For many, the question as to which console is the greatest of all time has an easy, straightforward, and inarguable answer: the PlayStation 2. To honor Sony's glorious gaming machine that followed up the original PlayStation, we here at GameRevolution decided to put our heads together and craft a list that compiles the greatest experiences that the platform has to offer.
While we easily could have stretched this list out to over fifty titles, we wanted to keep it condensed and relatively digestible. As such, there are bound to be a few titles you absolutely adore that didn't make the cut, and that's what the comments section is for. Alright, no more rambling, let's get right into it.
25. Katamari Damacy
The PlayStation 2 is home to a wide array of different concepts, art styles, and genres, and Katamari Damacy is basically the epitome of that fact. This Japanese third-person puzzle game has players rolling around a magical ball that picks up objects from the world, growing as it moves along. The goal is to create masses large enough to be stars in an effort to repopulate the sky with the glowing objects because the King of All Cosmos accidentally destroyed them. It's totally wacky and out there, but at the same time extremely charming. If you're looking for an experience like none other, Katamari Damacy is an absolute must if you've got a PS2.
24. SSX Tricky
Fans of snowboarding games should be incredibly familiar with SSX Tricky, the second game in Electronic Arts' sports action series. While the original was fantastic in its own right, the franchise really hit its stride in the followup. With additions like a rival system and Uber moves, SSX Tricky brought some much needed personality to the genre. It's easily one of the best sports games on the platform, and for that reason should not be missed.
23. Dark Cloud 2
Level-5, the studio that would one day go on to make role-playing gems like Ni No Kuni, had a few noteworthy offerings on the PlayStation 2, namely the Dark Cloud series. The first game was incredibly unique and blended traditional action role-playing with a deep and engaging town-building element. The second, however, took it a step further and brought to the franchise a memorable cast of characters, an intriguing story, and a gorgeous cel-shaded art design.
22. Guitar Hero II
Love it or hate it, the Guitar Hero franchise spearheaded a phenomenon that took the gaming world by storm, and Guitar Hero II is where the series really hit its stride, reaching far beyond just the core gaming crowd. The music-rhythm genre started to take on a life of its own, and Activision proceeded to milk every ounce of juice it could from the concept. But before it became a yearly cash-grab, Guitar Hero was something special and wholly unique, and for that it deserves a nod.
Remember when Final Fantasy games used to be good? While FFXII has proven to be a polarizing title among JRPG enthusiasts, it still bears the markings of a great game, and is believed to be by many the last solid effort by Square Enix. Following hot off the heels of the prior entry, which was an MMO, Final Fantasy XII abandoned the traditional turn-based battle system for something a bit more dynamic, akin to how FFXI operated. It was a bold step forward for the single-player games in the series, and yielded an experience that felt entirely unique.
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Much like Guitar Hero, the Tony Hawk series spawned a cultural phenomenon that expanded far beyond the hardcore. The inarguable best entry in the franchise is Pro Skater 3, which is regarded by many to be the greatest action sports game of all time. It's an absolute blast to play on your own, chasing high scores, or competing against your friends, trying to out-do your pals' greatest tricks. Regardless of whether or not you enjoy skateboarding, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 is so much fun, you won't be able to resist.
Of all the charming platformers on the PlayStation 2, the Ratchet & Clank series is easily one of the best, and the greatest of the franchise is hands-down Up Your Arsenal. With a slew of crazy awesome weapons to play with and upgrade, Insomniac's third entry in the Ratchet series is an absolute must for PlayStation fans. The game's cast of characters are super charming and well written, and the wonderful blend of platforming and combat was unparalleled at the time. If you're looking for an experience that will have you grinning from ear-to-ear from start to finish, look no further than Ratchet and his robotic buddy Clank.
Ubisoft revitalized the Prince of Persia franchise in spectacular fashion with The Sands of Time. Thanks to some incredible action, a magical story, and a super awesome rewind time mechanic, Ubi's action-adventure was an absolute must-play at the time. The first time I ran on walls as the Prince, it was an absolute mind-blowing experience. In many ways, The Sands of Time laid the groundwork for action-adventure games to follow, and for that reason alone should be commended.
