Console Challenge

Console Challenge Day 21: Top 7 best PlayStation 2 games!

Aside from being the “first” next-gen console, as well as providing many, many people with their first DVD player, the PlayStation 2 launched in something of a Golden Age of the non-PC gaming industry. Gaming tech was becoming extremely sophisticated … Sony seemingly knew the exact route toward popularity, turning the console with the least powerful hardware of that generation into a juggernaut of success.
-James Plafke, ExtremTech



Today’s the big one, NPCs!

It’s the 21st Day of our Console Challenge and we’re talking about the best-selling home console of all time. Sitting at a whopping 155+ million units sold, the PS2 is the ubiquitous system. This thing was everywhere. Heck, I went through three of them myself. I still unfailing find PS2 games stashed everywhere, in homes, in thrift stores, bargain bins, and retro shops in great quantities. Its impact is undeniable.

This is not a console to handle with kid gloves and so we’ve summoned forth our own columnist the Infernal Accountant Mage to render his verdict on the top 7 best games for the system. I don’t envy him his task; the PS2 had over 3,000 games in its library! Still, I have the best confidence in Infernal. I haven’t known this mystery man that long and he came to me as if out of the proverbial blue, already running and operating his own successful online pop culture site, Popzara. How exactly this bluntly (occasionally brutally) honest writer stumbled into our little TWRM and why he purposed to join up as a mage, I’ll never know, but I don’t look gift horses in the mouth. I just take ’em in.

Fresh from his trip to E3, here’s our provocateur and practitioner of accountanology. Either way, it’s bound to be somewhat controversial. It’s the PS2.

-The Well-Red Mage




InfernalMage I write a weekly column for The Well-Red Mage called Accounting the Years that’s basically an excuse to blog about my life with some video game underpinnings here and there. It was at least partially inspired by the writing of Tim Rogers for Rogers has a way of intertwining his life and the games he plays; that’s something I’ve always admired and it’s something I’ve tried to emulate in my work on Accounting the Years.

See, video games are an intensely personal medium, perhaps more so than any other. That’s something that Rogers understands on a very fundamental level. A game is something that you invest a part of yourself into through interactivity. Rather than being a passive observer, in many games you’re making yourself part of the story. Major events in my life have had recent game releases as milestones to mark them by, and often my feelings on any given game are colored by what was happening to me in the real world at the time – Dynasty Warriors 2 was coupled with a nasty breakup, for instance, and to this day it remains my least favorite of the series. I can’t talk about a game without considering what perspective my life is giving me on it. To do so would be painting an incomplete picture.

With that in mind, then, let’s talk about the PlayStation 2. In my book, it’s one of the greatest consoles ever released. From a technical perspective, it rocked gamers’ socks off when it launched, while from a personal perspective it marked my return to the United States after spending most of my childhood overseas. Young me didn’t have a job or really any money to his name, but he did have plenty of retro game goodies and he was willing to trade them all in for a PS2. Modern audiences would facepalm – I certainly do – but the time and fun I had with the resulting PS2 helped me get through both good and bad times. The PS2 stuck with me through high school and college alike, since new games just kept on coming out for the thing, while the console itself was built to last.

So here we go, then: the seven best PS2 games from my perspective. I’m going to almost guarantee that your favorites aren’t going to be on here, but these are the ones that stuck with me.


#7. Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening

Devil May Cry was essentially responsible for the advent of the spectacle fighter or character-action genre – take a cool protagonist, give them a vast array of cool moves, integrate an awesome combo system and let the player go wild. Devil May Cry 2 proceeded to accept the proffered torch, then trip on its shoelaces and fall flat on its face. Devil May Cry 3, though…

Well, it took everything Devil May Cry showed us and made it better. Loads of weapons, each with a complete moveset to master. Multiple combat styles that each offer their own unique benefits, encouraging you to look at your arsenal from various perspectives. Tons of enemies to battle and understand, then multiple difficulty levels to crank up the challenge once you think you’ve figured the game out. All of this, plus a kickin’ hard rock soundtrack and some of the best self-aware humor in video games. That’s Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening. It’s action gaming done right.



