Trying to curate a list of the best PS2 games is incredibly difficult. Sony’s PlayStation 2 is the best-selling console of all time. Trying to cut a list of 50 of the best PlayStation 2 games is a challenge, never mind 30.
Don’t worry, dear reader, because we’re up for that challenge.
Using a combination of personal opinion, critical acclaim, and fan sentiment, we’re presenting our list of the 30 best PS2 games ever made. Some difficult cults will be made; there were a lot of really good sports games we had to say no to. Some beloved timeless classics were left off. I’m sure there’s something else we may have missed along the way, but hey, there are a lot of good games on the PlayStation 2.
Make sure you keep the conversation going in the comments below. You may agree; you’ll probably disagree. We just ask that you remain civil.
Grand Theft Auto III is a landmark achievement in gaming
We begin our list of the best PlayStation 2 games with Rockstar’s breakout title. Bringing Grand Theft Auto to an open 3D world forever changes the franchise and all gaming.
While Grand Theft Auto III lacks the cinematic presentation of its successors, the revolutionary gameplay foundation is still present. Claude acting as a silent protagonist works well. This allows the game’s focus to be not on the characters but also on the gameplay and its setting.
Liberty City is a world filled with potential. It parallels its real-life influences so well despite the limits of the PS2 hardware. The atmosphere, mood, themes, and story in GTA III elevate the gameplay and help the game transcend to further greatness.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City introduces plenty of style and flair to the franchise
It turns out that taking an all-time classic and enhancing the style and presentation is a great way to make it one of the best PS2 games ever.
Oozing personality is easy to do when you’re set in 1986 Miami Vice City. Backing that up with a vibrant city and an impressive voice cast is the icing on the cake. Ray Liotta helps bring Tommy Vercetti alive as more than a mute everyman like GTA III’s Claude.
Vice City expands on Grand Theft Auto III in every imaginable way. It’s more than a spin-off of an “expansion.” This is a full-fledged experience that solidifies Grand Theft Auto as one of the best franchises in gaming.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is not just one of the best PS2 games; it might be the best
Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City are landmark achievements in video game history. San Andreas makes them look antiquated in the blink of an eye.
Are some of the RPG features within San Andreas cumbersome? Possible, but that’s all personal opinion and preference. There’s no denying that San Andreas accomplishes more than almost any other game of its era.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a major accomplishment. It boasts a gigantic world featuring three cities. An impressive voice cast helps take an already great narrative to even bigger heights.
The game is based on the late 80s and early 90s Los Angeles environment. This gives the content and themes much-needed depth and weight. As great as its predecessors are, San Andreas is something more due to the maturity of its themes.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is a beloved PlayStation 1 classic. The franchise’s debut on the PlayStation 2 makes the game nearly obsolete. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 is just that good.
Advancing to the PS2 hardware opens up a new world of possibilities. Level design is a notch above the original releases. Each stage combines a great mixture of gameplay options and over-the-top scenery. Grinding rails through an airport or pulling off tricks in suburbia is an absolute blast.
The game’s soundtrack is just as eager to step up to the plate. The combination of punk and hip hop delivers an unforgettable experience. It matches the game’s atmosphere perfectly; Neversoft and Activision expand the Tony Hawk franchise in the best possible way.
Tony Hawk’s Underground Stays True to its Roots While Moving the Franchise Forward
After four “traditional” releases in the Pro Skater franchise, Tony Hawk’s Underground takes the series in an entirely new direction. The game world opens up (literally), offering the best of two worlds: open-world adventure and skateboarding.
Enhancing a game with incredibly sound fundamentals and a pick-up-and-play mentality with a solid story and characters is a winning formula. Neversoft isn’t afraid to try something new while not overly tweaking the franchise’s foundation.
By keeping the game’s heart intact while expanding its soul, Tony Hawk’s Underground gives people something new yet familiar. It’s a rare example of a developer swinging for the fences and connecting. This makes it an easy inclusion on our list of the best PS2 games.
