Top 10 Best PS2 Games

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Welcome back to the best PlayStation games countdown! This is the second week in the countdown and so we've moved on to the biggest selling console of all time, the PlayStation 2.

Last time around we covered the great console that was the PS1. A system that was born from a scorned Sony and completely wiped the floor with its competition. When the next generation rolled around, Nintendo and Sega both attempted to emulate PlayStation's success by producing more powerful consoles that were capable of running bigger, more mature games.

We all know what happened the Dreamcast, despite the fact that it was a very good console that was well ahead of its time. The GameCube was a similarly brilliant console but didn't sell all that well either, managing just 21 million units. The PS2, on the other hand, took over the world and brought gaming to the forefront of entertainment.

It sold a whopping 155 million units, putting it well above the PS1, which is still the 2nd best-selling home console ever. The PS2 has also sold more than the Nintendo DS, which is sitting just behind with 154 million units.

But you aren't here to read about numbers. No, you're here to see some games! And it's the games that made the PS2 so successful....well, that and a DVD player when they were pretty new. But the games were fantastic nonetheless. So let's hop in and find out which ones made the top 10!

10. Devil May Cry

While God of War has become synonymous with big, hack 'n' slash action, it was Devil May Cry that first brought it to the PS2 and made it a very popular genre in the west. Capcom had been making sequel after sequel when Devil May Cry appeared out of nowhere and took everyone by surprise. A much appreciated surprise.

Playing as private investigator Dante, you enter the Demon world to avenge the death of his mother and brother. Funnily enough, Devil May Cry started out as another sequel - a Resident Evil game to be exact. This, amazingly, was the embryonic version of Resident Evil 4, a game that may show up later in this list.

Devil May Cry was a very stylish Gothic horror game that infused hack 'n' slash sword-fighting with dual gun-wielding. A great game that spawned several sequels and a reboot.

9. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4

It's hardly surprising the #1 most critically acclaimed PS1 game series also makes it into the PS2 list. Carrying on the pure skateboarding tradition of its predecessors, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 continued to perfect the mechanics and level design set forth by the previous installments.

Pro Skater 4 was the last game in the series to bear that branding (ignoring the upcoming PS5) and be a skating simulator. The games that followed were very divisive and more GTA-inspired. Pro Skater 4, however, had excellent mechanics, impressive graphics, the always-awesome level design, and introduced multi-player into the series.

8. Madden 2003

Madden 2003 was easily the best NFL game of its time and the first to feature series regulars John Madden and Al Michaels. The 2003 installment in the series was a very deep game with a franchise mode that would take months to complete, a fun online mode, and the first ever EA Trax and Mini Camp.

It may look pretty jagged and robotic by today's standards, but in 2003 this version of Madden was the best and most authentic to date. The gameplay was refined and the commentary was a huge upgrade, making the overall package more realistic than ever before. It says a lot that Madden 2003 is, to this day, the highest rated Madden game ever!

7. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec

Carrying on the trend of high-quality racing simulation set by its predecessors, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec continued to perfect the formula, adding more depth and honing the graphics. Something worth noting, however, is that this came out just a year after Gran Turismo 2 and was, for all intents and purposes, a port of the PS1 game. That being said, it was a very, very good port.

Coming out just 4 years after the original Gran Turismo, the third installment in the series showed an incredible advancement and acted as a phenomenal show-floor piece for the PS2. This version of the game added 2 new tracks, new cars and a great soundtrack.

GT3 offers the finest racing, the best cars and the highest-quality automotive audio-visual feast available on any gaming system anywhere, and as far as I'm concerned, it's an absolutely essential purchase for anyone who loves cars and racing. --IGN

6. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Following up the most ground-breaking, controversial and realistic video game ever made (at that time) was never going to be an easy feat. But, as we now expect of it, Rockstar Games took one look at the bar of expectation and decided to break it in half.

