The Top 25 PlayStation 2 Games of All Time

The Top 25 PlayStation 2 Games of All Time

Celebrating 20 years with 25 of the PS2's best games.

When the PlayStation 2 launched 20 years ago today in North America, it was hard to imagine Sony topping the success of the original PlayStation, a system that managed to sell some 100 million units over the course of its life. With Nintendo launching a disc-based system and Microsoft planning a console of its own, competition figured to be far stiffer in Sony's second generation on the market (alas, poor Dreamcast).

But despite those additional hurdles, Sony managed to be even more successful the second time around. It was home to a host of transformative games, from Grand Theft Auto to Guitar Hero 2, ushered in gaming's modern era, and it was ultimately the best selling console of all time. If you're putting together a list of the greatest consoles of all time, it's really hard to top the PlayStation 2.

Naturally, it was hard to pick just 25 games from the PS2's roster of classics. We admittedly went a little RPG heavy with this list, which meant God of War 2 (iffy story) and Resident Evil 4 (more of a GameCube game) ultimately didn't make the cut. We did tip our cap to the PS2's sports legacy with ESPN NFL 2K5, one of the best football games ever made, and we obviously had to include Burnout 3: Takedown, which is still the pinnacle of arcade racing. The top of our list includes some of the finest games ever made—undisputed classics that cement PlayStation 2 as a gaming powerhouse for the ages. On that note, here's our list of the 25 greatest PS2 games ever; the games that helped define gaming.


Kingdom Hearts was the beginning of a new era for Square Enix | Square Enix

25. Kingdom Hearts

Release Date: September 17, 2002

Kingdom Hearts, just on concept alone, sounds like a marketing man's fever dream. I can picture someone furiously scribbling different mash-up ideas until they hit paydirt with, "What if Square and Disney?" From the outset, that seemed like what it was mostly going to be: a serviceable fantasy story, facilitating the meeting of characters like Squall-err, Leon, and Mickey Mouse.

Ultimately, Kingdom Hearts was much, much more. From its opening moments, romping around the Destiny Islands and diving into the heart, to heartbreaking confrontations at Hollow Bastion, Kingdom Hearts grew a life of its own. It had tears, laughs, gigantic bosses, and clever takes on an action-laden version of Final Fantasy combat. Oh, and don't forget an absolute banger of a theme. Kingdom Hearts quickly eschewed any notion that it would simply be a vessel for other properties.

Instead, Kingdom Hearts was the first of what would be many, many games to follow. While the story only branched and got weirder from there, I hold a certain sentimentality for the first-it may not have dual Keyblades or a bizarre opening sequence, but it feels contained, focused, and directed forward from that first day on Destiny Islands to the final battle against Ansem. - Eric Van Allen

Fighting games didn't get much better than Soucalibur 2 in the PS2 era | Bandai Namco

24. Soulcalibur 2

Release Date: August 27, 2003

The PlayStation 2 saw two 3D fighting games kick it up a notch. While Tekken launched its Tag Tournament, Soulcalibur saw the refinement of its systems and arguably its most popular entry ever on this generation of consoles. The preceding Soul Edge and Soulcalibur laid the foundation, but SC2 was the polished, refined version of it all.

Improved defensive techniques really helped this game, but to be honest, a lot of it was just the fantastic lineup. Fighters like Kilik, Talim, Seung Mina, and the rest make up a varied roster, with noticeably different styles and approaches. Guest characters were a highlight too, though PS2 might have been on the losing end of that; as much as I love a good Mishima rep, you can't really beat Link.

Soulcalibur 2 was the gateway to more fighting games for a lot of young players in the PS2 generation. It stood as a gold standard for the series for a long time, and arguably still does. It's approachable, easy to understand, and yet incredibly deep and rewarding to master. Soulcalibur 2 is assuredly a fighting game highlight of this generation. - Eric Van Allen

ESPN NFL 2K5 is a legend among sports fans. | 2K Games

23. ESPN NFL 2K5

Release Date: July 20, 2004

In 2004, EA and 2K were locked in a brutal battle for the hearts of sports gamers, a competition that gave rise to some of the best sims ever. Lagging on the sales charts, 2K decided to price ESPN NFL 2K5 at $19.99, undercutting Madden to the point that EA went to the nuclear option and secured sole access to the NFL license. Sports games have never been the same since, which is perhaps one reason that NFL 2K5 is so consistently lionized by football fans.

