Originally released in 2000, the PlayStation 2 stands as a powerhouse gaming console. It is home to a number of games that earned near-universal critical acclaim, and its strong library helped propel the system to unprecedented success in the industry. Games were produced for the PS2 up to 13 years after the console’s release, giving it one of the vastest library of games for any console ever.
As a result, there’s more great PS2 games than one can count, and so diving into the PS2’s library of games can be a bit overwhelming. Gamers looking for a place to start with the PS2’s library should consider the following 10 games, which were selected based on the lasting impact they had on the industry, how their quality holds up today, and how critically-acclaimed they were at the time of release.
Devil May Cry was originally meant to be a new game in the Resident Evil series, but it experienced a major change in direction during development, abandoning survival-horror in exchange for over-the-top, hack-and-slash action. This style of gameplay became known as the “Extreme Combat” sub-genre of action games, and went on to inspire a number of other titles.
Devil May Cry‘s influence on the action genre makes it a historically significant release, but its intense gameplay, challenging boss fights, and clever puzzles are even more reasons to check it out. Those that don’t want to drag their PS2s out of the closet to spend some time with the dual-wielding, wise-cracking hero Dante can check out the remastered version of Devil May Cry, which is available in the Devil May Cry HD Collection on PS3 and Xbox 360.
When Final Fantasy X released in 2001, the franchise was still at the top of its game. Final Fantasy X was praised at the time of its release for making several major steps forward for the long-running series, adding three-dimensional environments for players to explore, and introducing voice acting for its various characters. Final Fantasy X was also the first Final Fantasy game to have a direct sequel, and players can check out remastered versions of both the original game and its sequel in the Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster.
While Devil May Cry invented the “Extreme Combat” sub-genre, some would say that God of War perfected it. Game director David Jaffe, also known for creating Sony’s Twisted Metal franchise, introduced the world to the vengeful Kratos, whose goal in the first game is to kill Ares, the titular God of War. Kratos and his brutal quest for revenge became one of the highest-rated games on the PS2, and spawned a strong PlayStation exclusive franchise. So much so that fans are still eager to see where Sony will take Kratos in the next God of War game.
Released just one year after the revolutionary Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City introduced a number of innovations to the franchise that helped set the stage for the GTA games to come. Vice City gave players a fully-voiced playable protagonist with Tommy Vercetti, new vehicles like helicopters and motorcycles, and some deadly new weapons as well. Throw a unique real estate gameplay mechanic on top, and it should come as no surprise that the game was the best-selling PS2 title until its successor, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, stole the crown in 2006.
While all three of the main Grand Theft Auto games available on the PlayStation 2 are worth playing, we recommend Vice City over the others for its innovation in the franchise, and unique setting. After all, players are able to visit updated versions of the cities in Grand Theft Auto III and San Andreas in the latest Grand Theft Auto games, but Rockstar has yet to take players back to the 1980s parody of Miami, Florida that is Vice City. Perhaps the in-development Grand Theft Auto VI will finally see players return to the neon-drenched streets of Vice City, but until then, players can book their trip on the PS2.
Since the beginning of PlayStation, Naughty Dog has proven to be one of the most successful studios for the brand. Not only did Naughty Dog give PS1 owners the popular Crash Bandicoot franchise, but the studio also gave the PS2 a well-received platforming series as well, in the form of Jak and Daxter.
The first Jak and Daxter was one of the better looking games on the PS2, and featured a colorful cast of characters and sharp humor. While Naughty Dog has since moved on to telling more adult-oriented stories, there are many gamers that would like to see Naughty Dog revive the Jak and Daxter franchise on the PlayStation 4.
After the massive success that was the first Metal Gear Solid, all eyes were on Hideo Kojima and Konami to see if that success could be replicated in the sequel. As it turns out, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty on the PS2 was an even bigger hit than the original game, with stronger sales and critic reviews than its predecessor. Metal Gear Solid 2‘s controversial twist put off some series fans, but even so, the game’s groundbreaking graphics and stealth gameplay helps cement it as a must-play PS2 title.
Capcom has a history working on Legend of Zelda games for Nintendo, so Okami, an obvious Zelda clone, came as little surprise when it released at the end of the PS2’s life in 2006. Since Sony lacks a Zelda-like franchise of its own, the then-exclusive Okami filled a void in the PS2’s library, and its unique take on cel-shaded graphics along with its Japanese folklore inspired story helped the game carve out an identity of its own. It was also one of the last games developed by the now-defunct Clover Studio, who was shut down despite their game’s critical acclaim.
Anyone confused as to why people were so excited to see The Last Guardian at E3 2015 last year should check out Team Ico’s 2005 masterpiece Shadow of the Colossus. At the time of its release, Shadow of the Colossus earned countless awards from various industry publications, and its emotional storytelling helped influence many “artsy” games that followed. Part puzzle game and part platformer, there’s very few games like Shadow of the Colossus, making it all the more special.
The PS2 has no shortage of high quality JRPGs, but Persona 4 may very well be the most well-received JRPG on the system. Pushing the boundaries in terms of sexual content and mature themes in video games, Persona 4 stands as one of the best sellers in the Persona series, and remains one of the most successful games ever released under the Atlus publishing banner.
While fans may still be upset that Silent Hills was cancelled, there’s nothing stopping them from revisiting what many consider the height of the franchise, Silent Hill 2. Silent Hill 2 is regarded by many as one of the scariest games ever made, with a haunting atmosphere, grotesque creatures, and a tantalizing mystery packed with shocking twists and turns. Combine that with the introduction of popular series antagonist Pyramid Head, and it’s clear that Silent Hill 2 is a landmark survival-horror game, and one of the genre’s strongest titles. As far as survival-horror on the PS2 goes, it’s hard to beat Silent Hill 2.
Luckily for fans, Sony hasn’t forgotten the PlayStation 2’s legacy. PS2 games are being re-released on PS4, and there are a number of great PS2 titles available to download on PlayStation 3 as well. With so many highly regarded games, expect the PS2 library to be a permanent fixture for Sony consoles in the generations to come.
Which PS2 game is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts on our list in the comments below.