What are the ten best PlayStation 2 games to play now?

August 13, 2014


Everyone does Top 10 Games lists. The problem with those? Usually, they’re full of games that earn a place because of nostalgia or industry significance. Here at Snackbar Games, we like being a little more practical: if you’re looking to just have fun, what games should you pick up and play today? This time, we return to the system that dominated the early-2000s: the PlayStation 2.

Final Fantasy XII

Despite the juggernaut brand name, Final Fantasy XII was more of a risk than many think. It had been five years since Final Fantasy X and, since then, Square Enix had released X-2 and Final Fantasy XI, both to mixed reception. It also made a rare design choice; setting the game in Ivalice, a world the franchise had used before. All turned out to be well, for the most part. The graphics and environments are grand, the music is pleasant (if unmemorable) and the amount of side content certainly takes influence from Final Fantasy XI’s MMO style of gameplay. The game has aged quite well, retains a ton of replay value and spawned a (less memorable) sequel for the DS, Revenant Wings.  – Henry Skey


Gitaroo Man

Similar in a lot of ways to the Parappa the Rapper series, Gitaroo Man is an insane Japanese rhythm game that features effective use of button timing and analog movement. Each song is as expectedly catchy and zany as the last and the actual controls are spot on, which provides some of the most satisfying moments I’ve seen in any rhythm game. And if you’re really up for a challenge, try playing on the harder modes, I guarantee you’ll have quite a task ahead of you. This is the kind of rhythm game we rarely see released anymore, and one I think is completely worth having in any PS2 library. – Andrew Passafiume

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

I stand by my fellow staffers that this was the better of the PS2 Grand Theft Auto games. While III set the bar for a new standard and San Andreas pushed the limits, Vice City had the perfect balance of both games: a talking protagonist we could connect with, a world that wasn’t too overwhelming to the player and an ’80s feel so authentic that you could see the cheese flow right out of the screen. Even today, I find myself returning to this game over the fourth entry ,since the game tosses you right into the action and keeps that energy going through the whole game. This is an essential game to have in your collection. – Eric Albuen


Kingdom Hearts II

Without attempting to solve where it belongs in the massively convoluted canon of the series, we can safely say Kingdom Hearts II is one of the best. Gameplay was streamlined slightly from the first, the worlds are more creative, the gummi ship sections re-worked, the story was far more ambitious (for better or for worse), the soundtrack was absolutely incredible and the ending was as satisfying as it could have been. The fight with the 1000 Heartless in the canyon is a fantastic sequence, and belongs in any “best moments” list. – Henry Skey

Katamari Damacy

The Katamari series earns its spot in the discussion for “most Japanese game” each time it’s brought up, and that’s because it’s off-the-wall crazy. You roll up random objects because the King of All Cosmos is a generally irresponsible individual, and because he’s your dad. Whatever, it’s totally fun. This first game has a charm the following games don’t, because there’s something about that first impression that sticks with you a little better, and many of the best ideas were hit on at the very beginning. (Later games changed it up for “variety.”) It’s a game that doesn’t stick around longer than it needs to, which can’t be said about later entries, and the basic gameplay hasn’t really been enhanced since. – Graham Russell


Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil

Considered by many as one of the best platformers to never leave the PlayStation 2, Klonoa 2 is a fine sequel that faithfully follows the PS1 original’s signature brand of puzzle platforming. Taking a more methodical and easygoing approach to the genre, the Klonoa series is renowned for its emphasis on problem-solving over reflexes. The PS2 game is likely the best in the series, capitalizing on the improved hardware to use the 2.5D perspective of the game to the fullest, allowing for multi-plane puzzles and some fancy perspective-based trickery to deliver a fun platformer that knows exactly what it wants to be, and delivers on that vision with gusto. Sadly, it was overshadowed by its contemporaries, and struggles to be recognized as anything beyond a cult hit and a critical success. If you’re a fan of the genre, you owe it to yourself to track it down. – Chris Dominowski

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

The Megaten series never really caught on here in the States until Nocturne was released in 2004. Sure, the original two Persona games released on the PS1 were moderately popular, but this is the first main-series Shin Megami Tensei game that was released outside of Japan. It’s one of the most compelling and difficult RPGs to be released on the PS2, featuring everything that made the series famous in the first place. Think of it like a demonic version of Pokemon, except replace Pokeballs with your own negotiating skills, and you have an RPG formula that is vastly different from the rest of the PS2’s vast library of games. And yes, it is tough, but it’s the kind of difficulty that keeps you coming back for more. This will be some of the most satisfying 80-plus hours of time you’ll ever sink into a game. – Andrew Passafiume


Suikoden V

The Suikoden series, with its 108 playable characters and entertaining mixes of different genres, is popular for many reasons. Suikoden V is considered one of the best in the series, and I think it’s easily the best one available on the PS2. Taking everything that made the series great in the first place and adding enough new content makes this the perfect game for newcomers to the series and veterans alike. There is something very enjoyable about discovering new characters and recruiting them, especially when most of them are interesting enough to stand on their own. Combine that with the nearly-perfected turn-based battle system, and you have the pinnacle of the Suikoden franchise. – Andrew Passafiume


What do you get when you combine the arcadey dogfights of Ace Combat with the colorful, interesting world of Mega Man Legends, adding in a healthy dose of steampunk and anime flair? You get Skygunner, Atlus’ highly underrated aerial battle game. In it, you control one of the three titular Skygunners, mercenary combat pilots looking the world over for the mythical Eternal Engine. The game features an RPG-esque statistic and equipment management game mechanic that helps to add depth and flexibility to the battles. The dogfights themselves are always chaotic and fun, with their only downfall being some pretty bad slowdown in parts. The lighthearted and adventurous story really carries the game, and is charming enough to grab you from the get-go. – Chris Dominowski


Dragon Quest VIII

Dragon Quest is a legendary name when it comes to Japanese RPGs, and the PlayStation 2 is equally well known for having an abundance of games in the genre. Where Final Fantasy went for constant innovation, changing up core mechanics with each game, Dragon Quest always tended to stick with what it was known for and generally delivered on that promise. VIII is the only entry in the series to be released on the PS2, however it is often cited as the best of them all. I consider it a real revival of what made the series great: classic RPG gameplay, interesting characters and story, but without the long winded tedium that was a hallmark of some of the Super Famicom games and was especially notable in Dragon Warrior VII. VIII shares many features of previous games, but one of the things I felt really won me over is that it doesn’t force them on you. The game will run you about 80 to 120 hours, depending on how much extra stuff you do. Unlike other entries in the series, this game does not outstay its welcome and ends right where it should. – Jeff deSolla