Sony’s PlayStation 2 has a mammoth catalog of games, and within this reside some of the best games ever made. TimeSplitters 2, Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy X, 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 recognized 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.
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 have a surprisingly solid and well realized stealth title that requires 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 title.
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 that let 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, while 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 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.
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 customized, and various environmental puzzles were put into play. Alongside this, ammo was very scarce, and so running from combat was often advisable. Dennis, the protagonist, could become 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) clearly knows that the seventh installment of the Final Fantasy series is popular, and has produced a number of spin-offs, including this, Dirge of Cerberus.
DoC moved the series from turn-based RPG to third-person action shooting. Wielding his Cerberus pistol, as well as a machine gun and shotgun, FFVII fan favorite Vincent Valentine 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. 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.
An odd one this. Gungrave was a straightforward third-person shooter that featured some unique and impressive design, particularly its characters.
Grave, the main character, was a reanimated gunslinger who carried a large coffin full of 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.
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 from gaining a cult following, and although largely ignored on release, it was a precursor to many of today’s titles that feature voice commands. Lifeline 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 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, why 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 go about their daily lives.
Sucking blood isn’t as simple as it sounds, though. You had to find the right spot on the body that would let you go unnoticed. If your target started to become aware, you needed to retreat, lest you be squashed into mush.
With typical 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 an 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 guest turned hostile, roaming the hotel looking for you. More guests checked 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.
Also known as 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 was 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, and interesting characters make it a definite recommendation if you missed it, especially if you’re a fan of Quantic’s later work.
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 lacked the oomph of those seen in Psi-Ops, even those that were similar, such as telekinesis, which was slow and plodding in Second Sight.
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 utilize 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 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 stories, 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 utilize the increasing popularity of the gameplay style.
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 spaceship was moved from track to track using the joypad, each track 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 inevitable plastic guitar series. 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.
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) to embark 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, defense, higher jumps, and so on. You could even equip a hang-glider power that allowed 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.
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 (and 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 utilize 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 and 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 allowed for the creation of new items, there was plenty to do. More games using this eye-catching style would follow, such as the Wii’s excellent Murumasa: The Demon Blade.
Certainly one of Rockstar’s lesser-known titles, Oni was an anime-themed third-person action title developed by a division of Bungie, the studio best known for the Halo series. 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.
This game 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.
One of the first 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 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 was sadly never 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 anime style was 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 his/her own ARM, which was basically a unique weapon with various special attacks.
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.
25. Darkwatch: Curse of the West
A lesser known FPS, Darkwatch was a great game set in a Gothic Wild West. Protagonist Jericho Cross was an outlaw on the verge of one of his biggest train robberies. Unfortunately, he targeted a train belonging to the Darkwatch, an order of monster hunters, and he released a powerful vampire lord. After he’s turned into a vampire by said lord, he’s enlisted into the ranks of the Darkwatch, and has to fight against the force he released into the world.
Darkwatch featured solid FPS gameplay with horse riding shooter segments and some useful vampiric abilities, which were unavailable in missions set during the daytime, making the player rely on standard tactics. It had a great art style, and was originally planned as a series, but this never happened as the sequel was canned.
24. Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
The Shin Megami Tensei series is popular in Japan, but has failed to make as big of an impact in the West. Nocturne (also called Lucifer’s Call) was one of the best in the series. This is odd, as it was similar to Pokemon, in that you could tame and recruit enemies, selecting them to fight alongside you in battle.
This was achieved using a negotiation system in which you had to persuade a demon to fight for you. Some demons were easy to recruit, while others were far more difficult. These demons could also be fused together to create more powerful creatures.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne had great presentation and the traditional turn-based combat was helped along by the unique demon-taming features and dark story. Dante from Devil May Cry even made a cameo appearance.
23. The Getaway
Although Sony’s London-based GTA clone was nowhere near as good as we’d hoped – plagued with clunky controls, dodgy design choices, and an awful camera when on-foot – there was still something about it that drew you in.
