As you might have heard. The PlayStation 2 has turned twenty years old on the 4th March 2020. Throughout the best selling console of all time’s run. We were treated to some absolute classics that will never be forgotten and paved the path for the blockbuster games we have today.
Games like GTA San Andreas, God Of War or Silent hill 2 are all well known hits. Games that roll off the tongue when looking back at the system. However, there are so many games that missed their moment in the spotlight. Despite being more than worthy of basking in it.
So in honour of those titles that didn’t get the star treatment. We will shine a light on them on this special day. Giving them their moment in the sun, representing this glorious console. Here’s our top ten hidden gems released on the PS2.
Honorable mentions include
Second Sight, Cold Fear, Bujiangi Swordmaster, Primal, The Thing, Road Trip Adventure, Dual hearts and Drakengard 2
10. Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil
Beginning with one of the best critically received platformers that you’ve probably never played. Klonoa 2 is an art piece serving as a love note to 2D platformers of previous generations. Using 3D elements only sparingly to offer a unique play style that lives in the camp of 2.5D
Klonoa 2 also offers us a brilliant mix of clever puzzles, cleverly crafted platforming sections and boss battles that offer a reasonable challenge. Along with a whimsical plot and gorgeous art style. This title was slept on hard when it released but it deserves some respect. As it is perhaps the only truly brilliant 2D platformer on the PS2 system.
9. Prisoner Of War
Moving on to Prisoner of war. A game inspired by The Great Escape. Players are tasked with escaping a Nazi camp during the second World War. Although the subject matter does come across ever so slightly bleak, the game play offers more than enough fun to make up for it.
Throughout this short campaign, the player is offered a series of missions with open ended options for completion. Plus unlike other stealth games of its time, it urges the player to escape by non-violent means. Offering intense scenarios you can’t just shoot your way out of. The only critiques are the short run time and the graphics that were lacking even at time of release. However, the mechanics alone warrant a look at this PS2 gem.
8. Summoner 2
In this fantastic sequel to an already excellent RPG. You take control of Maia, revered queen of the realm. Throughout this title you will encounter fantastic characters, be taken on an amazing story that offers twists, turns and tough decisions. Not to mention be treated to more than enough down time from quests to carry out your royal duties.
Summoner 2 also has a very deep combat system for players to get their teeth into. With customisation options for every style of play. Plus a series of self aware meta moments to show it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a great title and serves as the PS2 stepping stone to the PS3’s Dragon Age.
7. Shadow Of Rome
Ever wanted to play Devil May Cry, except it’s in Rome and you aren’t fighting demons? Instead your fighting Roman centurions and gunning for Julius Caesar. I mean what’s not to love. Birthed from the makers of Onimusha came Shadow of Rome.
This title adopts the hack and slash vibe and blends it with a unique take on the roman empire plus various different mechanics to compliment the intense action. The most interesting perhaps being the stealth mechanics which offer needed respite between the intense button mashing fisticuffs. If you haven’t seen Rome through this lens then we recommend you give it a shot.
6. Castlevania: Lament Of Innocence
Although not checking all the boxes on the Castlevania formula, Lament Of Innocence is a way to view what was to come for the series. With Castlevania’s first 3D run out we were given a short but sweet experience. Monsters of old return, the usual formula is there. The only issue is that the title lacks the depth of titles like Symphony Of The Night. Though admittedly, it’s a lofty standard to aspire to.
With focus on the positives. The soundtrack is truly fantastic. There are interesting supplementary weapons to your trusty whip. Combat is tight to allow for smooth combo builds and the story is competent enough to give fans of the series exactly what they want. If you like titles like Bayonetta, Onimusha or DMC, this ones worth a bash.
5. Fatal Frame
Fatal Frame, or Project Zero for those in Europe, is a horror game with a unique survival mechanic. You control Miku, a young girl who enters an old mansion in search of her lost brother. As for some inexplicable reason, he went looking for researchers who were looking into the mansions bloody and violent history. So naturally a rescue mission was in order. Can’t leave well enough alone.
