My Top Ten Games of 2001

2001 was the year I bought the PS2, and really moved on from the older two consoles that I still dearly loved. I remember seeing the PS2 playing in a Smyths Toystore and being stunned by the leap in visuals with the console jump.

It was the initial wave of big PS2 games that dominated my gaming time this year. I also continued to play PC for my strategy itch.

It's worth noting that a series of huge games (Halo, FFX, MGS 2) were delayed in Europe until the following year, so for my purposes they cannot be on this list.

List items

  • Truly terrifying, restrained and subtle in its approach to horror, Silent Hill 2 is a masterpiece in creating an atmosphere of fear without ramming gribbly monsters into the players face. The fear of the unknown, the environment itself and the psychological menace of its story and characters make this a gem of the genre, and a chilling experience to this day.

  • Probably the best example of a sequel in my experience, Gold/Silver took everything great about the original Red/Blue and improved all the game mechanics including the general speed of the combat, adding new creature types to stop the overpowerful psychic type, and improved the graphics. It also added a night/day cycle, pokemon breeding, genders and included the entire Kanto region from the first game. Gold/Silver is extremely derivative of the originals, but the execution was sublime.

  • While VII and VIII get more attention, I feel that the style, themes and story of Final Fantasy IX make it the strongest entry in the series of its era, and is my personal favourite. It has more colour and childlike charm with its cast, but is not afraid to tackle some major and heavy story elements. It's combat system is faster and more involving for the player, and the music is incredible with some of the best work from Uematsu. It released very late in Europe and the PS2 had already taken any remaining shine off of the PS1, but FFIX was an incredible send off for the old machine.

  • Not a full RPG in the sense of the PC series, Dark Alliance had a larger focus on vicious combat and co-op with the aim of loot collecting. It looked fantastic, had gorgeous music and had a great cooperative story mode. It didn't hurt that it was completely replayable. One of the best games to get acquainted with the PS2.

  • Age of Empires may have more attention, but Empire Earth was a faster, more aggressive and larger scale RTS that was, for my money, a lot more fun to play. A plethora of time epochs, abilities with characters, huge customisation and proper story campaigns all helped to flesh this one out. It also lets you play cave men against robots, and that has to be a winner.

  • Not nearly as innovative or ambitious as the first Soul Reaver, but it did continue the intricate and shadowy storyline in a setting that I had fallen in love with. The combat was a decent evolution, and the new characters were great with smart nods to the Blood Omen games. It should have received more attention and praise than it did, especially with powerful ending and great balance between action and puzzle-solving.

  • The series first foray into a full 3D world, and what an impressive game this was to play at release. An open world city, gritty crime with a dark sense of humour and colourful art style. The shooting was a bit stiff for my taste and I always felt the story was poor in GTA III, but it was a huge game to play at the right time and remains with me, primarily for the ability to hire a hooker to restore your health and then kill them and take your cash back!

  • While not as groundbreaking a game as it is sometimes described, Devil May Cry was a fun, fast arcade-like game that allowed players to smash Resident Evil esque monsters in a completely different context. The writing was still pretty bad and the fixed camera angles remained enraging but overall this was a good action game with a lot going for it and with solid replayability. Boss fights were particular standout moments.

  • Naughty Dogs post Crash Bandicoot debut was not as good as the flagship PS1 series, but it did have all the colour and charm and took some lessons from the best of the 3D platformers of the past. It was funny, had a good art style and was a more free roaming experience than Crash Bandicoot had ever been.

  • Not the best shooter I had played, but the environmental destruction options impressed me. A selection of great weapons and pretty fast gameplay (compared to console shooters at the time) made it really stand out at the PS2 launch lineup. Some good multiplayer options with friends and a single player campaign that was a fast but fun ride.