Perhaps it was the meticulously recreated map of London, the Snatch-style adult dialogue, or the photo-realistic visuals. The Getaway was an entertaining, if often frustrating experience (remember that hair-pulling laser security bit? Oh, good lord). It also had two separate stories, with the completion of Mark Hammond’s campaign opening up Flying Squad detective Frank Carter’s series of events, depicting the other side of the thin blue line.
A good story and decent delivery can make all the difference, and The Getaway, although certainly not Oscar-winning material, had a good, Cockney-laden crime story. Racing through the streets of London instead of the usual American cities was a breath of fresh air. Oh, and ignore the sequel, it was rubbish.
Developed by Sony’s Cambridge studio, Primal was a big title at its time of release, and much hype was made of the third-person scrapper.
Primal starred Jennifer Tate, a girl who finds herself involved in a battle of chaos and order. Travelling through four different demonic dimensions, Jen and her partner, a gargoyle called Scree, fought all sorts of creatures. As she entered each realm, Jen gained the ability to transform into a demon representing that realm. These forms granted her various abilities, such as powerful attacks, long range strikes, and the ability to breathe underwater.
Visually stunning for the time, Primal was a brilliantly polished game, and although the gameplay got a little bit repetitive, it was an enthralling adventure, and one that simply fell off the radar.
21. The Suffering
One of the most disturbing and violent action horror titles ever made, The Suffering was a great third/first-person adventure that put players in the role of a convicted murderer, Torque, who allegedly murdered his wife and child.
Torque is sent to Abbot State Penitentiary, which soon gets hit by an earthquake, unleashing all sorts of hellish creatures, which Torque has to deal with.
The Suffering featured some great creature designs, not surprising as they were created by Stan Winston (the make-up effects master behind Aliens, Terminator, and Jurassic Park). Each creature personified a method of execution used on the prisoners of Abbot State over the years.
There were some genuine scares to be had, and the mixture of shotgunning nasties and solving various puzzles worked well, all supported by a good story. Well worth seeking out if you haven’t played it, which is likely.
20. Kill Switch
Have you played Gears of War, Mass Effect, Uncharted, or any one of the myriad of cover-based shooters that saturate the market? You probably have, but without Kill Switch, you may not have had the chance.
You see, this relatively unknown third-person shooter from Namco is widely credited as creating, or at least popularizing the cover mechanic we now see so often. Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski has even gone on record as saying that Kill Switch was a major influence on the Gears series, saying “it had the best cover system at that time” during the Game Developers Choice Awards.
The game stars soldier Nick Bishop, who is remotely controlled by an operator elsewhere, and as the game progresses, Nick experiences flashbacks of repressed memories, leading to plot twists and a conspiracy.
It was a fairly bare bones, budget game, with minimal polish, but it played very well, and the cover system made it stand out, giving combat a big enough twist, and an enjoyable one at that. It’s worth playing simply to see where the genre as we know it today came from.
19. Sly Cooper
This is one of the biggest gaming mascot-type characters to fail to make it as big as it should have. The Sly series is a great cartoon stealth platformer, which has now been re-released on PS3 in HD form (the original trilogy). Initially developed by Infamous developer Sucker Punch, the game is a cult classic and successfully merged 3D platforming with stealth elements.
Each game, including this debut outing, saw the titular Raccoon thief pull off various heists and engage in boss battles. Sly could use the world to his advantage, shimmying up drainpipes, perching on vantage points, and hiding so he could execute stealth attacks. He also fought foes face to face, but this was a noisy option. The end result was a great example of 3D platforming that demonstrated the genre could be more flexible and varied than it usually was.
18. Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
If the aforementioned Second Sight was the slower-paced, thinking man’s psychic adventure, then Psi-Ops was the choice of the trigger-happy, action fanatic. Whereas Second Sight had deeper characters and a more intriguing story, Psi-Ops had by far the more enjoyable combat and selection of psychic powers.
As amnesiac solider Nick Scryer, you embarked on a series of missions to combat an evil regime, at the same time uncovering both your past and your forgotten psychic powers, such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis, mind control, and remote viewing. These could be used at your discretion during your missions, and you were often allowed to experiment and tackle combat situations as you saw fit.
