Last week, fellow editor Lucas and I teamed up to bring you our Top 15 Game Boy Advance Games of All Time. We brainstormed and thought we should continue down the road of nostalgia that was our childhood. Around the same time as we were falling in love with the Game Boy Advance, we both had a PlayStation 2 at home. Some of these games are true classics that still hold up today, while others haven’t aged so gracefully. These games will forever hold a special place in our hearts, along with the console where we began to hit our stride as gamers.
15. 007: Agent Under Fire
Lucas: First-person shooters have been around for a long time, but I wasn’t always the fan I am now. 007: Agent Under Fire doesn’t tie into a specific movie, but instead tells its own story. Basing its characters on the Pierce Brosnan era of Bond, it’s tone is reminiscent of Bond films of the time. With crazy action not unlike an Uncharted game, it also offered branching paths and different ways of tackling the levels. The game also gave players the option to play stealthily during most levels, true James Bond style.
It also had a multiplayer option, and that’s where my fondest memories are. It’s not GoldenEye iconic, but it was incredible fun. The game’s sandbox was filled with unique weapons, each with their own alternate fire modes, and varying equipment like laser mines. My favorite thing was using the almost violent acceleration of the jet-pack, and a distinct grappling hook that no game could replicate until 15 years later in Titanfall 2.
14. Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition
Thad: While most people I knew were busy playing Need For Speed: Underground, I was sitting behind the wheel in Midnight Club. The customization the game offered was extensive, from performance mods, down to minute details like the color of the exhaust. The racing was addictive and frantic arcade-y fun. One of the things that made this game stand apart was the special abilities different classes of cars offered. Muscle cars pushed other vehicles away with its Roar, SUV’s could increase vehicle damage and tuners could slow time to assist in dodging obstacles. Finally, this game has a soundtrack that rivals the greats, with almost 100 tracks to jam out to. Truly, one of the finest arcade racers on the PlayStation 2.
13. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies
Lucas: At the time of its release, Ace Combat 04 was one of the best looking fighter jet sims on the console. The detail of each plane model was incredible, and the game gave you ample time to admire them before each mission. The skyboxes and weather looked amazing as you rocketed through blue skies. AC04 housed dozens of real-world planes that all flew slightly different and had different roles based on each mission.
Accompanying each mission was a great story that follows a young boy dealing with the toll war takes, and the legend that follows fighter aces. The boy’s story helps build the legend of a squad of these ace fighters. So then when you do actually face-off against them, it makes for one of the greatest boss build-ups in gaming. I remember the sense of awe when I first bagged one of these “Yellow” fighters, thinking them winged gods until then.
12. Dark Cloud
Thad: Dark Cloud is an odd game. It’s a mixture of a dungeon crawler, RPG, and town management gameplay and as a result a uniquely entertaining experience. Storywise, the world had been attacked by a villain that has trapped everyone and their dwellings inside of capsules known as “Atla” and scattered them about their local dungeons. So, it’s up to the game’s protagonist, Toan, to go through these dungeons, defeat the monsters inside, and find the “Atla” scattered throughout to restore order. Of course, once you have those pieces you can’t just throw them about. Each NPC has its own request for how their homes are placed, and finding the sweet spot where everyone is happy is incredibly satisfying. Dark Cloud, along with its sequel, is a refreshing romp and definitely worth a play.
Lucas: Long before millions of gamers rode the saddles of legendary cowboy characters in the Red Dead Redemption series, we had the third-person action western, Gun. Set in a vast world that varies from plains, deserts, and mountains. Full of revenge, murder and betrayal, Gun follows lots of themes that we will come to see in future games. Featuring a sandbox that reminds me of an earlier Grand Theft Auto, activities came in the form of collecting bounties, racing horses to deliver packages, and duelling criminals. This also was the first game that I ever 100% completed. This was the benchmark of westerns until RDR came out in the next generation.
