The Games That Define a Generation - PlayStation Two

Another PlayStation article, another signature bootup sound. Let’s take a second and listen to another iconic sound in video game history:

From 2000 to 2018, the PlayStation 2 dominated the gaming landscape while an emerging console called the Xbox was still finding its feet as a competitor. Many innovations arose from the PS2’s life such as more robust online multiplayer experiences that originated from the Sega Dreamcast. The evolution of rhythm games with the release of the smash hit Guitar Hero and the use of the Playstation camera with the release of Eyetoy created new avenues for players to experience groundbreaking titles. Much like the original PlayStation, the PlayStation 2 was no slouch when it comes to competition-killing games. Here are some of my memorable titles along with other titles chosen by other Couch Soup contributors:

Monster Hunter (2004)

Box art from Monster Hunter (2004) with the flagship monster Rathalos

I recently wrote a piece on how Monster Hunter World is a great title to get into the franchise for new players. However, I first was converted to the series fold back when it was released in 2004. The different entries of the action RPG games center around a hunter who is part of a research team as they discover the world around them. That includes hunting monsters who have the nerve to be on the same planet as the player,  in order to harvest materials from said monsters to create better gear and further the plot of the game.

This was my first dabble into online multiplayer as well. From my friends in school who happen to have the game to players as far as Japan, it was cool to see a party hunting monsters to create sweet-looking armor and weapons. When a monster is vanquished and the famous quest victory theme blasts the TV speakers, a collective sigh of relief emerges for all the hard work from everyone in the party.

We don’t talk about Fatalis

The monsters are always the highlight during the hunt. From the flagship monster of the franchise Rathalos which breathes fire and can poison using its tail to the Plesioth which shoots water jets from its mouth and a hip check that can track players from a distance. Then there’s the almost unbeatable Fatalis which takes certain specific steps to defeat it. 

Each monster poses a unique challenge and obstacles. But it will still bring a level of satisfaction when those challenges are met whether on a solo hunt or with a party. Sometimes I often wonder if the monsters are the stars of the game rather than the player!

Guitar Hero (2005) and Rock Band (2007)

Trust me: You’re still a rock star with these buttons!

The rhythm game was popularized by Dance Dance Revolution in the arcades and Parappa the Rapper on the original PlayStation. The PlayStation 2 had its own renaissance of rhythm games with the rise of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Playing hit songs from the likes of Foghat’s “Smoke on the Water” to the blistering tapping of “Eruption” from Van Halen can now be done from the comfort of home or with friends. While Guitar Hero introduced the guitar controller to the world, Rock Band took it a step further as a drum set and a microphone were included to have the live show experience fully realized in a video game. 

From a personal standpoint, I had a great time playing with friends during the week and playing Dani California by The Red Hot Chili Peppers countless times on Rock Band to get the song right. From those same friends, we got better musically and started to learn and play real instruments after countless hours of playing Rock Band.

Yes, we’re totally a rock band from this photo. Can you guess where I am?

Titles that define the Playstation 2, according to the Couch Soup Community:

Here are some other titles from fellow contributors about their PS2 titles that define them:

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) - Tyler J. Graham

Grove Street 4 Life!

“I don’t have too many strong memories associated with the PlayStation 2 – it was a console released before I was even born. The one thing that vividly sticks out to me even to this day, though, was my early brush with the Grand Theft Auto series on the console. My dad loved playing GTA: San Andreas back when it was released in 2004, and I loved watching him drive the cars.

Sometimes, he would send me out of the room and carjack someone and then call me back in to drive the car around until I wrecked it. I’d go on to call San Andreas the “boomer game” because all I knew about it was that I got to drive cars around until they exploded. The PS2 was foundational for that memory, and I look back upon that quality time with my dad fondly.”

Star Wars: Bounty Hunter (2002) - Candance Rose

Jango Fett making the most out of an awkward situation

“I was fifteen years old when this game was released. At this age, I was delving deep into Star Wars lore so this game offered a great medium to explore the galaxy further. It captivated me for hours on end. It offered diverse environments along with new controls & menus to master for the different gadgets of Jango Fett. The game started off easy, but the further I got into the story the difficulty ramped as I got closer to the end. 

