Gaming

Best PS2 RPGs

Highlights

  • The PS2 had a wide selection of amazing games that are still worth playing today, despite fans’ hopes for re-releases.
  • Japanese RPGs, particularly those with real-time combat, were highly popular on the PS2 and are still considered some of the best in the genre.
  • The best PS2 RPGs, such as Rogue Galaxy, Xenosaga Episode I, and Champions of Norrath, are praised for their setting, combat, characters, and engaging gameplay.


The PlayStation 2 had a ton of amazing games. In fact, many were so great that they have since been remade and remastered for later consoles. Some fans are still waiting for their favorite PS2 games to be re-released, but in the meantime, the originals are still worth playing.

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One of the most popular genres of video games is role-playing games, and the PS2 delivered plenty of memorable RPG titles. Most notably, Japanese role-playing games were inescapable during this era, particularly on Sony’s console. Among these, though, certain PS2 RPGs stand out.

Updated January 3, 2024, by Mark Sammut: The PS2 might have ended its run a long time ago, but the console’s legacy lives on. More importantly, the strongest entries in its library have aged like fine wine, allowing them to be revisited time and time again. The best PlayStation RPGs are also among the genre’s greatest masterpieces.


13 X-Men Legends 2: Rise Of Apocalypse

Metascore: 82

X-Men Legends II Rise Of Apocalypse

X-Men Legends 2: Rise of Apocalypse

Released
September 20, 2005

Genre(s)
Action RPG

How Long To Beat
22 Hours

The PS2 has four Marvel-themed action RPGs that form one franchise, and they all have something to offer. Marvel Ultimate Alliance is probably the most popular of the bunch, and the massive crossover game is still a blast to play through all these years later. Vicarious Visions’ sequel tries to shake up the formula from its predecessor, but most of the changes were not necessarily for the better, resulting in a decent but frustrating experience. While still worth a glance, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is tied with its Switch-exclusive sequel as the weakest entry in this series.

Occasionally forgotten is the fact the Marvel teamup games were preceded by two X-Men projects, both of which are roughly the same quality as the first Ultimate Alliance​​​​​​. X-Men Legends set up the formula that would become the standard for all these projects: an expansive roster of playable characters, linear stages, some light RPG progression systems, and beat ’em up combat. Its sequel, Rise of Apocalypse, is generally a more refined experience, providing a fun and challenging campaign that is also fairly accessible. All these titles are worth playing in their own right, but X-Men Legends 2 just about earns the nod.

12 Rogue Galaxy

Metascore: 83

Rogue Galaxy

Rogue Galaxy

Released
January 30, 2007

Developer(s)
Level-5

Genre(s)
Action , JRPG , Sci-Fi

How Long To Beat
38 Hours

Rogue Galaxy was developed by Level-5, the makers of popular titles like Ni No Kuni, Yo-kai Watch, Dark Cloud, and Professor Layton. The sci-fi RPG came out in North America in 2007 for the PS2 and became available for the PS4 through the PlayStation Network in 2015. Nowadays, Level-5’s game is accessible through PS Plus Premium.

Rogue Galaxy is praised for its setting, combat, characters, and its array of fun extracurricular activities and side quests. As far as PS2 JRPGs with real-time combat are considered, this title is among the platform’s best, and it is somewhat underrated as it came out late into the console’s lifespan.

11 Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille Zur Macht

Metascore: 83

Girl in glassing talking to Shion.

Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht

Released
February 25, 2003

Genre(s)
JRPG

How Long To Beat
39 Hours

The first title of Namco’s Xenosaga trilogy came out in North America in 2003 and had great international success. It got both a 12-episode anime and a manga adaptation due to its popularity.

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The science-fiction story is set in a time when humanity has left planet Earth. The protagonist, Shion, is a battle android that was designed to fight hostile aliens. Its story was called “enthralling” by reviewers, though its cinematics can be incredibly long for better or worse.

10 Champions Of Norrath

Metascore: 85

Champions of Norrath promotional art.

Champions of Norrath

Released
February 10, 2004

Genre(s)
Action RPG

How Long To Beat
16 Hours

Champions of Norrath is a very traditional RPG in which players can choose their appearance, race, and skills before beginning the gameplay and story. The game is split into five acts, with hack and slash gameplay.

