Welcome to PlayStation 2 week of my Favorite Games List. Over the past few months I've been highlighting some of my all-time favorite games on a console by console basis. With the PS2, we reach the last console I owned with my family before striking out on my own into college and beyond. This is also around the same time my hobby of video games really started becoming more of a full-blown passion. As a result, some of these lists are gonna wind up as the longest ones yet. So here is Part One of my favorites games for the...
The fact that the original PlayStation had knocked it out of the park when it came to the JRPGs I liked, it didn't come as too much of a shock when I asked for a PS2 for Christmas instead of the Nintendo Gamecube. My allegiance had begun to shift. This was around my Junior/Senior year of high school and all of the guys I played N64 multiplayer games with had started to go our separate ways. I imagine my dad and sister were a little upset that I leaned toward the single-player focused system as well. And I know my mom did as video games had become an obstacle between me and school or me and an active social life. But I was growing up. And unlike Nintendo, PlayStation was growing up with me.
Grand Theft Auto III - Back in my younger PC days, I had briefly dabbled in the top-down Grand Theft Auto games with my then best friend. But it never really got it's hooks in me. So when I started hearing all of the insane buzz around Grand Theft Auto III my initial reactions were based off those top-down games.
Then I played it and my love for open world games began...
It's probably something many younger players take for granted but that first 3-D GTA game was groundbreaking in how much they packed into the system. Liberty City felt alive and yours for the taking. This was also a time when voiced characters in gaming was still relatively young (and often laughably bad) but the team at Rockstar made the game's cut scenes feel like a movie.
Grand Theft Auto Vice City - The follow up to the blockbuster game above, Vice City (for me, at least) was bigger and better in every way. The Miami-inspired Vice City was more vibrant and colorful than the drab New York-inspired Liberty City. The cast of characters was sharper and funnier, as the whole game amped up the comedic satire aspect of its story. And the soundtrack is among the best licensed soundtracks in gaming history. I probably spent hours just driving around listening to the bevy of 80s classics packed into the game.
By focusing the game's satirical targets on the notion of 80s excess through the lens of familiar stories like Scarface and Miami Vice, Vice City was able to resonate with me in a way that the more generic Mafia story of Grand Theft Auto III had not. Both games were incredible in terms of their scope and gameplay for the time, but this extra touch is what makes Vice City stand out above its predecessor.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas - Rounding out the classic Grand Theft Auto trilogy (and Part One of my list), I remember vividly playing San Andreas when it came out during the Fall semester of my second year of college. I was involved with Arizona State University's weekly sketch comedy troupe at the time and me and a few of the other guys were all pouring countless hours into our latest GTA fix.
While I appreciated Vice City expanding on III, San Andreas felt like it was throwing so much extra features into the game that I was overwhelmed. While I appreciated that I could mess around with CJ's weight by over-eating, it felt unnecessary. And the idea of representing Grove Street in the game's gang wars to expand territory was always something I'd start to do. But then I'd get bogged down in trying to turn the whole map green and wound up finding it more tedious than enjoyable.
That said, focusing the story around the racial divide, hip-hop culture, and the L.A. riots really opened my eyes to the world outside of my own. When I was growing up, I remembered hearing about Rodney King but never really understanding the impact or injustice of the situation. It was just a name and my middle-class white privilege mind was just trying to remember the difference between Rodney King and Don King. So playing this game during my formative college years, as I was becoming a student of the world, probably had way more of an impact on me than I imagine the developers might have intended.
Stay tuned all week for more of my highlights from the all-time best-selling PlayStation 2.