Sony’s PlayStation 2 (or PS2 as the cool kids call it) was one of the best-selling consoles globally, meaning it was popular. Not only does the PS2 outsell more than any other home or handheld console, but it also supports thousands of games, and it comes at a time when video games are becoming more complex, sophisticated, and immersive. If you’re in the generation that discovered video games through games like GTA III and God of War, the PS2 played a significant role in your youth. With a catalog of nearly 2,000 games during the 12 years of their rule, dozens of games are still replayable classics today. So there’s no question that there have been many great games coming out of the PS2 — and we’d wager some of them are some of the best consoles ever made.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
Sam Fisher’s second espionage adventure features several key improvements over the already excellent original. First, the enemy AI is more intelligent, and the decloak is not nearly as buggy, which makes the experience of sneaking and destroying enemies more realistic.
Set in 2006, the story sends Fisher to East Timor to join a growing militia. Once again, the story is a tight, high-stakes political thriller. When it comes to stealth action games on PS2, Pandora Tomorrow and other Splinter Cell games are second to none.
Whether you’re navigating the streets, speeding through traffic, or trying to wreak havoc in Crash Mode, Burnout Revenge is built for one thing: speed. Like vehicles in the way, fast action jumps often result in wasted time chasing the gold medal in every event. Yes, the Takedown-inspired matches offer their thrills, but this is the culmination of the series and the last Burnout game to include a crash mode – even more frustrating that no one has been able to work the mode’s magic Capture and (successfully) copy.
Developers Naughty Dog worked with Jak & Daxter to create their first whole 3D adventure for the PlayStation 2. Oddly enough, the Jak & Daxter series has radically changed between each part, unlike its predecessor, Crash Bandicoot, which contained three very similar games. Crash Bandicoot continued to evolve technically and graphically as developers became more familiar with the console’s hardware, but the Jak & Daxter game completely changed the genre.
The overall storyline of the Jak & Daxter series spans all three games in the main series and includes a more immersive storyline than most platformers. Jak II turns an adorable 3D platformer into an open-world adventure inspired by Grand Theft Auto. Jak 3, representing the best part of the series, features the same sandbox center as its predecessor but adds more weapons and gameplay models. Players who have experienced all three games will benefit more from the story than those who jumped straight into Jak 3 but don’t need to have played the other parts. It would be a shame to miss the first two titles in the series, though, as the series is the best experience.
The Gran Turismo line is known for its attention to detail, including various licensed cars, fine-tuned racing physics, and brutal homologation testing. With over 700 vehicles to choose from in Gran Turismo 4, each vehicle is a near-perfect replica of its real-life counterpart, and each one can be tuned to perfection.
With its great looks and highly realistic driving behavior, the GT4 is a fan’s dream. If you’re interested in going places, you’d never go or drive your dream car for a spin, and this game can transport you to other sites at the time.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 transformed the super-successful franchise. In Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, you can freewheel through more levels and take on challenges from other skaters around the map if it suits you. You have a certain amount of time to complete particular level objectives in the previous sections. This change fundamentally changes the gaming experience.
The skateboarding game itself, where you can string up ridiculous combinations, has also been improved in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4. While Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is now a franchise of the past, we’re hoping to play THPS4 again on current consoles somehow. This may never happen due to the music license, but at least we will always have fond memories.
Beyond Good and Evil
Combining action and exploration, a unique world, and diverse, captivating, and fun characters, Beyond Good & Evil is one of PS2’s standout classics. The world is full of quirky monster bars, a hovercraft repair shop run by a reggae-loving rhino, and plenty of history and mysteries to unravel. There’s nothing like it, and it’s no surprise that fans have been waiting for a sequel that will hopefully one day be released.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Vice City is better than GTA 3 in every way, but Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas expands its scope incredibly. Not only do you have a city to explore – but you also have an entire state, including small towns and long stretches of land, full of exciting geographies. You’re not just a mafia errand boy either – you’re Carl CJ Johnson, a character with a family, a personality, and a need to exercise and eat (to gain or lose weight accordingly).
To Bizarre Heights – Deputy Stealing GTA hasn’t done anything so ambitious since. It’s not just a gangster game. It’s a full-fledged criminal fantasy simulator, starting with skirmishes on the streets of Los Santos and ending up as you jet through Area 51 on the orders of a CIA drug smuggler. It’s hard to remember another game that did this. It’s the culmination of one of the PS2’s most important series, earning it a place on this list.
