60 Best Underrated & Unknown PS2 Games Worth Playing

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If you had to decide who won the sixth-generation console war, it would be hard to argue against the PS2’s supremacy.

This second iteration of the original PlayStation wasn’t only powerful, but also accessible to both game developers and consumers. Not to mention totally backwards compatible!

This made the PS2 into the best-selling video game console of all time, counting over 3500 game releases under its belt (including Japanese exclusives).

And I think we’ve all played PS2 classics like Resident Evil 4, GTA, Final Fantasy X, and Tekken 5. But there are many masterpieces on this system that went mostly unnoticed.

I’ll try to cover the best among the obscure in this massive ranking, just to show some love for the wonderful games that are still criminally underrated.

 

60. The Suffering (2004)

The Suffering PS2 gameplay screenshot

Psychological horror is usually the realm of Survival Horror and other such genres, you know, the ones that lend themselves well that suspenseful nature.

So what would it look like if you injected more action into a game like that?

Well, I guess it’d look like The Suffering.

Developed by Surreal Software, The Suffering is a fast-paced horror experience where running is only a last resort.

With a bit of a Silent Hill feeling to it, and a morality system affecting how other characters treat you & the ending you get, The Suffering is one of the best horror offerings on the PS2.

 

59. Manhunt (2003)

Manhunt gameplay

Psychological horror comes in many forms.

And disturbing apparitions from your past happens to be one of them.

Rockstar Games’ Manhunt puts us in a situation where the most horrifying scenes are of our own making, as we’re forced to record a series of snuff films to earn our life and freedom back.

We’re mostly killing gangsters. So it’s not like they didn’t have it coming.

But the visceral nature of the murder scenes is a little bit too… real. It’s more than enough to disturb some audiences, and while plenty of gamers do know this title, I’d argue a whole lot never even touched it.

 

58. The Adventures of Cookie & Cream (2001)

The Adventures of Cookie & Cream screenshot

Before making the “hard but fair” roguelike series Dark Souls, developer From Software created titles in a pretty eclectic genre range.

The Adventures of Cookie & Cream was their first game on the PS2, with a cutesy aesthetic quite unlike what they’re known for nowadays.

I’d recommend it especially for the co-op functionality, as the game was clearly designed with this in mind.

And cooperation often feels like a need here, rather than an extra feature.

 

57. Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (2005)

Power Shot in Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana Game

If you’re big on JRPGs, you can’t miss out on Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana.

This was the very first game in the Atelier series localized for Western audiences.

Developed by Gust, this slow-paced RPG puts the same focus on crafting as it does on combat… which you’ll be engaging in primarily to get materials you’ll then use to craft items.

It has two sequels on the PS2, which aren’t quite as iconic, but remain pretty fun.

 

56. Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy (2009)

Selecting action for character in Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy

Rather than the sequels to Atelier Iris, you could also check out Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy, the second entry in its spin-off series.

While crafting through Alchemy remains a core feature of the game, a lot more emphasis is put on combat and the fantastic storyline.

The 2D sprites are charming, and it has one of the best soundtracks in this ranking.

You should probably play the prequel, also on the PS2, but it just can’t hold a candle to the polished sheen of Mana Khemia 2.

 

55. Extermination (2001)

Extermination - 2001 Game screenshot

We’ve all played the classics.

Resident Evil, Parasite Eve, Silent Hill… shouldn’t we give something else a chance?

Developed by Deep Space, Extermination came out early in the PS2’s lifespan to showcase the system’s power.

It looks great, the controls are tight, and the focus on running rather than fighting works wonderfully to create a tense survival horror experience.

 

54. Primal (2003)

Primal - 2003 Game screenshot

Attractive femme fatale protagonists go hand in hand with the PS2.

And Sony’s first-party action-adventure game Primal is simultaneously among the best, and the most underrated for this.

It follows Jennifer Tate, a 21 years-old killing machine with the power to turn into demons on a quest to find her kidnapped boyfriend.

