Top 50 underappreciated PlayStation 2 games

Odd List Aaron Birch 21 Mar 2014 - 06:25

We take a look at some PlayStation 2 gems that were often unfairly judged or overlooked...

Sony's PlayStation 2 has a mammoth catalogue of games, and within this reside some of the best games ever made. TimeSplitters 2, Metal Gear, Final Fantasy, Shadow of the Colossus, and many, many more made the second generation of Sony's platform the go-to place for gamers, but for every classic there were several turkeys, as well as some genuinely great titles that missed out on the love. These hidden gems may have their own cult following, or have now been recognised as the classics they are years after their initial release, but at the time they simply failed to make an impact, either critically or commercially.

Let's take a look at 50 such titles.

50. Manhunt

We're going to start with a controversial entry. Manhunt wasn't underappreciated in the classic sense of the word. It sold fairly well, and certainly got plenty of attention. This attention, however, was for all the wrong reasons, which most of us will be all too familiar with so we won't go into it here. Underneath all of the controversy lay some truly great, often overlooked gameplay. Take away the violence and snuff movie content, and you had a surprisingly solid and well realised stealth title that required careful planning and a tactical approach to taking down your foes.

Sure, the violence and grimy, gruesome aesthetic made it stand out, and grabbed all of the headlines, something Rockstar most certainly went for, but the game itself was great, and it's a shame many people may have missed out on this due to the less tasteful elements of the piece.

49. The Warriors

This is another Rockstar outing, which started life on the PSP before being ported to the PS2. Based on the 70s movie of the same name, The Warriors was a prequel of sorts to the events of the movie, depicting the origins of the titular street gang and looking at each larger-than-life character in more detail.

The journey to that fateful meeting with Riffs leader, Cyrus, was handled by a brawler-style mechanic seeing you take on the gang's various rivals in hand-to-hand combat. Add in mini-games for stealing car radios, robbing stores and spreading your gang's graffiti tag everywhere, and you've got a game that successfully captured the feel of the movie, whilst expanding on the original story, providing a deeper look at the Warriors themselves. If only a game based on a 70s movie would have excited the gaming crowd more.

48. Rygar: The Legendary Adventure

Pre-dating the God of War series, Rygar was an update of the arcade and NES title, and included Devil May Cry-style play. As Rygar, players journeyed around the island of Argus engaging all sorts of mythological threats. The weapon of choice here was the Diskarmor, essentially a shield on a chain. Much like Kratos' Blades of Chaos, this gave Rygar an impressive range of attacks, and the upgradable shield could grant new abilities. It could also summon powerful deities.

Although nowhere near as polished or impressive as the God of War series, which would arrive around three years later, Rygar was a good action adventure, and one that flew well under the radar of many.

47. Extermination

Survival horror is one of the defining genres of the early PlayStation era, and after Resident Evil's arrival on the PSOne thrust it into the mainstream, many clones emerged. We're all familiar with the likes of Silent Hill, but we'd wager you may have missed out on Extermination.

A full 3D survival horror, Extermination may have been plagued with some of the worst voice acting ever (which was actually slowed down or sped up to fit the lip syncing, with hilarious results), but the core gameplay was great.

As part of an elite military team, you were sent to investigate an Antarctic research facility that had gone dark, and arrived to find Thing-like creatures everywhere, with few survivors.

The game made use of traditional Resident Evil-style combat and exploration, but featured some great additions. The modular weapon you carried could be fully customised, and various environmental puzzles were put into play. Alongside this, ammo was very scarce, and so running from combat was often advisable, and Dennis, the protagonist, could be come infected with enough exposure to enemies.

Far from the finely polished Capcom series, Extermination was still a great entry into the genre, and it did some things better than its bigger budget stable mates.

46. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

Square Enix (originally Squaresoft) may be non-committal about a possible Final Fantasy VII remake, but it clearly knows that the seventh instalment of the series is popular, and has produced a number of spin-offs, including this, Dirge of Cerberus.

As FFVII fan favourite, Vincent Valentine, DoC moved the series from turn-based RPG to third-person action shooting. Wielding Vincent's Cerberus pistol, as well as a machine gun and shotgun, Vincent battles Deepground, an organization planning to revive a creature called Omega.

The game mixed shooting with RPG elements to create a mash-up of the genres. It didn't please many FFVII fans, who disliked the action approach, but this is a shame as the game, although not a masterpiece, was actually pretty good, and featured some nice mechanics and enjoyable battles. And, we got to play as Vincent Valentine, which was always a bonus.