17. Devil May Cry
As far as pure action games on the PS2 are concerned, Devil May Cry takes the cake (or pizza in this case). Originally intended to be a Resident Evil game, DMC features plenty of horror elements, but unlike Capcom's scare-filled series, its claim to fame is its fast-paced sword and gun combat. Unlike anything else at the time, Devil May Cry's gameplay was insanely fluid and intuitive, which made its epic boss encounters all the more incredible. Anyone who claims to be a fan of action games should be required to play this genre-defining game.
Serving as one of my favorite new IPs from the PS2 generation, Beyond Good & Evil holds a very special place in my heart. Michel Ancel and his team at Ubisoft managed to create a world rich with personality and character. The bold decision to center the game around a female photographer in wa world populated by a bunch of anthropomorphic creatures surprisingly paid off. The characters are great, the story is compelling, and the gameplay is serviceable enough to carry you through the entire experience without growing tired or frustrated. Now if only we could get a sequel…
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Rockstar Games made a name for itself with the release of Grand Theft Auto III, the first truly open-world game of its kind. Before the PlayStation 2 era, sprawling sandbox game worlds were but a glimmer in the eye of developers, and Rockstar brought that dream to life. Providing gamers with a massive city to explore, Grand Theft Auto III immediately became the talk of the town, giving birth to a new type of game entirely. Since then, a number of developers have borrowed concepts first established by Grand Theft Auto III, as open-world action games have continued to grow in relevance and popularity. It was a revolutionary game, and for that very reason should be praised.
Often compared to Zelda, Capcom's artistic adventure game Okami serves as one of the PlayStation 2's greatest action puzzle titles. With a cel-shaded Japanese water color art style like nothing before, Okami's graphics are truly a work of art. But visuals aside, the game puts you in the paws of a wolf. With a unique gameplay mechanic, players must use a "Celestial Brush" to interact with the environment and attack foes. Learning different brush techniques keeps the game feeling fresh, and adds a layer of magical innovation that has yet to be recaptured.
13. God of War II
The swan song of the PlayStation 2 came in the form of the second chapter of Kratos' story. Proving that Sony's second console was still a force to be reckoned with, God of War II's massive bosses and epic set pieces dwarfed what was being shown off on the Xbox 360 and PS3 at the time. Sony Santa Monica has proven that it's made up of developers that are masters at their craft, and God of War II is a shining example of that fact. Those wondering what a quality sequel looks like need only to examine what this studio achieved with the second entry in Kratos' tale.
The tragic story of a horned boy and a young girl striving to escape a massive fortress is easily one of the most memorable and enchanting experiences you'll find on the PS2. Developed by the now infamous studio known as Team ICO, ICO is one of the many reasons PlayStation gamers are clamoring for The Last Guardian. If you're looking for an emotional game experience rife will subtlety and nuance, this work of art is an absolute must.
Sure, Hideo Kojima may have pissed off a lot of people by pulling the spotlight off Solid Snake to make way for Raiden, Metal Gear Solid 2 still proved to be a worthy sequel to the PlayStation classic. With much improved visuals, a huge cast of colorful characters, and a story that, while totally convoluted and out there, was immediately captivating. Some may argue that this is the weakest of the four mainline entries in the MGS series, but considering the astounding quality of the other three, that's not necessarily a terrible thing.
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Driving perfection. That's what a lot of racing fans would call the third entry in the Gran Turismo series. After establishing itself on the original PlayStation as a development powerhouse, Polyphony Digital had a lot of expectation to live up to when launching its first racer for the PS2. Much to gamers' delight, Polyphony not only matched expectations, it managed to exceed them. Racing purists look to GT3 as the gold standard, and with good reason.
9. Jak II
Sure, the original Jak & Daxter is an absolute platforming marvel, but the bold new direction that Naughty Dog took the franchise in with the sequel is where the series truly shines. The studio has since gone on to create unparalleled cinematic experiences, and Jak II was the first real step in that direction. From incredible cutscenes to stellar writing and voice acting, the second chapter in Jak and Daxter's tale is an absolute must for Naughty Dog fans. But the studio didn't just innovate in storytelling and presentation, Jak II also brought open world gameplay to the series, taking a page out of Rockstar's book. It's an experience that simply can't be missed.
