The Best Undiscovered Playstation 2 (PS2) Games

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If you’ve played all the blockbuster games on the PS2 (or PS3) already and need to dig into the lesser-known-but-equally-exciting games, this is the guide for you.  I’ve had long discussions with many experienced PS2 owners in order to determine a list of all the best PS2 games that most people haven’t played (or possibly even heard of).  Much like previous entries in the Hidden Gems series, this guide is divided up by genre to help you find games that suit your tastes.

Digg!

Since the PS2 library is so immense and filled with so many wonderful titles (and also has had a lot of exposure over the years), I wanted to get more particular about which games I include in this Hidden Gems feature.   If I were to have compiled this a year or two ago, you would have seen a number of titles that have since gained popularity and edged into mainstream.  The games I’m thinking of include Katamari Damacy, Shadow of the Colossus, the Viewtiful Joe Series, Disgea, Okami, Odin Sphere, Guilty Gear, Beyond Good & Evil, and Rez.  So when you notice I don’t list these games below, you’ll know why.  Instead I hope you find a number of games that you haven’t heard of (or at least not much) that catch your eye and eventually provide you with hours of enjoyment..

A special thanks to those the contributed their game summaries: BulletMagnet, NebachadnezzaR, bonegolem, roushimsx, Perseid, executioner, and everyone else in the forum that pitched in with ideas!  If you have more games to share, please use the comments section below and I’m terribly sorry if we overlooked your personal favorite!

Action Adventure

Ico

icoOne of the earlier PS2 titles, Ico is an epic adventure that serves as the spiritual predecessor of the late PS2 blockbuster, Shadow of the Colossus.  It’s minimalist game design, awe-inspiring animations, puzzle-solving elements and a touch of platforming helped Ico achieve critical acclaim, but it wasn’t enough to get it the mainstream attention that it deserved — even after the boost from the Shadow of the Colossus release.

From Adrenaline Vault’s Review: “Ico is one of those rare titles that you don’t so much play as experience. Many adventure games boast this same interactivity and immersiveness, but with its careful blending of genres, delicate balancing act between a story of growing love and mounting horror, and a brilliant system that also incorporates tense moments of action, Ico really lives up to its claims.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Drakan: The Ancient’s Gates

drakan2Sequel to the PC game Order of the Flame, Drakan on the PS2 is an action/adventure game where you fight on the ground and in the air, on the back of your dragon. The ground parts play in a style similar to Tomb Raider, a blend of action, exploration and puzzle-solving in a medieval-fantasy setting more reminiscent of RPG’s. This game actually has some RPG elements, like a quest system or the ability to level up Rynn, the main character, but overall it’s more Legend of Zelda than Final Fantasy, with a bigger emphasis on exploration and combat instead of a complex story or party management.  The flying parts, where you fly mounted on Arokh’s back, on the other hand are obviously more action oriented, with the dragon basically scorching every creature who dares to block his path, making for a nice change of pace that prevents the game from getting too repetitive.

From Armchair Empire’s Review: “Approaching twenty hours of gameplay, the value of the game is very high, and, in the end, the game simply feels like such a labor of love that it is hard not to like it.  The attention to detail, the story, the action, the graphics—everything about the game is solid and well thought out.  Anyone who likes fantasy adventure games is likely to be happy with their purchase”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Action Platformer

Psychonauts

psychonautsDespite having a decent amount of pre-launch hype, receiving praise from critics, being the product of Tim Schafer (of Monkey Island and Grim Fandango fame), and being down-right fascinating and hilarious, Psychonauts failed to rack up big sales on any of the three platforms it was released on.  Due to word-of-mouth aftermarket sales of the game have picked up a bit, but far to many gamers still haven’t given this one a chance.

From 1UP’s Review: “It could be the best adventure game Schafer has ever produced, and I don’t say that lightly. His games are renowned for their humor, writing, and in Grim Fandango’s case thrillingly unique setting, but looked at purely in gameplay terms, they didn’t always work: often, the puzzles were dragged down by arbitrary-seeming solutions (the anchor puzzle in Grim Fandango being a prime example). That’s all gone from Psychonauts, which carefully draws from the best of the modern 3D adventure genre to incorporate puzzles which always have a solution at hand somewhere in the level, and there are always enough subtle but real clues to help you find the answer.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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klonoa2 Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil

The original Kloana was also a hidden gem on the PS1, and while the sequel maintains its 2D platformer feel, it’s now using 3D graphics to give it a more modern look.  Don’t expect a great story or intense challenges from Klonoa 2, but you will be treated to some great visuals and lots of fun.

From Gamespot’s Review: “Because of its airtight gameplay, awesome visuals, and great soundtrack, Klonoa 2 is an almost perfect platform game–almost. You’ll wish that the game were longer, and if you’re experienced with games of this kind, you’ll probably wish it were a little tougher too. Still, Klonoa 2 is a pleasure to play from start to finish. It’s a must-have for fans of platform games, and all PlayStation 2 owners ought to give it a try.”
Video: Commercial | Gameplay
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Kim Possible: What’s the Switch

kimpossibleDon’t write this one off just because it’s based on a Disney kids TV series.  Every so often a Disney-licensed game manages to surprise us with solid gameplay.  If you are a fan of 16-bit platformers, this Kim Possible installment should impress you with its two-dimensional gamplay coated and cartoony 3D graphics.  The difficulty level isn’t too high since its aimed for kids, but there is a challenge in trying to unlock everything.

From IGN’s Review: The world of Kim Possible is very cartoonish and uses the 2.5-dimensional style of Viewtiful Joe. All the action is side-scrolling with plenty of platforming, but it is a 3D world and the camera moves around to take advantage of this. The fighting is all right and a little bit of a challenge, but the real star of the game is the environment and learning how to explore it… Like with Viewtiful Joe, the moves may be simple, but the uses can be complicated. There are loads of hidden coins and items to find on each of the levels and getting them all is a pretty serious challenge that takes some observation. It’s definitely not easy, but it is rewarding.”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Adventure

Indigo Prophecy / Fahrenheit

indigoprophecy If you are in the mood for an especially cinematic experience in your adventure games and enjoy mystery thrillers, you really need to look into Indigo Prophecy (known as Fahrenheit outside of North America). You follow Lucas Kane, your ordinary guy who manages to unconsciously commit a random act of murder. As if that wasn’t intriguing enough, the game also changes the plot and the outcome based on the decisions you make throughout.

From Gaming Age’s Review: “Summing up, the Indigo Prophecy is unique, artistic, immersive and beautiful. There’s no reason in the world why any self-respecting gamer shouldn’t have this game in their collection. The relatively short completion time (first play through took me just over 10 hours) is a bit of a drawback, but if you think of this in terms of movies then it’s easily an epic – and I think the competence of the story-line aptly matches any Hollywood blockbuster. ”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Gregory Horror Show

gregoryhorrorshow Gregory Horror Show, grossly easy but it’s got to be a shoe-in for hidden gems, very few people have heard of this game, but a truly unique visual style and characters combined with flawless gameplay and nice timed mechanic make it a great game to play. It’s quite short though (but very cheap :P).
From Eurogamer’s Review: Presented in a familiar third person ‘action-adventure’ style, the game borrows plenty of gameplay mechanics from the Resident Evil series, and on that basis could be considered a surreal survival horror offspring. Much like any other game in that sub-genre, the idea is to wander around collecting seemingly unconnected objects, book fragments, health promoting herbs, and – most crucially – spy on the oddball occupants as much as possible; while they’re going about their business, when they’re sleeping, or when they’re just having a little think to themselves…. Although it’s peppered with a few fundamental niggles that detract from the overall experience, GHS is without question a charming adventure that will have you beaming at its dementedness. Congratulations to Capcom for spotting the fact that this wouldn’t have worked at full price; at twenty quid it’s definitely well worth a punt if you have a lateral mind and you’re thirsting for something slightly left field. If only every publisher could be so experimental.
Video: Gameplay
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Everblue 2

everblue2 A wonderful game of the shamefully neglected underwater genre, great game design, great missions, the “pacing” (to use a fashionable word) is perfect, collecting and exploration (two basic important elements of game design) are at times brilliantly executed. In the end, Everblue 2 is worthwhile having, worthwhile playing, and a gem of every collection.

From GameSpy’s Review: “The central gameplay element of the diving sequence is the Multi-Sonar, which you can equip with different modules to search for different types of objects, such as metal, wood, and glass. You press the L1 button to release a sonar pulse, and then listen for a bounce-back; the shorter the time between the initial and reflected pulse, the closer you are to an object. (No bounce-back means no items nearby.) It’s an addictive and lucrative gameplay mechanic — there’s a lot of junk in Valentir’s reef… Everblue 2 is a unique and compelling experience… and exactly the kind of fresh approach that the role-playing genre so desperately needs. It’s laidback, good-natured, and a fine example of the quirky game design that only the Japanese seem to deliver”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Survival Horror / Horror Adventure

Disaster Report

disasterreport A very original game which is essentially a survival horror game, but without any enemies. The only threat in your way is the aftershocks of a massive earthquake.  It’s a relatively low-budget title and this mainly shows up in the sound design, framerate issues and animation. It’s very enjoyable though and a great diversion from the typical “horror” game.  It’s sequel, Raw Danger, can also be found in the additional list below.

From GameCritic’s Review: “Besides the ambiance and concept, the game’s direction is exemplary in its forward-moving pace. Disaster Report never feels slow or bogged down, and there’s almost no backtracking to be done—always a plus in my book. Add to that some late-game plot twists, several path-altering choices, a wide variety of obstacles to overcome, multiple endings to discover, and a wealth of small touches (like your character’s clothing deteriorating with each narrow escape) and you’ve got a progressively energetic game set in a fantastic locale: one step beyond everyday life. Though it was totally unappreciated due to lackluster graphics and a semi-sketchy camera, anyone looking deeper than Disaster Report’s surface will find more than enough heart to satisfy.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Haunting Ground / Demonto

hauntinggroundA “survival” horror game in the truest sense, Haunting Ground (known as Demento in Japan) leaves you as completely weaponless young girl (but with the aid of a dog!) against a series of pursuers. The plot reminds me of 18th century Gothic novels with its Italian castle setting, the atmosphere is similar to that of a slasher movie. The game’s best feature is probably the sense of danger it can convey: the pursuers know how to give a scare, and most are so perversely twisted that they manage to get on your nerves on more than one way.

From GamingTarget’s Review: “No, Haunting Ground isn’t a fiendish fear-quenched fright-fest like I’d hoped it be. But, the game does have something else. He’s called Hewie, a compatible AI-controlled pooch, who with his smarts makes playing the already used Clock Tower-esque hide-and-seek system in Haunting Ground all the more intriguing. Where the Clock Tower series always employed its notion for being the victim in a stalker’s nightmarish world in a very mundane and ordinary fashion, Haunting Ground does so with a zing. You get a gorgeous girl, a habitual cur, and the enemies in a rapacious formula that isn’t the most astonishingly magnetic, but it’s better off than the ones in any of the Clock Tower games. Besides, where Resident Evil 4 failed to outright drill terror into its players’ senses, Haunting Ground succeeds on a couple accounts in delivering bits of spooky surprises. That’s got to count for something.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Mech-Based Action

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner

zoe-2 The first Zone of the Enders game gained some attention near the beginning on the PS2’s life as it was associated with Hideo Kojima’s team and came packaged with the then-unreleased demo of Metal Gear Solid 2.  This sequel continues the epic story of the original, but turns every aspect up a few notches, resulting in one of the greatest, most cinematic action games on the system (especially for anime fans).

