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Hidden Gems For The PlayStation 2

The PlayStation 2 was one of the most successful consoles of all time, and with that success came tons of games to enjoy throughout its decade of dominance. However, for every massive success like God of War or Final Fantasy X, there were just as many games that didn't get enough respect when they originally released. These hidden gems aren't just underappreciated for their time, many of them still don't have the status they deserve in the annals of the PlayStation 2's history. That's why we're here to help bring a little more recognition to these titles you may have missed the first time around.

Odin Sphere was a great game all around

Vanillaware makes some absolutely beautiful games, but the developer's second effort on the PlayStation 2 is arguably still the most impressive. Odin Sphere is a stunning side-scrolling action RPG that combined gorgeous fantasy art with an incredibly robust battle and leveling system. Don't let the adorable character models and lush stages fool you; Odin Sphere's combat and character progression systems are thought-provoking and intense. Published by Atlus in 2007, the game enjoyed cult status for a decade before getting a breathtaking high-definition remaster for PlayStation 4 in 2016 with Odin Sphere Leifthrasir.

Definitely hunt down Predator: Concrete Jungle

Like the fan-favorite action film series, there have been a lot of Predator video games released over the years. Few have actually been very memorable, but Predator: Concrete Jungle is still regarded fondly among fans despite less-than-glowing reviews from critics. Players step into the role of a disgraced Predator who attempts to earn retribution by returning to Earth in 2030 to steal back technology left behind 100 years earlier. Players use all the tools of the Yautja warriors throughout the game, including mimicking voices, and includes fights against humans and other Predators, all while dropping dozens of references to the Alien and Predator universe.

Pray to find a copy of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks

Most of the world knows Mortal Kombat as a ruthless and brutally violent fighting game franchise, but for a brief time at the height of the series' popularity, Midway Games experimented with some action games starring its fighters. The third of those games, Shaolin Monks, is definitely the most memorable and worthwhile. Starring Liu Kang and Kung Lao in a story that covered events surrounding Mortal Kombat II, Shaolin Monks allows players to travel through various realms trying to stop Shang Tsung's evil forces. Though it's not a fighting game, many of the classic combat elements remain, including Fatalities, which players could even perform on multiple enemies at once.

God Hand will reward your faith

What happens when Shinji Mikami, the creator of Resident Evil, wants to put his spin on action games that rely heavily on hand-to-hand combat? You get God Hand, a clever and challenging beat 'em up featuring fantastic, customizable combat and wildly over-the-top characters. God Hand holds a special place in the hearts of Mikami fans, but it wasn't a chart-topper or critical darling when it originally released. Still, God Hand is chock full of interesting gameplay ideas that were missing from the action genre for years, including a scaling difficulty level and players having near total control over the controller layout.

Something about The Thing

John Carpenter's The Thing remains one of the most celebrated and beloved horror films of the '80s. Fully endorsed by Carpenter, 2002's The Thing video game follows up on the events of the film by having a US Special Forces team go to Outpost 31 to investigate the aftermath of the attack. Though most of the game follows a traditional third-person shooter format, The Thing also includes a party system wherein NPC soldiers can join up with players as they explore the base. Teammates can also be infected by the alien, and it's up to players to figure out who to trust.

Track down Manhunt 2

Rockstar Games' Manhunt series was known for pushing the limits of acceptable violence in video games. That's saying something given the blatant disregard for human life in the Grand Theft Auto series. Where the first Manhunt drew acclaim for opening the eyes of the gaming public to the extremes they were willing to go to for fun, the sequel didn't move the needle as much critically or commercially. Even though Manhunt 2 has a more interesting story about government conspiracies, better gameplay with more violent attacks, and an improved presentation, it just didn't resonate with players the same as the original. That's too bad, as it's a deep cut in Rockstar's library.

Don't let The Getaway get away

The success of Grand Theft Auto III in 2001 brought about a number of open-world imitators, but few of those early attempts dared to capture a real-life city. Sony's The Getaway was a planned launch title for the PlayStation 2, but was delayed for more than two years as the developers needed the extra time to bring the streets of London to life. Using a dual narrative, The Getaway showcases both the criminal and law enforcement sides of the same story, while its gameplay is more cinematic than gamified. It even spawned a sequel, but the less we say about that, the better.

