Bowling has been around since the 19th Century, and while there has been a decline in popularity in this new millennium compared to the 1950s, it is still being played by many, professionally or as a social sport.
Of course, like many different sports, bowling has gotten its share of adaptations to the video game world, and a console as popular as the PlayStation 2, was bound to have a few. Some pretty mediocre, some realistic and professional-looking, and a few cartoonish and strange-looking entries into virtual bowling. So, let’s take a look at the
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5 Best Bowling Games For The PlayStation 2
10 Pin – Champions Alley – Liquid Games, 2005
The first game on this list is pretty straightforward. Just pick your character, each one with different stats for strength, accuracy, and spin. Then select one of the 4 stages to play, and you’re throwing balls.
You move your player left and right then press X and an arrow will appear on the alley pointing in the direction the ball will take. You can’t select it, since it’s going side to side like a pendulum, and you have to time when to press the button.
If the arrow ends up pointing too far to either side, you still have the chance to change the spinning of the ball before throwing it.
A bar appears to measure power, which fills up and down, and you have to time the throwing strength by pressing X at the right time, and then another bar below it measures the accuracy of your shot, and you need to place the pointer in the green spot to accomplish a nice throw.
It is very easy to get a strike, and the pin physics are kinda basic, they fly around with no real weight or gravity applied to them, and sometimes the pins left standing make no sense.
Still, it is a good game to pass the time, the character designs are good and the winning and losing character animations are well done.
It’s a pretty average game, but way cheaper than going Bowling in real life. And you don’t have to get out of the house and wear those funny shoes.
Tekken Bowl – Namco, 2000
Tekken Tag Tournament was a launch title for the PS2 and a very good one at that. But this time around, the fighters participating in the Iron First Tournament can also go bowling!
There’s a mini-game where you can pick 2 characters and throw at golden pins with the face of Heihachi Mishima. If the first character doesn’t get a strike, the 2nd one will attempt to throw the remaining pins left standing.
You can move to the sides, and when you select your position, a Power Meter fills out, but when it reaches Max Level, it resets to zero, and it moves fast. So it’s very easy to get 100% or 0% Power on your shot.
After you select the power, an accuracy bar will appear and move side to side. Here, the arrow that points the direction turns to the left (if you have a right-handed character) and goes back slightly to the right, before repeating the cycle.
You play in a temple with many monks as bystanders watching you bowl. And while you’re not really in a bowling alley with gutters to the sides, it’s better to aim your shot correctly, or you’ll end up hitting one of the monks.
As a fun reference, the Android Jack has eyes like a Terminator, and you can see from his point of view when you’re about to shoot, with a green and yellow hue, and information in form of texts scrolling at the sides of the screen and showing the pins as a target to destroy. Really a very nice detail.
Brunswick Pro Bowling – Crave Entertainment, 2007
The most realistic and professional-looking game on this list, being endorsed by the Brunswick brand that used to sell bowling products, the physics in this game are very good, but since it was originally developed for the Wii, the controls adapted to the DualShock feel a little off and take a while to get used to.
Here you get to choose the starting point from where you will take your aim with the left stick, and then point the direction you will throw the ball with the right stick, and you can also control the ball by putting a spin on it with the D-Pad.
Once you hit X, a power bar will start to get filled, and you must press down on the analog stick at the right time to get power, and when the bar goes down to measure the shot’s accuracy, you move the stick up.
It works very differently than other bowling games that use a standard controller, and critics say that the ports of this title that use Kinect and PlayStation Move perform way better. Or at least are easier to control when you first start out.
Still, the graphics are pretty good for the PS2, as well as the music, and it has a deep career mode for those fans of pin bowling looking for a more realistic virtual experience.
AMF Xtreme Bowling – Mud Duck Productions, 2006
AMF has a cartoony visual style and simple gameplay so anyone can jump in and start dropping pines with just a couple of practice throws.
First, you move your character to the starting point of the shot and then press X, so the power meter begins to fill. Once you press X, the cursor will immediately go to the right to the accuracy meter, and if you don’t press anything the character won’t even take a shot.
For the direction of the throw, when the cursor is going to the accuracy line, you can press X a little before it reaches its center, or a little later, and that will affect the direction of the ball. Also, you can add spin to the ball, left or right, by moving the left analog stick a little bit or all the way while you pick the power.
Here you can also apply oil to the lane in different patterns, which will affect the way the ball travels to the pins. And besides Quick Match and Tournament, there’s a Challenge Mode that puts you in the middle of an already ongoing game with a certain score, and you must win with the odds against you.
There’s also a pin challenge, where you must drop different arrangements of pins with a few chances, and multiplayer mode that allows up to 16 players to play in a tournament with the same controller. 16!
This game uses a lot of Full Motion Video and you can play it in standard 4:3 letterbox format or 16:9 Widescreen which was already becoming available at the time of its release.
It has many stages to play on, each one with a different background song. And many characters to choose from, so there’s more bowling action and replay value here than in the previous games on this list.
Strike Force Bowling – Crave Entertainment, 2004
This game takes a little humorous approach to bowling, but that’s what makes it stand out, and the physics are very realistic.
You can select balls made of different materials, with variable sizes and weights, and choose characters like a robot, an alien, a skeleton, and a Japanese Anime Schoolgirl.
The first stage is a regular bowling place, but you can also play on a dock right at the beach, in Ancient Egypt surrounded by the Sphinx and golden statues, a pirate ship, a zen temple, and even on the moon.
On the old Spanish Galleon, the bowling alley is swaying left to right with the ship’s movement on the sea waves, which affects the way the ball travels.
The control is very easy to learn, first, you choose where you start your throw, then direction, and spin. There are separate bars for power and accuracy. You will still take your shot even if you don’t get them on time, but it probably will end up in the gutter.
A nice detail is that the music, pins, and even the font of the text on the menus change depending on the stage, and each of the characters have many different animations for celebrating a strike or getting mad when they don’t hit any pin.
Besides regular bowling, there’s Bowling Golf where there are several different arrangements of pins in the alley, and you have a number of throws you can make in order to get a par, and challenge where you start by hitting down a single pin, then move on to drop two, then three and so on.
The approach of this title is kinda wacky, and professional bowlers may not like it one bit, but there’s fun to be had here with casual gamers looking for a funny take on the sport.
As I said, the PS2 was one of gaming’s most popular consoles and the library was huge. If you are a fan of the sport you should pick one up because is it still home to some of the best bowling games ever made.