From IGN’s Review: “In the realm of robotic videogames there are two distinct types of play that enthusiasts can choose from: action/shooter and straightforward simulation. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner qualifies as the former without even so much as a hint of similarity to the simulation breed. A balls out action game in every sense of the word, its design and pacing isn’t meant for the type of crowd that worships titles like Armored Core or Carnage Heart…  Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is a dazzling masterpiece of high tech production. Obviously a much-loved project by its renowned producer Hideo Kojima and designer Shuyo Murata, ZOE2 has taken admirable steps towards melding cinema with gameplay. The action-enabled counterpart to Namco’s Xenosaga Episode 1, The 2nd Runner isn’t so much a videogame as it is an all-encompassing experience.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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R.A.D. (Robot Alchemic Drive)

rad The main difference between R.A.D. and your typical mech game is in the way you control your robot.  Instead of sitting in a cockpit or having a dynamic third-person perspective, you have remote control from the point of view of a human character on the ground.  This requires you to strategically position your human character someplace where you can see the action, but not so close that you get killed.   Being able to control your giant robot as a kid that is running around, hiding through buildings, flying with your powers to a rooftop, or just standing on your robot’s shoulder to be closer to the action just makes it so interesting.

From Gamespy’s Review: “While the fighting is outrageous and fun as heck, the story that ties it all together gets weirder by the moment. The dialogue is straight out of a stunningly bad movie — the type of flick that plays forever at midnight showings where everyone yells out the line before the actors do. A horrified high school girl turns to her friend, the pink-skirted hero Yui, and screams, “How can you control a robot? Robots are terrible. A robot killed grandma.” For some reason, though, it doesn’t come off as camp. Yes, it’s goofy and not something that an actual human being might say, but within the context of the game it makes sense. To her, robots are terrible. A robot did kill grandma.. Robot Alchemic Drive is a breath of fresh air. When was the last time you used your Dual Shock controller to control a character who’s using a device that looks an awful lot like a Dual Shock controller? RAD is a wonderful title that should be on every gamer’s must-try list. It’s unlike anything else out there — and that’s saying a lot. It’s fun, challenging, and it left this jaded reviewer as giddy as a schoolgirl — in this case, a schoolgirl that happens to control a 120-foot tall robot.”
Video: Opening | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Flight Action

Sky Gunner

skygunnerAltus may be known from importing some quality RPGs to other parts of the world, but Sky Gunner proves they has a keen eye for games in other genres as well.  Sky Gunner’s gameplay mechanics have often been compared to those of the Panzer Dragoon games minus the rails.  You have much more freedom of movement, but have the lock-on abilities like those in Panzer Dragoon.  Overall, the action is solid and its evident that there was much attention to detail when developing Sky Gunner.  Any gamer that enjoys flight-based combat definitely need to look into this gem.

From Gaming Age’s Review: “Sky Gunner a shooter fan’s dream, and it’s chock full of personality and presentation… I [also] love that more thought was put into this shooting engine than just “take down all the enemies”. The scoring system really outlasts the story mode as far as replayability goes, and the key to it all is it’s fun over and over again. Sky Gunner is really easy to just pick up and play, and you won’t feel obligated to play for extended periods of time to enjoy it. A small case of the jaggies and some really bad bouts with slowdown smudge an otherwise pristine experience. Sky Gunner should really only be avoided by the most adamant anti-shooter type gamers.”
Video: Gameplay
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Heatseeker

heatseakers Heatseeker is an arcade-style flight combat game — like Ace Combat, but even less realistic. The controls are really accessible, and it’s completely balls-to-the-wall, sort of like After Burner but with freedom of movement.  Of course, this isn’t the type of game that usually wows critics, so most of the review scores are quite low, but if you’re into games like this, you should get a kick out of it.

From Game Chronicles’s Review: “Heatseeker is certainly not a game for everyone, and even the flight sim enthusiast may be a little turned off by it’s over simplification of aerial combat. But, for short bouts of intense and mindless arcade action, this game definitely fits the bill. Because unrealistic as it may be, Heatseeker is not a game that tries to be. The game is very much an over the top, exaggerated representation of aerial combat and pulls it off wonderfully. Heatseeker is an easy recommendation to any fan of the Top Gun or Iron Eagle movies, but die-hard simulation fans may want to drop their flares and break right.”
Video: Trailer | Promotional Info | Gameplay
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On-Rails Shooter/ Light Gun Shooter

Killer 7

killer7It received a decent amount of buzz due to it’s graphical style, originality, and bizarre setting, but not very many gamers actually gave this one a chance.  Killer7 is also hard to classify into a genre.  It is essentially an on-rails shooter, but it has a first-person perspective and has the feel of a survival horror adventure.    Anyway, if you like dark games and crave something out of the ordinary, score a copy of Killer7.

From IGN’s Review: “I expect that Killer 7 is going to be one of the most debated games of the year. I’m well aware that some people hate the title, just as others love it. Capcom has clearly emphasized story and style over good old-fashioned control mechanics and that is unequivocally the adventure’s biggest problem. The control setup, which lacks true freedom, feels like an archaic step backward when compared to today’s more traditional games. And yet, at the same time it’s not an adventure-ruining choice for me, in the same way that the point-and-click mechanics of Myst didn’t ruin that experience. Control remains very functional. It’s just radically different.  Players who can look beyond the control mechanics will find a truly bold and intriguing adventure game lurking within Killer 7’s beautiful cel-shaded visuals. This is a game that oozes style from beginning to end and also one with a story so brutally off-the-wall that it practically demands your attention. It’s also a game that offers big rewards in the vein of gorgeous and lengthy cut-scenes for players who keep at it.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Third Person Shooter

Crimson Sea 2

crimsonsea2 The original game in this epic sci-fi shooter series was an XBox exclusive, but PS2 owners got treated to the much-improved sequel.  The developers at Koei did an excellent job refining the controls, pacing, and the upgrade system throughout the game.  And of course, Crimson Sea 2 still has the intense shooting and slashing of aliens, interesting characters and storyline that built its cult fanbase.

From GameSpy’s Review: “The gameplay is best described as Phantasy Star Online meets Devil May Cry. From IAG Headquarters, you can choose one of several available missions and teleport down to the planet where the mission takes place… The combat system is one of the best you’re likely to see in an action game of this sort. It’s so solid that Crimson Sea 2’s “kill everything that moves” formula doesn’t become stale or tedious until quite late in the game, which is a huge accomplishment for a game based on such a simple concept. Expert gamers will love the variety of techniques and play styles available, but impatient button-mashers who just want to dive into the game will still be able to make a great deal of progress as they naturally pick up the more advanced combat techniques.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

psiops Even though it was promoted quite heavily, Psi-Ops wasn’t given much of a chance by mainstream gamers.  That’s a real shame considering it tried so had to be original and innovative and was relatively successful in its goals.  In Psi-Ops, you don’t rely too much on your standard weapons, but as you progress, you unlock a number of psychic powers, which eventually become your “weapons” of choice.  The game also features some excellent physics (thanks to the Havok engine) that adds an extra layer of polish on an excellent game.

From IGN’s Review: “Midway has done an incredible job, not just with creating a new franchise, expanding upon an overdone genre, and improving upon an established set of super-powered mind-weapons, but with creating a game that is of worth. It’s a simple bit of praise that’s hard to appreciate until you’ve played Psi-Ops through to the end and can reassure yourself that while struggling with a sometimes clunky camera and a few inappropriate design decisions, you’re still having an immense amount of fun in what is an ultimately well put together, well thought out, and surprisingly functional, approachable title. It’s a little profane, a little gory, a little short, and may have a few problems, but Psi-Ops is nevertheless sadistic fun from start to finish.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Kill.switch

killswitchThis overlooked gem introduced the cover mechanic and blind fire mode later made famous by Gears of War.  Instead of a single “A Button” press of Gears of War, Kill.Switch used a hold down button not unlike Time Crisis’ step peddle mechanic.  The cover mechanic was very innovative and well implemented.

From  GameSpy’s Review: “Make no mistake — in many ways kill.switch is a single-minded, no frills game. There’s no multiplayer, no online play, and only a couple of difficulty modes. But it does its work extremely well, and it’s safe to say you won’t play a similar game this year. Some of the best arcade shooters succeeded with great action instead of depth, and kill.switch is fun and addictive enough to hurdle over its limitations to become a worthy investment.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

First Person Shooter

Deus Ex: The Conspiracy

deusexIn this remake of the original PC cult classic, Deus Ex: The Consiracy seamlessly combines a first person shooter with elements of role playing games. While the graphics are certainly dated by today’s standards, the game is definitely not short on fun. The weapons are customizable, all of the nano-aug powers are upgradeable, and the skill system is easy to learn. This game is great for RPG fans and FPS fans alike, and even better for fans of both.

From GameSpot’s Review: “All of Deus Ex’s gameplay features and story elements, as well as the expansiveness of the game’s environments and the scope of its setting, will add up to a satisfying and unusual experience if you can get past the game’s technical shortcomings. The way in which the individual gameplay elements are balanced against each other, and the way the consequences of your actions tend to come back into play, all help make Deus Ex increasingly impressive the longer you play it, just as they invite you to play the game over again. It’s not strictly an adventure game or a role-playing game, as its action sequences dominate much of its gameplay. But it ultimately succeeds at creating a believable, open-ended game environment while telling a focused and memorable story, which makes Deus Ex well suited for anyone who’s played through enough conventional action games or role-playing games to forgive its shortcomings in light of its great achievements.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Darkwatch

darkwatch The setting and circumstances in first-person shooters can be quite similar most of the time, but that isn’t much of a concern for Darkwatch.  It takes place in a modern version of the Old Wild West and you follow the adventures of Jericho Cross, an train-robber-turned-vampire.  It may not be the great FPS from a techincal standpoint, but you have to give it points for creativity.

From IGN’s Review: “Of course, the most impressive thing about Darkwatch’s single-player experience is how it controls. It’s one of the most responsive first-person shooters I’ve played without needing a mouse and the smooth movement and highly customizable configuration means that fans of other games can jump right in without a hitch. Targeting your enemies is fast, easy, and accurate too, and that’s just as it should be. Also worth mentioning is Darkwatch’s excellent enemy AI. While it’s not on the same level as say, Far Cry or Resident Evil 4, the computer’s intelligence and behaviors do manage to pull off a couple of impressive feats. Gunslingers, for instance, will dodge your bullets and melee attacks, Banshees coordinate in assault patterns to force you into their sonics, and the more basic low-level creatures team up in packs to rip you to shreds. The CPU’s whole mentality is pretty solid and packed with enough aggression to kick even the most hardened veteran in the teeth on the higher settings.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Multidirection Overhead Shooters

The Red Star

redstar The Red Star is essentially the definition of a hidden gem on the PS2.  This hybrid brawler/shooter struck a nerve with old-school gamers from the first moment it was demoed on the XBox, but got bounced around before finding a publisher who took a chance with the game on the PS2 as a budget title.

From GameDaily’s Review: “For a $20 game, The Red Star boasts amazing production values. The graphics look terrific, employing superb lighting effects and details. The battles with the Kiselev Aggressor look brilliant, whether it pops out weapons through virtual windows or launches attacks from a distance before swooping in to finish the job… Action fans should find The Red Star irresistible, especially if they’re fans of one man “army classics” games like Contra or Gunstar Heroes. It brings an unstoppable amount of tension and energy throughout its nineteen levels, even on the easiest of difficulty settings. (Hop right into hard to get the most out of it, though — humble advice from a hardcore shooting fan.) It may have taken three years to get here, but The Red Star was definitely worth the wait.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Heavenly Guardian

heavenlyguardianThis little-known 2D gem is the follow-up to Pocky and Rocky (Kiki KaiKai) on the SNES.  It didn’t receive very good reviews since it didn’t exactly look as good in 2D as some other modern games, but if you don’t mind an old-school look (no problems here) and budget presentation, you might want to look into this one.

