Sony’s PlayStation 2 (PS2) games console was a cultural phenomenon, a machine that got off to a flying start and simply didn’t look back. Its impact was even greater than that of its predecessor, the numberless PlayStation that smashed Nintendo and Sega’s grip on the market.
Indeed, it was the PS2 that broke record after record and, with 155 million units sold, it remains the best selling home console of all time.
Many things made the PS2 attractive. The DVD player helped (the best-selling software for a while was a copy of the first Matrix movie). The console was also high on emotion – well, it included the so-called powerful Emotion Engine CPU, anyway. Sony beat its competitors and it soon built a strong library. Lots of third-party developers supported the PS2 and it had loads of exclusives from Shadow of the Colossus to God of War.
By the time the console was discontinued, it had been on the shelves for 13 years. In that time, a total of 4,489 games had been released – again, the most of any console in history. As you can imagine, many of those games would have been overlooked or dismissed at the time. Only later would they be reassessed and deemed worthy of another try. In some cases, games simply become highly sought after, regardless of quality, just because there were so few copies about.
Here then, we look at some of those rarer games, giving an indication of how much they’re likely to cost based on past sales and a quick appraisal of their worth. Will you be looking to invest?
Rule of Rose
One of just two games created by Japanese developer Punchline, the survival horror Rule of Rose was released around the time of the PlayStation 3’s launch. That, however, wasn’t the reason this game didn’t sell particularly well on the PS2. Much of the blame was due to poor gameplay and the controversy that followed as reports spread of the game’s alleged content.
Europe’s justice commissioner Franco Frattini asked EU governments to consider whether it should be sold. “It relates to a young girl who becomes submitted to psychological and physical violence,” Frattini claimed.
But although the game was cancelled by the publisher in the United Kingdom, the Video Standards Council was baffled by claims such as in-game sadomasochism and children being buried underground. “These are things that have been completely made up,” a spokesperson said.
Even so, Rule of Rose was also cancelled in some other European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand and that makes finding copies earmarked for those territories an arduous task. Expect to pay about £500 for a PAL version or as much as £2,000 for a factory-sealed copy.
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Sticking with survival horror theme, we come to a game that originally spooked and enthralled PSOne owners. As a reimagining of the very first Silent Hill, Shattered Memories arrived 11 years later on PS2 and put a different spin on the original with new plot twists, fresh perspectives, no combat and a greater emphasis on exploring the abandoned, snowy town.
By the time the game was released, in 2010, the PlayStation 2 was almost getting ready for its pension so, although Shattered Memories went down extremely well with the critics, it only sold about 440,000 copies – less than a quarter of the sales of 1999’s Silent Hill. High production values and a deliciously disturbing storyline, however, means it’s still worth playing today. The price of copies veers from around £60 to as much as £150 factory sealed.
And surprise! It’s another survival horror. Quite frightening how these games tend to hold their value so well – more so given that Haunting Ground wasn’t exactly ground-breaking. Released in 2006, there were stark similarities between this game and another Capcom survival horror, Clock Tower 3, to the point where many a gamer was driven to compare the two.
Even so, there appears to be more appreciation for Haunting Ground today. In truth, not many actually played Clock Tower 3 in 2002 (repetitive mechanics didn’t go in its favour and sales were poor at just 122,000 units). If you get over the cliches, there’s plenty of creepy play to be had with Haunting Ground here but you’ll be paying around £100 for a brand new sealed copy.
For about 18 years, the developer Cave was firing out shoot-em-ups as if the world was about to blow. Its seemingly never-ending conveyor belt earned it a Guinness World Record for the most prolific developer of danmaku (‘bullet curtain’ shooters and yet Ibara was a bit of a departure.
Unlike a typical danmaku – the hallmark being complex enemy bullet patterns – this side-scroller was faster paced with less intense patterning. Gamers have compared it to Battle Garegga but it’s no surprise: Ibara‘s developer Shinobu Yagawa created that title too.
If you want a frantic challenge and fancy trying you hand at one of the finest shoot ’emm ups to have graced the PS2, then be prepared to splash out anywhere towards £260 for a mint condition Japanese import.
Whether or not you want to debate the merits of Futurama over Matt Groening’s other well-known animated sitcom, The Simpsons, is entirely up to you. Suffice to say, when the videogame version was released on the PS2, Futurama‘s future was very much up in the air.
Its final episode had been broadcast on Fox on 10 August 2003 but the game had a little trick up its sleeve to pull in the fans following the cancellation. As well as letting players control Fry, Bender, Leela and Zoidberg, the shooter/platformer also included 28 minutes of cel-shaded cutscenes which, together, formed an entire episode. Sealed copies will sell for more than £100.
The final game in the .hack series of single-player action role-playing videogames was a Marmite release, as cliche as that phrase is. Some believed it to be an awkward, frustrating conclusion that was highly repetitive – an odd-paced game that would only be persevered with, in truth, if you’d enjoyed the previous three games.
Ongoing interest in Japanese action-RPGs, however, means players are still keen to give this game-ender a go, long after its 2003 release year. Sales of the versions outside of Japan in 2004 weren’t amazing, though, so its rarity means shelling out for the privilege. A complete sealed boxed PAL version of the game – with its choice of a Japanese voiceover for authenticity sake – will cost around £190.