10. Twisted Metal: Black
Thad: The Twisted Metal series has always been known for its frenetic vehicular combat. Twisted Metal: Black took that formula, cranked the grittiness up to eleven, and took full advantage of the PS2’s hardware. The vehicles all had a unique sense of control and balance that made playing each of them a joy. Bigger trucks were slower but more powerful and harder to kill, while smaller vehicles like Mr. Grimm’s motorcycle were weaker but incredibly fast, and naturally each vehicle had its own special moves. Additionally, each character had their own story to play through. These were incredibly mature and twisted, and helped cement the bleak atmosphere that permeates Twisted Metal Black.
9. God of War 2
Lucas: The first game in the series was an instant staple on the PS2 and the sequel is one as well. While not drastically different mechanically, it does tweak enough to retain freshness as a sequel. Kratos gets a greater development of character and sets up his store arc for the following game beautifully. The combat is largely the same, adding in new finishing moves and weapon move sets. New grapple manoeuvring lets you scale the massive and varied environments, and puzzles return in full form. The number of boss battles is almost doubled from the original game, and they are all memorable. It leaves little to complain about in a hack n’ slash game.
8. Shadow of the Colossus
Thad: Shadow of the Colossus is a masterclass in sympathetic storytelling. The game conveys so much emotion while holding back so much story from the player. You don’t know how killing these peaceful beasts will bring back your dead love, but you still feel compelled to do so. Each encounter feels grand, but at the same time sobering. And while climbing the giants can feel like a great accomplishment, it also feels wrong to do so. Of course, that powerful feeling of plunging your sword into the monster while the music swells around you makes for some of gaming’s greatest moments, even if it makes you feel like you need a shower afterwards.
7. Guitar Hero III
Very few games can tote the fact that they started their own genres, and Guitar Hero is one of those. Before this series, no one had mini plastic guitar controllers in their game collection. You become a rockstar the moment you picked one up. Guitar Hero 3 nails that feeling with the collection of songs to play. From The Smashing Pumpkins to Metallica, and The Rolling Stones, there is something for any rock fan out there. The third title adds 1v1 guitar battles with difficulty modifiers, boss battles and a co-op career mode. Even though the guitar that came with the PlayStation 2 version isn’t as cool as the next generation, this one is still a great design. This game also first featured the notoriously difficult song, “Through the Fire and Flames” by DragonForce, still one of the hardest rhythm game songs of all time.
6. Jak and Daxter
Thad: Jak and Daxter was the first Playstation 2 game I ever bought, and one of the few games I’ve ever 100% completed. I remember popping the disc in for the first time and hearing the title theme. Bouncy drum beats and a smooth bass line, offset with the cries of birds and bugs in the background let you know that this game has personality. Every character you interact with is genuinely interesting, and the level design is truly delightful.
Of course, this is also one of the best-designed platformers of the age, with some of the most solid levels ever put to the genre. Each obstacle feels meticulously curated, and levels never stagnate. The game also offers plenty of variation in gameplay, with segments involving riding Jak’s Zoomer down a lava-filled canyon, and exploring levels on the back of a giant blue bird mount known as a Flut Flut. Jak and Daxter manages to set itself apart from its Crash Bandicoot pedigree, and makes for a game that is still fun today.
5. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Lucas: Grand Theft Auto III was ground breaking at the time of release. An open-world game where you could do anything; from driving around the city following its traffic laws, dealing drugs, and running from the cops while on a criminal rampage. Vice City is the follow-up, releasing a year later. The map was split into 3 large islands representing an 80’s Miami, copying tropes from movies and TV shows from the era, this is an iconic trip back in time. The soundtrack is classic 80’s tunes and the talk show portions are side-splitting funny.
I know lots of people will say that GTA: San Andreas is the better game, but as an 11-year-old, my parents were aware of the “hot coffee” controversy, so I never played it until I was a late teenager. This was one of the few games that I’ve ever memorized cheat codes for, so I could give myself a whole bunch of guns and my favorite cars.
