Was The PlayStation 2 Really That Monumental?
The PlayStation 2, released in the year 2000, was a revolutionary gaming console that introduced a new era of unforgettable titles that most of us have grown up with. Over its lifespan, it gave rise to numerous video games that have become household names. In this article, I explore the top 5 best franchises that started on the PlayStation 2, forever shaping the landscape of modern gaming.
Sly Cooper Series: A Sneaky Racoon And His Gang Of Misfits
Developed by Sucker Punch Productions, the Sly Cooper series follows Sly, a raccoon master thief, and his gang as they pull off heists while evading law enforcement. The games blend stealth, platforming, and comic-book aesthetics. This franchise also marked the rise of the popularity of stealth games.
In 2002, Sly Cooper made its debut with his first game - Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus. Due to the game's immediate popularity, this was marked as just the start of a franchise. In 2004, the second game in the series was released with the third title to follow up in the year 2005 - all native to the PlayStation 2.
It wasn't until 2010 when The Sly Collection - remastered versions of the original trilogy, came out for the PlayStation 3. This was widely popular, seeing that all the kids who grew up playing Sly Cooper were excited to experience the games with higher-quality graphics and smoother controls.
2. The Kingdom Hearts Series: Where Disney Magic Meets Final Fantasy
If you were around for the original release of the first Kingdom Hearts, you'll know what I mean when I say that this was truly a magical time to be alive. Most fans of this game can still recall the first time they ever watched the trailer back in 2002.
Everything about this game screamed fantasy and it provided an entire generation an unforgettable escape from reality. With a fusion of Disney characters and Square Enix's RPG expertise, it first enchanted players on the PlayStation 2. By blending iconic Disney worlds with original storytelling, the franchise appealed to both nostalgic fans and newcomers.
The game follows the story of Sora, a keyblade wielder who is destined to restore light all over the never-ending universe, with help from his friends Donald and Goofy. At first glance, you probably think "now how would a video game with Donald Duck contain so much vast storytelling"? This is a fair question. But, upon the first playthrough, you'll quickly come across life-altering lessons about friendship, love, and strength.
Kingdom Hearts 2 followed up shortly for the PlayStation 2 in 2005. This is where Square Enix achieved what is almost considered impossible - they made a direct sequel that was almost, if not completely, better than the original game. Between the character development, the addicting gameplay, and the phenomenal soundtrack, this game changed lives.
3. Silent Hill: A Game Nobody Wanted To Play At Night
Up next, we have the Silent Hill series. Although the first Silent Hill in this series got its start on the PlayStation 1, it was the second game on the PS2 that took the world by storm. Silent Hill 2 came out in 2001 and is still considered one of the greatest survival horror games of all time.
What stood out in this game was the compelling story, eerie ambiance, and overall frightening characters. It follows the story of James Sunderland, a man who is set on a journey of relocating his missing wife. All he has left of her is a mysterious letter telling him to "meet her in their special place". This unfortunately leads him to none other than Silent Hill. Even if you aren't familiar with this game, you might recognize "Pyramid Head" - one of the main creepy villains.
In 2003 and 2004, Silent Hill 3 and Silent Hill 4: The Room both made their debut on PlayStation 2. While both of these games were still unsettling and uncomfortable to play, the second game still holds the title of the best horror game when compared to the others.
This was a game franchise that most of us came across when we were perhaps a little too young. I specifically remember finding them in my dad's pile of PS2 games when I was ten and thought to play them. Although it was a fun game, this was simply not a good idea in the long run (I was terrified).
4. God of War Series: Wrath of the Gods Unleashed
God of War burst onto the PlayStation 2 scene in 2005, offering players a visceral journey through Greek mythology as Kratos, a Spartan warrior seeking vengeance. The franchise revolutionized combat mechanics with its smooth combos and brutal finishing moves. With the release of God of War II, the series refined its gameplay, seamlessly integrating epic boss battles and breathtaking set pieces.
The beauty of this franchise is that it caters to two different realms of mythological "Gods". We first see a Greek background in PlayStation 2 releases, but then a Nordic background for the newer gaming consoles. It mixes familiar mythology and the fun of action/adventure gaming into one singular franchise.
Specifically in the first God of War, the main goal is to find Pandora's Box and then defeat Ares - the Greek God of war. If any of this sounds remotely familiar to you, then you would genuinely enjoy this series. With an engaging story, this hack-and-slash game is truly something that will remain a classic in the years to come.
5. Guitar Hero: A Game That Convinced Us We Can Actually Play The Guitar
Last but certainly not least, we have the Guitar Hero franchise. This gem of a game was first released on the PlayStation 2 in November 2005. It singlehandedly took over every household across the world, especially since it was released so close to Christmas. If you didn't see that giant box under your tree that year, you were surely disappointed. Guitar Hero 2 was released the following year in 2006 - boosting the commercial success of this franchise by nearly 50%.
The controls were so simple, yet complex. All you had to do was hit the buttons as they came on the screen, right? Wrong! Suddenly people began to realize how uncoordinated they were, thus killing the dream many of us had as kids to grow up and become rock stars. Not to mention, it had an entire younger generation appreciate the classics. Ten-year-olds everywhere suddenly knew all the words to Paint It Black and Barracuda - songs we probably wouldn't have come across so young if it wasn't for Guitar Hero.
Still to this day, people try to get their hands on Guitar Hero. It's a mystery as to why they have not released a newer version for modern consoles, but thankfully if you look hard enough you're sure to find an older copy if you want to revisit that nostalgia - or see if you're just as uncoordinated as an adult.
Those, of course, are not the only amazing games to come out of the PlayStation 2 era. Depending on your preferred genre, they could arguably be the most popular - but, there are still plenty of classics that are native to the PS2.
If you're at all familiar with Final Fantasy (who isn't at this point), then you know quite a few fan favorites for this franchise came out specifically for the PS2 - like Final Fantasy X. For a lot of us, myself included, this is the first FF game that I remember playing.
Then we have Grand Theft Auto 3, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Another game franchise I had absolutely no business playing when I was a kid, but here we are! These timeless games were very popular on the PlayStation 2 when they were first released, to the point where they are even still talked about today.
Not So Honorable Mentions
We always take the bad with the good, so there are a few games you might have forgotten about that received the worst reviews in PS2 history.
The Simpsons: Skateboarding - It's just a bunch of button-pushing and repetitive one-liners, hardly a skateboarding game.
American Idol - An all-around awkward experience with bizarre gameplay.
The PlayStation 2 era birthed a multitude of iconic video game franchises that continue to influence gaming to this day. From the childhood trauma of Silent Hill to the magical fusion of Kingdom Hearts, these franchises shaped the industry's evolution by introducing innovative gameplay mechanics, captivating narratives, and immersive worlds. The legacy of these franchises stands as a testament to the PlayStation 2's impact on modern gaming, reminding us of the incredible journey that began on this groundbreaking console.
Where To Buy These Games Now
If you want to relieve your childhood years, experience some nostalgia or simply try these games out for the first time - Fair Game in Sacramento, California has all of your retro gaming needs, as well as any new releases.