Of course, it helps that NFL 2K5 was really good. Its presentation was second to none, with a pre-game show that directly recreated NFL PrimeTime, and a pretty good sim engine to boot. It also had the "crib," a room that you could decorate with unlockable collectibles. In hindsight, it's easy to see the roots of what became modern day NBA 2K, making it easy to wonder what might have been. Either way, NFL 2K5 lives on in the hearts of football fans, with fans continuing to generate updated rosters to this day. - Kat Bailey

Final Fantasy 10 headlined the PS2's killer holiday lineup in 2001. | Square Enix

22. Final Fantasy 10

Release Date: October 17, 2001

My earliest memories of reading gaming magazines were from around the time Final Fantasy 10 was being previewed. Big magazine spreads of Yuna dancing on water and Kimahri roaring made it seem like nothing else I'd played before, and I was determined to play it. For one birthday, we rented a PS2 and Final Fantasy 10 for a weekend, only we didn't get a memory card. I think I played through FFX's opening hours upwards of 11 or 12 times.

There are a lot of reasons I personally love Final Fantasy 10. It's a story that's secretly about Yuna and not Tidus, even though the latter is more derided than he should be. It's about questioning faith and systems that don't have your best interests at heart, and being willing to fight for the answers you seek.

The turn-based approach bothered ATB fans, but I found it to be immensely rewarding in its own right. And the world of Spira is absolutely beautiful; from the snowy peaks of Mt. Gagazet to the cliffs of Mushroom Rock and fluorescent trees in Macalania Woods, Final Fantasy 10 truly felt like a pilgrimage through a gorgeous, dangerous world. It's 22nd on this list, but number one in this writer's heart. - Eric Van Allen

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was hailed as a true masterpiece in 2003. | Ubisoft

21. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time

Release Date: November 10, 2003

It's intriguing to look at what Assassin's Creed has become for Ubisoft, realizing that it all started right here in another franchise. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time brought series creator Jordan Mechner back as a designer and scenario writer, with Patrice Désilets as director. Instead of the halting, jerky rotoscoped movement of the originals, Sands of Time saw the Prince dodging and wall-running over traps with ease and grace.

It was a revelation, focusing on overcoming rooms filled with spikes and saw blades with your parkour skills, and if you failed, the magic of the Dagger of Time meant you could just reverse course and try again. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was one of those games where narrative and mechanics came together to make an absolutely magical experience, one that holds up so well that Ubisoft is releasing a remake of it in 2021. - Mike Williams

Devil May Cry 3 is the defining game in the series. | Capcom

20. Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition

Release Date: January 24, 2006

Series led by the likes of Sly Cooper and Kratos became defining parts of the PlayStation 2, but I think another name belongs on there: Dante. Devil May Cry debuted on the PlayStation 2, and saw two more entries that solidified it as a series, even against Devil May Cry 2's best attempts to the contrary.

Devil May Cry 3 was great, not just for being an even better, more improved version of DMC, but for recovering from the second game's faults. The third game also refined the Devil Trigger system and introduced the style switching that would be crucial to the series' future entries.

When looking at the Devil May Cry series, it's easy to pinpoint Devil May Cry 3 as the most critical point in it. Without this entry, the series might have been in jeopardy. Add in all its innovations, and playable Vergil in the Special Edition, and it's a critical character action game for both Capcom and Sony. - Eric Van Allen

Dismissed in its own time, Final Fantasy 12 finally earned the love it deserved with the Zodiac Age re-release. | Square Enix

19. Final Fantasy 12

Release Date: October 31, 2006

Final Fantasy 12 had a bit of a rough start amongst Final Fantasy fans. Final Fantasy 11's online format alienated some of the series' long-time loyalists, so 12's MMO-inspired battle system was regarded warily.