From Specialty Gamer’s Review: “For what it is, a specialty title, it does it very well.  The game does not force itself to appeal to a mainstream market, which I always tend to respect and appreciate.  That said, if you are a person that does not like either Anime/Japanese culture or shooter/quirky games, this game won’t make you like it any more as its very much more of that.  If you do enjoy and look out for the uncommon/under the radar Anime/Japanese culture or shooter/quirky games, I certainly think you will dig Heavenly Guardian.  I have to say if you tried to come up with an Anime fanboy’s idea for a simple game, this would probably be it.”
Video: Opening & Gameplay
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Scrolling Shooters (Shmups)

DoDonPachi Dai-Ou-Jou

DoDonPachi-Dai-Ou-JouJust in case you thought that DonPachi and DoDonPachi were too easy, Cave has Dai-Ou-Jou (“peaceful death”) ready and waiting to shoot your ego full of holes. Aside from the overall increased challenge and duskier presentation, the same “chaining” mechanic is in place here, though now you can pump up your firepower and score even further with “hyper” items – if you don’t mind that using them makes enemies even angrier! Definitely not one for players who tend to give up easily, but it’s a great port, and includes an equally tough boss rush mode and a superplay DVD as a bonus.

From NTSC-uk’s Review: “Overall DoDonPachi DOJ is a very exhilarating game. Unlike the sublime Psyvariar, which focuses on making the player choose the best strategy of building up BUZZ by skimming bullets, DoDonPachi DOU is all about learning how to weave through the bullet patterns unharmed, whilst still making the combo meter tick. The game is all about skill and will take players months to be able to be able to one-credit the game – a mighty achievement in its own right… The striking thing about the game is the adrenaline and satisfaction a player feels once they have been able to successfully come out alive of a bullet run, and it is this factor that makes the game a pleasure to play. To be able to do this, though, the player will have to dwell deep into the mechanics and successfully implement the use of combo multipliers, combined with the careful use of bombs. The game as a whole comes second to Psyvariar, as veterans of the series will not find a huge deal different in this incarnation, but as with all great gaming series, if it ain’t broke why fix it?”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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ESPGaluda

ESPGaludaMuch like its spiritual successor, ESP Ra.de, I have no idea how to pronounce this game’s name, but I do know that the Matrix-esque ability to slow enemy bullets down is long-overdue within the genre and quite cool to mess around with here – it’s limited, obviously, but you can use it either to get through tough spots or to fill the screen with enemy fire to cancel and reap loads of points from at the last second. As such, the game is great for both beginners and score attackers – like Dai-Ou-Jou it’s an excellent conversion, and comes packaged with a superplay DVD and a challenging Arrange mode.

From NTSC-uk’s Review: “Criticism could be levelled at Cave for not breaking their own mould a bit more with Espgaluda – from a distance, gameplay nuances aren’t immediately visible enough to make the title stand out. It’s also not their best game, but it’s certainly the most approachable, opening the stable up to the possibility of gaining a new fan base. Die-hard shooter or Cave fans won’t need telling twice – as a reward for their faithful allegiance, the game is a pastel-shaded success. The company is synonymous with producing solid, ultra-tough games, which may well be music to the ears of the initiated, but can be off-putting to those nearer the sidelines, so it’s commendable that Cave have made in-roads to constructing a more accessible, fun and rewarding experience for those possibly looking for a way into the genre. They might only be baby steps, but they’re all in the right direction.”
Video: Gameplay
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Twinkle Star Sprites: La Petite Princesse

tss-lppMany shooter fans were disappointed when rumors of a Western release of this game turned out to be false, but at least they can import the “Best” reprint and save some money. Despite the 3D makeover, it plays almost exactly like the original Twinkle Star Sprites, which means it’s still loads of fun to clear a screen full of enemies in one shot and drown your rival in fireballs and other cutesy projectiles of death. The only knock I really have against it is that playing by yourself, while structurally solid, gets old too quickly – having a friend over to take you on (online play is probably dead by now, unfortunately) is where it’s at.

From HG101’s Review: “Much like the original, there’s only one story mode for Time, although playing through the game with other characters will eventually unlock an emulation of the original Twinkle Star Sprites. The sound seems a little bit off, and it’s lacking any of the cool extras from the Saturn or Dreamcast ports, but it’s an excellent bonus nonetheless. There’s also online play, but you need to sign up for a Japanese matching service, which not only incurs a monthly free, but is pretty much useless if you’re living outside of Japan. This would’ve been awesome had SNK decided to port it to the Xbox and bring it to America, but that never happened. While fans might view this sequel as almost entirely unnecessary, at least it’s a nice modern overhaul of one of the best puzzle/shooter games ever made.”
Video: Gameplay
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Mushihime-sama

Mushihime-samaRoughly translated as “insect princess,” this popular Cave offering puts you on the back of a giant beetle and sends you out to blast a bunch of even bigger (and exceedingly unfriendly) arthropods of various sorts. As in the arcade version you can choose from three modes – Psikyo-esque Original, standard Maniac, and stupid-hard Ultra, as well as a slightly redesigned Arrange mode. The basic scoring system is similar to DoDonPachi’s chaining, but a bit more forgiving – the port is less than perfect, but the great visual and sound design still shine through.

From NTSC-uk’s Review: “If you want an undiluted shooter free of frivolous gameplay hooks and gimmicks, this will quench your thirst for such a title through this uncomfortable dry period. However, as good as it is and as much as it could be recommended, it shouldn’t take priority over any of Cave’s other current-generation titles.”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Run-N-Gun Shooters

Metal Slug Anthology

metalslug Now the Metal Slug series is by now means a hidden gem on its own, but I don’t think most PS2 owners are aware of the Anthology compilation on the PS2 and how great of a value it is.  For $20 or so, you get seven excellent installments of this classic shooter series.

From Armchair Empire’s Review: “Now, it’s universally agreed upon that Metal Slug is pretty awesome. Thankfully, SNK has realized this, and despite their financial ups and downs, have committed themselves to supplying as much Metal Slug as possible to the general public. They’re doing us all a favor, because it’s one of the best arcade-style games still being released. It’s all simple — run forward, shoot stuff, don’t die — but the humorous characters, two player simultaneous action, and extremely high quality 2D graphics have garnered many, many loyal fans…. Metal Slug Anthology is already a tremendous deal for your money, and it’s definitely worth checking out for anyone into chaotic old school mayhem. The Playstation 2 version is also the best one for your money, since it isn’t hampered by the control or loading issues of the other ports.
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Alien Hominid

alienhominid'If you frequent The Newsgrounds website, you are probably familiar with the original Flash game.  However, the developers expanded the game and polished it up a bunch for a full console release.  In terms of the gameplay, it is very much like Metal Slug, but it has its very own style and sense of humor.

From NetJak’s Review: “Alien Hominid The gameplay should be extremely familiar to anyone who’s played Metal Slug, or Contra, or any 2D shoot ‘em up in the last twenty years or so. The goal is simply to get from the left end of the stage to the right end, shooting and through anything that may get in your way. Of course, there are gun power-ups to help with the large-scale chaos, usually provided by the aforementioned fat kid. There are also as a variety of vehicles to commandeer that are scattered throughout. These range from run-of-the-mill, like bulldozers and killer robots, to the absurd, like a Sasquatch that you can ride in one of the Russian levels to eat KGB agents, Rampage-style…  Should you become bored with the main game, there are also a handful of mini-games that are easily as entertaining as the main package. There are some mini-games based on the main game, which can be fun for a while, but the original mini-games are, by far, the hidden jewel of Alien Hominid. The so-called PDA game is a simple puzzle game reminiscent of the old Lode Runner games, where you have to get from the start to the finish, while killing all the enemies and avoiding all the obstacles. Once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly addictive, and the 200 pre-made levels plus the included level editor ensure that, if you do enjoy it, you wont get bored of it for quite a while. ”
Video: Gameplay
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Contra Shattered Soldier

contra_shattered_soldierFor some strange reason, this game got a bad reputation when it came out, but if you’re a fan of the Contra series, you’ll feel right at home.  As you might expect, Shattered Soldier is absurdly difficult and it has all the staples of classic Contra games but with updated visuals. Some of the mechanics of this game are cool too, like being able to lock your firing position.  Neo Contra was also released on the PS2 a couple of year later, but it typically doesn’t receive as many glowing recommendations.

From IGN’s Review: “From my perspective, this represents a smart philosophy for a classic revival. It’s not a clone of a classic Contra game. It retains aspects of the earlier games in the series, and offers more than a little nostalgia value for the gamers who played and loved them way back when, but it does something new at the same time, revising and updating the series’ gameplay. Those revisions, of course, may rub some players the wrong way. Make no mistake, you will die like a fly playing this game, very early and very often. But the pattern design is good enough that skill and perceptive analysis offers the possibility of mastery for dedicated players. While you’re dying, you’re also learning in anticipation of a future trip through the game.”
Video: Commercial | Gameplay
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Beat-Em-Up/Hack-N-Slash

Mark of Kri

markofkriBringing something new to the table, The Mark of Kri was a refreshing gameplay experience and displayed a unique graphical style. Making use of the dual analog sticks, it managed to make fighting with multiple opponents an accessible and fun, yet challenging, experience, while still giving players the opportunity to try other approaches, like shooting enemies at a distance with a bow or crawling sneakily from behind. The visual style, the closer you get to an animated look without using cell-shading, is brilliant, and the mix between cartoonish characters and scenes of extreme graphic violence gives this game a unique and compelling look.  Even though it went relatively unnoticed by the genreal public it did warrant a sequel on the PS2 by the name of Rise of the Kasai.

From Armchair Empire’s Review: “The Mark of Kri (MoK), is an interesting action-adventure title where you are a Mongolian horde-esque adventurer looking to make a name for yourself by defeating brigands, thieves, and general evil doers. Besides having one of the funnier late-night television commercials (that poor guy getting worked over as the striking dummy for a women’s self defense class and snaps…), MoK boasts a streamlined combat system that allows you to “target” and simultaneously fight up to 3 people at once. For a game that can easily degenerate from a stealth mission to taking on a swarm of enemies single-handed, this is important (and the easy to use controls certainly help out immensely). ”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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God Hand

godhandSolid beat’em up + Japanese insanity = win. If you give God Hand a chance, you’ll come to appreciate the deep combat system and the over the top, funny moves. Actually, everything about the game from the story to the music to the characters is funny, wacky and over the top.  Also, all of the things that make the game initially frustrating initially (difficulty, randomness, etc) will become less and less of a problem as you find yourself slowly mastering the game.   God Hand’s may not be quite as good as Clover’s other efforts ( Okami & Viewtiful Joe), but it packed with enough beatemup goodness to make up for its weaknesses.

From Gamer Revolution’s Review: “When God Hand’s tongue isn’t drooling over the thousands of scantily-clad and literally-spankable babes in the game, it is firmly placed in cheek. The jokes range from just silly (the gorilla that you fight has a zipper running down its back), to pop-cultural (you take on a team of midget power rangers), to cute (one enemy’s attack transforms you into an adorable puppy, whose attack is just a menacing, if irresistibly precious, growl). God Hand puts the fun back in beating people retarded. The humor and light-heartedness are certainly one half of what was missing from beat-em-up’s before. The other missing half was a decent combat system that could incorporate timing and reflexes into the traditional button-mashing slop. God Hand’s fighting is refreshingly intuitive and quick, leading to fast-paced and intense battles with plenty of the old ultra-violence.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Bujingai: The Forsaken City

BujingaiYes, this game is essentially a minimalist button-smasher, but beautiful in it’s execution. There’s nothing too complicated and that gives Bujingai both stress-relieving properties and a better replay value than some games in the genre. The challenge can be intense, the music is fabulous, the graphics are beautiful, and it has solid control.