Resident Evil 4 redefines survival horror and is as close to perfect as a game can get
Next up on our list of the best PlayStation 2 games is a title that many thought would never arrive on Sony’s console.
Capcom’s Resident Evil 4 was once exclusive to the Nintendo GameCube. In addition, many thought the PS2 would not be capable of running the game, period. Admittedly, there is a bit of a technical downgrade on the PlayStation 2, but this is still the genuine Resident Evil 4 experience.
This is the game that redefined the survival horror experience. It raised the bar for what a video game could be. Parts of the game haven’t aged too well, but it doesn’t diminish its accomplishments.
The most controversial aspect of Metal Gear Solid 2 is the story. People felt bait and switched regarding the game’s playable character. After starting with Solid Snake, it becomes the Raiden show.
If you can get over that, be prepared for one of the best PS2 games of all time.
Bringing the franchise to the PlayStation 2 opens up new avenues in terms of gameplay and storytelling. The advancement in visuals and technology doesn’t seem like much at first. The more you dive into the game and get lost in the immersion, the more impressed you come away.
Sons of Liberty doesn’t get the same acclaim as other games in the franchise, which is a shame. It’s a fantastic game and an essential part of our list.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is easily one of the best PlayStation 2 games ever
After Sons of Liberty took place in the future, Snake Eater takes things back to the past. Way back.
Metal Gear Solid 3 is the first chronological release in the franchise. It tells the origins story of Big Boss, known as Naked Snake in MGS3. Despite the game once again not featuring Solid Snake, Big Boss’ similarities were enough to please fans that were turned off by Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2.
Gameplay wise, Snake Eater returns the franchise to an experience more akin to Metal Gear Solid. The game plays out like a cinematic experience, filled with beautifully directed and designed cutscenes. Stealth sequences, backed by the new camouflage feature, are as tense and enjoyable as ever.
For many, this is the high point in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, making it an easy inclusion on our list of the best PlayStation 2 games.
After three successful releases on the PlayStation 1, the Twisted Metal franchise decided to reboot on PS2. The decision worked wonders; Twisted Metal Black is the best game the franchise has ever seen.
Vehicular combat and demolition derby-style gameplay are as enjoyable as ever. Where Twisted Metal Black truly shines is the game’s depth and presentation. Each character’s story is well thought up and delightedly dark. The game isn’t afraid to shy away from what it’s about: chaos, mayhem, and destruction.
It’s all wrapped up in a beautiful package. From the second you boot the game up, everything feels different. The game feels more important than its past iterations. No longer is this a fun time destroying each other’s vehicle. This is the big leagues; this is serious.
Devil May Cry showcases what’s possible from an over-the-top action game
2001’s Devil May Cry is the start of one of Capcom’s most successful franchises. It serves as inspiration for not just subsequent releases in the series but also helped kickstart the prolific career of Hideki Kamiya.
Devil May Cry oozes style and personality. The intense combat and demonic action are backed up by a slick soundtrack and a satisfying challenge. Arcade-style combos and points help drive the point home: this game is a lot of fun.
Age hasn’t necessarily been kind to the game’s visuals, but they are impressive for their time. The gothic-inspired visual design is felt throughout, resulting in an amazing aesthetic.
Other games have come along and performed better in the hack-n-slash genre. They should make sure they thank Devil May Cry for paving the way.
God of War is an absolute masterpiece of a video game
Speaking of action hack-n-slash games, let’s talk about why God of War is one of the best PS2 games.
Compared to Devil May Cry, God of War can balance more of the action-adventure side of the genre. Combining intense action with puzzle solving and exploration results in a well-paced gameplay experience.
What may be most impressive about God of War is that it gave the PlayStation 2 a game that goes toe-to-toe visually with other Xbox and GameCube titles. The PS2’s hardware is generally regarded as underpowered compared to its contemporaries. With God of War, Sony proves their second console can still create impressive-looking games.