The puzzles are pretty standard, but the combat is engaging, and the game has a very high production value. This is evident both in its graphics and the excellent soundtrack by electronic rock band 16-Volt.

 

53. Shadow of Memories (2001)

Shadow of Memories PS2 characters screenshot

I’m a sucker for time-travel stories. And Konami’s Shadow of Destiny was one of the first chances I got to experience one in a video game.

In this mystery-adventure game, players guide protagonist Eike Kusch as he tries to stop his own murder by going back in time, changing the course of history, and trying to determine just who’s behind the crime.

Not only did the team behind Shadow of Memories nail the presentation, giving each timeline a distinct look and feel, but the trial-and-error gameplay is very addictive.

 

52. The Bouncer (2001)

The Bouncer Game

Looking at this game’s cover, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it with a Final Fantasy title.

Indeed, it was made by Square in association with DreamFactory. But it’s pretty different from their most well-known franchise.

This beat-em-up/ARPG takes place in a dystopian future more similar to Cyberpunk 2077 than any Final Fantasy.

Besides being incredibly stylish, it also features a solid plot that’s more than enough to keep you interested for the entire playthrough.

 

51. Maximo vs. Army of Zin (2004)

Maximo vs. Army of Zin Gameplay screenshot

If you liked the original Ghosts’ n’Goblins, you’re sure to love Capcom’s Maximo vs. Army of Zin, which features new characters and a new art style.

Yet it still retains the same challenging gameplay all the way through

Be prepared to lose everything but your undies. A lot.

Its prequel, Maximo: Ghosts to Glory, is about as good, but the sequel is just a more polished experience, which is why I’m giving it this spot on our ranking.

 

50. 10.000 Bullets (2005)

Gameplay in 10.000 Bullets

One of the most overlooked games ever to come out on the PS2 has to be 10.000 Bullets.

Although a lot of that obscurity comes from the fact that it was only released in English for European systems, and never got a US release.

Developed by Blue Moon Studio, this action-heavy TPS looks like a classic Mafia game, until you realize the main character can manipulate time in battle. This allows him to pull off bullet-time acrobatics and special moves straight out of an anime.

The gameplay is not its best feature.

But rather it has to be its incredibly stylish design, and the jazzy soundtrack fits the action perfectly.

 

49. Stretch Panic (2001)

Stretch Panic gameplay

Known as “Freak Out” in Europe, Treasure’s experimental Stretch Panic brings players a unique platforming experience where the main character Linda uses her ghost-like stretchy hand to get around and fight.

This hand plays a crucial role in the battle against Linda’s demon-possessed sisters, which you exorcise through the power of stretching.

It sounds weird, but it works.

 

48. Freedom Fighters (2003)

PS2 gameplay Freedom Fighters

For lovers of Cold War drama and movies like Red Dawn, IO Interactive’s Freedom Fighters is a match made in heaven.

The Soviet Union has invaded the United States.

And it’s up to a former plumber to lead the resistance movement and oppose communist occupation.

It features an excellent squad-leading system and action-packed gameplay that would go on to shape the more successful Kane & Lynch series.

 

47. The Red Star (2007)

The Red Star screenshot

Since we’re talking about the Soviet Union, why not equally redistribute your attention toward The Red Star?

This title’s et in an alternate-universe revolutionary Russia where magic is commonplace.

Choose one of three characters and progress through isometric beat-em-up levels that conclude in epic top-down shoot-em-up boss battles.

Acclaim Studios did a fantastic job bringing to life the steampunk Russia from the original The Red Star graphic novel.

 

46. Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis (2003)

Dinosaurs in Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis Game

Massive media franchises like Jurassic Park tend to have terrible video game tie-ins.

While Jurassic Park has seen its fair share of terrible games, Operation Genesis is the complete opposite of that.

This fantastic Jurassic Park tycoon will let you build your dino-park from the ground up, manage its business operations, develop new dinosaurs for the park, and more.

If you love Tycoon games, this is a title you’ll want to try at least once.

 

45. Shadow of Rome (2005)

Shadow of Rome PS2

Developed by Capcom, Shadow of Rome lets players become gladiators fighting for coin and glory in ancient Rome.

