Though I am a totally blind 2000s kid, I am still a 2000s kid. And, like virtually every 2000s kid, I played on the true masterpiece of a video game console that is the Sony Playstation 2.

Though the PS2 wasn’t officially mine, it was more like something shared by the whole family, I still got to play a good few games on it. These mainly consisted of driving/racing games, such as the Colin McRae Rally series (R.I.P. Colin McRae, August 5th 1968 – September 15th 2007), and Outrun 2006: Coast2Coast, a 20th anniversary reboot of the Sega arcade classic from 1986. Conceded, I was absolutely terrible at these games, being blind and all, but I still played them for hours none the less.

It wasn’t until I got into video game emulation 6 years ago that I was able to truly capitalise on the awesomeness of the PS2 and call the experience my own. In that time, I’ve been reunited with old classics, such as the aforementioned Outrun 2006, and uncovered some never-before-seen gems, delving into a video genre that has rapidly become my all time favourite, fighting games!

In this spew, I will count down my personal top 6 games for the Playstation 2, and say a few words on why I think these games are good, and why they might not be so good. This was originally going to be a top-five, but since I’ve now been in the emulation scene for 6 years, why not make it a top six, one for each year?

Disclaimer

As this is a countdown, this spew is based purely on personal views and opinions. Each person in this world is entitled to their own opinion. In other words, don’t go shouting at me or crying to your mommy because I put a game at number 3 instead of number 2, or because I said one game plays better than another. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Make your own countdown if you must.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with the countdown!

6. Outrun 2006: Coast2Coast (2006)

I can’t exactly remember if I got this game for my 6th birthday or for Christmas in 2006, but either way, Outrun 2006 was my gateway into the world of racing games. If you were boring, you could play the game with your standard PS2 controller. Or, if you were me, you could play with a proper steering wheel/peddle combo and feel like you’re in the driver’s seat of a real race car! I remember thinking the steering wheel was for a toy car at first, until I found out from my dad that it was for a Playstation 2 game called Outrun. As soon as we got the video game and accessories out of the box and fired up the PS2, I was hooked! I wasn’t a particularly good driver, and would needlessly abuse the hell out of my car for both mine and my dad’s entertainment, but I played the thing for hours anyway! If a family member wanted to watch TV or play another game, they couldn’t because I’d be playing outrun!

The main thing I enjoyed most about Outrun 2006 was the sound track. The game borrows many tracks from the original game’s OST, such as Passing Breeze and Magical Sound Shower, and includes a few new tracks, my favourite one above all being Night Flight.

I really hope to be able to relive the glory days of Outrun 2006 at some point down the line (see what I did there)? But for now, I’ll just have to accept the fact that my crappy 5th gen i5 and Intel HD 6000 graphics mean that PCSX2 will ultimately hate me for playing it.

5. Knockout Kings 2001 (2000)

While Knockout Kings 2001 isn’t a very very good game, it’s not a very very bad game either. The game definitely aims to provide the most realistic boxing experience, from Jimmy Lennon Jr’s boxer intros to pep talks in between rounds in career mode. However, the sound track is mediocre, the controls are kinda slow and clunky, and the commentary just sounds dull and flat. I do think the random boxing fact you get during fights is a nice touch, though, as well as the fact that female fighters have their place in the game. Confusingly, KOK01 seems to be the only game in the series to feature female boxers.

Knockout Kings 2001 is available for both the PS1 and PS2. Though, despite the downsides of the over-all game, if you are going to give it a try, I recommend the PS2 version, even if it is just a slight improvement over the PS1 version.

4. Street Fighter EX 3 (2000)

I’m a huge fan of the entire Street Fighter series, and the Street Fighter EX games are no exception. A launch title for the PS2, Street Fighter EX 3 is different to previous games in the series in that it is one of the few games of that time to use a tag battle system, which allows the player to switch fighters at will, unlocking more opertunities to exploit different moves and combos to use against your opponent. Other new features are the surprise blow, a way to pull off a special attack without using your super bar, and momentary combos, which allow you to chain special attacks together and deal more damage than ever before!

Along with Soulcalibur II (2003), Street Fighter EX 3 is the only fighting game I’ve managed to play through to completion (twice) on any console. Pretty sad, really. It’s exciting, fun, fast-paced, and can definitely be challenging at times! Though, the fast-paced part might be more true for me if PCSX2 didn’t slow the damn thing down to a crawl and make the music sound like something that might be played at Ryu’s funeral!