God of War Ii Is an Impressive Improvement Over the Original, Resulting in One of the Best Playstation 2 Games Ever
Two years after the debut of Kratos, God of War II ups the ante. The result is easily one of the best PS2 games of all time.
Santa Monica Studio focuses on perfecting the formula, and I mean perfect. Everything is a wonderful refinement over the original. The graphics, which were some of the best the PS2 has ever seen, are even better in the sequel.
The gameplay, story, and character development are polished to an immaculate shine. Other games of the era can use their strengths to outweigh their weaknesses. That’s not the case with God of War II: it has no such flaws.
Shadow of the Colossus is a masterpiece and one of the best PS2 games ever
This is the third time we’ve talked about Shadow of the Colossus. It appears on our list of the best PS4 games from the strength of the BluePoint remaster. It’s also on our list of the best PS3 games as part of the bundle with Ico.
You better believe we include it on our list of the best PlayStation 2 games; Shadow of the Colossus is just that good.
Few games can deliver a cinematic and immersive experience like Shadow of the Colossus. Its release on the PS2 is a technological achievement. Few games can showcase the size and scope of its world and its inhabitants like Shadow of the Colossus.
Whether you’re playing it on PS4 or PS2, this is a game you will never forget.
Katamari Damacy is a unique experience that results in one of the best PS2 games
There is no way to truly explain what Katamari Damacy actually is. The best I can do is explain my train of thought during my first playthrough.
- What in the world am I doing?
- What on Earth is that music?
- Why is he talking like that?
- Why am I humming the song?
- Oh my goodness, this is way too much fun.
Katamari Damacy is something that is best experienced. It’s a wacky, crazy, over-the-top term–I literally just asked my wife what genre this game is, and she gave me a blank look.
Part platformer, part puzzle, part drug trip, there is nothing out there like Katamari Damacy. That’s why it’s still one of the best PlayStation 2 games.
Silent Hill 2 is an atmosphere masterpiece for the horror genre
The PlayStation One saw the birth and growth of the survival horror franchise. It also saw the debut of the Silent Hill franchise, which is a good game. Having said that, it pales in comparison to the beauty of Silent Hill 2.
Team Silent crafts one of the most atmospheric, immersive, and fascinating environments to ever exist in a video game. The town of Silent Hill, Maine, is the gold standard for any video game locale.
On the gameplay front, Silent Hill 2 equally delivers. The focus on horror is present throughout. This isn’t an action-packed affair but a slow, methodical descent into madness. The game’s pacing suits it well, helping to make the scariest moments that much better.
Final Fantasy X is so good that it received a direct sequel
After a string of successful PlayStation One releases, Final Fantasy debuts on the PS2 with Final Fantasy X. Many view it as one of the best games in the franchise.
Others see FFX as a Blitzball game containing a Final Fantasy game.
Tidus is who he is, but it’s hard to deny the innovations in terms of character development made by the game. Square Enix can also avoid many pitfalls and cliches in the JRPG genre.
Final Fantasy X is more than just a visual upgrade for the franchise. The overhauled battle system and character-building systems are both a huge success. Final Fantasy X was such a hit that the game even received a direct sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, in 2003.
Kingdom Hearts combines the magic of Square Enix and Disney to be one of the best PS2 games
Combining a Square Enix action RPG with Disney characters is the kind of idea that makes you go, “why didn’t anyone do this sooner?”
Kingdom Hearts isn’t going to win anyone over with its story or character development. The soundtrack, though, is the stuff of legends.
It helps establish the game’s crossover theme, creating an enchanting atmosphere that is felt throughout the game. This doesn’t feel like you’re playing an action-RPG game that just happens to have Disney characters. It feels like you’re living in these Disney worlds, interacting in their daily lives. The Disney magic is felt throughout the experience.
While it’s certainly not a perfect game, it’s the type of game you love to experience.
Beyond Good and Evil is a beloved cult classic
There’s a reason why we’ve been waiting so long for Beyond Good and Evil 2. The original is one of the best PlayStation 2 games available.
