The PlayStation 2 is not just the best selling video game console of all time, but has some of the most iconic and memorable games of all time. While the PS2 had massive third-party support is had many great exclusives and first party games. While most multiplatform games played and looked best on the Xbox I won’t cover the game I covered over on that article. You can basically check that one out and play the PS2 versions if you want and/or don’t have an Xbox. Check out that article here.
The PS2 was a major part of my childhood. It’s the system that made me a hardcore gamer. I read the Official PlayStation Magazine religiously and I owned three different systems thanks to the disc read error on the early phat models. I got the network adapter when the price dropped with SOCOM being my first ever online console game. This system is amazing and has so many fantastic games, but also has some expensive games. Most survival horror games won’t be on this list or obscure Japanese made titles. The survival horror genre is highly coveted by the niche fans it garners and I am actually one of them.
The PS2 may be the least powerful system of the three consoles but some developers really made miracles on this console. Some games just look downright amazing on here, and while no where near what the Xbox could do, it still managed some lookers. These are games that are in my personal collection, as per the usual, and you can get for under $20.
Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War – Namco – 2004
The Ace Combat series was a PlayStation exclusive for over a decade and this was the last in the series and went out with a bang. Every game was fantastic, but this one looked the best and played the best. There is a whopping 32 missions and a ton of jets and weapons to unlock. If you love air combat games this is the best it got in this generation.
Call of Duty: Legacy Bundle – Spark Unlimited/Treyarch/Activision – 2007
This was a VERY late release for the system, but it contains both Finest Hour and Big Red One. Both were console exclusive Call of Duty games. I played a ton of Finest Hour as it was a present I received for Christmas the year it came out. I also played the online mode a ton. It’s not very good today, but Big Red One is much better. If you hate WWII shooters then skip this as these were at the steep descent of the genre.
Cold Winter – Swordfish Studios/Vivendi Universal – 2005
This is a Cold War spy FPS, and one of the few exclusives to PS2, and it plays surprisingly well. It was a flop, but it had fun online multiplayer at the time and was released towards the end of the system’s life. All of the FPS games that were multiplatform were better on Xbox, but we at least got something decent.
Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore – Tecmo – 2000
This was a launch title for the system and while the Xbox got a better upgraded version, this one plays very well even if you don’t have an Xbox. The game has a better tag mode and added stages and characters. It’s an early fighter so it feels a bit dated, but it’s still a lot of fun for the low price.
Devil May Cry – Capcom – 2001
This was an early entry and one of the first smash hits for the system. This game was created by the Resident Evil and Platinum Games superstars Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami. It was to prove that fast paced 2D action can be done in 3D and it worked. It’s one of the biggest gaming franchises ever created. While the HD versions are the best way to play now, this version still holds up today.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening – Special Edition – Capcom – 2006
This was released at the end of the PS2’s life, but it went out with a bang, and the Special Edition is superior as it adds a lot of content. You can play as Virgil and Nelo, there’s harder difficulties, a new style and weapon, and a lot more. This game also released for $20 under the Greatest Hits banner and that’s when I picked this up. Sure, the next-generation of consoles were almost here, but DMC3 was still fantastic.
Downhill Domination – Incog Inc./SCEA – 2003
This was a sleeper hit. A downhill bicycle riding game was a weird niche at the time, but the game is a ton of fun and has a great sense of speed. The fun is in the physics and the course design. Jumps, bumps, steep hills, and of course you can knock opponents off their bikes. It’s cheap and a blast to play.
Final Fantasy X – Square – 2001
This was one of the first major hits for the system and even I rented this from Blockbuster when I got my PS2. The game had amazing graphics and was the first ever JRPG I finished. The characters are memorable, it has a great battle system, and the story is actually quite good. I just hated the math game known as Blitz Ball and getting the weapons can be a real chore, but this was re-released in HD on newer systems, so unless you want to play on those this version is pointless.