Thankfully, sensible heads prevailed and Final Fantasy 12 garnered a lot of warmth over the long-term. While the battle system still isn't a winner with everyone, it gave us an intriguing story and some of the most memorable characters in the series-especially Balthier and Fran. (The oldest married couple in the RPG genre, if you ask me.) In moments when Final Fantasy 12's cast does falter—cough, Vaan—the setting keeps them afloat. The land of Ivalice is the richest, most complete locale featured in a Final Fantasy game that's not online. It has a history, a story, and a continuity. Best of all, you don't have to drag out your PlayStation 2 to enjoy Final Fantasy 12. The Zodiac Age revamp for modern consoles skims away most of Final Fantasy 12's impurities and leaves behind epic RPG goodness. - Nadia Oxford

Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal was a big part of the mascot revival of the early 2000s. | Sony Interactive Entertainment

18. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal

Release Date: November 3, 2004

Several mascot-style characters duked it out to see who could be Sony's best answer to Mario and Kirby on the PlayStation. While it's questionable if a victor ever emerged, the furry lombax Ratchet and his trusty robot companion Clank are probably the closest thing to it.

Slightly lighter on the platforming and extremely heavier on the guns, Ratchet and Clank fast became one of Sony's long-running franchises. The PS2 era is where it started, and for all the games on PlayStation 2, Up Your Arsenal was the standout. Apart from continuing the series' particular penchant for double-entendre subheadings, Up Your Arsenal was the culmination of the series up to that point.

Simply put, it was gorgeous, fluid, full of weapons, and managed to do everything darn near to perfection. The best possible criticism to levy at Up Your Arsenal is that it's more of the same from its predecessor, but in Ratchet and Clank's case, this wasn't a bad thing. The PS2 needed a coverboy, and they found it in this unlikely pair of gun-toting heroes. Look no further than Rift Apart's prominence in the PlayStation 5's marketing to see the kind of impact they had. - Eric Van Allen

Dragon Quest 8 was one of the biggest, most beautiful JRPGs on a console full of them. | Square Enix

17. Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King

Release Date: November 15, 2005

Most Dragon Quest games are an A+ JRPG experience, but there are a few celebrated standouts. Dragon Quest 8 is one of those pillars, and it thoroughly deserves its praise and recognition. Dragon Quest 8's colorful cast, wonderful graphics, and wide-open world marked a grand return for Dragon Quest after a weak showing with Dragon Quest 7.

Dragon Quest 8's sprawling map might be a little confined compared to the likes of The Witcher 3 or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but I'll never forget how it amazed me when I first set foot outside of the starting town. If I saw a mountain in the distance and wanted to travel to it, I could. And I often did so, instead of sticking strictly to the game's story content. More often than not, brutal random encounters with enemies sent me scuttling back to safety (at least I could appreciate getting my ass kicked by Akira Toriyama's imaginative beasts), but the freedom to wander is still part of what makes Dragon Quest 8 one of the best RPGs on the PlayStation 2. - Nadia Oxford

The original God of War was a graphically stunning masterpiece when it first launched in 2005. | Sony Interactive Entertainment

16. God of War

Release Date: March 22, 2005

The end of the generation saw some phenomenal action games released on the PlayStation 2, the most significant of them being God of War. Featuring a hero in Kratos who felt like a throwback to the grim dark 90s, and a healthy dash of dark humor, God of War instantly became one of Sony's most popular franchises. It was aided by some truly excellent graphics, which helped to inaugurate the era of cinematic action-adventure games that would dominate the following generation.

