The PlayStation 2 was a monumentally important console. First released in 2000, it went on to sell more than 150 million units, and what’s even more impressive is that a reported 1,850 original titles were manufactured for the system. Gamers loved the PS2’s graphical capabilities, as well as the wide variety of games that were available for it, and by all accounts, it was technologically advanced at the time. The sleek physical appearance of the console was also a factor in its success as it may have been the first system that legitimately looked cool.
Considering how long the PlayStation 2 was around and how many titles were made for it, it should surprise no one that the quality level of games could be pretty varied. Without a doubt, quite a few classics emerged from the PS2 days and at the same time, it was also notorious for having a lot of “shovelware” (products that were tossed out to capitalize on the console’s popularity without regard to its quality). Some games were so poorly made that the people behind them should have been ashamed. This list will focus on both the good and the not-so-good. A couple of the games here are amusingly bad, but most of the turkeys are just inadequate; however, others are so good that they hold up. When a game from two consoles ago still looks impressive today, it’s a sign that a lot of hard work and dedication went into its creation. The best of these titles can even stand alongside anything found on the PlayStation 4. Here are 13 Old PlayStation 2 Games Everyone Forgets Looked Bad (And 12 That Still Hold Up).
24 Looked Bad: The Sopranos: Road to Respect
The PlayStation 2 had an unusually large number of games designed to capitalize on pop culture phenomenons. One of them was The Sopranos: Road to Respect, based on HBO’s hugely successful show about an organized crime boss and his family. The game took place between the fifth and sixth seasons, focusing on an aspiring mobster attempting to make a name for himself.
Although the PS2’s graphics were good, they weren’t sophisticated enough to make photo-realistic people. That meant Road to Respect could only offer comically distorted versions of James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli, and the rest of the show’s cast.
23 Still Holds Up: Kingdom Hearts
Kingdom Hearts was a dream come true for Disney fans. The game, which also utilized elements from the Final Fantasy series, took players through the worlds of several classic animated films from the Mouse House, including The Nightmare Before Christmas, Aladdin, and, most memorably, Alice in Wonderland. Also, beloved Disney characters like Goofy and Donald Duck fought alongside hero Sora.
Great care was taken to replicate the visual style of each movie referenced in the game, and because of that, Kingdom Hearts is still a dazzling-looking experience that makes you feel immersed in the extended Disney universe.
22 Looked Bad: Twisted Metal Black
Twisted Metal Black was half a vehicle-based game and half a weapons-based game. It was essentially one big demolition derby in which players could upgrade their cars with various types of missile launchers or other gizmos capable of destruction, allowing players to indulge in their deepest road rage fantasies.
Although TMB received high marks for its gameplay and creative weaponry, it had a distinctly poor look to it. The word “black” in the title was apt, the primary colors in the game were black, gray, and brown, and at times, it could be hard on your eyes because it was so relentlessly drab.
21 Still Holds Up: Viewtiful Joe
Viewtiful Joe hit with a bang when it was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004 as it looked like nothing else that had come before. This fighting game told the story of a guy named Joe whose girlfriend is taken to a place called Movieland by the nefarious Captain Blue and he needs to fight off a lot of the villain’s henchmen in order to save her.
Aside from the colorful, cartoon-like graphics, Viewtiful Joe was notable for the way it combined 2D side-scrolling with 3D character animation. That gave it a unique style and atmosphere, which in turn, allowed players to get lost in its fictional world.
20 Looked Bad: Summoner
Summoner was one of the PS2’s launch titles, and it’s hard to imagine a worse introduction to a new console, at least from a visual point of view. An action RPG, the game cast players as Joseph, a young man searching for several ancient rings that can be used to prevent his village from being destroyed by an invading army.
The graphics in Summoner are extremely blocky, and the texture of objects (such as the straw roofs on huts or the ragged edges of rocks) aren’t even remotely realistic. Fortunately, designers would figure out how to make more attractive games than this over time.
19 Still Holds Up: Bully
Bully swirled up some major controversy when it came out. Many parents and videogame watchdogs felt it was inappropriate to market a game to kids that would encourage such intimidation or make it seem glamorous. What they didn’t realize is that, while the main character is a brawler and a troublemaker, he actually stands up for kids who are getting picked on.
The prep school environment offers various appealing locations, and it is intricately designed, with lots of rooms and buildings to explore. For an older game, it’s impressive how much emotion the designers were able to have the characters convey.
18 Looked Bad: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Of all the movies adapted into videogames, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has to be one of the least likely. Ang Lee’s 2000 martial arts drama won Best Foreign-Language Film and Best Cinematography at the 73rd Academy Awards and earned a record-breaking $128 million at the domestic box office. A videogame, though? That was ambitious.