While the game didn’t translate to commercial success, it earned its status as a cult hit.
The combination of stealth action-adventure gameplay and memorable characters work well together. It may not have the super serious themes and messages as Metal Gear Solid, but it doesn’t have the preachy overtones that come with it.
Thanks to absolutely gorgeous visuals and a fantastic story, Beyond Good and Evil became a sleeper hit. Perhaps one day, we’ll see the sequel release.
Burnout 3: Takedown is a high-octane racing game filled with plenty of mayhem
Often regarded as the best of the Burnout franchise, 2004’s Burnout 3: Takedown combines the best of arcade and drift-style racing.
Traditional races are as fast and intense as ever. High-octane-style arcade racing is always a good time. Add in the fact that you’re encouraged to eliminate your opponents? That’s a recipe for one of the best PS2 games ever!
Crash mode is the true star of the show here. It combines the best of Burnout’s style of play, big-budget movie explosions, and demolition derbies.
The soundtrack is pretty dope, too.
Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy is another beloved Naughty Dog classic and one of the best PlayStation 2 games
Before the days of Uncharted and The Last of Us, Naughty Dog was known for Crash Bandicoot. While that platforming franchise didn’t make it to the PS2, another did: Jak and Daxter.
The first entry, The Precursor Legacy, showcases how Naughty Dog evolves their brand of platforming. The result is a game that isn’t as challenging as Crash Bandicoot but far more accessible and grounded by its characters and story.
As you’d expect from Naughty Dog, the graphics and animation are on point. The emphasis on a more refined platforming approach is well appreciated. It gives Jak and Daxter more of a polished and enjoyable experience. The characters are an absolute delight, and it’s a treat to see how Naughty Dog takes advantage of the newer PlayStation 2 hardware.
Amplitude is a wonderful music-based rhythm game
Before Harmonix helped usher in Guitar Hero and Rock Band, there was Amplitude.
The music-based rhythm game predates plastic instruments, but the concept remains. You “shoot” notes to play the instrument track. Mess up, and certain parts of the song won’t play.
Amplitude may lack the novelty of a Rock Band or Guitar Hero, but it still features the same rhythm-based gameplay. In a way, this works to Amplitude’s advantage. The game focuses less on living out a rock star fantasy and more on achieving high scores.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 is an all-time great JRPG and one of the best PS2 games
Before Persona 5 lit the world on fire, Persona 4 was one of the best JRPGs you could play.
The game’s strength comes from how much enjoyment and entertainment can easily be derived from the experience. My first time with the game was spent not playing but watching others play, and I loved every second of it.
Persona 4 gets a lot of things right by focusing on perfecting and refining the experience. There isn’t much in innovations, but there’s also no real need for them. Well-written story beats, likable characters, and well-paced combat help lead the charge.
The strength of Persona 4 is the ability to present a nonsensical story premise (there are a lot of Scooby Doo vibes here) while tackling some mature themes. Nothing seems awkward, out of place, or forced.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is a fantastic tactical RPG adventure
Next up isn’t just one of the best PS2 games ever made, but one of the best games nobody ever played.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is a tactical RPG that hits all the highest notes of the genre. It combines clever and challenging gameplay with witty and hilarious writing. The visuals may not be up to par with other PlayStation 2 titles, but don’t let that hold you back.
Hour of Darkness is so successful that it kickstarted the Disgaea franchise that’s still running strong today.
Viewtiful Joe is a beautiful homage to comic book heroes and action movies
It is a travesty that we haven’t had more Viewtiful Joe games.
We’ve already discussed stylish and slick PS2 games on our list, but it’s impossible not to include Viewtiful Joe. The side-scrolling beat ’em up incorporates the best of action games, movies, and comic books.
The game’s slick visual style lends well to paying homage to the genres and mediums that inspire Viewtiful Joe. Action sequences are equally up to the occasion as well. The game’s combat is satisfying, matching the pace set by the game’s visual flair.