But the game isn’t all blood and gore.

Combat is incredibly satisfying, and there’s even a solid storyline that’s nuanced in a way we’re not used to seeing in this kind of blood festival.

It does have some pretty terrible sneaking sequences as well. But it’s manageable.

Plus, failing at them is generally pretty funny.

 

44. The Warriors (2005)

PS2 - The Warriors Game

Based on the 70s movie of the same name, Rockstar’s The Warriors puts you in the shoes of a gangster who’s been framed for killing the leader of New York’s most powerful gang.

The gameplay is just what you’d expect from a 3D beat-em-up, letting you beat the lights out of anyone opposing you as you try to survive.

You can also steal car stereos for money, and engage in other criminal activities. So that’s always fun.

 

43. Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil (2001)

Boss battle in Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil

Namco’s Klonoa: Door to Phantomile on the PlayStation was one of my favorite childhood games.

And while its sequel on the PS2 has nothing to do with the original narrative-wise, it retains much of the same charm.

The 2.5D platforming is addictive, and the vivid colors and appealing graphics make you want to see more of this vibrant world.

The soundtrack also marries wonderfully with this ambiance.

The most exciting parts of the game have to be the puzzle-like boss fights, where you’ll have to make use of your intellect and reflexes at the same time to triumph.

 

42. Soul Nomad & the World Eaters (2007)

Soul Nomad & the World Eaters - PS2 gameplay

The amazing SRPG Soul Nomad has one of the best stories in the Nippon Ichi Software roster.

It’s also the only one that allows you to pick the main character’s gender and name at the onset of the story.

This freedom to choose is also present in the campaign, which can change completely depending on your actions.

 

41. Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (2004)

Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy screenshot

Midway Games tends to involve themselves with bloody & gory games.

Well, you won’t be pulling out any organs in Psi-Ops.

But you can detonate enemy heads with your mind, which is just as good (if not better).

This TPSr is all about using your psychokinetic abilities to decimate droves of enemies. You do have guns, but smashing people against the walls or pushing their ragdoll bodies from high places is much more fun.

 

40. SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom (2003)

Start Menu - SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle For Bikini Bottom PS2

Cartoon tie-ins tend to be terrible.

But like everything made during SpongeBob’s golden age, BfBB is just plain gold.

In fact it was so popular that it got its own HD remake.

Battle for Bikini Bottom’s cover art may suggest some military action, but it’s actually a collect-a-thon platformer that’ll take you through several famous locales like the Goo Lagoon and the Krusty Krab.

Their original voice actors voice almost the whole cast, and the soundtrack is just fantastic.

Battle for Bikini Bottom actually won our top spot for the best SpongeBob games of all time, so if you love that yellow kitchen sponge and his odd friends, this is a game worth playing. If not the original PS2 version, then definitely the Rehydrated HD remake.

 

39. The Sword of Etheria (2006)

Almira enemy battle in The Sword of Etheria Game

Developed by Konami back when they made more games than Pachinko machines, The Sword of Etheria offers players a stylish hack-and-slash where lengthy air combos are the name of the game.

Its graphics are pretty good. And the visual effects accompanying sword swings and special attacks are a pleasure to watch.

It’s pretty similar to Devil May Cry in terms of gameplay, with the addition of two AI “Spiritual Warriors” who help you fight during the campaign.

Regrettably, it never made it to the US, and was only released in English for European audiences, which contributed to its relative obscurity.

 

38. Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 (2003)

Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 Game

Developed by Genki, Tokyo Xtreme Racer 3 lets you race all around the Tokyo Highway System.

This third installment also included highways in Osaka and Nagoya.

With a wealth of cars and deep customization options, this game can be the perfect thing to lose yourself in and forget about your troubles while cruisin’ the Land of the Rising Sun.

 

37. Rez (2001)

Rez 2001 Gameplay screenshot

I love experimental games. And few things sound as innovative as “Musical Rail Shooter”, a genre created by United Game Artists’ Rez.