Final Fantasy X-2 – Square/Square Enix – 2003
This was the first time a Final Fantasy game ever got a direct sequel and it was a huge deal. Some even say this game is superior to X. I do prefer the combat here as it feels faster paced and the game is a bit easier. It features two new characters along with Yuna who become series icons and looks even better this time around. Again, this was also released in HD so those versions are better. My copy is actually the one I gave to my sister for her 14th birthday, but as an adult she grew out of gaming and gave the copy back to me. It’s nice to have it in my collection.
Final Fantasy XII – Square Enix – 2006
This was released just around when the PS3 and Wii launched and despite the late release, and one of the last exclusives for the system, it was a big hit. It featured the same world and art of Final Fantasy XI Online and featured a more real-time combat system, but had great characters and story. The game has been remastered for newer systems so this version is mostly irrelevant now. The copy I have was given to my youngest sister for Christmas in 2007 and she gave it back to me due to her not being interested in retro games anymore. It’s also nice to have that in my collection too.
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – Polyphony Digital/SCEA – 2001
This didn’t quite make the launch of the PS2, but boy did I put dozens of hours into this game. It’s still the best game in the series and holds up amazingly well today. One day I plan to play this again and finish every event. This game also showed what the PS2 could do visually and was ahead of its time for the longest time. Racing sims on PC couldn’t even match this game at the time.
Gran Turismo 4 – Polyphony Digital/SCEA – 2004
This game seemed to have taken forever to release, and while not as good as GT3, it still holds up very well today. This issues were with the physics model and quality being all over the place. It’s still a lot of fun with a racing wheel if you can find one. This game pushed the PS2 to its limits and was surpassed by the superior Forza Motorsport a year later.
Headhunter – Amuze AB/Acclaim – 2002
This is a port from the Dreamcast with upgraded visuals. You play as a cop who is head hunting criminals have a variety of moves and weapons at your disposal. It didn’t sell all that well, and feels dated, but a lot of fun as it was kind of unique for its time.
Hot Shots Golf 3 – Clap Hanz/SCEA – 2002
This is one of the best golf games on the system. While it’s not a realistic simulator, it has cartoon visuals and the ball physics are quite good. The game isn’t restrained by licenses or real world courses and equipment. You can level up and buy new equipment and items for your characters. It’s really fun and if you love golf games this is a must have.
ICO – Team Ico/SCEA – 2001
This is one of the most unique games of this generation. Despite the terrible cover art the West got this is a treat to behold on the system. It used to command high prices before the HD version was released as well. While that version is better you have to experience this on the hardware it was designed for. It pushes the PS2 to its limits, but also isn’t much more than a concept or tech demo. It’s very short and most people didn’t get the game at all thus the low sales. It was originally developed on PS1, but the hardware couldn’t do what the team wanted.
Jak II – Naughty Dog/SCEA – 2003
I played the hell out of this game from Blockbuster when it was released. It was like a cartoony GTA. Well, the game isn’t as good as I remembered and it’s been released in HD since, but this was a huge deal on PS2 and was good for its time.
Jak 3 – Naughty Dog/SCEA – 2004
This game didn’t do as well as Jak II despite improving on it in every way. It had a lot of ‘tude compared to the original’s light heartedness. The game ditches the open area levels for more straight forward platforming and shooting combat. I never really cared too much for the Jak series, but it’s still good nonetheless.
Jak X: Combat Racing – Naughty Dog/SCEA – 2005
This was released late in the system’s life, but was a damn good car combat game. I actually only own all of these Jak games because my youngest sister gave them to me a while ago after realizing she just isn’t into retro gaming. She treasures the memories but doesn’t have the tech or knowledge to get the systems running on modern TVs correctly. They have a special place in my collection. I also don’t own the original game as it was one of the few Sony games that just didn’t appeal to me. I still don’t care much for this series, but I don’t hate them.
