I’ve seen a few people mention that this week was the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation 2, which seemed a little early to me (this week was also the 20th anniversary of my wife and I getting together, and the two didn’t seem to quite add up) until I realised it was a reference to the original Japanese release.

In the UK, we didn’t get the machine until late 2000, and I vaguely recall ludicrous rumours about its power, as well as stock shortages upon initial release, which also added to its mystique. Despite all that, the launch games weren’t all that strong, and I still have the issue of Edge (#84) which delivered fairly sniffy write-ups (their favourite kind, of course) about the likes of Ridge Racer V and Tekken Tag Tournament.

Scan sourced from RetroCDN.

The PS2 is probably the console for which I have the fondest memories, although as with its predecessor, I bought a lot of the highly rated platform exclusives but failed to really get anywhere with them. My main priority was to be able to play Pro Evolution Soccer (although, as many retrospectives have acknowledged, the fact it worked as a DVD player too was a nice bonus), and so, with the exception of the Singstar and Guitar Hero games, most of my other favourites were titles that were also released on PC but were beyond the capabilities of my machine at the time.

As a result, I’ve actually written about their desktop equivalents here at some point, and although plenty of other 00s-era games we’ve covered were also released on PS2 (which we’ll also come to: this era saw differences between versions of multi-platform releases narrow somewhat) I’ll stick for now to the ones that I first played on console.

(I’m aware this is a very uncool list, but I can’t pretend to have used the console to play anything other than quite mainstream titles. Also all screens are – obviously – from the PC versions, although as most of them are from my old machine they are at least in 4:3 format).

Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001)

Although a 3D GTA was technically possible on the previous generation of consoles, Rockstar wisely deferred the move to an era in which the technology could better do the concept justice.

Somewhat unusually for me, I got into the game pretty soon after I bought it, and only stopped due to joypad-related combat issues causing repeated failure of a mission. Some 18 years later, aided by mouse and keyboard, I actually finished the game on PC.

Midnight Club II (2003)

Rockstar’s street racing series went off in a more glamorous (and console exclusive) direction after this entry, but despite a rough and ready appearance giving the impression of a GTA knock-off, this is a seriously good (but tough) racer.

As with many games on this list, progress was steady on PS2 and only became more significant when I returned to it on PC.

Need for Speed: Underground (2003)

It may have been a slightly cynical move to switch to the world of street racing, but the truth is that the Need for Speed series was in desperate need of reinvigoration, and Underground provided it, and the ground work for stronger entries to follow.

The blurry visual style attracted some criticism but for me it was all part of the appeal. The soundtrack was pretty good, too.

Pro Evolution Soccer 4 (2004)

The PS2 launched without a Pro Evolution Soccer title, and instead football fans were forced to temporarily make do with Konami’s (inferior) sister game International Superstar Soccer.

However, Pro Evo soon became one of the console’s iconic sports series. I probably spent 90% of my time on PS2 playing games 2-6, mostly during a long-running two player battle with my friend and flatmate PG. It’s the closest I ever came to developing an obsession with getting good at a game, and this period was also pretty much the only time I consistently prioritised getting down to the shops on, or around, release day to hand over the full asking price for a new game.

Away from my ongoing multiplayer duel, the Master League also provided a solid and challenging career mode for the solo football fan.

Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 (2005)

This is another one I bought on release day, a fact I remember because it came out a couple of weeks after the July terrorist bombings in London (which took place around 500m from my place of work) and there was some considerable nervousness in the air at the time. (I did wonder whether heading to Oxford Street to buy a cricket game was really worth the risk, but evidently decided that it was).

It was a magical time for cricket, with the 2005 Ashes series making for a memorable summer. And BLIC 2005 was good: well, not good by normal standards, but better than most cricket games, especially the leaden EA efforts, including this year’s rival title.

Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast (2006)

The PS2 was getting a little long in the tooth by 2006, and although the PS3 wouldn’t be in Europe until 2007, the souped-up versions of some multi-format releases on the newly-released Xbox 360 turned many gamers’ eyes to the future. (And in truth, although the original Xbox was never quite as successful or fashionable as the PS2, there were already occasional comments in the press about how Sony’s console was holding back Microsoft’s more powerful black box when it came to this generation’s titles).

In that context, OR2006 was a considerable technical achievement: it was not only beautiful, but also (unlike some games, including one or two in this list) fast and smooth with it. Unfortunately, the game didn’t do too well commercially and (again) the PC version, some years after release, was where I finally got to grips with it.

FIFA 07 (2006)

I was never a FIFA man but, swayed by comments that the series was getting closer to Pro Evo (comments that applied only to the 360/PS3 titles, from FIFA 08 onwards), and missing my regular battles with PG (who had moved – temporarily at first – to the US), I bought this from a branch of Computer Exchange while killing time on jury service, waiting to see if I’d actually be selected.

(In actual fact, I was in contention to sit on quite a high-profile terrorism case, but my boss was apoplectic with rage at the prospect of me being away from work for months, and so I was instructed to tell the judge that my lowly admin role was too important for me to be able to undertake my civic duty. M’lud was suitably unimpressed: can’t they get temporary cover? Well, yeah, of course they could. I felt like a right wally, but it worked: I didn’t get selected and had to go back to work the next day.)

Test Drive Unlimited (2007)

By this point, the PS2 was strictly ‘last-gen’ and Test Drive Unlimited manifestly a ‘current/next gen’ title. I wanted the fab-whizzo version, of course, but affording the relevant hardware was beyond my means at the time, so I settled for the cut-down PS2 experience.

Taking into account the ambition of this open-world racer, the PS2 version was actually a technical triumph considering the diminished available resources, although buying the game did involve an embarrassing incident with a young female shop assistant, who commented on what a fun time I had ahead of me, driving fast cars and enjoying the company of all the beautiful women on Hawaii. (I think she was being nice but obviously my response was to turn red and start sweating.)

So there we go! I’ve outed myself once again as a #fake #casual #gamer. Look, I know the console had many original and exclusive titles, but I have to be honest and say they weren’t part of my experience. I do have a lot of fondness for this period though, and intend to revisit a few more 00s games in the near future, time allowing.

In the meantime, here are some other games we’ve covered over the years that also saw a version released on the PS2 (and not all of them are racing/sports games, honest):