Though it’s still a year shy of being able to drink in certain nations, celebrating its twentieth birthday, in accordance with its Japan launch, is still an incredible milestone for Sony’s PlayStation 2.
A force to be reckoned with, this console shipped monster numbers well in excess of 150m units, making it the most prolific console of all-time in terms of sheer sales. Throughout its life, it had 3,800 games published for it including a number of touchstone titles that went on to launch fruitful franchises, including God of War, Jak and Daxter, and Ratchet and Clank.
So though it won’t turn 20 on our shores until later in the year, we’ve decided it’s high time we take a look back at some of our fonder memories of the PlayStation 2. A time before mainstream online gaming, a time before Spider-Man fonts and a time where 8MB memory cards would house the save files for a whole shelf of games.
A simpler time.
The PlayStation 2 is definitely my favourite console of all time. I was probably a little too young to fully enjoy the original PlayStation when we had it in our house, but the PlayStation 2 was the first console that was all mine. Locked away in my bedroom, I spent hours upon hours playing games such as God of War, Ratchet and Clank, FIFA, the WWE games and a bunch of others.
However, the most memorable gaming experience for me, and still one of my favourite games of all time is Jak II. I don’t know it is about this game, but Jak and Daxter were a great duo to follow, and the open-world vehicular sequences mixed in with the combat and platforming was just pure perfection in my eyes. I remember it being super difficult to complete, but I persisted through till the end.
Another memory (which I’m sure others will mention is GTA: San Andreas). I think I was just about to hit high school when that came out and I remember it being the first time that everyone at school was hanging for a game launch, and it’s the first memory I have of my friendship group all picking up a game together and discovering things as we all played it.
I also want to mention Singstar, because this was a huge success particularly in Australia/Europe. There wasn’t a birthday party that I attended in my childhood/teens, without it being present and it was a huge reason why the PS2 reached so many people.
Unlike the majority of the Press Start team, I was a little youngling when the PlayStation 2 came out. It hit that sweet spot, that primary school age, when I had no homework to do when I got home at four in the afternoon. My brother and I spent hours at a time in front of an obnoxiously large CRT television we had, plowing through games like Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, and of course, the LEGO Star Wars games.
But, if there was one game we played way more than any other, it’d be Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. We’d wreak havoc and get to a five-star wanted level as quickly as possible and enjoy an endless police chase, leaving the console running so to avoid repeating the process. Consequently, we burned the pause menu into the television. You could make it out whenever there was a dark moment on any movie or show. Not only were we getting in trouble with the law, but eventually also with mum and dad.
Never having had a PlayStation before it, my induction to the system came on the back of a cruel Christmas Day prank. As a young buck, I hoped and dreamed of a PlayStation 2 for Christmas and was assured Santa was a top bloke who wouldn’t drop the ball. When I opened my last, console-shaped gift on that hallowed morning to discover a wonderful vomit-green luggage set (that I had until only a few years ago admittedly), the waterworks began as disappointment washed over me.
Funnily enough, the console was safely tucked inside the ghastly suitcase to my surprise. The ensuing laughs would burn a pit in my soul so deep, the vengeance to be exacted in reply is still being calculated.
Nevertheless, without a memory card to speak of I became very capable at the first couple of stages on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and began a short-lived love affair with demo discs that would last until the day I got my first 8MB card of fond memories.
When we finally upgraded from the original PlayStation to the PS2, it was like a mind-blowing jump into the future. Franchises that I’d known and loved for years suddenly looked brilliant and fresh, and at the same time, I was introduced to new game franchises that would be played so much they would embed themselves deep in my memory.
It’s hard to pick an absolute favourite for the console; it’d probably be a three-way tie between Tekken 5, Burnout 2 and Black for the games that I spent most of my time on. Each one had a different connection – playing and constantly beating my dad at Tekken (to which he’d claim there must be something wrong with the controls) to causing mass pile-ups and beating high scores against friends in Burnout 2, to the gunplay and movie-like story of Black being played well into the early hours of the morning.
I have so many great memories of the PS2. Between went I first got mine at launch and well into when the next generation finally came around, that thing saw me through the whole of high school and when I first moved out of home. In that time, I discovered so many new genres and experiences, all the while furthering my passion for platformers and JRPGs.
My fondest memory though has to be the time I was allowed to skip school in Year 8 to go and pick up Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on launch day. Well, I went with a paying adult to pick it up, of course. I don’t even know how I got the parental approval to buy the game – it was very likely a lack of knowledge on their part of just what I was buying. Anyway, I had very few opportunities in Year 8 to really flex on my friends, but being the kid who got to stay home and play San Andreas on release day definitely had me feeling like a king. At the time we didn’t have instant access to information that people have now, so I became something of an oracle for GTA knowledge. A highlight of my school years, for sure.
I’ll never forget seeing an ad on TV showing a car speeding down a road. I thought nothing of it, probably another ad to sell a new car. But then the ‘Wrong Way’ indicator came up and I realised it was actually a video game. It seems bonkers to imagine it now, but at the time Gran Turismo 3 was so graphically advanced I couldn’t tell it apart from real-life footage on an old CRT TV.
My fondest PlayStation 2 memory is a bit of a weird one, but it was a birthday sleepover for one of my friends who was turning eleven or twelve. We stayed up chowing down on chocolate-covered sultanas and playing Splashdown, a jet-ski racing game that seems almost forgotten now until the sun rose. I didn’t personally own a PS2 until well after it stopped being current, but through friends, it still holds a special place in my memory.
Like Ewan, I was also a little one when the PS2 came out, and it has a pretty special place in my heart as the first home console we ever owned. It’s probably the console I played the least during my childhood because I was very young at the time, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few fond memories.
I think my favourite of the bunch, though, would have to be the time we first got The Simpsons: Hit & Run. I remember dad and I playing it for hours and hours until mum had to peel us off of it. It’s definitely one of the root causes for the way I consume games today and I still sometimes get the insatiable urge to play Hit & Run again.