Game Developers List All-Time Favorite PS2 Games

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Yesterday marked the 10-year anniversary of the PlayStation 2 in North America, so we thought it would be fun to ask a few high-profile game developers and journalists to name their top three “must play” PS2 games. Word quickly spread, the project swelled in scope, and the result is what you see here — a definitive list of “must-play” PS2 games by some of the greatest living game developers in the business.

A few quick numbers: Ico earned the most mentions at six, while Grand Theft Auto III and Shadow of the Colossus tied with five mentions. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, God of War, Okami, and Katamari Damacy were also popular picks.


Stig Asmussen

Game Director, Santa Monica Studios

  1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – GTAIII was amazing. And with Vice City, they added a ton of new toys to boot – the game was huge! The missions made big leaps in diversity and they integrated seamlessly into the story in a way that we hadn’t seen yet. And you gotta love the 80’s flair.
  2. Resident Evil 4 – The best Resident Evil yet. The new camera perspective and controls were effective and helped to reboot the series. The game was epic but still delivered on the isolated spookiness we’ve come to know and love — The zombie showdown in the cabin is still one of my favorite gaming moments.
  3. Devil May Cry – When it came out, we called it ‘Game Developers May Cry’. The game just oozes style. I was always hoping for a 3D Castlevania worth something and this was as close as it got.
Cliff Bleszinski

Cliff Bleszinski

Design Director, Epic Games (Twitter: @therealcliffyb)
Current Project: Bulletstorm, Gears of War 3, and Project Sword

  1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City – Took the bits that worked from GTAIII and polished the heck out of them.
  2. Katamari Damacy – Made “cleaning” super fun and had some of that trademark Japanese zaniness.
  3. Silent Hill 2 – Because it’s on a similar level to the classic book/film “Solaris,” which always destroys me emotionally.

Ed Boon

Creative Director, NetherRealm Studios (@noobde)
Current Project: Mortal Kombat

  1. Guitar HeroCreated a new game genre. Sold millions just on “word of mouth.” Genius.
  2. God of WarMore anger, personality and pure brutality than any PS2 game released before it.
  3. Grand Theft Auto IIII have to admit that I didn’t ever come close to finishing it because I simply don’t have the time. But from what I played, it was clear that something revolutionary and NEW was being invented here.

Scott Campbell

Co-Founder and Co-director, Eat Sleep Play
Current Project: Twisted Metal

  1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater Nice blend of espionage, stealth and high action-style gameplay.
  2. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – It was fun to race my real car because it looked, handled and sounded just like the real deal.
  3. Katamari DamacyWeird, quirky, but totally fresh and highly addictive. It was a nice break from the more traditional games.

David Cage

Co-CEO, Quantic Dream
Current Project: Heavy Rain: Move Edition

  1. Ico – The demonstration that games can trigger complex motions like empathy, a real sense of poetry and an unforgettable ending make this game a must still today.
  2. Rez – A really innovative idea based on the mix of images, sound and interactivity. It shows that games can become sensual (hypnotizing) experiences.
  3. Okami – Maybe the last major game on PS2, a very unique graphic style and gameplay based on drawing make for a fantastic game with a special mood and atmosphere.


Alex Evans

Technical Director, Media Molecule (@LittleBigPlanet)
Current Project: LittleBigPlanet 2

  1. Burnout 3: Takedown – Because it makes you feel awesome, and they capture the sense of speed brilliantly – even if you’re rubbish at driving games like me.
  2. Ico and 3. Shadow of the ColossusBecause they are the games I wish that I had made. Their atmosphere still hasn’t been replicated or beaten in any other game. Roll on The Last Guardian!

Chet Faliszek

Writer, Valve Software
Current Project: Portal 2

  1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas This is my favorite of the series, if for no other reason than driving around town with my gang in a bus grabbing territory.
  2. SSX3The single mountain and DJ that introduced levels tied together some great snowboard action.
  3. Burnout 3: TakedownHorrible car accidents can be funny, especially when playing this with a group of friends.

Nate Fox

Game Director, Sucker Punch Productions (@SuckerPunchProd)
Current Project: inFAMOUS 2

  1. God of War – It’s hard to resist the game’s clarity of vision, perfect pace and elegant cameras. The people who made that game are as badass as Kratos himself.
  2. Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando – Tons of guns, dudes to blow up, diverse worlds to visit… and a HUGE mid-game ice world that shattered their standard formula. Fantastic.
  3. Grand Theft Auto III – Allowed me to legally vent my backlog of sociopathic impulses. The star wanted levels are a game unto themselves.
Tasha Harris 2

Tasha Harris

Project Lead, Double Fine Productions (@tashascomic)
Current Project: Costume Quest

  1. OkamiUnique, inspiring art and fun game mechanics with the brush. Just an epic game, and so well crafted all around.
  2. FrequencyThe Harmonix rhythm game that was a precursor to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. So addictive, with great style and tracklist. I also loved the sequel, Amplitude.
  3. Final Fantasy XIIts hardcore difficulty was sometimes frustrating, but this highly polished MMORPG did a lot of innovative and fun things with its combat and class systems.