In this game you’ll play as hackers trying to shoot their way into a rogue AI’s code to regain control.

Rez aims to induce a sense of synesthesia between the visual shooting, the auditive beat of the music, and the controller’s vibrations.

As expected from a “rhythm” game, the soundtrack is top-notch. And the deep themes that play a role in the narrative will leave you thinking for a while.

 

36. SkyGunner (2002)

Tutorial scene in SkyGunner PS2 Game

If you’ve always wanted to get into Ace Combat but never quite feel “hooked” by the game, consider trying PixelArts’ SkyGunner: a simplified dogfighting simulator with responsive controls and excellent graphics.

What makes this game so much more magnetic that something like Ace Combat is the steampunk aesthetic and manga-style art, along with a unique storyline following three ace pilots who’re hired to protect the “Eternal Engine”, capable of perpetual motion.

 

35. Dawn of Mana (2007)

Dawn of Mana screenshot

The third entry in Square Enix’s World of Mana series follows Keldric, a warrior on a journey to close a dark portal at the base of the Tree of Mana, which threatens to corrupt the world.

The high fantasy setting is as charming as ever.

And the gameplay shines for the degree of interaction your character can have with the surrounding terrain.

Smashing enemies with a rock at the end of your whip is a bit of a cruel pleasure.

Underrated but truly a joy to play through, especially for JRPG fans.

 

34. Samurai Western (2005)

Samurai Western Gamelay PS2

If you’ve played Acquire’s Way of the Samurai, you know what Samurai Western is about.

This spin-off of the fantastic Samurai simulator series follows Gojiro Kiryu, a Samurai on a quest to kill his own brother, hidden somewhere in the American Wild West.

Not only is the story pretty good in and of itself, but watching a Samurai make his way through droves of gun-wielding cowboys is surreal and badass.

 

33. Shadow Hearts: From the New World (2006)

Shadow Hearts: From the New World PS2 screenshot

SH: From the New World is a considerably more lighthearted spin-off of Nautilus’ original RPG Shadow Hearts, also on the PS2.

It changes the dark WWI European aesthetic for something more lively, taking place in the US during the Prohibition era.

The characters are also considerably more colorful and wacky than their European counterparts, contributing to a more relaxed experience.

Combat follows the same “Judgement Ring” timing-based system as the previous games, and it remains just as challenging.

 

32. Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra (2006)

Valans in Xenosaga Episode III

Developed by Monolith Soft as a spiritual sequel to the original Xenogears, the Xenosaga RPG series presents you with a somewhat pretentious but undoubtedly engaging storyline.

Mostly in the form of cutscenes, as most JRPGs seem to have.

The third entry, often considered by fans to be the best in the series, continues to follow Shion Uzuki and the battle android KOS-MOS as they uncover the origins of the hostile alien Gnosis.

 

31. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII (2006)

Vincent in Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII

Taking place three years after the events of the original Final Fantasy VII, Dirge of Cerberus follows Vincent Valentine in his struggle to oppose the mysterious organization Deepground and their plans to summon Omega, a world-destroying creature.

Developed by Square Enix in collaboration with Monolith Soft, the game discards the turn-based nature of FFVII in favor of an ARPG/TPS mash-up that sees Vincent firing handguns, rifles, and machine guns with Materia-charged shots.

It sounds and looks way cooler than it plays, but it remains a pretty solid game with a great story.

This one’s also available on the PlayStation store as of this writing, so it’s still easy to pick this up and give it a try.

 

30. DarkWatch (2005)

DarkWatch gameplay on PS2

The Weird West aesthetic is one of the most unique around, bringing elements from sci-fi, fantasy, and horror to the American Wild West’s hot, sandy locales.

High Moon Studios’ great-looking FPS DarkWatch revels in its blend of steampunk, horror, and Wild West tropes, as represented by the main character, Jericho Cross – a vampire cowboy who uses dark powers at night, and his trusty revolver during the day.

With a morality system determining character and story progression, good gameplay, and gorgeous graphics, it’s a shame we don’t talk much about DarkWatch anymore.

