Hello there, and welcome to a list of which I consider to be the top 10 forgotten relics of the PS2 era; these are the games which, although perhaps critically acclaimed, perhaps even cult classics, are the ones which I believe do not get the universal affirmation of their quality and worthiness that they deserve.

Now, the PlayStation 2 is the most successful games console of all time. Attempting to narrow the pool of games which could qualify for this list is no mean feat, and naturally not everyone is going to agree with this list. With my previous list of this type, which covered the original PlayStation’s forgotten gems, I had a broader knowledge of those games which were forgetten due to having a far greater exposure to the games of that generation. For this list, however, there will be games that will be left off, simply because the vast list of games for the console is far too great to be truly representative. That said, I have ventured to select a range of games that are best described as forgotten: those games that just don’t get talked about enough.

On a personal level, there is another reason why I wanted to write this list. The PlayStation 2 has been my console of choice since 2002: my original, dust-beaten and weathered console still sits in pride of place beneath my television, 12 years since it was purchased for me. In that time, I have played several dozen games, all of which have contributed to many happy memories and close friendships. Some of these games are truly excellent examples of their applicable genres, and I hope that once you have finished reading this list you will attempt to locate some copies of them to show you just how good they are and just what exactly you’ve been missing.

Without further ado, let us dive into the heady heights of the PlayStation 2's forgotten gems!

We kick off this list with one that instantly may end up breaking the criteria for this list. Beyond Good & Evil is not necessarily forgotten: certainly, plenty of people exude passion for this game; so much so that finally, after 11 years of waiting, a sequel is in development. However, the general gaming public’s indifference to this game, despite the critical acclaim, is enough for the game to stake a claim on this list.

Developed by the same team behind the Rayman series, Beyond Good & Evil follows the exploits of Jade, a young woman who, along with Pey’j, Jade’s guardian, is looking after a group of orphans who have suffered at the hands of the DomZ. Running out of money, she takes a job as a photographer, a role which leads to Jade discovering the secrets of the DomZ, and the crimes which that have committed.

One thing that is noted about this game is the art style. Though set on another planet, its European styling lends itself well to a game which is lauded for it’s artwork, and it’s unique gameplay. Part puzzle game, part stealth game and part action adventure, the reason its fans adore this game is apparent: it’s a beautiful game which was cruelly ignored by far too many gamers. Give it a chance you may well become part of the fanclub. Beyond Good & Evil is just that – beyond good.

Upon beginning this list, a number of games have jumped back and forth into this slot. However, I did not feel they truly deserved to be there – then I remembered Spider-Man 2. The video game adaptation of the 2004 film, Spider-Man 2 did something that very few adaptations can claim to have done: be critically successful. People loved this game when it first came out; now, however, I barely hear a whisper about how great it is, and it’s a shame because it’s a fantastic game in its own right.

The main factor behind its success is the scope of the game. Such care was taken to make sure Spider-Man’s abilities felt as authentic and as well-developed as possible, especially in terms of the ever so crucial ability to web-sling, and the world they created was on-par with some of the more advanced explorable worlds on the console. The result was a game that became one of the first film-to-game conversions which just worked well, and gamers loved it. I cannot recommend this game enough: my spider senses are tingling just thinking about it.

Psychonauts is the definition of a cult classic. I must admit, my knowledge of the game is pretty limited: in all the time I went to video game shops, I never once saw a copy, regardless of the incredible score that my preferred gaming publication had given it. However, what I do know about it is courtesy of the thousands of fans that sing the praises of Psychonauts, a bizarre but excellent game from the warped mind of Tim Shaffer. Attempting to explain the plot will be a mission in itself.

Razputin “Raz” Aquato is a young boy borne of a circus family. His intention is to run away from this life to become a Psychonaut, a group of agents who are gifted with psychic abilities. Upon arrival at the training centre (which is disguised as a summer camp), Raz is caught by the guards, but is eventually allowed to stay, allowing him to meet a series of weird and wonderful characters as Raz develops his psychic skills to defeat greater evil.

What sets Psychonauts apart is its humour and enjoyability. Games live and die by this, and Psychonauts is an effortlessly playable game that succeeds in giving players a thoroughly enjoyable ride. It is also always fun to play around with psychic abilities, and in a period where these skills were abundant in games of this generation, Psychonauts stands out among the best. An excellent game that, although critically brilliant, is too underrated for words.