This game definitely played a part in my evolution as a gamer realizing that different difficulties offered different gaming experiences. I started to enjoy a near-impossible challenge. (This game also made me develop a love for the flamethrower, but that’s another story for another time.) Overall, this game left me craving more of its kind for the Star Wars universe so I could continue my quest to become the best bounty hunter in the galaxy.”

Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex (2001) - Michelle Holstine

One of the many flying levels in Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex

“My game that defines my PlayStation 2 era would be Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex. This game guaranteed hours of collaboration and enjoyment with my family in the living room, even as only one person was actually playing. It helped us work together and uncovered a love for puzzle solving, linear-based games that continued into my adulthood. It also quickly made us fall in love with Naughty Dog, who continued to develop games that we were able to enjoy as an entire family. Crash has a special place in my heart and gave us amazing memories to look back on as a family.”

Thanks Tyler, Candace, and Michelle for contributing to this article!

What titles define the PlayStation 2 for you? Sound off in the comments and let’s talk about it!

The Games That Define a Generation: The Original PlayStation

Let's take a trip down memory lane starting with this video:

That iconic PlayStation startup sound resonated with a lot of 90s kids when it was released in 1994. It was a make it or break it moment waiting to see if the disc was readable or not. If the second startup screen shows up, rejoice! You can now play the game. Or, if you’re like me, who lived in the Philippines and owned an American PlayStation in the 90s, it was probably some disc that was not compatible at all.

Image of the "insert CD-ROM" screen from the original PlayStation console.
Every 90s kid’s nightmare, and our version of the Red Ring of Death!

Many games have come and gone during the life cycle of the original Sony PlayStation, which had to compete with the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn from 1994 to 2006. Some of those games are critical successes, like Gran Turismo and all three Tekken games. Others became cult classics years after their release, like Parasite Eve, which combines survival horror and RPG elements to create an interesting take on the genre. A handful of titles from that console have left an indelible mark on my life, and here are some that defined that generation.

Dino Crisis

Dino Crisis screenshot with T-rex bursting through a window, jaws open
“Uh, I can explain.” T-Rex (probably)

I never fully played any survival horror games growing up. The only exposure I had was being overwhelmed with fear playing Resident Evil 2 for about five minutes when my cousins wanted me to “try” out a new video game as a prank. And I swore that I would never touch another game like that again! Until Dino Crisis, that is. The plot focuses on multiple characters who are part of an elite commando squad called the Secret Operations Raid Team (SORT). They encounter recurring outbreaks of deadly dinosaurs and other monsters in a closed environment at a laboratory on an isolated island, and they find a doctor who was thought to be dead for three years. This title was the first meaningful experience I had playing the survival horror genre. 

In Dino Crisis, the team behind the Resident Evil franchise brings their signature flair of tension and scenery to a new location: an island where there are no apparent means of escape. This time, instead of the undead, it’s dinosaurs who are the looming threat in the game. Meanwhile, the different puzzles littered throughout the island are a nice break from the crazy chases and gunfights. Plus, the multiple endings really got me to play the game more than once. With Dino Crisis, the weight of a person’s decision determines where the story will end. Some titles prior to the release of Dino Crisis have a linear beginning, middle, and end and have little to no sway from the player’s decisions.

Metal Gear Solid

Screenshot from Metal Gear Solid showing the player hiding from a marauder with a gun
Solid Snake in his natural habitat: Walls!

Solid Snake. The name is synonymous with the stealth subgenre of action games. This was my first time playing a game like this, and my love for the stealth genre originated from playing Metal Gear Solid. He sneaks around the fictional island of Shadow Moses, and he attempts to thwart a nuclear attack from the terrorist group known as FOXHOUND. Game director and Quentin Tarantino clone Hideo Kojima took the game in a more cinematic approach as longer cutscenes picture the over-the-top narrative. Kojima created characters with unique personalities and traits that stood the test of time. One of these is Revolver Ocelot, the straight-shooter mercenary with a penchant for the macabre. 

