The PlayStation 2 is the single biggest selling games console in the history of gaming. It is also regarded as one of the best, and with some of the best games ever made.
But some of the games that we played on the PS2 were so unforgiving and hard that we still remember them to this day. Here are the 10 hardest PlayStation 2 games of all time!
10. Manhunt (2003)
This game isn’t only renowned for its extremely violent and controversial gameplay, it is also remembered as being one of the most difficult games to complete of the PlayStation 2 era.
Immediately courting controversy upon its release in 2003, Manhunt centres around the playable character who has been abducted by a underground director of snuff films, with your mission being to kill as many of the thugs in the jail as possible on your way to freedom.
Game Nation writer Douglass C Perry said of Manhunt in 2003: “Granted, in the first mode, Ford Competition, you’re forced into Easy mode, so you’re forced to race easy competition.” And finally concludes with, “It’s hard, but it’s a great challenge. One thing I LOVE about its steep learning curve is that it’s never, ever cheap. If you die, it’s because you messed up.”
The game was also the subject of a huge amount of controversy at the time of its release. As easily the most violent game ever released up to that point, a number of institutions criticised the game for its use of ultra realistic violence. Even the game’s own designers expressed a feeling of discomfort regarding the game, as former Rockstar employee Jeff Williams said in 2007: “there was almost a mutiny at the company over that game”.
Williams explained that the game “just made us all feel icky. It was all about the violence, and it was realistic violence. We all knew there was no way we could explain away that game. There was no way to rationalize it. We were crossing a line.”
This PlayStation 2 racer Stuntman was always a lot of fun – and it served as one of the first racing games on the PlayStation 2 to really set difficult challenges for players. The player has to attempt a series of car chase stunt scenes as the stuntman driver, with each track having several different types of stunt that have limited time and require just the right amount of accuracy.
And in delightfully unusual fashion, after each section is completed, you get a little theatrical trailer of the ‘movie’ you have just completed the stunts on, with movies including those based on films such as Snatch, Lock Stock, Dukes of Hazzard, James Bond style films and Tom Clancy espionage films, and Jon Woo films.
While the game received positive reviews for the most part, the game was renowned for its difficulty. Maxim said of the game: “If you think the best parts of movies involve explosions, car chases, and death-defying leaps (is there anything else?), then this homage to Hollywood’s unsung lunatics is just the thing for you.”
However, FHM called the game a “Genuinely great idea, but incredibly frustrating” and Entertainment Weekly advised players to “Wear a helmet while playing, because you’ll be banging your head against the TV in frustration.”
8.Jak II (2003)
Jak II was released in 2003 from the same company that brought us the Crash Bandicoot series, among others, Naughty Dog.
But this is one of the classic examples of sometimes a game needing quite a few dedicated hours of practice before it can be truly mastered, and you can enjoy that feeling of satisfaction.
And this is a game that can truly twist your melon to the fullest degree. It was universally praised at the time of its release, with IGN saying: “Naughty Dog weighs in with heavy guns, a dark story and mature content…And unlike pretty much every other platformer in the world, the story here is filled with characters who you’ll either love or hate. It’s the story that gives this game the feeling that it’s an adventure, like Indiana Jones or even Max Payne. Jak is far more likeable now that he speaks, and the fact that he’s pissed off and owns honking big guns weaves in an unmistakable new level of emotion into the narrative.”
GamesSpot also said: “Everything in Jak II comes together to produce one of the best-looking, best-playing games on the PS2 so far” and continued “Jak II is an enormous and ambitious game that succeeds on every level, the gameplay is rewarding, and the story twists and turns more than you’d expect from a game like this.”
Though it is a great game, no one can deny that it can be completely infuriating at times. It’s an incredibly challenging game.
7.Grandia Xtreme (2002)
Though Granadia Xtreme’s story may not have been to the same standard of the regular series, it was still a great game that had an amazing battle system, and what made it so difficult wasn’t necessarily the quality of the AI enemies but the hordes and hordes of them that would be thrown at you.