The various powers were handled in a far more fluid and accessible way than Second Sight, particularly the telekinesis, which was very satisfying (you could even pick up and throw your enemies). The game itself, being a more action-oriented third-person shooter, was a little more appealing to a larger audience. Despite this, it still failed to make major waves, and was never heard from again.
17. Fatal Frame
Fatal Frame was a survival horror straight from the house of Japanese horror titles like Ringu and The Grudge, and as a result, it’s one of the scariest games you’ll play.
In this game, which put you up against all sorts of deadly ghosts and spirits, you didn’t play as a soldier with guns, a police officer, or even an adult with a stick. You played as a young school girl armed only with the Camera Obscura. This was a magical camera that could exorcise spirits, and it was your only defense against the supernatural.
The fear you felt due to being so defenseless made this a very unnerving experience, and as the story was supposedly based on various real events, it only made it all the more effective at getting your heart going and wearing out the edge of your seat.
16. Project Eden
Core Design was the team responsible for creating Tomb Raider, a game we all know, but it also dabbled in various other titles, including this very Tomb Raider-esque sci-fi outing.
Project Eden was a brilliant puzzler in the TR mold, only this time you had four different characters to control, each with their own unique skills. Team leader Carter could interrogate people and access high security doors, engineer Andre could repair machinery, Minoko was the hacker of the team, and Amber was a powerful cyborg, capable of surviving hostile environments.
Using each team member’s skills, you had to solve all sorts of environmental puzzles to progress deeper and deeper into the game’s dangerous undercity world, populated by violent gangs, mutants, and even worse threats.
It never got much recognition on its release, which is a damn shame as Project Edenwas arguably far more involving than Tomb Raider at the time, and the four-way split of characters would make for a great online multiplayer campaign today.
15. Killer 7
We’ve talked about Suda 51’s surreal Killer 7 before and made no bones about our love for it. The story of Harman Smith and his seven alter ego assassin personalities is one strange journey, wrapped up in social and political commentary and an art style that’s simply gorgeous. It’s a genuine work of art, pure and simple.
Although it made its debut on the GameCube, the title also arrived on the PlayStation 2, potentially opening up the bizarre adventure to a new, larger audience, but it failed to do so, and the title remains a polarizing cult classic. If you’ve never played it, we urge you to do so.
14. The Thing
It came out of nowhere, being a random video game of a 20-year-old movie, but The Thing was surprisingly good. Instead of focusing on the actual events of the movie, the game took place a few days afterwards. A team of U.S. soldiers were sent to investigate Outpost 31, before venturing to other facilities as they discovered the truth behind the alien invasion.
The game used an AI teammate system, giving player character Blake plenty of allies. These allies were made up of engineers, soldiers, and medics, and their skills were used to progress through the various locations.
The film’s focus on fear and mistrust was also used in the game to great effect, and characters could become infected, meaning Blake would have to find and enlist the services of other survivors. Eventually, Blake discovered the truth, and after battling an army of alien beasts using guns, flame throwers, and other methods, he located the alien ship and did battle with the big bad Thing itself, with the help of none other than MacReady.
It was a great, team-based adventure, and one that is considered to be a canonical sequel.
13. Shadow of Rome
Hailing from Capcom, this is quite an obscure title, which isn’t usual form for the big name publisher. Set in Rome, as you may guess from the name, you were cast as Agrippa, a successful general in Rome’s army. After the murder of Julius Caesar, Agrippa returns to find his father implicated in the murder, and his mother sentenced to death. Agrippa is captured attempting to free his mother, and is sent to the Colosseum to participate in the gladiatorial games. Octavianus, Agrippa’s friend gets involved in events, and tries to uncover the truth.
Shadow of Rome was a game of two halves. Agrippa’s sections were all about brutal combat and action, and Octavianus’ sections involved stealth and puzzle solving, and the two disparate styles worked well together, breaking up the violence (which was pretty graphic) with some slower-paced stealthy section that also gave you the chance to explore famous areas of Rome.