What’s even more interesting are the different gameplay mechanics that were introduced in the game. This included quirks such as breaking the fourth wall when Psycho Mantis was reading my memory card to reveal a save file from another Konami game—it blew my adolescent mind! It also included larger boss fights where every inch of the screen is used to show how big a boss fight can be. And in the case of the firefight with Sniper Wolf, the space is tight and shows how anxiety-driven the fight can be.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII screenshot with Cloud facing off against a giant robot
Cloud brings more than a big sword to a fight!

What can I say about Final Fantasy VII? I spent countless hours playing the three-disc epic! This was the game to play on the original PlayStation, and for good reason. The story was solid as the fight to save the world becomes a priority rather than just another mercenary job for Cloud Strife. As the story progresses, the more the game world comes to life outside the metal walls of Midgar. The characters are deep, and their personalities shine! Cloud, for example, dreams of becoming part of the elite SOLDIER unit. Though he falls short of that goal, he finds clarity over the course of the game, transforming him from selfish and cold to supportive and selfless. The combat itself is amazing, too. Though it's a turn-based RPG, the attacks have an impact as the hits land with a THUD!

This game made such a lasting impact on me that the Final Fantasy VII remake in 2020 really resonated with me. The worlds that I visited so long ago were lovingly restored to match the graphics of the current generation of consoles. Seeing these moments done on the next-gen PlayStation 5 console really hit home as memories of playing all three discs of this epic came flooding back. And it brings new players who have never played the original Final Fantasy VII to get a chance to make their own memories playing it!

But wait, there’s more!

Here are some of my fellow Couch Soup contributors reflecting on the original PlayStation games that define them:

Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex’s Revenge (from Patrick Sutherland)

Screenshot of Crash about to run through a straight path of obstacles in Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex's Revenge
This is easy!

The PlayStation game that best defines my experience with the PS1 is Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back. Growing up, I didn’t own the original PlayStation, but fortunately, I had family that did. When this game was released in October of 1997, I was five years old. Being the baby of the extended family, this small rectangular box from Japan was a tool used to create familial bonds with our large Swedish family. While I may not have been able to bring anything to the table conversationally, I could communally enjoy the sensation of beating a tough boss or hurdling over some whacky obstacles. Besides all the quality-of-life improvements that I’m able to reflect on and appreciate as an adult jumping from Crash Bandicoot to Crash 2, what stands out to me the most was how accessible this game was for me as a child. It didn’t matter if I was falling into bottomless pits; I was riding a polar bear. It didn’t matter if I would instantly get blown into oblivion from spinning into nitro containers; I was having fun while doing it. After recently revisiting Cortex Strikes Back (now included in the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy), I can say that this game still holds a special place in my heart.

Final Fantasy IX (from Josh Neff)

Final Fantasy battle HUD used in the original PlayStation titles
The Final Fantasy battle HUD commonly used on the original PlayStation titles.

My PlayStation moment was with Final Fantasy IX, one of the last major games to come out of the PS1 era before the start of the PS2 era. Being 10 years old, it gave me a view of the future in terms of graphics and storyline. With my small game library, while growing up, I had never experienced a story that had laughs, action, horror, and tragedy all in one game. This will be a hot take: the best Final Fantasy games on the PS1 (in order) are FFIX, FF Tactics, FFVIII, and FFVII.

Tomb Raider (from Candace Bisonette and Michelle Holstine)

Screenshot of Lara Croft in the original Tomb Raider video game
Lara Croft from Tomb Raider (1996)

From Candace: I was nine years old when the original Tomb Raider was released for PlayStation. As a young girl, I was ecstatic to be able to play as Lara Croft, who was a strong independent, cunning, beautifully intelligent female lead. Lara's story piqued my interest in history, and I deepened my studies to see where the game took fact and molded it into fun fiction. I spent hours playing the original and couldn’t wait to see where Croft’s next adventure would take her in the world. Tomb Raider helped broaden my mind and develop a strong desire for adventure. Lara never hesitated to take on a challenge, and I took that to heart as I matured.

