Favorite Games List – PlayStation 2

The Favorite Games List was a recurring feature originally published on Trevor Trove. This installment originally debuted on February 8-12, 2016

Part One

Welcome to PlayStation 2 week of my Favorite Games List. Over the past few months I’ve been highlighting some of my all-time favorite games on a console by console basis. With the PS2, we reach the last console I owned with my family before striking out on my own into college and beyond. This is also around the same time my hobby of video games really started becoming more of a full-blown passion. As a result, some of these lists are gonna wind up as the longest ones yet. So here is Part One of my favorites games for the…

PlayStation 2

The fact that the original PlayStation had knocked it out of the park when it came to the JRPGs I liked, it didn’t come as too much of a shock when I asked for a PS2 for Christmas instead of the Nintendo Gamecube. My allegiance had begun to shift. This was around my Junior/Senior year of high school and all of the guys I played N64 multiplayer games with had started to go our separate ways. I imagine my dad and sister were a little upset that I leaned toward the single-player focused system as well. And I know my mom did as video games had become an obstacle between me and school or me and an active social life. But I was growing up. And unlike Nintendo, PlayStation was growing up with me.


Grand Theft Auto III – Back in my younger PC days, I had briefly dabbled in the top-down Grand Theft Auto games with my then best friend. But it never really got it’s hooks in me. So when I started hearing all of the insane buzz around Grand Theft Auto III my initial reactions were based off those top-down games.

Then I played it and my love for open world games began…

It’s probably something many younger players take for granted but that first 3-D GTA game was groundbreaking in how much they packed into the system. Liberty City felt alive and yours for the taking. This was also a time when voiced characters in gaming was still relatively young (and often laughably bad) but the team at Rockstar made the game’s cut scenes feel like a movie.

Grand Theft Auto Vice City – The follow up to the blockbuster game above, Vice City (for me, at least) was bigger and better in every way. The Miami-inspired Vice City was more vibrant and colorful than the drab New York-inspired Liberty City. The cast of characters was sharper and funnier, as the whole game amped up the comedic satire aspect of its story. And the soundtrack is among the best licensed soundtracks in gaming history. I probably spent hours just driving around listening to the bevy of 80s classics packed into the game.

By focusing the game’s satirical targets on the notion of 80s excess through the lens of familiar stories like Scarface and Miami ViceVice City was able to resonate with me in a way that the more generic Mafia story of Grand Theft Auto III had not. Both games were incredible in terms of their scope and gameplay for the time, but this extra touch is what makes Vice City stand out above its predecessor.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas – Rounding out the classic Grand Theft Auto trilogy (and Part One of my list), I remember vividly playing San Andreas when it came out during the Fall semester of my second year of college. I was involved with Arizona State University’s weekly sketch comedy troupe at the time and me and a few of the other guys were all pouring countless hours into our latest GTA fix.

While I appreciated Vice City expanding on IIISan Andreas felt like it was throwing so much extra features into the game that I was overwhelmed. While I appreciated that I could mess around with CJ’s weight by over-eating, it felt unnecessary. And the idea of representing Grove Street in the game’s gang wars to expand territory was always something I’d start to do. But then I’d get bogged down in trying to turn the whole map green and wound up finding it more tedious than enjoyable.

That said, focusing the story around the racial divide, hip-hop culture, and the L.A. riots really opened my eyes to the world outside of my own. When I was growing up, I remembered hearing about Rodney King but never really understanding the impact or injustice of the situation. It was just a name and my middle-class white privilege mind was just trying to remember the difference between Rodney King and Don King. So playing this game during my formative college years, as I was becoming a student of the world, probably had way more of an impact on me than I imagine the developers might have intended.

Stay tuned all week for more of my highlights from the all-time best-selling PlayStation 2.

Part Two

Last night I kicked off a week-long PlayStation 2 Favorite Games extravaganza with my fondest memories of the Grand Theft Auto III trilogy. So for part two, let’s switch it up a bit and look at a trio of Squaresoft games.


The Bouncer – One of the last games developed by Squaresoft before they merged with Enix, The Bouncer made its way into my collection at a time when I was buying up everything Squaresoft was putting out. Unbeknownst to me, this game was a far cry from the JRPGs I was so accustomed to in the Final Fantasy series. An action beat ’em up, The Bouncer stands out to me as a memorable title on the platform because you controlled one of three main characters throughout the game and the scenes you, the player, experienced varied depending on whose perspective you were playing as during any given portion of the game. Upon learning this, I was immediately intrigued and would replay the game to put together the pieces of the entire story.

Final Fantasy X – While the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remasters that Square Enix put out on PS3, PS Vita, then PS4 frustrated me as a filthy cash grab (that I to my shame contributed to), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a great time with the games when they launched. Final Fantasy X was Square’s first foray into voice acting and while I think the direction it’s laughably bad (and in my opinion hasn’t made great strides to improve in the games since), there was still a charm to hearing Tidus, Wakka, Yuna, and the rest as fully voiced characters. It brought the series to a new level.

