The 10 BEST PS2 3D Platformers
VOICE OVER: Aaron Brown
WRITTEN BY: Aaron Brown
Nintendo may be the King, but the PlayStation 2 still had some great platformers. For this list, we'll be looking at our favorite PS2 games that let us jump, slide, and explore a world full of physics-defying double jumps and all manner of colorful baddies standing in your way. Our list includes “Sly 2: Band of Thieves” (2004), “I-Ninja” (2003), “Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy” (2001), “Maximo: Ghosts to Glory” (2001), and more!
Script written by Aaron Brown
Welcome to MojoPlays and today we’re feeling a spring in our step as we explore the 10 best PS2 platformers. For this list, we’ll be looking at games whose primary mode of exploration is jumping, sliding, and exploring a world full of physics-defying double jumps and all manner of colorful baddies standing in your way. Did we miss a great 3D platformer on the PS2? Jump on down to the comments and let us know your favorites.
“The Simpsons Game” (2007)
Despite innumerable video games starring the Simpsons, you certainly can’t accuse them of not fully committing every time. For what was unfortunately the famous family’s last major video game outing, they decided to go full meta and let the family in on the joke, telling them early on they were taking part in a video game about their adventures. While not a fully open world Springfield like Hit & Run, the many worlds and homages to popular video game franchises were wonderfully detailed and oozing with that classic Simpsons knowing humor. Each family member has their own super abilities depending on the fantastical world they’re visiting, the family crosses paths with everyone from their creator to the creator of all and defeats God in a DDR style minigame. Like we said, classically Simpsons.
“Ape Escape 2” (2003)
While the first Ape Escape game was a surprisingly solid game that also acted as a tech demo for Sony’s new DualShock controller, by the time the sequel was released, the novelty of twin analog sticks had worn off and Ape Escape 2 needed to up the ante. Thankfully Japan Studio was more than capable of rising to the challenge. With those monkeys once again up to no good, it’s up to Hikaru and his trusty net to once again track them down and recapture them. This time he’s aided by new gadgets such as the Bananarang and improved mechanics that make catching those tricky monkeys more fun than ever. Some brand new minigames also offer a well deserved break in between all the monkey madness.
As was, and still is, the case with many platformers, there are so many that manage to steal the spotlight that some of the best can sneak right past you. See what I did there? Because Ninjas. Possibly due to its confusing naming, or release window, I-Ninja, despite being one of the most solid platforming games on the PS2, was overlooked by many, even with all of its numerous wall-running, swordplay, and ever shifting gameplay mechanics managing to keep players engaged from beginning to end. Forgoing the usual ancient China setting for a more contemporary time period, the titular Ninja battles his way through unending waves of robots and mechanical menaces as he attempts to undo a grave mistake made early in the game. An impressive cast that included the likes of Billy West, and a surprisingly hilarious script, Ninja’s adventures take him out of the shadows and challenges all who consider themselves to be true ninjas.
“SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom” (2003)
By the time Battle for Bikini Bottom released, the curious yellow sponge had had no shortage of nautical gaming adventures, many of them in full 3D. Battle for Bikini Bottom took everything fans loved about the optimistic and porous anthropomorphized sponge and put his greatest adventure at their fingertips. Nearly all of Bikini Bottom was here for players to explore, from the shores of Goo Lagoon to Rock Bottom, lovingly recreated just as longtime fans remembered, and the game even took a Metroidvania style approach to many levels, with numerous off the beaten path discoveries just waiting for different playable characters to unlock. Although SpongeBob has had numerous other adventures in the years since, it’s only recently that Battle for Bikini Bottom was forced to wave the white flag.
