Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
Since its launch, this expansive and almost final entry in the Metal Gear timeline has remained trapped on the PS3. Remembered for the often hour-long cutscenes and huge install times, Guns of the Patriots was one of the most ambitious games of the decade, following Old Snake in his final days of espionage.
Resistance: Fall of Man (2006)
Insomniac Games, the developers behind Marvel’s Spiderman and the Spyro series, created this PS3 launch title. Its post-apocalyptic first-person shooting was Sony’s stab at landing their Gears of War, and while it never really reached the same heights, still provided some solid action moments with incredibly beefy weapons.
Soul Reaver 2 (2001)
Fans of this cult classic have been clamoring for a new entry in the franchise for decades. Raviel’s half-vampire-half-wraith powers made for some excellent puzzle and combat design, and the cast delivered the gaudy, gothic melodrama with exceptional gusto. Rumors of a re-make surface every few years, as the rights get passed around and developers express interest in the franchise.
True Crime: Streets of LA (2003)
This open-world crooked-cop simulator was released just before GTA San Andreas didn’t get long in the genre spotlight. It featured a deep hand-to-hand combat system, a welcome departure from Rockstar’s rock-em sock-em three-hit combos. The idea of roleplaying a bad cop wouldn’t go down well anymore, certainly not in a narrative of this quality.
The first title in this Xbox superpowered law-enforcement series hit hard and out of nowhere. The Agent’s biological enhancements felt great to control, with tons of vertical space and freedom of movement letting you bunny hop around while you Team America some bad guys. None of the sequels managed to truly improve the formula, and the third killed any hope of redemption.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (2006)
There are a few gems in the Tom Clancy collection, which is inevitable when you release so many. GRAW was by far the goat, however, with its quicker deaths and sharp shooting requiring a more tactical pace and approach. Its highly customizable PvE game modes let you create battle-royale-like slaughter fests well before Fortnite.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (2010)
Enslaved was a loose retelling of the Chinese legend of the Monkey King Sun-Wu Kong, only with sick robots. While it was essentially one long escort quest, Monkey’s performance, and animation, by none other than Andy Serkis himself, made for some fluid platforming and engaging staff-based combat. It received pretty incredible praise and is well worth a look-in for its vivid, vibrant world.
Remember when Platinum Games made a shooter? It’s garnered a decent following online, enough to be released for Steam in 2017, but it still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The acrobatic, time-slowing shenanigans made for exhilarating combat, as you power-slide and spin through the air like a sci-fi John Woo movie.
Farcry 2 (2008)
Believe it or not, Ubisoft used to make games! They now mostly make glorified checklists you can pay to fill in faster, but Farcry 2 was a genuine piece of video gaming gold. The player character’s malaria left him vulnerable and the fourth-hand firearms jammed constantly. That was all in support of the story, mechanically reflecting the war-torn and ravaged (fictional) African country.
Killzone 2 (2009)
Sony’s once flagship shooter petered out once the PS4 was released, and Guerrilla Games moved onto the Horizon series. Killzone 2 received flack for its trailers, consisting of clearly scripted and animated cutscenes pretending to be representative of the gameplay. That tarnished its reputation a little, which is a shame, as it’s an otherwise pretty solid dystopian shoot-em-up.
007: Nightfire (2002)
Nightfire occupies the same place in the hearts of Noughties children that Goldeneye does in the 90s kids’. It had a mechanically varied story mode, with driving segments to break up the sneaking and shooting, and incredibly addicting multiplayer. It was also multiplatform, letting GameCube owners play a grown-up game for once.
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Though the name is goofy, the game itself was anything but. This bloody, gory, dark, and grimy first-person horror game puts you in the shoes of an FBI agent investigating a serial killer, then gives you a wrench and says it’s your turn to play the killer. The dense, oppressive atmosphere and creepy cult storyline make this an unmissable survival horror title.
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
While almost everybody has heard of this legendary entry in the superhero game Pantheon, few have been able to play it due to it being stuck on old hardware. That runs the risk of it being forgotten – but even those who are just a tiny bit curious owe it to themselves to check it out! The web-slinging alone is so fun, but the open-world design was way ahead of its time.