2002 was a pretty amazing year for gaming: Kingdom Hearts, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, Spider-Man, Super Mario Sunshine, Metroid Prime, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Sly Cooper and the Thievous Racoonus and Ratchet and Clank, to name just a few. So it's telling just how good GTA: Vice City was that it received so many game of the year awards.

Everything from the story to the music was perfect in this stylized version of 1980's Miami, Florida. While GTA III was the birth of the series and the open-world game as we know it, it was Vice City where Rockstar found its footing and added a ton of color, humor and absurdity to the series. Flying around the neon streets on a red motorcycle, listening to I Ran (So Far Away), with an SMG in hand, that's Vice City.

5. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

But that was Vice City. As it always seems to do, a few years after its Vice masterpiece, Rockstar took its beloved series to the streets of Los Santos (California) and again redefined open-world gaming. GTA: San Andreas was unprecedented in size and production value, and even included Samuel L. Jackson as Officer Tenpenny.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was the original sandbox. It was the first time you felt like you could truly do anything - drive from the concrete jungle to the backwoods, train like a beast in the gym, play pool, get your pilot license, burgle a house, spray paint walls, get tattooed, jet pack onto a building then parachute off, eat until you puke, fight gang wars, low-ride, purchase property, derail a train, and simply change your hair. And that isn't even everything. Simply put, San Andreas was well ahead of its time.

This isn't just one of the very best PS2 games, it's one of the best games of all time and a testament to world-building, storytelling, characterization, and how to make a game fun.

4. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Metal Gear Solid was, for many, the defining game of the PS1 era. It virtually invented the stealth genre as we know it and redefined storytelling in video games. So the follow-up to that game was going to have to be something very special, and it was. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was an incredible game that took the storytelling and gameplay to a whole other level.

Oddly enough MGS 2 is a fairly divisive game with fans of the series. Despite the very cool, unique setting (Big Shell), quirky cast of characters, incredible cutscenes and improved mechanics, fans found it hard to overlook the simple fact that you don't play as Solid Snake. In a bold move, Kojima decided to go with brand-new character Raiden (Jack) as the protagonist, someone decidedly less cool than Snake. This was, in fact, the inspiration for the rapidly changed Raiden we meet in MGS 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Regardless of the love/hate relationship with Raiden, it's undeniable just how good the actual game is. The original game certainly established the series as being "cool". but Sons of Liberty just oozed suave and confidence. From the weirdly sexual Vamp and Fortune to the debonair Pliskin and Raiden, Kojima knew what he was doing and was clearly given free reign over the project. This is where Metal Gear as we know it began.

3. Resident Evil 4

I'm a big fan of almost every game on this list, though it's far from the Top 10 I would devise myself. But I have a real penchant for this particular title. Resident Evil 4 made me a fan of horror games. I'd watch my brother play the original on the PS1 when I was a toddler, and dabbled with some scary things thereafter but it wasn't until I seen a friend playing Resident Evil 4 that I was truly hooked. After watching him play a very early level, I had to buy it for myself. Shortly thereafter I pressed start on my own GameCube version, with a different friend by my side, and started a journey I would never forget.

So it kinda goes without saying that I really like Resident Evil 4. It's a tremendous game and quite possibly the paramount horror experience. Of course, scarier games exist, and as time passes and graphics etc. improve, Resident Evil 4 will fall further down that ladder. That being said, it's still the defining Resident Evil game and an exemplar of survival horror.

You play as Leon Kennedy, an American agent who is sent to a mysterious village in Eastern Europe in search of the President's daughter Ashley Graham. Right away you realize that something bad has happened to every resident, and they desperately want to kill you. The crazed villagers are part of a cult, Los Illuminados, that controls them with a virus and answers to overarching series villain Albert Wesker.

The story is pretty cool and the atmosphere was second to none when it released. The good news is, if Capcom continues its current trend of remastering EVERYTHING, then this game will get the PS4/Xbox One treament in just a few years!

