The 2nd generation of Sony’s PlayStation console brought a ton of memories for all the people around the globe. There are over a hundred games that are highly acclaimed, gaming franchises rebuilt and founded, and new innovated genres that came out.
Other than PC video games, the best PS2 games might have the longest list among any other consoles up to now. This article will list the classic PS2 games everyone should have played and mention a few underrated games that deserve more attention and recognition. What are the best PS2 games of all time? Let’s move on to the list.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 and 4
The Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise is definitely video game gold during the early 2000s and they capitalized on that with subsequent sequels maintaining their level of quality with each release.
They added a ton of game modes, characters and featured online play where people can compete with one another. The environment is well developed and the creative mode just adds more gameplay to an already addicting sports game that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Grand Theft Auto franchise
This is where Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise took off and literally became a staple game for each console coming out. Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, and San Andreas were all absolute masterpieces and it was so popular that even the complex cheat codes became a meme in the future.
Grand Theft Auto literally had the biggest game in terms of world size and depth compared to other similar games in the same genre. Every game feels like your character is in a gangster movie with a protagonist that has as much freedom as a video game has to offer.
All the mentioned games have acquired multiple awards including the highly coveted “Game of the Year” award. Vice City was the most successful of the bunch and it received a total of 15 awards including the “Game of the Year” honors. It was also a nominee for the “Console Game of the Year” award which is an incredible feat especially since the game was out during the earlier half of the PlayStation 2’s timeline.
The other Grand Theft Auto titles also spawned multiple nominees from a bevy of categories which shows how innovative this franchise was in the gaming industry. Rockstar Games has cemented itself from the rest as they continue pushing out this level of quality with their products even up to this date. Gaming fans will forever be indebted to Rockstar’s level of success with each of their titles.
Gran Turismo 3 and 4
The best racing simulator is back after a few years and the visual improvements Gran Turismo has on every sequel is definitely one of the best among many video game sequels ever. While adding more current cars to the collection, Gran Turismo finds its way to offer even more customization and tuning improvements to an already heavily customizable game on the PS1.
They feature more real-life racing tracks and adds a ton of more replayability with more challenges to complete and cars to collect.
Rachet & Clank franchise
Ratchet is an ambitious cat-like character with affluence on tools and gadgets. He finds a partner, Clank, who is a small robot that fell out of the sky. Clank relays that the world is in danger and it is up to Ratchet and Clank to save it.
This is how usually platformers go and what makes Ratchet & Clank unique is that the story-driven adventure is more balanced.
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil took a different approach rather than using their current formula (fixed camera angles). They made Resident Evil 4 use an over-the-shoulder camera and took one of their most popular characters, Leon, as their main protagonist. This was a hit or miss situation as their previous games were already cult classics.
Everyone was skeptical about it but Capcom was able to deliver. It turned out to be one of the greatest video games of all time on any console. The tense atmosphere was still there even if they introduced a new strain of the virus that is quite different from your regular zombies. The gameplay progression, character development, and storyline were all sublime. It became a near-perfect game at the end of all the scrutiny.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Personally, my favorite Metal Gear Solid game out of the franchise. The plot revolves around Solid Snake forming a group in stopping the Metal Gear as it is becoming more prevalent to unknown parties because of Revolver Ocelot putting it in the black market. This lead to more than one terror organization group that Snake has to defeat.
Fans were not pleased that the main protagonist in the game was Raiden and not Snake but the game was still flawless. There are additional extras and game modes as well as dog tags to collect. The best aspect for Metal Gear Solid is always the story and it was also near perfect.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and Snake Eater
Konami tried to experiment with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence and added a new camera angle and added Metal Gear Online. While the latter did not work particularly well for them, every Metal Gear Solid game is still amazing due to Hideo Kojima’s well-written stories and game design.
For Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater, it was the last Metal Gear Solid game published by Konami as Hideo Kojima started his own Kojima Productions company and took this franchise to a different path. The setting for Snake Eater also changed as this title serves as the prequel to the Metal Gear Solid series and is set in the Cold War era.
Metal Gear Solid 3 has sold more than 4 million copies and was well received by critics even with the new features and experimentation they were trying out.
God of War franchise
God of War is an action-adventure game based on Greek mythology. The game is extremely gory and violent with its gameplay and cinematics. This highlights God of War’s art design and how much work they put into it. God of War was named the greatest PS2 game of all time by IGN.
The game’s plot revolves around the main protagonist called Kratos. Kratos is a spartan warrior that was abandoned by the gods and seeks revenge on Ares, God of War, for murdering his family.
Devil May Cry franchise
One of Capcom’s most iconic characters, Dante, started with Devil May Cry on the PS2. This stylish hack and slash game was made unique because of how the combat rewards you for being badass when dealing with enemies.