Mortal Kombat: Deception (2006)
The PS2 Mortal Kombat games got a little experimental. The RPG mechanics and explorable hub worlds took time and resources away from the core combat, which is what most fans are interested in, so these games were released to lukewarm reviews. They had a ton of charm though, in that 70s martial arts movie sort of way.
SSX 3 (2003)
SSX 3 is considered by the extreme shredders to be the best the series has to offer, and there are a surprising amount of these things. The arcade-style snowboarding series built a reputation for streamlined, hardcore fun and stunning visual flair. The third entry expanded the scope with plenty to see and do but kept that all-thrills approach to the slopes.
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Chaos Theory was as close to stealth perfection as you can get. Fisher’s skill set was varied and deadly, but never felt overpowering thanks to improved enemy AI. The Spies vs. Mercenaries multiplayer mode was an incredible asymmetric hunt, where spies could only kill by snapping necks, letting them briefly talk over the microphone to their victim. This idea would be instantly removed today.
Vagrant Story (2000)
This JRPG was one of the final PS1 games Squaresoft would develop, and they pushed the console to its limit. The character models, lighting, and music were some of the generation’s best, and although the combat was tricky to grasp it did develop into something satisfying and strategic. If you love a dense, twisting politics of war-driven narrative, check this one out.
Dark Messiah of Might & Magic (2006)
Half-Life 2’s revolutionary physics engine made for incredibly dynamic and realistic gameplay. The temptation to apply this gift from Gabe to a more novel setting was impossible to resist, and Dark Messiah took full advantage of this. Arkane Studios lets you slash, sling, and cast your way through a fantasy world while sticking your foes to walls with your arrows.
MotorStorm: Pacific Rift (2008)
This early PS3 destruction derby racing game was a great showcase of the physics the console’s power enabled. While other series like Need For Speed and Forza have pretty much nailed the casual race-driving formula, and boast some incredibly explosive visuals, Pacific Rift was much less restrained. Rocket-boosted chaos in dune buggies on scenic cliff sides is hard to match.
Shadow Hearts: Covenant (2004)
The PS2 wasn’t short of excellent JRPGS, since it was huge in Japan and easy to develop for. The Shadow Hearts series was created by ex-Chrono Cross staff, who brought their off-beat approach to RPG combat with them. It’s difficult to explain the appeal of such a complex game, but if you can decipher the image without getting bored it’s probably for you.
Interest in this game spiked during the pandemic, thanks to its gruelling, miserable tale of a fictional steppe village afflicted by a plague. There are a few protagonists, each tasked to create a cure, decipher the incomprehensible locals and balance their fragile lives and health against the greater good… If such a thing exists in this world. Not for the light-hearted, or easily bored.
Elite Beat Agents (2006)
Rhythm games are huge in Japan. For every one that releases in the West, there are about a thousand that remain region-locked, each more seizure-inducing than the last. Thankfully, Elite Beat Agents is a stellar example of a casual, addictive, and endlessly charming DS tap-a-thon. The visuals, music, and feedback are all serotonin spikers.
While Doom was moving away from its roots, games like Painkiller were keeping the twitchy, hellish shooter genre alive. It had a ton of variety in it’s level and enemy design, and a satisfying progression system for even more ridiculous and often vulgar combat options. Modern Doom fans will feel right at home in this take on hell.
Rockstar, as always, caused quite a stir when they released Grand Theft Aughta’s Head to Class. Combining the violence they were known for with a cast of children seemed in poor taste, and while you certainly can act distastefully, the story and gameplay limit any more egregious crimes. The smaller world meant they could cram it with rewards and worthwhile side activities.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay (2004)
Many of the best stealth games focus on specific environments that the player must become familiar with over time, memorizing routes and hidden hideaways. This movie-prequel tie-in depicts Riddick’s escape from a maximum security prison, the perfect environment for sneaking, shivving, and being Vin Diesel.
No One Lives Forever (2000)
Aside from the masterpiece that is Austin Powers’ Pinball on the PS1, Operation NOLF is the best swinging 60s spy game. The Washington-based studio, Monolith Productions, was also responsible for Condemned and Project Fear, so this campy first-person stealth game is mechanically similar, but tonally a world apart from their more famous work.
