When you talk about the best console ever made, it isn’t very easy to look past Sony’s sequel. The original Playstation was a great console and laid a good foundation for the Playstation brand. Still, Sony hit its stride with its successor and established itself as the dominant market leader after years of rule by Nintendo and SEGA.
It offered a sizable jump in technological power, network features, and a fast interface that got you into your games swiftly. It wasn’t a bad looking system either, a distinctly more adult look to it than Nintendo’s N64 and then Gamecube, and not quite as bulky as the Xbox.
Whether Microsoft would have fared better with the original Xbox had it released earlier is another question, but there is no doubt that the PS2 was a juggernaut. With about 155 million units sold worldwide, almost threefold the combined sales of the other three consoles in the same generation, the PS2 was, without a doubt, the console that brought video games to the masses.
But what good was the best console ever without its best games? Let’s find out, shall we? The best games are in no particular order, but we’re sure that you’ll find your favorite here. However, there are several honorable mentions, games that you should still seek out, but have perhaps less significant than the top games.
- Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
- Ratchet & Clank
- Sly Cooper
- Beyond Good & Evil
- Final Fantasy XII
- Viewtiful Joe
Final Fantasy X
If Final Fantasy VII is what brought the series to the West, Final Fantasy X cemented its western legacy. The game, released in 2001, is almost universally loved today, with brilliantly crafted characters and a memorable story, and includes Final Fantasy’s 2nd most beloved main character after Cloud. There’s an argument that XII may have been the better Final Fantasy, but X was a better overall experience. After all, who wouldn’t want to play Blitzball?
Shadow of the Colossus
The premise of the game is simple. Your girlfriend won’t wake up for her sleep, and the only way to change that is to go across the land and kill a colossus, a giant boss-like creature that has the power to bring her back from the brink. Now, repeat this step 15 times. Except they’re bigger.
But what this doesn’t tell you is that there is an almost instant emotional attachment to these beings, owing to the game’s excellent visual storytelling and beautiful art style. The game was faithfully remade in 2018, and frankly, if you haven’t given the game a look yet, you owe it to yourself to do so.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is arguably the best Metal Gear Solid game ever made. Its fantastic setting and brilliantly implemented stealth mechanics meant that there was more than one way to play the game, with some of the most memorable boss battles in all of gaming. Subsistence took what few niggles that the original game had and improved upon them, and added Metal Gear Online, a very cool competitive mode that took the best parts of the main game and lets you take down buddies in jungle warfare. The ultimate version of the best Metal Gear Solid on PS2.
God of War II
If the first God of War showed the world that Sony could make serious games with serious quality, God of War II indicated that they could take a fantastic game and make it even better. Minor niggles with the original were gone, and a spectacular, deep, and rewarding action experience with some incredible boss battles remained. It also established Sony’s Santa Monica studio as one of the most significant forces in video-gaming. Just playing the latest God of War will prove it.
The Simpsons: Hit & Run
Hit and Run is the best Simpsons game ever made, and it’s not even close. It’s also an excellent Grand Theft Auto clone for the family audience, with an impressive recreation of what Springfield might look like if we ever saw it in full. Fantastic writing, great use of characters from the Simpsons universe and enjoyable but straightforward driving mechanics made this a game that’s worth playing today, and one that deserves the remaster treatment (as unlikely as that is). It’s not a technical masterclass, but it holds sentimental value with good reason.
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
Gran Turismo, as a console racing simulation, is, as close as you can get to looking like the real thing. Polyphony Digital spend an almost endless amount of time tweaking and perfecting the look and feel of their games. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was as good as you could get transitioning from a PS1 to a PS2 franchise. The fact that the car models still hold up well today is a testament to that. But the game itself was also great fun and packed with content. Gran Turismo 4 is also excellent but marred slightly by the Prologue release, and for our money, Gran Turismo 3 is the pinnacle of the series.
Devil May Cry
When it comes to video games and its characters, it’s difficult to look past Devil May Cry and its protagonist Dante as the best match ever. A game that oozes style and humor, but has an outrageous amount of depth to its combat, Devil May Cry pretty much created the “spectacle fighter,” and the genre has become ever more popular as imitators continue to try to best it. Devil May Cry 3 was excellent too, but for our money, the original is there the best action is.
