In the age of handhelds getting smaller and more powerful, everyone is always looking for the device that can play their favorite games from when they were younger. For some that’s SNES and Donkey Kong Country; for other’s maybe it’s the Sega Saturn and Daytona USA. But for me, it was a bit of a longer wait, as I wanted something that could do Playstation 2 gaming on the go. The PS2 was my first home console, and it was one that I spent quite a bit of time with. Even after getting a Wii, I would keep coming back to the PS2 enough that we kept it plugged into the plasma TV my dad got a ridiculously good deal on.
With that in mind, I compiled 10 Playstation 2 games that I think are worth playing even today. Having a library of thousands of games, there are going to be some games that I haven’t even begun to think of; that doesn’t mean a game is bad, just that I haven’t seen or played it. So to keep it short, these are games I’ve played, and think other people should too. The list isn’t in any particular order, but the final two games are the ones that I certainly got the most enjoyment out of. To those of you who love RPGs…I apologize.
10. Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies – 2001 (~4 Hours)
Ace Combat 04: Shattered skies is the fourth entry in Namco’s Combat Flight simulation series. Shattered Skies is their first entry on the Playstation 2, and really shows it over the improvements from the PS1 entries.
In a sense, you’re a fighter pilot flying these aircraft throughout a number of missions during a war that takes place on an alternate version of earth. There is a proper plot, however, my focus was certainly on the gameplay instead. Flying the planes throughout this game was incredibly satisfying, and as someone who isn’t too into flight games, getting into it wasn’t bad either. The destruction of opponents in single-player and multiplayer is seriously satisfying, and was what kept me playing just a little bit more. Regardless of what you’re looking for, Shattered Skies has a difficulty level that’ll fit you well.
Even with the newer entries in the series, there’s something about Ace Combat 04 that keeps me coming back to it. It’s certainly worth a go.
9. Katamari Damacy – 2004 (~6 Hours)
The original release in the Katamari series, Katamari Damacy is a shorter, puzzle-action game released in 2004, and once again was published by Namco.
Rather than piloting a plane, in Katamari Damacy you’re controlling the Prince. Just a little guy who’s attempting to collect material for his father The King in order to help bring the stars and the moon back into creation. Gameplay is pretty simple as well. You control the Prince and the Katamari that he’s rolling around. Your goal is basically pick up any objects that are smaller than the Katamari (and quickly the objects attached to it) in order to reach the goal of having enough material in the right amount of time. It’s a simple premise, but goodness it is a really fun game.
Nowadays you do have similar games to the Katamari series, such as Donut County, or even the remake Katamari Damacy: Reroll. But if you ask me, there’s just something fun about going back to the original platform which started the series out.
8. Tekken 5 – 2005 (~2 Hours)
You know, either Namco just released too many games for the PS2, or they just had a lot of good releases. As once again we’re onto another Namco published franchise, Tekken 5, which was released in 2005. A series in a completely different genre once again, this time being the fighting series.
While my gameplay of Tekken 5 came primarily from the multiplayer – messing around and fighting against friends and family – it also came with a solid, albeit short plot. While a nice inclusion, the plot takes off immediately following the end of Tekken 4, so unless fighting game plots are your thing, you may choose to just play through without thinking too hard about the story. Which should be easy as the fast gameplay of Tekken 5 would keep you pretty focused on it instead.
Fast, solid gameplay in a fighting game is what keeps me interested, and in turn coming back to the older Tekken games as a whole. Definitely give 5 a shot.
7. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – 2002 (~18 Hours)
Next up is a game from a franchise just about everyone has heard of: Grand Theft Auto. Vice City in particular is the second game released onto the Playstation 2 all the way back in 2002, and finds its way into being my favorite of the PS2 GTA games.
GTA: Vice City follows Tommy Vercetti, a criminal stuck recovering the drugs and money lost in an ambush for his boss, which quickly turns to a rise into the crime boss of Vice City. So far, Vice City is the first game on this list that really enters the open world setting and does it really well. My big complaint of GTA:3 was its dark and dingy design of Liberty City which was replaced and upgraded to the brighter lights of Vice City. While you can follow the plot as expected, just with most other GTA games, messing around in the city was really half the fun. Rampaging, or just driving down the streets at whatever speed you please makes Vice City a fun game to play.
While I was definitely late to the party on this one, I intend to keep coming back to it. And if you haven’t played it yet, you can certainly try the Definitive Edition that released in 2021 or the Android ports, but again, the PS2 classic is my favorite way to play.
6. Fantavision (~2 Hours)
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the next game on this list is Fantavision, which is a a puzzle game from Japan Studio, released all the way back in the year 2000.
As mentioned, this is a puzzle game, but unlike the usually expectation of matching square, or dealing with falling blocks, Fantavision has you matching colors and symbols from a number of fireworks that are shot off. Matching these fireworks allow you to create larger and more impressive bursts that can increase your score even further. Using power-ups and extra features just allow you to get even higher scores and bigger firework chains.
Fantavision, at least for me, had a learning curve that took me a bit to really get into. But once you do, it’s a fun puzzle game that gets even more challenging with the hard difficulty you can unlock. If you’re color blind you may have some issues with it, but otherwise this is a puzzle game worth playing.
