The PlayStation 2 was a revolutionary console, both in terms of its hardware and massive library of games. It birthed franchises that are still going today, and kept classics alive for future generations to enjoy. With a catalog of almost 2,000 games, there are dozens upon dozens of games that – to this day – remain replayable classics.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Playstation 2, here are our picks for the Best PS2 games of all time.
You can see our top 10 picks in the video above, and click through the gallery below or scroll down the page for the full list!
The Best PS2 Games Ever
25. Guitar Hero II
Guitar Hero may have changed party games for the next decade, but Guitar Hero 2 was the series at its best. GH2 was developed at a time when the core concept of the franchise was “bitchin’ rock/metal tracks that are fun to play on a plastic guitar” and not “fun karaoke songs that sort of also have guitars in them, maybe”.
Guitar Hero 2 was also the last game in the rhythm-action genre to come out before every music publisher realized how much money there was in it, so Harmonix had their absolute pick of songs. You had Suicidal Tendencies, Megadeth, Danzig, The Rollling Stones, Iron Maiden, Iggy and the Stooges — you name it, it was in there, and it rocked.
24. Sly Cooper 2: Band of Thieves
The Sly Cooper series is a wonderfully unique blend of family-friendly action, stealth, and genuinely funny writing, and Sly 2: Band of Thieves exemplifies this better than any other entry in the franchise. Its genuinely enjoyable story is serviced by a varied and intriguing set of worlds to explore — along with the ability to play as Sly’s whole crew, including the powerhouse Murray and the tech-savvy Bentley. And with some genuinely thrilling stealth at the core of it all, Sly 2 offered an original, trilogy’s-best experience; one that was unlike anything else in the Sony first-party pantheon at the time.
For a game that was designed almost entirely around the an escort mission — which were almost universally reviled, even back in 2001 — it ended up being nothing short of amazing. Part of that success is due to the quality of its puzzles, but just as important was how Ico develops the bond between its two main characters. It conveyed a deep personal connection not through dialogue, but through the simple act of navigating through its labyrinthine castle together. It’s one of the finest examples of minimalist storytelling to date, not to mention an excellent showcase of how to tell stories in a way that only video games can.
22. NBA Street, Vol. 2
NBA Street, Volume 2 is arcade-style basketball at its best. Visually flashy but easy to execute game breakers appealed to more casual sports audiences, while the superb ball handling and all-star lineup is irresistible to hardcore basketball fans. Featuring 4 game modes and the ability to unlock “street” and NBA legends alike, NBA Street is an ever-enticing loop of crossovers and slam dunks with more style and swag than anyone could ask for — but mostly, there’s nothing like going head to head against a friend to try and break some ankles.
21. Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts II is a prime example of how sequels can improve upon their predecessor. While we certainly recommend playing the first before the second for the full effect, Kingdom Hearts II offered series-best combat thanks to a mix of magic, its signature Keyblade, different form states for protagonist Sora, and more.
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And its exploration of the mythology offered satisfying depth to ideas and characters introduced in the first game, even despite its pretty long intro section. Kingdom Hearts II might not be the best starting point, but every facet, from its world design to its story to its combat, is emblematic of why so many Disney, Final Fantasy, and zipper fans fell in love with the franchise.
20. Tony Hawk’s Underground
THUG took everything that was great in the Tony Hawk series and added to it. The story was fun and campy, the soundtrack was huge, with more than 70 licensed tracks, and the create-a-skater/park/trick features were super easy to use and surprisingly deep (plus, you could unlock and play as Iron Man!) While there were some mixed reactions from the community to its story mode and seemingly Jackass-inspired humor, Underground was the best Pro Skater game in everything but name and then some. If they ever go back to the franchise in the future, we’re likely to see a lot of the features that debuted in this game come back for another run.
19. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Long after Disgaea’s initial release, it remains one of the most iconic games of the generation. Enemy-filled isometric battlefields and a variety of characters with different skills and weapons are sure to keep you busy with all the tactical possibilities on your adventure with Demon prince Laharl across the Netherworld. Sure, it can be grind at times — but Disgaea thrives despite it. Its flamboyantly gothic themes, comical characters, and delightfully intricate combat make it an endlessly entertaining classic you can put down and revisit anytime.
18. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal
The Ratchet & Clank series was exceptional from the start, serving up lovable characters, galaxy-spanning stories, and loads of wacky weapons. The third installment, Up Your Arsenal, was the biggest yet, with a mountain of new gadgets and mini-games, alongside one of the most ambitious online modes ever seen on console at the time. What other game lets you use a Suck Cannon to turn an army of enemies into bolts? That’s just good, clean fun.
