Finding just the 25 best PlayStation 2 games, and what they meant to gamers and the industry, was a challenge. The PlayStation 2 is one of the most celebrated video game consoles ever. Sony only just stopped production of the system in Japan in December 2012, giving the PS2 one of the longest lives the industry has ever seen. During its twelve-year run, the system had an insane amount of quality games developed for it. The games you see on this list won't just be remembered for being great PlayStation 2 games; they'll be revered for being some of the greatest video games ever created. With that, let's countdown the 25 Best PlayStation 2 Games.
While the first Kingdom Hearts took the RPG crowd by storm, not even Square Enix could have known just how successful its follow-up would go on to become. Loved and adored by millions of fans, Kingdom Hearts 2 was a hotly anticipated follow-up that provided eager Disney and Square Enix fans with everything they wanted. KH2 took the franchise to a whole new level -- with more Mickey, more classic Disney films (Tron, Steamboat Willie), an improved Gummi ship, and the ability to dual-wield Keyblades. The series has become a bit convoluted in recent years, deepening appreciation for a time when you could count the number of Kingdom Hearts games on one hand.
One of the last great survival horror video games, Silent Hill 2 was a no-brainer when compiling this list of the 25 Best PlayStation 2 Games. Longtime fans of the series still have nightmares about the eerie town of Silent Hill, and the horrible things that happened there. Mostly these night terrors stem from the thought of Pyramid Head lurking around every corner. The reason Silent Hill 2 has become such a classic game has just as much to do with its memorable monsters as it does with its top-notch writing and atmosphere. The genre and franchise may have gone through some drastic changes since this sequel, but Silent Hill 2 stands as a shining example of everything this franchise did right.
A highly unique side-scroller with an unmistakably attractive visual style, Capcom's Viewtiful Joe 2 took the groundwork laid by the first game to a whole new level. Playing through some inspired new levels based on cinema's most action-packed and celebrated films (Indiana Jones, old-school samurai flicks), proved to give VJ2 plenty of variety, and allowed players to really get the most out of Joe's abilities. The addition of Joe's girlfriend as a playable character added some new life to the series, and kept VJ2 from becoming a stale retread of the first game. Combined with some new powers, there was just enough improvements to make Viewtiful Joe 2 one of the most fun games to ever grace the PS2.
Few reboots are as drastic and appreciated as Ubisoft's Prince of Persia. PoP: The Sands of Time breathed new life into a franchise that long laid dormant, and also reinvigorated the puzzle-platforming genre. The action was fast, the combat was solid, and the exploration was exhilarating. Few gameplay experiences gave players the sense of accomplishment after completing Prince of Persia's more challenging platforming segments. Sequels spawned forth with regularity, but none quite matched the highs to which The Sands of Time soared.
Console fighting games often left much to be desired from their arcade counterparts, but Namco's SoulCalibur 2 is one of the few classics to turn friends into foes in the warm confines of the living room. A whole slew of gameplay improvements, including better dodging mechanics and weapon stats, made SC2 a marked improvement over its predecessor. While the PlayStation 2 may have gotten the shaft in its exclusive character (Heihachi from Tekken had no weapon), the game played incredibly smooth, and provided endless hours of controller passing among friends hoping to be the final one to wield the fabled Soul Edge.
Easy-to-learn, hard-to-master, the SSX series has long been one of the most enjoyable extreme sports franchises to grace consoles. SSX 3 is one of the strongest examples of this franchise's ability to keep players coming back for more, trying to perfect that last run while racking up an even higher score. Unlike other games in the series, all of SSX 3 takes place on just one mountain, though there was still a variety of courses for players the carve up. With ten customizable characters and a solid soundtrack, snowboarding was hardly as addictive as it was with SSX 3. The franchise has had a recent resurrection, but for many, SSX 3 remains the pinnacle of the series.
Devil May Cry 2 may have been a disappointment for many fans, but Devil May Cry 3 made up for its predecessor's shortcomings and then some. It was more over-the-top, more challenging, and included a much deeper combat system, which offered multiple fighting styles for Dante to use. DMC3 set a new bar for the action series that hasn't been met since. Add in the strong narrative that took a much harder look at the relationship between Dante and his brother Vergil, and you have a game that any fan would agree should be considered among the 25 Best PlayStation 2 Games ever.
When the first footage from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was showcased at E3, the sound of jaws hitting the floor could be hear 'round the world. Though Hideo Kojima may have caught a bit of flack for introducing Raiden into the mix, the graphics, gameplay, and story of MGS2 kept players intrigued enough to overcome their dislike of the series' new protagonist. The Substance re-release included some 300 new VR Missions, Theater mode, and the new Boss Battles mode to make an already impressive package that much more amazing.
Though it was the third Final Fantasy game to arrive in a three-year span, Final Fantasy 10 was the first in the series to come to the PlayStation 2. Not only did it include some amazing graphics, which was to be expected from the FF series, but it also included another bold reinvention of the way role-playing games were played. There were plenty of memorable characters (leading to the first spin-off game), and fans gravitated to the strong story of Tidus and Yuna as they struggled to save the world. While some of the game's aspects aren't quite as fondly remembered (Blitzball anyone?), Final Fantasy 10 remains one of the most beloved entries in the history of the franchise.
While the Tony Hawk series may have died a rather unspectacular and unceremonious death a few years ago, there was a time when gamers looked forward to a new Tony Hawk title with an unmatched fervor. Tony Hawk's Underground, the fifth game in the series, brought a lot of new mechanics to the table, including the much ballyhooed ability to get off your board and walk around. Combos could even continue while off the board, as long as you resumed skating before a brief timer ran out. New moves like wall plants and wall pushes were also added to the mix, making Underground the "540 McTwist" of our 25 Best PlayStation 2 Games.