The combat engine in the game was, as to be expected from a Capcom game, pretty solid, and the gladiatorial sections were challenging and satisfying. Agrippa could use all sorts of vicious weapons, even the severed arms of his enemies, and the arena changed and featured various combat challenges to keep things interesting, including chariot races. There were also sections for Agrippa outside of the arena.
Visually impressive and well put together, this was a great historic combat title that’s well worth a punt, and it’s much better than Ryse: Son of Rome.
12. Dark Cloud
A definite cult classic RPG, Dark Cloud mixed the genres of RPG and RTS into one coherent package, and it was a unique and hugely enjoyable RPG romp. As protagonist Roan, you had to brave all sorts of procedurally generated dungeons fighting the forces of an evil genie in order to rebuild the world and its villages.
Using this “georama” mode, you could place various elements you acquire from dungeons, such as trees, houses, and so on, and rebuild the landscape, including the villagers themselves. Once returned, villagers could then instruct Roan on the rebuilding of the area, and once a village was complete (after meeting various requirements), you could proceed to the next village, advancing the quest.
Dark Could used a weapon leveling system instead of the usual character leveling, and the more a weapon was used, the more powerful it could become. These needed repairing after a lot of use, and custom weapons could be created.
The second game, Dark Chronicle, expanded even more on the crafting and RTS nature of the series, but this first outing is where it all began.
11. Gitaroo Man
Arriving on the market several years before Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Gitaroo Man was a precursor of what was to come. It didn’t feature the same exact style of play as GH and RB, instead using onscreen controller prompts when in guard mode, but it did feature a unique guitar playing interface when the player had to strum to the music. Using the analog stick to follow the “trace line,” you had to keep the aiming cone on the line while pressing buttons to play music and “attack” your foe. The modes alternated as the song progressed, meaning players had to quickly change from attack to guard, and so on.
Gitaroo Man was a great title with a charming, yet bizarre story and presentation, something we’ve come to expect from Japanese rhythm games.
10. Freedom Fighters
Freedom Fighters was developed by Hitman creator IO Interactive, and was a great squad-based shooter that many PS2 owners missed.
It was set to a backdrop of a fictional Russian invasion of the U.S., and players took on the role of plumber Christopher Stone. Now, this was no Mario, and Christopher didn’t eat mushrooms or jump on people’s heads. Instead, he packed assault rifles and Molotovs, and used guerilla tactics to take down the Red machine.
You infiltrated enemy bases, sabotaged supplies, and generally became a major thorn in the side of the invading army. All of this took place within an occupied New York. As you succeeded in your goals, you gained charisma. The more charisma you had, the more followers you could lead. You could tell these allies to follow, defend, and attack, which was simple squad commanding, but functional. Each chapter was made up of various missions, and your actions in one mission could affect events in another, with some actions weakening the Russian military presence in later missions.
It was a really well made and enjoyable title that was a nice departure from the Hitman formula the studio is famous for.
9. Urban Chaos: Riot Response
You’ve heard of the Batman: Arkham series, right? Of course you have. We’re willing to bet you’ve not heard of Urban Chaos: Riot Response, though. This is the debut game from Arkham creator Rocksteady Studios, and it’s one of the best, and most highly polished FPS titles on the PS2.
You played the role of Nick Mason, an officer in the ‘T-Zero’ riot response division of the police. Armed with your trusty riot shield, and a host of other weapons, your job was to take down criminals and gang members, often having to find and subdue a gang leader with a non-lethal attack, at the same time rescuing hostages.
Along the way, you enlisted help from paramedics and firefighters who could heal people, put out fires, and break open doors. Your performance was rated in every mission in a number of ways, such as accuracy, collectibles, and so on. Special challenge missions also let you unlock better weapons.
Urban Chaos looked great for a PS2 FPS, and it featured some of the most satisfying gunplay around. Head shots in particular were gratifying (and often the best way to take out foes, so mastering it was important), and the riot shield opened up new game mechanics, such as having to slowly approach a hostage-holding gang member, shielding yourself from fire until you could get in that elusive headshot. Brilliant.
