With over 115 million units sold, the Sony PlayStation 2 console, released in 2000, proved that lightning could strike twice for Sony after the phenomenal success of its first console. These staggering sales numbers over a 13-year lifespan provided a huge install base for the PS2, which paved the way for an immense library of games in every genre imaginable (and some in unique genres you’d never imagine if you tried).
If one were to seek the greatest and best-known PlayStation 2 titles, one might try games like God of War 2, the Grand Theft Auto series, Okami, Gran Turismo 3, Final Fantasy X, Shadow of the Colossus, Katamari Damacy, or Metal Gear Solid 3. But no; that would be too easy. We’re here for some deep cuts!
So in the list below, I’ll take a look at a handful of generally overlooked gems of the PlayStation 2 library. Keep in mind that it’s hard to whittle down a list of 2,700+ games to only seven entries, so there are bound to be plenty more underrated titles out there. If you’d like to share some of your picks, I’d love to read about them in the comments.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (2001)
Of all the titles on this list, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is perhaps the most well-known among PlayStation 2 fans. It’s a fluid 3D action platformer game set in the famous Ghosts ‘n Goblins universe with lush visuals and addictive gameplay. Still, it often gets overlooked by modern gamers and best-of lists due to its punishing difficulty. It’s still a fun title with a distinctive feel. It received a sequel, Maximo vs. Army of Zin, in 2003.
Dog’s Life (2004)
If you’ve ever wanted to be a dog (and who hasn’t?!), you’ll enjoy Dog’s Life, a town-based dog simulation game designed by David Braben of Elite fame. In this game you’ll use your keen sense of smell to find targets and also interact with 15 different dog breeds as well as residents of the town. It received mixed reviews upon release, but die-hard fans who grew up with the title absolutely love it. It gets high marks from me for daring to do something unique and different during an era full of me-too violent/dark/brown/moody games.
Gradius V (2004)
Gradius V takes many elements you know and love about the famous Gradius space shooter series and turns them up a notch with well-executed 3D polygonal graphics, complex backgrounds, and frantic boss fights. Developed by legendary firm Treasure, fans often see Gradius V as a return to form for the series after its somewhat disappointing predecessor, Gradius IV. It’s a frenzied, fun shooter that many in America often overlooked in favor of the more popular Grand-Theft-Autos of the day. Well, overlook it no more.
Disaster Report (2003)
In Disaster Report, you play as Keith Miyamoto, a reporter who must survive the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in a large city setting. Along the way, you’ll find items to help you stay alive in this unique survival adventure game, which many modern PS2 fans love. I’d say there is really nothing else quite like it, but it actually received a sequel of sorts called Raw Danger (also for PlayStation 2) in 2006.
If you’re a fan of quirky-cute Japanese games in the vein of Chibi-Robo! (GameCube, 2005), you’ll probably love Chulip. In this title you play as a young man with big ears who must kiss residents of a town in order to survive. If you fail, you lose hit points. Along the way you solve puzzles and complete quests in a warmly cartoon-illustrated 3D world. With a bizarre plot (by American standards), it’s no wonder why many passed over this neat title upon its release. But with the benefit of history on your side, you will soon be kissing random strangers as well.
Gitaroo Man (2002)
I’m not a big fan of rhythm games, but Gitaroo Man has a unique-weird Japanese angle and wacky cartoonish graphics that draws me in. In the game, you play as the titular hero who must defeat various musical villains using unusual analog-stick-based gameplay for a rhythm game. Even better, the game supports multiplayer modes, so during your next party, break out Gitaroo Man and four Dual Shock 2 controllers for a one-of-a-kind conversation starter.
God Hand (2007)
On a platform haunted by dramatic self-serious games like God of War, it’s fun to find an action title that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In fact, there’s a lot of comedic camp in this 3D brawler, from the quirky dialog in the cut scenes to the way some enemies trip and fall over themselves when entering the battle. You play as Gene, a hero with a divine replacement arm who pummels enemies into submission. The game’s comedic elements seemed lost on American reviewers at the time of its release, but God Hand has since become recognized as a satisfying-to-play cult classic.