#6: God of War II

Speaking of action gaming done right, God of War and its sequel did their part to revolutionize the genre by implementing cinematic elements, blurring the line between games and blockbuster films. Today that probably doesn’t seem like much; that’s because gaming as a whole has learned from God of War and the games that patterned themselves after it. Games-as-movies is standard now, and I’d argue that we have God of War to thank for it in no small part. The God of War games are primarily about awe: how big will the next boss be? How cool with Kratos’ next abilities be? How deadly will the next mythological weapons be? How brutal will the next kill be? They specialized in consistently upping the ante, all while pushing the PS2 to its technical limits, and despite all this they maintained solid and classic gameplay rather than degenerating into something you watch rather than play.

Naysayers will, of course, complain about quick-time events. Naysayers will complain about everything. They’ll complain right up until you successfully complete a quick time event where you kick them into the raging heart of a volcano. Then they’ll stop complaining.



#5: Kingdom Hearts

As they’re plummeting into that volcano, the naysayers might have a thing or two to say about Kingdom Hearts and its sequel. They’ll probably say something about how confusing the plot apparently is, forgetting that these are games written for Japanese schoolchildren that really aren’t all that difficult to grasp. Then, mercifully, they’ll land in the caldera and their nitpicking will be silenced forever.

Kingdom Hearts, when it was announced, sounded like an April Fools joke: Squaresoft and Disney working together to make a crossover RPG. It wasn’t a joke, though, and when it released, astoundingly enough, it was actually a solid adventure that made the most of both properties. Again, we must emphasize the value of spectacle and awe here: this is something the PlayStation 2 was absolutely fantastic at, as we see with games like Okami and Shadow of the Colossus. In Kingdom Hearts it took the form of gorgeous animations and eye-watering boss battles, not to mention the overall aesthetic that captured the Disney feel. I’d argue that the sequel is a better game with its additional gameplay concepts and longer running time, but that’s really a matter of opinion more than anything.



#4: Drakengard (actually Guitar Hero)

I’m really fond of Drakengard but that’s more of a personal quirk than anything. Instead, we can’t talk about the PlayStation 2 and not talk about Guitar Hero. It ushered in a revolution of plastic-instrument games that ended up defining my college experience. There’s just something about having some of your first legal alcoholic beverages and hammering away on a strum bar that really clicked for me. The trend eventually died, as trends do, but the mid-to-late 2000s were basically defined by Guitar Hero guitars and the jamming on thereof.

I mention the first game specifically here, but the sequels were generally all pretty solid.



#3: Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

The PlayStation 2’s heyday coincided with an interesting trend in mainstream games journalism: namely, everyone simultaneously decided that we didn’t like Japanese RPGs anymore. Yup, the whole genre was just straight up garbage. JRPGs would eat a couple points off the top of their review scores for daring to include turn-based combat, an anime aesthetic and so on. It was hard times for JRPG fans.

Shockingly, though, Nocturne and the next couple of games largely managed to stay afloat. That’s probably because they represent some of the peaks of the genre as a whole. Nocturne in particular revels in difficulty, encouraging you to recruit and fuse a diverse array of demonic allies so you’re versatile enough to address new threats as they appear. No matter how hard you try, though, you’re bound to be surprised every now and then…and that’s usually going to mean death and a renewed urge to try again. Something something Dark Souls comparison.



#2: Final Fantasy XII

I mean, I had to include the best Final Fantasy other than VIII on this list, right? Shame VIII was an original PlayStation game, but XII’s pretty solid gaming as well. By allowing you to essentially program your characters, much of the busywork associated with JRPGs is simply automated away. You’re free to enjoy the combat and story at your own pace while your characters simply do what you’d have done anyway. That’s pretty much how I’d like to live my life one day.



#1: Persona 3 (and Persona 3 FES)

And here it is, the best game on the PlayStation 2. It’s a JRPG. It’s the JRPG. We can argue about whether this, Persona 4 or Persona 5 are the best JRPGs ever released. I think that’s going to be a difficult argument, so instead I’ll go with an easier one: Persona 3 is the best game released on the PlayStation 2. It’s incredibly stylized, it touches on mature and interesting themes without turning into A Very Special Episode Of Video Games, it has some of the best music in gaming as a whole and, like Nocturne, it’s brutally difficult while being largely fair in its execution. It is a masterpiece and we can likely credit it with the modern acceptance of the JRPG genre, dragging us out from the Era Where It Was Cool To Be Down On JRPGs. If you haven’t played it yet, you probably should… though you might want to consider the expanded version, Persona 3 FES (which includes some epilogue content that is pretty mediocre in my view), or the generally-improved Persona 3 Portable on PSP.