Aside from wildly unflattering graphical representations of stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-fat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon offered generic backgrounds and cheesy cut-scenes. It’s astonishing that a movie so beautifully visualized could inspire such an unsightly game.
17 Still Holds Up: Sly Cooper: Honor Among Thieves
Sly Cooper: Honor Among Thieves is the third installment of the series in which players control the title character, a master thief who also happens to be a raccoon. He has to climb poles, walk across ropes, and hide in shadows to avoid being detected as he attempts to pull off his latest heist.
Sly and his friends, Murray the hippo and Bentley the turtle, are pleasingly designed, as are the locations in which they carry out their missions. Much of the game requires Sly to perch at heights, and the way the graphics suggest buildings and objects at a distance helps sell the illusion of height.
16 Looked Bad: Frogger: The Great Quest
If you want to see a prime example of how not to update a classic game, look no further than Frogger: The Great Quest. Of course, the graphics on the original arcade Frogger are primitive, but they fit the basic gameplay, which requires you to guide a frog through various obstacles on his way from one side of the screen to the other.
For the PS2, Konami turned Frogger into a lame platformer, with a goofy, unappealing redesign of the lead character. Coupled with a wonky camera that made it difficult to do anything accurately, The Great Quest turned out to be anything but great.
15 Still Holds Up: Final Fantasy XII
The Final Fantasy series is arguably the most popular in all of videogames. For that reason, the release of Final Fantasy XII on the PS2 was a huge deal as fans couldn’t wait to see how the game looked and played. They were not disappointed as it was almost universally praised by gaming critics and players alike.
FF XII really pushed the limits of what the PlayStation 2 could do graphically. It had visual sophistication, both in character design and environments, beyond any other game the system had seen. To this day, it remains a fondly-remembered title.
14 Looked Bad: Wolverine’s Revenge
There have been plenty of good X-Men games for various consoles, including the PlayStation 2, but Wolverine’s Revenge is not one of them. Created to coincide with the release of the movie X-Men 2, it finds Logan fighting his way through the Weapon X facility in search of clues that will help him piece together the mystery of his life.
As is often the case with videogames based on movies, Wolverine’s Revenge didn’t benefit from a long, careful development period. It was cranked out to capitalize on the film, but the visuals are consequently very bland and unimaginative. Unfortunately, the mechanics are equally dismal, too.
13 Still Holds Up: Katamari Damacy
Katamari Damacy is such a weird game that you can’t help but love it. The premise is that a nervous little alien prince is sent to Earth to collect objects for the never-satisfied King of All Cosmos. Gamers control him as he rolls up progressively larger objects into a gigantic ball. You start with small things like thumbtacks, but eventually consume buildings.
The bright, colorful design of Katamari Damacy makes it as much fun to look at as to play. Impressively, you can see many of the various items you absorb as you roll around, which quality gives it a humorous touch.
12 Looked Bad: Stretch Panic
Stretch Panic is the sort of game that makes you wonder what the people who created it were thinking when they came up with its premise. You play as Linda, a little girl who uses her magic scarf to rescue her demon-possessed sisters. The scarf allows her (and, by extension, the player) to grab hold of enemies and objects and then stretch and snap them like a rubber band.
Graphically, Stretch Panic looks like something someone made in their basement on an old computer. It’s so basic and lacking in detail that it’s hard to believe people were charged money for it.
11 Still Holds Up: Psychonauts
Psychonauts came along at a time when developers were realizing that the capabilities of the PS2 would allow for original, offbeat ideas, rather than just variations on the same types of games that had become commonplace. You played as Raz, a boy with psychic abilities who joins several others of his kind to foil a plot to destroy the camp where they learn how to use their powers.
The game relied on unusual-looking characters, otherworldly creatures, and unique worlds to travel through, which the PS2 was more than capable of fulfilling those needs. Psychonauts is undoubtedly one of the most distinct games the system ever saw.
10 Looked Bad: Midnight Club II
Racing games have been around from the beginning, and there have been titles of wildly varying quality. As far as the PlayStation 2 goes, Midnight Club II was on the high end and it was met with general approval. However, the look of it really doesn’t hold up, though.
The cars all look a little blocky, and they don’t have the same kind of detail that has become a key trait in most racing games. MC II also puts a lot of things on screen at the same time, including a fairly obtrusive map and a speedometer. This makes things appear a bit cluttered.
