25 PlayStation 2 Games You Shouldn’t Be Without (#5 – #1)

Here it is! The final day of our Top 25 countdown of PS2 games that have to belong in your gaming library. These titles have not only withstood the test of time, but are wicked fun to play still today.

Missed our previous post? Get caught up here:
#25 – #21
#20 – #16
#15 – #11
#10 – #6

5. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (SCEA)

During the age of the PlayStation 2, Sony really came into its own with developing original properties, including Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, and this clever little thief, Sly Cooper, and his gang of rambunctious heroes. The game, developed by newcomer Sucker Punch, really did everything right, from atmospheric design to superb gameplay (climbing along wires is so much fun) to finding hidden goodies that helped expand Cooper’s haul. And the dialogue is straight out of an inspired Saturday morning cartoon as well. It’s a splendid game, and you can check it out – along with the other two Sly Cooper releases – in a well-done PS3 collection that’s available now. It’ll get you ready for Sly’s eventual return in Thieves In Time next year.

4. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Konami)

We know that Metal Gear Solid really came of age when it hit the PS2, and the highly anticipated sequel Sons of Liberty helped get it there. However, that game was a little too weird for our tastes, particularly when naked Raiden showed up. But Snake Eater, a much inspired sequel that’s one of our all time favorites, definitely ramped up the production value, taking place in a completely different time (the 60’s), and with an all new character that was just as inspired as Solid Snake. Featuring terrific production values, great stealth/action gameplay and the kind of boss encounters that stick with you long after the game’s beaten, it’s truly one of a kind. And you can experience it all over again when Metal Gear Solid HD Collection emerges later this year on Xbox 360 and PS3. Because nothing beats the SNAKE EATERRRRRR!

3. Shadow of the Colossus (SCEA)

Team Ico could’ve easily taken some time off from ICO and relished in the critical glory it received. But no, like any good developer, it pushed even further with its next project, Shadow of the Colossus. In the game, you play a lone warrior who, out to save his beloved, must take on gargantuan beasts with fatal spots. These battles are anything but easy, as you must track these beasts from afar, then move in close and climb on them like a mountain, avoiding their attacks and being shaken off. And just when you think you’ve conquered them, there are even more waiting. This is a breathtakingly gorgeous game, one that’s worth reinvesting time in for hours to come. And you’ll be able to do just that with Ico/Shadow of the Colossus HD Collection on PS3 later next month.

2. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (Rockstar Games)

Several Grand Theft Auto games changed the course of PS2 popularity over the years, including the urban action tale San Andreas and the original Grand Theft Auto III, a game that inspired countless clones following its release. Still, if we have to pick only one, it should be Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Not only does the game give you so much to do on-foot and in your vehicle, but it also vividly recreates the era of the 80’s, from the soundtrack to the voice talent (Philip Michael Thomas!) to the character types. It truly was a one-of-a-kind experience that only someone like Rockstar Games could really nail down, and there’s nothing else quite like it. Let’s just hope that the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V, wherever it is, has similar influence. (And it doesn’t need Thomas, by the way. But we’d take more Ray Liotta for sure.)

1. God of War (SCEA)

Yes, after sorting through our list and deciding between multiple genres, we really nailed it down to just one obvious choice, the kind of choice that really defines what PS2 gaming is all about. And for that, we can only turn to one character, and that’s Kratos. Even though God of War II seemed like a more solid adventure overall with its weapon types and boss battles, the original still stands as an ideal PS2 action masterpiece, and thus we give it our highest recommendation. Kratos battles all sorts of godly creatures throughout the game, while we learn a little something about his past and why he feels so tormented enough to throw himself off a cliff. It’s this kind of dramatic heft that really gives God of War its drive, and makes it a timeless classic, even in this day and age when God of War III – and possibly IV – rule the roost. If you somehow missed out, relax. The God of War HD Collection has you covered – and for dirt cheap as well. We highly recommend it because, honestly, PS2 gaming doesn’t get any better. All hail Kratos!