Even at present, the ultimate video game console system in terms of sales and critical acclaim is still the mighty PlayStation 2. It was not only a satisfying step forward for the PS1 in terms of graphics and games but it had the triple caveat of also playing DVD discs and connecting online to the internet (at a very primitive level, mind).
Still, it wasn't all peaches and cream, with a wealth of games the console also had its fair share of stinkers as it was an era plagued with lame licensed games, blatant rip-offs of popular titles (e.g. Tony Hawk, GTA) and some completely bewildering rush jobs. No two ways about it—there were some really, really bad games dumped out on the PS2.
On the other side of the spectrum, they were also some fantastic games released that got lost in the crowd due to the console's other major heavy hitters getting all the limelight. These titles were usually either being ahead of their time, not flashy enough or outshined—no doubt, there are plenty of games from back then that more than deserve their due.
An extra note though; some formerly underrated PS2 games (e.g. Beyond Good and Evil, Okami) have gotten so much attention that they are now officially considered classics—so, they won't get a mention in this list. So, without further ado, let's have a look at some of the PS2's epic dumpster fires and some of its shiniest unsung heroes...
30 Worst: Army Men: Green Rogue
The Army Men franchise managed to carve out a low-key if long-lasting run for itself while holding a strict following of niche players. Yet, one game that no one can defend is the utter mess of the Green Rogue spin-off, even if it was saddled with a reliably fun premise.
The developers decided to mash an isometric shooter with third-person combat and an imposing on-rails camera.
All of those three things contrast and wrestle with each other as billions of bullet are sprayed at the player relentlessly. A fun idea becomes an endlessly frustrating one.
29 Underrated: The Warriors
Rockstar Games—at the peak of their heat during the PS2 era—decided to tackle an adaptation of this obscure 80s cult movie. Proving they were a company that truly does whatever the heck they wanted, it also resulted in their best game from that era.
Taking a loving approach with the material; the campaign plays into the events leading up to the movie, with everything feeling like an authentic expansion, plus every single one of the film's actors returned for their roles. Add to that great co-op, combat mechanics, and synth atmosphere—this is great, great stuff.
28 Worst: Aquaman: Battle For Atlantis
Jason Momoa’s coolness factor has made the underwater hero an exciting prospect for a solo movie. Yet most people might forget what a joke the character was back in the day.
Then, a rip-roaringly good run in the 90s basically rebooted him into an underwater Thor with an awesome trident hand; he was rife for gaming attention. Sadly, this morbidly repetitive game wasn’t the answer; swim around, find some bad guys, and beat them up with vanilla moves. Do this for six hours while struggling with an anti-social camera and that pretty much sums it up.
27 Underrated: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
The first three Silent Hill games have a rightful place in gaming history as classics—after that, pretty much everything is dismissed as garbage... which is a little unfair. This was a late franchise entry and a port of an ignored Wii game. Thankfully without the annoying motion controls, the PS2 version could emphasize what made these games so incredible; the dark and unpredictable storyline.
It even had the gamer go through subtle psychological tests that would affect the morbid campaign in delicious ways (an idea Until Dawn totally steals). It was a creepy and emotional entry.
26 Worst: Robin Hood’s Quest
My goodness, even the title just oozes a lack of imagination... it’s not often when the use of a sub-title feels necessary to breathe some excitement into a project's name, but this one really makes a case.
Graphics that match mid-era PS1, stifled movement, awful voice acting, flat story, and most of all; it’s just dreadfully boring. The studio’s idea of making a Robin Hood adventure game with a Zelda influence was a sound principle—that’s about where the good ends.
25 Underrated: Killer7
Game developer Suda 59 not only seems to have cult appeal follow him onto every game he tackles—he purposefully reviles in it. This is no more apparent than his first big game in the West; that was as bewildering as it was fascinating.
Its obtuse plot turned many off when released back in the day, plus it was a puzzle-game set on-rails with even weirder combat. Yet, the intriguing game has garnered a deserved cult appeal over the years with it worth checking out in its upcoming remaster edition; it might not always make sense but is well worth the wild ride.
