Top 10 PS2 Games You Might Not Have Played (But Should)

The Playstation 2 is the best selling videogame console of all time, leaving behind a legacy that will not soon be forgotten. The same, however, can’t be said of its extensive library of great games. With hundreds of amazing games released over the course of the PS2’s life, a few gems were bound to slip through the cracks. Luckily, that’s why we’re here! We scoured our massive library and chose ten games that you may have missed out on during your time with the PS2. Rest assured though, these ones are worth seeking out.

10: Shadow Hearts: Covenant

Final Fantasy got all the glory, but true gamers know that the Shadow Hearts trilogy deserves a good portion of the JRPG spotlight. Shadow Hearts: Covenant was the second, and arguably best, entry in a series that took players through unique locations in Europe and beyond during World War I. Standout locales and an original, engaging combat system are only a couple of the reasons why Shadow Hearts: Covenant stands the test of time as one of the PS2’s best RPGs.

9: Sega Soccer Slam

Originally released on the Gamecube, Sega Soccer Slam was later released on PS2 and Xbox in 2002. Despite not being PS2 exclusive, it’s worth playing this arcade sports gem on any console you can. Sega Soccer Slam is what happens when you take soccer, throw away things like penalties and rules beyond the most basic, and add in a bunch of physical contact and kick ass special moves. We all love FIFA, NHL and Madden, but there is a big gap in the arcade sports market these days that used to be filled by games with one thing in mind: fun.

8: Mad Maestro

When people bring up music rhythm games they usually throw around titles like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, or Amplitude and Elite Beat Agents if you’re lucky. But what about Mad Maestro, the fun-as-hell rhythm title that has you conducting the shit out of baller pieces by Mozart and Beethoven? Rock Band who? That’s what I thought.

7: Cold Fear

You might remember this one. Cold Fear is a survival horror game that, at the time of release, was universally described as “that game that plays a lot like Resident Evil 4, but takes place on a Russian whaler boat during a massive rain storm”. To that I say “Yeah? So? That sounds fun as hell.” And it was.

6: Culdcept

Culdcept is a bit hard to explain. It’s this weird mix of turn-based strategy games, Monopoly, and Magic: The Gathering. It’s not super accessible, and will take a while to really wrap your head around. But once you do, you’ll be treated to one of the most rewarding and unique strategy games available on the PS2.

5: Haunting Ground

Capcom will forever be known first and foremost in the survival horror genre for Resident Evil, but they have a stable of other entries as well. Haunting Ground was a 2005 release that differs from the Resident Evil series mainly in that the player is tasked with running and hiding instead of running and gunning. Taking control of Fiona Belli and her trusty White Shepherd Hewie, each area in Haunting Ground has one predominant baddie on your trail, and it’s your job to manage your panic level, outrun, and outwit them until an inevitable confrontation that forces you to get resourceful in order to take them down. It’s a novel take on the formula that keeps tension levels high, especially since the developers know that the last thing that anyone wants to see is their dog get harmed.

4: Kuon

A little bit of research reveals that Kuon got pretty terrible reviews when it debuted in 2004, cast aside for deliberate, clunky mechanics, old fashioned game design, and brutal difficulty. However, developer From Software would go on to receive more than a little acclaim for ushering in a new wave of games praised for those very qualities with their incredibles titles Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. Granted, those titles benefit from a much higher level of polish than this Japanese horror story received, but still, it’s easy to imagine this title being received with open arms had it been released today. A haunting soundtrack, excellent lighting effects, and dreary atmosphere help to make this a curiosity that’s worth checking out.

3: Gladius

One of the best games put out by LucasArts wasn’t a Star Wars title, or a point and click adventure, but instead a deceptively inventive turn-based strategy title about gladiators. Players build a school of Roman gladiators to take into battle against opposing school, with various decisions and choices made throughout all affecting the course of your their journey. Along with expected mechanics like classes, abilities, and items to equip, fame played a pivotal role in Gladius. As players did better and better in battle their fame would rise, opening up opportunities for new quests and fancier loot. It’s wasn’t the prettiest game ever, and less so today, but remains proof that solid mechanics never age.

2: GrimGrimoire

There were a few years in the mid-2000s when developer Nippon Ichi quietly took North America by storm. Starting With the breakout hit Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (a series that still goes strong to this day), they brought over a string of quirky hits from Japan including La Pucelle: Tactics, and Phantom Brave. One of the most interesting was this team up with the folks at Vanillaware (who were themselves enjoying the warm reception of brawler Odin Sphere in North America), the 2D side scrolling RTS GrimGrimoire. In a genre usually seen from a bird’s eye view in titles like StarCraft, GrimGrimoire utilized a 2D side scrolling view, having players use a cursor to command the magician Lillet and her troops through a variety of positively Hogwarts-esque environment. It’s up for debate whether this is the absolute best of the Nippon Ichi/Vanillaware titles (Odin Sphere kicks multiple kinds of ass), it certainly deserves special mention for marrying multiple genres with a unique setting and absolutely gorgeous hand-drawn art.

1: Downhill Domination

Downhill Domination is one of the absolute best games on the PS2, and it gets criminally overlooked during every discussion of the “extreme sports” era of yore. Focusing more on racing than tricks, Downhill Domination had players race down long (and I mean long; some of these courses ran just shy of 10 minutes) point to point mountain bike courses that ranged from standard mountain tracks to SSX-style urban insanity. What this game nails is the feeling of speed and pure adrenaline, as the wide tracks allowed for a variety of shortcuts until players settled into a zen-like groove of racing, bailing, and throwing water bottles at each other. For anyone missing the extreme racing genre and has milked every Burnout and SSX for what they’re worth, Downhill Domination is worth digging up.

Well, there you have it! These are ten games that you may have missed on PS2, but there are dozens more hidden gems as well! Let us know which ones we missed in the comments!

-Jamie Chapman