45. Gungrave

An odd one this. Gungrave is a straightforward third person shooter that featured some unique and impressive design, particularly its characters.

Grave, the main character, was a reanimated gun slinger who carried a large coffin full or weapons on his back. Combat was fast and stylish, reminiscent of films like Equilibrium, and Grave's use of his pistols and special weapons made for a great bit of arcade action.

Sadly, the game was both short and overly linear, but it did spawn a sequel, not to mention an anime, which isn't bad for a game most PS2 owners probably never even know existed.

44. Lifeline

Games that are controlled by motion controls or cameras are quite common now in the wake of the Wii and Kinect. Even earlier attempts like Sony's Eye Toy made the idea of controlling a game with your body into a reality. However, the PS2 also dabbled with voice control, and Lifeline was a very interesting experiment.

Tagged a 'Voice Action Adventure', Lifeline was set on a orbital hotel in the aftermath of a breakout of deadly creatures. It put players in the role of a stranded man stuck in the hotel's control room. The only way to survive was to guide cocktail waitress, Rio, through the hotel using voice commands, handled by the PlayStation Mic.

Using this communication, the two had to explore the hotel, battle monsters and ultimately escape, in a survival horror-style.

Although the vocal input scheme was far from perfect, it didn't stop Lifeline gaining a cult following, and although largely ignored commercial on release, it was a precursor to many of today's titles that feature voice commands, and it was an impressively ambitious take on the horror genre.

43. Deus Ex

Deus Ex is widely considered to be one of the greatest games ever made. It sold well on PC and has won masses of awards. It redefined what we thought was possible in a video game, and the FPS genre, and out of all the games out there, this is one of the elite few to come so close to sheer perfection. It went on to spawn two sequels, and is now very much back in the public eye.

So, whey then, did the PS2 port of Deus Ex fall so flat? It arrived with little fanfare, and didn't do all that well commercially, despite having some improved visuals and CG cut scenes. Compared to other FPS or RPG titles on the platform, it was a non-event, and this is simply shocking.

Only coming in low on this list due to the original's success, the PS2 version featured some changes due to the hardware's limitations, such as reworked levels and hub areas split into loading zones, but on the whole, this was a great port of a sublime PC masterpiece, and it should have performed so much better than it did.

42. Mister Mosquito

One of the strangest ideas for a game you'll see, Mister Mosquito placed you in the role of a cartoon mosquito who has to suck the blood of various members of a family as they went about their daily lives.

Sucking blood isn't as simple as it sounds, though, and you had to find the right spot on the body that'll let you go unnoticed, and if your target started to become aware, you needed to retreat, lest you be squashed into mush.

With typically Japanese style, and some surprisingly well-handled gameplay, Mister Mosquito is a title you should check out.

41. Musashi: Samurai Legend

Possibly one of the least known Square Enix titles, Musashi: Samurai Legend was an action RPG title starring a ridiculously pointy-haired sword-slinger. It was a cartoon-themed combat title played in the third person, and it was actually very good.

As Musashi you roamed around various locations fighting robotic enemies, able to cut them into various pieces with a powerful katana. You could learn enemy attacks and use them against your foes, and side quests could be undertaken to earn more experience. A good, well presented game.

40. Gregory Horror Show

Based on the animation of the same name, Gregory Horror Show was a rather surreal title starring block-head characters. It was a survival horror-style adventure set in a strange hotel run by a anthropomorphic mouse, and inhabited by guests who carry the souls of the dead.

Your goal was to collect these souls and return them to Death, but the guests didn't part with their soul bottles easily, and after you collected a soul, that guests turned hostile, roaming the hotel looking for you. More guests check in as you progressed, opening up more of the hotel, and in order to succeed later on, stealth needed to be used to avoid enemies.

It was a refreshingly different take on survival horror, and one that not enough people discovered. Shame.

39. Fahrenheit

Also known as The Indigo Prophecy, Fahrenheit came from Quantic Dream, the studio that also brought us Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and the earlier Nomad Soul. Like the later games, Fahrenheit is largely a glorified QTE, but it also had a little more gameplay, and the story was intriguing enough to draw you in, even if it went a bit Pete Tong toward the end.