Killzone – Guerrilla/SCEA – 2004
I remember following this game in magazines as it was dubbed the “Halo Killer” and of course that never happened. It was panned by critics as pushing the system too hard and being slow and cumbersome. I got this for Christmas of 2004 and loved it to death. I replayed the campaign a few times and thought the weight and slow reloading of the weapons felt good for once. It did have a lot of slowdown, but also looked good despite being very gray and brown. The game is better played on PS3 on the Killzone Trilogy which puts the game in HD.
Kim Possible: What’s the Switch? – Artificial Mind & Movement/Buena Vista Games – 2006
This was released at the end of the system’s life, but it’s a hidden gem through and through. Even if you don’t like Kim Possible this is a fantastic platformer that’s incredibly underrated and overlooked.
Kinetica – SCE Studio Santa Monica/SCEA – 2001
This is an awesome cycle racing game that is often overlooked. You drive humanoid cycle at a great sense of speed and can do some insane stunts. The tracks are crazy, the game looks great for being an early title, and the animations are awesome. If you like Wipeout you will like this game.
The King of Fighters 2006 – SNK Playmore – 2006
A late release for the system The King of Fighters went full 3D with a whopping 38 character cast and dozens of costumes to unlock. It doesn’t feel as fast as the 2D game, but it looks halfway decent and plays well. It’s a fun PS2 exclusive fighter especially with an arcade stick.
The King of Fighters XI – SNK Playmore – 2007
Released long after the next generation of consoles had arrived almost no one talked about this game. This game stuck to the traditional 2D sprites and is a great fighting game. An arcade stick is recommended here as well. If you’re short on PS2 fighters this is one of the best.
Kingdom Hearts II – Square Enix – 2006
Released towards the end of the PS2’s life it went out with a bang with the juggernaut that was KH2. I rented this game from Gameplay the week it came out and it was the only game I ever cried at the end for. Not to mention the theme song by Utada Hikaru is still on my playlist to this day. It’s a fantastic action RPG and yes it has been released in HD on newer consoles, but the PS2 version plays just fine even today.
The Mark of Kri – SCE Studio San Diego/SCEA – 2002
This was a stylish action adventure game with some stealth elements and it wasn’t half bad. It’s full of cheap deaths and can be really hard, but it looks and plays great even to this day. Sadly, there was no sequel, but I hope Sony digs this up again at some point.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory – Capcom – 2002
This is essentially a 3D Ghosts ‘N Ghouls. It has a fun art style, challenging gameplay, and is just a lot of fun all around. You can collect coins to continue the game and his armor is reduced as you take each hit. It’s a pretty unique game in its own right and deserves to be revisited.
Micro Machines V4 – Supersonic Software/Codemasters – 2006
This is a fantastic top down racer with a great sense of speed and control. You can get power-ups, race through houses and other areas that make you look very small. You can even design your own tracks and it was one of the few PS2 games that interacted with the PSP.
Midway Arcade Treasures 2 – Digital Eclipse Software/Midway – 2004
This is one of the best classic compilations of this generation. This game sold so well because MK2 and 3 were included. You also get Smash TV, Rampage, Narc, and many other Midway classics here.
Outlaw Golf 2 – Hypnotix/Global Star Software – 2004
This does play and look better on Xbox, but I have it on PS2. It’s another raunchy sex infused sports game from the Outlaw series, but it’s actually quite good. The humor is dated, but I still got a few laughs from it.
Outlaw Tennis – Hypnotix/Global Star Software – 2005
Again, I own it on PS2, but it’s better on Xbox. Another crazy sports game with boobs and fart jokes. You can play in volcanos, beaches, and even space. This game features all the characters from previous Outlaw games so it has a lot of content.
Primal – SCE Studio Cambridge/SCEA – 2003
This is essentially a Tomb Raider clone but more fantastical. You solve puzzles, jump around, attack things, and it feels a bit clunky, but has a long run time and a somewhat interesting story and characters. It wasn’t a big seller though.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within – Ubisoft – 2004
It plays and looks better on Xbox, but I don’t have it on that system. This is my favorite PoP game because of the dark and gory tone and the heavy metal music. A lot of people got mad due to the shift in tone, but I think it was brave and needs to be done more. It’s a huge improvement over the first game and even has a scantily clad antagonist that was plastered all over magazines in the day.
