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If you ask anyone to name their most magical experience on the PlayStation 2, odds are good that they’ll mention "Shadow of the Colossus." Despite its simple gameplay, the atmosphere of "Shadow of the Colossus" has made it a standout title that led to multiple remasters in the years since.
In the game, you’re dropped into a strange land tasked with defeating giant creatures in order to save a woman on the verge of death. Each creature is like a giant maze, as you struggle with finding a way to climb onto them and reach a specific weak point on their body to attack. Of course, there’s action to it too, as many of the creatures aren’t happy with you attacking them and will fight to stay alive.
The game has been so iconic that it was re-launched with updated HD graphics on PlayStation 3 in a bundle with the game "Ico." And, more recently, it got a second remake for the PlayStation 4. So, if you want to experience this classic without the older graphics, you have options.
"Final Fantasy X" took the longstanding franchise to new levels, with three-dimensional backdrops, incredible CGI cutscenes (made possible by motion capture and human voice acting), a new leveling system, and a revamped combat system. The game also introduces the sport "Blitzball," which plays out as a recurring mini-game throughout.
"Final Fantasy X" follows Tidus the Blitzball player, Yuna the summoner, and a host of other characters as they journey to defeat a giant creature called Sin that has destroyed Tidus’s home. Of course, there are some twists and turns along the way, with new characters joining the adventure and enemies that aren’t what they first seemed.
For fans of the "Final Fantasy" franchise, "Final Fantasy X" is a must-play entry. Fortunately, if you don’t feel like dusting off your PS2 to play it, a re-released version that also includes "Final Fantasy X-2" came to PS3, giving you two great games and an HD remastered experience of each.
"Grand Theft Auto 3" may have introduced us to the magic of a free-roaming 3D sandbox game, and "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" may have improved on that formula with a fun ‘80s backdrop. But "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" took it even further.
"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" offered a bigger open world environment than any prior GTA game. And, to get around it, you could take your pick of the usual cars and motorcycles, but also included were bicycles, jets, helicopters, and even some zanier vehicles like a jetpack or street sweeper.
The game featured RPG elements, allowing you to increase the skills of the main character as he goes through the game trying to solve the murder of his mother. You’ll have to take on gangs, reunite your family, and challenge crooked cops all against a ‘90s southwestern backdrop. And, of course, in true GTA style, you’ll be stealing a lot of cars in the process. The game has also been released on PS3, Windows, Android, and iOS.
"Okami" is like the PS2’s version of a "Legend of Zelda" game. It features a large overworld, various enemies, major bosses, and delightful NPCs to flesh out the game world. It puts all of that on top of an art style reminiscent of brushed ink and watercolors. And that ink plays a part in the game, too.
In "Okami," you play as a white wolf embodying the Japanese goddess Amaterasu as she fights to reclaim Japan from the monster Orochi. Throughout the game, you’ll fight monsters, solve puzzles, level up with new abilities, and approach puzzles and battles using special brush techniques that involve drawing ink lines on the screen to perform special actions.
"Okami" has stood out as such an iconic game for the PS2 that it has seen multiple remastered versions, including for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. So, if you want to enjoy the game but prefer modern graphics, you can take your pick of current consoles. Or if you’ve played "Okami" before, you have a chance to relive it with updated visuals.
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"Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty" followed up on Hideo Kojima’s classic "Metal Gear Solid" for the original PlayStation. "Sons of Liberty" brought even more cinematic gameplay thanks to the increased power of the PS2 and Kojima’s ever-increasing knack for theatrics in his games.
Unlike "Metal Gear Solid" and many of the other titles in the franchise, "Sons of Liberty" follows the blond-haired Raiden for most of the game. Fortunately, the game is still full of all the great stealth action and twist-filled storylines that the series is known for.
If you haven’t played this entry in the "Metal Gear" franchise, it’s a great one to check out to help you understand all the major characters of the game (although there will still be lots of questions left unanswered). If you have played through it, "Metal Gear Solid: Subsistence" is another great release for PS2 that kicks off the whole series, as it takes place at the very beginning of the games’ timeline.
"Resident Evil 4" doesn’t just have the best horror-action gameplay of any PS2 game — it also set a high bar for the "Resident Evil" franchise as a whole when it came out. It is still considered by many to be the best "Resident Evil" game to date, beating even modern releases.
The game follows Leon S. Kennedy, the police rookie from the original "Resident Evil" game, as he goes on a mission in Europe to rescue the President’s daughter. Of course, there are plenty of infected creatures to fight and huge bosses to battle. This entry added more action to the series but still made you feel like your enemies were a serious threat.
Unsurprisingly, an entry this well-received in a franchise this iconic has received multiple remasters. You can play "Resident Evil 4" on Windows computers, Xbox One, PS4, and even iOS and Android smartphones. So, if you want to enjoy the best "Resident Evil" game and one of the best PS2 games, you can do it without ever having to power up your old PS2.
"God of War II" continued to build upon the solid foundations set by the original. In it, you retake the role of Kratos, who has defeated the Greek god of war and taken his place. And, with the new powers granted to Kratos as the God of War, you set out on a new adventure to change your fate.
The game offers you the trusty dual chain blades of the original "God of War," but it also adds new combat moves and special magic abilities. You’ll wield all of these skills through new puzzles, mini-games, and epic bosses. And throughout, you’ll continue to experience the pantheon of Greek mythology in new ways.
This is one of the best action games released on the PlayStation 2. As with many of the other top games for this console, "God of War II" also received a remastered release on PS3, giving you updated graphics to enjoy the game in even higher visual quality.
"Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3" was a high point for the franchise, which has fallen so far in the years since. It’s also a shining example of the kind of gaming that was still fresh and alive during the PS2 era. "Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3" took the high-score-chasing skateboard gameplay and gave players even more to love.
In the game, you can create your own skater or pick from over a dozen pro skaters, including the titular Tony Hawk. Then you can play through a career mode, earning money to buy new decks for your skater, or any of the nine levels for open skating with plenty of things to jump off, grind on, and crash through. There are even cars and pedestrians to contend with.
"Pro Skater 3" offers split-screen multiplayer if you want to play with a friend, and it introduced online multiplayer. You probably won’t still be able to take advantage of the online modes, but can play four-player multiplayer on a local area network. Just make sure your skater is ready to out-trick the competition.