter is easily one of the best games ever made, and you owe it to yourself to play it at some point.
And that's it! The greatest PS2 games ever made, picked out by all of you, the g1 community. You all have pretty good taste, all things considered. Except those of you who nominated Wrath of Cortex. Your end will be slow and painful.
Don't agree with this list? Talk about it! What would you put higher, or what do you feel is missing? Share your passion with the rest of us. After all, that was the point of this project to begin with! See you in a few months for another one of these lists, because I seriously need a break from this madness.
Oh, and Merry Christmas!