Todd Howard

Game Director, Bethesda Game Studios (@BethBlog)

  1. Grand Theft Auto IIIThe mark of a truly great game is how many people try to recapture or emulate it and fail. There’s a long line behind this one.
  2. Gran Turismo 3: A-SpecI think this game put the PS2 on the map for delivering really “next-gen” graphics that felt like a massive jump from before. And if you loved cars, this was the game to have: huge and deep, but easy to play.
  3. SSXThe best game of the PS2 launch. Why on earth do we not have another one of these for the current generation!?

Hermen Hulst

Co-founder and Managing Director, Guerrilla Games
Current Project: Killzone 3

  1. God of War – Ahead of its time in terms of epic feel, fluidity of the experience and smoothness of the graphics.
  2. Ico – Wonderful audiovisual design combines with carefully crafted puzzles to deliver an experience that will evoke emotion in any player.
  3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – The sheer amount of different gameplay elements from stealthy burglary missions to gang warfare, and all in a coherent experience.

David Jaffe

Co-Founder and Co-director, Eat Sleep Play (@davidscottjaffe)
Current Project: Twisted Metal

  1. Ico Moody, emotional, and just an overall fantastic adventure. People go on and on about the artistry of this game but many forget what a great GAME-Y GAME it was: great puzzles, fun exploration, and a great, hook-y ‘protect the girl’ core mechanic make this one of my top 10 games of all time.
  2. Devil May CryStylish, fun, and super cool. I’ll never forget playing this at E3 and being like, “Holy Cow! The bar has been raised crazy high and I don’t think we’ll ever be able to touch these guys!”
  3. Way of the SamuraiCore game needed polish but I loved the multiple story based outcomes to my actions. It felt like I really was living the story. In so many ways, the interactive storytelling that this game brought to the medium has still not been surpassed. A total lost gem.

Ken Levine

Creative Director, Irrational Games (@IGLevine)
Current Project: BioShock Infinite

  1. Dark Cloud 2 – It’s Diablo meets Sim City meets Tiger Woods Golf meets Pokemon. If you can only afford one game in your life, this might be the one to pick up.
  2. Mercenaries – Hijack a tank and take down a statue of the Dear Leader. Hey, you got something better to do with a Saturday afternoon?
  3. Culdcept – A love child of Magic the Gathering and Monopoly. Don’t believe me? The joke’s on you, pal, because it’s TRUE!

Steve Papoutsis

Executive Producer, Visceral Games (@leveluptime)
Current Project: Dead Space 2

  1. Okami – Awesome art style, innovative use of analog sticks, and the wolf-based main character was kick ass.
  2. Persona 3Deep systems, a freaky story, and a very innovative friend system.
  3. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the KingAwesome hack ‘n slash with one of the best stories ever. Plus, it had online co-op way before anyone else. Best movie adaptation ever!

Ted Price

Founder and CEO, Insomniac Games (@InsomniacGames)
Current Project: Resistance 3, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One

  1. SSXBrilliant combo system, fantastic depth, incredibly addictive. It’s the only PS2 sports title I owned because it didn’t feel like a sports game.
  2. Guitar HeroThe game that kick-started a genre, and probably inspired more people to start learning “real” guitar than Hendrix did.
  3. Gran Turismo 4Everything about this game was highly, highly polished. And you didn’t have to be a racing sim fanatic to get sucked in. I still don’t understand how they pulled off the graphics they did.

Tim Schafer

President and CEO, Double Fine Productions (@TimofLegend)
Current Project: Costume Quest

  1. Katamari Damacy – This game takes me into a crazy world that I never want to leave. Growing from the size of a mouse to the size of a planet is incredibly satisfying to me.
  2. Okami – Running through a beautiful hand-painted landscape, clearing out the evil spirits, dropping the brown rage from time to time… that’s living.
  3. We ♥ Katamari – Yeah, that’s right. TWO Katamari games. What, you say? That’s not fair? Well, too bad. I loved them both.
warren spector

Warren Spector

Creative Director, Disney Interactive Studios
Current Project: Epic Mickey

  1. Ico – For one thing, the vistas and screens it offers are gorgeous. And all that gorgeousness offers a window into a world that feels more real than almost any other in gaming history. You can FEEL the history, the depth of this world in a way no other game can match.*
  2. Ratchet & ClankI’ve always found the Ratchet and Clank series oddly inspirational….I think what I love about them is the way they defy genre definitions. They feature RPG-ish character development and action-adventure story and puzzle-solving…These games are fun to play, witty to watch and just fine entertainment.
  3. Grand Theft Auto III – I’m a huge believer in the idea that games should be vehicles (pardon the pun) for player expression. The groundbreaking, open world, freeform, sandbox gameplay of GTA takes that idea – that games are about the PLAYER’S creativity as much as, or more than the designer’s creativity – to ridiculous heights.
  4. *Note: These are excerpts of Warren’s full responses, which you can read at the bottom of this post. Please do: As always, Warren is brimming with passion and insight into the art of great game making.