The reason we picked God of War and not its sequel is that, frankly, God of War 2's story is kind of terrible. God of War ended perfectly, but the need to make it a franchise stretched it beyond belief. It wasn't until 2018's God of War revival that it received a truly worthy sequel. As for the original game, its sensibilities are a bit dated these days, but the opening scene in which Kratos hurls himself off a cliff in despair remains striking. It's truly among the PS2's best action-adventure games. - Kat Bailey

Rez opened a whole new world of rhythm games. | Sega

15. Rez

Release Date: January 8, 2002

Rez was released simultaneously for the Dreamcast and PS2 when it launched in Japan, but when it came to America a short while later, it was PS2-only. A rail shooter with deceptively simple graphics that Sega didn't even bring to its own fading console stateside, Rez (and its optional Trance Vibrator peripheral) could've become the punchline to the tragicomic joke that was the Dreamcast.

Instead, critics quickly recognized the genius in its pulsating beats and exquisitely realized cyberspace scenes. Even after the VR release of Rez Infinite, I watched as multiple museum visitors became enveloped by its rhythmic action on a PS2 at an exhibit a few years ago. We also have Rez to thank for a handful of trance-inducing indies and the later works of its creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi as well-we likely wouldn't have greats like Thumper or Tetris Effect if it hadn't found a passionate audience on Sony's platform. - Mathew Olson

Nocturne is well-loved by fans of the series, and may soon get more attention thanks to an impending HD remaster. | Atlus

14. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

Release Date: December 17, 2004

Despite Shin Megami Tensei's prevalence overseas, the series has always seemed to play second fiddle to its popular spin-off, Persona. Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne was the quiet RPG champion of the PS2, the one that spread more by word of mouth than anything else, but it still stands strong today.

First and foremost, Nocturne is a Shin Megami Tensei game. That means a few things: demons and a darker setting, for one. It's also unapologetically difficult, with several encounters serving as massive gatekeepers to progress. For some, this was a breaking point they never returned to.

Those who stuck with it and enjoyed the challenge got out what they put in, though. It garnered a quiet but fervent following, and it's not hard to see why it's getting a remaster for the modern age. Nocturne is not for everyone, but for the folks it does appeal to, it's difficult to forget. - Eric Van Allen

SSX 3 was snowboarding perfection. | Electronic Arts

13. SSX 3

Release Date: October 20, 2003

The average person would probably put SSX Tricky on this list. It's a fantastic game and it's more memorable thanks to the explosion of color and the inclusion of Run-D.M.C.'s "It's Tricky" as a constant refrain. But the truth is SSX 3 is the better game. It's more subdued, but also more robust in its offerings

While the first two games had distinct courses, SSX 3 offers an entire mountain for the player to conquer. Choosing any one course drops you at a certain section of the mountain, but you could also do a full run: from peak to base in 30 minutes with no loading screens. It was a fantastic bit of tech, combined with those wild SSX tricks and a great soundtrack. While everyone else was vibing with Tony Hawk, SSX was my poison, and SSX 3 remains one of the best arcade soundboarding experiences to this day. (One you can play on Xbox One and Xbox Series X thanks to backward compatibility.) - Mike Williams

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was arguablythe best game in the series until the remakes came along | Activision

12. Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3

Release Date: October 28, 2001

With the glowing reception this year's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 remake received it might be fair to say that the third Pro Skater installment isn't being given enough credit. At the time of its release, though, it was certainly celebrated for what it is: a refinement of the already-great skating mechanics that ultimately helped it surpass the first two games in the series.

Case in point: most people are probably playing 2020's remake with the revert, first introduced in Pro Skater 3, enabled by default. Hawk himself couldn't even stomach a remake without it; combined with manuals, the addition of the revert completes Pro Skater's combo system, letting skilled players string together nearly endless series of tricks. The addition of online multiplayer on the PS2 also extended competition in Pro Skater beyond pass-the-controller couch sessions. The first two games might have better soundtracks or more memorable maps, but it's hard to argue against the notion that Pro Skater 3 set a high bar for skateboarding games that's scarcely been grazed since.- Mathew Olson

Plenty of people still feel Persona 3 is the best in the series. | Atlus

11. Persona 3 FES

Release Date: August 14, 2007 (P3) / April 22, 2008 (P3 FES)

The Xbox 360 / PS3/ Wii generation was well underway when Atlus released Persona 3, a peculiar RPG in which Japanese high schoolers summoned demons by shooting themselves in the head. The sheer weirdness of the concept helped it gain word-of-mouth, and JRPG fans desperate for something new in the midst of that era's Japanese gaming drought latched onto it. What they found was a massive, uniquely structured RPG built on developing relationships-Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Japanese dating sim.