 

29. XIII (2003)

XIII PS2 - Gamelay sceenshot

XIII was one of the first games to try cel-shaded graphics.

And it gave this creative FPS a comic book look that’s both unique and appealing.

The narrative, based on a Belgian graphic novel of the same name, is reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

It follows an amnesiac secret agent trying to regain his memories and clear his name after being framed for killing the President of the US.

Something that keeps every kill fresh is how the killing blow is always highlighted as comic panels popping up at one side of the screen. Stylish.

 

28. Tales of Legendia (2006)

Tales of Legendia PS2 screenshot

Everyone loves to talk about Tales of the Abyss as one of the best ARPGs on the PS2.

But hardly anyone mentions Tales of Legendia, despite having much the same gameplay style!

This game follows Senel and his sister Shirley, who’re picked up by a massive island/ship after being adrift at sea for a pretty long time.

While it has a robust main campaign, the game shines by giving each character a smaller post-game quest focusing on their own stories. It’s really cool.

With lots of high-quality anime cutscenes and one of the most unique casts in a “Tales Of” game, this game is a must-play for JRPG fans.

 

27. Radiata Stories (2005)

Radiata Stories Battle Scene - PS2 Screenshot

Developed by Tri-Ace, this unique action-RPG stars a generic teen in a fantasy world.

But that’s where the genre tropes end, and this game’s uniqueness begins.

Rather than focusing on the main campaign, Radiata Stories lets you interact with almost every single character in the world map, all of which have daily routines and their own backstory.

Most of them can be recruited, and they’ll have you help them achieve their objectives.

With a great soundtrack, engaging gameplay, some fun combat styles, and lots of post-game content, Radiata Stories gives you your money’s worth in playtime.

Truly, this is one of the most underrated RPGs on the entire console. Hardcore RPG fans should try this out at least once.

 

26. Red Dead Revolver (2004)

Red Dead Revolver screenshot

With the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 still fresh in our memories, it’s a great time to remember the game that started it all, and almost nobody knows – Red Dead Revolver.

Developed by Rockstar Games, this wonderful TPS lets you go around the Wild West shooting people as one of several characters, all with different playstyles and weapons.

It’s not quite as good as its successor, but the shooting is satisfying, and the storyline is robust. It also has a great multiplayer.

 

25. Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly (2003)

Map in Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly Game

The middle child in Tecmo’s PS2 survival horror trilogy is also the best one thanks to an excellent story that puts both its prequel and sequel to shame.

The game follows twin sisters Mio and Mayu Amakura as they explore an abandoned, haunted village full of spirits who want to use both of them as a sacrifice in a dark ritual.

Luckily, you have a magic camera that lets you see and exorcise ghosts by taking their picture.

Fun, right?

In other words, you fight by jump-scaring yourself.

Pretty addictive, but also anxiety-inducing.

 

24. Gitaroo Man (2002)

Gitaroo Man battle scene

As far as rhythm games go, Gitaroo Man is one of the best, but also one of the most bizarre.

The game puts you in control of a boy with a magic guitar, using catchy tunes and tasty riffs to battle an alien empire.

While the quirky story and unique, vibrant art style are enough to draw people in, what keeps you hooked is how challenging it is. And it gets harder by the minute.

If you’re a Guitar Hero prodigy, you’ll love this game.

 

23. Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (2006)

Battle scene in Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria PS2

Tri-Ace’s Valkyrie Profile franchise has garnered a cult following thanks to its great storylines and challenging tactical-RPG gameplay.

While the plot isn’t quite as good as the first installments, Valkyrie Profile 2 features striking visuals and an excellent soundtrack that elevate its presentation on the console.

Combat puts a heavy focus on controlling the battlefield and flanking your enemies, and it remains as addictive as ever.

 

22. Lifeline (2004)

Lifeline PS2 screenshot

As a first-party developer, Sony isn’t scared of treading new ground.

And few games in the PS2’s roster are quite as innovative as Lifeline.