24 Worst: Pro Evolution Soccer Mangement
Emerging out of the PS2 era was Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer, the only soccer franchise that has properly given FIFA a challenge. Not content on having sneaked in on EA’s action, Konami also attempted to give Sega’s Football Manager franchise a run for their money as well.
Unfortunately, a limited handle on licenses and official teams made the playground limited, with a frustratingly awkward interface making the process a total headache. This is one that's better left forgotten.
23 Underrated: Fahrenheit (AKA Indigo Prophecy)
The PS3’s cinematic Heavy Rain marked the arrival of developer Quantic Dream, yet it was actually the third game they had made—with this PS2 title their first venture into the heady blend of interactive movie and adventure game.
Certainly, the game is plenty flawed—with the game mechanic playing awkward and the stories third act imploding into nonsense—yet, it still a wild, exciting and involving mix of genres and ground-breaking ambition. It certainly didn't get its due at the time, but is well worth a look for those curious of this innovating companies start.
22 Worst: Pimp My Ride
Xzibit’s trademark proclamation to pimp a contestant's ride was a familiar vocal on most teen's TV's during the late noughts—in fact, it still is MTV’s second most popular show produced. A game-infused spin on the show wasn’t a far reach.
Yet, what possible fun had with customizing and racing your ride is let down by a beyond clunky open-world. One where you earn pennies by smashing into random objects or doing ‘Cruise By’ quick-time events. None of it was fun, catered to the show’s fans, or made much sense either.
21 Underrated: Red Dead Revolver
It might be hard for most gamers to realize Red Dead Redemption was actually a sequel to a low-key shooter released on PS2. Originally developed by Capcom, it was axed half-way and Rockstar Games swooped in for the rescue and bought the studio, I.P. and completed production.
Passionately steeped in the Spaghetti Western genre, the game lovingly recreates set-pieces and scenarios from big the screen in a fast-paced arcade shooter with a decent plot-line threading it to the end. When it comes to no-nonsense Western fun, this one is even superior.
20 Worst: Surfing H30
Back in the PS2 days, Tony Hawk Pro Skater was all the business. It took advantage of the hot trend of skating while providing challenging yet satisfying gameplay. It was a profitable pie every studio wanted a piece of...
...so how about going about it without blatantly ripping Tony Hawk off? Well, take on the equally hip sport of surfing and inject it with the same appealing edgy style and gameplay.
Unfortunately, Rockstar Games forgot to include smooth and enjoyable controls because the result is an infuriating slog to play—and even if mastered, holds very little to reward anyway.
19 Underrated: Viewtiful Joe
Clover Studios was filled with an all-star team of Japanese developers, yet they never seemed to be able to catch a successful break over in the West.
This is no more apparent than with the cartoony and colorful adventures of superhero Viewtiful Joe and his crazy combat and platforming antics. A niche following managed to encourage an equally worthy sequel and a spin-off—yet its vibrant cheerful style was sadly lost to most gamers obsessed with gritty action games at the time.
18 Worst: Crazy Frog Racer
Starting in 2003, the Crazy Frog phenomena was sweeping the nation—and then just like that, it was thankfully gone. With a seemingly unstoppable run of success, it managed to net not only one…but two video game titles! That's more installments that contemporaries like Jade Empire or Eternal Darkness deserved—but sadly never enjoyed.
The title itself focused on shoehorning this frog into his own Mario Kart-style racer. Sure, it's aimed at kids, but done with none of the fun, finesse, and imagination those Nintendo titles displayed.
17 Underrated: Mark Of Kri
A first-party effort by Sony’s game division; this stealth-actioner had a lot of hype and support behind it, yet the release fell on deaf ears due to its ahead-of-the-curve game mechanics and distinct style palette Taking advantage of the lush mythology of the Polynesian islands, it plays like a vibrant Pixar movie yet deliciously juxtaposed with hard action.
Plus its subversion of stealth and combat mechanics would go on to blatantly influence the Arkham series and God Of War—regardless it wasn’t enough to win over a GTA 3 teen audience.