Evan Wells

Co-President, Naughty Dog (@naughty_dog)

  1. Fatal Frame 2 – By far, the scariest game I’ve ever played.  I actually had to put the controller down on multiple occasions because I was too scared to keep going.
  2. Ico – While I’m sure this won’t be a very original answer, I have to put Ico in my top 3.  It was an amazing experience start to finish and one that still is relevant almost 10 years later.
  3. Resident Evil 4 – This game has everything and influenced many games that came after it, including the games we make at Naughty Dog.

Tim Willits

Creative Director, id Software
Current Project: Rage

  1. Shadow of the ColossusTaught players and developers that there is more to fighting a boss than firing rockets into them.
  2. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of LibertyThe defining example of what a PS2 game should be: cinematics, story, action, and setting made this game near perfect.
  3. Silent Hill 2 – The scariest game on the PS2. Great story, setting, and creepy action.

Press & Community

Dan Hsu,

Dan “Shoe” Hsu

Co-Founder and Editor, (@bitmobshoe)

  1. Shadow of the Colossus – A dreamy (did I really play this game?), epic adventure that elicits fear, wonderment, and hope. A one-of-a-kind experience.
  2. Grand Theft Auto III All those GTA clones over the years? They’re actually GTAIII clones.
  3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3Perfect arcade controls and clever, nutty levels provide for plenty of addicting grabbing, flipping, and grinding.

Ben Kuchera

Gaming Editor, Ars Technica (@benkuchera)

  1. Gitaroo ManTo this day one of my favorite rhythm games, and the mechanic of button-presses plus analog direction control has never been replicated. Great music, great aesthetics, and it includes a boss named BEN K. There is no downside.
  2. Shadow of the ColossusEveryone is going to say this, so I considered leaving it off just to be different, but that’s silly. This is an obvious answer because the game really is that good. This is the first game that popped into my mind when asked to create a list of the best PlayStation 2 games.
  3. Bully It kills me how often people talk about Rockstar Games without bringing up Bully. Taking the Grand Theft Auto-style play out of the streets and bringing it to a private school was genius, and the voice acting and writing were top-notch. A surprising, amazing game.

Greg Miller

Executive Editor, (@GameOverGreggy)

  1. Metal Gear Solid 2The story got off the rails, but the gameplay was insane. I spent the better part of my Mizzou freshman year collecting every dog tag.
  2. GrimGrimoireThe RTS is beautiful and quirky again.
  3. Spider-Man 2 – A free-roaming NYC? It was so good I traded it in and bought it back a month later.

Gary Steinman

Editor in Chief, PlayStation: The Official Magazine (@tinymanrages)

  1. IcoNot just a great PS2 game, but perhaps the greatest game of all time. Story that unfolds via the action, puzzles that all make perfect sense within the environment, and a subtle soundtrack with melodic snippets that still haunt me.
  2. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor LegacyLater iterations were more ambitious, but the first game stands out as the best pure 3D platformer on PS2. This is one that deserves an HD remake.
  3. Final Fantasy XBest battle system in a proper Final Fantasy release, and the second-best cast of characters (behind PSone’s Final Fantasy IX). Tough call, though, since I also adored the absurdly playful FFX-2.

Ricardo Torres

Editor in Chief, GameSpot

  1. Dark Cloud 2Level 5’s deep sequel to the original Dark Cloud improved on the original in every way. The weapon crafting system was incredibly addictive and let you “Macgyver” yourself just about anything you needed..
  2. Monster Rancher 3Tecmo’s continuation of its cult hit bumped up the visuals and monster count, ensuring you’d be trying every disc in your house to get yourself a new battle ready critter.
  3. Ratchet & Clank: Going CommandoInsomniac’s Mario-caliber platforming series hit a high note on the PlayStation 2 with improved gameplay, more minigames and spherical worlds

Sid Shuman

Senior Social Media Specialist, PlayStation (@sidshuman)

  1. Shadow of the Colossus – Final proof that games can have the emotional impact of literature and film. Future generations of game designers will cite this as a key inspiration.
  2. The ThingThis shudder-inducing shooter preys on your paranoia, making you question the motives of every member in your fragile team. Outstanding mood and atmosphere.
  3. Resident Evil 4Innovated hugely by introducing the now-standard over-the-shoulder camera and shooting interface. More important, it’s an absolute blast to play. Don’t miss Mercenaries!

