Ah, PlayStation 2. Considered by many as one of the best gaming consoles of its generation and even of all time. Its input in the gaming industry is invaluable.
Many series’ that thrive now on current-gen consoles have their origins on the successor to the first device in the Sony console family. In our list, we’re going to present the best PS2 games of all time. Here you’ll find the fast-paced action, the intriguing stories, the exciting gameplay – all of which made PS2 one of the greatest consoles ever.
Grand Theft Auto III
|Release||22 October 2001|
The classic PS2 title and the first in the line of GTA games set in the 3D environment, Grand Theft Auto III takes the player to the Liberty City of the 80s.
The game starts when a bank robber named Claude is tricked by his partners in crime and left to be arrested after a bank job. During a prison transport gone wrong, he and a fellow inmate named 8-Ball, escape from the wrecked bus and hide in the city. Thus begins Claude’s slow climb up the Liberty City’s underworld food chain, with the revenge on his former friends at the top.
GTA III introduced a lot of mechanics the series is known for to this day. Exploration of the open-world areas of Liberty City, taking on missions from various employers, participating in side activities – all this survived in some shape and form and is featured prominently in the current GTA games. Playing GTA III is an extensive blast from the past, not only in terms of gameplay but also the story and music (some of the songs heard on Liberty City radio stations were pulled directly from Brian de Palma’s Scarface). Play it to feel the rush of nostalgia and see how far the series has come over the past 20 years.
Resident Evil 4
|Release||25 October 2005|
|Developer||Capcom Production Studio 4|
In Resident Evil 4, Leon S. Kennedy returns to face the undead mutants one more time.
As the Secret Service agent, he is sent after the kidnappers of Ashley Graham, the US President’s daughter, who had taken her to a rural village somewhere in Spain. On-site, Leon finds out that the region is ruled by a dangerous cult of people infected with a virus similar to the one that devastated Raccoon City. Its leader seems to have special plans for both Leon and Ashley.
Resident Evil 4 was the first game in the series to introduce the shoulder camera view and the quick-time events. These mechanics had stayed with the series for two subsequent installments. Resident Evil 4 was also significantly less scary than its predecessors, putting greater emphasis on action setpieces. That doesn’t mean the game was free of terrifying moments – the nightmarish sounds of a chainsaw or the sight of Regenerators slowly creeping towards the player haunt us to this day.
Metal Gear Solid III: Snake Eater
|Release||17 November 2004|
|Developer||Konami Computer Entertainment Japan|
In the 1960s, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its peak.
After discovering that the Soviets are preparing a new weapon that could shift the balance of the conflict, the US Government sends in a special agent, codename Naked Snake, to investigate and stop the weapon. While carrying out his task, Snake will encounter members of the COBRA Unit, lead by his former mentor, The Boss, an American super-soldier who defected to the other side.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is the prequel to the core games in the Metal Gear series, telling the story of the origin of Big Boss. The game is considered one of the greatest titles of all time, thanks to its story and gameplay. The latter’s features focus heavily on stealth. Snake Eater is also known for its cleverly designed boss battles. It’s an excellent title the fans of the series should not miss, and those who are beginning their adventure with the Metal Gear series will definitely enjoy the Cold War adventure of Naked Snake.
Beyond Good and Evil
|Release||11 November 2003|
|Developer||Ubisoft Pictures, Ubisoft Milan|
Jade is a young photojournalist living on the planet of Hillys. The world is attacked by the creatures called DomZ, who harvest the planet’s inhabitants for energy and workforce.
Jade is tasked with investigating strange activities in various areas of the planet, as the authorities suspect DomZ involvement. She is accompanied on her mission by Pey’j, her mentor/father figure, and Double H, a heavily armored operative of anti-government resistance called IRIS.
Beyond Good and Evil is one of those games that became popular not only due to its gameplay or story but also thanks to the legend that arose around it. The game is a decent action-adventure title, with enough gameplay variety to draw in the player for hours. But the success of the game caused the player to suspect that a sequel was imminent, only to be disappointed after years of unfulfilled promises. Now, the sequel to BGaE is said to be in pre-production, so the fans will still have to wait a little bit longer. But hey, if you’ve been waiting nearly two decades for a sequel to your favorite title, what’s a few more years, right? RIGHT!?
Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening
|Release||1 March 2005|
While the first two games in Capcom’s DMC series were met with a lukewarm welcome, Dante’s Awakening was the injection of the fresh energy the series needed to kick itself into the pantheon of the best PS2 games.
The prequel to the previous Devil May Cry series features a younger Dante, a cocky demon slayer whose tongue is as sharp as the edge of his sword and as fast as his full-auto pistols. When Dante’s new store is ruined by demons sent by a mysterious Arkham, he decides to investigate the place they came from – a tower rising in the middle of the city. There he finds out the true culprit behind the demon attacks – his twin brother, Vergil.
Devil May Cry 3 introduced many of the gameplay features the series is now known for, with stylish combat and witty humor being the main of them. The game features four distinct styles Dante can use, which focus on either evasive maneuvers, defensive action, swordplay, and gunplay. Defeating demons yields red orbs, which the player can spend on buying new skills. However, the main event is the protagonist – Dante, son of Sparda, is a cocky motormouth, dishing out damage as fast as verbal insults. Listening to him throw quips before defeating a powerful boss is one reason DMC3 deserves a place on our list of the best PS2 games.
Burnout 3: Takedown
|Release||8 September 2008|
If you ever wanted to give in to your inner stunt driver nature and turn your local streets into complete mayhem, in Burnout 3: Takedown, you have a chance to do it in a safe environment.
The third installment of the Burnout series offers the players more explosive car action with new modes and improved gameplay mechanics.
The core gameplay of Burnout 3 revolves around driving in races and eliminating the opposition by out lapping them or driving them off the road. The player is rewarded for reckless driving with an additional boost, which can be used in critical moments to gain an advantage in the race. In addition, Takedown introduces a new game mode, Road Rage. The player is tasked with eliminating as many cars as possible within a time limit or before the player is taken down by another car. The game features a local and online multiplayer so that the players can enjoy destructive action together. If you’re a fan of fast cars and total mayhem, then you should try out Burnout 3: Takedown, one of the more unique titles on our list.
|Release||20 October 2003|
PlayStation 2 had games for everybody, including the amateurs of extreme winter sports. SSX 3 is one of them.
The third installment of a popular snowboarding series takes the players to the snowy peaks and treacherous trails to try their luck in reaching the base more or less intact.
Unlike the previous games in this EA series, SSX 3 gives the player an open world to explore and interact with. The activities in the game are divided into three categories, races, freestyle, and challenges. Each of them can be completed during events, which give the player medals depending on their performance. SSX 3 is a perfect title for the fans of extreme sports or those who had always wanted to try one but were too scared to do so.
|Release||24 February 2005|
Tekken 5 is probably the last “classic” installment of the King of the Iron Fist Tournament series.
While the more contemporary releases of Namco’s franchise focus on online play, Tekken 5 still offered a decent experience for one player without neglecting the multiplayer component. The game introduced several new characters, some of which were returnees from previous installments. Others were brand new fighters. The likes of Asuka Kazama, Feng Wei, Raven, and Roger Jr. had quickly found their place among the classic Tekken warriors.
Tekken 5 introduced a few changes to the gameplay modes and overall mechanics. The most noticeable one was the missing Tekken Force mode, a beat’em up variation, where the player could select their fighter and lead them through different stages filled with enemies to defeat. Replacing it was the Devil Within, a similar mode focusing on Jin Kazama facing his inner demon. Other new gameplay elements included character customization. The player could purchase various cosmetic items and use them on the character of their choice. This led to some very creative choices, such as Hwoarang dressed as a cowboy or Heihachi in a Santa outfit. If you’re missing the old style of Tekken gameplay, you should definitely try Tekken 5.
Final Fantasy X
|Release||17 December 2001|
|Developer||Square Product Development Division 1|
The 10th core installment of the Final Fantasy series takes the player to the magical world of Spira.
Tidus, the protagonist of the game, was transported here by Sin, a whale-like creature, and must now seek a way to return to his home of Zanarkand. He allies himself with a young summoner Yuna and various other characters to find the Final Aeon and defeat Sin to make his way back.
