The PlayStation 2 continues to thrive 11 years after its release, and while publishers aren’t releasing games left and right like they used to (the only new games slated for this year are sports games like Madden NFL 12 and NBA 2K12), its library is quite expansive, with literally hundreds of games to choose from across a variety of categories, including adventure, role-playing games, platformers, sports and many, many more.
We’ve had to make many painful cuts on this list, including Killer 7 (Suda 51’s impressively psychotic assassin game), Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil (one of the most gorgeous platforming games ever), Final Fantasy XII, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (an evolution to the series if there ever was one) and several others. But the 25 that remain in our countdown are excellent titles that we simply can’t live without when it comes to PS2 entertainment. If you don’t own these, we suggest tracking them down. Most of them can be purchased for dirt cheap, providing hours worth of gameplay in return. The only downside is that you can’t play them on most PS3’s, due to their lack of backwards compatibility, but who knows maybe a majority of them will be released as downloadable titles. We can only hope.
Anyway, let’s kick off the countdown with…
25. Spider-Man 2 (Activision)
Most movie-licensed titles suck, due to the fact that the developer doesn’t take the time to actually make their game evolve in the same sense as their cinematic properties. But that wasn’t the case with Spider-Man 2, a well thought out adventure where you control Spidey’s every move across a wide-spread metropolis, stopping random crimes, grabbing balloons floating away from kids (damn brats) and sticking with missions that move the storyline along, as Spidey battles the evil Doctor Octopus. Considering how badly Spider-Man 3 ended up, 2 is definitely the way to go for all your web-slinging needs.
24. Odin Sphere (Vanillaware)
Vanillaware is responsible for a number of artful, clearly import-oriented adventures, including the overlooked Grim Grimoire and the Wii samurai based Muramasa. But there’s a special place in our hearts for Odin Sphere, a drop-dead-gorgeous role-playing adventure combined with the finer elements of side-scrolling action games. It all comes together wonderfully, with hours worth of gameplay and weapons to sort through, as well as plenty of challenging enemies. And that soundtrack? Considering it's not a Square Enix game, it's incredibly impressive. Track this down ASAP, add it to your collection, and cherish it forever.
23. Katamari Damacy (Namco Bandai)
What is it about Katamari Damacy that really catches us off-guard? Is it the soundtrack that’s incredibly off beat and still well worth listening to? Perhaps it’s the storyline, involving the ultimately bizarre King of All Cosmos. Nope, what it comes down to is being able to maneuver through world after world with a big object-grabbing katamari ball, and then proceeding to mow everything down just to increase its size, whether it’s humans, cows, buildings or other unimaginable objects. The original game prompted many sequels, including dedicated entries for PS3 and Xbox 360, but nothing beats the original Damacy in our eyes. It’s just magical. Absurd, yes, but magical.
22. Devil May Cry (Capcom)
At a time when Capcom was in need of a trailblazing new franchise, that’s exactly what they got with Devil May Cry, a tour-de-force in action, and excitement. In the game, you control Dante: Part gun-slinger, part sword-slasher, all demon hunter, as he mows down enemies using a combination of attacks. He’ll take on all sorts of nasties, including a fire-breathing spider who’s damn hard to bring down (“ANOTHER SMALL ONE!”) and a mother of a final boss. Though the second game was nothing to get excited over, the third game, Dante’s Awakening, ended the original trilogy on a high note. We might see it remade soon enough on PS3. For now, check out the original. You just might cry with joy.
21. SSX 3 (Electronic Arts)
When the PS2 launched in 2000, EA Sports Big released the original SSX, one of the better snowboarding games out there. It perfected on the formula a bit later with SSX Tricky, a game that introduced a fun new trick enhancement system (backed by Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky”) and invigorating characters. However, if we had to pick one game in the series that stuck with us, it would have to be SSX 3. Featuring an ever-changing soundtrack, fundamentally sound gameplay (with great tricks to pull off), a number of open courses to explore and dozens of events (including competitive races), it couldn’t be beat, no matter which way you looked at it. The new SSX, coming in January for Xbox 360 and PS3, could bring the series back to said basics. But it’ll take a lot to beat SSX 3 for sure. Let’s hope it brings the fresh powder.