Rey Gutierrez

Senior Social Media Specialist, PlayStation (@r3yguti3rr3z)

  1. Rez – Take that Dreamcast! Simple geometry flying at you in a rail shooter, with a killer soundtrack to boot. Sold. It’s like a peanut butter jelly sandwich made love to an oreo cookie.
  2. God of War II – The original is an instant classic, but the sequel took it to the next level. Its only flaw was that I wanted more. Zeus! Ares! Athena!
  3. Devil May Cry – DMC is God of War’s rebellious punk step-brother. Fast, fun and obnoxious.

Jeff Rubenstein

Social Media Manager, PlayStation (@jeffrubenstein)

  1. Gran Turismo 3: A Spec – this is the reason I bought a PS2 back in the summer of 2001. I kitted out my favorite car at the time, the Lancer Evolution VI, and raced through most of the game with it over the course of a whole summer.
  2. Grand Theft Auto Vice City – I was so enamored with the style, music, and overall feel of Vice City (didn’t hurt that I was living in Florida at the time) that I themed out an entire awards banquet that I had to produce with a Vice City motif… which was wildly inappropriate. Also: Flock of Seagulls “I Ran.”
  3. Shadow of the Colossus – I tried to restrict myself to only fighting one colossus per day, but I caved and fought the last two in a row – I just had to see the ending (which still haunts me to this day). Oh, and since it’s our Blog, I’m going to cheat: 4. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King 5. Hot Shots Golf 3 6. God of War II 7. Okami 8. Final Fantasy X 9.Guitar Hero 10. Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

*Appendix: Warren Spector’s Full Comments
1. Ico – I don’t typically like puzzle-oriented adventure games. You know – games where your primary goal is to read the designer’s mind and solve his or her fiendishly complicated environmental puzzles just so you can see the next screen, the next amazing vista, maybe a bit of combat. And Ico is very much that sort of game. Yet I love it. LOVE it. For one thing, the vistas and screens it offers are gorgeous. Not PS2 gorgeous – just plain, unqualifiedly gorgeous. And all that gorgeousness offers a window into a world that feels more real than almost any other in gaming history. You can FEEL the history, the depth of this world in a way no other game can match. But pretty pictures and puzzles do not a great game make. Story helps in that regard. But, really, the story Ico tells is nearly incomprehensible. It’s good enough not to detract from the experience but that’s about it.

So what is it that makes Ico great? It’s the characters, and, more importantly, their relationship to one another. And even MORE important than that is the relationship the PLAYER has with those characters – the boy in the horned helm you play and the girl that boy has to protect. The first time your character holds hands with that girl who needs protecting, you feel something never before felt in a game. It’s an almost indescribable feeling born of the power of touching, even virtually, another person. The fact that the girl is weak and slow, the fact that you have to wait for her, putting yourself in peril?… That’s design genius, friends. And then, toward the end when there’s a magic moment of role reversal? That’s when I knew I’d played one of the best games I would ever play. If you haven’t played it do so. Now. It takes, like six hours to get through, so no excuses. Beg, borrow or steal a copy and get ready to FEEL something as you play – and that’s a statement that can’t be made about many games, sadly.

2. Ratchet & Clank – I’ve always found the Ratchet & Clank series oddly inspirational. I don’t typically make games like them and don’t really love playing them as a rule. They’re action adventures, mostly, I guess. But I think what I love about them is the way they defy genre definitions. They feature RPG-ish character development and action-adventure story and puzzle-solving. Plus there’s some platforming. (If that sounds a little like Disney Epic Mickey, that’s no accident.) And beyond gameplay, the character designs of Ratchet, Clank and the rest of the cast are on par with anything Hollywood has ever put on the silver screen. The list of good things goes on: The writing, animation and cinematics work are all first rate. These games are fun to play, witty to watch and just fine entertainment. Now, for my money, the series has gone from good to even better with each installment. But the core goodness was all there in the PS2 entry in the series. I’ve been more influenced by these games than I like to admit. Gotta have a place on my list.

3. Grand Theft Auto III – I’ve gone on record – somewhat foolishly, I admit – as being annoyed with the GTA games. But I’ve always tried to be clear that while the CONTENT makes me feel this way, I’m in awe of the DESIGN thinking behind GTA. And I’ll be damned if the level of execution doesn’t match the conceptual brilliance. I’m a huge believer in the idea that games should be vehicles (pardon the pun) for player expression. The groundbreaking, open world, freeform, sandbox gameplay of GTA (with a story thrown in for good measure) takes that idea – that games are about the PLAYER’S creativity as much as, or more than the designer’s creativity – to ridiculous heights. I still don’t quite get how Rockstar pulled this off on a PS2!

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