The game’s unique mechanic is present through it’s combat. In the mansion you will encounter a multitude of ethereal spirits. So to take them down Miku must use her camera to take pictures of the ghostly figures. It’s an interesting and well implemented mechanic that serves as more than a gimmick throughout. With different film types offering more damage, different enemy types needing different approaches. Plus with spirit points acquired from besting ghosts, you can upgrade your camera. The game otherwise stays true to horror games of the time. With fixed camera angles, puzzles to progress and constant backtracking. If you played Silent Hill and loved it. Then Fatal Frame is worth a try.
The PS2 had a cavalcade of amazing platformers to choose from such as Sly Raccoon, Rayman revolutions, Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter: The Precursors Legacy to name a few. So you’d be forgiven if you missed a few gems. The pick of the bunch in that department has to be Psychonauts. Born from the mind of Grim Fandango creator, Tim Schafer. This title sees you infiltrate a camp for psychic secret agents as Raz. From the moment you arrive things seem strange and students brains begin to disappear. So it’s up to you to uncover the mystery of the missing brains. A little bit out there right?
The camp serves as the hub world whilst the main action consists of levels where you enter characters minds. Each level is diverse and expertly designed both in aesthetic and with reference to game play . Mechanics are tight as are the camera functions and the graphical design still looks fantastic even today. If you’re looking for a chance to grab this one it’s available on the PS store right now. So what are you waiting for. Go test your psychic abilities now.
3. Psi-ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Staying on the theme of Psychic abilities. We have Psi-ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy. Upon first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this one as being your conventional military third person shooters. In fact it starts very much as if it is. Whilst in control of main Character Nick, due to a touch of amnesia and a substance being injected into his veins that will help him regain his memories. He begins without his powers. Just your average Joe. However as powers become available, the game begins to show what made it so special.
The psychics on show were ahead of their time as players would be able to use telekinesis to chuck projectiles, lift enemies and smash them around like a rag doll. Not to mention cool powers such as using out of body experiences to scan rooms up ahead. Or mind control to possess enemies. It’s through these unique game-play assets that the game set itself apart from the dime a dozen military FPS games on the PS2. Admittedly the story is rather stale in areas. Thankfully though, you’ll barely notice as you make your way through the game with your plethora of psychic abilities to play with.
2. Dark Cloud
Runner up is the fantastic town building, dungeon crawling, heavily Zelda inspired, Dark Cloud. This game offers a pretty bare bones story where an evil genie has destroyed the town and it’s up to you, Toan, to rebuild it from scratch. Thankfully, this title succeeds through allowing you to do exactly that. There is a brilliant sense of accomplishment to be had from walking around the town you grew from the ground up. To build it though, you’ll be required to collect Alta spheres from the dungeons. That’s where combat comes in.
The games combat is a blend of action and turn based, somewhat reminiscent of the Kingdom Hearts series with a little less polish. It accommodates varied attack styles and also allows the use of potions and projectiles mid battle. What is also commendable is the range of playable characters, weaponry, upgrade options and it’s weapon degradation and repair system. The game can become somewhat repetitive in areas, especially with he lack of varied tunes to accompany you on your adventure. However, this title offers a tonne of great content and boasts a thirty hour run time. Making it well worth the price of admission.
Okay, so this PS2 gem isn’t as hidden as it once was. Though I bet a good few of you still haven’t played this one. So consider this a public service announcement. Okami is a unique experience with a beautiful Japanese art style, competent story and game altering real time mechanics, unlike anything available at the time. Set as Sony’s direct response to The Legend Of Zelda. Okami succeeds in being an epic adventure with it’s roots in puzzles and platforming.
The game’s celestial brush is it’s truly memorable aspect though. Players through a brush mechanic, can paint actions that affect the real time goings on. Such as growing and healing trees or controlling the elements themselves. The possibilities are plentiful and offer truly profound moments of discovery and problem solving satisfaction. Not to mention the games phenomenal soundtrack that stays true to the tone present in the vibrant environments. This game, although finally seeing the acclaim that it deserved upon release, deserves even more. So go on. Go appreciate it!
So that’s our list of PS2 gems. Any you loved? Any you disagree with? Or any PS2 classics we completely missed? Let us know in the comments. Also, if you loved this list why not try our list of top launch titles, or perhaps our top five licenced games ever? As always, thanks for reading COG!