Gaming history is full of contentious arguments.
Which "Grand Theft Auto" is the best? Why did the Sega Dreamcast have to die so young? Has anyone ever actually beaten "Battle Toads"?
But the peak debate for gamers is likely waged over which video game console is the best of them all. And when it comes to this debate, there is no room for ties or the idea that it's too close to call. Because when it comes to this debate, there is one answer: Sony's PlayStation 2.
Let us explain why Sony's second-generation PlayStation is the greatest video game system of all time, a phenomenon which may never be rivaled.
1. It's the best-selling video game system of all time.
Like a horror movie villain that just won't die, the PlayStation 2's prolonged sales are a testament to the system's quality and staying power. In 2011, the PlayStation 2 overtook the Nintendo DS to become the best-selling video game console of all time. But nothing gold can stay, and as developers ceased producing games for the PlayStation 2, Sony said in December 2012 that it would cease production of the console in its home country of Japan. Shortly thereafter, it announced that production would be ending worldwide. Though being a top-selling item does not always directly correlate to a product's quality, the PlayStation 2 is a definite exception.
Artists rendering of invincible human being with invincible gaming system.
The PlaySation 2's 12-year run from 2000 to 2012, and its 155 million units sold in that timespan, leave the competing consoles from the same generation in the dust. Nintendo's Gamecube sold 22 million units in its six-year run from 2001 to 2007, while Microsoft's Xbox sold 24 million consoles in a seven-year span from 2001 to 2008. Some quick math: This means the PlayStation 2 sold 109 million more systems than the Gamecube and Xbox combined.
Even the PlayStation 3's sales total of 80 million seems puny by comparison. After the PlayStation 3's release in 2007, the PlayStation 2 was outselling its next-gen counterpart by a 4 to 1 margin. Even two years later in 2009, when Sony cut the PlayStation 2 price down to $99, the system managed to outsell the PlayStation 3 for several months.
PlayStation 2's reign atop the best-selling video game console list may be short-lived, however. The Nintendo DS -- which is still selling like crazy -- is not far behind.
2. The game library.
With several thousand games released for the system, it makes perfect sense that the PlayStation 2 would have some solid games to choose from. But even that large number masks just how deep the selection of truly quality games for the PlayStation 2 goes.
The system's exclusive titles -- some of which would not be ported to other systems until years later -- include games such as "Ico" and "Shadow Of The Colossus," and enduring franchises like "God Of War," "Guitar Hero," "Silent Hill," "Grand Theft Auto," "Devil May Cry," "Gran Turismo," "Final Fantasy" and "Metal Gear Solid." While Xbox and Gamecube users had their own desirable exclusives in the "Halo" and Mario series, the fact is that even if PlayStation 2 didn't end up the only system with certain games in the end, it almost always had them first.
PlayStation 2 also clobbered the Gamecube and Xbox games in terms of sales numbers. "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," the PlayStation 2's best-selling game, sold 17.3 million copies, with Gamecube's "Super Smash Bros. Melee" (7.09 million sold) and Xbox's "Halo 2" (8 million sold) miles behind.
Let's not forget that the PlayStation 2 wasn't just about PlayStation 2 games.
3. The backwards compatibility.
Who knew that a feature introduced by Sony in 2000 would become so desired amid a current generation of consoles that have essentially completely forsaken it?
While the Xbox One shunned backwards compatibility completely and PlayStation 4 has implemented a slipshod remedy, gamers long for the PlayStations 2's landmark feature. In addition to the massive PlayStation 2 library, this feature meant that barring region restrictions, the 2,418 games officially released for the PlayStation 1 could be played on the PlayStation 2.
And when it comes to matching the PlayStation 2's legendary library of quality games, the PSX isn't very far behind. Games on the PlayStation consistently redefined genres, such as "Resident Evil 2" and survival horror, or "Final Fantasy VII" and "Chrono Cross" for RPGs. While many systems struggle with a dearth of quality games during a console launch -- and the PlayStation 2 was no different -- the fact that gamers had the option of pillaging the massive PSX back catalog meant a plethora of great options from day one.
And much like its big brother would eventually do, the PlayStation manhandled its competitors in terms of sales, moving 102 million units against Sega Dreamcast's 10.6 million and Nintendo 64's 32.9 million. So perhaps there's the answer to our initial question of why the Dreamcast died so young.
4. The best controller ever?
Sure, the PlayStation 3 went wireless with the DualShock controller that debuted during the PSX's reign, and the PlayStation 4 added a fancy touchpad and light bar.
But sometimes, less is more, and the DualShock 2 feels like a good example. Building on the cinematic, immersive vibrations of the original, DualShock 2 also introduced pressure-sensitive buttons. This meant that when you were roaming around the tanker with Solid Snake at the beginning of "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty," stealthily drawing and lowering your weapon became an even more intense experience.
With more weight than the DualShock 3 and triggers that didn't fall off the face of the earth (causing finger slippage), the DualShock 2 managed to feel more complete than its successors. And it just felt so good in your hands.
5. It may very well be the last major gaming system that was a pure gaming system.
With more focus on video game consoles as all-in-one entertainment systems, some may argue that the attention to gaming gets lost. They may be partially right.
With the proliferation of downloadable content and online media services like Netflix and Hulu, along with more systems being integrated with televisions and other devices, the PlayStation 2 could very well be the last hurrah of the pure gaming system. Because the PlayStation 2's online gaming ecosystem wasn't as complete at its launch -- especially when compared to Xbox Live, which was hot from the start -- developers created PlayStation 2 to work with the more traditional gaming model: gaming with your friends physically in the room with you, or gaming by yourself.
Without an emphasis on streaming or additional functionality (apart from its great addition of a built-in DVD player), the PlayStation 2 was a video game console through and through. The system was accessible and satisfying to both the casual and hardcore gamer, with games like "Grand Theft Auto III" still feeling like tipping points in an ongoing gaming revolution to expand what games are capable of. Even minor developments like the motion-sensing EyeToy preceded Xbox's Kinect and the Wii's control scheme.
So go on, dust off that PlayStation 2 you have. Chances are it doesn't have any dust on it anyway.
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