The PlayStation 2 is really only rivaled by the Super Nintendo when it comes to quality of library. Both consoles are home to some of the greatest video games of all time. To this day, they still offer gamers the best bang for their buck, eclipsing virtually every single modern home console when it comes to both quality and quantity.
Of course, enough time has passed since the PS2’s time in the sun where most of its games have become obscured with time. What were once considered classics are now hidden gems and what were once hidden gems are now… forgotten. Fortunately, not every game has slipped through the cracks of time, and some are worth revisiting even today.
10 Red Dead Revolver
Poor Red Dead Revolver never stood a chance. The moment Red Dead Redemption released, Revolver was all but immediately forgotten. This is to say nothing of the fact that Red Dead Revolver already wasn’t that well known a game. Not helping matters was just how fundamentally different a game Revolver was.
Where Redemption was an epic, open-world romp, Revolver was an arcade-esque third-person shooter that emphasized the wackier elements of the Western genre. It’s exactly this distinction, however, that makes Revolver still worth playing today. It’s very much its own game and the few mechanical similarities it shares with its successors serve to really ground the Redemption sub-series.
9 Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha Vs. King Abaddon
The first Devil Summoner game on the PlayStation 2 has a great story and is pretty well written, but it isn’t much to write home about otherwise. Its sequel, Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon, on the other hand, is easily one of the best action RPGs on the close.
With a great story to boot, Raidou’s second detective outing is better than the first. Using early 20th century Japan as a setting is downright genius, and the fact that actual investigative work is narratively required allows the world to truly feel alive. Combat is great, there are plenty of demons to collect, and it has one of the best soundtracks on the PS2.
8 Makai Kingdom
By far NIS’ most overlooked and oft-forgotten game, Makai Kingdom was one of many Disgaea spin-offs NIS released on the PlayStation 2. Of note, it’s the only game in the series still locked to the PlayStation 2 outside of Japan. It saw a Japanese PSP rerelease, but said game never came Westward.
Gameplay wise, it’s a bit more creative than Disgaea. The strategy elements are still very much present, but movement is far more freeform. Like most games in the series, Makai Kingdom makes grinding addictive, and multiple endings plus an incredibly entertaining story keep playthroughs constantly engaging.
7 Breath Of Fire: Dragon Quarter
The black sheep of t he Breath of Fire franchise, Dragon Quarter understandably put the series on a lengthy, almost unbreakable hiatus. It just wasn’t the right game to follow two of the best RPGs on the PS1. It was too different, too unique, and barely resembled a Breath of Fire game. All the elements that ultimately made it good.
For the same reason Dragon Quarter became a pariah in the eyes of fans, it excelled as one of the most creative games on the PS2, period. There’s nothing like it on the system either gameplay wise or narrative. It’s mature, thoughtful, intense, and appropriately meditative.
6 Yakuza 2
While the first Yakuza’s English dub is anything but appropriate, the first two Yakuza games really are one of a kind. Well told crime dramas with great beat ‘em up action, they make up a great series and Yakuza 2 is still one of the better games in the franchise. Yakuza 2 is dripping in style from its soundtrack to its presentation.
While combat can feel stiff at times, action ultimately becomes rewarding once players master the controls. The story itself is the real driving force behind the game, presenting one of the most emotionally mature narratives on the PlayStation 2. It’s even better than its remakes, Kiwami 2.
5 Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne
One of the hardest games on the PlayStation 2, Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne is challenging for all the right reasons. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s never poorly designed. Players have so much variety in how they proceed with the game, from different demons as party members, to different builds entirely.
The story isn’t all too present, but the game’s atmosphere is unmatched. Nocturne’s world is downright oppressive at times. Of note, the game also features Dante from the Devil May Cry series in a rather active capacity. Multiple endings stemming from multiple routes make Nocturne an immensely replayable RPG as well.
4 The Sword Of Etheria
Only released in Japan and in Europe, The Sword of Etheria is a Konami action RPG that aesthetically lifts a lot from Castlevania and The Wizard of Oz (of all things). The game is even titled Oz in Japan. It’s going to be hard to track down a copy, but it’s a game worth exerting some effort on.
Not only does it feature a great script, it has one of the best English localizations from its era. Combat isn’t too in-depth, but the gameplay loop is incredibly fun, the music is outstanding, and there are an insane amount of unlockables to hunt down.
3 God Hand
Despite infamously reviewing poorly with some big-name publications, God Hand is considered by many to be one of the greatest character action games of all time. Mechanically complex and rewarding with addictive gameplay, there’s never a dull moment when it comes to God Hand. It may not be Devil May Cry, but it’s not trying to be.
God Hand is also incredibly tongue in cheek, making fun of both video game and movie tropes. Its wacky stage design also pairs well with a genuinely great soundtrack. Higher difficulties just make the game more engaging, the already killer boss fights in particular.
2 Radiata Stories
Tri-Ace was never as big as they needed to be even at their biggest, but they always produced— if nothing else— very memorable and unique games. One of their signature PS2 action RPGs, Radiata Stories features life simulator elements, over 100 party members, and dozens of weapons to choose from.
There are also two routes branching off into distinct endings and both stories are frankly some of Tri-Ace’s best. Combat is a bit simplistic at its core and the difficulty curve isn’t much to write home about, but Radiata Stories also has a healthy post-game with a lot of great content.
1 Digital Devil Saga Duology
Technically two games, but essentially one game, Digital Devil Saga Volume 1 and Volume 2 are two of the best RPGs on the PlayStation 2 and two of the best game in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise. They’re turn-based and use the series’ same battle system, but demons aren’t recruitable this time around.Instead, players need to build their party members accordingly. Best of all, though, is the outstandingly written story. Both games culminate into one of the most thought-provoking video game narratives out there. Digital Devil Saga is amazing and both games deserve to be played back to back.