Described by its cover as a “Voice Action Adventure”, the game has you helping characters avoid monsters on a space station by barking orders at a microphone.

Main character Rio understands up to 500 different commands, which you’ll have to learn if you wish to lead her out of the space station alive.

It’s underrated for a reason: mostly because it’s so strange. But if you’re into something like this I really suggest giving it a try.

Nostalia tip: if you’ remember G4/TechTV’s X-Play, they did a very funny review of this game.

 

21. Odin Sphere (2007)

Odin Sphere Game shop menu

Vanillaware’s spiritual successor to the 1997 game “Princess Crown” reprises many of the same concepts, expanding upon them and applying a fresh new coat of paint.

This 2D side-scrolling beat-em-up with RPG elements lets you choose one of five heroes armed with soul-sucking weapons, including guns, spears, knives, and more.

While it has a pretty gripping story taking place inside a book, it’s the engaging gameplay and great boss fights that make this gorgeous-looking game stand out.

 

20. Kill Switch (2003)

Kill Switch gameplay

Some games deserve credit not only for their individual achievements but for their impact on the industry as a whole.

Namco’s Kill Switch should be remembered as one of the most influential TPS in recent memory.

It was the first to successfully implement cover-based shooting, which would go on to shape Gears of War, the Uncharted series, and many other notorious franchises.

The story, which follows an amnesiac soldier seeking revenge on whoever killed his wife, is pretty shallow, but the shooting makes up for it in spades.

 

19. Oni (2001)

Oni Gamelay tutorial screenshot

Before being acquired by Microsoft and going on to make the masterpiece that is Halo, Bungie had at least one incredible game under its belt.

That would be Oni, a beat-em-up/TPS starring Konoko, who looks pretty much like Tomoko from the Ghost in the Shell franchise.

In fact, the entire game is pretty much a Ghost in the Shell ripoff.

A really, really good one.

There’s even an active modding community still working on content for the game!

 

18. Blood Will Tell: Tezuka Osamu’s Dororo (2004)

PS2 Blood Will Tell: Tezuka Osamu’s Dororo

Before we had From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and its mechanical-hand-toting Samurai, SEGA’s Blood Will Tell starred Hyakkimaru, a Samurai with an entirely artificial body.

This intense hack-and-slash game’s campaign revolves around hunting down 48 demons who are holding onto your body parts to get them back.

There are also plenty of swords to collect, and abilities to learn along the way.

The game also features a fun co-op mode where one player plays as the powerful Samurai Hyakkimaru, while the other plays as the weaker thief Dororo, providing support.

 

17. God Hand (2006)

God Hand battle screenshot

Developed by the innovative Clover Studio, God Hand is a bizarre, irreverent beat-em-up full of offensive stereotypes and a narrative style reminiscent of a B-Movie.

It’s a pretty low-budget game, which shows in its notoriously short length.

Still, it makes up for it with lots of personality and a challenging combat system that makes triumphing over your enemies feel like a real achievement.

 

16. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (2004)

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne PS2 screenshot

Nowadays, Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei franchise is better known for its Persona spin-off saga, but back during the PS2 era, SMT: Nocturne was king.

The game takes place after the “end of the world”.

The decisions you make and the characters you support during the story will affect both the game’s progression and its ending. It’s up to you to shape the world to come.

Much like other SMT games, combat is all about exploiting enemy weaknesses and recruiting them to fight alongside you. Even DMC’s Dante makes a cameo as a recruitable demon.

 

15. Ico (2001)

Ico 2001 PS2 screenshot

Directed by Fumito Ueda, famous for his work on The Last Guardian and Shadow of the Colossus, Ico offers the same dreamlike ambiance and complex puzzles that characterize these titles.

You play as a cursed boy who meets and proceeds to escort a princess out of an abandoned castle. Easy right?

Well you’re trying to get this princess out before her mother, the Queen, uses her body to extend her own lifespan.

Yeah…

There’s little dialogue, and the plot is hazy at best, but it’s more than enough to get you interested before the gameplay and beautiful aesthetic finally hook you.