Blood Will Tell
Released by Sega, Blood Will Tell: Tezuka Osamu’s Dororo, to give it its full name, was a third-person slasher. It was based on the 1960s manga series, Dororo, created by the sadly departed artist Osamu Tezuka and it appeared on the PS2 in 2004.
There’s no getting around the fact the game wasn’t a commercial success. Neither did it go down all that well with the critics either. Slung around a series of 48 boss fights, the gameplay was exhausting and often uninspiring. It just felt a bit too shallow and when gamers were weighing up the games to spend their cash on that year, including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, it was inevitable that sales would be poor. If you can find a sealed copy, you’ll be slashing your pockets for £500!
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Atari’s fighting franchise, based on the manga series dating back to 1984, made its debut on the PS2 in 2005. Two years later and the developers were already on to the third game, packing it with a greater number of fighters (161 in total) and adding some fresh tactics.
There was much to commend it, from its customisation options, a decent story mode and a true anime feel. It also had a stack of fights in a mode called Mission 100 that had players battling to get the coveted Z rating.
Odd, then, that it didn’t really shift a lot of copies which is accounting for its relative rarity – more so if you want a sealed copy, in which case you’ll need to smash open your piggy bank for £300.
Xenosaga Episode III
This game marked the completion of the Xenosaga, er, saga but it wasn’t supposed to end that way. The RPG developed by Monolith Soft was originally going to span six games but few cuts to the script later and it had to settle for a trilogy instead.
It wasn’t such a bad thing. Suddenly, the game’s story didn’t have time to plod along and it sought to tie up a host of loose ends so that gamers wouldn’t be left with a load of unanswered questions. It still took a fair bit of concentration to figure it all out but with cinematic styling, eye-pleasing graphics and more than 40 hours of play over two discs, it was value for money. Whether that’s still the case if you’re paying £180 or so on eBay is another matter entirely.
Garfield: Saving Arlene
Garfield was a lazy, sarcastic sod, but everyone’s favourite cartoon cat (with apologies due to Henry’s mellow yellow feline) would probably consider leaping for joy knowing that this videogame is worth a fair bit of cash.
Developed by Eko Software and released in 2005, the 3D platformer based on Jim Davis’ comic strip was decent enough – a kid-friendly jaunt also starring the dog Odie on a journey to rescue Arlene from the pound.
Spread over nine levels and strewn with puzzles, it had a decent amount of humour. But you’ve got to laugh that, of all of the PS2 games, this is maybe the hardest game to find today. We could only locate a very small number and one of those copies was on sale for £375.
One thing is clear when discussing the rarest games on any console: a title doesn’t have to be to be a clear 10/10 classic in order to prove valuable to collectors. Kuon is a good example. It’s a so-so short survival game with no great depth and nods to Silent Hill and Resident Evil that, once complete, won’t have you rushing back for another go.
Yet for diehard horror fans and anyone who simply wants to bag everything created by Japanese developer FromSoftware (and there are folk who do!), this is a game they’ll need to have in their collection. More so because it adds a little kudos knowing there are very few copies due to its limited release. A complete PAL version has sold for £260.
Time Crisis 3
Regular copies of Time Crisis 3 are fairly easy to find, but the version that came with a pair of GunCon 2 lightgun controllers very rarely appears for sale. Chances are that’s because insufficient numbers of them were snapped up in the first place. But, as experiences go, the full package would make for a fun run through this superb rail shooter, even if the split-screen of the two-player option makes viewing a little more difficult.
One of the main criticisms was the game’s length. A lot of gamers say they can rattle through the main story in about 90 minutes – six hours if they’re completionists, though. That makes the cost per hour of gameplay rather high given that we’ve seen copies sell for about £225.
It says a lot about the rarity of Ocean Commander that some collectors are entirely unaware that a PS2 version was ever released. The submarine-themed scrolling shooter is better known for having first emerged on the PC in 2006, the Nintendo DS in 2008 and then the Wii in 2009. In all cases, it sunk, not least because the controls were so awkward and the gameplay deathly dull.
So, what of that PS2 version? Well, it appears that, in 2007, shovelware specialists Phoenix Games did indeed commission a PlayStation 2 version that, by all accounts, was only ever released in the United Kingdom and Italy. That would account for why so few know about it and, given how poor the game was on PC, we suspect it was left in the bargain bins. Not any more, though. Fancy parting with £250?
Michigan: Report From Hell
Finally, the survival horror game, Michigan: Report from Hell, was planned and produced by Goichi Suda who is better known by the pseudonym SUDA51. It’s an unusual game that’s played as if you’re looking through a camera’s viewfinder and, because of its offbeat premise (a mission is over when you run out of film), it was only released in Japan and Europe in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
That may sound ironic given the game’s name (the plot was set in Lake Michigan, Chicago) but US gamers didn’t really miss much. It was creepy at times but the narrative, dialogue and voice acting was diabolical (the original Resident Evil would be winning an Oscar in comparison). The graphics were also among the worst the PS2 had ever seen. The saving grace is that only 32,000 people bought it but that isn’t stopping collectors shelling out £270 or so today!