Best PlayStation 2 Games That Aged Well & Still Hold Up

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As a console, the PlayStation 2 has aged like good cheese – minus the smell.

It has an almost endless roster of games to pick from, including enough classics to keep you busy for years. Its hardware has also withstood the passage of time incredibly well.

Throughout its 13-year lifespan, over 3600 games were released for the PS2.

Among them, only a handful have aged as well as the console they run on.

And whether it’s their graphics, audio, or gameplay – these are the best PS2 games that still hold up to this day.


15. Odin Sphere (2007)

Odin Sphere gameplay on PS2

I’m always up for a stylish title with cute anime girls and edgy anime boys using mystical soul-sucking weapons to bring down their enemies.

Odin Sphere is a beat-em-up with RPG elements that shines for its gorgeous character and boss design, which translates beautifully to the game’s highly detailed sprites.

Its pleasing visuals and absorbing story contribute to keeping this game enjoyable many years down the line.

It’s also pretty difficult, so you’ll worry more about survival than nitpicking at any parts that didn’t age all that well.

And if you like Odin Sphere, be sure to try out its spiritual predecessor, Princess Crown.


14. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (2002)

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 gameplay

Much like Odin Sphere, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 remains just as appealing today as it was in 2002 thanks to the use of beautifully detailed sprites instead of basic 3D models.

It’s a fantastic fighter with a 56-strong host of iconic characters from comics and video games that remain just as relevant today.

Crisp graphics, tight gameplay, and a smooth jazzy soundtrack are a reliable recipe for a timeless classic.


13. Viewtiful Joe 2 (2004)

Viewtiful Joe 2 PS2 screenshot

This colorful side-scrolling beat-em-up relies on cel-shaded graphics to give the game a bold and stylish look somewhat reminiscent of a comic book.

It’s the perfect art style to complement its wacky storyline.

It follows movie aficionado Joe after he’s magically absorbed by a film and turned into a superhero with a slick outfit and bad-ass powers.

The sequel features improved graphics and introduces Sexy Silvia, Joe’s superhero girlfriend, as a playable character.


12. Black (2006)

Black PS2 gameplay screenshot

Black was one of the most visually ravishing games on the market at the time of release.

And it still looks fantastic.

This FPS features some detailed models for its weapons that make them look lifelike, though that’s where the realism ends. Don’t expect accurate magazine sizes or even firing modes – this game is about pumping your enemies full of as much lead as possible, and the weapons reflect that.

One of my favorite aspects of the game is how it dynamically changes the pitch of your enemies’ guns so that, instead of a cacophony of similar sounds, you hear a “choir of guns” in a shootout.


11. Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

Shadow of the Colossus gameplay on PS2

Fumito Ueda’s Shadow of the Colossus has received many visual updates throughout the years, culminating in the visually striking PS4 remake released in 2018.

While this new take on the PS2 classic looks terrific (and has a photo mode), it’s almost too beautiful.

The landscape in SotC is meant to look desolate and lonely, something the PS2 original achieves with its limited resources (and a lot of fog).

On the contrary, the 2018 remake is so green and vibrant it can feel like you’re playing Ni no Kuni (2011).

Some things are better experienced in their most basic, undisturbed form to really get what they’re all about. If you haven’t yet tackled this colossi-hunting masterpiece, start with the PS2 version.


10. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (2003)

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner gameplay

The second entry in Hideo Kojima’s Zone of the Enders series brings a polished experience with much better graphics than the original.

The visuals are so good, they still hold up perfectly well today – especially if you get the PAL-only Special Edition.

You’ll have to read a summary of the original to understand the game’s story, at least. Still, the tight gameplay and incredibly unique mecha designs by Yoji Shinkawa – of Metal Gear Solid fame – are 100% worth it.

It also includes a 3D remake of Gradius as an unlockable extra.

I dare you to find better bonus content than that!


9. God of War 2 (2007)

God of War 2 PS2 screenshot

The God of War franchise single-handedly got a generation interested in Greek mythology by mixing it with flashy combat, gallons of blood, and pure, triple-distilled epicness.

The game follows Kratos’ rebellion against Olympus after they strip him of his godly powers, which you’ll slowly recover throughout the game.

This title is a classic action/exploration game with plenty of collectibles and tons of enemies to violently dismember, but the fluid combat feels undeniably modern.


8. God Hand (2006)

God Hand PS2 gameplay

If action games revolving around being a massive bad-ass are your thing, you can’t skip over Clover Studio’s God Hand.