With its mix of action and exploration, unique world and a diverse, charming, hilarious cast of characters, Beyond Good & Evil is one of the PS2’s standout classics. Its world is packed with dive bars brimming with weird monsters, a hovercraft repair shop run by Reggae loving rhinos, and plenty of lore and secrets to uncover. There’s really nothing like it, and it’s no surprise that fans have spent ages waiting for a sequel to hopefully be released someday.
16. Burnout Revenge
Whether racing around its streets, slaloming in and out of traffic, or trying to cause as big a mess as possible in crash mode, Burnout Revenge was built on one thing: speed. The short bursts of action piled up as much as the vehicles in your way, and would often result in hours being lost in the quest to gold medal every event. Yes, the Takedown-infused racing offered its own set of thrills, but this was the series’ apex, and the last Burnout game to include a crash mode — which makes it all the more frustrating that no one has been able to capture the mode’s magic and (successfully) replicate it since.
Psychonauts twists a classic summer camp coming-of-age tell with psychic-powered secret agents in a way that somehow makes both aspects harmonize beautifully. It’s a challenging and often hilarious action/platformer that tells a great story, and does so while taking you through some truly incredible levels – each one evoking the twisted psyche of the mind that is imagining it.
Psychonauts is full of memorable moments and incredible designs, both visually and gameplay-wise, that stand out as impressive to this day.
14. Devil May Cry 3
Devil May Cry 3 is not only one of the most influential action games of all time, it’s, quite simply, one of the best – ever. Even just on its most basic levels, Devil May Cry 3 offers up challenging but rewarding combat, an excellent story of dark and twisted familial bonds, and some of the most downright entertaining cutscenes you’ll find – even compared to modern games. Going deeper, though, you’d be hard pressed to find a combat system with a higher skill ceiling, or one that allows for more creativity than Devil May Cry 3’s.
13. Katamari Damacy
Katamari Damacy is absurd chaos in the best possible way. It’s the simplest mechanical concept you can find – push your ball to roll things up and get real big – combined with the most insane layer of paint imaginable. This nonstop parade of ridiculous scenarios and hilarious sights is joy not only for how silly it all is, but because it’s also endlessly optimistic the whole way through. And while the rolling may be simple, that mechanical core is genuinely so much fun that Katamari Damacy immediately rolled up people’s hearts and still hasn’t let go almost two decades later.
12. Jak II
A unique entry in the series, Jak 2 reinvents itself without losing the what made the original Jak and Daxter fantastic – which is to say it still has the charm of detailed and diverse environments inhabited by a lively cast of characters and excellent platforming to tie it all together. This sequel took this dynamic duo from the colorful world of Sandover village to the seedy underbelly of Haven City, and with this change came new combat, new traversal, and a story with far more intrigue, twists, and dynamic characterization than what came before. While the gunplay and carjacking (and hoverboarding) were a new addition to the series, physical combat still played a huge role, and the introduction of Dark Jak made for the ultimate power fantasy that kept evolving over time. Jak 2 is a satisfying and thrilling adventure that stands out as the best game of this iconic trilogy.
Disbarred attorney and video game industry pest Jack Thompson would have you believe that ‘Bully’ is a game without merit, a public nuisance, a “Columbine simulator”. In truth, Rockstar’s ‘Bully’ is anything but – in fact, Bully is a game where you fight back against bullying, build social networks that connect various insular groups, and where you are, in fact, punished for not attending class.
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With a charming coming of age story that modernizes classic themes (without necessarily going full ‘Rushmore’ on you), Bully manages to be smart and funny, exhibiting the biting satire Rockstar is know for, while also debuting a streamlined progression system and a satisfying crunch to its combat that raised the bar for the studio’s games going forward.
10. God of War
God of War was the total package. A technical marvel, featuring some of the most visually impressive boss fights ever seen, it offered up a fantastic mix of combat, puzzle-solving, and challenging platforming, all wrapped up in a compelling story about a very, very very angry man. Above all else, though, the original God of War planted the seeds of what would eventually become one of the greatest action game series of all time.
The idea behind Okami – that you’re a god in the form of a wolf, whose paintings come to life by using a divine celestial brush – sounds off the wall, but it works, and Okami is a beautiful, expertly designed, cohesive work of art. Its gorgeous painterly style is more than enough to draw people in, but its charming story, creative puzzles, and fun action-driven combat prove to be unwavering pillars of radiance all on their own, making Okami a must-play on both the PS2 or its modern consoles alike.