8. Blood Will Tell
Based on the manga Dororo, Blood Will Tell was a great game that features one of the craziest premises for a story we’ve seen. You’re Hyakkimaru, a man whose major organs and body parts were all stolen by demons at birth after his father, the land’s ruler at the time, made a deal with them in order to bring peace back to the land. Hyakkimaru was then abandoned by his father, and found by a man named Jyukai, who created artificial body parts and prosthetics to rebuild Hyakkimaru’s body. Eventually, Hyakkimaru heard a heavenly voice tell him that if he slew the fiends that took his body parts, he could regain them, and his humanity.
Armed with a deadly katana and twin blades concealed in his arms, as well as an arm-mounted machine gun and a leg-mounted bazooka, Hyakkimaru set out to find and defeat the 48 fiends, accompanied by his companion, the young thief, Dororo.
Blood Will Tell played very much like Devil May Cry, only with larger, more open areas and some stealth and puzzle sections (as Dororo). Hyakkimaru and his implanted weapons made for a great combat character, with all sorts of crazy moves and combos, which could be upgraded as you progressed. The levels were varied, and there was no cheating or shortcuts taken. You actually did seek out and kill 48 fiends, many of which were impressive bosses, and some were downright freaky. Each chapter of the game had its own mini-story, keeping things interesting. This was a brilliant fighter that really you should dig out.
7. Mark of Kri
If Disney and Pixar weren’t so against violence, The Mark of Kri is possibly what we may end up with. Behind the very Pixar-like aesthetics lies a violent, but well-crafted stealth adventure.
Rau Utu is a powerful warrior, who is helped by a bird called Kuzo, accepts a mission to investigate some local bandits, and is drawn into a bigger quest, with major repercussions.
The Mark of Kri was primarily a stealth game, requiring careful use of Rau’s scout, Kuzo, and stealth tactics to take enemies out silently. The unique control system used both analog sticks, the left for movement and the right to sweep around the area with an aiming line, used to attack nearby foes. Rau also got a bow and special abilities, all of which were used tactically to achieve his objectives.
You quickly noticed just how well produced The Mark of Kri was when you started playing it, and how violent the gameplay was. The characters were great, not out of place in any Disney epic, and although it took a while to get used to, the control scheme worked very well. Highly recommended.
Rez is one of those classic games that always finds its way onto lists like these, as well as best game ever lists. At the same time, it’s also a game that many people have either never heard of or simply dismissed.
A music shooter, Rez is a trip for the eyes and the ears. It’s an on-rails shooter that ties the onscreen action and your success to the music. As you fight, you add music and sound effects to the soundtrack, and your onscreen avatar transforms. Everything in the game reacts to the beat of the music, and the Panzer Dragoon-style controls and impressive bosses all make for a short, but unforgettable shooting experience.
It’s a game that’s often used in the argument of games being art. One of the most stylish and addictive shooters around.
5. Monster Hunter
It’s crazy to think that a series as popular as Monster Hunter was once overlooked by most. The original Monster Hunter arrived on the PS2, and was promptly dismissed by all but those who had the time and patience to give it a real chance.
The series is notorious for both its high difficulty and stiff controls, but underneath this is one of the most rewarding game experiences around. You may end up being killed time after time by that powerful wyvern, but when you finally figure out its patterns and weaknesses, and bring it down, the sense of achievement is palpable.
The hunting of the original game was accompanied by a complex gathering and crafting system, with every item farmed or carved off fallen beasts being used to make items, weapons, and armor. The game, thanks to numerous quests, many of which you needed to grind in order to find rare resources, is immense. It tried its best to make you dislike it with clunky controls and a dodgy camera, but this was one title where it was well worth persevering, just like the many sequels.
4. God Hand
Clover Studios was one of Capcom’s most promising divisions before it was closed down. It was responsible for two of the best underrated games on the PS2, one of which was God Hand (see the next entry for the other).
God Hand, like Killer 7, is a very divisive title. Players either get it and lap up the crazy combat and quirky presentation (including an admittedly terrible camera), or they play the first level and quit.
