These classic PS2 manuals are weird, beautiful, and nostalgic

By Lee Brady,

A collector of PS2 manuals has produced 4K scans of every US game manual released for Sony's second console, which gives us a perfect opportunity to look back at the lost art and reminisce.

PS2 aficionados might put their hopes in PS Plus one day becoming perfect platform for Sony's game preservation plans, but there's one thing Sony's subscription scheme will struggle to replicate: the lost art of PS2 game manuals. Mercifully, thanks to the efforts of a collector named Kirkland, we now have a 4K catalogue of mostly wonderful, sometimes weird PS2 game manuals to peruse.

PS2 ManualsThis beauty had it all.

Let's look at some old, weird, wonderful PS2 manuals

First reported by Kotaku, we learned that Kirkland has compiled a collection of every US PS2 manual in an effort to "raise some awareness for game preservation efforts." The collection can be found on Archive.org and contains over 2700 files, which is obviously much too much to look through in a day. So, let's just take a few key examples of what makes retro PlayStation manuals so great, and why we miss them.

PS2 ManualsStunning PS2 manual covers.

One major reason we miss PS2 covers? The art. Looks at these stunning covers for God of War and Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, for example — they're astounding. Imagine (or remember) opening the box to your new Sly Cooper game and finding the mysterious, hallowed book that gives the Cooper clan their criminal prowess. That's just such a wonderful touch that, sadly, folks cracking open a PS5 or PS4 game box today simply won't get to experience. Hell, they might not even have a box!

PS2 ManualsErr, yikes. Quite the introduction.

Then there's the manual of the original God of War, which is presented like an ancient scroll containing sketches, artwork, and even little dialogues between Zeus and Athena over the rising threat that is Kratos. It also contains another lost PS2 manual gem — character bios. These sections were the absolute best, many of us recall spending ages reading about beloved characters, like Kratos' soon-to-be-murdered wife and daughter... complete with foreshadowing descriptions regarding Kratos' rage. They are only identifiable by their relationship to Kratos, too — because we all know that nobody should have their own name outside of the protagonist. Yikes, let's see if there's a better example.

PS2 ManualsWow.

There we go, the classic Sonic game not worthy of our best Sonic games list, Sonic Heroes. This is the good stuffwhen PS2 manuals got weird. Manuals like Sonic Heroes would feature completely unique character details you would never find in-game like the fact Tails is only 8 years old, or that Shadow never ages, or that Dr. Eggman self-identifies as a feminist. This, more than any other reason, is exactly why you need to go check these manuals out.

PS2 ManualsThe "era."

One last thing we loved about PS2 manuals (we have to call it somewhere or we could be here all day) is pure and simple early-2000s nostalgia. It was an era where you could open the manual to Rayman Arena (AKA Rayman M) and get a full-page advertisement for a terrible-looking Ubisoft-produced movie tie-in to Open Season. Where cheat code and game guide helplines were still printed on the back pages and developers loved each element of their game so much that they would have pages dedicated simply to item descriptions.

PS2 ManualsWho is narrating this thing?

PS Plus Premium does give us the option to revisit classic PS2 games with trophy support, as well as a handful of the best PS1 classic games, but sadly Sony's time machine doesn't quite go back far enough to give us the little books which proudly and earnestly displayed content like a written prologue to the 2005 masterpiece that was Shadow the Hedgehog. That was the PS2 era — that's why you have to check out this collection. Then, when you do, let us know what you find in the comments below.
Lee Brady
Written by Lee Brady
Lee is a Staff Writer specialising in all things PlayStation. He loves writing about classic PS1 games on PS Plus, studying the game design of upcoming PlayStation Studios titles like Marvel's Spider-Man 2, and trying to explain his love for Sonic, Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts. He can also speak Japanese — albiet poorly.