From IGN’s Review: “Veteran videogame players who have experienced previous titles like Otogi, Dynasty Warriors, Shinobi, and Crimson Sea probably won’t find Bujingai to be too much different from what they’ve seen before. Overly simplistic and a bit formulaic, its unique approach to the genre isn’t necessarily found in gameplay, but rather, it’s style and presentation… But just because the game is short on the depth of its engine doesn’t mean that it’s short on the fun. Though it can get a little bit tedious and repetitive for the more demanding crowds out there, Bujingai still has a lot of entertainment value in it and shouldn’t be so easily dismissed. As not only is it easy to pick up and get into, it also provides a great deal of enemy challenges in the higher difficulty settings; ones that are sure to test even the most elite of North America’s most avid twitch gamers. Besides, when was the last time you played through an adventure using a sword wielding gender-neutral marital arts master anyway? Yeah, that’s what we thought.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Fighting

King of the Fighters XI

kofxiAfter a long line of annual installments and an attempt at bringing the series to 3D, SNK Playmore got back to the two-dimensional roots and ditched the yearly suffix.  Since it was designed for the Atomiswave arcade system instead of the classic Neo-Geo MVS hardware, it has a more modern look to it than previous 2D installments.  Of course, graphics aren’t everything, so to make the new installment worthwhile, SNK also included a number of new game mechanics to keep 2D fighting junkies on their toes.  The PS2 is also the only console to receive a port and has a number of great exclusive characters over the arcade.

From Eurogamer’s Review: “While the three-on-three action on display here adheres pretty firmly to the usual 2D beat-‘em-up blueprint, a few interesting new concepts carve XI a niche of its own. The first of these is a vastly reworked Tactical Shift System compared to when we last saw it – switching between your three fighters on the fly can now be done to avoid an opponent’s relentless onslaught through the Saving Shift or done to prolong your own combos and confuse opponents with some crazy mix-up thanks to the Quick Shift ability. As with other technical moves, these function in unison with the game’s new Skill Stock system where a section of the constantly recharging two-part meter must be expended to perform many more defensive abilities. Leader Desperation Moves are still in there too but XI introduces the Dream Cancel option to make the chances of ever landing some of these more realistic. While expensive on both special and skill gauges, being able to cancel out of normal super attacks into your leader’s most powerful move can do horrible things to your opponent’s life bar.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Garou: Mark of the Wolves (Fatal Fury: MOTW)

motwPossibly the best SNK fighters ever, Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves takes place well after the events of the previous games in the series. This gave SNK the opportunity to explore their creativity in bringing fresh characters and a new style in terms of both fighting and aesthetics. The new additions to the gameplay engine in MOTW include the T.O.P. (Tactical Offensive Position) system for offense and the “Just Defended”, system (again similar to Third Strike’s parry system) on defense.  For some reason, SNK Playmore didn’t bring this gem outside of Japan, but if you don’t have a Dreamcast or a Neo-Geo, you might want to consider importing a copy for the PS2.

From NTSC-uk’s Review: “So, what about the PS2 port then? Well, it’s as good as you could hope for and close to perfect. Equip yourself with a NEOGEO Stick 2 (the game is available as a Limited Edition that includes one of these fine reproductions) and this basically is the NEOGEO version. Loading times are almost non-existent. We’re talking around 2 seconds max to initially load up the 1st round, and that’s it. Graphically, it’s pretty-much identical to the original: the character sprites are the same size and lose none of the animation that the original was famed for. Plus, the lush backgrounds that impressed so much on the NEOGEO are still insanely good-looking some 6 years on. SNK Playmore have also included a number of graphical display options for the PS2 version, the most notable being the ability to soften the image sharpness to help eliminate “jaggies” that can often be an issue with these kinds of ports.”
Video: Gameplay
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Hokuto No Ken (Fist of the North Star)

Hokuto-No-Ken Arc System Works (the development team behind the Guilty Gear series) created this stunning anime-based fighter for the Atomiswave arcade platform and it was also released on the PS2 in Japan.  If you enjoy the Guilty Gear games, you should get a real kick out of it, but only fans of 2D fighters would find it worth importing.

From Diehard GameFAN’s Review: “Hokuto No Ken/Fist of the North Star is an okay game that will please fans of the franchise without doing anything to interest those who don’t know or care about one way or the other. It’s a fan product, and in that respect, it does its job exceptionally; the presentation is spot-on, the characters are recognizable and work as one would expect them to, and the general experience of the game is fun for those who actually know and like the license. However, a dearth of content and variety, balance issues, stiff gameplay mechanics and a general lack of anything to do with the product beyond the first two hours of play unless you’re a committed player hurt the game significantly. Though Fist of the North Star is generally import friendly, only fans of the license or the most dedicated fighting game fans will find any worth to owning it; everyone else can safely pass it by.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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DreamMix TV: World Fighters

dreammixtv Ok, so if you’re noticing a trend, most of the best undiscovered fighting games on the PS2 were only released in Japan.  However, instead of an old-school 2D fighter, DreamMix TV can be likened to the Super Smash Bros. series.  Of course, being on the PS2, the game doesn’t feature Nintendo’s characters.  Instead, it features a boatload of characters from Konami, Hudson, and Takara — so you can battle it out with the likes of Simon Belmont, Solid Snake, Bomberman, and Optimus Prime.  (oh yeah!)

From Nintendo World Report’s Review (for Gamecube version): “Outside of having four-player matchups and using simple move commands, DMTV is somewhat different from SSBM in the gameplay department. First of all, there are no ring-outs whatsoever; characters must be attacked until they lose their large heart to another player. The number of special moves from character to character will vary; for example, Snake only has one, but it’s easily a very dominating move that can be performed, even during a jump, while hanging, or while carrying another character. That’s right, each character can pick up, carry, and throw other characters, perhaps into a corner or where they might end up tangling with another character. Hey, why do the dirty work yourself? Tricky players can even grab characters in the middle of a jump – it’s a good way to catch people by surprise. Items are also used in the same way – just picked up and thrown. There are very few items in the game, but a few are worth noting; TwinBee can generate his own items (bells that have different effects), as can Bomberman (bombs). In Licca’s stage, cute things like teddy bears and pink buckets (?) are regenerated constantly and are good for a quick throw.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Music

Gitaroo Man

gitaroo-manIf you love quirky Japanese musical adventures, this game is your ticket to funland.  In addition to the colorful presentation, Gitaroo Man is actually a bit different than your standard “simon-says” rhythm games as it not only uses the face buttons, but the analogue stick as well. Because of this, it requires a lot of hand-eye coordination with both hands at the same time and a lot of practice. (It’s not as much of a button-masher as Parappa the Rappa 2).

From Gamespot’s Review: “The gameplay in Gitaroo-Man alternates between two different mechanics. At certain points, using the left analog stick–which controls a cone in the center of the screen–you’ll follow a line around the screen while pressing and holding the circle button at certain moments to pull off riffs. At others, button commands will move toward a cursor at the center of the screen, at which point you’ll have to press the designated face button on your controller. The whole experience is incredibly fun and challenging, as the action gets pretty fast and furious early on in the game… Gitaroo-Man is arguably the most original and inventive rhythm game since the advent of Dance Dance Revolution or the original Parappa the Rapper, and it’s easily one of the best rhythm games for the PlayStation 2. This is a must-own title for rhythm-game junkies, but the whole package is so compelling that it will also appeal to anyone who isn’t a fan of the genre.”
Video: Gameplay
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Space Channel 5: Special Edition

spacechannel5Those of us that own the wonderful Sega Dreamcast are well aware of this duo of wonderful titles (it includes both the original SC5 and SC5 part 2). Both the graphics and the music had a phenomenal retro-futurist (reminds me of a hip Jetson’s atmosphere) feel to them and kept Space Channel 5 from becoming just “another” simon-says-type game. Space Channel 5 has a handful of simple game elements that make it unique and the game does a good job of starting out easy and gradually getting more difficult. While SC5 isn’t especially deep or long, the music will keep you coming back From start to finish, Space Channel 5 rocks the house. Even when the moves become so complicated you get angry and want to hurl your controller across the room, the quality of the music helps bring you back.
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

Puzzle

Bombastic

bombastic Bombastic is the PS2 sequel to PS1 gem, Devil Dice. Decent to great solitaire puzzle play, but it really shines for frantic multi-player goodness. The game introduces a new concept to the whole Devil Dice idea: when you match dice, they explode — which creates some chain reactions, and generally causes more regular pain and frustration to your little devil dude. What is particularly nice about this incarnation, is that you can quite easily unlock “classic” play — turn off the exploding dice, and play by the old skool rules.

From IGN’s Review: “The concept behind Bombastic, exactly like the idea behind Devil Dice, is genius. Here, players take on the role of a nimble footed pixy, the Japanese equivalent of a Hoo (of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas fame), that scurries across the face of die in the attempt of connecting same numbers to eliminate them from the 49-square board. The object is to quickly recognize the numbers, roll the dice into place, igniting them, and then to try and create chain reactions, linking them to other sets of dice before they blow up. Players earn chain reaction points, they build up levels, and all the while they rid the grid of dice, more emerge from the ground to take their place. The gameplay is tense, electrifying and requires a certain amount of quick decision-making skills, much like Tetris, but in 3D and using die in an entirely different gameplay experience.”
Video: Gameplay
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Aqua Aqua

aquaaquaIf you own a Dreamcast or N64, you may be familiar with the game Wetrix.  Well, Aqua Aqua is actually the sequel to that like puzzler.  Anyway, AquaAqua puts you in control of an earth-like terrain on a mission to help the Aquas find balance between dry land and water. By creating mountains from land-based pieces called “uppers,” you can trap rain and water-based pieces to create lakes.  If the mountains grow too high, a devastating earthquake may occur. If the water flows too freely across the land, you will ultimately flood your terrain and fail. You must balance these forces while dealing with other (sometimes helpful) obstacles such as bombs, fireballs, and ice cubes.  Interesting, eh?

From IGN’s Review: “Having never played Wetrix before playing Aqua Aqua for the first time, I didn’t really know what to expect and must admit that I just didn’t see what all the hoopla had been about. But after giving the game some time and getting deeper into it, I quickly found that Aqua Aqua is a very entertaining and addictive puzzler. If you’re looking for a puzzle game on PlayStation 2, your first choice should be Aqua Aqua.”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

  • FantaVision
  • Mercury Meltdown Remix
  • Mojo
  • Adventures of Cookie & Cream

Racing

OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast

outrun2Sega has so many awesome franchises under their belt, but in recent years they have struggled to do them justice.  However, their recent resurrection of the Outrun franchise was right one the mark when it came to maintaining the exhilarating arcade feel in a modern gaming world.  If you liked the original Outrun back in the day, you’ll love this new installment.  And if you just want a more arcade-like racer to add to your library, this is a great place to start.

From Eurogamer’s Review: “The structure hardly matters: you drive a Ferrari and try to avoid losing speed, doing incredibly cool power-slides when you really can’t make it through a turn with the pedal floored. In fact, half the time you do it anyway because it’s just fun. Snaking a sideways car through lorries and hatchbacks is what arcade racing should be. And as you get better, you pick up tricks like the s-bend shimmy and work out how best to employ your slide. There’s also a Heart Attack mode, where you’re ranked stage by stage on your ability to do silly things over short distances – drift as much as possible, break the tape connecting traffic cars, maintain a particular line.  That’s the entire game. It’s absolutely brilliant.”
Video: Gameplay
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Road Trip (Choro Q HG 2)

roadtripI don’t know if you are familiar with the Choro Q games that are have popped up in Japan on a number of platforms.  Well anyway, they are cool little racers that have a bit of a cartoon styling to them and have some RPG elements thrown into the mix.  Road Trip is localized name for the most popular of the series on the PS2 (Gadget Racers, mentioned below, would be another one)

From GameSpy’s Review: “Complete the various quests and you earn money (you’re allowed to name the game’s currency; I chose my favorite British slang word, “dosh”) with which to buy upgrades for your car. Road Trip has a stellar amount of customization, allowing you to purchase hundreds of parts, wheels, paint jobs, body styles, spoilers, and wings. My favorite goodie was the advertising billboard item, which earned me a whopping 10 dosh for every mile I drove while promoting the virtues of Peach Town’s coffee shop. Along with its RPG elements, Road Trip also has plenty of straightforward racing on a variety of unorthodox tracks, such as the interior of a ninja temple (although I’m told that a surprising number of silent assassins are NASCAR fans).”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

  • Rumble Racing
  • WRC: World Rally Championship
  • Grand Prix Challenge
  • Star Wars Racer Revenge
  • MotoGP 3
  • V-Rally 3
  • Tokyo Xtreme Racer Drift 2
  • Pro Race Driver
  • Gadget Racers (Choro Q HG)
  • Enthusia: Professional Racing

RPG

Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria

Valkyrie-Profile-2-SilmeriaThe original Valkyrie Profile on the PS1 was known for its for its artistic style and side-scrolling environments — the same can be expected from this prequel (yes, prequel, so if you haven’t played the original, it’s no problem).  More than a plane-jane RPG, this game has a heavy puzzle aspect that breaths new life into every battle. Every dungeon has its own quirks and every battle is different, so you shouldn’t lose interest easily.

