When we’re in the twilight of this console generation, with both Sony and Microsoft promising new consoles by the fall that will replace the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 respectively, it feels a little odd to be discussing the Playstation 2. However, Sony has announced that they have finally ceased production on the influential console after 12 years of production, ending an astonishing run that boasted over 150 million consoles sold worldwide, a library of over 10,000 titles, and software sales exceeding 1.5 billion units sold. It is easily the most successful video game console of any generation, and its astonishing life cycle has left an indelible mark on the industry that is unlikely to be topped.
That indelible mark has also been left on horror games, as that massive library boasted some of the best fear and frights that the industry has ever had to offer. Join us as we reminisce over the life and death of horror gaming on the Playstation 2.
Silent Hill 2
While Silent Hill was introduced a generation prior on Sony’s Playstation, Silent Hill 2 distilled the formula into a perfect bubbling brew of brutal monsters, deep psychological horror, and haunted pasts that has not been matched since, no matter how many times they want to reuse Pyramid Head. The raw horsepower that the PS2 offered at the time offered some phenomenally detailed character models that still look good to this day, especially when hidden behind the game’s thick grain filter. It’s a game that looked so distinctive and worked within the technological constraints so perfectly that playing it in 1080p in the recent Silent Hill HD Collection somehow feels less genuine than the original 480i output of the Playstation 2.
Right before Resident Evil 4 redefined survival horror, Siren was offering a more traditional take with a vicious twist. While the usual survival tropes were in play—limited resources and a series of physically frail protagonists—the game also gave you the ability to “jack” into the senses of the zombified Shibito monsters that stalked the ruined town of Hanuda, Japan. This allowed you to see and hear what your enemies could, allowing you to more skillfully run and hide from the stalking Shibito as ten different characters, each represented in a non-chronological slice of a story that centered on a religious cult and the awakening of an ancient god, almost like a J-horror riff on Lovecraft.