Project Eden – Core Design/Eidos – 2001
An early game for the PS2, Project Eden was created by the Tomb Raider team and was a third person shooter with puzzle solving. It didn’t sell well and I always confused this game with Deus Ex. It’s a lot of fun despite feeling a bit dated and you will be entertained for quite awhile.
R: Racing Evolution – Namco – 2003
This plays and looks better on Xbox, but I have it on PS2. This is a racing sim featuring a surprisingly entertaining story of a busty Japanese girl trying to make it in the racing scene. The busty girl was supposed to be a huge selling point, but the game didn’t do to well. It’s still a great racing game.
Ratchet & Clank – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2002
This was a game my youngest sister was obsessed with growing up. I liked it to and it was Sony’s more popular mascot platformer over Jak & Daxter. The series was praised for it’s clever humor, memorable characters, and signature guns with awesome alt fire modes. This game was remade for PS4 and is probably the best version to get as well as released in HD a few years back. The first game always feels dated and clunky, but it’s still a good game.
Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2003
This game was a huge improvement over the first game and was praised by critics from all corners. More levels, bigger weapons, better graphics, more gadgets. The game also retains the great humor and adds new characters. The HD version is probably the way to go but it holds up on the PS2 well.
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2004
Yes, by the third game it was starting to get a little old, but series wouldn’t stop evolving and adding quality content in form of weapons, levels, characters, and advancing the story. This was a rare case in which each sequel was better than the last and not worse. It was released in HD as well so you should play that, but the PS2 version is outstanding. Probably the best game in the trilogy.
Ratchet: Deadlocked – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2005
Released towards the end of the PS2 life Deadlocked was the only game never released in HD and this is where things started heading downhill. The game isn’t bad at all, but it focuses more on the shooting and less platforming. The game has a lot of combat arenas and is more serious and darker in tone. Clank is also not in this game outside of voice overs which irked many gamers.
Resident Evil 4 – Capcom – 2005
Released a year after the GameCube version, and pissing many GameCube owners off, the PS2 got more content. While you can play better versions of this today, the PS2 version is still solid and well worth a play through if you don’t care about visual upgrades (they’re pretty minor). Or you can hold off for the official remake. My sister pre-ordered this in excitement and after getting scared during the first level before entering the village she turned it off and gave it to me straight up. She actually got the Premium Edition that included some extras and commands a much higher price than the standard version.
Resident Evil: Code: Veronica X – Capcom – 2001
This was a port of the Dreamcast game and was released to much acclaim. The enhanced visuals and new cut-scenes are a nice tough, but it’s just a great classic Resident Evil game. Some even say this is their favorite over Resident Evil 2. This is by far the best version of the game and should actually get a remake too.
Rogue Galaxy – Level-5/SCEA – 2005
An underrated JRPG Level-5 would later go on to make Dragon Quest VIII and Ni no Kuni. This is a fun JRPG with a sci-fi background and allows synthesizing maxed out weapons to help break up the traditional JRPG formula. It’s got a nice story and if you love classic JRPGs from this era you will love this one.
Rygar: The Legendary Adventure – Tecmo – 2002
This is a sword and sandal adventure game with platforming and puzzle solving. It’s not super memorable, but it’s fun and has a decent story and worth checking out for the low price.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2002
This was one of the first major first party shooters Sony was able to get right. This game was a huge phenomenon and one of the first major shooters that went online. In fact, this was the first console game I ever played online and I put dozens and dozens of hours into this game. It was an absolute blast, and while it feels dated, it’s worth going back and playing through the campaign.
SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2003
This one had a much improved online component, but issues form the first game’s campaign remained, however it’s still a great tactical shooter despite it’s age.
SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2005
The sad thing about these games is their online component were its strong suite and the servers are long gone. The campaigns just warmed you up for what to expect, but SOCOM 3 added vehicles to the game with improved visuals, controls, and overhaul of systems. It’s the best in the series, but if you have to pick one just jump into this one if you don’t care to see how the series evolved.
Shadow of the Colossus – Team Ico/SCEA – 2005
This was a great game to send the PS2 off. It pushed the system beyond its limits and had clunky controls, but man was it an experience. There was nothing like it. I got this for my 16th birthday and I played through it in one night. Now, there’s no reason to get this version as the HD one for PS3 is superior and even the PS4 remake is even better with improved controls and visuals, but only get this to experience the game as it was on the system it was built for. It’s really something to see, and it’s one of the cheapest complete games on the system.
Shinobi – Overworks/Sega – 2002
This was a reboot of the 2D series and it worked well here. The game has fast paced combat and platforming and is hard as nails too. The game is rather short, but most people won’t see the end. It’s not really a looker, but it just plays really well and if you are a fan of the 2D classics you will enjoy this.
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Racoonus – Sucker Punch Productions/SCEA – 2002
This was another cartoony action platformer smash hit for Sony. It spawned four sequels and they just kept getting better as time went on. This game holds up very well even today, but a better HD release of the trilogy was released on PS3 so go for that unless you want it specifically on PS2. The game has clever writing, fantastic controls, great animations, and addictive gameplay. The third game is also great, but I don’t have it in my collection.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves – Sucker Punch Productions/SCEA – 2004
This game improved upon the first in so many ways. More characters, better controls, larger levels, more things to do, mini-games, and just a perfect culmination of action platforming. I actually have these two Sly games because my youngest sister gave them up as she no longer has a desire to play retro games. She loved the Sony mascot platformers as a kid and they have a special place in my collection.
SoulCalibur III – Project Soul/Namco – 2005
A PS2 exclusive, SC3 was a massive game. 24 fighters, two huge game modes with one including a strategy type game, and robust custom fighter mode which stayed in the series here after. There wasn’t any online play, which sucked, but the game was still a blast and is one of the best fighting games on the system. It’s even better with an arcade stick.
Spider-Man 2 – Treyarch/Activision – 2004
This game looks much better on Xbox, so get it on that if you can. The PS2 version still plays great though. This game was a huge part of my teen years. I bought this game when it came out and played through it more than once. It was amazing swinging through the city with such ease. Open world games outside of GTA weren’t a thing back then like this especially with this quality. The combat was repetitive, but it’s the best Spider-Man game outside of the newest Sony ones.
Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild – Rainbow Studios/THQ – 2003
This game was a huge deal back in the day. Jet ski games weren’t really a thing and when something as crazy and fun as this game came along people talked. The courses were insane, the tricks were fun, and the sense of speed was unreal. It holds up really well even today.
Tekken Tag Tournament – Namco – 2000
This was a launch title for the PS2, and yes it had two fighting games at launch, and this game featured the ability to choose two characters and tag them out. It was a massive hit and was the talk of every playground. It looked good too.
Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven – K2/Activision – 2003
Tenchu returned with much praise. This was more ninja stealth action that played well, felt good, and holds up even today. You need some patience so unless you have that don’t bother with this one. Running around and swinging your sword will just get you killed.
The Getaway – Team SOHO/SCEA – 2003
This was a huge deal when it was released. It pushed the PS2 to its limits, and the game had no HUD. When you drove you only knew where to go based on the car’s blinker and where to turn. This was cool and unheard of back in the day, but also led to many cheap deaths. The controls are clunky, but you have to admire the London style GTA clone that it was and tried to be hyper realistic.
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution – Sega AM2/Sega – 2003
This is one of the best fighters on the system. Probably the top three. Virtua Fighter 4 is just so fast, fluid, and responsive and feels like its evolved. There’s a quest mode, unlockable fighters, costumes, wallpaper and more. The game is packed with content and plays best with an arcade stick.