 

14. Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

Horse riding in Shadow of the Colossus

Ico may be iconic, but it really can’t compete with Ueda’s most renowned work: Shadow of the Colossus.

This beautiful action-adventure title gives you the morally grey objective of hunting down the Colossi, massive, majestic beasts you’ll first have to climb before you can deal damage.

While the game gets a lot of recognition nowadays, it slipped under most people’s radar when it first came out. Which qualifies it as underrated in my book.

 

13. Steambot Chronicles (2006)

Steambot Chronicles game menu screenshot

Also known as “Steampunk GTA”, Steambot Chronicles is a non-linear real-time RPG that essentially lets you do whatever you want in an entertaining steampunk world.

Do you want to play music for a living? You can.

Become a cage fighter? No problem!

Be good, be evil, or something inbetween.

This game is more about the journey than it is about the destination, and it’s criminally underrated given how fun and innovative it was.

 

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

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner battle screenshot

Anything produced by Hideo Kojima is bound to be, at the very least, an intriguing experience. In the case of ZoE: The 2nd Runner, it’s also a very fun one.

As the sequel to the original ZoE, The 2nd Runner promised to be bigger, better, and faster than the original – and it delivers.

It features new enemies and several amazing mechas, and the ARPG gameplay is engaging, varied, and even more polished than in the original.

 

11. The Getaway (2003)

The Getaway game cutscene screenshot

Developed by Team Soho, The Getaway is an open-world action-adventure game reminiscent of the GTA series, taking place in detailed recreations of large areas of London, England.

The game’s thrilling plot is inspired by British gang films like Get Carter and Snatch.

It follows the parallel storylines of former bank robber Mark Hammond and Detective Constable Frank Carter as they become involved in a gang war for control of London.

While this engrossing story is pretty good in and of itself, it’s the open-world gameplay that puts this game on the map for me.

 

10. Way of the Samurai 2 (2004)

NPC dialogue in Way of the Samurai 2 Game

Live your Samurai fantasy in Acquire’s Way of the Samurai 2, a sort of Samurai simulator that lets you do whatever you want, as a Samurai, in a charming Edo-period Japan.

Like the first game, Way of the Samurai 2 gives you a limited amount of time to live out your Samurai fantasy, and every choice you make affects how this time plays out.

You’ll have to go through the game several times to see all that this world has to offer.

Combat remains just as engaging as the first time around, albeit with some simplified parrying mechanics and the addition of instant-kill techniques.

 

9. Psychonauts (2005)

Psychonauts gameplay - PS2 screenshot

Developed by Double Fine Productions, Psychonauts offers a classic platforming experience with a pretty unique setting.

You play as Raz, a psychic-in-training with the power to delve into people’s minds, represented as challenging platforming levels. The more distorted the person’s worldview, the more bizarre and challenging the levels become.

The game’s learning curve is stable, new abilities keep the game from feeling stale, and its many collectibles give it lots of replay value too.

 

8. Shadow Hearts: Covenant (2004)

Shadow Hearts: Covenant for PS2

This sequel to Nautilus’ original Shadow Hearts continues to follow Yuri, a “Harmonixer” with the power to turn into demons and gain their abilities.

Set in an alternate universe WWI Europe where magic and monsters are a part of life, the game features a fantastic cast of characters, excellent graphics, and one of the most insane romantic plot resolutions you could think of.

What sets gameplay in Shadow Hearts apart from other RPG franchises of its time is the Judgement Ring, a gimmick that adds a timing-based mini-game each time you cast an ability to determine its success.

 

7. Wild Arms 3 (2002)

Wild Arms 3 battle screenshot

Developed by Media Vision, the third entry in the Wild Arms franchise offers fans more of the beautiful Weird West aesthetic, and more plot twists than ever.

That said, it does shake things up considerably by changing the combat system.

It goes from a traditional turn-based affair to a more tactical RPG battle style that has you moving your characters around a hex grid. Same goes for Wild Arms 4 & Wild Arms 5, both pretty decent titles that were released on the PS2 as well.

