After its release more than twenty years ago, the PlayStation 2 remains a staunch favorite of many RPG lovers today, and with good reason. Role-playing games were a staple on Sony’s second console, and many of them hold up surprisingly well, with a few garnering HD remasters in the decades since.
These are our picks for the best RPGs on the Playstation 2.
What was true back in 2007 is still true in 2021: Odin Sphere is one of the most beautiful action RPGs of all time, and features some of the best hand-drawn 2D art we’ve seen in a video game.
But even just beyond Odin Sphere’s incredible visuals, it’s its story, told from the perspectives of five characters whose journeys intersect and collide over the course of its 30+ hour adventure, that truly makes it a timeless classic. Well, that and the fun combat, the wide variety of gameplay, and fantastic boss battles.
Kingdom Hearts 2 delivers in every way a Kingdom Hearts sequel should, expanding the lore of Sora’s journey while finding new ways to integrate Disney characters into some classic worlds and simultaneously deepening the series’ thrilling real-time combat.
KH2 is jam-packed with inventive levels, and also offers new spins on worlds from the first game. Couple that with a rework of the Magic system and, significantly, the many Drive Forms Sora can take that switch up combat strategy against the newly introduced Nobody enemies, and you’ve already got an RPG for the ages. 8. Shin Megami Tensei:
Persona 3 FES
Persona 3: FES is the definitive version of Person 3 (with apologies to Persona 3 Portable).
P3: FES lives up to Shin Megami Tensei legacy with dark subject matter and tendency towards the edgelord-ey (though that’s not always a bad thing) while still lightening the mood with a cheerful soundtrack and colorful cast of friends. The result is a mixture that would go on to define a franchise, giving this spin-off series more social clout than SMT. Also, its soundtrack slaps.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is a cruel reminder that the SMT franchise turns difficulty into a personality trait. This apocalyptic take on Pokemon explores a humanity-void Tokyo stuffed to the brim with horrifically gorgeous depictions of demons and entities inspired by various religions and pop culture. And of course, all the cool atmosphere that fans of the Persona franchise can vibe to.
Nocturne asks a lot of time and patience from the player, demanding you learn its systems and plan your tactics accordingly. The game will leave you ensnared…but at least you’ll be happy about it. Mostly. Also Nocturne features Dante from Devil May Cry, so it’s got to be cool, right?
Dark Cloud 2 takes the elements that made up the original Dark Cloud did and made them grander on every scale. Its crafting enables you to try out all sorts of weapon varieties, and even offers two varied playable characters.
Sure, it can be a bit gritty at times seeing as most of its systems level up separately, but its stellar soundtrack never had us dreading entering one of its varied dungeon-like maps. Also, being able to place objects in its post-apocalyptic hub worlds, just to be teleported to the future to see the settlement come to life, was always joyous.
Final Fantasy X is sweeping, romantic epic following a fish out of water in a greatly changed world, filled with themes of religion and loss, and a pair of star-crossed lovers at its heart.
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While its CTB battle system removes the more active element present in previous Final Fantasy games, it gave a much more strategic set of tools to the player, letting them swap out party members that are better fit for any given enemy type, and a clear view of how your choices will impact the battle. For some fans, Final Fantasy X hasn’t been topped.
As addictive as the early Diablo games were on the PC, for a while it seemed as though that particular action role-playing hack and slash genre couldn’t really flourish on consoles. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance finally proved otherwise, showing just how well it could work on a controller.
Dark Alliance proved fiendishly addictive in its own right, and it certainly didn’t hurt that the detailed character models and revolutionary water effects served as a real showcase for the graphical prowess of the PS2. Without this game, we may well not have ever gotten those incredible console ports of Diablo III.
If Persona 3 cracked the door open for Western audiences to appreciate the series, Persona 4 kicked it down.
Wrapped up in a vicious murder mystery plot, Persona 4 is really about the laughs, triumphs, and heartaches you experience with your friends from Inaba. A big change was the ability to control each character during battle individually rather than through AI, and the mix of turn-based combat and novel Persona fusion system is still fun today. And we haven’t even started on the incredible soundtrack. Persona 4 was one of the last great games to be released on PS2.
For many JRPG fans, the Dragon Quest series is the video game equivalent of comfort food, and By Dragon Quest VIII is one of its most satisfying meals.
Originally released for PS2 in 2005 (and later ported to Nintendo 3DS), it delivers all the JRPG fundamentals in the most welcoming of packages. Your silent hero embarks on an exciting adventure in a gorgeous, colorful world, fights in turn-based battles, and acquires a party of delightful characters along the way. It doesn’t venture far from the well-trod path of its predecessors, but its warm, cozy, and feels like coming home.
Square Enix could release Final Fantasy XII today and it would still feel as new and groundbreaking as it did upon its initial release in 2006. Despite his departure halfway through development, veteran game director Yasumi Matsuno took a huge swing with FFXII, and turned the series’ storytelling, battle system, and progression on its ear.
XII tells a story rife with mysticism and Matsuno’s political intrigue, from a different perspective – you play as someone watching the story unfold, and the main characters are your party members. You just happen to be along for the ride. While some may criticize the viewpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that FFXII doesn’t deliver one of the more poignant stories in the Final Fantasy pantheon. Like a fine wine, Final Fantasy XII has only gotten better with age and subsequent updates, but there’s no denying that it was the pinnacle of JRPGs on the PlayStation 2 when it dropped 15 years ago.Those are our picks for the best role-playing games on the PS2 – what’s on your list that didn’t make ours? Let us know in the comments, and for more RPG action on IGN, check out our picks for the best modern RPGs or our favorite RPGs that launched in 2020.