The Sphere Grid system was a new interesting approach to leveling up. The series’ last iteration of turn-based combat was a fresh approach allowing you to switch party members in and out of combat on the fly. I probably spent more time playing Blitzball than I did the rest of the game as I continually lead the Besaid Aurochs to victory. And graphically, Squaresoft was showing just how much time and care they put into their visuals with the beautifully rendered cinematic cutscenes. It’s also the last story in the series I could actually describe to you as Final Fantasy XII and the Lightning trilogy fell off a cliff for me narratively-speaking.

Final Fantasy X-2 – After years and years of hoping, Square was final giving players a proper sequel. Even though it wasn’t the Final Fantasy VII sequel fans wanted ( and Dirge of Cerberus certainly disappointed a couple years later), it was a start. The trailer for Final Fantasy X-2 might be one of the first times I remember watching a trailer over and over again on a website like IGN. It’s certainly the earliest one that stands out in my memory, anyway.

Final Fantasy X-2 picked up following the events of Final Fantasy X. Instead of a continuous fluid story, X-2 switched up the Final Fantasy formula by structuring the game around a series of shorter, self-contained missions. And instead of following around Yuna and her six Guardians, the playable cast of characters was focused on the trio of Yuna, Rikku, and newcomer Paine. And the series brought back the classic Job Class system for the first time since Final Fantasy V (or Tactics if you count that). Yes, I maybe felt a bit weird playing dress-up with Team YRP but the game itself was actually a lot of fun and switched up enough of the systems and mechanics to forgive the realization that Squaresoft was mostly reusing a ton of assets from the first game.

Part Three

Welcome to day three of my Favorite Games on the PlayStation 2. Day one looked at the Grand Theft Auto games. Day two looked at a few Squaresoft games. So where to go for day three…?

.hack//Infection, .hack//Mutation, .hack//Outbreak, and .hack//Quarantine – In between my junior and senior years of high school, an acquaintance of mine was lucky enough to attend E3 (back in the days of it being more open to the public). I say acquaintance because we were never really all that close apart from sharing a few classes and extracurriculars. Still, he knew we shared a passion for video games and brought me back a demo disc of .hack//Infection. On a lark, I gave it a try and was immediately hooked.

In the .hack games, you played as Kite, a player of the game within the game The World, a fictional MMORPG. Having never gotten into any of the MMOs myself, the opportunity to play in this fictional one was surprisingly fun. As Kite, you meet fellow players for in-game sessions while in the real world, players are mysteriously succumbing to comas. In a pre-Mass Effect world, each game in the series picked up where the last one left off. Of course, the flip side is also that in a pre-DLC world, you were effectively paying hundreds of dollars for what could have been sold as one game. If the series, winds up coming to the PS4 as PS2 classics, I might revisit them but it would have to be an affordable bundle deal and not $15 per game as is the current norm for the program. Still, I had a great time with it back then. And it’s almost certainly something I never would have picked up if not for that E3 demo disc. Shame demos aren’t around that much anymore…

LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game – I just got the Platinum trophy on the latest LEGO Marvel’s Avengers game a few hours prior to this writing so it seems fitting I take a moment to highlight the one that started it all. I still remember pretty much everybody had their doubts about what a LEGO video game was going to be like. And to be fair, as someone who tried to play LEGO Island back on PC in the late 90s, that fear was absolutely founded.

But then the game came out and everyone was impressed with its action-adventure puzzle platforming but the real standout was its charm and humor. In the days before they were bringing in voice actors or pulling audio directly from the source material, LEGO Star Wars pantomimed its way through the iconic moments of Star Wars with aplomb. Coming out right before Revenge of the Sith hit theatres, it also helped that it landed at a time before the internet and my own maturing tastes made me realize how much I disliked the prequel trilogy. But even as my ability to stomach those films has dwindled, the charm of playing through them in LEGO form survives.

LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy – After the surprise hit of the original, it made perfect sense for Traveller’s Tales to replicate their successful formula for the original trilogy. Surprise surprise: it worked even better when the source material was much more beloved! The iconic Vader and Luke seen at the end of The Empire Strikes Back still makes me chuckle as LEGO Vader pulled out a family photo of young Anakin and Padme as a stand-in for the iconic line.

With LEGO Star Wars The Force Awakens on the horizon, I’m sure I’ll be revisiting the franchise soon. Though I am admittedly wary of TT Games only tackling a single film this time out. While I never played LEGO The Hobbit, I thought it was pretty shitty of them to launch the game after only the second film in the trilogy for the cash in and then decide to cancel the originally planned DLC based on the third movie. That’s obviously not even the plan this time around as the publisher WB Games will milk a separate game for each new film and it’ll sell because of the Star Wars name. Still, having just collected 250 Gold Bricks and over 200 characters/variants for a game covering six filmsI’m curious to see how much filler they wind up including on a game only covering one, even if they have been given the chance to provide their own bits of canonical back story here and there.