5. Gran Turismo 4 – 2005 (~77 Hours)
Coming up in the list of PS2 games worth playing is Polyphony Digital’s fourth installation of “The Real Driving Simulator,” Gran Turismo 4 which released in 2005.
Unlike a lot of my favorite racing games on the PS2, Gran Turismo 4 is meant to be a more realistic version of racing on the system. From a Nissan Cube to a roster of GT cars and sports cars, Gran Turismo’s roster of over 700 cars had something for everyone back in the mid 2000s. Even today, that is a number that very few racing games will reach, for one reason or another.
If you can get past the license tests, the rest of Gran Turismo 4 is a massive racing experience across its 50+ tracks. And if you’re really crazy, you can even take part in their endurance races that go from 4 hours all the way up to 24 hours. Though the B-Spec mode is sure to help in those.
4. Pac-Man World 2 – 2002 (~5 Hours)
Coming back to Namco one last time, we have Pac-Man World 2, the second in Namco’s series of Pac-Man platformers, released in 2002.
As expected, you’re controlling Pac-Man in a series of 3D platforming levels in an attempt to rescue the “Pac-People” kidnapped by the ghosts, his classic enemies. In a word, it’s a very “Mario-esque” classic storyline that I found always works well for just getting into the game. With only 25 levels to the whole game, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but the collectibles and the large amount of Pac-Pellets to collect along the way can help to add some longevity to the game as a whole.
This was one of the games that I sunk a lot of time into as a kid, in trying to collect just about everything I could from each level. Mostly so that I could unlock different playable versions of Pac-Man in the game. In turn this became a platformer that I recommended a lot when I was younger. But if you’re a Pac-Fan, you can always check out the remake of the first game in Pac-Man World Re-Pac, or just get right into this PS2 classic.
3. Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando – 2003 (~13 Hours)
Following up Pac-Man World 2 is another great platformer that I probably put even more time into than the last, and that’s Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando. It was released in 2003 by Insomniac Games.
Just like the last entry in this list, you’re controlling your character in a third person view. But unlike it, rather than using your kicks, you’re using guns and weaponry to fight your enemies. This one takes place across multiple different planets and outside the main objectives and collecting bolts, you can take part in a series of minigames. My personal favorite of the bunch being the hover bike races, mostly because I just enjoy racing games. All of this while trying to follow the plot of the game, and retrieve an experiment for the big boss; an event that certainly changes over the course of the game.
Regardless, Going Command is a PS2 game that I always found to easy to control, it is a joy to play, and is something absolutely worth coming back to. So if you’re looking for a series to get into. Ratchet and Clank is still a good one to go for.
While the rest of the list hasn’t been in any particular order, the final two on this list are games that I found to be my favorite, and ones that I likely spend my most time on.
2. Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 – 2004 (~8 Hours)
The first of these two is the absolute classic: Tony Hawk’s Underground 2, released in 2004 and developed by Neversoft.
As expected, this is the next progression in the Tony Hawk series, a skateboarding game where your goal is to get the highest scores from grinding, skating, jumping, and getting larger than life combos. The plot as a whole involves traveling between multiple open locations across the world and competing in the “World Destruction Tour” on Tony Hawk’s team. This includes locations such as Boston, Berlin, and Thailand. Every location has a ton of places to skate, and offers the player a new experience at every stop. If you enjoy the gameplay, you’ll enjoy the plot, and you’ll enjoy the experience.
For some reason as a kid, I never really finished the game, and ended up spending way too much time in each location. But having finally finished it all up, it’s a game that still stands as being worth your time. And if you enjoy the feeling of the game but prefer something with even more destruction, the final game on this list may have you covered.
1. Burnout 3: Takedown – 2004 (~14 Hours)
Finally, it’s here. Anyone that knows me, knows this is my favorite game on the Playstation 2. Burnout 3: Takedown was released in 2004 by Criterion Games.
Burnout as a series has always been about arcade racing at high speeds, taking down your opponents and watching in satisfaction as their destroyed bodies go flying across the tract. But Takedown brings it up a notch. Not only do you retain the major crashes and the high-flying action, but the speed feels increased, the boost pushes you faster, and the game just zooms. Outside the normal racing, if you’re the one to crash, there’s now an aftertouch feature which lets you control your car just a little bit after wrecking to hopefully take someone down with you. The progression in this game is great, the music is fantastic, and the cars, while not licensed, are still super fun to drive.
If there was only one game I could play from the PS2 library, honestly, I think Burnout 3: Takedown would be the one. This is the one game I would recommend you try.
Well, there you have it. Ten Playstation 2 games that I think are worth trying, and in my opinion, are great games worth playing and then playing again.
If you think I’m missing something, or you have any recommendations for me, I’d be happy to hear from you! Comment down below or come yell at me on the Retro Handhelds Discord (link below). But remember, these are personal recommendations from games that I’ve played and have enjoyed playing from my childhood until now. I’ve never been much of an RPG guy, so games in that vein didn’t make the cut for me. They’re out there, and I know there are some good ones, so do what we all should do and just explore the PS2 library.
There’s really something on it for everyone.
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