16 Worst: Fight Club
The film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s cult novel is likely the ultimate late 90s movie; perfectly capturing the frustrated zeitgeist with sure-fire direction, razor-sharp performances and one heck of a twist ending.
On the other hand, its rightfully ignored video game adaptation pretty much represents everything terrible about the mid-noughts: bland mechanics, a generic sense of cool, and, the cherry on the top… Fred Durst! The only interesting thing about the game is the proposition of different fighting styles offered, yet sadly it has you slap them on any character of choosing—making the choice of variety utterly moot.
15 Underrated: Cold Fear
Taking Resident Evil 4 and setting it on a boat…before, you know, that franchise actually did that (e.g. Resident Evil: Revelations). This atmospheric third-person horror game was rife with tension and strong set-piece from beginning to end—yet players brushed it off as just a rip-off of Capcom’s famous series.
It’s a shame because its conspiracy plot-line remains interesting throughout with a good balance of frights and suspenseful action. Overall, it worked as a more worthy follow-up to RE4 than the actual third-person sequels we later got.
14 Worst: Little Britain: The Video Game
The British sketch comedy show from duo David Walliams and Matt Lucas blew up big time back during the early noughts—so what was the next logical for it? A shoddy and unnecessary video game adaptation of course.
It a series of seven mediocre mini-games that shoehorn the most famous sketch characters into painful rips of Pac-Man, Tetris, and old-school racers. There is zero appeal for the game on any level for anyone—unless they enjoy pain.
13 Underrated: Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks
Mortal Kombat’s barmy yet delicious mythology filled with dark magic has always been rife to expand upon outside of its fighting arena. Midway felt the same on two occasions with the PS1 (Sub-Zero and Special Forces) but face-planted themselves on an embarrassing level on both times. Third time lucky then, as this beat-em-up featuring Liu Kang and Kung Lao is downright awesome.
It expanded on the games in a fantastic manner, featured authentic fight moves and managed to be a blast in co-op. Sadly, not many bought it.
12 Worst: Crime Life: Gang Wars
Post-San Andreas, every single company was trying their hardest to replicate a gritty cinematic influence onto an open-world roaming game—not many succeeded, even a (then) strong Konami.
Instead of mechanically being a GTA clone, this one at least had the interesting angle of being a straight-up beat-em-up.
That's where the imagination ends though, with terrible fight controls, spam moves, and lame execution. Add to that a painfully generic story, ugly graphics, and so many stereotypes, it would make Tyler Perry blush.
11 Underrated: Haunting Ground
Capcom created this distinct survival horror experience which was ignored in lieu of gamers wanting more Resident Evil action. Playing as a young maiden who wakes up in a creepy old mansion; several deranged characters stalk the hallways wishing to off you.
It was a challenging and tense game with a rich lore behind it, and an endearing relationship at its center between the girl and a stray dog she befriends. Capcom should remaster it (like they do everything else); in retrospect, it was way ahead of its time and caters much better to a modern horror game audience.
10 Worst: Tomb Raider: Angel Of Darkness
One of the first franchises to break through as a mainstream pop-culture phenomenon was Lara Croft and her guns. It was a fun twist on Indiana Jones that reigned champ on the PS1 but began feeling tired by the end of that console's run.
The opportunity to launch on the fresh PS2 was a vital move to regain its footing. Yet a rushed development cycle, a boring story, broken game mechanics, and a complete misunderstanding of what made the series work (uhm…tomb raiding?) made this one not only the worst out the series—but of the PS2 era, period.
9 Underrated: God Hand
Clover Studios strikes again, with another ridiculously underrated game on this list. Here, we have their wacky and deeply satisfying third-person action game—which was also the studio's problem (IGN infamously even gave it a 3/10).
The goofy plot was played tongue-in-cheek as a hodge-podge of famous animes—but the game’s true strengths were the layered and customizable combat system. It was an approach where you earned moves and then assign them to specific buttons in any order you wished. It made the ridiculously tough game a flexible and rewarding one as well.
8 Worst: Bad Boys: Miami Takedown
Michael Bay’s duo of dumb yet highly enjoyable cop movies, kind of play like a blockbuster video game anyway; non-stop action, one-liners, and explosions. So attempting to adapt the series was hardly a stretch... yet, even just as passable shallow entertainment this game fails on all fronts.