4. Ratchet And Clank: Up Your Arsenal
Thad: You know that feeling you get when you stretch right after waking up? This game is like that, but for your brain. Very few things are so satisfying as running around as the titular Lombax, blasting away at baddies with gaming’s most varied arsenal. Everything in this game is so visceral. The jumping, the shooting, the puzzles, even collecting bolts is just plain old fun. The game’s story is your usual goofy platformer affair, but the sheer quirkiness of it all gives the game so much charm you’ll be hard-pressed to leave it alone.
3. Star Wars: Battlefront 2
Lucas: Another sequel on our list, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, is still the best Star Wars game to date. Fight Me. Coming off the high that was the final (at the time) Star Wars film, fans were clambering for more Star Wars. This game had it all, minus pod-racing. This game also added space battles into its formula, with starship gameplay almost as tight as the Rogue Squadron series.
When playing as a normal soldier, Battlefront 2 had options to play in both first-person and third-person cameras, and had huge feeling battles across locations from all 6 main movies. It also included online and local multiplayer, and many of nights were spent playing this title with friends, screaming at battle droids. This game totes one of the best single-player campaigns in gaming, set at the end of the Clone Wars and leading into the rise of the Empire.
2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
Thad: This may well be my favorite game of all time. There are no words that can do this game the justice it deserves. This is an experience that has to be witnessed firsthand to be truly appreciated. One of, if not the greatest stealth game ever made, Metal Gear Solid 3 combines story and gameplay flawlessly. The addition of camouflage and survival mechanics breathed new life into the series, and the mostly outdoor setting was refreshing after the cold, industrial atmosphere of the previous games. The boss fights are iconic, each offering a unique challenge. The final fight in this game is the greatest boss battle of all time, in my opinion. Of course, I’d be remiss to not mention the game’s soundtrack. Snake Eater is one of the best original songs ever written for a video game, and the main theme is enough to make anyone teary-eyed.
Almost two years after the game was initially released, a special edition of the game known as Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence was released. Subsistence added an improved camera, a new “Snake vs Monkey” side game, but most importantly, online multiplayer. Metal Gear Online was my first foray into online gaming, and I miss it to this very day. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence is a masterpiece in the truest sense of the word and should be celebrated as such.
1. Kingdom Hearts 2
Thad: Kingdom Hearts 2 represents what gaming makes possible. The first game took Final Fantasy and Disney characters, and threw them together into a story that exceeded everyone’s expectations in a major way. Kingdom Hearts 2 takes everything that made the first game great and improves on it. All of the different characters intermix in a way that never feels forced. They all have their own motivations and flaws that make them feel alive. The Kingdom Hearts series is known for being a convoluted mess of story-telling, but the individual tale told in this game is absolutely remarkable.
The gameplay has been tweaked with new, smoother controls and a generally improved interface. Sora’s new all feel diverse and useful in their own way, and reaction commands made for an awesome spectacle.
Lucas: If I was stranded on a desert island and had only one game to play for the rest of life on the PS2, Kingdom Hearts 2 would be it. This game has so much to offer; engaging story, complex and diverse combat mechanics, and challenging boss fights. The addition of reaction commands, pressing triangle at the right time to stun or disable enemies. Reactions even take something like the final boss fight and turn them into something out of a crazy anime battle. One of the most impressive spectacles sees Sora cutting his way through multiple large buildings, only to then fling his buddy at breakneck speeds through one of those buildings, slashing it into meteor-like projectiles to shower the boss with.
The PlayStation 2 is home to many games. This could easily have been a top 100 list and it would still be lacking. This simply represents the games that made the biggest impression on us as we came into our own as gamers. We owe a debt of gratitude to Sony and what many consider to be the greatest console of its time.
What PlayStation 2 games would you put on your list? Let us know in the comment section below.
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One of Any Button Gaming’s exclusive force of American editors, my life’s quest is to find an opponent worthy of taking me on in Tertris: Attack.