3. Soulcalibur II (2003)

Best defined, Soulcalibur is a fighting game along the lines of Tekken, but with a bit of a fantasy vibe and using melee weapons instead of your traditional punches/kicks.

Though The voice acting in Soulcalibur II is kinda meh, the game includes a driving, intense, heart-pounding sound track designed to get you pumped right up to do battle with anyone who dares to block your path! The controls are also very Tekkenlike, with the game mainly relying on the face buttons (Triangle, Cross, Circle and Square) for blocking attacks and performing moves. The right stick can also be used for more special attacks.

Ultimately, if a fantasy fighter fusion with blood-pumping battle tracks, anxiety inducing boss fights and a soul-gripping character set is what you’re looking for, welcome… to Soulcalibur II!

2. Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance (2002)

Being released 10 years after the original Mortal Kombat game that turned out to be one of the reasons why the ESRB exists (thanks soccer moms), Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, the 5th game in the series, is the first game in the MK franchise to truly support 3D, with a proper 3D environment. Yeah yeah, we all know MK4 tried to be 3D, but you were ultimately stuck on a 2D field with a janky sidestep motion, so let’s just call MK4 2.5D and move on, shall we?

Many people look down on Deadly Alliance because each character only has one fatality, which definitely takes some of the variety and excitement out of the game. However, fighters now have three different fighting styles to choose from, consisting of two hand-to-hand combat styles and one melee style, allowing players to explore more fighting stratigies and ways to deliver abuse to their opponents. From a completely blind player’s point of view, another positive is that fatalities aren’t distance/sweep based like they are in other MK games, meaning they are much easier to pull off since you don’t have to worry about where your opponent is on the field. Another accessibility consideration is the fact that there are virtually no wrapping menus, meaning blind players have a clear indication of the first and last item in a menu, since you can’t go any further than that point and no sound will play if you try to go past it. Also, Liu Kang is absent from this game, but let’s just try to forget about that, eh?

1. Knockout Kings 2002 (2001)

Though Knockout Kings 2002 might be considered more stripped down compared to earlier releases, with the absence of boxer intros, interround pep talks and random boxing facts, Knockout Kings 2002, in my view, is a huge improvement over any prior release, including 2001. The sound track kicks ass, the commentary is a lot more exciting and lively, the input is a lot speedier and simpler, and the massively improved sound design mixed with the PS2 controller’s rumble mechanics make the game a thousand times more immersive, and, most importantly for players like me, accessible.

An awesome example of how both audio cues and haptics are used for both immersion and accessibility is when the controller starts to give a slow, gentle pulse when your boxer is starting to run low on health and is about to go down. The closer you get to being knocked down, the stronger and faster this pulse will grow. When a fighter goes down, you will hear one or two loud bangs which sound like gunshots. You may also hear other sounds as the knockdown animation plays, such as camera clicks, heartbeats and other effects, and the sound of the crowd will be noticeably louder as well, as they woop and cheer at the sight of the boxer falling to the mat. What’s more, when you are down, the pitch of the count to ten is somewhat lower than when your opponent is down, in which case it is just normal pitch.

As with Knockout Kings 2001, both Richard Steele and Mills Lane (R.I.P) star as boxing referees. I’ve never liked Richard Steele as a referee, he always sounds extremely bored. Mills Lane is my favourite ref, and always will be.

Knockout Kings 2002 is a fusion of high speed, high intensity, immersive, hard-hitting, heart-pounding boxing action, outstanding sound design and accessibility, and snappy, easy-to-learn game controls. You might call it a cheap, arcade style button masher, but I call it a work of pure genius. What’s wrong with button mashers anyway? Not every game needs to have hypercomplex inputs that need to be timed to the exact femtosecond. Can’t you just put aside your toxicity for a minute and think about the abilities and disabilities of other gamers?

Conclusion

The Playstation 2 was a truly remarkable console in its time, and to many people, including me, it still is to this very day. Nothing will ever beat those glory-filled moments of hearing that awe-inspiring startup sound and playing our favourite PS2 games for countless hours, be it alone or with friends and family. May the Playstation 2 bring excitement, joy and happiness into people’s lives, either physically or through emulation, for a very very very long time to come!