Mother 3 (2003)
The only people who have forgotten about the Mother/Earthbound series are Nintendo. The third entry was particularly well-reviewed, but never localized outside of Japan save for some dedicated fan projects. Nintendo will often tease fans with unspecific answers, and some believe that a port would be unlikely due to the game’s sample-heavy soundtrack.
Team Ico is considered one of the best developers in the industry. While The Last Guardian and Shadow of the Colossus are both easily accessible, ICO can only be streamed via PS Plus, which is a less-than-ideal way to experience the game. The visuals are truly stunning, especially for so early in the PS2’s lifecycle.
‘Splosion Man (2009)
Both the Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Minis collection were full of indie gems, many of which have been lost to time. ‘Splosion Man’s creative, ragdoll platforming was outclassed by the likes of Super Meat Boy, but it’s still a great time. It shared a lot of design sensibilities with Flash games, making for a short and enjoyable time.
It’s a shame that Second Son’s mixed reviews killed the public interest in the franchise. With shows like The Boys and Invincible being so popular, another moral choice-filled superhero sandbox would be right on the money. InFAMOUS nailed the formula, with spectacular lightning effects, and the draw of power corrupting the player to the dark side.
Beyond Good and Evil (2003)
It can’t be stressed how subversive and refreshing Beyond Good and Evil was. It took the exploration and spectacular world design of Zelda, and based the game around getting to look at everything up close. A sequel was first teased over 15 years ago and then re-revealed in 2017, but it seems stuck in development hell permanently.
There was a distinct awkward uncanniness to many 2000s horror games, which ObsCurse cleverly side-steps by being set in an American high school. This gave it a 90s B-movie charm, and the overt South Park references with character names let you know not to expect much. It’s become a collector’s item now, so tracking down a physical copy may be difficult!
Crazy Taxi (2000)
Yah yah yah yah yah! Crazy Taxi is utterly beloved by fans, as it kicked off the decade in true punk style. The soundtrack, provided by The Offspring and Bad Religion, matched perfectly with the game’s flyaway controls and breakneck speed. Everything about it was loud and offensive, just like the noughties.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron II (2001)
While the first Roque Squadron game captured the Star Wars dogfighting fantasy, the sequel lets you land and blast your way around. It was a little clunky, you weren’t getting a finely crafted shooter or anything like what the Battlefront games offer, but it was enough. It was one step closer to that dream Star Wars RPG fans have been promised for decades.
NBA Street Vol. 2 (2003)
Formal sports games have dominated the market for a while, but none let you disrespect your friends as deeply as NBA Street. By pairing down the teams to just a few players, games are fast and punchy with an emphasis on style, finesse, and second-to-second strategy. It also didn’t try and steal your lunch money with player packs.
Onimusha 2: Samurai’s Destiny (2002)
Capcom’s 2000s line-up included heavy hitters like Resident Evil and Monster Hunter, but Onimusha is equally deserving of that kind of praise. The first received an HD remaster in 2019, while the second seems to have been abandoned on the PS2. With gorgeously crafted pre-rendered environments, a great roster of bosses, and some killer music, this sequel is worth remembering.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (2002)
The GameCube didn’t receive a lot of horror outside of the Resident Evil franchise, so Silicon Knight’s psychological thriller was a welcome surprise. It was one of the first uses of a sanity mechanic, which seemingly messed with your TV and saved data. It’s hard to get your hands on Eternal Darkness, thanks to its exclusivity and low sales.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (2003)
Following in the vein of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Zone of the Enders was an isosteric take on mech warfare. As a game by legendary auteur Hideo Kojima, you can expect a deep and often confusing story about humanity deep in its core if you can dig that deep. Its aesthetic stands as unique even among today’s incredible selection of mech media.
Time Splitters: Future Perfect (2005)
Simply one of the greatest multiplayer shooters of the decade. British developers Crytek delivered stylish and fluid gunplay, an astonishing amount of content to unlock, and an entire map maker into their game. The studio went through financial issues and most of the staff left after being mistreated, but some have hinted at a future game in the works.
Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (2005)
Tying into the comic series of the same name, Imperfects saw Marvel’s mightiest heroes square off against their doppelgangers. As a 3D fighter, there were a couple of issues with the camera, and it was short on content. As a multiplayer game, it was the perfect way to settle “who would win in a fight?” arguments.