This month marks the birth of one of gaming’s most beloved consoles, fitting cutting-edge 3D graphics in a 1×1 resolution while setting the foundation for hours spent on Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Born Released worldwide in Japan on March 4, 2000, the PlayStation 2 saw wide support from developers and consumers moving past the polygonal burdens carried by Sony’s first system. Crowds and generous parents lined up outside retailers for its North American launch later on October 26, 2000.
Sony took reigns of their own platform to introduce more exclusive titles, putting players into new franchises including God of War, Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper and contemporary Final Fantasy installments.
The console saw competition shortly after in 2001, becoming locked in a race with the Nintendo Gamecube and Microsoft’s original Xbox. Despite this, the PlayStation 2 powered through to over 157 million sales and remains gaming’s best-selling console of all time.
What were some of the best memories our team at CGMagazine had with the console in the 2000’s?
We looked back at our younger selves for answers.
Madeline Ricchiuto (@StaggerBlind), Games & Studio Development Writer
Favourite PlayStation 2 Game: Beyond Good and Evil
Released: November 11, 2003
The PS2 is one of the most well-traveled consoles I own. It’s made it through more houses, school dorms, and apartments than any other console except perhaps my old Gameboy. It’s also two decades old now, which means I’ve accumulated plenty of memories with that console.
However, the game I most closely associated with the PS2 is Ubisoft Milan’s Beyond Good and Evil. It was the first stealth game I ever played, and the first I ever truly binge-played.
I picked up Beyond Good and Evil shortly before my family was to go on a trip for a few weeks, and I desperately wanted to finish the game before we left. I played it every night after school, for as much time as I could wrestle the console away from my older brother, and even stayed up late the night before we left in the hopes of finishing.
I didn’t manage to make it, but the hours I spent mainlining that game in the days before and after the trip haven’t ever left my memory. From the unique setting, kick ass female protagonist, the exacting difficulty of some of the stealth puzzles, to the absolutely engrossing story, there’s a lot to love about the game. And that holds true for many of the PS2 era classics.
Some may be short, they may be buggy and have terribly slow frame rates by today’s standards, but they have a strong focus on character and story that makes them worth replaying even 20 years later. Which is one of the many reasons I still have my original PS2 console.
Liam Ferguson, Breaking News Writer
Favourite PlayStation 2 Game: Shadow of the Colossus
Released: October 18, 2005
The PlayStation 2 represents what some would consider gaming’s silver age, the time between fully retro consoles and the Steam storefront. It could also be called gaming’s first Wild West, an era where a staggering amount of experimental games were coming out. From Japanese classics like Okami that are still held in high regard to this day to more obscure efforts like Gregory Horror Show that their niche fanbases still gush about on occasion, there was truly something here for everyone. It’s a time I have a deep respect and appreciation for, as it’s hard to dispute that “they” really don’t make games “like that” anymore.
It’s also a time I completely missed.
While other people were enjoying the PS2’s seemingly endless library, I was playing the Nintendo GameCube. Because of that, I’ve had to resort to hours-long online research sessions to catch up on the massive library of cool games that I never knew existed. It’s been one heck of a journey – but that’s not what this article’s about. I do own a PlayStation 2 now, acquired at a rummage sale in high school alongside a couple games.
The two games that made up my best memories with the PS2 were both played with my best friend present. The first, of course, was the first few hours of Shadow of the Colossus. I don’t need to explain this much, do I? It’s a classic. The ambient exploration paralleling the intense puzzle-platforming fights against the colossi were a winning formula that’s been emulated, but never truly recreated. There’s no specific moment here, it’s just – it’s just Shadow of the Colossus, man! You already know!
The other most memorable PS2 game was the one that got capped off with a moment. I bought a bunch of PS2 classics at a sale, and two of them were the Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga games. I eventually sat down to play the first one with my brother and best friend present. We got several hours in, and I was working through the first main dungeon. Choices for character progression had been opened up by this point, and the game had encouraged me to cover my character’s weaknesses with protection spells. I hadn’t done this. So, about two thirds through the dungeon, I came across a mandatory fight against three new bird enemies.
