Best PlayStation 2 games of all time: Top 18 PS2 games ranked

Eleni Thomas
best ps2 games resident evil 4 final fantasy x gta san andreas

The best PS2 games were the ones that pushed boundaries and redefined what gaming meant in the early 2000s. Here are some PlayStation 2 games that we consider to be some of the best the system had to offer, selected based on their popularity and overall impact on game design.

Choosing the best PS2 games was always going to cause arguments. After all, it is the best-selling console of all time for a reason – it has an incredible library of top titles that every gamer should play. They were released during a time when gaming was branching out with new genres, mechanics, and art styles that pushed boundaries.

Released by Sony after a successful run with the first PlayStation console, it would get even better from there. Franchises that we still play today made their debut, such as Ratchet and Clank, and God of War. Meanwhile, existing franchises, like GTA, showed us a whole new way of viewing their digital worlds.

The good news is that some of these games can now be played on PS5 thanks to PlayStation Plus. Here are some of the best PS2 games that are still worth trying in 2024.

Additional reporting by Olly Smith.

18 – Okami (2006)

okami best ps2 games

Coming in towards the latter end of the PS2’s lifespan, Okami’s cel-shaded watercolor art style gives the game a classical flavor. While this type of rendering initially came about due to technical restraints, it has since been acknowledged as a visual masterpiece for the PlayStation 2 and one that players still enjoy to this day.

Despite the change in graphics going from realistic to stylized during development, it proved to be the right choice. Okami would come to new platforms many years after its initial release and even reached systems such as PS4 and Nintendo Switch with minimal changes, showcasing just how timeless this art style was.

17 – LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game (2005)

lego star wars best ps2 games

While LEGO games were nothing new by 2005, Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game shook things up with its blocky adaptation of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In particular, the slapstick humor and pantomime-like retelling of the movies allowed it to become a popular game with families and casual gamers. It resulted in an amusing parody that didn’t take itself seriously and was all the better for it.

Its success would inspire countless follow-ups from the same developer – with further LEGO Star Wars games coming that covered other media within the franchise. It also led to LEGO adaptations of other franchises in the same style, such as Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, and Jurassic World.

16 – Ico (2001)

ico best ps2 games

While it hasn’t stood the test of time as much as its younger sibling, Shadow of the Colossus, Ico gets a special mention for its “subtracting design” approach. Elements of gameplay such as combat, traversal, and other systems were reduced or removed entirely if they didn’t add anything to the game’s narrative.

As a result, Ico’s minimalist presentation allows greater immersion in its story. With fewer opportunities to be sidetracked or distracted by meaningless gameplay mechanics, the game’s beautiful painterly graphics and sweeping silent audio create an unforgettable experience that inspired countless game developers who came after.

15 – Tony Hawk’s Underground (2003) 

Tony Hawk's Underground intro
Tony Hawk’s Underground introduced new features that are now a staple of the series.

The release of Tony Hawk’s Underground was another game-changer for the franchise. The inclusion of new features and game modes created the most fully realized Tony Hawk game of the era. Notably, it was the first Tony Hawk title to allow players to hop off their board and walk around. This made movement less frustrating and fiddly, helping exploration as you clambered up to rooftops.

While the previous game had a campaign-style system where you would unlock new areas and complete objectives, Tony Hawk’s Underground took it to the next step by allowing players to take a custom skateboarder through a lengthy story mode.

14 – Kingdom Hearts (2002) 

Final Fantasy PS2
From Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and even Mickey Mouse himself, the original Kingdom Hearts features many classic Disney characters.

Kingdom Hearts is a classic JRPG that still feels like it shouldn’t exist. It brings Square (now known as Square Enix) and Disney together in a partnership that’s spawned sequels and spin-offs galore. Not only are iconic characters like Cloud and Mickey rubbing shoulders, but players can also explore worlds based on The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Little Mermaid, and Hercules.

The original Kingdom Hearts is the 10th best-selling game for the PlayStation 2. The franchise has since gone on to become beloved by gamers throughout the world. While characters and universes crossing over are common in media nowadays, Kingdom Hearts on the PS2 was one of the first to pull it off successfully.  It really is the perfect experience for gamers who are also Disney lovers, and it all started on Sony’s second console.

13 – Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal (2004) 

Ratchet and Clank PS2 games
Ratchet and Clank is one such example of the classic PS1 and PS2 games Insomniac developed.