9 Still Holds Up: Okami
Capcom’s Okami took away players’ breath when they got their first glimpse of it. Featuring visuals influenced by sumi-e (an East Asian type of ink wash painting), the game immersed you in mesmerizing Japanese imagery. It also had some novel gameplay, as you could use a “celestial brush” to paint on the screen.
Okami was one of the last titles released for the PS2. Since people were looking forward to the next system, it didn’t sell as strongly as Capcom had hoped. Nonetheless, IGN named it Game of the Year for 2006.
8 Looked Bad: TimeSplitters 2
TimeSplitters 2 certainly had a promising concept. You played as a space marine traveling through various time periods collecting crystals that are needed to defeat a race of hostile aliens. There was a Wild West level, another set in Prohibition-era Chicago, and one in the distant future.
While the premise was sufficiently hooky, the look of TimeSplitters 2 left a lot to be desired in the minds of some players. The characters had a weird cartoonish look and boxy features, and although the first-person shooter gameplay was praised for its smoothness, it added nothing new to the format.
7 Still Holds Up: Ratchet & Clank
Ratchet & Clank was one of the most purely enjoyable games ever to grace the PlayStation 2. The dual platformer/shooter centered around a cat-like mechanic and his little robot buddy who try to save the universe from the wicked plans of nemesis Chairman Drek.
Aside from appealingly-designed lead characters, Ratchet & Clank was notable for the wide array of clever weapons players could take advantage of. Some had useful tactical abilities, like a guided missile launcher, while others were just humorous, especially “the Sheepinator,” which turned enemies into sheep and then made them explode.
6 Looked Bad: Shadow of Destiny
If you go onto videogame message boards and read the threads about bad-looking PS2 games, you’ll see Shadow of Destiny repeatedly popping up. Known as Shadow of Memories in its native Japan, the game requires you to guide the main character through various time periods in order to find the person who exterminated him.
The humans all have weird facial features, and their body movements and posture are stiff and awkward. This was a fairly early PS2 game, so the full capabilities of the console had not yet been exploited. However, when viewed today, this game is embarrassingly poor.
5 Still Holds Up: Destroy All Humans!
Destroy All Humans! was inspired by science-fiction films from the 1950s. The central figure is Crypto, an alien from space who comes to Earth and immediately begins wreaking havoc. He zaps people with his ray-gun, flips over vehicles, destroys buildings with his flying saucer, and tosses cows. Yes, really.
The style of the game perfectly replicates its cinematic influences and playing it feels like stepping into one of those emphatic old movies –or Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks, for that matter. The recreation of ’50s America also gives Destroy All Humans! a much different feel from any other PS2 game.
4 Looked Bad: City Crisis
City Crisis is not one of the more well-known PS2 games. This is a helicopter simulation in which the goal is to dump water on raging fires and rescue citizens from the various blazes that keep popping up. In each level, you only have a certain amount of time to do this.
There’s probably a cool game buried in there somewhere, but City Crisis is hurt by cheesy graphics that detract from the intended thrills. The city just doesn’t look all that good, nor does the helicopter you fly.
3 Still Holds Up: Shadow of the Colossus
Back in the mid-2000s, a public debate started about whether or not videogames should be considered art. Those who believed that they should often pointed to Shadow of the Colossus as proof. With memorable characters and a rich story, it offered an emotional experience that was very uncommon in games.
The physical look was astonishing and was full of magnificently designed creatures that had personalities of their own. Watching the hero, Wander, climb these massive beasts gave players a genuine rush. Shadow of the Colossus is widely considered a landmark achievement in the field of gaming, even after fifteen plus years of its release, it still impresses.
2 Looked Bad: American Idol
American Idol is still going, but it’s no longer the juggernaut it once was. In fact, how pervasive was the show’s influence? Enough for a PlayStation 2 game to be based on it. That’s how pervasive.
The representations of original judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Simon Cowell are borderline spooky. You can tell who they’re supposed to be, but they also look like weird, pod-people versions. Simon, in particular, looks deranged. American Idol is so unsightly that you don’t know whether to laugh or scream.
1 Still Holds Up: Burnout 3: Takedown
The Burnout games are some of the best racers on the PS2 as they convey a sense of pedal-to-the-floor speed. The real draw, however, is “Crash Mode,” which awards you points for creating accidents. Cause enough chaos and you get the pleasure of making your own vehicle explode.
In real life, of course, such things would be unjustifiable, but within the fantasy of a videogame, it was strangely cathartic. Burnout 3: Takedown had the best graphics of the series. The collisions are rendered with such accuracy that you would shiver in horror if you weren’t having so much fun.
Which other PS2 games do you think looked bad? Which ones still hold up? Let us know in the comments!