Nowadays, Persona is one of the most popular JRPGs around, but the debate over whether Persona 3 is superior to Persona 4 and Persona 5 rages on. Persona 3 supporters love the darker story; Persona 4 boosters note that it has a repetitive story and no true "definitive edition." Both arguments have merit, but it's hard to deny the impact Persona 3 has had over the years, eclipsing even the popularity of its parent series in the eyes of mainstream gamers. Either way, the original Persona 3 FES is still really good, especially if you have an old CRT television on hand. If you haven't played it yet, dig up an old PS2 or PS3 (or Vita) and give it a shot. It's worth it. - Kat Bailey

Silent Hill 2 remains one of the scariest games ever made | Konami

10. Silent Hill 2

Release Date: September 24, 2001

When the average person talks Silent Hill, this is probably the game they're referring to. The entire series is the zag to Resident Evil's zig; whereas Capcom's franchise leaned on a well-armed form of survival, Silent Hill took that power away from the player, leaving them to wander the foggy streets and jump at any errant moan.

What changed between Silent Hill and its sequel was a more introspective nature. While the first game had Harry Mason end up trapped in Silent Hill searching for his daughter, traveling to a hellish reflection of the town, the second has an Otherworld powered by the fears and failures of its main character, James Sunderland. Silent Hill 2 was about James in a way the first game wasn't about Harry, and it made for a more impactful game. Combined with a strong focus on psychological horror and symbolism, a haunting soundtrack by Akira Yamaoka, and excellent monster designs, Silent Hill 2 was the benchmark that every game in the series has chased ever since, with most falling far short. - Mike Williams

Burnout 3: Takedown remains the best arcade racer ever made. | Criterion

9. Burnout 3: Takedown

Release Date: September 8, 2004

On a revisit, the first Burnout is just okay. It was good for its time, but the crash spectacle carried it forward. Burnout 3: Takedown stands as a monument to a different era though, the best of the classic Burnout games. The best crashes, the fastest racing, and a strong focus on crashing above all else.

Burnout 3: Takedown is literally one of the fastest, most aggressive racing games ever created. There's nothing like the white knuckle feel of trying to complete a top time on a Burning Lap, or checking an opponent into a wall during a race. As the name suggests, takedowns were a firm part of this game, required to get the best times and first place in many single-player races. Burnout Revenge is still great, but Takedown was the peak, the moment that Criterion and other studios have been chasing for years, with no sign of catching it in sight. - Mike Williams

Guitar Hero 2 cemented the first part of the plastic instrument craze that would dominate the first part of the Xbox 360 / PS3 generation | Activision

8. Guitar Hero 2

Release Date: November 7, 2006

On a recent episode of Axe of the Blood God, I talk briefly about the "lost age" of 2000–2010 electronics: The time before fast and reliable downloads, the time before smartphones, the time before tablets and streaming services. Nearly all the tech from that era is obsolete, and nothing screams "the aughts!" like piles of plastic guitars decaying slowly in our closets and in Goodwill bins.

For a brief, shining moment in time, Guitar Hero was everything., and Guitar Hero 2 marked the series' zenith before a very long, very gradual fall. It improves over the original Guitar Hero, and it was the last stop before the series' unappealing visual revamp. (Oh, Judy Nails. What did they do to you?)

Before long, Activision would cut open its golden goose and the world would tire of plastic instruments. But even though Guitar Hero 2 hails from the era of lost technology, I'll always remember it for getting me online to download my first bit of console DLC: The My Chemical Romance "Black Parade" song pack. (So many...bright lights that cast a shadow...but can I speak?). - Nadia Oxford

Okami looked so good on PS2 that even subsequent HD updates couldn't make it look that much better | Capcom

7. Okami

Release Date: September 19, 2006

When Okami came out, there were a lot of jokes about how the adventure resembled The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess by more than a little. Yes, Okami doffs its doggy cap to Twilight Princess (specifically how Link fights when he's transformed into a wolf), but Okami paints its world with a unique palette. Literally. Okami is a tale of old Japanese shinto gods attempting to save the world from a great evil, but claws and fangs aren't enough to get the job done. You must occasionally help out from behind the fourth wall by using a magic paintbrush to solve puzzles, stun enemies, and clear away environmental obstacles.