The Infernal Accountant Mage believes the pen is mightier than the sword…well, depending on how sharp the pen and sword are. A child of the ’90s and a prolific writer, he strews his work about like Legos made of words, just waiting for your brain to step on them. He enjoys a devilish challenge, so when it comes to talking about some of the more difficult games out there, you might just run into the Infernal Accountant Mage. Some advice: hold on to your soul around this guy, and don’t sign anything. Read more at




18 replies »

  1. Happy to see FFXII on this list (and even happier for the shout out to FFVIII)! Like Red said, I don’t think I’d be able to make a list for PS2 with how awesome it’s library is but FFXII would definitely be on there.

    It’s interesting to see how everyone enjoyed the PS2 yet played completely different games. Its like playing an awesome game with branching storylines. We all experienced different paths but can all agree it was great.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s a statement to how great the PS2 was as a console that my own list would be entirely different… and undoubtedly there are many many other valid lists out there. The PS2 catered for everyone and had a vast array of stand out titles.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. FFXII was too MMORPG-ish for my tastes. I like the story-battle tightness of FFX, and FFX-2 has my favorite battle system in the series.

    Another game I loved to play on the PS2 was the Buzz Quiz games. I loved the buzzers and feeling like I was on an actual game show. The PS2 really had an amazing catalog.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I couldn’t make a list like this for the PS2. No way. It’d likely have MGS2 and Shadow of the Colossus on it, because I guess I can be groupthought into existence. Speaking of which, KH1 is near perfect but KH2 feels like walking down hallways. *jumps into volcano head first*

    Haha thanks for participating, Infernale!


  5. I’m shocked that neither Metal Gear Solid game made the list. Most PS2 games I owned were collections. Here’s mine.

    1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
    2. Final Fantasy XII
    3. Shadow of the Colosus
    4. Okami
    5. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
    6. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
    7. Time Crisis 3

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not sure I fully support your list but, that is the great thing about the Playstation 2 with so many games in its library everyone is sure to have different takes. It is hands down the system I have the largest library for. My list would probably go as such: Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid 2, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Max Payne, Shadow Hearts, and Gran Turismo 3.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have played the PlayStation 2. I would nominate the following games as the 7 best:
    7. Lego Batman: The Game (this game was very light and comical and used some interesting designs based on the animated series from the 1990s),
    6. Tomb Raider: Legend (this game used a very dynamic gameplay, intricately designed levels and an emotional story),
    5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (I enjoyed the gameplay for this game and the way it translated the film into a game),
    4. James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (I enjoyed the third-person shooter gameplay, the driving missions and the co-operative game),
    3. Star Wars Battlefront 2 (this game used a variety of objective-based gameplay, space battles and undirected warfare),
    2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (this game had a large world to explore, along with the ability to customise the main character, side missions, extra activities, satirical humour and some enjoyable missions),
    1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (this game required skill to play and used a complex story).
    You seem to have chosen an interesting selection of games for your list, I did think it was strange to see a team of adventurers setting out on a dangerous quest with Mickey Mouse and Goofy during an advert for the Kingdom Hearts game. I am also interested to read your reviews and find out how your life experiences affected how you viewed computer games you played at the time.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I actually prefer the other Grand Theft Auto games on the PlayStation 2 to the one set in San Andreas. I felt the other games were more focussed, with less tangential stories and less traveling between locations, although there were some very enjoyable missions in San Andreas and Officer Tenpenny was a good villain. I chose San Andreas because it used more features.
        How is the Lego Batman game different on the PlayStation 3 compared to the PlayStation 2?

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t know, I didn’t play it on PS3. I think I misphrased – “LEGO Batman: The Videogame” was one of the few early PS3 games to also be available on PS2 just for people who hadn’t yet made the jump (even though it created a good reason not to), and that’s the one I played before I started playing the PS3 eventually.
          The only other PS2 GTA game that I played was “Grand Theft Auto III”, which did have less features but there was a lot more focus on one thing with everything else being extensions of it, rather than the whole being several parts, like “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” was. It’s more of a show piece than anything else. But the gap between my preferences is so small that it may as well not exist. It’s still cool that Samuel L. Jackson voiced the game boss though.


  8. I did like the PS2. I’m trying to think what my favourites were … probably the .Hack// games, Fatal Frame, Street Fighter Alpha Anthology, Def jam Fight For NY, Predator: Concrete Jungle … i’m sure there were more that I owned and loved, but my mind is blank.

    Liked by 1 person

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