When your first moments in a game are spent hiding a dead body, apparently your own handiwork, before a police officer finds you, you know you're in for something a little special, and that's just what Fahrenheit was. It was a game with plenty of depth in its story instead of spectacle for the sake of it, and the 24-style presentation, and interesting characters make it a definite recommendation if you missed it, especially if you're a fan of Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two Souls.

38. Second Sight

Coming out at around the same time as Psi-Ops (see later in the list), Codemasters' Second Sight, developed by TimeSplitters developer, Free Radical, was overshadowed by the more action-oriented competition, and the slower pacing put many off.

In truth, however, Second Sight was a better game in many respects, with a far more interesting story and more intelligent use of mind powers. Sadly, it just wasn't as satisfying, and the powers on offer here lacked the oomph of those seen in Psi-Ops, even those that were similar, such as telekinesis, which was slow and plodding here.

Still, the amnesia-fuelled plot coupled with Free Radical's distinctive visuals and excellent presentation made this a great game, even if most begged to differ when it was released.

37. Project Snowblind

Originally planned as an action-oriented and multiplayer entry in the Deus Ex series, Project Snowblind became a more generic FPS, but one that managed to be a pretty good title all the same, replete with nice visuals and some decent gameplay.

As the ridiculously named Nathan Frost, an augmented soldier, you fought against an enemy force using a range of powers and advanced weaponry. All weapons featured primary and secondary modes, and Nathan could hack enemy security with his 'Icepick' gun. Many levels also allowed for multiple approaches, a holdover from Deus Ex, but for the most part, it was action shooting over stealth.

36. Cold Winter

This is a lesser-known FPS that was set in a spy-centric world and used a more realistic approach than most. It crossed James Bond with MacGyver, and although not the most technically impressive FPS on the PS2, it was a real surprise.

You could not only utilise various weapons and stealth tactics to achieve your goals, but you could also find a variety of objects in the world you could use to craft makeshift weapons and tools, such as petrol bombs and lock picks. There were plenty of secrets hidden around to be found, and the espionage story was interesting, if a little cliché.

35. Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven

Along with Metal Gear, the Tenchu series was one of the most important releases in the console-based stealth genre, and Wrath of Heaven is arguably the best entry in the series (don't even think about trying the Wii's Tenchu: Shadow Assassins if you value your sanity). The games did well enough on the original PlayStation, but by the time Wrath of Heaven rolled around on the PS2, interest had waned somewhat, which was a shame as this was a superb stealth outing.

It featured well-designed and challenging missions, two playable characters (with their own story, effectively doubling the game's length), and had some really creepy content, all wrapped up in mystical Chinese lore.

Ninja warriors were supposedly masters of stealth and the art of remaining undetected, so Tenchu was the perfect title to utilise the increasing popularity of the gameplay style, and this was the best, and so should be checked out.

34. Frequency/Amplitude

Before Guitar Hero and Rock Band emerged from Harmonix there was Frequency and Amplitude. Like their eventual successors, these were music games set on ever-scrolling tracks that challenged players with hitting on screen queues to play music.

Unlike GH and RB, no instruments were needed, and a space-ship of sorts was moved using the joypad from track to track, with each containing a different instrument or vocal. To do well you needed to keep every track going by hitting the corresponding buttons at the right time.

It was the gestation of the following plastic guitar series, and without these two titles, we may never have been able to strum along to Foo Fighters or Queens of the Stone Age on our Fisher Price Fenders.

33. Transformers

Before High Moon Studios managed to release two good Transformers games (War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron), most video game adaptations of the robots in disguise were awful, save for one. Melbourne House created the 2004 Transformers title on PS2, and it was a very good game, arguably better than High Moon's, in fact.

Spread across a range of large, open levels, which actually made use of vehicle modes, you could pick from three different Autobots (Optimus Prime, Red Alert and Hot Shot) and embarked on some very challenging missions, with many ending in a difficult boss battle against a notable Decepticon, such as Starscream.

Each Autobot had strengths and weaknesses, and the Mini-con feature, which used tiny, collectible robots, could add all sorts of user-configurable powers to the heroes, granting better firepower, defence, higher jumps and so on. You could even equip a hang-glider power that allows limited flight.

It looked great, controlled well and was a real surprise for fans who had gotten so used to video games taking a dunp on their beloved franchise.

32. Summoner

Developed by Red Faction and Saint's Row creator, Volition, Summoner was an attempt to deliver a PC-style RPG to the console audience, and although it didn't do well commercially, it managed its goal quite well (as was eventually ported to the PC).