From GamingAge’s Review: “In summary, with only minor complaints dragging it down, it’s safe to say Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is a quality sequel. The world it presents is gorgeous, with some one of the most technically and aesthetically pleasing visuals we’ve seen thus far. Meanwhile, the revised and expanded battle system injects additional strategy while eliminating the issues that bogged down the previous game. But perhaps best of all, it’s an experience that can be enjoyed by both those that played Valkyrie Profile and those that have never heard of it. Easily among the best role-playing titles on the PlayStation 2, Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria is one that no RPG fan should miss.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES

persona3The Persona series made its PS2 debut with Persona 3 and, as usual, its set in a high school where a bunch of teenagers fight enemies after hours by tapping into the demon personas lurking within. Persona 3 features a day-night cycle that has players focusing on building their social and academic lives during the day, while exploring an alternate dimension at night. Persona 3 FES contains an enhanced version of the original game, loaded with new Personas and cutscenes, a weapon synthesis system, additional quests and events, among other interesting features.

From Destructoid’s Review: “More than half a year ago, Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 was released, and its intriguing story and characters, high production values, and gun-to-head action had gamers dusting off their PlayStation 2s. We played it and loved it. Not too long after, it seemed like everyone was scrambling to find their own copy of the game, and the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series and Atlus enjoyed the spotlight.  It wasn’t long before word got out that Japanese gamers were enjoying a sort of “director’s cut” called Persona 3: FES, which contained a new 30-hour chapter called Episode Aegis. American fans looked to Atlus with puppy dog eyes, and in late February, after a bit of teasing, Persona 3: FES was announced for the US. They decided to include the original game and the side story on one disc, and released it as a “thank you” to fans for the price of $29.99.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

  • Shadow Hearts: Covenant
  • Jade Cocoon 2
  • Radiata Stories
  • Devil Summoner
  • Okage Shadow King
  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
  • Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits
  • Atelier Iris
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
  • Tales of Legendia
  • Ar Tonelico
  • Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land
  • King’s Field: The Ancient City
  • Nightmare of Druaga

Action RPG

Tales of the Abyss

talesofabyssIn recent years, Namco’s Tales series of RPGs has not been getting the attention it deserves.  This eighth installment is yet another quality adventure with a well-developed world and storyline. And of course, the battles are actually quite fun thanks to the real-time beat ‘em style battle. You even have a 2 player option during battles and a friend can play one of your sub-characters. The dialog can be really hilarious and there are tons of side quests, that are actually worth doing.

From IGN’s Review: “Tales of the Abyss is one of those games that should please die-hard Tales fans and win over a number of newcomers to the series. Lots of memorable heroes and villains, tons of missions and side-quests, and lots of goals that you won’t exactly discover or finish on the first play through helps add to the game. However, some linear plot directions, long load times and a quirky battle system that sometimes degenerates into button mashing bogs down what is otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable RPG.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color

magic-pengalI love games that pair unlikely game genres together for something new and interesting.  Magic Pengel takes the monster-collecting RPG genre, made famous by the Pokemon series and adds some interactive art that may remind some of Mario Paint.  And, of course, it uses a cel-shading technique to make the graphics as cartoony and fun as possible.  Obviously, this isn’t your typical action RPG, but isn’t that the point?  (BTW, the sequel, Graffiti Kingdom is also listed below)

From IGN’s Review: “Until we actually started playing it, the structure of Magic Pengel was almost impossible to fathom. At its heart, the game is a mix of role-playing and adventure with a good bit of Pokemon-type fighting sequences thrown in as the battle system. Of course, the most important tool in the entire experience has to be the Paint Shop inspired illustrator that’s used to draw your assistants. Beginning with only four colors, one brush type, and two body variables, your early creations aren’t going to be much. As your skills and experience improve, however, the things you can do with the paint program become enormously elaborate. And while your only limitation is the confines of a multi-speed cursor and a total of 64 body parts, skilled artists will be able to create some seriously beautiful images.As an added bit of strategy, the types of colors in use, thickness of your brushes, and placement of certain body parts affect the power and attributes of your drawings. Use a lot of red, for instance, and your character’s hit points increase. Add a touch of blue, and your luck goes up a few notches. There’s a full rainbow of colors to experiment with, and the number of limbs, pieces, and other such factors all make a difference in your creation, with a potentially unlimited amount of possibilities. Artists are going to love it.”
Video: Intro | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

  • Graffiti Kingdom
  • Champions: Return to Arms
  • Steambot Chronicles
  • Summoner 2
  • Bard’s Tale
  • Summoner
  • Drakengard
  • Ys: The Ark of Napishtim
  • Samurai Legend Musashi

Strategy

Growlanser Generations

growlancerAs the last release from Working Designs, this package contains both Growlancer II and III.  The games feature an isometric perspective, squad-based battles between diverse parties, a complicated system of cause and effect as fights play out, and customizable character development.  Growlanser also boasts enormous campaign worlds and open-ended stories that distinguish it from many more familiar strategy role-playing games.  The games have a bit more of a 32-bit feel to them, so depending if that’s your kind of thing, its something to keep in mind.

From GamingAge’s Review: ” Battles are tough without making you want to pull your hair out. It’s a blessing when your strategy game rewards good strategy and not just out-leveling the competition. The need for good tactics is compounded by certain stages, which change dynamically and often for the worse. There are also many fights where the goal is not to “defeat all enemies,” which is a welcome challenge. Fights can have multiple outcomes, and the level to which you complete a stage has a direct impact to the rest of the game. It dictates who you meet, how the story unfolds, and ultimately which ending you receive. Growlanser II and III share a lot of similarities, but there are some differences. The world map for GII is just like Final Fantasy Tactics, where you move from town to town through a series of checkpoints. Shops and conversations all happen by way of menu choices at said checkpoints. In GIII, you actually enter the towns and walk around talking to NPCs and entering shops. There is a subtle difference in area-of-effect type magic between the two, and GIII also allows the use of items in battle, where they are unavailable in GII. ”
Video: Opening | Gameplay
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La Pucelle Tactics

La-Pucelle-TacticsDeveloped by Nippon Ichi, creators of Disgaea, this is the next logical step if you’re a fan of that series and want more.  La Pucelle Tactics is surprisingly deep and has plenty of hours worth of adventure and battles.  The tactics in the game are fun and advanced, however most players can easily enjoy the system. While it isn’t flowing with eye-candy, the classic graphics don’t hold the game back. The only time you may complain is when you do not get the good ending. However, as opposed to only having end-of-game endings in Disgaea, La Pucelle has different endings for each chapter.

From IGN’s Review: “We can definitely see fans of more character-driven RPGs enjoying La Pucelle more than they did Disgaea. With its better storyline, heavier emphasis on characterization, and stronger verbal and musical approach, it can be a lot more endearing than its more technical younger counterpart. But for diehard strategy fans that want to spend an entire season finding new ways to eliminate Tempetes and Dagons, La Pucelle’s smaller feature set and easier difficulty may prove a little less tempting; especially if they find out that some of the game’s content has been censored from the Japanese release. Small issues aside, La Pucelle: Tactics is still very much a powerful gaming experience and serves as a terrific companion piece to Hour of Darkness.”
Video: Gameplay
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Stella Deus

Stella-DeusThis Atlus Japanese SRPG is admittedly shallow compared to its Nippon Ichi brothers…but that’s its greatest strength. Sometimes you don’t want to play a SRPG where your characters level up to 9999 (I love Disgaea as much as anyone…but c’mon, who has the time?). Bonus: the soundtrack was composed by the same guy who did Final Fantasy Tactics and FFXII.

From NTSC-uk’s Review: “Though this is far from being a definitive SRPG for the PlayStation 2, it still provides an outstanding example of what can be achieved in the genre. In its favour, the battle system is easy to pick up and many happy hours can be lost in strategy; it has an addictive quality that makes you want to keep on playing, levelling up, customizing and battling the hours away. Fans of this type of game will not be disappointed and it should be considered as a good point of entry to first timers too.”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

  • Phantom Brave
  • Eternal Poison
  • Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome

Strategy

Ring of Red

ringofredSet in an alternate post-WWII 1960’s where the US didn’t drop the bomb and the Japanese didn’t surrender, Ring of Red is a hybrid of turn-based strategy (when moving units) and real-time combat.  In this alternate timeline, Japan uses AFWs (Armored Fighting Walkers) to do battle.  However, these aren’t the sleek mechs you would find in most games, but are crude, gasoline-powered machines that you might imagine in the 60’s.  The what-if scenarios that the game presents are quite intriguing and the gameplay can be equally engrossing.

From IGN’s Review: “Ring of Red is a very satisfying strategy experience. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who enjoyed the Front Mission series or Carnage Heart, and other wargaming fans should get a kick out of it as well, both its combat system and the involved world-building that surrounds it. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see more technically sound work come out of KCE Studios (formerly just the creators of the Muscle Ranking games), and Konami of America will do their best to develop a more uniformly high standard of quality in localization. Pull those pieces together, and you’ll have a recipe for another excellent game.”
Video: Gameplay
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GrimGrimoire

Grim-GrimoireThe 2D masters at Vanillaware followed up their underground action RPG hit, Odin Sphere with this real-time strategy title that is equally as beautiful.  The gameplay and perspective are significantly different from what veterans might be used to — the levels are all vertical, and the main focus is on the combat rather than resource management and building.  Grim Grimoire is not a deep RTS, but it is a fun one. With multiple difficulty levels, it can be easy enough to attract newcomers to the genre and cater to hardcore RTS players at the same time.

From GameSpot’s Review: “While GrimGrimoire does an outstanding job of transporting PC-centric strategy mechanics to the PlayStation 2, it’s the differences that make it legitimately great. For starters, you don’t view your map from overhead. Instead, each mission is a castle cross-section that at first glance makes it look like a side-scrolling platformer. Every map is an amalgam of hallways and stairwells that most units must traverse to get from one point to another. While each one looks much the same as the last, the placement of various features like mana crystals and barriers make each map functionally different. Thus you need to take into account the path your units must take to their destinations, which may involve climbing stairways and crossing enemy territory. Top-level units like chimeras cross the map without such concerns, but come with their own sets of needs and strategies.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

  • Dynasty Tactics
  • Goblin Commander: Unleash the Horde
  • Naval Ops: Commander
  • Aliens vs Predator: Extinction
  • Trapt / Kagero 2: Dark Illusion

Simulation

Sky Odyssey

skyoddyseyThink of this as the closest thing PS2 owners have to a modern version of Nintendo’s Pilotwings. Much like that wonderful series, Sky Odyssey makes the flight simulation genre more accessible to beginners but has enough depth to give even experienced players enough to keep them busy.  Players are given 40 missions that range from landing planes on aircraft carriers to navigating caverns and waterfalls, rescuing an out-of-control hot air balloon, and refueling on a runaway train.

