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The End of an Era: Looking back at the PlayStation 2's best games

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Posted by: Robert Workman

It's been a long road for the PlayStation 2.  When it first debuted on the market in 2000, it sold rather well, with over 20+ launch titles to choose from (including Madden NFL 2001 and SSX, which effectively introduced Sony's march into the next generation) and several games to come over its 12 year lifespan.

Last week, the company made the decision to cease production on the system, despite the fact that it's sold millions of units and still has a decent foothold in the video game industry, amidst the newer consoles like the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.  But the run had to end sometime, and a dozen years is hardly anything to scoff at.

Still, we couldn't help but look back at some of the PS2's best games, whether they were sequels that lived beyond the hype or new IP's that remain quite popular in this generation of gaming.  So, without further ado, here are various PS2 games that are well worth revisiting, even if that means tracking down a used system and playing the classics all over again.

Guitar Hero series (Activision)

guitar hero

Though the series is long gone by now, Guitar Hero brought the music genre roaring into the current generation, with a number of rock n' roll favorites and an almost life-sized peripheral to match.  The sequels managed to get even better, introducing both cooperative and competitive jamming contests, as well as epic challenges featuring the likes of Dragonforce and "Trogdor".  Have you 100 percented them yet?  We thought so…

God of War (SCEA)

god of war

One of the most brutal – and awesome – games of the PS2 generation, God of War simply cannot be beat.  Directed by David Jaffe and his team at Sony Santa Monica, God of War effectively introduced Kratos, a brutal warrior who would stop at nothing to have revenge on the man who tore him apart – Ares.  The series has since gotten better with age, with a number of hit sequels (including the upcoming Ascension), but the original is still worth playing again.

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (SCEA)

sly cooper

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was one of the best platformers in the PS2 era, not only signifying its own style of animation and personality, but also the kind of action that actually felt right on a newer console.  The game played out like a cartoon, complete with humorous characters (oh, how you slay us, Murray) and fun boss battles.  The series continues to live on with the forthcoming Thieves In Time, due for release next month on PS3 and PS Vita.  Well deserved, if you ask us.

Katamari Damacy (Namco)

Katamari

Weird as it may seem, Katamari Damacy is one of the few examples of a hit overseas franchise that managed to strike a similar chord here in the United States.  Featuring a hurried Prince of All Cosmos being bossed around by his flamboyant dad, Katamari tasks you with rolling up objects into huge balls so that they can be launched into space as stars.  Silly?  Yep.  Weird?  You bet.  But with its memorable soundtrack and easy-to-learn gameplay, it's a joy for all ages.

Ratchet and Clank series (SCEA)

ratchet

Insomniac Games, proving their worth on the PS One with its Spyro the Dragon games, grew to even greater lengths with this wild space saga, revolving around a gun-toting Lombax and his robotic friend.  Featuring the same level of dynamic personality as the Sly Cooper games (though with a completely different storyline and setting), Ratchet and Clank enlightened both hardcore shooter fanatics and casual audiences alike.  Check out the games again – for the first time – with Ratchet and Clank HD Collection if you can.  It's only $30!

Okami (Capcom)

okami

One of the more original efforts to ever grace the PlayStation 2, Okami, from the minds at Clover Studio (now Platinum Games), is a breathtaking journey through old-school culture, while at the same time an enthralling, original game that shouldn't be missed.  With an exquisite art style, innovative gameplay with elements involving a celestial brush, and a compelling story, it's still a moving experience today.  Check it out on the PlayStation Network, in HD fashion, now.

Gran Turismo 4 (SCEA)

Gran

The Gran Turismo series managed to gain a huge racing audience on the PS One, but even they probably weren't prepared for what Polyphony Digital, the series' developers, could do with the PlayStation 2 hardware.  After an impressive debut with GT 3: A-Spec, part four dug even deeper, with rich life-like visuals, stunning gameplay that felt more realistic than ever before, and a number of courses from around the world.

Burnout 3: Takedown (Electronic Arts)

burnout

But let's say that simulation racing wasn't your thing – you were all about having fun wrecking other cars.  With that, we highly recommend Burnout 3: Takedown, a revolutionary leap forward for Criterion Games' series.  This game not only introduced a new level of high-speed action for Burnout, but also an aggressive side, enabling – and encouraging – you to wreck cars at will and gain boosts as a result.  The introduction of "Aftertouch" – being able to disable opponents after a wreck – was wicked, too.

Ico and Shadow of the Colossus (SCEA)

ico

Two of Sony's most celebrated import games came from Team Ico, and how.  The original Ico, while a bit confusing at first (what the heck is that girl saying?) is a magnificent blend of original game design and beautiful visuals, the best we've seen on the system.  Shadow of the Colossus wonderfully followed suit, with epic battles against behemoths and its own eye-popping visuals to gaze upon.  If you missed out on both of these, just pick up the HD Collection, on sale for around $20.  That's a damn good deal.

Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City and San Andreas (Rockstar Games)

Vice

Finally, if we're going to talk about PlayStation 2 games that changed the landscape of how we play, we easily have to mention these three violently thrilling titles.  GTA III shook the hemisphere with its bold 3D engine, as well as its wide variety of activities to take part in – most of them usually resulting in casualties.  Vice City followed suit with plenty of 80's goodness, as well as a new storyline to keep us intrigued.  Finally, San Andreas topped both with a vivid urban portrayal of a fictional Los Angeles city, complete with tons of new things to do (base jumping!) and great voicework from Samuel L. Jackson and the rest of the cast.  Do yourself a favor and check these games out – they're still fun after all these years.

What are your favorite PlayStation 2 games?

Tags: Guitar Hero, Gran Turismo 4, God of War, ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper

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