What I like most about this installment has to be the gorgeous cel-shaded graphics that look just as good today as they did back in the day.

Although many of the Wild ARMs games are just fantastic, I’d argue Wild Arms 3 is the most underrated of the PS2 lineup.

 

6. Monster Hunter (2004)

Monster Hunter PS2 gameplay screenshot

Monster Hunter: World is one of the most notorious MMORPGs out there nowadays.

But the first game in the franchise went pretty much unnoticed by most players.

Developed by Capcom, the game offered a revolutionary trio-based online hunting experience that let you team up with friends to take down massive beasts, just like Monster Hunter: World.

You won’t be able to play online nowadays.

But the game’s single-player hunts remain just as good. And you’ll have plenty of fun gathering materials and crafting new equipment for your adventurous hunts, even if you’re doing them solo.

 

5. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES (2008)

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES

The third entry in the Persona series can be described as the birth of “modern” Persona, which puts a heavy focus on a stylish art style and social simulation.

While social interaction was present in the previous two games, this was the first to introduce “Social Links”, one of the cornerstones of current-gen Persona games like P4 and P5.

These Social Links will let you acquire more powerful Persona to summon during exploration of the Dark Hour, the dungeon crawling part of the game.

The FES expansion also includes a whole new chapter focused solely on dungeon crawling with a different main character.

 

4. Killer7 (2005)

Killer7 Game PS2 screenshot

One of the most visually striking games in the PS2’s roster has to be Grasshopper Manufacture’s Killer7, which marries cel-shaded graphics with bold color palettes and stylized silhouettes.

This on-rails FPS puts you in control of an elite group of assassins known as killer7.

All of which are, in reality, manifestations of the protagonist’s multiple personalities. It gets deep here, folks.

Each of them looks and plays differently.

So you’ll need each of their skills to make it through the challenging levels and experience the entirety of its wacky plot.

 

3. Beyond Good & Evil (2003)

Beyond Good & Evil gameplay

Back when it first came out, Beyond Good & Evil was loved by critics, but somewhat overlooked by players worldwide.

After several re-releases and almost 20 years, we recognize it as one of the most polished games on the PS2. It has a fantastic presentation that’s only surpassed by its excellently written sci-fi storyline, which follows a freelance journalist as she uncovers a massive conspiracy.

It’s a pretty short game, I’ll admit that.

But the fluid melee combat and tense stealth sections make every bit worthwhile.

 

2. Ōkami (2006)

Okami PS2 battle screenshot

Developed by Clover Studio, this artsy action-adventure epic marries a gorgeous Sumi-e art style with creative combat and puzzle-solving mechanics that have you wielding a brush to “draw” your moves and unleash special abilities.

You’ll play as Amaterasu, the wolf-like Goddess of the Sun, on a quest through a picturesque rendition of feudal Japan, interacting with several Japanese mythological figures along the way.

The game is somewhat reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker on the GC due to the nature of its puzzles and heavy emphasis on exploration. The cel-shaded graphics are also pretty similar.

You’ve probably heard of this and maybe even played it a little. So it’s debatable whether Okami is truly an “underrated” PS2 title.

But it seems like this has such a cult following nowadays that it never really got push into the mainstream enough back in the mid-2000s.

 

1. Viewtiful Joe 2 (2004)

Viewtiful Joe 2 - PS2 screenshot

If you’ve ever played either the original Viewtiful Joe or its sequel, you know this platformer/beat-em-up it deserves the top spot on our ranking.

You play as Joe, a movie buff who’s obsessed with Japanese Super Sentai films.

After getting sucked into a movie, both Joe and his girlfriend Silvia must use their incredibly stylish SFX-based powers to fight their way out.

It is a beautiful game with a vibrant art style and timeless cel-shaded graphics. But it also has a very charming cast and a memorable storyline that’s all about living your truth.

It’s not as obscure as some other entries on our list.

But Viewtiful Joe 2 deserves much more credit for how good it is. It’s underrated, and the world needs another Viewtiful Joe game.

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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 games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.