It is still regarded as quite possibly the hardest role-playing game ever released on the PlayStation 2, which is quite an amazing feat when you consider some of the games released on the highest selling console of all time.
6.Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (2001)
For old school gamers and Capcom enthusiasts, it was a return to form for the makers of Resident Evil and Dino Crisis when they released the ghostly and ghoulish Ghouls ‘N’ Ghosts series. Maximo learned well from its predecessor and incorporated all new features whilst drawing inspiration from Capcom’s game.
They also revived all the heart-racing and nail-biting of old school platformers that went along with it.
2001 was a time when developers started to take advantage of newer technology, as they were more able to build bigger games without the need for trial-and-error levels, that needed to be done 20 times before completion, to artificially extend the runtime of the game.
But in a time when developers attempted more and more to hand a lifeline to those of us who could never call ourselves expert gamers, Maximo laughed in the face of our failures, and demanded that we try and try and try again until we master the game.
Platformers especially were notoriously difficult, and with Maximo – though it wasn’t the hardest game ever made – certainly stuck in your craw with all the characteristics that made platforming games such a pain.
5.Alien Hominid (2004)
Ah, the side-scrolling shooter – the few words that will strike fear into the hearts of old school gamers. And don’t be fooled by the creature that looks like a big pudding – he’ll seem quite a lot less cute and funny when he’s killed you for the 200th time.
Alien Hominid borrowed a fair bit from the old style side-scrolling gamers, but what makes it so difficult is the overwhelming attacks from enemies and also trying not to be distracted by the beautiful art and design.
It’s a vivid and imaginative, and that what makes it a bit overwhelming.
4.Viewtiful Joe (2004)
Here was another game that was released towards the end of the run of the PlayStation 2. And this game is very much like perhaps the most difficult game of the original PlayStation, Rayman. In other words, don’t let the cutesy happy intro and somewhat child-like graphics fool you. This game will chew you up, spit you out and stick you under the school desk like you’re a piece of gum.
The game is exceedingly intricate, as it requires you to play as Joe and to combine the combinations of attacks to thwart enemies.
Keeping track of everything that is going on on-screen is something that makes the game so difficult. It can get overwhelming, and it seems as though there is simply too much to deal with, and that is where the difficulty comes from.
You might expect a game based around ninjas to at least incorporate some elements of stealth to some degree, but its arcade style action was a breath of fresh air with critics and fans alike.
And if you play Shinobi again, it will remind you why the pangs of nostalgia you feel for the games from your youth are maybe a little misplaced. Because in games from your childhood, you might remember the good times, but you’ll forget the frustration, the anger, and the feeling of hopelessness as you stumble and fall into a bottomless pit, only inches away from a checkpoint.
Shinobi reminds you of these feelings.
Described as “hellaciously hard” by Electronic Gaming Monthly, the game was received well generally but was criticised for its poor game level design, and that perhaps contributes to how difficult it is.
2.Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening (2005)
Dante’s Awakening is ridiculously hard, let’s just say that first. It’s really, really hard.
Not only is every single enemy relentless beyond belief, they are all equipped with enough firepower that they’re all basically mini-bosses in and of themselves.
And when you actually want to talk about bosses, Capcom’s Devil May Cry 3 have some of the best and most difficult around. And if you throw in the game design, the devilish AI system, the tricky and complex combo system, Devil May Cry 3 is not only one of the most challenging games of the PlayStation 2 era, it’s also one of the best.
1.Contra: Shattered Soldier (2002)
And here we come to number one on our list, the big one, the most difficult game of the PlayStation 2 era. This game caused a lot of heart ache for gamers, and it was possibly the single biggest cause of broken controllers in the history of gaming.
This game was so challenging that after dying a million times after the first or second level, people would just give up. It was that difficult.
This is the perfect example of a game that employs trial and error. Perhaps not consciously, but just generally because the game is so unforgiving, so relentless, and so mind-numbingly hard, then the only way that you could ever complete this game was if you went through the levels so many times that they became burned into your brain. At this point, all you could ever think about was Contra and Contra alone.