The more stylish and impressive your combos are, the higher your score and you get rewarded with more orbs. The foul-mouthed hybrid protagonist made this franchise enjoyable from start to finish. The amount of difficulty levels also makes the game more replayable.
Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts 2 is an action RPG that is a collaboration with Square Enix and Disney. This whole series was bound for success just because of the characters and how Square Enix excels in delivering well-written storyline RPGs. Kingdom Hearts also feature an all-star voice acting cast that voices familiar characters like Goofy and Donald Duck.
The elements of the Square Enix’s JRPGs that turned the combat into a hack and slash game added more flexibility and uniqueness to the Kingdom Hearts series. Not only that but also they have one of the best original game soundtracks of all time. The production levels on this game are insurmountable to any other game on the PS2.
The PS2 is where the sports games really took off and never looked back. It was the era of EA Games and Visual Concepts (2K Games) that took over the sports gaming genre by storm. Every single sports game was considered a classic from Madden to NBA Live and from NBA 2K to MLB.
While these kinds of games are quite repetitive even with sequels, it keeps up with the latest sports trends that allow it to be as realistic as possible with the current generation consoles at that time. They continue to innovate and add a few game modes every year while adding more gameplay features as well. The problem is that it became a bit stale especially with EA Games.
This is how 2K Games was able to take over the sports genre and manage to overtake EA Games because the difference in improvement is quite astonishing. In the end, both companies focused on different sports and just conquer that market.
There are too many sports games that have a high rating and they are too many to mention in this list. A few classics come to mind like Madden NFL 2001, NBA 2K3, and FIFA Soccer 2003.
Final Fantasy X and XII
One of Final Fantasy’s most successful eras came to the PS2 with Final Fantasy X and XII which also brought the first sequel (Final Fantasy X) and remasters in the future. With the success of the franchise with the original PlayStation, they have been known to pull the heartstrings of its players and offer movie-like cinematics for everyone to enjoy.
Both games boast at least 100 hours of gameplay that should include secrets, hidden unlockables, and achievements to finish. Each character has a deep character development that takes full completion to experience most of them to their full potential. This also includes side characters which show how deep JRPGs really is especially in Final Fantasy.
Guitar Hero franchise
Guitar Hero took the idea of popular arcade games and porting them to the current generation console. With the rise of popular rhythm games in arcades, Guitar Hero was able to pull off an addicting rhythm game that includes a guitar controller to play.
They added past and present pop songs from different generations and genres and compiled them all into the game. This had a lot of risks as getting rights to songs are really expensive. They were able to pull it off and featured more and more songs with every release.
Rockstar Games’ venture to a game outside of their successful franchise (Grand Theft Auto) was also an incredible success. They used the same formula for the game Bully which is a third-person action-adventure video game with new features.
While the game is not as big as Grand Theft Auto, it is based on a teenage rebel, James Hopkins, in a fictional boarding school in New England. Bully has received many awards such as the Best Action Game award and was also a finalist for Game of the Year in 2006.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Another third-person action-adventure game that mixes exploration and combat together with an acrobatic protagonist named Dastan or more commonly known as “Prince”. While the gameplay themes are already common with a ton of games featuring the same elements, the smoothness of the combat and the vast exploration of the story makes this game an instant classic.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time received multiple awards including the “Best Action/Adventure Game” in 2003. Some critics also hail it as the “Console Game of the Year” as everything was nearly flawless because of how great the game design was.
Shadow of the Colossus and ICO
Both games are both developed by Team ICO which released ICO first and was an instant success. The visual aesthetic of the game (ICO) was beyond everyone’s expectations for what the PS2 can handle and this adventure/puzzle game also had a great story with wonderful pacing.
The gameplay was unique and they used the same elements that made ICO so successful and implemented it with Shadow of the Colossus. They called Shadow of the Colossus a “Spiritual Prequel” to ICO and it followed the same success ICO received.
Okami, which means “Great God”, is an action-adventure game based on several Japanese folklore. You play as the protagonist Amaterasu, who is a Shinto sun goddess that took the form of a white wolf with celestial markings all over the wolf’s fur.
The game suffered from poor sales but the critics held the game in high regard and Okami went on to get nominated for multiple awards including being a runner up for the “Most Innovated Design” award and it fell behind Metal Gear Solid 3 on the ratings. It won IGN’s “Game of the Year” award in 2006 as well.
Silent Hill 2
While it took a while for Konami and Team silent to push out their sequel on this critically acclaimed franchise, Silent Hill 2 did not disappoint. The dark and tense atmosphere was quite similar to the first one but in this case, it is not a bad thing.