Up Your Arsenal is the third installment in the Ratchet and Clank series and is still remembered fondly by PlayStation 2 fans thanks to its refinement of pretty much everything that Insomniac Games does so well; the new villain Dr. Nefarious was fun, the weapons were traditionally over the top, and Ratchet and Clank’s own personalities evolved.

It was also the first Ratchet and Clank game to include online multiplayer, allowing players to play online games with up to seven other people. With the franchise back and better than ever with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, released last year, now is as good a time as any to go back and revisit this classic. The PlayStation 2 disc even contained a demo for another classic PlayStation title, Sly 2: Band of Thieves, developed by Infamous and Ghost of Tsushima devs Sucker Punch.

12 – Silent Hill 2 (2001) 

Silent Hill 2 image PS2
Most PS2 owners will have a copy of Silent Hill 2 in their collection.

This PlayStation 2 title is a sequel to the original PS1 title. Silent Hill 2 is a survival horror game where players take control of James Sutherland. After receiving a letter from his wife, James arrives in the town of Silent Hill to reunite with her.

When he arrives though, the town is not at all how he remembers it; A strange fog now covers the town and there are no signs of people at all. While journeying through the town, you’ll come across many horrifying creatures and while there are jump scares, much of the game’s tension comes down to its thick atmosphere and psychological thriller plotline.

11 – GTA Vice City (2002)

Best PS2 Games Vice City
Vice City is open-world royalty.

GTA Vice City’s story, visuals and features all came together to form one of the best Playstation 2 games of all time. Despite being released after GTA 3, Vice City is set back in the 80s, and takes everything developer Rockstar Games achieved with its Liberty City outing up another notch.

Vice City was an even better and more enjoyable game, one that fully leaned into the dramatic and ridiculous nature of the cities criminal underbelly it focuses on. The journey of protagonist Tommy Vercetti as he climbs up the ranks to become the city’s main criminal power is an epic quest, and the addition of helicopters, motorbikes, and Phil Collins on the soundtrack make it one of Rockstar’s finest.

10 – Devil May Cry (2001) 

DMC image PS2
Devil May Cry is a classic PlayStation 2 game and has become a major series for Capcom.

Another Capcom title to feature on this list, Devil May Cry is an action-adventure game all about hunting demons and looking good while doing it. Players take control of Dante, a quippy and brooding character who has featured as the protagonist for most of the Devil May Cry games, and his powerful debut here sees him firing guns, flipping through environments, and carving through enemies with a sword within minutes.

The series has become one of the most popular hack-and-slash franchises of all time, spawning several sequels. However, it is still the original game that reigns supreme thanks to its gothic setting, off-the-wall characters, and incredible opening cutscene that made it one of the best PS2 games of all time.

9 – SSX Tricky (2001)

Best PS2 Games Tricky
SSX Tricky is a classic PlayStation 2 title and an iconic snowboarding title

EA Canada knocked it out of the park with this sequel to PS2 launch title SSX and to this day, fans are still calling for them to remaster it for modern consoles. 

SSX Tricky gave players the chance to choose between 12 competitors in a variety of modes, with races and trick-focused events letting players tear down huge mountains with friends.

Mixing arcadey controls with the kind of tricks that would see characters breakdancing on their boards hundreds of feet in the air, there’s still nothing quite like it.

8 – Burnout 3 (2004)

Best PS2 games burnout 3
Burnout 3 was a messy, fast paced and explosive racer and PS2 users loved it as a result

Another EA title, it seemed the publisher could no wrong when it came to the PS2 generation. In fact, the console was spoiled for choice with racing games, with Gran Turismo and stablemate Need For Speed, but none compare to the carnage of Burnout 3.

Burnout 3 introduces fans to the new game mode Road Rage, tasking them with causing as much damage as possible before totaling their own car. That’s on top of the excellent racing that rewards high-risk maneuvers with the kind of boosting that would make the cast of The Fast and Furious blush.

7 – TimeSplitters 2 (2002)

Best PS2 games Timesplitters 2
TimeSplitters 2 was the best FPS on PS2.

TimeSplitters 2 is an early 2000s title that was developed by Free Radical Design, a studio made up of many of the devs who worked on the classic GoldenEye 007.  

It’s a first-person shooter with a premise that is as campy as it is epic, with players trekking through time to prevent the end of the world. It’s not the most engaging plotline, but it’s a fun excuse to throw a load of weapons from different time periods into the same game.

Thankfully, multiplayer in TimeSplitters was arguably the finest you could find on PS2. With a multi-tap to connect additional controllers, it wasn’t uncommon for sessions to last long into the night, with dozens of playable characters and map, mode, and weapon permutations. TimeSplitters 2 is easily one of the best PS2 games ever made.