You controlled Joseph, a Summoner who could call into battle various powerful creatures. As well as Joseph, other party members also joined the quest, and you could take control of these too. The game featured a myriad of side quests, and combat was real time. There was also a healthy amount of Diablo-style loot finding to be done.

A sequel to Summoner was released, and although technically better, with a bigger game world and more features, it wasn't as good as the first game.

31. Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil

We featured the first Klonoa in our list of underappreciated PS1 games, and the series continued to impress with its PS2 outing, which also went largely unnoticed, despite critical acclaim.

It possessed similar gameplay to the first game in the series, albeit with better visuals, and the 2.5D platforming was every bit as enjoyable as it was the first time around, even more so with the tweaks and refinements that came with the new platform.

30. SOS: The Final Escape

Also called Disaster Report, this is a unique survival game that doesn't utilise the usual horror formula, but instead puts you slap bang in the middle of an earthquake. As one of the few survivors left on an artificial island city, you have to escape the collapsing urban environment, surviving harrowing situations as you go.

Keith Helm is the protagonist of the game, and shortly after the title's opening, he meets up with Karen Morris, another survivor of the quake. The two help each other out, and proceed through the city, surviving aftershocks and the troubles that they bring. Eventually the story takes a sinister turn, revealing that the earthquake wasn't entirely unexpected, and devious plans were afoot.

Surviving in the city not only required plenty of agility and avoidance of collapsing buildings, but you also had to find water to keep your energy levels up, and the other survivors you encountered would need to be looked after. There was even a choice of companion, with each opening up different areas to explore. It was a great little game that came out of nowhere, and disappeared just as fast.

29. Odin Sphere

A very stylish title from Atlus, Odin Sphere told the stories of five different characters, whose destinies overlapped, revealed the whole picture piece by piece as players unfolded each 'book'. These five characters all had their own unique feel, and although a character may be a protagonist in one book, they could actually be revealed as an antagonist in another.

It was good storytelling, all wrapped up in beautiful 2D, side-scrolling combat, and with five character stories to play through, magic to wield, a cooking system, and a crafting element that allows for the creation of new items, there was plenty to go at, and more games using this eye-catching style would follow, such as the Wii's excellent Murumasa: The Demon Blade.

28. Oni

Certainly one of Rockstar's lesser-known titles, Oni was an anime-themed third person action title developed by a division of Halo creator, Bungie. It was set in a futuristic dystopian Earth, and starred the purple-haired heroine, Konoko, an agent of the Technological Crimes Task Force (TCTF). Konoko learns that her true past has been hidden from her by the TCTF, and she attempts to find the truth, which leads to plenty of shooting and fighting.

Oni mixed ranged combat using an array of weapons with melee attacks, and the whole game was presented with minimalistic visuals that allowed for super smooth and fast combat. It was also very difficult, and mastering Konoko's various special moves and getting the most out of each, ammo-limited weapon was essential.

Oni was a classic 'one more try' title. For every death, you progressed that little bit further, and this brought with it a sense of real achievement.

27. XIII

One of the first wave of cel-shaded titles, XIII took cues from Jet Set Radio, but was an FPS set in a comic world. As the initially nameless agent, known only as XIII, you had to progress through the various, comic-style levels to uncover a sinister conspiracy.

The game was a traditional FPS, based on an 80s comic book of the same name. The amnesia-suffering protagonist is accused of the murder of the US President, and spends much of the game trying to clear his name, finding out that he's actually part of a group called the XX, which plans to take over the government.

The action is presented in a slick, comic panel style, with kills popping up as separate panels for added effect. The core gameplay also mixed in stealth, with silent weapons available for covert kills, and a special sixth sense allowed XIII to hear where enemies were via an onscreen 'tap, tap, tap' comic effect display.

It was a long and enjoyable title that delivered a different take on the standard FPS formula, but it sadly never got revisited.

26. Wild Arms 5

This was an impressive, and sprawling RPG set in a futuristic, Wild West-themed world ruled by invading aliens. It's a typical anime style complemented by some unique combat and exploration.

As protagonist, Dean, players teamed up with various other characters, and used the ARM weapon system to combat foes. Each character had their own ARM, which was basically a unique weapon, and using these, various special attacks were possible.

Exploring the game world was don't in real time, not relying on a maps to warp around. You could use vehicles to traverse great distances, and this was all handled in third person.

Wild Arms is a great RPG series that's never managed to gain the popularity of the bigger names, and this is one of the best outings of the series.

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