From Armchair Empire’s Review: “This game was a pleasant surprise, if for no other reason than it has a very unusual mix of arcadiness and flight sim stylings. The controls are tight and the planes handle as you would suspect they should in real life, but the mission objectives are so over-the-top sometimes that things can be nuts (but in a good way). With some nice visuals and a soundtrack that is oddly swashbuckling in a satisfying sort of way, it all adds up to a title that PS2 owners should look into.”
Video: Gameplay
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Warship Gunner 2

Warship-Gunner-2Initially, this game sounded quite boring, but after hearing it described as “Naval Ops: Warship Gunner with an actual storyline” (making it Ace Combat with ships, essentially), Warship Gunner 2 was worth looking into. Sadly, you don’t get the multi-ship control that was in Naval Ops: Commander, but what you do get is an extremely long (30 hours on my first playthrough), highly addictive (1500 unlockable ship parts), extremely customizable (did you miss the line about 1500 ship parts?), replayable (3 different paths through the game and a newgame+ option) alternate World War 2 naval action game. The worst part of the game is the 1 hour tutorial, but if you can make it through that then you’ll be set for one hell of an engaging game.  Well, except for that first submarine mission, anyway. When you first play it, your ship will be too damn slow and you’ll just be puttering in towards the bay. Ratchet the difficulty level down to easy for that stage, blow through it, and then come back when you have some better hardware.

From SubSim’s Review: ” It’s an odd mixture of Manga-style admirals, deliberately-thought out ship design elements, sci-fi weapons, and rapid-fire, shoot-shoot carnage. It’s not in the same league as Silent Hunter III, more like Steel Tide. If you can stomach the arcade style physics, and you find the ship-building entertaining, you may find Warship Gunner 2 a pleasurable way to pass a few afternoons.   What the game lacks in realism, it supplies endless shoot ‘em up action.  If nothing else, this could be an intro into naval games for sub-teens.”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

  • Dog’s Life
  • DogStation

Sports

MLB Power Pros

mlbpowerprosI love baseball, but its one of those sports that is hard to translate effectively into video games.  One series that provides a wonderful alternative to the EAs of the gaming world is the Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū series from Konami that, until recently has been only released in Japan.  Konami has now published its first game from the series outside of Japan under the name MLB Power Pros.  Much like its successors, Power Pros features big-headed, characters and addictive arcade-like gameplay.  It’s definitely much more approachable than most baseball games and loads of fun.

From GamingAge’s Review: “Getting past the presentation of MLB Power Pros is not easy. We’ve become accustomed to fairly realistic sports games. But we’ve also become numb to how poorly sports games represent the real thing. Power Pros is definitive proof that baseball can be recreated on a console. The game is fun, consistent, accurate and is, in every way, baseball. Over the course of nine innings and several seasons, it’s clear that Konami knows baseball better than any other developer.”
Video: Trailer | Gameplay
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Fire Pro Wrestling Returns

fireproThis series has been around for quite a while, but it isn’t too often that it’s published outside of Japan.  I think NTSC-uk said it best a while back that “Fire Pro is to those US based games what Street Fighter is to Tekken: less glitz and glam and far more substance.”  Even though the games are 2D and very much old school, you really don’t know what you’re missing until you try them.

From 1UP’s Review: “Let me just get this out the way: Fire Pro Wrestling Returns is the best wrestling game ever. That’s not an exaggerated statement — you will not find a better mat simulator on the market. You can definitely find one that’s prettier, so if you are the kind of gamer who goes gaga over graphics, you may not agree. But while Fire Pro’s 2D visuals may lack the fancy three dimensions of the SmackDown series, it pins THQ’s grappler to the mat when it comes to gameplay, moves, and customization.”
Video: Gameplay
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Additional Games To Try

  • Victorious Boxers 1 & 2
  • Swing Away Golf
  • Galactic Wrestling
  • Sega Soccer Slam

Other

Mister Mosquito

Mister-MosquitoOften mentioned on lists of the weirdest games of all time, Mister Mosquito is all about using your stealth and strategy to suck blood from a family of humans.  Yes, you must observe the daily routines of this familiy and penatrate a targeted ares of a family members’ body (which is typically only availible at specific times).  The result is a game that is strangely compelling and credit must be given to the developers for creating something so original.

From Armchair Empire’s Review: ” It is such a straightforward, and very fun little game.  The premise is novel, there is plenty of challenge without it feeling arbitrary, and it’s easy on the eye too, all with smooth as silk controls.  If you’re looking for an interesting and fun diversion from the status quo, Mister Mosquito is a game to seriously consider.”
Video: Gameplay
Shop: Amazon | eBay

Additional Games To Try

  • Pinball Hall of Fame
  • Flipnic

178 Comments

  1. Whatupdoc? says:

    awesome list! I’ve been waiting for this for awhile… I kinda miss the ebay links… Oh well! Thnx!

  2. racketboy says:

    I’ll add them in a bit — just wanted to get it published first :)

  3. Ack says:

    Oh man, so many great games that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on! There are even some surprises that I hadn’t heard of. Gregory Horror Show? A Mark of the Wolves port? Sign me up!

  4. Droid party says:

    Racket, you weren’t kidding the other day when you said you had it covered. Great list mate.Loads of goodies for me to track down.

  5. Andrew Kuehler says:

    Thank you for mentioning Mr. Mosquito, you made my day!

    And yes, Mark of Kri never got the success it deserved.

  6. racketboy says:

    Thanks, Droid party
    Yup — pretty just about any other game somebody may mention is either too well-known or not that good :) Of course, we may have overlooked one or two, but chances are, we got all the good stuff!

  7. Whatupdoc? says:

    Thanks for the links now this list is ultimate

  8. From out of Nowhere says:

    Great read, thanks.

    Btw, there are actually two Pinball Hall of Fame games: The Gottlieb collection, and the most recent one, The Williams Collection. Both are worth their budget price.

    A few more racers worth checking out:

    -Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 (just as good as the Dreamcast racers, and it has licensed vehicles)
    -4×4 Evolution (it’s the Gran Turismo of truck racing, with huge open courses – its sequel – 4×4 Evo 2 – is also worth a look, but it’s only available on the Gamecube and Xbox)
    -Test Drive Off-Road: Wide Open (Developed by Angel Studios, so there are quite a few things that may remind you of Smuggler’s Run)
    -Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild
    -NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona
    -Shox

  9. From out of Nowhere says:

    I meant to put Downhill Domination in that list as well – you race bikes in open ended downhill courses, and multiplayer allows up to four players.

  10. king says:

    given ps2 library and its ps1 backward compatibility
    playstation 2 seems the only console you want ever to buy as
    games for that console alone could keep you busy like for a life time

  11. Racketboy, you rock! It’s amazing knowing you for all those years on SX then seeing you all over dig, haha. I love your articles and the suggestions you give. Most, if not all, are spot-on!

    Hope all is well with you man, and I still have that NiGHTS wallpaper you did for the SX wallpaper contest sooo many years ago. Happen to have that in a high-res 1920×1200 resolution now? E-mail if so! IIRC, you made it w/ vectors and not pixels. Regardless, let me know and keep up the good work!

  12. dan says:

    Awesome list!
    Thanks racketboy!

  13. Aaoral says:

    Dude, Red Faction totally deserves a spot on there. It’s geomod technology predated any other game with tech even remotely similar to that.

  14. Epic article! So many games I didn’t know about! And I thought I knew most of the PS2 games worth playing. I’m gonna buy a lot of those for Christmas :D

  15. Miniclip says:

    Rocketboy u rule ! Can’t wait to get my hands on some of these games :) … I’m printing your list now and mailing it to Santa Claus – I hope my wife reads it before him :D.

  16. Binny says:

    What a great article.

    I Long to break out my PS2 and hunt some of these down. Thanks

  17. d says:

    I want to nominate Battle Gear 3 for racing gem.

  18. Daniel says:

    Your lists are just brilliant, keep up the good work!

  19. Rich says:

    Shadow of Colossus deserves a mention too.

  20. 2002120141 says:

    I’m actually surprised Mr. Mosquito got a spot in this Hidden Gems article. I would’ve been so disappointed had it not, though. Great Article as always.

  21. noiseredux says:

    thank you for this!

  22. greenenergy says:

    Man, that’s soooo AWESOME! What an article! It makes me want some of those games soooo badly! I looove this site! I’m going to tell all my friends about it! RIGHT NOW!!!

  23. mtxblau says:

    Adding the Red Star to this list adds +10 credibility to this article. Fantastic game. And I also highly recommend Gungrave and Gungrave OD.

    Good work, Racket!

  24. Andy says:

    These lists are awesome, but almost depressing, as there are far too many games I have missed!

  25. geozeldadude says:

    wow. a marathon post. great job.

  26. James says:

    Racketboy, I always both love and hate your articles, I love them because you are so on top of shit, you know about all those gems that went under the radar, but I also hate them because you are making me spend all my money on great games!! But great games they are so money spending is excusable.

    Kudos on The Red Star and Urban Chaos btw :D

  27. racketboy says:

    haha — I feel your pain. I have the same problem when I’m putting these together :)

    And thanks to everyone for the feedback — I appreciate it.
    Nice to see some SegaXtreme veterans saying hi as well! :)

  28. AvengeR says:

    i registered on the forums because of this article. Just epic

  29. JEFO says:

    PS2 still kicking it, hard to believe its been 8 years since I got my blue box.

  30. KenshinHomaru says:

    Great list. I need to play a lot of these…

    The only thing I can think of that’s missing is Melty Blood: Act Cadenza.

  31. hydr0x says:

    Great list! It’s missing Global Defense Force though :( And Shox, although that might be considered mainstream.

  32. Leaphion says:

    Great list! Very much appreciated.

    So, where’s the Gameboy Hidden Gems-list?

  33. Cascad says:

    Good list, but… where is Katamari Damacy/We Love Katamari? o___O

  34. racketboy says:

    For Katamari, read the header of the guide.
    As for the Gameboy one, stay tuned, its about 30% done. It will take more work as for that one I’m actually playing and reviewing them all myself.

  35. Sam says:

    The reason contra ss got a bad reputation when it came out was because it was difficult. Reviewers love writing stuff that makes it seem like they know about and like traditional games like contra:ss but when they have to play them and notice they suck, they start making all kinds of excuses :)

  36. Gameroid says:

    Great list!I would like to recommend adding…
    Way of the Samurai series
    Blood will Tell
    Ghost in the Shell
    Beatdown and Final fight streetwise(c’mon it’s not that bad,lol.Kinda plays like a fake gangsta Yakuza)
    Yakuza series
    King Kong(survival FPS and monster brawling!)

  37. Calvin says:

    As I was reading this I kept thinking “Tales of the Abyss was one of my favorite games on the ps2, and no one played it!”
    That being said I’m glad to see the game got some recognition finally =D
    I was sad when it was over, spectacular game.

  38. hydr0x says:

    mh, Gameboy gems. Does that include GB + GBC + GBA or just the original one. Well, just two small hints: don’t forget Trip World and Ikari no Yosai 2 :)

  39. racketboy says:

    Well, I already did a GBA one — but the new one will be both GB and GBC

  40. denpanosekai says:

    As much as it rules, I’m not sure Persona 3 should be in that list! I mean who hasn’t heard of it?

    Hey at least you threw in my Nightmare of Druaga suggestion. Now THAT’S a diamond in the rough! A frickin’ gold mine!!! Probably the most hardcore of all hardcore PS2 games.

  41. denpanosekai says:

    Oh yeah, Blood Will Tell definitely belongs, sorry for not mentionning that in the forums. Great article, by the way.

  42. hydr0x says:

    ah, indeed, i forgot :) It’s probably wise to combine GB/GBC as >100 of the GBC games were compatible with the GB and you could play them in B/W

  43. ntopics says:

    These are a great list of PS2 games to
    add to my collection.

    thanks from tony

  44. KaL says:

    A few quick things, firstly great list and I’m going to check out quite a few of these,

    I would remove Killer 7 from the PS2 list…the PS2 port is atrocious and is riddled with long load times and constant frame rate dips. It’s barely tolerable. A friend of my played the game on PS2 and wondered why I liked Killer 7 at all…he then tried the GC version and loved it.