How do you follow up a generation-defining experience like Grand Theft Auto III? You up the ante by taking gamers to the sunny streets of Vice City. With a new protagonist, a fresh new setting, and a cast of characters that actually feel like real people, Rockstar Games managed to prove that it can take the open-world formula and inject an interesting story full of personality. Others may have attempted to mimic the studio's formula, but Vice City proved there's nothing quite like the real thing.
For the longest time I was a Nintendo fan through-and-through. Then I got a chance to play Final Fantasy X and that was the moment I knew I needed to start saving my allowance to buy a PS2. The game's opening CG cutscene followed by a overly-dramatic blitzball match had me eager to explore this world for myself. It was a visual marvel at the time, and the adherence to the classic turn-based JRPG gameplay was a huge win for fans of the prior entries on the PlayStation. Many regard this as the last amazing Final Fantasy title, and in many respects, I'm inclined to agree.
Our reviews editor, Daniel Bischoff, has an unhealthy obsession with Persona 4, and I really can't blame him. While he fell head-over-heels for the Vita version, the PS2 original has all the charm of the handheld upgrade. Serving as part high school simulator part dungeon-crawler, Persona 4 is a unique role-playing blend that will have you hooked for nearly a hundred hours, if not more. It's got a great story, great characters, and so many options you'll have a hard time deciding what to do. I mean honestly, why concern yourself with real life when you can join a virtual drama club?
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5. God of War
Say what you want about Kratos' one-dimensional personality and ever-angry disposition, the original God of War was an astounding game experience when it first launched. With the clever use of fixed camera angles and epic set piece moments, the first chapter in the God of War saga was truly the first of its kind. I'll never forget facing off against that three-headed hydra. It was at that moment I knew I was experiencing something special. There isn't an action game on the PS2 that feels quite as intense and epic as the first God of War. It truly is a bloody marvel.
Ah, the power of nostalgia. Kingdom Hearts brings together the world of Disney and the world of Final Fantasy in expert fashion, tugging on the heart strings of gamers' childlike wonder. Before the series got bogged down by a deluge of spinoffs and convoluted side stories, there was the original Kingdom Hearts, an action-RPG loaded with charm. Giving gamers the ability to visit various Disney worlds and fight alongside some of the most iconic animated characters was truly a magical gift. Even the aspects of the experience that weren't ripped from Final Fantasy or Disney, namely the Sora, Rikku, and Kairi dynamic, was endearing and heartfelt in its own right. If you have any ounce of childlike wonder in your being, you simply must play Kingdom Hearts.
While most games drop the ball when it comes to boss battles, Team ICO's Shadow of the Colossus is nothing but giant foes that require strategy and crafty controller work to take down. With a story that prefers to show rather than tell, and a sprawling landscape populated by gargantuan beasts, SotC is a wholly unique game in virtually every regard. Despite the fact that the story is delivered in subtle spoonfuls, it's easily one of the most engaging and emotional tales available on the PS2. It's just a shame the game's successor appears to be in development hell.
If you ask a hardcore Metal Gear fan what their favorite MGS title is, they're likely going to say either the original PlayStation game or Snake Eater. What makes the third entry in Hideo Kojima's stealth-action series so popular has everything to do with its new setting. Forget drab warehouse buildings; forget confined hallways; forget even Solid Snake. MGS3 rewinds time and takes players back to the rise of Big Boss and throws him in the jungle with little more than a knife. Not only did the game give players a new environment and new mechanics to mess around with, it also fleshed out much of the backstory that aids in putting the prior games in proper context. The fact that the game has young Ocelot is reason alone to put it so high on this list.
If you want ambitious, let me introduce you to the world of San Andreas, Rockstar's massive West Coast playground that has provided gamers with hours of endless entertainment. After upping the ante with Vice City, the folks behind GTA managed to somehow raise the bar even higher by daring to explore a new setting and build a world map more massive than anything console gamers had ever seen before. In fact, I remember kids carry around the San Andreas world map at school to show their friends during lunch. Seriously, any game that can get a kid excited about a map deserves a gold star.