Five years after the PlayStation revolutionized the way video games were made, the PlayStation 2 arrived and the console wars heated up as it went face-to-face with the new Microsoft Xbox. The way the two systems competed, outside of hardware and specs, was with specialized video games that one system carried and the other did not.
The PS2 was a massive success, the bestselling video game console of all-time and there have been over 3,800 game titles released for the system since its launch. While not all the games were hits, many ended up as some of the most beloved video games of all-time. Here is a look at the top 10 PlayStation 2 games ever made, based on ratings from Metacritic.
10 DEVIL MAY CRY (94)
Devil May Cry was an early PlayStation 2 game, hitting the system in 2001. Initially, it was going to be part of the Resident Evil game-line, but that changed with all ties to that series eliminated. Instead, Devil May Cry followed a demon hunter and private investigator named Dante who wanted revenge after his mother and brother's deaths.
Reviews on Metacritic compared Devil May Cry to Onimusha Warlords, with many saying it beat that game easily. The controls were also praised, calling the game a step up from the "cumbersome" controls of the Resident Evil series. The game sold over three million copies and released the fifth game in the series in 2019.
9 TONY HAWK'S PRO SKATER 4 (94)
Released in 2002, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 hit most major consoles, including the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Microsoft Windows, and Nintendo platforms as well. One thing that made this version of Tony Hawk different from the previous releases was the elimination of a time limit to reach goals. This change allowed gamers to play each of the 190 levels at their own pace and delve into various tricks.
Reviews on Metacritic for Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 says the levels are more immersive than previous versions and also more interactive. There are also better tricks and improved graphics. The removal of the timer is what seemed to push this game to the top of most critics' best-of lists for the PlayStation 2.
8 MADDEN NFL 2003 (95)
EA Sports was knocking it out of the park with their football games on the PlayStation 2. Their 2002 and 2004 versions of Madden ranked at 94, and they had the 2004 NCAA college game also rated at a 94. However, the game that topped them all when it came to football was Madden NFL 2003.
This version was the 14th installment of the Madden franchise and was the first-ever to have the minicamp mode and also replaced Pat Summerall with Al Michels on the commentary track. Reviews on Metacritic call it the best Madden game ever made and one that has a lot to enjoy, including a robust franchise mode.
7 GRAN TURISMO 3: A-SPEC (95)
Gran Turismo was a video game that helped make the original PlayStation a must-own console. Initially debuting in 1997, the Gran Turismo franchise ended up as the bestselling PlayStation franchise in history. The highest-rated version of the PlayStation 2 according to Metacritic was the third release, subtitled A-Spec.
This version adds two more new courses and some of the most sought after iconic cars in racing. The reviews call this one of the most realistic racing games ever made, with all the details "dead on" including the physics of racecar driving. It is called tough and challenging, but one that makes reaching achievements a highlight.
6 GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY (95)
Grand Theft Auto was the most popular video game in the world for many years, and three versions of the game made the list of the top-rated PlayStation 2 games. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was the second release for the PS2. The story followed Tommy Vercetti, who got out of prison and then was involved in an ambushed drug deal.
Tommy then set out to get revenge and was praised for its use of '80s pop culture TV and movies such as Scarface and Miami Vice as well as the homage to real-life mobsters and events from the Miami area. Reviews on Metacritic called it bigger, better and badder than Grand Theft Auto III.
5 GRAND THEFT AUTO: SAN ANDREAS (95)
Ranked with the same score as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was its followup Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Both games were controversial, with San Andreas accused of glamorizing drugs, prostitution, and murder. That didn't stop people from buying the game, and it was one of the top-selling PlayStation 2 games ever.
It was also the highest-rated of the Grand Theft Auto games when it came to user scored, the only one of the three to break the 9.0 rating. Reviews on Metacritic say this edition has a strong story with great dialogue and voice actors and is one of the best games ever to hit the PlayStation 2.
4 METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY (96)
Metal Gear Solid was a massive hit for the PlayStation when it came out in 1998. The original game told the story of Solid Snake, a soldier sent in to save hostages and stop terrorists from launching a nuclear attack. The cinematic cut scenes made this game something special, as did the great gameplay. In 2001, the sequel came out for the PlayStation 2 with Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty.
Once again, Solid Snake is the hero. This time, he finds himself on board a ship a heavily armed terrorist group has infiltrated with plans to steal the new Metal Gear. Metacritic reviews praise the game's lifelike effects and improvement in every area from the cut scenes to the gameplay.
3 RESIDENT EVIL 4 (96)
The Resident Evil games were one of the core titles that the PlayStation sold itself on. The horror game about the Umbrella Corporation and their horrific experiments that brought monsters to life revolutionized the survival-horror video game genre. By the time the PlayStation 2 came around, there had been three games and some spinoffs and remakes.
With the PlayStation 4, Resident Evil 4 was the first major release, coming in 2005, after it debuted initially on the GameCube. The game followed a government special ops agent sent to save the President's daughter. The Metacritic reviews call the game difficult yet challenging and rewarding, one of the best games to ever hit the PS2.
2 GRAND THEFT AUTO III (97)
The highest-rated Grand Theft Auto game to hit the PlayStation 2, according to Metacritic, is Grand Theft Auto III. The game did not get the same polarizing controversy as later efforts, but it was the game that showed what the PS2 could bring to the world of Grand Theft Auto.
Based in Liberty City, players take on the role of Claude. After being left for dead, he sets out to take on the crime and gangland world of Liberty City by foot or by crook. The open-world design brought hours upon hours of gameplay to fans, becoming one of the most essential titles of the sixth generation.
1 TONY HAWK'S PRO SKATER 3 (97)
The highest-ranked PlayStation 2 video game of all-time by Metacritic is Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. The game hit a ton of consoles, including the original PlayStation. It was also the last title released for the Nintendo 64 and the first title on the PlayStation 2 to featured online play.
One of the key additions for this version of the game was the revert, which allowed for much longer combos, allowing amazing tricks that also included hidden combos. Reviews on Metacritic called the game "nearly perfect" with a lot of credit going toward the environments, where everything was part of the game.