    Also…maybe add Michigan to the list…more because it’s so bizarre granted it’s not really the best.

  45. bonegolem says:

    Awesome! I did not expect to see so many games I’m unfamiliar with! I’m really sorry I’ve been too lazy to send you my suggestion for Global Defense Force. It’s made by the same guys who made R.A.D., has the same budget status and the same aura of awesome (only it gets inspiration from Godzilla-esque flicks rather than robot cartoons) and it has more conventional, but excellently made, gameplay. You have about 200 weapons to use against waves of insects the size of buses and b-movie aliens, what else?

  46. Forest says:

    racketboy,

    since discovering your website my gaming experiences and collection have both increased ten fold. i also have been anxiously awaiting this ps2 list – thank you. having been a strict console gamer for about 20 years i have just recently begun to explore the realm of pc games. any chance a guide for the pc may spring up in the future?

    props for including gregory horror show. i had always wished american gaming mags would cover it but alas this has never, and will never happen.

    best regards

  47. Ben says:

    Psi ops is easily one of the best games I have ever played. As are others on this list like psyconauts.

  48. 73113 says:

    Great list! Some nice suggestions for me. It’s a shame that some titles are very hard to find by now.

  49. frank grimes says:

    AMPLITUDE!

  50. Art says:

    Played them all! :-)

  51. pug says:

    great list. what about Gradius, or is that too popular?

  52. ryan says:

    Kinetica is also a very addictive game.. especially with two people

  53. Sergio says:

    lol, the mosquito one seems amazing. Definitely something new in gaming.

    Great list, must have taken forever.

    Good work. Stumbling it to my favs.

  54. racketboy says:

    I left Gradius and R-Type off the shooters list as they are the two best-known ones.
    Amplitude was also left off as it actually sold well — well enough to get a Greatest Hits release.

    And Forest, we are considering a PC installment. The challenge will be that the library is so huge and covers such a long timeline — we’ll see what we can do :)

  55. hydr0x says:

    well, you should definitely split it up into DOS and Windows, and maybe split apart the 3d accelerated ones too and the pre-ega ones

  56. Llyander says:

    What about Shadow of the Colossus and Rez? They definitely deserve to be up there.

  57. racketboy says:

    read the intro, you’ll see why ;)

  58. rsn1762 says:

    @Racketboy: Great list! Most interesting read! What an accomplishment! Thanks for your hard work.

  59. snickerd00dle says:

    was gregory horror show released in the us?

  60. Jamesbuc says:

    Great list also :)
    Disagree that Killer 7 is any good though. It was bad back when it was called Resident Evil Survivor :P

  61. Ted Brown says:

    Wow. I’ve never been impressed by an “undiscovered games” list before. You know about stuff I’d never heard even of, and for sharing that, I am grateful! Thanks!

  62. blue_veilvet says:

    Great list! Yesterday I went to gamestop and got Wizardry and Fahrenheit for 26 bucks.

  63. fingersmaloy says:

    Man, racket must have the patience of a monk to just wink and smile off all these comments like “Hey, what about (insert title that he DID mention/title that he already explained he wouldn’t mention because it didn’t belong)?!?!”

    Also, great list. Some of my faves’re on here!

  64. hurri says:

    psychonauts is a gem, just the name causes addiction.
    i will go for it, the other titles outstanding! PS2 has a great library.

  65. pug says:

    “I left Gradius and R-Type off the shooters list as they are the two best-known ones.
    Amplitude was also left off as it actually sold well — well enough to get a Greatest Hits release.

    And Forest, we are considering a PC installment. The challenge will be that the library is so huge and covers such a long timeline — we’ll see what we can do” – RACKETBOY

    Sure. Do you think you could add a few “Obvious Choices” for the well-known stuff in each category? Some of us lamers arn’t even sure what the BEST well known choices are to purchase! ;)))

    Would be helpful for picking out the true games among the most well-known (as opposed to the cannon-fodder most of us get duped into purchasing because they’re rammed down our throats by the media).

  66. MaliceValentine says:

    Wow i didnt expect Gregory horror show to make the list i might find some more people interested in it now great job!

  67. Harvey says:

    I picked up The Red Star after reading this article and man, what a cool game. After playing for about 45 minutes, I’m looking forward to working my way through it over the next couple of days.

  68. Lee says:

    I’ve purchased them all in a quick panic buying spree…and i wish I was kidding! :)

  69. bob says:

    BLACK for ps2 was one of the best single-player first person shooters ever made. Graphics, Audio, level design, everything was great except for the abrupt ending.

  70. stemon says:

    AMAZING LIST I love this website for me it is missing one title…

    rogue trooper such a good game, although i dunno how well it was recieved but if u looking for a great third person shooter with quirky ideas and a great cover system pick it up >)

  71. Sixx says:

    Racket Boy, you’re a legend.. Those hidden gems articles are always entertaining..

  72. William says:

    A great list and very thorough as well; how long did it take to complete it?

  73. RyaNtheSlayA says:

    Cold Winter should be above the honorable mentions in the FPS section. That game had a classic ‘Bond’ style plot and the online was killer (and theres still a game or two on once in a while). Seriously, you can pick it up for 5 bucks at GameStop. Go do it. NOW!

  74. Lee says:

    RocketBoy, this is a great list. like some have already say, since finding your site the quality of my general gaming collection has jumped so high. i just now have games i would never have known about thanks to you and the other gurus around this place.

    i love this idea of “hidden gems” it’s fantastic, but I also like when you talk of the true popular classics too. i think even ranking the POPULAR stuff if good, because mainstream ranking means nothing to me anymore! For too long I have based purchases of games on mainstream game charts and mainstream reviews and only be disappointed. games which are mainstream rated in the 90s% and at the top of all charts turn out to be complete rubbish with no real gameplay.

    so I think it’s also very valuable for you to work with all the real gamers around your site to come up withy also a “popular PS2″ game list of ones you think are truely classic games. please do such a list some time, it would be GREAT!!

    thank you very much and also to the members of this site whos opinions i value a lot.

  75. Chad says:

    A LOT OF THE GAMES WERE NOT HIDDEN GEMS ESPECIALY PERSONA 3

  76. abang says:

    wow this program is very interesting and

    continue to develop and never feel satisfied

  77. robin says:

    ood list, but… where is Katamari Damacy/We Love Katamari?

  78. genevieve says:

    I need help. I’m a mom and trying to find a PS2 game similar to BOX 360’s Halo 3 and Gears of War 2. I would appreciate suggestions.

  79. racketboy says:

    Hi there, Genevieve
    I would recommend Killzone, Timesplitters: Future Perfect, Half-Life and those in the Third Person Shooter section
    Best of luck!

  80. nick says:

    this article made me want to finally buy a ps2, since ive never owned a ps system ever…so i got one, and it doesnt read any disks….fuck! oh well, hopefully when i fix the damn thing i can play some of these games.

  81. Elwood says:

    Hello!

    This is a great list, but I think RAD is easily bested by Global Defence Force, which also qualifies as an undiscovered game.

    RAD has some great action, but the unskipable cutscenes are killing me – not for the voice dubbing, but the slow pace.

  82. rid says:

    great call on sky gunner. if only i still had that game. never fully completed it.

  83. genevieve says:

    Hi Racketboy,

    Thanks a million for the suggestions. I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to find somebody who could give me ideas. I really appreciate the help.

    Happy holidays!

  84. zOE says:

    U gota put beyond good and evil on this list!!!!!!!

  85. Shael says:

    List is somewhat awsome, but there was one title above the rest I was missing in the Strategy (RPG) section; Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. The second Disgaea game was also decent, but I prefer the first with the amazingly entertaining dialogue. Definatly worth checking out for any strategy (rpg) fan!

  86. Tzen says:

    Shadow of Rome deserved a blurb. :(

  87. racketboy says:

    I hope to expand the list of games with write-ups, but it’s quite long as-is.
    As for Disgaea, Shael, please read my into…

  88. neo says:

    any one knows from where i found old games in ps2

  89. Jimothy says:

    Good list. It’s funny how awesome games are still being developed for the PS2 for like the next 3-4 years so this list might change. I just got Persona 4 and it is incredibly great. You need to put up the Obvious Title’s like you did with all the other consoles though…

  90. Erik says:

    Wow i didnt expect Gregory horror show to make the list i might find some more people interested in it now great job!!!

  91. RyaNtheSlayA says:

    the only game that i didnt see on hear that would have been awesome is Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver 2

  92. saitokthx says:

    what the where is~ kingdom hearts

  93. racketboy says:

    Kingdom Hearts is quite well-known — not undiscovered

  94. lonelyguy says:

    im planning to by a ps2 again(my 3rd one) since i’d like to check on great titles i’ve missed. thanks for a good list of games

  95. Kevin says:

    Definitely tokyo xtreme racer (series). The game can have you playing for days on end because it is so addictive.

    and R.A.D. Is the most fun mech game I have ever played.

  96. Passerby says:

    I think you should include Transformers(not the movie based one) in the platform section. It’s a great, underrated game.

  97. Rodrigo says:

    The biggest PS2 hidden gen is Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. Nobody talk about this game, known only by PS2 early adopters an amazing game.

  98. rommy667 says:

    Amazing list man wow ps2 is awsome just cause it has so many games,also these are hard to find now but if u know where to look they are all their……..

  99. jordiway73 says:

    I really liked Jet X2O

  100. WillE.Everlearn says:

    thanks for this list of games, now only if i could find some of them at the local stores

  101. Magic Juan says:

    I have been following your website for a while, Mr Racketboy, and I must say that you never fail to impress me. This is, indeed, a great list and have purchased a few of the above mentioned games thanks to your suggestions. A few took me a while to track down (ZOE 2 and Klonoa 2), but they were more than worth the hours spent hopping from Gamespot to Gamespot. Aside from the SNES (which I always felt was the greatest game console ever), the PS2 is easily one of the best ever with it’s massive game library and ultra-fun games. Keep up the great work!

  102. racketboy says:

    Glad you enjoyed it and thanks so much for your support!

  103. anosou says:

    This has been my shopping bible for a while, lovely stuff.

    Some thoughts on how to improve this very article in the future (if your bored) so that it really DOES become a shopping bible:
    • Add youtube links and ebay links on most entries.
    • Add “obvious choices” for all the top-notch titles
    • Add descriptions on ALL the titles in “additional games to try” for great justice

    Because damnit when I link this to people (and I do all the time) I want the complete experience ;)

  104. sevencardz says:

    Nice! This is easily the best ps2 gamers list I have seen anywhere. Extremely well written and not overly detailed. I was pleasantly surprised that the opening paragraphs are actually worth reading and included some of the mainstream titles other posters were complaining about being excluded from your list. Kudos on the complete lack of a biased ranking system in favor of genres. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing about this list save for the possibility of adding more gems as you find them. Thank you racketboy.

  105. racketboy says:

    Thanks a bunch! I appreciate the kind words :)

  106. SlyEnemy says:

    Superb list (Great website on the whole tbh, have used it plenty of times when looking for something new to play).

    Though most likely unnecessary, I’d also like to add:

    Amplitude and Frequency, the precursors to Guitar Hero. Absolutely brilliant fun, I’ve been playing them for about 4 years solid.

    Flipnic – A bizarre organic pinball game that was released on budget. Only downside is the frustrating difficulty and annoying bugs that pop up every now and then. You’ll pretty much never play a pinball game like it though.

    R-Type Final and Gradius V are great shoot-em-ups (Though may not be hidden gems now I think about it).

    Other than that, you pretty much summed up most of my collection :D Keep up the good work man, this place is a God send when I need to find something new, and there’s a couple in this list which I’d really like to get my hands on. Top marks for Gregory Horror Show and GodHand too ;) Vastly under-rated and hugely entertaining, each for their own reasons.