Like way too many of Clover Studios' PlayStation 2 games, Okami didn't get the recognition it deserved when it first came out. That's since changed, and it's recognized for the masterpiece it is. Okami's game mechanics are familiar fare for Zelda fans, but its dreamlike ink-and-brush graphics has helped the game literally make its mark on the PlayStation 2. - Nadia Oxford

Persona 4 came into its own on Vita, but it was nevertheless excellent on PS2 | Atlus

6. Persona 4

Release Date: December 9, 2008

Well, what is there to say about the ninth best RPG of all time? Persona 4's depth and character made a hell of an impression on RPG fans, many of whom climbed on board with the release of Persona 3.

Our Axe of the Blood God RPG podcast has gone over Persona 4's appeal in great depth. Listen to the pod for the whole schpiel, but stick around for a quick and dirty summary of why Persona 4 is on this list—and so many others. It has a killer soundtrack, and a battle system that requires you to think carefully about how to take on tough baddies. It also has a compelling cast of characters that tries to solve an ever-deepening murder mystery while they struggle with their own (literal) demons.

Not everything in the story has aged well—Yusuke's homophobia is unwelcome—so it's understandably not a game for everyone. Either way, there's no arguing that Persona 4 doles out intense emotions.The "enhanced" version, Persona 4 Golden, recently hit Stream, finally freeing the upgrade from its sinking prison on the PS Vita. - Nadia Oxford

You started humming "I want to roll you up into my life" as soon as you saw this image. | Katamari Damacy

5. Katamari Damacy

Release Date: March 18, 2004

"I want to roll you up into my life! Let's roll up to be a single star in the sky!"

There are only a few games I can think of with original soundtracks that have planted not just their lyrics, but the whole sensory experience of playing the game into my brain. It only takes a few bars from "Que Sera Sera" or "Lonely Rolling Star" for Katamari Damacy's bright, blocky scenes to take shape in my mind's eye. It's a quality that exists separate from its unassailable status as a true original, but one that also helps explain why Katamari endures even in spite of the diminishing returns of its sequels.

Katamari Damacy's gameplay, visuals, music, and core themes cohere together better than any katamari-turned-star. Keita Takahashi and his team at Namco made a game that's as much about the pure joy of rolling a ball as it is about humanity's obsession with commodities and the kind of aloof, irresponsible god figure that would not only oversee such a messy existence, but who'd also go on a drunken bender and—oops—ruin the entire night sky. After its release, Takahashi talked a few times about making Katamari with a "punk rock" sensibility. Like the best punk bands make do with a few power chords, Katamari does more with a pair of analog sticks, a ball, and a goofy cosmic deity than many "big" games manage with complex systems, overstuffed quest logs, and mountains of lore.- Mathew Olson

Shadow of the Colossus was a towering achievement for more reasons than one | Sony Interactive Entertainment

4. Shadow of the Colossus

Release Date: October 18, 2005

Shadow of the Colossus was hailed as a towering achievement when it was released in 2005, and not just because of the scale of the monsters that comprised its encounters. In an era where loud, manic open-world action games like Grand Theft Auto 3 were all the rage, Shadow of the Colossus was a quiet, contemplative, and often lonely experience. It was the perfect antidote for a period too often defined by macho violence and edgelord humor.