Final Fantasy X might not be the most popular title in the franchise, but it’s still a decent game with a few interesting gameplay solutions. For example, instead of leveling up specific stats, the player moves on the Sphere Grid, unlocking various abilities and upgrades for the characters in their party. In addition, the game puts no limit on which character can possess which ability, thus allowing the player to make a free choice in that matter. Another feature is the Blitzball minigame, where the players must reach the goal to score a point, with the enemy team constantly getting in the way, forcing the player into a battle. These two mechanics, overall gameplay improvements, and an interesting story make FF X worthy of our list of the best PS2 games.
|Release||8 November 2005|
Guitar Hero is the perfect game for those who dream of a rock career but lack the skill or courage to make the first steps in the world of big music.
It’s also perfect if you need to impress your friends with your as-of-yet non-existent guitar skills, playing meaty riffs during parties. Finally, it’s an excellent title for those who require an ambitious new way to play Mario during a stream, thanks to the Guitar Hero controller.
Guitar Hero belongs to the genre of rhythmic games that became quite popular at the turn of the 2010s. The game featured some of the most popular songs and allowed the player to feel a little bit of the splendor of being a rock star. It also came with an iconic controller, which many players later repurposed to use with other games. You’ve probably seen streamers do no-damage runs of Metroid using this controller. Whether you find yourself drawn to the game for its musical gameplay or fancy controller doesn’t matter. What matters is how Guitar Hero has influenced a new brand of rhythmic games, ones where the players could feel like they were performing on the stage in front of an audience of millions.
Ratchet and Clank II
|Release||11 November 2003|
The first installment of the series about the brave Lombax and his robotic pal was a great success for the developers. The sequel cemented Ratchet and Clank as Insomniac’s mascots, elevating them into the canon of quirky character duos like Banjo and Kazooie and Jak and Daxter.
In Ratchet & Clank II, the pair enjoy the life of heroic celebrities after stopping Chairman Drek’s plans. Their fame reaches the top executive of MegaCorp, who hire Ratchet and Clank to stop a thief aiming for the company’s newest product.
In Ratchet & Clank II, otherwise known as Going Commando, the gameplay remains mostly unchanged. The player controls Ratchet and traverses various locations. However, some new additions improve upon the original game. Some of them became the series’ staples. The player can level up their weapons and customize them with mods. The game features several minigames, such as various arena battles and challenges. In some segments of the game, the player controls Clank, who can fit in tight spaces. All these gameplay elements were further improved upon in the subsequent installments, but Ratchet & Clank II deserve the praise for starting the series on its path to PS2 fame.
Shadow of the Colossus
|Release||18 October 2005|
|Developer||Japan Studio, Team Ico|
The discussion of whether or not video games can be considered a form of art has been going on since forever.
Titles that stun the players with their beauty are often lauded as THE games that elevate the medium to the artistic pantheon. While these claims are often overblown, they are more than true in the case of Shadow of the Colossus. The game is set in a mystical world inhabited by gigantic creatures – the titular Colossi. Wander is tasked with eliminating them in order to revive his love. Goaded by a mysterious voice, the protagonist travels the world, hunting down the Colossi, noticing that he may not be the hero he aims to be.
At the time of its release, Shadow of the Colossus was beautiful. The developers put a great effort into making the game’s world as stunning as the hardware allowed it. The gameplay focused on exploring the land to find all16 colossi and defeat them. The creatures themselves are considered puzzle levels, in which the player had to figure out how to reach the weak points located on the colossi’s bodies. Climbing the creature and locating the weak spot was hindered by Wander’s limited stamina – should it run out completely, the hero would fall from the colossus’ body to his death. The complexity of the gameplay, combined with a somber atmosphere and a gripping story, made Shadow of the Colossus an instant PS2 classic.
|Release||22 February 2005|
FIFA Street was an interesting title. While the core series of EA’s football simulators did its best to present the sport as realistically as possible, the Street series took various liberties from gravity and physics to present a more fun version of the popular sport. FIFA Street focused on the arcade experience of football, allowing the player to perform a variety of tricks and cray moves while scoring.