  107. BIZ says:

    Glad to see Red Star got a spot on there. One of my fav multiplayer games for PS2.

  108. breakwind says:

    How about Sony’s own Extermination game?Sure it never spawned sequels like Resident Evil or Silent Hill,but as as earlier released PS2 game it was quite an entertaining survival horror game.

  109. Horned Chameleon says:

    You missed the ultra obscure, ultra deep “Culdcept”. It’s a mix of Monopoly and card game, except an order of magnitude deeper and skill-rewarding than all the card games I’ve tried. Fans of strategy games can’t do without trying it!

  110. Evukbittin says:

    Maximo:Army of Zin
    Haven: Call of the King
    I-Ninja

    Some of the best PS2 games I ever played, and no-one has heard of them

  111. racketboy says:

    Horned Chameleon, I’ll have to look for Culdcept — thanks!

  112. Maria gorethe says:

    Olá pesoal;

    Gostaria de saber se alguem sabe uma configuração melhor para esse emulador do ps1.

    Trata do ePSXe q dizem ser o melhor emulador do Playtation atualmente.

    Link pra baixar:
    http://rapidshare.com/files/230827986/ePSXe_PS1___Configura_oes.rar.html

    Baixei ontem do forum cheatsbrasil e gostei muito dele, mas nao consigo configurar o audio adequadamente.

    Aguardo respostas, brigada !!

  113. mellytan says:

    I love your awesome lists; I’m always happy to see hidden gem appreciation.

    The only things I had a minor problem with was your choice of Persona FES as a featured RPG–I was under the impression that it’s quite widely played and has a large fanbase. Sales were decent for its genre and niche, too. Would have liked to see, say, a Shadow Hearts game in its place as a feature.

    Also, please consider adding Yakuza 2–it’s a hidden gem if I ever played one!

    But like I said, these are just minor personal quibbles, keep up the good work. :)

  114. joshua rodman says:

    I liked the list a good deal. I read about many of these titles as they were released, but neglected to look deeper. I appreciate the effort to find the quirky and less appreciated.

    Evukbittin/Rodrigo: Maximo (both versions) was dreadful. Uninspired and punishing. Throw that one in the trash.

  115. max power says:

    Agreed. Yakuza should definitely be added to the list.

  116. Madeline says:

    Wow, this is a really informative article. I love Indigo Prophecy, and I only found out about it here. I think I’m pretty much one of the only ones who bought Everblue 2 when it was new. I was seven :)

  117. Kane says:

    i hav v rally 3 and sphinx and the cursed mummy. Thanks for mentioning sphinx btw. I think that maybe the Kingdom Hearts Games should have a spot somewhere on the list. Keep on rulin’ the net racketboy!!

  118. breakwind says:

    Konami’s Rumble Roses game deserves to be reconize in this category.After all,who many female based wrestling games are in existence?Besides this game has scantidly-clad hot chicks wrestling in mud,excercising and sun-bathing.The developers at Yukes did’nt incorporate such things with the Divas in those Smackdown games.Excuse me,i’m now off to therapy!

  119. gus says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for the Drakan recommendation! This game is really cool. My wife really likes the Tomb Raider series and I think this is close to being on par with a few of those games. This game truly is an “undiscovered diamond in the rough.”

    Thanks again,

    gus

  120. AnimatedMusician says:

    Steambot Chronicles is easily one of the best games I’ve ever played, which surprised me.

  121. Alexandre says:

    Aqua Aqua = Just Fun :)

  122. Culex says:

    Why did you put the review for Magic Pengel up and NOT Graffiti Kingdom!? GK was way, way, way, way, way better. It was a beat ‘em up, and if you have a way to transfer saves, GameFAQs has some crazy saves, including the ship from R-Type, some Gundams (I think) and I believe Twinbee.

  123. kaleb says:

    mark of kri cool as game i now want to play darkwatch

  124. Joe says:

    This list is long. You should have just put /all under the title.

  125. racketboy says:

    You do realize the PS2 library is quite large, right?

  126. Mohan says:

    Going to pick up the Kimpossible on see if it’s really a gem, and the price is right on it as Amazon has it for $10.

  127. kn253 says:

    Great site. Keep up the good work.

  128. kn253 says:

    Great site keep up the good work.

  129. electricsun says:

    How can u forget Ratchet and Clank and Sly Cooper series under action adventure or action platformer

  130. ricky says:

    what about ghost master? not played it myself but the pc ver was ok

  131. Joy says:

    Second Sight was a great game! I wish more people had tried it…now there can’t be a sequel.

  132. JamesMallow says:

    Why isnt Dark Cloud under ARPG?It randomly generated dungeons for you(although it had a very low chance of failing and creating voids LOL)its rare and ebay isnt that cheap

  133. Korbaut says:

    YES FINALLY SOMEONE ELSE MENTIONS DISASTER REPORT!

  134. Obiwanshinobi says:

    Shmup-wise, Homura for the PS2 got a PAL release (sporting 60 Hz mode) and it’s a solid port (of Psyvariar 2 Ultimate Final quality). Also, Sengoku Ace, Sengoku Blade and Dragon Blaze are just glaring grimly at those Cave shmups you featured. Aw, come on. Moreover, the original Twinkle Star Sprites is on the ADK Tamashii compilation, right next to Ninja Commando, Aggressors of Dark Kombat, Ninja Combat and
    the
    mighty
    NINJA MASTER’S.
    Sadly, that port of Twinkle Star Sprites has botched colour palette and serious performance issues. Other games are fine if you can live with interlacing and smoothing (it’s not THAT bad in this case).
    Also, where the – nomen omen – hell is Shin MegaTen Nocturne (a.k.a. Lucifer’s Call)?

  135. jammyjommer says:

    ive been lovin the site. the only thing i like more than playin games is reading about them. i just thought id mention that you def have the wrong impression of genji: dawn of the samurai. its def closer to beat em up than mark of kri, which is heavily stealth based. i would swap the games into their respective genres.

  136. elite 17 says:

    Culdcept must be added

  137. Jamie John says:

    Hey what about some Japanese PS2 games, especially the action adventure ones?

    EG:

    Chaindive
    OZ Sword of Etheria
    Kenka Bancho 2
    Ougon Kishi Garo
    Hudson Selection Vol. 4: Adventure Island
    Grappler Baki: Baki Saidai no Tournament
    Kamen Rider: Seigi no Keifu
    Azumi, (the same guys who made Shemune)

    Just to name a few, there are loads of others I can’t comprehend why they didn’t get Euro/US releases.

  138. Jamie says:

    Reading this list makes me a little excited that I still own a PS2, I was running out of games to check out.

  139. Sorandor says:

    Heavenly Guardian looks excellent, but isnt pocky n rocky 2 on the snes the real sequel to pocky n rocky?

  140. unknown says:

    Where’s Okami!!!???

  141. LOST IN BATTLE says:

    AWESOME WORK YOU DO, I EVEN IMAGINE SO BIG POSTS! EXCELENT MY FRIEND

  142. matt says:

    Didn’t like Shattered Soldier. Love the NES Contras and semi-love Hard Corps and III, but SS was just frustrating shit. Really annoying…

    Neo Contra on the other hand was quite fun.

  143. haze57(from Croatia) says:

    Great list, dude.

  144. Hey about i do believe your weblog is reasonably full pleasurable i discovered it in google and that i set it on my favourite list want to see further great posts from u shortly.

  145. Mookie says:

    great list. Tales of legendia is listed under rpgs though and it should be under action rpgs like tales of the abyss. Also Drakengard is under actions rpgs but its really more of an action game with minor rpg elements.

  146. god hand is a wonder full game but all games are worst

  147. Rob says:

    Great Post. Two to add:
    SMT Nocturne & Rule of Rose

  148. Gromkyo says:

    Wow, there are allot of games here that I’m going to have to look into! As for Gitaroo Man, GrimGrimoire, and Tales of the Abyss. I can personally say that all three of these games are awesome and definitely worth buying.

  149. Patrick says:

    Ring of Red is on my wish list!!!

  150. Levepedro says:

    Do u know, another game like Red Star?
    Ps2,Pc,Ps3.

  151. Thallus317 says:

    EVERYONE!! You all need to get your hands on a copy of “Finny the Fish and the Seven Waters”
    Definitely a hidden gem and so far my favorite game on PS2. I got my used copy from Gamestop for $3! Find it and check it out!

  152. legacyGamer710 says:

    Thanks, some good tittles to look for.

  153. Levepedro says:

    Or someone knows, some two players co-op for ps2?

  154. Patrick BBE says:

    I grabbed Tales of the Abyss at my local game store. Yeah!

  155. Paaaa says:

    no Super Robot Taisen titles?

  156. Edge says:

    Can’t believe how long this list is! I’ve got more ps2 games than I thought possible and don’t own about half of these.

    Really great list, I cannot stress enough how much this impresses me and how much use I will get out of it!

    Searching for a copy of Everblue 2 as we speak!

  157. Griever says:

    It’s a good list, thanks.
    I guess you miss 10 000 Bullets & Metal Saga though.

  158. kge259 says:

    … Hype The Time Quest !

  159. Patrick BBE says:

    I don’t want a Ps3. My old PS2 still has a huge library of games that are overlooked.

  160. very bad games suggestions :(
    If you are a new generation kid you’ll NEVER EVER like these games !!!

  161. racketboy says:

    @Saarat The “new generation kid” you speak of isn’t the target demographic of this site.
    The games are good games, but aren’t meant to be the cool showpieces of modern machines. If you don’t like these games, you probably shouldn’t be owning a PS2 in the first place.

  162. Axel'sVirtue says:

    Here are some suggestions

    Definitely
    -Seek and Destroy (Mech-Action?)
    -Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (for vs. mode)(Fighter)
    -Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of Karakuri (Action-Platformer)
    -Seven Samurai 20XX (Hack&Slash)
    -The Bouncer (Beatemup)
    -Legaia 2: Duel Saga (Traditional RPG)

    Maybe
    -Suikoden Tactics (Strategy RPG)
    -Suikoden 5 (even most Suikoden fans never gave this awsome game a chance)(Traditional RPG)
    -Ultimate Spiderman (Action Platformer)
    -Ape Escape 2 and 3 (Platformer)

  163. Axel'sVirtue says:

    picked up an adventure game I had never heard of a couple of days ago. It is called Dog’s Life. I just beat it and enjoyed all 34 hours. Basically you play as a farmdog named Jake who journeys to save the B…female dog he likes. Along the way, you collect bones by completing little quests and minigames.

  164. Meem says:

    Wow, impressive list. Could you add Rule of Rose to it? The story is to to die for.

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  169. K says:

    “Fire Pro is to those US based games what Street Fighter is to Tekken: less glitz and glam and far more substance.”
    seriously??
    do you even play fighting games!! Tekken has more substance that street fighter will ever have!!

  170. Patrick BBE says:

    I would add Yakuza and Yakuza 2 on the list. That series is very underrated.

  171. Mike says:

    Looking for the name of a PS2 game: All i can remember is it was fantasy, third-person-shooter, hack ‘n slash-type, and one scene took place in a graveyard and another scene took place on a pirate ship.

  172. Patrick BBE says:

    Would that game be Maximo: Ghosts to Glory?

  173. Mike says:

    No, I checked out Maximo: Ghosts To Glory. It is not the game that I am looking for; similar though and it seemed fun. Tx.

  174. Brian says:

    Could it be Gungrave?

  175. Mike says:

    No, not Gungrave. checked that one too. It seems more sci-fi than fantasy.

  176. jason says:

    Any way we will see a “games that defined Ps2″ article anytime soon? I really like those articles too

  177. Nick says:

    I’m glad you mentioned Mercury Meltdown Remix. I haven’t found anyone else who has played it and it keeps freezing and I have to start all over again and I want to know if the game is bugged. I wonder if anyone else has played it and encountered this glitch?