The Mark of Kri's quality is easy to recognize

Stylistically, The Mark of Kri doesn't look like it a very violent game, but it's as action-packed and brutal as any of the Batman: Arkham games. It even came out nearly a decade before those games, too. Developed by Sony's San Diego studio, The Mark of Kri is steeped in Maori mythology, and puts players in the role of a great warrior named Rau Utu. Using stealth and incredible melee attacks, Rau must stop an evil priest from fulfilling an ages old prophecy of doom. The narrative is full of twists and turns that keep you engaged, but it's the intense combat that really makes Mark of Kri such a memorable experience.

The Red Star shines bright

Set in a fictional, mystical version of Soviet Russia, The Red Star was based on the comic book of the same name. In this world, the Russians used both technology and sorcery following the conclusion of the second World War, and are engaged in a battle with that universe's version of Afghanistan. The game lets you play as three key characters from the comics, each of which has a different strength to combat Red Star's numerous waves of enemies. There's a mix of RPG and fighting, but primarily the game relies on shoot 'em up/bullet hell style mechanics that test your reflexes and patience.

Cuckoo for Yakuza 2

The Yakuza game franchise is still going strong today, but when it first arrived on the PlayStation 2, it wasn't a big deal outside of Japan. Yakuza 2 was a fantastic title that improved on just about every aspect of the original, from the fighting mechanics to the amount of detail in the world. The combat can be repetitive, but compared with all the other things you can do in Yakuza 2 – like sing karaoke, become a host at a club, or dine out at any number of restaurants — that's a small complaint. Factor in the deep and engaging mystery at the core, and Yakuza 2 remains one of the best in the series.

Keep an eye out for Darkwatch

When you mix the horror and western genres into a first-person shooter, you'll get gamers' attentions. When the execution of that unholy union turns out to be as great as Darkwatch, you'll get their devotion. 

Released back in 2005 by High Moon Studios, Darkwatch is the story of an undead outlaw that must fight supernatural enemies to keep the return of a vampire lord from ruining the world. With a simple morality mechanic that unlocks different powers, and a host of great weapons and enemies, Darkwatch was a standout shooter at a time when the PlayStation 2 was severely lacking in that area.

Killer7 is officially nuttier than Metal Gear Solid

Gochi Suda, better known as Suda51, has made a career out of directing some of the greatest cult classic video games of the last few generations. Killer7 was the first of his games to see release in the United States, and it was just the beginning of the industry's love affair with his bizarre and compelling design sensibilities. As an assassin with seven different personalities, each of whom has his or her own abilities, players must uncover the truth behind troubled relations between the U.S. and Japan. The plot makes Metal Gear Solid look like a children's book, but the gameplay is outstanding and hard, and well worth the effort to master.

Be sure to unlock Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy

Combining third-person shooter gameplay with incredible psychic powers like telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and mind control, Psi-Ops was an intriguing game right out of the gate. Though the gameplay may not hold up for the entire duration of the campaign, players were still treated to some of the most innovative uses of psychic powers in a game to that point. The story isn't anything special, but Psi-Ops gives players such a unique set of powers to use, the lack of a memorable narrative isn't too much of a concern.

Don't you miss Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven

The original Tenchu: Stealth Assassins on the original PlayStation made enough of an impact that Sony kept tapping new developers for sequels. As the third entry in the series, Wrath of Heaven remains one of the best stealth games ever to hit the PlayStation 2, even though its controls are still hard to master. Developed by FromSoftware — yes of Dark Souls fame – Wrath of Heaven easily has the best story of the bunch too, with returning favorites Rikimaru and Ayame attempting to stop a wizard from destroying the world. It sounds silly at face value, but the poetic execution is beautiful and engaging.

Short but sweet: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner

Atlus has always been the home of some truly stellar role-playing games, but for all the love Shin Megami Tensei's core games and Persona spin-offs get, the Devil Summoner franchise has largely been ignored. That's a darn shame too, as moving from turn-based to action-based gameplay makes this entry stand out from the SMT crowd. It also has a fantastic period piece vibe, as it takes place back in the 1930s, smack in the middle of Japan's oft-overlooked Taisho period. It may be shorter than the 100+ hour epics the brand is typically known for, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable an RPG.