6 – God of War 2 (2007) 

God of War 2 PS2 classic
The original God of War trilogy was a PlayStation 2 juggernaut and still holds up to this day.

Video game sequels can be hit or miss. Sometimes they improve upon the foundations of the first game and sometimes they completely miss the mark. Thankfully, God of War 2 was very much a step in the right direction for the series, despite launching after the PS3 had already been released. Not only was it able to live up to the success of the first game but built on it further, creating an even bigger and more chaotic experience for players.

God of War 2 picks up right after the events of the first game, with the newly crowned God of War Kratos quickly setting his sights on taking down the father of the gods, Zeus. Thus begins one of the best PS2 games of all time, with Kratos blazing a bloody trail through monsters and gods alike.

5 – Shadow of the Colossus (2005) 

Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus was an early example of games being looked at as an art form.

Shadow of the Colossus may have received a full remake, but the PS2 original still stands tall (pun absolutely intended). Players take control of a young man named Wander, who must resurrect his lover by slaying huge Colossi that roam the world. These can be tackled in any order, and each plays out like its own set piece before spiralling toward an unforgettable conclusion that we won’t spoil.

But what made Shadow of the Colossus particularly special was its visually appealing art, building on what the studio had created previously with Ico, and the way it fused its interactivity with those visuals. Similarly to Ico, any gameplay mechanic or feature that didn’t add anything to the narrative was cut, resulting a game that feels tight, focused, yet still open for player enjoyment and intrigue.

4 – Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001) 

Metal Gear Solid 2 PS2
The Metal Gear series is still producing new games but the PS2 titles still reign supreme.

2001 was an excellent year for video games and an even better year for the PlayStation 2. One such title released during this time was Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, a thought-provoking and often bewildering sequel that plays out in two chunks.

The first, and shorter section, sees Solid Snake infiltrating a tanker with incredible weather effects and groundbreaking enemy AI for the time. Next, players were stunned to find they’d be swapping Snake’s stealth suit for that of golden-haired Raiden for the remainder of the game.

It’s an incredible experience that constantly shifts the player’s expectations, and breaks the fourth wall just as much as its excellent predecessor.

3 – Final Fantasy X

Best PS2 Games Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy X is one of the most beloved Final Fantasy games of all time

It wouldn’t be a Playstation 2 list without at least one Final Fantasy game featuring, and while there are many to choose from, Final Fantasy X stands out from the pack as the best to release on the console. The game is set in the world of Spira and follows the stories of Tidus and Yuna in what can only be described as an emotional rollercoaster.

The game also broke new grounds for the series as the first to transition away from pre-rendered backdrops and into 3D areas, while also implementing voice acting.

The series’ PS2 debut drew plenty of praise for its turn-based combat, surprising story twist, and impressive upgrade system called the Sphere Grid, while also spawning a direct sequel (a rarity for the Final Fantasy franchise) focused on Yuna.

2 – Resident Evil 4 (2005) 

Resident Evil 4 PS2
Resident Evil 4 is still regarded as one of the best Resident Evil games to date.

The Resident Evil franchise has nine mainline title games to its name, but to this day, many consider Resident Evil 4 to be the best among them. Developed and published by Capcom, Resident Evil 4 follows Leon as he fights through hordes of Garnados in an effort to find and save the daughter of the U.S President.

With a full remake coming in 2023, it’s clear Capcom understands the power of the game, and many still credit it with being the perfect balance between survival horror and action. That makes it an easy pick for one of the best PS2 games – but it narrowly misses out on top spot.

1 – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004) 

15 classic Playstation 2 games that never get old
GTA San Andreas was released back in 2004 and is a classic PS2 title.

When GTA made the jump to 3D with GTA III, the potential for the series to grow further was undeniable. Enter GTA: San Andreas, a game that took all the successful elements of its predecessor and built upon them to near perfection in a way Vice City could only have dreamt of.

The size and scope of the world were unlike any other game at the time, and San Andreas included not just the urban areas, but countryside and farmland too. At its core, the game tells a compelling narrative that focuses on the life of Carl Johnson, with a story of corruption and betrayal that also deals with the theme of second chances and redemption. While remastered versions do exist, they’ve been a big disappointment. As a result, the PlayStation 2 copy of GTA: San Andreas is still the best way to go, and it still feels incredible that such a huge game was playable almost twenty years ago.