This is the first of two racing games that will appear on this list, and boy are they two excellent games. This one is a bit of an enigma: the original OutRun was a phenomenal success, becoming one of the most popular arcade games of all time. Several other games followed, leading to one which I consider to be the forgotten classic, Outrun 2006. Rather than being a direct sequel (this is the eighth game in the series), this is actually a spin-off, and re-imagining of the class original. While it was received well, its unusual pedigree ensured it would become sadly left forgotten.

Like any arcade-style racer, OutRun 2006 features a range of racing styles as well as single player and online capability. Unlike its main competitors, Ridge Racer and Burnout, OutRun gave you several famous brands to race with, and boy, what a game that led to. For sheer arcade thrills, I don’t think anything beats OutRun 2006, which just adds to the criminality of just how few people really played the game. Try it for yourself and you may just find yourself pleasantly surprised.

As an unashamed Final Fantasy fan, I once found it difficult to really enjoy any other RPG. Then, however, I was introduced to the Star Ocean series: Star Ocean 2 became one of my favourite games of all time, so when the third game was on the cusp of release I got incredibly excited, and naturally bought it immediately. Sadly, no one else seems to have done, because although it spawned a sequel the series just hasn’t become super popular. For shame, gamers, because this is a truly excellent RPG.

Fayt Leingod, the son of an eminent scientist from Earth, is holidaying with his parents and his childhood friend Sophia. Their bliss is shattered when the Vendeeni attack the planet, capturing his parents and catapulting him across space into unknown lands. What he doesn’t realise is that Sophia and himself are part of a much greater plot, perhaps even greater than existence itself…

The plot is a little ludicrous (I won’t spoilt it), but the gameplay and story elements are beyond exceptional. We meet a vast array of characters, some of which can only be played at the expense of others. The replay value is also great, with Battle Trophies available which force the player to play various games to experience every minute detail. As an experience, Star Ocean 3 is a game that cannot be ignored, so please find a copy if you get the chance to.

Rogue Galaxy is to me the epitome of “flew under the radar”. Not once, not even in the vast swathes of PlayStation magazines that I collected over the PS2′s lifespan, did I notice that this game was even released. Upon researching, I came to the conclusion that, although it sold well in Japan, over in other territories it seems to glide by without really getting much attention. In conversation with others, however, I realise just how good it actually is, and so definately deserves a spot here.

We follow as gamers the adventures of a young boy called Jaster Rogue, who lives in relative peace on the planet Rosa. When a beast attacks his town, he naturally goes after it, which leads him to recieve a legendary weapon, become mistaken for a famous bounty hunter, and eventually becomes a pirate who will set sail in space. Wonderful!

The reason people love this game seems to be the setting. Having such unique locations to explore is incredibly important, and Rogue Galaxy has that in spades. People also love the characters, the gameplay; everything comes together and it means that Rogue Galaxy, although not well known, is an example of a classic game that isn’t given the time of day by enough people.

Back in the heady days of 2006, gamers were spoiled for choice in terms of racing games. Burnout, Gran Turismo, Need For Speed and Forza Motorsport were all incredibly popular across the consoles, and so when TOCA Race Driver 3 came along, there was a little bit of an over-saturation. This is a real shame because TOCA Race Driver 3 is arguably a far superior game, if only for the varied gameplay elements included in it. As such, it truly has been forgotten in favour of its well known cousins.

TOCA Race Driver has it all. Like Gran Turismo, the game features licensed cars and tracks; although the former game has a wider variety of each, TOCA has the correct balance, with cars licensed from a variety of racing series. It feels far more like a racing game than a collector’s dream, and as such I believe TOCA is a far more fun game than people truly realise. It’s sorely underrated and needs some more exposure.

I shall be blunt: I am an enormous TimeSplitters fan. I played the second and third games to death, I joined the web forums devoted to it; in other words, I was, and perhaps still am, totally obsessed with the series. What people who know of the juggernaut that was TimeSplitters 2 perhaps fail to realise is that the original is also on par with it. It may be old now, but this little game still packs a punch that many other games should be green with envy about.