From Michelle: I am going to echo what I mentioned in Candace's article, Our Journey as Female Gamers, and repeat that Tomb Raider is the PlayStation game that left a huge impression on me. I grew up in a family of sisters in an area where hard work was a necessity. We were females leading a male-driven life with farm work, construction, etc. Having Lara Croft as a lead in a video game escape spurred my love for strong female role models. This has since grown to include the likes of Wonder Woman, Xena, and Rebecca Walton (newer to the scene). Lara Croft helped me grow to be the strong female I am today and be proud of it, not ashamed!

Resident Evil 2 (from Daniel Morris)

Screenshot from Resident Evil 2 showing Leon Kennedy killing the undead
Leon Kennedy being a bad-ass fighting the undead on Resident Evil 2.

Resident Evil 2 is a staple of the original PlayStation library for many reasons. It defined survival horror as a genre. It worked within the limitations of the time to deliver a cinematic and terrifying experience. It also showed that there was a desire for mature games, much like Deadpool did for R-rated superhero movies. On a personal level, RE 2 made me a believer in Sony and the PlayStation. To this day, I still play the originals on a regular basis as I still love getting lost in the atmosphere and the horror. It defines the console.

Thanks Patrick, Josh, Candace, Michelle, and Dan!

What original PlayStation title left a great impression on you?

Sly 5 confirmed? A long-awaited Return Could be on the Way

In case you haven’t heard, there’s some exciting news floating around for all the Sly Cooper fans who have been faithfully awaiting the return of the beloved franchise! As you may know, an easter egg recently appeared in the PlayStation Showcase showing the Sly Cooper symbol appearing on a guard rail for a brief glimpse. Considering that a similar Easter egg preceded Crash Bandicoot's return, many fans believe this glimpse is the first nod toward the revival of Sucker Punch’s standout franchise.

Sly Cooper tease in PlayStation Showcase in 2021

The Sly Cooper tease in the PlayStation Showcase in 2021.

 

If you aren’t already familiar with the iconic raccoon, Sly Cooper is a stealth platformer series developed by Sucker Punch Productions. Throughout the story, which still rings true for both children and adults (a rare achievement in storytelling), the memorable and heartfelt cast of characters wrestle with themes of legacy, friendship, redemption, and more. Its cel-shaded graphics lend a memorable style to the tale, and after watching the Sly Collection's latest trailer, it's not hard to see why those passionate about the franchise are excited that the gentleman thief may be making a return!

Sly Cooper rumor from October 2021Those hopes may soon be fulfilled. Recently, an insider by the name of @Shpeshal_Nick, with a proven track record for such rumors, shared the news, stating that his "normal" Sony source confirmed that Sly is indeed coming back. We don’t know yet which studio is developing the new game or what content is guaranteed (assuming the leak is accurate), but many speculations are floating around. Some of the most recent theories are that Sly Cooper may be remade by BluePoint Games or that the mysterious developer is instead foregoing the remake and working on an original game

Sly Cooper and friends gamingA Gamer Rant article puts forth the possibility that Sucker Punch themselves could be working on two games at once, both Sly and their Ghost of Tsushima franchise. However, this seems unlikely as “According to Nick, he ‘kept being told’ that Sucker Punch is not the studio developing the new game. Sanzaru worked on Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, the fourth installment in the franchise, but the studio has recently been acquired by Facebook and Oculus Studios. Thus, it's also unlikely they've taken on the project. Fans are keeping their eyes on Toys for Bob and Sumo Digital as possible developers, too. 

Regardless of who will be making it and what content we can expect, Sly Cooper and the Gang appear ready to return. Gamers who played the series when it originally came out along with those who’ve experienced it on PS Now or through retrospectives and other avenues can agree that the heir to the Cooper legacy has deserved a comeback for a long time. With any luck, in the not-so-far-away future, we'll get a teaser trailer with the iconic ancestral cane flashing in the light once more. 

What do you think about all this news? If Sly Cooper is in fact stealthing his way back onto the scene, will you grab a controller and join the fans?

 

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