8. Final Fantasy X
Every Final Fantasy game tries to switch things up and keep the genre fresh, but Final Fantasy 10 made some of the biggest changes the series had ever seen. The switch to a Sphere-grid leveling system and removal of the Active Time Battle system made Ten more accessible, its story was easier to understand, and, for the first time ever, the in-game cutscenes had characters that could actually pass as real human people thanks to the hardware upgrade of the PlayStation 2. Sure, the game ended up having some meme-able moments, and but the overall story was well told and one that people still love to this day, plus it asked one of the most pointed questions in gaming history: “is Blitzball good?”.
7. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 is a disorientating nightmare of a video game that gets under one’s skin and stays there for years after a playthrough. A more fully-realized vision of its predecessor, Silent Hill 2 pitches its central nightmarish town as a manifestation of its protagonist’s mental state, embracing unreliable narration, multiple endings, and the uneasy juxtaposition of the mundane with the horrific. Its hold on your nervous can be best evoked with that famous call to action: jump down the hole?
You have, of course, no choice but to accept.
6. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
One of the most divisive and brilliant games of all time, Metal Gear Solid 2 is constantly shifting what the player thinks they know and understand about the game into something completely different.
A game about the spread of misinformation that actively used misinformation in so much of its marketing, MGS2 was thematically and mechanically ahead of its time, even though it initially turned off fans and critics by replacing series hero Solid Snake with the younger, more… outspoken Raiden. It has, however, aged like a fine wine, and is still widely regarded as one of the best stealth games – both with and without vampires – ever created.
5. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Grand Theft Auto 3 may have revolutionized the open-world action game with it’s 3D third-person perspective, but it was the 2002 sequel that took the concept and perfected it. Vice City upped it’s game in nearly every conceivable way. It added a story that was both a compelling narrative and expert satire of all its 80’s-era inspirations, a cast of memorable characters voiced by hollywood pros – including the likes of Ray Liotta, Dennis Hopper, and Burt FUCKING Reynolds – improved on almost every aspect of its mechanics and gameplay and Vice City still has one of the best video game soundtracks ever. Even now, after being ported to PC, handheld and mobile platforms, Vice City remains not just one of the best PS2 games every, but one of gaming’s all-time greats.
4. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 was a magnificent shake-up for the series, ditching the more traditional bump-in-the-night haunted house antics for an over-the-shoulder shooting gallery in a sprawling Spanish village. A greater focus on action didn’t dull the horror, either. Resident Evil 4 was still a deeply uneasy experience thanks to its monsters – the Los Illuminados, the Regenerators and the chainsaw man are all unforgettable – and it introduced a strong sense of The Weird that turned ”what’re ya buyin?” into an iconic phrase.
3. Shadow of the Colossus
More of a puzzle game hidden within a giant-boss-fight shell, Shadow of the Colossus left you in awe well after the credits had rolled. Turning the should-be heroic affair of slaying giant monsters in the name of love melancholy in the subtlest way, it was an impactful and unforgettable experience, unlike anything we had played before. Shadow of the Colossus’ bleak world, clever puzzles, understated storytelling, dynamic music, and, of course, badass giant colossi still stand tall above many, even today.
2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Metal Gear Solid 3 took a step back from the high-tech-and-concept structure of MGS2, and in doing so gave us what is still widely regarded as the best entry in the franchise to date. Mechanically, Snake Eater expanded on all of the revolutionary systems introduced by its predecessor, added new survival elements like hunger and camouflage, and presented us with some of the cleverest boss fights of all time. The later Subsistence re-release included further mechanical updates like a free-moving third-person camera, but MGS3’s strongest element by far is its story: a complex tale of honor and duty, of love and patriotism, one that not only works as a self-contained experience, but sets up and recontextualizes every other game in the series as well.
1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
While Rockstar consistently found bold new ways to raise the open-world bar, 2004’s GTA: San Andreas represented a leap forward like we’d never been seen before. The game’s vast, vibrant state of San Andreas – with three cities, based loosely on Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas – became a perfect playground for players to have CJ and his cohorts survive gang shootouts, high-speed police chases, and frantic, sprawling heists on foot or in dozens of different vehicles. San Andreas also introduced RPG and survival elements into the series for the first time, like tracking what CJ ate or how much he worked out, and adjusting his abilities accordingly. While all of the GTA series are classics in their own right, San Andreas is one of the most robust and memorable open-world games ever made, and the pinnacle of the gaming experience on the Playstation 2.
Those are our picks for the best Playstation 2 games ever – what made your list that wasn’t on ours? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out our new series tracking the next-gen console launches for all your upcoming PS5 news!
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