The player was given a selection of national representatives, including the then world-stars Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, from which they could make their dream team. The gameplay offered a variety of tricks and special moves the player could use during the match. Successful passes and scores filled a special meter, which could be used to perform a powerful shot on goal. While FIFA Street matches strayed far from the sanctioned competitions between the world’s best teams, they were closer to how the regular people played football – making the game closer to home and awarding it a place on our list of the best PS2 titles.
Silent Hill 2
|Release||24 September 2001|
|Developer||Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo|
The first Silent Hill game introduced the players to the titular town, which existed on the edge of reality and nightmare.
In the sequel, the player returns Silent Hill in a brand new story. James Sunderland receives a letter from his late wife, urging him to visit Silent Hill. After arriving, he finds the place desolate with mysterious creatures roaming about. James meets various people, also trapped in the nightmare, and together they try to discover why they’ve been summoned here and find a way out.
Silent Hill 2 features all the typical mechanics of the survival-horror game. The player explores Silent Hill, finding useful items and solving occasional puzzles to progress further. Along the way, they will meet the inhabitants of the town – various monsters, which the player will have to defeat or evade. The game doesn’t focus on combat, but the player is given a few types of melee weapons and firearms to defend themselves. Thanks to its atmosphere and story (with six different endings), Silent Hill 2 was considered a worthy sequel of the first game and is still held as a mark of excellence in designing survival-horror games.
Grand Theft Auto San Andreas
|Release||26 October 2004|
Grove Street. Home. One of the most quoted lines in gaming history is impossible not to be read in the character’s voice. This is the power of GTA: San Andreas, quite possibly the most beloved title in the series.
The game followed the exploits of Carl Johnson, who returns from Liberty City to his hometown of Los Santos to attend his mother’s funeral. Unfortunately, going back to the life he left behind means getting involved with the ongoing war between the street gangs of Los Santos and the police breathing down their necks.
To say that the world of San Andreas was massive would be an understatement. The game map featured three bustling cities inspired by real-life Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. The gameplay was also expanded and featured elements of RPG. For example, the player could increase various stats of CJ’s physicality, learn martial arts and customize the protagonist’s look by going to the barber or a tattoo parlor. Many of the mechanics present in San Andreas were later implemented in the HD-era installments of the series. The game is also a known source of memes, including the classic “Follow the damn train, CJ!” GTA: San Andreas’ gameplay and its influence on popular culture warrant a place among the best PS2 games.
Prince of Persia Sands of Time
|Release||10 November 2003|
The story follows a nameless Prince who inadvertently activates a magical Hourglass containing the eponymous Sands of Time, releasing the evil within upon his home of Babylon.
The Sands of Time introduced the players to various mechanics that would become the staples of the series. The titular Sands allowed the Prince to turn back time and slow it down; both powers would become very useful throughout the gameplay. Other mechanics focused on acrobatic traversal and combat, with the Prince using his parkour skills to perform wall runs, leaps, and other feats of agility. In combat, the game used a simple yet effective system of combos and finishers – weakened enemies could be quickly finished off with one press of a button. The game received highly positive reviews and became a classic title on PlayStation 2, spawning two sequels.
Call of Duty Finest Hour
|Release||16 November 2004|
Call of Duty: Finest Hour was a PS2 version of the first Call of Duty game. We say “version” for a particular reason.
Finest Hour wasn’t a simple port – it was a brand new title, with a separate story and levels. The general idea was quite similar – the player-controlled soldiers fighting on various fronts of World War II. The playable characters included Russian sniper fighting in the heart of Stalingrad, British private sabotaging Nazi outposts in Africa, or American sergeant during the most important battles of the Western Front.
Call of Duty: Finest Hour featured a multiplayer mode that could be played locally and online, allowing sessions for up to 16 players. Not much different than the current Call of Duty, right? But back then, an online multiplayer on PS2 wasn’t such a common thing. Finest Hour wasn’t the only PS2 version of Call of Duty that deviated from its PC counterpart. Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, the sequel to the Finest Hour, also featured a completely different setting than a PC version. With time this system was retired in favor of the usual ports, but it’s good to remember that PS2 got its dedicated Call of Duty games.
|Release||28 March 2002|
Trying to explain the story of Kingdom Hearts is an impossible task.