The Colossi, of course, were the real stars of Shadow of the Colossus, each one presenting a unique challenge that required your brain as much as your reflexes to resolve. When they went down, the music took on a pained, tragic note, forcing you to sympathize with the majestic creatures that you were slaughtering one by one. Bluepoint Games would release a remastered version some years later, but for all its technical brilliance, it couldn't quite match the original. If you want the purest experience, it's best to play the original PS2 release, frame rate issues and all. - Kat Bailey

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas remains one of the most ambitious games ever. | Rockstar Games

3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Release Date: October 26, 2004

Like a number of entries on this list, the developers at Rockstar Games needed a bit of time to get things right. You could see the magic in Grand Theft Auto 3, which took the anarchic concept of the first two games into 3D for the first time. They expanded with Vice City, which added 80s glitz and glamour to the concept. But San Andreas was the one where Rockstar showed off everything they had learned.

CJ was the most realized protagonist in the series up until that point, feeling like more of a real person than Claude (does anyone actually remember the name of GTA 3's lead?) and Vice City's Tommy Vercetti. San Andreas, a fictional spin on Los Angeles, carried most of the hallmarks of the real city. The grimy streets of San Andreas were also filled out by the upper-class San Fierro (based on San Francisco) and the rural deserts of Las Venturas (based on Las Vegas); together the three locations gave players a ton of visual flavor and activities to complete.

San Andreas also added far more customization compared to previous games—players spent their time at the gym bulking up or pigging out to make a more rotund CJ—allowing you to truly make him your own and earn the respect of your digital peers. These RPG elements would become a series staple, and most of that started right here. The gameplay has aged a bit, but if Rockstar Games was ever going to do a remake, this is where they should start. - Mike Williams

It would be years before games caught up to the beauty of Ico | Sony Interactive Entertainment

2. Ico

Release Date: September 24, 2001

Ico was well ahead of its time when it was first released in late 2001, barely a year into the PlayStation 2's lifespan. It struck a note similar to today's indie games, featuring a minimalist story and a distinct aesthetic. Like most games of the era, it had combat, but the fighting was mostly there to break up the traversal puzzles that otherwise defined the gameplay. Its most distinct element was bond between Ico and Yorda, which was visualized through the pair holding hands-a feature Peter Molyneux would lift years later for his own Fable series.

Why put Ico higher than its more popular successor, Shadow of the Colossus? It's mostly that Ico is a tighter, more intimate experience than Shadow of the Colossus. Less expansive, true, but the smaller scope works well in this instance. If there's such a thing as a perfect game, it might just be Ico, where concept, execution, and a genuine sense of artistry form an experience that still feels unique today. It would be years before any other developer came close to matching it. - Kat Bailey

Metal Gear Solid 3 is still the best PS2 game ever. | Konami

1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

Release Date: November 17, 2004 (MGS 3) / March 14, 2006 (Subsistence)

We've been pretty consistent in our stance that Metal Gear Solid 3 is the best PlayStation 2 game ever made, and little has changed. It's a generational masterpiece with some of the best boss battles of all time. It's Kojima at his most focused, but also at his most wildly creative, as demonstrated in the (mostly) tongue-in-cheek Time Paradox message. It has The End. It Has The Sorrow. It has The Boss. It's just a really, really good action game, and it's made all the better by the Subsistence update, which fixes issues like the camera.

Metal Gear Solid 3 is still probably the apex of Hideo Kojima's career, a period in which the work actually matched his outsized reputation. Metal Gear Solid 4 would prove a disappointing conclusion; Metal Gear Solid 5 would be good, but incomplete, and Death Stranding would be... an interesting idea. None of them can match the weight of the moment when Naked Snake salutes his mentor, in the process assuming both her title and her legacy. From time to time, I see fans pine for the return of the series, but whenever I see this scene, I feel okay about Metal Gear Solid staying in the grave. As far as I'm concerned, the work is finished, and it will never get better than Snake's final battle with The Boss. - Kat Bailey


So there you have it, the Top 25 PlayStation 2 games of all time. No doubt you feel like we've missed a few games here and there. We welcome responses from all the stans for Dark Cloud, God of War 2, and the rest in the comments. Share your favorites, and talk about what the PlayStation 2 meant to you as we celebrate its 20th anniversary!

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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This is our complete beginner's guide to surviving Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, including a list of essential tips and tricks.