You played as Gene, a fighter who lost his arm in a gang attack. Luckily, he was bestowed with a replacement, one of the two God Hands, magical arms used to combat demons. With this arm now a part of him, Gene walked the Western-themed world fighting all sorts of bonkers villains and demons with a range of over-the-top combat moves.
If you’re one of the people who stuck with it (which wasn’t many, apparently, hence its commercial failure and inclusion here), you found a great, challenging beat ’em up with style, personality, and some truly enjoyable gameplay. The game’s quality isn’t all that surprising, as Resident Evil designer Shinji Mikami directed it.
God Hand was a game purely aimed at skilled gamers, and certainly not the casual market, hence its high difficulty. It’s a title that demands your attention.
It’s been called the PlayStation 2’s Zelda, but Okami is far more than a simple clone, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best games ever released on the console. Based on Japanese mythology, with a brilliant ink and paper art style, you played the role of Amaterasu, a goddess in the form of a white wolf with the ability to use the “celestial brush” to manipulate the world and create objects.
By drawing on the screen, you could create bombs, gusts of wind, make trees grow, and many other things, all with the aim of restoring life to the land, which was ravaged by the demon, Orochi.
Okami took masses of inspiration from Zelda, and played in a very similar manner, with a large, open world, dungeons, boss fights, and skills and items required to access various, otherwise sealed off areas. This was all delivered in a truly charming and beautiful manner, and it played brilliantly.
Okami was an epic and flawless adventure, and if there were any issues to be found, it was the lack of real difficulty. Still, with a long and varied story with tons of side quests, memorable characters, and all sorts of extras and mini games, Okami is unmissable, which makes it all the more upsetting that it was overlooked by most, contributing to the death of a very talented studio. Damn.
Yes, it had to be here. Ico is usually the first game anyone thinks of when asked about underappreciated PS2 games, and for good reason – it was both overlooked and bloody brilliant.
Ico was a long escort mission, but before you run for the hills, know that it was an escort mission that was actually fun to play. Its striking art style and mixture of puzzles and enemy confrontations were superbly designed. The game possessed a level of character and refinement few games can even imagine, and was a forerunner for the equally brilliant and more successful Shadow of the Colossus.
It’s a very challenging and often emotional journey of a game. It went through a period of being very rare, commanding high prices on eBay, but now it can be found in an HD double pack with Shadow of the Colossus, so is far easier to find, which is something you really should do.
1. Beyond Good and Evil
If there was an award for the most criminally overlooked game ever, Ubisoft’s Beyond Good and Evil would surely be in the running. It’s simply stunning that such a great game could be ignored by so many.
It had everything – great visuals; a good story; brilliant characters; a mixture of action, stealth, and puzzling; an open world; tons of secrets; and one of the best, most relatable protagonists around.
Created by Michel Ancel, the game told the story of Jade, a photojournalist who looks after a group of orphans with her uncle, a humanoid pig called Pey’j. The world she lives in is called Hillys, and it’s invaded by an alien race known as the Domz. This race kidnaps Hillyans to use as energy sources or slaves.
Jade embarks on a mission to uncover the Hillyan military’s involvement with the alien threat, ultimately to stop the invaders and free the planet. She does this by infiltrating various facilities in order to acquire photographic evidence of the collaboration. Using a combination of stealth and combat with her staff to explore the world, Jade acquires various upgrades, for her and her vehicles, including her hovercraft. She is also accompanied by Pey’j and special operative Double H.
Beyond Good and Evil used game mechanics from various other titles, mainly releases like Zelda and the Metroidvania genre. Parts of the world are closed off until Jade acquires the right abilities or equipment to progress, and the open world can be freely explored in order to find secrets and side missions. There is a photographic side quest to take pictures of every animal species on the planet, and finding all of the pearls in the game (also used as currency), can take a good while to complete.
The sequel to Beyond Good and Evil is finally in development at Ubisoft, although there’s no release date as of yet. If you’ve never managed to play this classic adventure, then we’d strongly suggest you seek it out, either in your local game shop or via PSN. You really won’t regret it.