Final Fantasy X
Square took a big step forward in the Final Fantasy series when it released Final Fantasy X in 2001. It’s the first game in the series to use voice acting, motion capture, and a complete 3D environment, making everything possible on PS2. It also introduces a new combat and experience point system that helps the game stand out from its predecessors.
Final Fantasy X follows professional athlete Tidus into the fantasy world of Spira as he joins his comrades in defeating the monster Sin. The game even spawned the first direct sequel to the series, Final Fantasy X-2. If you want to play these games now, 2013’s HD Remaster bundles them as Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remastered. You can play the game on PC and all current consoles.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
It’s hard to find a more ambitious game on PS2 than Metal Gear Solid 2: Children of Liberty. Developed by Konami under the direction of renowned creator Hideo Kojima, Children of Liberty attempts to tackle various challenging and complex topics, including some political themes that are still relevant today.
Despite being confusing and confusing at times, Children of Liberty is often considered one of the greatest games. You take on the role of Solid Snake again, infiltrating various realms, getting closer and closer to uncovering a grand conspiracy spreading across the globe. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is also great, but we will prioritize Sons of Liberty here.
Resident Evil 4
One of the greatest Resident Evil games ever made, Resident Evil 4 creates a new blueprint for the popular horror genre. You play as Leon Kennedy, a police officer charged with rescuing the president’s daughter from a horrific cult. While some longtime fans weren’t too happy with the move to more action-oriented gameplay and less fear of jumping, it’s hard to tell a better third-person shooter from the PS2 era.
The Resident Evil franchise returns to its horror roots with Resident Evil 7, but Resident Evil 4 will always have a special place in our hearts. Killing hordes of zombies, monsters, and impressive bosses is always exciting. Since only a limited amount of ammo is available, you always have to place your bullets correctly. RE4’s environment and non-linear build provide a compelling reason to replay RE4 after the credits roll.
Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus was hailed as a crowning title when it was released in 2005, not just because of the size of the monsters to fight. In an age where wild, manic open-world action games like Grand Theft Auto 3 are all the rage, Shadow of the Colossus is a quiet, contemplative, and often lonely experience. It’s the perfect antidote to an era marked by macho violence and borderline humor.
Of course, the Colossus is the real star of Shadow of the Colossus. Each of them presents a unique challenge that tests your brain and reflexes. As they fall, the music takes on a sad and tragic note that forces you to feel sympathy for the majestic creatures you slaughter one by one. A few years later, Bluepoint Games released a revised version that, despite its technical excellence, didn’t quite match the original. If you want a pure gaming experience, your best bet is to play the original PS2 version, framerate issues, etc.
God of War 2
Long before the series was so burdened with its excessive gore and overbearing, murderous protagonists that it required a complete reboot to get back on track, God of War was one of the most visually striking cinematic franchises in gaming. David Jaffe’s 2005 original gave PlayStation 2 owners a new mascot – Kratos, the spooky white Spartan warrior, bent on revenge against Ares’s Greek god of war. While the first game was incredible and quickly cracked the top 10, we prefer the 2007 sequel, which improved in every area.
God of War 2 dramatically expands the series’ storyline, and it’s even grander in scope as Kratos embarks on a lengthy mission to kill Zeus. Although it ended in suspense, God of War II remained a must-play for action-adventure fans and was the perfect swan song for the PS2, which was later replaced by the PlayStation 3 that followed.
The ICO came to PS2 in 2001 and wowed audiences with its touching story, soulful music, stunning graphics, and great puzzles. Since its release, the game has become a classic, so it’s only natural that it’s one of the best PS2 exclusives.
Players take on the role of Ico, a young boy ostracized by the people because he was born with horns. Iko is imprisoned in an abandoned fort for players to explore. Here he meets Joda, the queen’s daughter, who hopes to save Iko from a tragic fate.
Silent Hill 2
Although the Silent Hill franchise has had a rough time in recent years, it peaked its popularity in 2001 with the PS2 exclusive Silent Hill 2. This survival horror game puts you in the role of James Sunderland, who is searching for his wife’s ghost town. Instead of focusing on combat, you have to solve puzzles and navigate through supernatural horror scenarios.
