Here’s an idea of just how dominant and all-conquering the PS2 was back in the day. As of 2022, the PS2 is still the best-selling console of all time, outstripping rivals like the Nintendo DS and the PS4 by a significant distance. With over 155 million units sold across its lifetime, the PS2 still stands proud atop the console market, even though Sony discontinued it in 2013. With that in mind, the PS2 must have had some pretty stellar games to succeed as it did, right? Here are the best 25 PS2 games of all time (in no particular order, of course!).
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
For the third instalment in the increasingly popular Metal Gear Solid series, Hideo Kojima took things back to their beginnings. Snake Eater revolves around Big Boss before he was a mercenary legend; he’s inserted into the unforgiving jungle to uncover plans to build a weapon to surpass all others, and what follows is a tense stealth odyssey full of memorable characters and moments.
2. Final Fantasy X
For many, 2007’s Final Fantasy XII was the PS2’s crowning achievement, but it’s just a little too narratively muddled for our liking. The series’ penchant for overblown melodrama serves Final Fantasy X’s plot well, though, and although the lack of a world map or airship are undeniably blows, this classic turn-based JRPG still offers an unforgettable journey to experience.
3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
There were three major Grand Theft Auto releases on PS2, and San Andreas is arguably the culmination of Rockstar’s philosophy while developing them. It’s an absolutely massive open-world crime adventure packed with things to do; you can complete missions to advance the story, yes, but you can also eat fast food, work out at the gym, change your clothes, and plenty more besides.
4. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Where Final Fantasy is eternally trying to change and adapt with each new instalment, Dragon Quest is the opposite. It’s a comfortable, cosy JRPG series that never significantly changes its core formula; turn-based battles with no frills, a bucolic mediaeval-inspired fantasy land to explore, and plenty of gentle British accents. Dragon Quest VIII is all of that, but with the extra graphical horsepower of the PS2.
5. Shadow of the Colossus
The second of Team Ico’s games on the PS2, Shadow of the Colossus remains a unique, daunting prospect to this day. You are Wander, a young lad who has brought a comatose princess to a land teeming with colossi. If you slay the colossi, you’ll be able to wake her up…or so goes the legend. To do so, you’ll have to physically climb them and strike at their weak points in a unique take on platforming.
6. Persona 4
Each Persona game iterates on the one before it, and so it was with Persona 4. It took the formula of its predecessor – procedurally generated JRPG dungeons interspersed with life sim-style conversations and activities – and expanded it, adding unique theming to each new dungeon and building on the Social Link system. What follows is an unforgettably rainy odyssey through high school life in Japan.
7. Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 comes from a time before horror games felt the need to be maximalist in their approach to scares. It tells the story of James Sunderland, a man who has come to the town of Silent Hill after receiving a letter from his deceased wife. Naturally, things aren’t as they seem, and as Sunderland explores the town, fighting off malformed monstrosities as he goes, he learns more about the town and his own past.
8. God of War
Sony stated that its intention with God of War was to make a cinematic game, and while it definitely succeeded, this is “cinematic” in a way that feels different to today’s spectacle-laden Hollywood-aping blockbuster games. God of War mixes balletic combat with platforming, puzzling, and spectacular boss fights; it might have a few quick-time events here and there, but when the rest of the game is this good, that’s forgivable.
9. Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is Capcom’s maximalist horror masterpiece. It’s more of an action game than a true survival horror experience, but it does still involve careful resource management and threat observation. The true achievement of Resident Evil 4 is to balance humour with horror; the first time you see the chainsaw-wielding Dr. Salvador bear down on you, you’ll be both laughing and crying.
10. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening
The Devil May Cry series is known for its campy, over-the-top action, but that reputation didn’t cement itself until Devil May Cry 3. After a relatively sober first instalment and a sequel best left forgotten, Devil May Cry 3 amped everything up to eleven. This is a hack-and-slash action game in which one of your weapons is a guitar that summons bats from hell, and that’s not even the most outlandish thing about it.
11. Kingdom Hearts
While subsequent instalments would see the Kingdom Hearts series disappear into its own mythology, the franchise was never better (and purer) than its first instalment. Young boy Sora, who wields the Keyblade, must stop the Heartless from overrunning a series of worlds inspired by classic Disney movies. No matter how convoluted and ridiculous the series may be now, revisit this action-RPG to remember just how good Kingdom Hearts used to be.
12. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Remember when Ubisoft made games instead of barely-concealed microtransaction simulators? Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time remembers. A characterful, colourful, and immersive action-adventure game, The Sands of Time remains easily the best Prince of Persia title thanks to its acrobatic platforming, innovative time mechanics, and engaging characters. It’s certainly not because of the combat, that’s for sure.
13. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
Jak 2 and Jak 3 are both great games, but they’re a little too sprawling and unfocused for our liking. The first instalment, Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, was an open-ended exploration-based platformer akin to the PS1’s Spyro games. You’re let loose in a series of colourful levels and asked to explore them for challenges and secrets, and you’re given very little direction as you do so.
14. Beyond Good and Evil
Jade’s story is probably better-known for its vapourware sequel these days, which is a real shame, because Beyond Good and Evil is a unique little treat. It’s a sort of mixture between Zelda-style adventure game, photography sim, and third-person brawler, but it also finds room to throw in hovercraft races, dungeon exploration, and a host of minigames as well.
Tim Schafer and company’s Psychonauts didn’t sell anywhere near as well as it should have done, although it has recently re-entered the public consciousness thanks to a newly-released sequel. Psychonauts is a sharply-written, acerbic collectathon platformer in which all of the levels take place inside somebody’s addled mind. If that description appeals to you, it doesn’t even come close to summing up Psychonauts’ weird appeal.
If The Legend of Zelda took explicit inspiration from classical Japanese mythology and starred a wolf instead of a young lad…well, it would be Okami, and Capcom would certainly want to pursue legal action. Okami’s breathtaking painterly art style still holds up today, but the gameplay is also not to be sniffed at; Zelda’s tool belt of items is replaced by godlike Celestial Brush techniques, allowing protagonist Amaterasu to explore more of the world and uncover its mysteries.
17. Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal
Sniggerworthy pun aside, Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal could very well still be the best of the franchise. It retains the childish humour of the games before they went Hollywood with the 2016 remake, and it’s got a plethora of exciting and ridiculous weaponry to try out on its many and varied enemies. For many, Insomniac’s platforming shooter series peaked here.
18. Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves
The Sly series mixes some fairly simple stealth gameplay with platforming and collectible-gathering, and Sly 3 represents its apex. The levels are open-ended and sprawling, providing plenty of opportunities to use Sly’s moveset to its fullest, and the heist-style narrative gives Sly and his buddies lots of chances to banter good-naturedly with one another as well.
19. We Love Katamari
Katamari Damacy was an utterly unique proposition…until the sequel, We Love Katamari, arrived. It expands on its predecessor’s premise; you pilot the titular katamari, an adhesive ball that grabs anything smaller than it and grows in size as it does so. We Love Katamari finds even more ways to challenge you to do so; one minute you’re picking up pencils, the next you’re absorbing continents.
Known as Canis Canem Edit (“Dog Eat Dog”) in some more prudish territories, Bully is essentially Grand Theft Auto at school. It stars Jimmy, a roguish young boy with a tendency to speak truth to power, as he navigates the power structures of his high school. Bully isn’t limited to Bullworth Academy, though; you can also explore the surrounding town on your bike.
21. Viewtiful Joe
One of the so-called “Capcom Five” alongside Resident Evil 4, Viewtiful Joe was once mistakenly pledged to be a GameCube exclusive, but PS2 owners should be thankful it turned out not to be. This side-scrolling beat-’em-up is truly larger than life, combining tokusatsu-style over-the-top action with knowing winks and nudges to pop culture and the gaming industry.
22. Suikoden V
Of all of the three Suikoden RPGs that made it to PS2, Suikoden V is the only one that can uncontroversially be described as a classic. Suikoden III was too risky for some, and Suikoden IV was…less than stellar, but V returns the series to its castle-building roots. You are a royal on the run from your crazed family, and you must amass an army to take back what is rightfully yours.
23. TimeSplitters 2
When Free Radical announced that it would bring back the TimeSplitters series, the world rejoiced, and TimeSplitters 2 is a good demonstration of why. This is a wacky, fun-filled first-person shooter with exaggerated character animations and a bevy of content to enjoy. Whether you’re fragging your friends in multiplayer, taking on the single-player campaign, or trying out the challenges, TimeSplitters 2 is great fun.
24. Max Payne
Remakes of the first two Max Payne games have been announced, so there’s never been a better time to check out where the series began. Max Payne 3 was a po-faced exercise in misery, but the first two Max Payne titles are noir-inflected gems, full of bullet time-enhanced third-person shooting perfection. Here’s hoping the remakes help the series find its comedic edge again.
25. Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
The Splinter Cell series is, for some unfathomable reason, dormant right now, but if and when it comes back, we want to see more games like Chaos Theory. This stealth adventure is filled to the brim with gadgets to use, guards to outwit, and multi-layered levels to explore. It can’t rival games like Thief for sheer size, but its levels are intricate, complex, and immensely satisfying to sneak through.