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The best PS2 games of all time

5. Silent Hill 2

Silent Hill 2

(Image credit: Konami)

While the original PlayStation game was great, it was Silent Hill 2 that really established the series as a major name in survival horror. Instead of revisiting the first game’s cast, new protagonist James visits the town after receiving a letter from his wife – who died three years prior to the start of the game. Pyramid Head is rightly recognized as one of gaming’s most iconic monsters, but what really sets Konami’s sequel apart from other games in the genre is that it focuses on psychological horror rather than gore, and tackles some pretty taboo themes in ways that videogames rarely approach.

4. Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4

(Image credit: Capcom)

After years of tank controls and fixed camera angles, the Resident Evil series desperately needed some fresh ideas, and Capcom delivered them at just the right time. That started with getting rid of the zombies – Los Ganados were clever, cooperative and they could even use weapons. Worse yet, the over-the-shoulder perspective meant that you were much closer to the action. The game was a disgusting treat to behold, and the action-packed QTE scenes meant that you could never entirely relax. The switch to a more action-oriented approach to the series was a huge success and influenced countless other games.

3. Shadow Of The Colossus

Best PS2 games

(Image credit: Sony)

Few games can ever really be described as solemn, but those of you that have experienced this legendary game will know why we use it here. Taking down the majestic giants of Shadow Of The Colossus is a task that never feels quite right, as satisfying as it can be to work out how to do it, and that mood is frequently reinforced with periods of silence and the ever-present desaturated color palette. The PS2 often struggles to keep itself together while running this, so you may wish to look at the PS3 remaster and PS4 remake, but the impact here is undeniable.

2. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Best PS2 games

(Image credit: Konami)

After annoying some players by making Raiden the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2, this sequel set things right by shifting to the Sixties and following the more outwardly familiar character Naked Snake. Like the previous games in the series, Metal Gear Solid 3 emphasizes stealth over combat and is packed with clever touches – you can let a boss literally die of old age – but differentiated itself by placing a heavier emphasis on survival, as you have to manage Snake’s hunger and tend to injuries. The later Subsistence edition is improved with full camera control and a range of extras.

1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Best PS2 games

(Image credit: Rockstar)

Having dominated the open-world scene since Grand Theft Auto III took the series into 3D, San Andreas felt like a victory lap for Rockstar North. The early Nineties setting and fictional state of San Andreas (comprised of takes on Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas) was the ideal backdrop for a tale of corrupt cops and gang warfare. The game was a technical triumph too, with an enormous map, new gang warfare features, and extensive customization. Though it was recalled over the unused Hot Coffee minigame, San Andreas sold 17.33 million copies and is the console’s best-selling game.

The PS2 was a truly great console. If you're hungry for more PlayStation, here are the PS5 stock updates you need to see.

Nick Thorpe

Nick picked up gaming after being introduced to Donkey Kong and Centipede on his dad's Atari 2600, and never looked back. He joined the Retro Gamer team in 2013 and is currently the magazine's Features Editor, writing long reads about the creation of classic games and the technology that powered them. He's a tinkerer who enjoys repairing and upgrading old hardware, including his prized Neo Geo MVS, and has a taste for oddities including FMV games and bizarre PS2 budget games. A walking database of Sonic the Hedgehog trivia. He has also written for Edge, games™, Linux User & Developer, Metal Hammer and a variety of other publications.