Even those who had played all the parts of the game, including the various expansions, ports, and versions on other sony consoles, have trouble following the plot of this monumental work. The main story follows a boy named Sora, who arrives in the mysterious world based on various Disney properties. The ruler of this land, Mickey Mouse, has gone missing. His loyal advisers, Donald Duck and Goofy, ask Sora to help them find their king. Wielding a Keyblade, the only weapon against the Heartless – monsters plaguing the land – Sora embarks on a quest to find Mickey, as well as Sora’s friends – Riku and Kairi.
We did our best to condense the game’s plot to its main components, but it still took a while to explain it understandably. All you need to know about Kingdom Hearts if you’re not keen on following the story is its Final Fantasy with Disney characters. In one of the most ambitious crossovers in the history of entertainment, Square and Disney combined their forces to create a fantastical world divided into separate areas inspired by Disney’s IPs. In the game, the player will visit the Pride Lands, Mount Olympus, Atlantica, and Agrabah to relive the events of their films or experience brand new adventures. The game spawned two core sequels and several spin-offs, all of which tie into the overall story of Kingdom Hearts.
|Release||19 September 2006|
Another game on our list that could aspire to the title of a work of art. Okami is set in the land of Nippon, a country based on various Japanese myths and legends.
The plot of the game follows Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess reincarnated as a white wolf, Shiranui. 100 years ago, a demon Orochi threatened the land until Shiranui and the hero Nagi defeated and sealed the monster. When the seal is broken, the darkness spills all over Nippon. Amaterasu and her traveling companion Issun are tasked with restoring the land and stopping the darkness.
Okami was one of the last games developed by Clover Studio, responsible among others for the Viewtiful Joe series. The developers knew how to exit on a high note – Okami is not only a feast for the eyes but also a gameplay masterpiece. Traditional Japanese water paintings inspired the graphics. The gameplay features the elements of combat and puzzles, most of which can be solved using Amaterasu’s Celestial Brush – a divine tool that allows the goddess to affect the world around her with a single stroke. The game has a few minigames related to Amaterasu’s canine nature, such as digging for treasures or vegetables or a contest in “marking the territory.” Okami has received critical acclaim for its style and story and is one of the most memorable titles available on PlayStation 2.
God of War I, II
|Release||22 March 2005 (GoW), 13 March 2007 (GoW II)|
|Developer||Santa Monica Studio|
Finally, the titles synonymous with PS2’s golden age of gaming. The best-selling action-adventure games were developed by Santa Monica Studio. God of War and God of War II. The story of Kratos, a Spartan general who becomes the servant of the gods, and his quest against the cruel and petty Olympians was one of the most memorable and groundbreaking tales told on PlayStation 2. And quite possibly one of the most brutal ones.
It’s no secret why God of War and its sequel became so popular. They had very approachable combat gameplay (with the classic “square, square, triangle” combo), puzzles that didn’t require too much thinking, and graphics that drew the last drops of performance from an already aging console. But the literal “meat” of the game was its brutality. Some of the things Kratos did to his enemies would make the designers of Mortal Kombat’s Fatalities queasy. Gouging out cyclops’ eyes, pulling wings off harpies, dismembering and disemboweling various other creatures – these are only a few ways Kratos dealt with those who stood in his way to vengeance. If you’ve never had a chance to play God of War I and II on PS2, you can do it thanks to the Edition available on PS4. We wholeheartedly recommend it – these games wrote the history of PlayStation 2 in digital blood.
Over a decade of gaming entertainment
For 13 years, PlayStation 3 was one of the go-to home video game consoles. It sold in over 150 million units throughout its lifespan and was home to 3,800 unique video games. Looking at those numbers, you can probably tell that our list of 20 titles doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of the PS2 games library. We hope that the games we’ve included here provided you with enough of the nostalgia to dust off the console if you still have it. If not, you might consider buying it second-hand. You will definitely not regret it.