Survival-horror games usually bank on the game’s atmosphere more than any other aspect. Silent Hill 2’s difference is just adding new things and a well-written follow-up to the story. The best improvement was the game’s graphics with better lighting, texture renders, character animation, and CGI.
Tekken 5 invested in a better soundtrack this time and even added music to the main menu screen. They added 6 new playable characters in the game including Jin Kazama’s cousin named Asuka Kazama. The best aspect of Tekken 5 is that their fighting system felt really smooth and fluid because of the invulnerable changes to certain movements like jumping attacks.
Tekken 5 was named IGN’s best fighting game on the console (PlayStation 2). It sold upwards of 6 million copies and this does not include the gamers playing it on arcades around the world. The title also moved the competitive fighting game forward for the Tekken series.
Burnout Revenge is a racing game that is more “arcady” than your usually realistic racing games. In fact, this is literally a racing game that credits you for wrecking a bunch of cars while ignoring real-life physics. It was an odd take that players could easily get bored by but it was the exact opposite.
The level design was much more than what was expected and Burnout was even able to pull off a ton of titles for the Burnout franchise before it died down. It won the best VGX for a racing game in 2005 and 2006.
Red Faction is a first-person shooter that is not your ordinary first-person shooter games like Halo or Half-Life. What sets Red Faction apart is that their new engine allows them to implement environmental destruction which was the first of its kind in 2001.
Everything else was your average first-person shooter game but this technology revolutionized this feature and makes the environments on games more interactive.
Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
The Baldur’s Gate series is loosely based on the mechanics of the popular Dungeons & Dragons board game. The game mechanics of the popular board game was quite complex and Baldur’s Gate was able to simplify it in a way that is more accessible to casual players.
This brought the franchise to become a unique RPG that combines the popular PC RPG, Diablo, and the game mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons together. This concept added more replayability and complexity with each playthrough.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and Persona 4
Based on the usual theme of Japanese story-telling, all of Shin Megami Tensei’s Persona games are all themed around a high school boy student starting a new life and meets his/her Persona in a bizarre way. This JRPG focuses more on the storylines where you act as a detective trying to solve problems occurring and piecing them all together.
Throughout the playthrough, you will meet new playable characters and villains with a below-average pace but allows more flexibility for character development. The combat system is nothing unique but the number of things you can do throughout the game makes it distinctive and sets it apart from other JRPGs back in the day.
TimeSplitters 2 is another classic game from the first-person shooter genre. The plot revolves around an evil race traveling in time trying to change history and lead it into a future of humankind’s enslavement. TimeSplitters 2 offers one of the best 2-player coop modes.
The storyline was well-written and the challenge mode brings more hours to the game for someone who enjoys ramping up difficulties. It also had a level creator and all sorts of different modes to play.
Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore
With a slightly more serious approach to the storyline, Dead or Alive 2 is a brilliant fighting game among a bevy of very successful franchises already in the genre. Dead or Alive’s combat is unique because of how simple it is at the same time, the higher skill cap it involves.
The improved graphics from the original and adding more costumes to their current existing characters made the customization enjoyable for a fighting game. DOA is one of the best looking fighting game on the PS2 and it is one of the franchise’s peaks in the industry.
Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil is another action-adventure game that mixes combat, stealth, and puzzle-solving with a setting based in the year 2435. The protagonist, Jade, can also direct computer-controlled characters during the adventure which adds more flexibility to a linear action-adventure game.
They got nominated for the “Game of the Year” award in 2004 despite the lack of sales and popularity of the game during that time. All the critics have high praises for Beyond Good and Evil and there is no telling when a sequel will come out.
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
A game based on a movie title is never a good sign for a successful game but with EA’s Lord of the Rings video game franchise, it was a bit shocking how great the games turned out. It followed most of the storylines in the movie with just minor changes to help the adventure feel more fluid by adding a few more fights.
The best feature for the game is the battle rating system which compels you to play well instead of just mindlessly killing orcs and Uruks. The coop feature made it more enjoyable which added different paths to take as well.
Freedom Fighters was an innovative squad-based tactical third-person shooter where you constantly control your squad members in combat. This was the first of its kind and even though it was rudimentary, it paved way for other games to try out this style. Originally, they wanted to go with a turn-based combat feature but this design worked to their advantage.
Though it did not get nominated for awards and such, this game is definitely underrated. Their attention to detail on the story and the environment made it as realistic as possible.
There a ton of more games out there that may deserve a spot on this list and it is because that the PlayStation 2 brought the “Golden Age” of gaming as the classic games on this console should be over 100 games. Popular franchises were born and revived on this 2nd generation console at a lot of them are still pumping out new titles up to now.