The PlayStation 2 Is 20 Years Old Today
March 4, 2000. On this day, Sony’s crowning monolith landed in homes for the first time. Happy birthday, PlayStation 2.
My kick-flipping, car-smashing, five-star wanted level childhood odyssey is indebted to the PS2. It remains the best gift I’ve ever received; a timeless, transportive games console that still plays like a dream.
With more than 3,800 titles available – from Ratchet and Clank and Mortal Kombat to Kingdom Hearts and God of War – and more than 1.5 billion copies sold, it was the ultimate home-gaming machine, with no age requirement nor snobbery. There’s a reason it’s remained the highest-selling games console of all-time, even 20 years later.
The industry has evolved into a titan. More and more, with the likes of Esports, the Uncharted series, Detroit: Become Human and the advent of virtual reality, games go toe-to-toe with the wallop of big-screen movies, offering players an immersive, complex and, crucially, interactive experience like no other.
Then you have Dreams, the latest release from the makers of Little Big Planet, which affords players the tools to create their own bombastic, in-depth, and utterly insane worlds with a graphical pedigree designed to drop jaws.
However, the PlayStation 2 remains the greatest console ever made for one reason. Above all other aspirations, it was unconditionally devoted to fun. Gaming has increasingly become a contest in feats of innovation and density, rather than the crux of why we hunker down in the warm glow of our screens, controller in hand – to have a bloody good time.
Upon release, priced at £299, it was jabbing the elbows of Sega’s Dreamcast, Nintendo’s GameCube, and Microsoft’s original Xbox on store shelves. While the others had plenty to offer (the Gamecube had Mario Kart: Double Dash, F-Zero GX and Smash Bros., for example), the PS2 quickly emerged the victor of the sixth generation of gaming.
It’s a console that built on history without scrubbing it. The original PlayStation was phenomenal, capturing players’ imaginations and addictions with games like Silent Hill, Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear Solid. Those series then got well-deserved, mind-blowing follow-ups on Sony’s sequel, revered as some of the finest games ever made.
As well as affording buyers the privilege of backwards compatibility (which the PS5 is rumoured to include), the PS2 had another key feature in the form of an in-built DVD player. Hot property considering individual players cost in excess of £500 at the time.
The evidence is in the numbers. It sits atop the list of best-selling consoles with more than 155 million units sold. Sony’s later releases have still been fiercely popular – the PS4 is the fourth highest-selling console – but nothing has matched the zeitgeist-capturing predecessor.
Simply, it was a memory-maker. There was nothing quite like hopping on the PS2 to swing around New York in Spider-Man 2, zip about Springfield in The Simpsons: Hit and Run or go on a shooting spree in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The games may look dated, but the hours-on-end enjoyment is timeless.
The PS2’s legacy transcends today’s technological leaps. I’ve had many other consoles, but I’ve yet to find a sweeter, purer escape.
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