Stars Martin Lawerence and Will Smith unsurprisingly didn't provide their voice talents to the project—but they also turned down an easy paycheck and refused their likeness as well. This leaves the two leads as generic cops with bad voice acting, flat graphics, and frustratingly bad shooting mechanics. There's really nothing to recommend here.
7 Underrated: Blood Omen 2
The Legacy Of Kain franchise is a two-headed beast; the Soul Reaver games are the more conventional and popular ones, while the Blood Omen titles are the dark and gory RPGs centered on Kain; the merciless vampire King.
The first Blood Omen was an isometric title that is arguably the strongest of the franchise, yet its direct sequel quite successfully translated the brutal aesthetic and combat into a 3D world. Sadly, some bugs let the initial game down but there’s no denying it’s a total blast to play regardless—here’s hoping we’ll get a reboot or remasters of this overlooked franchise soon.
6 Worst: London Cab Challenge
Wow, just read that title—isn’t it bustling with flavor and imagination, huh? Well, if even the developers couldn’t feint excitement for this endless excursive into gamer torture—how could anyone else?
Sporting graphics that look like a PS1 launch game, the game has you carry out chores and challenges as a cabbie in the bustling real-life city. Surprisingly the premise has worked great before (e.g. Crazy Taxi) but not with this landscape of grey ugly blocks, terrible controls, and cursed collision detection.
5 Underrated: Onimusha: Dawn Of Dreams
Originally birthed by Capcom as a feudal Japanese alternative to Resident Evil, the Onimusha franchise ran strong throughout the PS2's lifespan. Yet, it came to a halt by the end of the console too; the survival horror meets samurai action idea worked surprisingly well, although by it’s third entry, it had spiraled into nonsensical silliness.
This fourth entry was a sharp reboot and likely the strongest out of the franchise; it brought forth more fluid controls and camera, a meaty campaign, fierce enemies, and epic battles. It sadly didn’t catch on due to franchise fatigue but was a cracking swansong to the series at least.
4 Worst: Beverly Hills Cop
It's such a rush job that the final result is filled with bugs galore, zero voice acting, and even spelling mistakes within their text dialogue. Eddie Murphy’s likeness does not appear, instead replaced with a tanned model with no hair or eyebrows (!!!).
The entire thing plays terribly with the shoddy production on all fronts. It’s obvious the developers were just trying to make a quick buck at the expensive of a brand name—it only got a limited release in Europe as a result.
3 Underrated: The Thing
John Carpenter’s classic has one of the most harrowing open-endings of all time; fans have dreamed for decades of a movie continuation. Unfortunately, that will never happen—yet, a fantastic sequel did already happen in game form; the campaign picks up moments after the movie with a team investigating the scorched earth aftermath.
Things get deliciously complex from there—best of all, they’ve included a squad mechanic to match the film’s are-they-or-aren't-they paranoia with any of your team members able to be an alien in disguise. This a cracking game that captures the film's bleak atmosphere to a tee.
2 Worst: Fugitive Hunter
Made way back in 2004, the game makers attempting to do a bit of diligent wish fulfillment and have you control a one-man-army bounty hunter, who takes the entire post-September events insurgence down single-handed.
He does so with bad voice acting, broken FPS shooting and, best of all, hilariously bad (and unresponsive) hand-to-hand combat sequences. Yet it managed to not even make ending these baddies fun, as its serious presentation and exasperating gameplay spoilt the ‘so bad, it’s good’ appeal even.
1 Underrated: Bully
In 2006, Rockstar was really able to drop whatever game they pleased—so they gave us this sweet-natured high-school sandbox that homaged John Hughes movies.
Even with it moving away from their edgy roots, what it lacked in controversy, it kept the studio’s high-caliber for writing dimensional characters and fully immersing someone into their game world. As Billy Hopkins, you would take on school bullies, go on dates with classroom sweethearts, or skip lessons and get detention. It was nostalgic thrills done with incredible care and charm—and deserved a heck of a lot more attention then it got.