Silent Hill 2 does not have a head-up display and requires you to navigate using an accurate in-game map. Inspired by classic horror filmmakers like Cronenberg and Hitchcock, the game challenges you to navigate a mysterious fog. Unfortunately, the only way to play this game on modern consoles is through the poorly preserved Silent Hill HD Collection on PlayStation Now. However, you can also check out the fan-enhanced version made for PC.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
By 2003, the name Prince of Persia was barely remembered by most players. After an embarrassing attempt at Prince of Persia 3D, the series seems dead. But Prince was resurrected when franchise creator Jordan Mechner returned to the series with the incredible development team at Ubisoft Montreal. Reinvented Prince of Persia: Sands of Time not only upends platform puzzle games but also with subtle storytelling and authentic imagination.
The exploration-based platform gameplay made famous by the Tomb Raider series has been elevated to a new level of sophistication in PoP, as precise, straightforward controls allow for wall running, jumping, rolling, climbing, and ground walking. This softens the blow of the trial-and-error inherent to the genre, leaving you with just one room to complete and challenging jumps inside. Switch easily. Even if you are disturbed by a shaking 3D camera, you can rewind 20 seconds and try again. The entire trilogy is a beautiful, violent, and occasionally heartbreaking saga.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening
As the saying goes, good things come in three. Devil May Cry is great. Devil May Cry 2 isn’t that great. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening is exquisite. Dante’s Awakening is a prequel to the original, showing the fractured relationship between Dante and his brother Virgil in all its sordid glory. Devil May Cry 3 stands out for its excellent gameplay.
As much as you might call it a hack and slash, DMC3 has more nuanced than your average button masher – mainly because it proves to be quite challenging and requires players to string together super combos to stay alive. Filled with a contemplative attitude and great music to get you into battle, DMC3 remains an action game classic today. In the years since its release, it has influenced many games of its kind.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Grand Theft Auto 3 may have revolutionized open-world action gaming with its third-person perspective, but it was the 2002 sequel that perfected the concept. Sin City elevates the game in almost every conceivable way. It adds a story that’s engaging and subtly satirical of all the ’80s influences, with memorable characters voiced by Hollywood pros — including Ray Liotta, Dennis Hopper, and Burt Reynolds — all but improving mechanics and gameplay. Every aspect of the gameplay and Sin City still has one of the best video game soundtracks. Even now, after being ported to PC, handheld, and mobile platforms, Vice City not only remains one of the best PS2 games ever made,
Ratchet & Clank: Boost your arsenal
Several mascot characters have dueled to see who might be Sony’s best answer to Mario and Kirby on the PlayStation. Although controversial, the furry Lombax Ratchet and his trusty robotic sidekick Clank are probably the closest.
The PS2 era was the era when franchises started to take off. Ratchet and Clank quickly became one of Sony’s most successful franchises – fewer platformers and more guns. Aside from continuing the show’s peculiar preference for ambiguity, Up Your Arsenal is the show’s highlight so far.
In short, it’s beautiful, smooth, loaded with guns, and executed almost flawlessly. The best criticism of Up Your Arsenal is that it offers more of the same content as its predecessor, but in the case of Ratchet and Clank, that’s not a bad thing. The PS2 needed a cover boy, and they found him in this unlikely pair of trigger-happy heroes. Look at Rift Apart’s prominence in PlayStation 5 marketing to see the impact these games have had.
Kingdom Hearts II
Even though Kingdom Hearts has been around for nearly 20 years, it’s still a video game franchise that doesn’t feel like it’s meant to work and exist. The mix of classic Final Fantasy and Disney sounds like fanfiction rather than a successful franchise that has spawned numerous sequels and spinoffs and has a solid global fan base of millions. The original Kingdom Hearts was essentially a proof-of-concept. While it told a compelling story and introduced an interesting third-person action-RPG combat system, it was very raw on edge.
Thankfully, Kingdom Hearts II fixes many of the first game’s problems (including the dreaded Gum Boat sequence) and introduces a series of new worlds for protagonist Sora and his companions Donald Duck and Goofy, including TRON and The Lion King. The game is certainly not perfect, as the story somehow gets off track and drifts into entirely unknown territory (a trend that becomes increasingly problematic as the series progresses). Still, nonetheless, Kingdom Hearts II is the best One of the best RPG experiences on the PlayStation 2 and a game to enjoy.
Of all the games that have survived the storm of controversy, it’s hard to imagine a game worth playing than Bully. Bully managed to use the Grand Theft Auto mentality to create an incredibly addictive game about being trapped in a hostile school environment. It also helps that, unlike most real-life kids who become targets of bullies, the protagonist Jimmy Hopkins is a gruff thug with a boxer’s punches and superhuman stamina, which enables uniquely exciting situations such as Beat up an entire football team at once. It’s not GTA, but it’s more fun in some ways.