No problem. So I went in there, saw that they used the type that was strong against my support character, got the “extra turns for exploiting weaknesses” system used against me, and wiped harder than I’d ever seen anyone wipe in a turn-based RPG. I then calmly walked over to my PS2 and pressed the power button. Thankfully, it was a real hoot for my audience, and that’s coloured the memory brightly. I’d like to go back to DDS at some point, but… not on that save file.
That’s all I’ve got. I’ve been looking into a bunch of obscure PlayStation 2 action games since then, but I doubt I’ll have the same communal experience I did with the above games. The PS2’s got a little something for everyone, and I have nothing but respect for its massive, diverse library. Here’s to another two decades of one of the all-time great consoles.
Clement Goh (@theinstaword), VR and News Writer
Favourite PlayStation 2 Game: Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal
Released: November 3, 2004
I never beat the final level to this landmark shoot-em-up knowing I’d go back to Veldin and start all over again. That’s how much fun I was having in the universe shared by Ratchet and Clank, who pulled me into a different adventure every weekend. At face value, the game shares all of the things which make today’s games addicting – the exploration in Jedi Fallen Order, gun play from DOOM and platforming done in its own right.
Hilariously enough, its marketing was only an understatement to the game’s sheer chaos. A huge smile drew on my face at the moment I was tossed a Shock Cannon in the game’s tutorial. My hands felt the gun’s kick from the Dualshock 2 rumble while my ears soaked in its military soundtrack from a crackling Toshiba TV. This was Ratchet and Clank fully realized as a fun and serious piece of entertainment. Of all the reactions, I simply chose: “Dad, you’re the best!”
My eight-year-old self became lost in its core. If I wasn’t mindlessly blasting hordes of aliens with my fully-upgraded Annihilator, I would feel bulletproof from strafing and dodging their volleys. This addictive mechanic kept the DVD in my PS2 from dusk to literal dust.
Up Your Arsenal also made its planets into an endlessly replayable part. If you liked something from a mission, Insomniac made sure you could return to defend a command post or run obstacle courses and play to your heart’s content (while being paid in sweet bolts for it).
The rewards also made my experiences with Up Your Arsenal more satisfying with some RPG mechanics, without pushing me to finish the story in scripted events seen from today’s more cinematic titles. Following my own pace also meant collecting all the bolts to earn the fabled Inferno Armor without power-ups and upgrade an endless supply of weapons. Instead, I was working to have more fun in the game (with a story being a cherry on top).
Oh Ratchet, where art thou?
Jordan Biordi, Game and Hardware Reviewer
I received my first PlayStation 2 as a confirmation gift in 2002. Growing up, I had always been a Nintendo boy; so while I enjoyed the hours I spent playing the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King co-op campaign with my brother, I didn’t fully appreciate the system I had been gifted—later trading it to EB to purchase an Xbox.
It wasn’t until a few years later that my gamer sensibilities began to broaden and I started to see the value in owning multiple consoles, since every console had amazing games and single console loyalty was a fool’s wager. I had started my first job at Tim Hortons, and with my very first paycheck, I purchased a PS2 Slim.
The PS2 easily had the best game library of it’s generation, if not of all time. It was a veritable cornucopia of styles and genres; and since it was a bigger system in Japan, it had more to offer in the realms of survival horror and RPG than the Xbox. There was never a time where you couldn’t go to the local Blockbuster and not find an epic weekend rental. I rented Jak 2 on a whim—having only been casually aware of its predecessor—and it immediately became one of my favorite series.
I was 16 when I finally played Final Fantasy VII; at the same time Aladdin had just been released on DVD. While talking about both topics with a friend from school, he informed me of a game that was like Final Fantasy, but where Disney characters were your partners and summons. It was then that I discovered Kingdom Hearts, and my angsty, faux-intellectual 16 year-old heart was a-flutter.
But the PS2 was also the first system that showed me video games could be a legitimate art form. When I first played Shadow of the Colossus, I was enraptured by it’s quiet, desolate, world; periodically broken up by intense boss fights. While at the time, I didn’t fully understand all the elements that were at play, I knew that this was something so much more layered and meaningful than your average game.
If I had to choose a favorite moment from my time with the PS2, it may be a tie between playing Star Wars Battlefront 2 with a friend, and forcing him to rage quit because I spent 90% of the battle as Darth Vader; or the late night a friend and I reached the end of The Path of Neo and we sat in silence; jaws on the floor at the ridiculous ending it had.