Burnout 3: Takedown
Burnout 3: Takedown is a classic example of what happens to a game when it has been freed from the shackles of a low budget. Acclaim Entertainment published the original game and Burnout 2, but developer Criterion Games eventually teamed with EA, given creative freedom and went onto to craft one of the best arcade racing games of all time, managing to squeeze 60 frames per second out of the PS2 to create a game with an incredible sense of speed and danger, while also offering one of the most satisfying experiences in the game with its signature takedowns. Forget Burnout Paradise; this is the peak of the Burnout Series.
The Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series has always been one of the more niché Japanese creations. Role-playing games that use “personas,” physical manifestations of the minds of its characters, it’s a series that’s difficult to explain as a concept in writing. However, as a game, some of the best storytelling in video gaming, excellent turn-based combat, and some wonderfully written characters make them all well worth playing, and Persona 4 is both the best and most accessible on the PS2.
For those who started their gaming journey in the current crop of consoles, it isn’t very easy to understate just how popular Guitar Hero was at its peak. Rhythm action games were uncommon, and usually, you had to settle for the likes of the PS1’s PaRappa the Rapper, Donkey Konga and it’s funky conga drums (if you were a fan of Nintendo’s music), or had space/a nearby arcade with Dance Dance Revolution.
It wasn’t until Guitar Hero came along that gaming was able to make you feel like an actual rockstar. Sporting fully licensed tracks and a huge plastic guitar, Guitar Hero allowed you to play a simple to learn, hard to master rhythm action title while also thrashing to some of the best rock music ever. From the likes of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix, and more. Oversaturation eventually killed its popularity, but for a good five years, Guitar Hero was a cultural phenomenon.
Resident Evil 4
Though initially released on the Gamecube as an exclusive, Resident Evil 4 made its way to PS2 in late 2005, and especially at the time of release, the game was considered a modern masterpiece. A new action-orientated approach leads to a new type of horror experience for the series. It was high quality, built on several exciting new mechanics (such as quick time events that were reasonably pleasant to play with), and, most of all, terrifying. The multiple re-releases of the game have started to demonstrate the game showing its age more, but it’s still easily one of the best on PS2.
An RPG from veterans Square involving many of Disney’s classic characters. If the alure of Final Fantasy didn’t give you the classic JRPG experience, then Kingdom Hearts sure did. The game that made many of our childhood gaming experiences magical, Kingdom Hearts, does more than enough to combine the RPG with Disney magic to create an amazing experience. Remade for modern consoles, it’s a game that you shouldn’t pass on.
Need for Speed Underground
Perhaps not the best game on this list for the actual racing, but easily one of the most influential of the console generation as it embraced the street racing genre with its extensive range of modifications and decals that made the game such a personal experience. You can make your dream ride, with deep customization options being very uncommon at the time, and it made films like the incredibly popular Fast and Furious series something you can make for yourself, all in a giant open world. Plus, listen to the soundtrack. It’s excellent, and part of what makes the experience.
Silent Hill 2
If Resident Evil 4 is the horror game of choice for someone who prefers the chills and thrills of the chase, Silent Hill 2 is for lovers of ambiance and atmosphere that leads to your frights. Closer to the survival horror side, Silent Hill 2’s narrative is a more focused affair that drags the player in and combines with its environmental effects and monster design to create a more rounded horror experience than Resident Evil 4. It’s no surprise that the game is still held in such high regard today.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
This had to be here. The story of Carl “CJ” Johnson as he looks to rebuild his life in one of the most bustling open worlds ever seen at the time. Not only was it a fantastic technical achievement, but there was an almost endless amount of content for you to explore easter eggs to find left there by (probably) sniggering developers, and even conspiracy theories within the game that raged on seemingly forever (such as whether Big Foot was in the game). It was as close to the ultimate playground as you could get, and even today is loved almost universally.
In truth, we could have placed III or Vice City here, and it would have been an equally appropriate choice, but for the ambition and level of execution of a game of its size, San Andreas is the best of the lot.