This empowering beat-em-up has you fight your way through an epic but nonsensical story that reads like a B-Movie plot.

The supporting cast is also full of insane characters that are hilariously stereotypical and somewhat offensive – but that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for when digging through older games.

God Hand is a title for the hardcore gamer audience who likes a challenge and has a sense of humor.

It’s a bit short, but the tight gameplay and gorgeous graphics make every second thoroughly enjoyable.


7. Rogue Galaxy (2007)

Rogue Galaxy gameplay screenshot

Rogue Galaxy brings together the sci-fi setting of a space opera like Star Wars or Star Trek with the gameplay of a modern Final Fantasy title and the graphics of Dragon Quest.

This game made a mark thanks to its gorgeous graphics and fantastic combat system that mixes dynamic hack-and-slash combat with RPG staples such as random encounters and an Action Gauge.

A significant part of what makes Rogue Galaxy so good is its deep character progression systems, which will keep you busy for a long time if you give them a chance.

The game also features massive amounts of side-content to discover as you advance through the main campaign.


6. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 (2008)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 gameplay

Atlus’ famous RPG/School Life Simulator series got a boost in popularity thanks to Persona 4, which turned Persona into a multi-genre empire.

The game shines thanks to its unique gameplay loop, which has you making friends and influencing people during the day, then fighting demonic abominations in an alternate dimension at night.

What’s so special about it is how the relationships you nurture during the day – known as Social Links – affect your abilities while exploring the Midnight Channel after dark.

The game’s cast and stylish design were so well-received, it got a rhythm game and a fighter as spin-offs, which also went on to be hit titles.


5. Burnout 3: Takedown (2004)

Burnout 3: Takedown PS2 screenshot

Burnout has always looked and played like a dream.

But Burnout 3: Takedown was a major step-up for the series.

Criterion Games had already leaned into the series’ more destructive side with Crash mode in Burnout 2. Still, the introduction of takedowns as a core mechanic took the wrecking to the next level.

There’s nothing quite as rewarding as slamming your opponent’s car into a wall or sending them into a forced barrel roll with a well-placed nudge on their rear end – especially when the game showcases the crash in slow-motion.

Hell, even watching as your own car gets wrecked in slow motion is a thrill.


4. Tekken 5 (2005)

Tekken 5 gameplay on PS2

The fifth entry in the Tekken series was a return to form after the groundbreaking Tekken 4.

Instead of experimenting with new features, Namco took what worked on Tekken 4 and polished it to a mirror sheen while making sure to bring back the fast-paced combat that characterized the series.

It also introduced some new characters that became major staples in the roster, like Asuka Kazama, Jack 5, and Devil Jin.

The game is packed full of content, including the arcade mode of Tekken, Tekken 2, and Tekken 3.

There’s also a port of the 1991 shooter StarBlade, and Devil Within – a beat-em-up mode starring Devil Jin.


3. Okami (2006)

Okami PS2 gameplay

This uniquely artistic action-adventure title plays like The Legend of Zelda and looks like an ancient Japanese watercolor painting.

Okami uses cel-shaded graphics to mimic the style of traditional suni-e art and tells a story that’s deeply rooted in traditional Japanese folklore.

It’s a golden opportunity to immerse yourself in a world of Japanese myth.

The combat and puzzles are challenging enough to feel rewarding, but they’re manageable for newcomers too.


2. Final Fantasy XII (2006)

Final Fantasy XII PS2 gameplay

I remember being 12-years-old when I first saw someone playing FFXII at my local video game store.

I was floored by the graphics.

And I couldn’t stop thinking that this was “the future of gaming”.

Now over a decade later, I’m still amazed at how well the graphics – and the game as a whole – have withstood the passage of time.

It’s just a very modern game.

It has incredible attention to detail, a sprawling open world waiting to be explored, and a revolutionary Active Dimension Battle system that added a lot of action to the traditional strategizing of turn-based RPGs.

But if you want an even more updated version of this game (with brand new features) then definitely check out The Zodiac Age.


1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence (2006)

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence for PS2

If you’ve ever played this magnificent work of art by Hideo Kojima, you know why it deserves the top spot in this ranking.

This game was groundbreaking.

It completely changed what we knew about MGS by replacing tight corridors with a vast jungle and forcing us to plan our moves in a wide 3D space.

It also introduced interesting survival mechanics like treating your own injuries and procuring sustenance for Snake.

At the time, it felt like games couldn’t get any more realistic.

If you’re looking for a PS2 game with a thrilling story, great gameplay, and graphics that aged like fine wine, this is it.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.