A launch title for PS2, TimeSplitters followed a series of timed missions, forcing you to get an item and return it to another area on the map. Easy right? Wrong – so many enemies are out to kill you. With a variety of difficulty settings, and rewards for getting fast times, the single player becomes a mad obsession. But that’s not all: a ludicrously fast paced multiplayer, mapmaking facilities, dozens of playable sprites and a fully customisable game system mean TimeSplitters has thousands of hours of playability.

I love this game. I think that people forget just how great it is, due to it being so regularly found in cheap game stores for a couple of pounds. It may not be as good as its sequels, but it’s definitely close to being on par with them.

For some reason, what I have seen of late is that low-key music games are ripe for becoming cult classics. Gitaroo Man is probably the best known xample, which is ironic considering just how rare it is now over in Europe and America. It was produced in such limited numbers that few people knew of its existence, let alone just how enjoyable a game it is. Due to its rarity, this is one of the games on the list that I have not played, although I have known about it for many years and I am confident in the assumption that, along with the testimony of its fans, that the game is a true great.

The simple yet insane story – U-1 is a young boy who is given a magical guitar by a talking dog which transforms him into the superhero Gitaroo Man – just adds to the charm of this wonderful title. The design of the game is one draw; the fabulous music is another. The main one, however, is the fact that the game is so wonderfully unique, one that I doubt will never get made again and that just means that those who have been blessed with the ability to play it are very lucky people. If you manage to find a copy – and I know I’ll look – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

From the entry for TimeSplitters, I’m sure you readers can understand just how much of a fan I am of that series. However, in truth, I guess I’m far more of a fan of Free Radical as an entity. Borne of a core group of staff from the development team behind Goldenye: 007 and Perfect Dark, they summed up how to do a great FPS: TimeSplitters added a dash of humour and they created a monster in the process. So what would the result of a change in genre cause? A cruelly ignored masterpiece, and one which will go down as one of the best games to make use of ragdoll physics.

John Vattic, a seemingly ordinary advisor, travels with the WinterICE team to Siberia on a mission…. he wakes up in a hospital, unsure of how he got there, hairless, and discovers that he has developed psychic powers. Jumping back and forth between the past and the present (or are we?) Vattic must uncover the truth behind the mission to Siberia, and realise his own importance; there is more to John Vattic than meets the eye.

Using the same graphics engine as TimeSplitters 2, but being a stealth/action game, the game is certainly a departure from what Free Radical had done previously. The story is a triumph, with Vattic being a brilliant protagonist who deals with so much. It’s also a difficult game, with portions of it relying on the player’s skills and not on blind luck like in other stealth games. Vattic’s psychic abilities are great fun to use, adding another dimension to an outstanding game. It’s such a shame – criminal perhaps – that this game sank without trace so soon after release. Right now, I am championing it, as it needs the recognition it deserves.

Upon writing the final entry, I looked over my previous list and realised something interesting; this list is far less personal than that one. Perhaps it’s down to the fact that, unlike the PS1, the PS2 era produced far fewer games that could be considered truly forgotten, Perhaps it’s down to the fact that I have far less experience of these games, and didn’t develop such a connection with them. Or perhaps, rather, it is down to the fact that I didn’t “grow up” with the PS2. I really need to go back and play some of these again, and spread the gospel further that these games, while not super-popular, are deserving of a second chance.

There are some truly excellent games here – all ten of then need to be given the chance, as well as all the Honourable Mentions listed below. I hope you enjoyed reading the list, and that games that you know and love made it. It’s still a very subjective list – what do you consider a forgotten gem? Let me know!

Honourable Mentions

Shadow of Rome; Lumines Plus; The Punisher; The Simpsons: Hit and Run; Odin Sphere; Obscure; Chaos Legion, Shadow Hearts; Shadow of Destiny; Sakura Wars; Maximo; Red Ninja; Red Dead Revolver; Siren; Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne; Valkyrie Profile 2; Primal; Shinobi; EyeToy; Parappa the Rapper 2; Suikoden Tactics; Psi-Ops; Zone of the Enders; Area 51; Arc the Lad; Ghost Hunter; Grungrave; Ghost Hunter; Megaman X: Command Mission

List by sirloinestake (02/13/2014)

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