From Adventure to Action: Our Top 10 PlayStation 2 Games Ranked
Chris from 1 Hour 1 Decision shares his top 10 best PlayStation 2 Games!
The PlayStation 2 was a juggernaut when it came to console gaming. It still holds the most sold console units 23 years after its debut. Many fantastic series and one-hit wonders have graced this glorious hunk of plastic and silicone. So what better way to bask in its glory than create a top 10 list that will SURELY rub some people the wrong way? Let’s dive in, shall we?
10. Spider-Man 2 (2004 - Activision/Treyarch)
Before this game’s release, most movie tie-in games were pretty junk (ok, I guess GoldenEye was fine). Heck even the game for the first movie in this Tobey Maguire led franchise was kind of “meh”. As soon as you fire up this game, start swinging in Spider-Man 2, and zip around Manhattan, you knew you were in for a treat. The sheer scale of the sandbox you could web sling around in was impressive. The feeling you got in the pit of your stomach when you jumped off a skyscraper and dove down onto the concrete until the very last second only to web swing away from death’s grip was electric. This truly was the first time I felt like the superhero on the box art. You could say this pushed the envelope for all other superhero games in the future, and for sure was the blueprint for Insomniac’s fantastic Spider-Man game.
9. X-MEN LEGENDS (2004 - Activision/Raven)
Yes, another comic book inspired game, but hear me out! What if I told you there was a game that allowed you and three of your buddies to bash some mutant hating butt? What if it allowed you to do some iconic moves from the comics like the “Fastball Special”? X-Men Legends is a superb action RPG that Raven created at the time that leans into the fact that you need to work as a team to complete objectives. Utilizing each of the 15 playable characters' abilities to thwart your foes was such a good time. It even had a decent plot that was even written by former Marvel writers. Who would’ve thought that getting people that are familiar with the source material to pen the script? Licensed games (and really all forms of media) need to do this more often, get the people who are intimately involved with said license, involved! Without this game, we may never have had the great games that came after it like its sequel or Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
8. NBA Street, Vol. 2 (2003 - EA/NuFX)
Hot take: EA was firing on all cylinders during the PS2 era. They made some fantastic games, which was just another example of their greatness. NBA Street Vol 2 picked up where NBA Jam left off, and alley-oop 720 slammed it into the rim. This game oozes style with a slick presentation and slick visuals. NBA Street Vol 2 had a fantastic soundtrack as well! Heavy hitters like Pete Rock, CL Smooth, Nate Dogg, Eve, and Redman bump through your speakers as you play out on the blacktop. NBA Street Vol 2 was the complete basketball package and I remember my days melting away as I played through the Be a Legend mode teaming up with current NBA players at the time and legends. The games were fast-paced and hilarious as you snatched ankles and left your opponents in the dust. If Tony Hawk made a basketball game, it would be this.
7. Def Jam Fight for NY (2004 - EA/AKI Corp)
GASP! Another EA game? I told you EA made some bangers and this was no exception. Def Jam: Fight for NY is also a sequel like #8 on this list, and like that game, this game turned it up to 11. This time you can create your own character, beat up more hip-hop icons, more customization, and it even has a decent story mode. There was a fantastic combat system that AKI Corp honed from all the years developing wrestling games for the N64. Throwing your opponent into the crowd, cracking their back, and then pulling off your Blazin’ Move to finish them off was so satisfying. A game I truly wish they were able to remake but know it’d be probably impossible to do with all those licensed songs. A man can dream though…
6. Guitar Hero (2005 - RedOctane/Harmonix)
At this point, you can throw a rock and hit a rhythm game. But when Guitar Hero was released back then, it was something special. Sure it was a blatant rip-off of Konami’s Guitar Freaks but this game allowed you to look like a fool with your phony plastic guitar in the comfort of your home! A fantastic soundtrack and some unbelievably rewarding feedback when you hear the crowd go wild as you hit that solo in Killer Queen. However, if you were to stink up the joint, they’d let you know. Easy to pick up but challenging to master, Guitar Hero was good fun for anyone who’s ever air guitar’d along with their favorite bands. Plus that guitar really was a wonderful piece of kit that made you really feel like a rockstar even if no one was looking.
5. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002 - Rockstar/Rockstar North)
One of these GTA games was bound to hit this list and it’s Vice City! What more can I say than I’m a child of the 80s and 90s and this game hit me with all those feels like a snap bracelet that plays “Take on Me” every time it hugs my wrist. The bright neon backdrop of a faux 1980s Miami as well as the excellent soundtrack as you tear through the city in style. I myself would enjoy riding the lovely PCJ-600 sportbike down the strip. Loosely following the Scarface storyline, it was a fun take on a classic. The freedom you had to explore this world at the time was truly unmatched.
4. God of War (2005 - Sony/Sony Santa Monica)
Dave Jaffe took Greek mythology and punched it in the face, and then proceeded to punch it a thousand more times just to make a point. The brutal introduction of Kratos and his world in God of War was like nothing I had ever seen before. With fantastically large boss fights, brutal executions, and even some time to woo some ladies, this game rocked my world. It went on to spawn multiple sequels and cosplayers ready to shave their heads and cover their bodies in baby powder. It not only was a great brawler, but it really did make me do some research on the Greek gods and learn more about them. Some of these gods were jerks! So it was nice to be able to have an avatar like Kratos to stab, slice, break, and tear them apart.
3. Burnout 3: Takedown (2004 - EA/Criterion)
The PlayStation 2 had a lot of fantastic racing games; Gran Turismo, Need for Speed, and Midnight Club just to name a few. But none of them in my mind gave me the same visceral feeling of tearing down the road at breakneck speeds like Burnout 3. And NONE of the ones mentioned rewarded you for taking out your opponents. What a rush when you smash your opponent into oncoming traffic only to have the game slow down time and watch as their car crumbles from the impact. Not only that but if someone happens to take you out, you had the opportunity to ruin someone else’s race by using the Aftertouch feature. This allowed you to take your ravaged vehicle and move it into your opponents. Like every amazing car chase scene I saw growing up, this game gave me goosebumps as I would make my way to the finish line. While there are the typical racing modes, there is one aptly named Crash Mode where you had to rack up as much destruction in different scenarios. This game needs a remake, full stop.
2. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003 - Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal)
I might have a lot of people clutching pearls and sharpening their pitchforks here for how high this game is ranked, but hear me out. The Prince of Persia series was near and dear to my heart. The Jordan Mechner series was one of the first games I had ever played and it got my lifelong obsession with video games started. There was an attempt earlier for a 3D PoP game that did not hit the mark. In fact, Mechner took a hiatus from the industry after the poor reception of that game. The Sands of Time rewound all that bad juju and rejuvenated the franchise. The combat was fluid, the story intriguing, and the platforming was sublime. I think this might be the first time I saw a game that had wall running mechanics and my jaw dropped when I first pulled it off. The use of time manipulation to complete puzzles was so unique at the time. Hell, this also spun off what became another massive franchise in Assassins Creed. So much to love in this game and I cannot wait for the remake to arrive so I can enjoy it again.
1. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001 - Konami/Konami)
I had a Dreamcast and was a die-hard proponent of the console (still am TBH). However, this game was the reason I bought a PS2. I was obsessed over the PSX classic Metal Gear Solid when it came out. I love how that game messed with you as the player. So when I saw they were making a sequel, I was amped. This game was definitely controversial at the time because of the role swap mid-way. And to be honest, I was upset that I couldn’t hear David Hayter grumble at me for a bit too. But I loved every minute of this game. Sure it might not have had as memorable of a boss fight as Psycho Mantis, but the visuals in this game were top-notch, the gameplay upgraded, and having Harry Gregson-Williams do the soundtrack made this game truly special. Top tier game all around and still to me my favorite of the series.
The PS2 had many MANY more fantastic games in its library and this was a difficult list for me to put together. It truly had a game for every kind of player. To me, these were the ones I can for sure remember having such a great time playing. If you don’t like ‘em, what are yours?
About the author:
Chris is a connoisseur of all things Xbox, especially Game Pass. He loves it so much, in fact, that he created the 1 Hour 1 Decision podcast with his buddy Tom to randomly play and review Game Pass titles!