For the purposes of this list, it was hard to narrow down PS2 games that were exclusive up to this point. For example, Shadow of the Colossus was a PS2 exclusive in its generation, including the Xbox and GameCube, but has since been ported and remade for the PS3 and PS4. So by exclusive, we simply mean for that generation. Just for consoles too so PC, if it happened, doesn’t count.
In the hopes of further varying our list, we also stuck to one game per genre. If not this list would have been filled with RPGs, because there were too many good ones. In that same vein, we tried to pair the good games with bad counterpoints. So let’s see what still stands the test of time and what doesn’t.
10 Must Own: Silent Hill 2
Will the world ever be graced with another Silent Hill? Probably not, but at the very least Silent Hill 2 will remain a classic. It took what started out as a vain attempt to make a Resident Evil clone, which was fun, but ultimately felt derivative.
Konami then went back to the drawing board, took out the typical Resident Evil stuff and turned this game into a psychological nightmare. That series will always be more fun to play, but this series, especially with the second game, will always remain more haunting.
9 Skip: Haunting Ground
Speaking of haunting, Haunting Ground then was Capcom’s return fire at Konami. It is a copycat of a copycat in that this horror game has basically no combat and instead tries to instill fear into players by chasing them down.
In some cases, the tension works, and it has a cute dog companion, but it is more frustrating to play than it is actually scary.
8 Must Own: Kingdom Hearts II
It was hard to choose between the original game and Kingdom Hearts II. The first will always be treasured for what it set out to accomplish by mixing Disney with Final Fantasy.
It was a weird idea, but one that proved to be fruitful some twenty years later. It is special, but on a game level, the sequel improved a lot on what held that original back in some ways. The camera, for one, is a lot better and in general, is just more fun to play.
7 Skip: Drakengard 2
Around this time Square Enix also put out Drakengard 2. For those unaware, Drakengard is actually the precursor to Nier. That game was based on one of the alternate endings.
Nier and all three Drakengard games are full of interesting ideas, but the bland gameplay and visuals really hold them back. It wasn’t until NieR: Automata that the series truly came into its own. So at the very least we can thank Drakengard 2 for that, but there is no need to play it.
6 Must Own: Metal Gear Solid 3
Both Metal Gear games are fantastic on PS2 and if we had our way Sons of Liberty would be on here. However, that game was eventually ported to Xbox so by default we have to give the spotlight to Big Boss instead. Prequels are often things of contention.
Are they necessary? The answer is usually no, but in this case Hideo Kojima managed to full in the gaps with style. From the open jungle to the bosses to the over the top story, there is so much to love about Snake Eater.
5 Skip: Spy Fiction
Spy Fiction is actually a great choice for a poor counterpoint on two levels. Yes, it tried to be Metal Gear in story, but it failed to capture the bananas story. This is odd considering this game was directed by Hidetaka Suehiro, or as most fans know him as, SWERY.
He is the man behind The Room of video games, Deadly Premonition. It also has bad gameplay, but the bizarre story and quirky characters make up for that. Spy Fiction has seemingly none of that SWERY charm, which is sad for this other oddball Japanese director.
4 Must Own: Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando
Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando is the best platformer on the system. Yes, the Jak and Daxter and Sly Cooper games are also great, but the second installment for this cat and robot duo is where it is at.
The best part about it is that Insomniac added RPG elements. Ratchet can level up his health through experience points, which also upgrades weapons too. The game is bigger than ever and is the best 3D platformer of this era. Take that Super Mario Sunshine!
3 Skip: Mega Man X7
We just named three exclusive platformers on the PS2, which again are awesome, but there were many copycats. We could give this slot to random titles like Tak and the Power of Juju, or Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, but those games aren’t bad so much as they are average.
Mega Man X7, on the other hand, is an offensive piece of garbage that dares brandish the Mega Man name. There is not one likable aspect that we can praise. Axl made sure of that.
2 Must Own: Okami
Okami could also be considered a platformer, but we put it on here to represent the “Zelda” genre as it were. It’s a big open world adventure game that, speaking of Zelda, really gave Nintendo a run for their money.
While it reviewed great at the time, sales did not reflect its praises. Thankfully Capcom never gave up and since then it has been ported to almost every console after this generation. Even without HD visuals, it is striking on its original hardware. It is a treasure beyond words.
1 Skip: Ico
While Okami is more action-oriented, Ico is the complete opposite. It is also similar in tone to Zelda and features a lot of puzzles through one giant dungeon. Many aspects can be praised like the story, or lack thereof, but the one thing that is unforgivable is the gameplay.
Even with the HD update on PS3 it is hard to play. Hauntingly beautiful and original, yes, but it is no fun. Play Shadow of the Colossus a thousand times over instead if one wants a game with a similar tone.