2. Grand Theft Auto III

This just had to be here, didn't it? Yes - the game that really did define open-world video games is more than worth its place on any list of classics. I've reiterated how ground-breaking GTA III was a few times in this list, but to really drive it home I will show you a few review quotes.

The most innovative, outlandish, brilliant video game I've ever seen.

-Official US PlayStation Magazine

While the violent nature of the game will surely turn some people off and kids simply shouldn't be allowed anywhere near it, GTA III is, quite simply, an incredible experience that shouldn't be missed by anyone mature enough to handle it.

-GameSpot

A luscious, sprawling epic of a game and one of the most complete experiences I have ever encountered. If this is what I've waited a year to see on my PS2, then I would have waited ten. Magnificent.

-Eurogamer

Those three quotations from renowned outlets should help you realize just how innovative this game was. When GTA III came out we had been in the realm of 3D gaming for a good while, but developers were still trying to figure out the formula for hitting the nail on the head consistently. So when Grand Theft Auto III released and featured the first truly open 3D world, equipped with dozens of car types, sprawling map, intelligent NPCs and a story that you play at your own leisure, it felt like we suddenly leapt into the future.

Another thing worth remembering is what came before. GTA and GTA 2 were decent games but they were top-down action games in which you stole cars and shot people. Certainly the DNA can be traced back, but I don't think many expected the series to evolve the way it did.

Grand Theft Auto III was a surprising masterpiece that firmly cemented Rockstar as the most exciting, innovative developer in the world - a title they hold to this day.

Honorable Mentions:

  • God of War I & II
  • Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
  • Madden NFL 2002 & 2004
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
  • Virtua Fighter 4
  • TimeSplitters 2
  • Burnout 3: Takedown
  • SSX
  • Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal
  • Okami
  • WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain
  • Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
  • Guitar Hero
  • Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
  • Sly 2: Band of Thieves
  • Shadow of the Colossus
1. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3

And showing the incredible impact and legacy of the series, it's Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 that makes the number 1 spot on the list. This marks the 2nd time that the Tony Hawk series has topped the list, with THPS 2 hitting the number 1 spot for PS1 games. Gamespot even gave THPS 3 a perfect 10, making it only one of eleven games ever.

As is usually the case with sequels, Pro Skater 3 went bigger and, as is not always the case, better. It added new tricks, levels, modes - including online and the all-important revert. The open-ended levels were brought to life with NPC,s, cars and all sorts of things, all of which you could combo off of. The revert move allowed for significantly longer combos that didn't have to end at certain moments, thus fundamentally changing how the game was played.

The first two Tony Hawk's Pro Skater games were amazing. This may be kinda hard to understand nowadays, considering the downward trend the series went on, and especially with Pro Skater 5 releasing this week to less than favorable reviews. However, the series started on a very different note and that special trend continued well into the PS2 generation.

They weren't just for skate fans, they were for fans of fun gameplay and challenges.

That's all folks! (Insert pig laugh.) We've counted down the 10 very best PS2 games. As was the case with the PS1 list, the diversity and quality of games on display here was incredible. I mean, you know the top 10 must be truly amazing when games like Shadow of the Colussus, God of War, Metal Gear Solid 3, Prince of Persia and many more, don't even make the cut.

The PS2 is the most successful console of all time, and the primary reason why is the games. Some of the very best games of all time have come from this generation, not to mention some memorable character mascots and the inception of online multiplayer. This was the generation when 3D gaming found its footing and gaming really became accepted in the mainstream.

So where next? Well, next we go smaller. The next step in the PlayStation timeline is the little system that could, the PlayStation Portable. Yes, we will be counting down the Top 10 PSP Games and reliving the glory days of arguably, the greatest handheld system of all time. (I'm more of a Vita guy, but the sales suggest otherwise). So remember to check back for the PSP list. We guarantee Tony Hawk won't hog the spotlight!

Until then, stay tuned to GameSkinny!

Published Sep. 29th 2015

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