With the release of the PlayStation 5 just around the corner, it is hard to believe that the PlayStation 2 (PS2), arguably one of the best game consoles ever, is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
While the PlayStation 1 signalled Sony’s entry into the console gaming market, it was the PlayStation 2 that helped solidify its position. The fact that production of the console only ended in 2013 (after a 13-year lifespan) is a testament to how great Sony’s little black box really was.
When the PlayStation 3 released, its older brother still outsold it for quite some time. From the games to the over-the-top ads, there was very little about Sony’s second console that wasn’t special or memorable.
After the successful launch of the PlayStation 1, the news that Sony was releasing a follow-up console had gamers giddy with anticipation. The step-up from the previous generation to the next-gen of gaming was unlike anything we had seen before. Graphics became shinier, polygons smoother and 3D gaming started to become the norm.
While on the subject of 3D gaming, this was something that few developers were able to transition to successfully. Many of the 3D games on the PlayStation 1 had unruly cameras or, in some instances, just felt broken. With the launch of Sony’s new home video game console, this all changed. Games, such as the excellent Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, showed us the potential of 3D gaming when done right.
Where the PlayStation 1 had a subdued simplicity to its design, the PlayStation 2, although still sporting a simplistic square shape, felt more like something beamed from the future into our living rooms. There was a certain sense of futuristic grandeur that emanated from the console when standing vertically.
Although the PS2 was mainly for playing games, many used it as their main entertainment unit, which added to the multifunctionality of the console.
For those who wanted a shot of nostalgia, Sony had you covered. The PlayStation 2 was backwards compatible with PlayStation 1 games. It would prove to be one of the last times that a Sony console would have such a streamlined way of playing older games.
In an era when gaming had moved away from the couch into cyberspace, it’s pretty nostalgic to look back at the PS2, a console that provided gamers with a sense of camaraderie. Many of us still have fond memories of watching an older brother or sister play one of the many single-player games on the system or duking it out on the couch with our friends.
Some of the best multiplayer games ever released were found on the PlayStation 2, including gems like SoulCalibur II and Tekken 5.
Local multiplayer might have been one of the console’s draws, but it’s looking at the insane library of single-player experiences on the console that you realise just how amazing the PlayStation 2 was.
Aside from the criminally underrated and gorgeous Okami, which was Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda, there was the game that introduced us to the angry god-killing machine, Kratos, in God of War.
And then there was also Final Fantasy VII. Love it or hate it, the game showed just how beautiful the console’s visuals can be.
Of course, the PlayStation 2 was also the go-to console for survival horror. Some of the best and most memorable examples of the genre released on the console. These included Silent Hill 2, Fatal Frame and Resident Evil 4.
Although the PS2 is best known for its amazing games, it’s the sometimes-strange ads that Sony ran to promote the console that are burned into the psyches of many gamers. These advertisements tended to range from the strange to the utterly bizarre.
One ad features what can only be described as an alien-looking Scottish girl being filmed in someone’s basement:
Of course, this was only the start. There were even a few ads that were directed by David Lynch (Twin Peaks and Eraserhead), all suitably weird.
Most of these ads were, shall we say, very creative but had very little to do with the console itself:
Even the print ads were full of strange sights – such as tattooed newborns and mangled bodies.
Say what you will about these, but the mere fact that we are still talking about them today indicates that they were strangely effective:
With next-gen quickly approaching, it is always important to think back to what came before. Whether you are on Team Sony or Microsoft, the PlayStation 2 will always be fondly remembered by all in the gaming community for how it helped shape the industry that we know today.
Twenty years later, it remains one of the most important gaming consoles ever!
Did you own a PS2? What fond memories do you have of the PlayStation 2? What are the best PlayStation 2 games?