You likely have fond memories of booting up your PS2 and diving into one of the countless great games that generation produced. Unfortunately, we can’t play everything, and will ultimately miss out on some fantastic games.This article is dedicated to those titles that, to my mind, have been resigned to the backlog of history. Here are five forgotten gems of the PS2.
All five games were multi-platinum releases, but PlayStation represents how I payed them. Possible story spoilers ahead.
5. Scarface: The World Is Yours
I’m a sucker for gangster movies, so when a game based on Scarface was announced, I was onboard regardless of how bad it might be. Thankfully, this “what if?” scenario that sees Tony Montana survive the siege of his mansion is something of a hidden gem. The game embraces everything that made the original great, carrying over the soundtrack, characters, Miami setting and graphic violence. When I look back on that era of gaming, Scarface stands out for its focus on blood and gore, leaving you numb to chopping off limbs by the time credits roll. Gameplay is similar to many 3rd person action-adventure games of the time, with impactful gunplay and satisfactory driving mechanics.
Al Pacino was asked to reprise his role but couldn’t due to scheduling issues. He did allow his likeness to be used, along with a serviceable vocal impression by Andre Sogliuzzo, whom the actor picked personally. Rebuilding Tony’s drug empire and taking out those responsible for the attempted assassination is an absolute blast! You’ll make drug deals and grow rich through buying up property, cars and tones of decorations for your mansion. Choosing to create a new story instead of retelling an old one works in the game’s favour allows it to stand out from so many of the movie tie-ins of the time.
The Red Dead Redemption franchise has washed away lesser wild-west games. This dominance is typical when Rockstar Games enters a new genre, and one casualty of this was Gun which has the distinction of being the third-best open-world, wild-west game ever made. You play Colt, a fur trader whose destiny is irrevocably changed when a group of former civil war soldiers attack a steamboat, killing the man he believed to be his father. Waking on a nearby beach with a hunger for revenge and a token for the Doge City salon in his pocket, Colt endeavours to hunt down the men responsible. The narrative doesn’t stray too far from western tropes, but it was the world that made Gun shine!
Activities stretched from hunting legendary animals, collecting bounties on criminals and protecting stagecoaches from Apache warriors. Colt could use his dead eye ability to slow time and pull off some gnarly headshots, decapitating your enemies. While Red Dead Redemption represents that new age of westerns that began with Unforgiven, Gun is a pure unadulterated spaghetti western that isn’t afraid to embrace an almost childish vision of the Wild West legend not based in fact.
3. The Warriors
I bet you didn’t expect a Rockstar game to make the list, did yeh? The truth is, they released so many quality titles during the console’s lifecycle that some simply got lost in the mix.The Warriors is based on the 1979 movie of the same name and centres around a New York street gang trying to survive the night and get back to the safety of Coney Island. While the video game follows the same tale, Rockstar created an entire backstory for the gang and why they are so detested in the first place. It isn’t open-world per-say but instead features hub worlds for each district of New York from Manhattan to Brooklyn, all draped in a deteriorating 70s ascetic.
I’m somewhat obsessed with the seventies and the general feeling of economic and societal collapse the decade birthed. It’s a fascinating period, and I discussed it at length in a recent article about the game and its inspirations. You can still play it today, and I highly recommend you do so. There’s a wealth of excellent beat em’ up gameplay, story and quirky challenge modes that pad out the relatively short main narrative. There aren’t many good movie tie-in games, and for a good reason, but Rockstar doesn’t do things by half’s and delivers an enjoyable time as you would expect from the developer.
2. Ultimate Spider-Man
Jump onto any video game subreddit or a Twitter thread, and one thing will become abundantly clear – gamers don’t agree on much. One rare moment of agreement is that most superhero games are awful. The PS2 had its fair share of stinkers, but comparatively, Ultimate Spider-Man came out smelling of roses. Ultimate Spider-Man wasn’t based on the Sam Remi movies, instead taking inspiration from the Brian Michael Bendis comic book universe of the same name that renewed the character’s origins in a hyper-artistic style for the 21st century.
The game also sets itself apart with a cel-shaded graphical design that endures itself to the material that influenced it. The roster has villains aplenty, from Rhino to The Green Goblin. Venom also plays a pivotal role as a second protagonist, stretching the range of gameplay from the aerobatic Spider-Man to the heavy-hitting Venom. With a reasonably large open-world to swing about, it was the last good Spider-Man game until Insomniac’s 2018 masterpiece – an agonising thirteen-year wait!
1. Total Overdose
How to describe Total Overdose? Take Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico trilogy and snort a kilogram of cocaine – you get the picture. The narrative and gameplay are equally insane and satiated my need for mindless violence when I was an angsty teenager. For most of the game, you play Ramiro, a convict who’s given a chance to do something good with his life by helping his DEA brother take down the cartel from the inside. Its late eighties setting give the whole game an over-the-top vibe that works well and stems the line between parody and tastelessness.
Open-world games outside of the US are relatively rare. Exploring Mexico City in between several other mission locations was a welcome breath of fresh air from the typical city-scapes of New York or Los Angeles inspired settings. The story isn’t memorable. By today’s standards, it would likely be considered insulting and crass. For me, Total Overdose represents a specific moment in time where the industry embraced wackiness and didn’t strive for realism like so many modern games (enter cranky old man voice).
I’m sure there are umpteen other forgotten gems that didn’t make the list, but these five stand out as well-received games that have sadly been forgotten. Have you played any of these games, and if so, what do you agree with this list? Let us know down in the comments below.