Part Four

With part four, this officially becomes the longest one of these I’ve done in the series. Hurray new milestones!!! To recap:

  • Day One: Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
  • Day Two: The Bouncer, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2
  • Day Three: .hack//Infection, .hack//Mutation, .hack//Outbreak, .hack//Quarantine, LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

Okay. All caught up. Let’s see what we’ve got for today.

The Simpsons Game – As a longtime fan of The Simpsons growing up, I relished pretty much any opportunity I had to inject myself into Springfield, as seen in my Favorite Arcade Cabinet games. The Simpsons Road Rage – the Crazy Taxi-inspired driving game – and The Simpsons Hit & Run – their GTA romp – were fine but it was The Simpsons Game that really stood out. Filled with references to the series past (in the same way that South Park: The Stick of Truth would do on the next generation), The Simpsons Game also directed its particular brand of satire at a bevy of video game tropes. Medal of HomerSitar Hero, and Neverquest were some of the games parodies in the world of video games.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King – The Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest series makes its fourth appearance here, having previously appeared in the Nintendo, Game Boy, and PlayStation One segments. Bearing many traits and the classic turn-based RPG elements of the previous games, Dragon Quest VIII left the sprite-based designs of the past in favor of 3D character designs that still matched the style of the 2D predecessors. While the Final Fantasy series headed more down the path of Action RPG with Final Fantasy XII, I appreciated this Enix-based brand sticking to the traditional mechanics. The great JRPG gameplay I was used to with a pretty new PlayStation 2 coat of paint on it.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – Having never played any of the previous Prince of Persia games, Sands of Time was my entry point into the series (and admittedly the only one I ever played actually). An enjoyable action-adventure game in its own right, the real standout mechanic was the ability to rewind time. That was such a seemingly small but groundbreaking feature of the game. As platforming in 3D was still often clunky and tough to judge, I greatly appreciated the ability to just rewind time if I screwed up a jump, instead of dying over and over again. And since Aladdin was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up, I enjoyed the idea of helping the princess-type character fight off the evil forces of the mischievous vizier.

Part Five

Well my screening of Deadpool got postponed due to a fire at the theater so I guess I’ll make the best of a bad situation and do a bit of writing while I wait. (I ultimately did get to see it. Just had to wait an extra couple of hours but hey they felt bad about the whole “fire” thing and gave everyone a couple of free passes.)

As always, to recap:

  • Day One: Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
  • Day Two: The Bouncer, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy X-2
  • Day Three: .hack//Infection, .hack//Mutation, .hack//Outbreak, .hack//Quarantine, LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
  • Day Four: The Simpsons Game, Dragon Quest VIII, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Now let’s go ahead and wrap this console up with a trio of duos…

X-Men Legends/X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse –  In honor of Deadpool, I thought I’d kick off this entry with these gems. I absolutely adored the X-Men cartoon growing up. And I picked these games up in a used pile at the local Game Crazy when I was in a superhero mood one day. Playing through these action RPG’s as some of my favorite mutants was a treat. I’m almost surprised Activision hasn’t returned to the series to try and cash-in more on the popularity of the films.

God of War/God of War II – I always really enjoyed Greek mythology growing up. I don’t know what it was that fascinated me so. Maybe that the gods all felt so human with their own flaws. But I was all to happy to dive into the brutal sandals of Kratos and his quest to defeat Ares and later Zeus. In addition to the delightfully brutal twist on the mythology, the action was pretty enjoyable too. The power fantasy of destroying hordes of enemies with Kratos’ blades and the various godly powers was really satisfying and the games were very beautiful from a graphical standpoint.

And yeah, as a guy who wasn’t exactly getting much action with the ladies when I was playing through these games, I was quite content to enjoy the bevy of naked women in Kratos path.

Boobs are awesome!

Dark Cloud/Dark Cloud II – To wrap of my favorite games of the PlayStation 2, I’m ending on this pair of games from Level-5. As I wrote when discussing my favorite games on the Super Nintendo, I thought the original Actraiser was something special in how it combined the action genre with a world-building sim and the only games I ever felt really tapped back into that were Dark Cloud and its sequel. Going through the games’ dungeons level by level to collect the world’s building blocks, and then building up the various towns in the games in order to get gear to upgrade your weapons provides a great gameplay loop with both genres fueling each other spectacularly.

I was absolutely overjoyed when Dark Cloud was one of the first PS2 on PS4 titles. I’ve been slowly chipping away at it in between all of the other games I’ve been playing so far this year and I’ll do the same with Dark Cloud 2 once I’m finished with this one.

On a more personal note, Catherine decided to end our relationship a few weeks ago. It has been a very trying time and it has thrown a lot of my plans for a loop. But as I continue to try and sort my life out, being able to easily revisit one of my favorite game series has been one of the few bright spots during these dark days. Some people binge on comfort food when they’re going through a break-up, I’ve been playing through a comfort game, instead.

Thanks for reading. Truly.

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