“Maximo: Ghosts to Glory” (2001)
Platformers are generally viewed as a more laid-back genre in gaming, but a few manage to up the challenge and make players lean forward to focus such as Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, a 3D reimagining of the classic Ghost ‘n Ghouls franchise on the NES known for its challenging gameplay bordering on punishing. Much like the original classic, Maximo must navigate dangerous worlds all in pursuit of his kidnapped Queen. Also like the original, Maximo’s health is represented in the number of layers he’s wearing, going from a full suit of armor down to his skivvies. Unlike the punishing original however, Maximo can buy himself a way out of death due to a deal made with the Grim Reaper and if Maximo has the coin, his adventure continues. It’s often difficult to bring older titles into the modern era, but Maximo managed to once again bring itself back from the dead.
“Rayman 2: Revolution” (2000)
Nowadays, remakes and remasters are commonplace but back on the PS2, they were unheard of. Rayman 2: Revolution is a remake of the sequel to Rayman’s original 3D outing on the PS1 and was remade as a launch title for the PS2, not only updating the graphics, but also including new areas to explore and challenging new bosses for the limbless hero to contend with. Revolution also opened up the world much more than its original incarnation, allowing players to more freely explore the environments and also added new powers, cutscenes and dialogue to help further flesh out one of Rayman’s last great 3D adventures before being overshadowed by those damn Rabbids.
“Sly 2: Band of Thieves” (2004)
While most 3D platformers are focused on the numerous ways to double jump around an environment, Sucker Punch took those same mechanics and made everything a bit stealthier. Building off the pitch perfect platforming of the original Sly Cooper, players could also now take control of his teammates Bentley and Murray, each complete with their own abilities and skillset to handle each new situation. They’re not the only ones with some new tricks up their sleeve either as now Sly can pickpocket coins or other valuable items from enemies without engaging them directly in combat. The levels themselves were also much more open allowing players to tackle the numerous objectives in a much less linear fashion than its predecessor with all missions being planned out from a central HUB that Sly and the crew return to between missions.
Double Fine and Tim Schafer have a long and storied history of creating wildly fantastical worlds for players to explore and Psychonauts is by far their most mind bending. Stepping into the adolescent shoes of a would-be Psycadets, Raz explores the training campgrounds of potential applicants and does basically whatever it takes to get inside their heads. Literally. By diving into other characters’ minds, the game is able to create some of the most varied and outlandish worlds players are ever likely to visit and with Raz’s psychic abilities he’s not without the means to defend himself against any horrors he might encounter within their psyche. Despite the game’s admittedly cartoony aesthetic, it has a surprisingly mature storyline that manages to weave complicated issues into the game’s narrative through the pursuit of emotional baggage that many of the characters suffer from.
“Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy” (2001)
From the studio that gave Sony their first unofficial mascot, Naughty Dog looked to expand on what they’d created with the Crash Bandicoot series with their first outing on the PS2, and the results were nothing short of remarkable. Featuring, for the time, unprecedented depth of field and a fully explorable world with no loading screens, Jak and Daxter jumped onto the PS2 and completely stuck the landing. While much of the game followed the tried-and-true platforming formula, complete with the genre’s staple of themed levels, such as fire, ice and cave, the detailed and colorful sprites helped bring the cartoony world to life in a way few other titles ever had before. The oftentimes hilarious script and cast of instantly loveable characters didn’t hurt either, especially the talkative Daxter who easily could have been annoying but managed to endear himself to players with his clever quips and insights into the Precursor world.
“Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal” (2004)
Much like the rivalry between Mario and Sonic in the 90s, Sony had their own platformer war waging on the PS2 between Jak & Daxter and Ratchet and Clank, and while both were beloved and well received, only one truly came out victorious and still continues even today. Whereas Jak had a bit of an identity crisis during his trilogy, Ratchet always knew he wanted to blow things up in the most outlandish ways imaginable, and Up Your Arsenal is still one of the best outings for the Lombax and his little robot pal. With more varied weapons, locations and even brand new vehicles to control, Up Your Arsenal lived up to its name and delivered players more content than they knew what to do with in addition to one of the best stories in the franchise.