Viewtiful Joe is the type of game that takes a classic genre and adds enough style for it to profile. It’s beautiful, catchy, and fun.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King is another successful entry in the franchise
Simplicity is the name of the game for our next stop on our list of the best PlayStation 2 games.
The eighth entry in the Dragon Quest franchise sticks to its roots and doesn’t overcomplicate the formula. This results in an enjoyable, entertaining, and accessible experience from start to finish.
Journey of the Cursed King stands proudly with the tradition of basic yet essential turn-based combat and a silent protagonist. The English localization is the true star of the show here, featuring incredibly witty writing. There aren’t any obvious or glaring translation issues to be found here.
The 3D cel-shaded visual style suits the game well. Its gorgeous and inviting visual aesthetic continually draws players in.
Gran Turismo 4 is a car lover’s dream come true
Gran Turismo 4 took its sweet time to release. Is the wait worth it? Honestly, that depends on who you ask.
Polyphony Digital can still deliver an enjoyable simulation racing experience, though the gameplay feels like it takes a bit of a back seat. Where Gran Turismo 4 truly shines is being a beautiful digital showcase for the best cars in the world.
The biggest appeal of Gran Turismo 4 is, undoubtedly, the cars. They are the true star of the show. At times, it feels less of a racing game and more of a virtual garage. That’s not necessarily bad, especially if you’re really, really into cars.
It’s a shame that the SOCOM franchise has fallen by the wayside. The third-person tactical shooter offers some of the best team-based gameplay the PlayStation 2 has ever seen.
Whether playing the campaign or multiplayer, SOCOM II often feels ahead of its time. The required teamwork and strategic gameplay often has the feel of a modern-day shooter.
Many have fond memories of putting on a headset, booting up their PS2, and playing SOCOM with friends. While gaming seems to have left the franchise behind, it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
ESPN NFL 2K5 is one of the best sports games ever made
A sports game? On a list of the best PlayStation 2 games?
Hear me out.
ESPN NFL 2K5 changed the game forever. It’s not just about its $19.99 price tag. It’s about the depth, content, and presentation available in the game.
There is a certain style, and flair found within NFL 2K5. Terrell Owens is the perfect cover athlete for the game. It not only puts up an all-pro performance but does it with flash and flair.
The Madden franchise is still trying to catch up nearly twenty years later. NFL video games haven’t been the same since.
Okami is a work of art that deserves its place on our list of best PlayStation 2 games
We wrap up our list of the best PS2 games with titles that can be best described as works of art.
First up is Okami, a watercolor painting that comes to life. The gameplay proves that this isn’t a matter of style over substance.
Okami’s strength is that it keeps the player captivated during their entire session with the game. For Capcom to pull off this feat with a game that can last upwards of 40-60 hours is extremely impressive.
There’s always something new to see and discover. The gameplay is engaging as it is beautiful. It’s incredibly easy to get lost in the scenery, the imagination, and the wonders of Okami.
Ico is an experience unlike anything else and one of the best PS2 games
Speaking of works of art, our list of the best PlayStation 2 games finishes with Ico. Released in 2001, it delivers an experience unlike any other.
On the surface, the premise of Ico is simple. It is a three-dimensional platformer with a (mostly) fixed camera. That catch, though, is that you can only control one person. Ico, the player character, is helping your companion, Yorda, escape the castle featured in the game.
This gameplay design adds a puzzle-solving component to the platforming. It is enhanced by the gorgeous visuals and environments featured in the game. Ico delivers an incredible experience that you’ll never forget.
That will do it for our list of some of the best PS2 games ever!
I can already see and hear the comments regarding some games that sadly didn’t make the cut. Shoutouts to Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and countless others.
As I said in the opening, this will be a challenge. I’d like to think I did pretty well, but let me know your thoughts! Keep the conversation going in the comments below, and thanks for reading.
I am the Editor-In-Chief of BossLevelGamer. I'm also a lover of video games, food, and beer.
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