The game got a sequel called Champions: Return to Arms a year after its release. The sequel was not as well received as its predecessor, although both titles are enjoyable action RPG romps. Two decades after its debut, Champions of Norrath might struggle to impress newcomers, but that does not diminish its original value.

9 Odin Sphere

Metascore: 83

Odin Sphere

Vanillaware’s resume is filled with nothing but home runs, and the PS2 era was no exception. GrimGrimoire is one of the console’s better strategy games, and it ranks among Nippon Ichi Software’s best projects. However, Vanillaware’s standout PS2 release was Odin Sphere, a creative action RPG featuring multiple playable characters, intense combat, and a highly replayable structure. Visually, the game oozes color, personality, and charm in its character designs and environments.

Odin Sphere debuted after the PS3’s debut, making it one of the final great PS2 RPGs; however, the console struggles to run the game at times. Consequently, the original version is difficult to recommend when the superior Leifthrasir remake exists on more modern systems. The 2016 release not only runs better, but it also improves on the core gameplay and mechanics.

8 Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance

Metascore: 87

Dungeons & Dragons Dark Alliance playable characters

Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance

Released
December 2, 2001

Genre(s)
Action RPG , Hack and Slash

How Long To Beat
12 Hours

Released in 2001, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance takes place in the Forgotten Realms campaign of Dungeons and Dragons. It was a game with many firsts, such as being the first Baldur’s Gate to be released on a console. It was also the first video game to implement real-time to the games’ rules.

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In the year it was released, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance won the Academy of Interactive Arts and Science Award for “Role-Playing Game of the Year.” A very solid hack and slash RPG, Dark Alliance was fantastic for its time, and it is still fun to play all these years later. Even if it is not quite on the same level as Diablo 2, there is a lot to admire about this PS2 release.

7 Shadow Hearts: Covenant

Metascore: 85

shadow hearts covenant (1)

Shadow Hearts Covenant

Released
September 27, 2004

Developer
Nautilus

Genre(s)
JRPG

How Long To Beat
38 Hours

Known in Japan as Shadow Hearts 2, this Japanese RPG sequel to Shadow Hearts came out in 2004. It takes place six months after the original title and continues its trend of alternate history and Lovecraftian horror. Fans fell in love with the dark themes, comedic moments, mystical themes, and serious narrative when this game came out in 2004.

A cult classic that arguably deserves to be more than just that, Shadow Hearts: Covenant is still a unique experience almost two decades later. The Judgment Ring combat system can produce some incredibly satisfying combos, while the story is not only refreshingly mature but also packed to the brim with unforgettable characters.

6 Dark Cloud 2

Metascore: 87

Fighting enemies in Dark Cloud 2

Dark Cloud 2

Released
February 17, 2003

Developer(s)
Level-5

Genre(s)
Action RPG

How Long To Beat
50 Hours

Rated higher than the original Dark Cloud, Dark Cloud 2 (also known as Dark Chronicle) came out in 2003 and quickly garnered a cult following. The gameplay takes players through randomly generated dungeons, and instead of the characters leveling up, their weapons do. Level-5 crafted an ambitious game that also uses a vibrant art style that has aged incredibly well.

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Along with dungeon-crawling, players also collect pieces of towns and cities to help rebuild them. It is not too easy though, as some villagers have certain conditions about which building goes where.

5 Kingdom Hearts 2

Metascore: 87

Kingdom Hearts 2

Kingdom Hearts 2

Released
March 28, 2006

Developer(s)
Square Enix

Genre(s)
Action RPG , Hack and Slash

How Long To Beat
32 Hours

Square Enix and Disney’s collaboration has (mostly) produced gold, and the franchise’s shiniest release is arguably Kingdom Hearts 2. Expanding beautifully on the ideas of its predecessor while sharpening some of its rough edges, the 2006 sequel features gorgeous visuals and a generally decent story, albeit one that can be unnecessarily convoluted at times. With 15 worlds to visit, KH2 has perhaps the strongest selection of stages in the franchise, and they cover a refreshingly wide variety of IPs and settings.

The combat system is fast-paced and fluid, and it progresses nicely throughout the campaign, which helps set KH2 apart from its numbered successor. That said, the gameplay is a bit too easy at times and only really ramps up during the optional boss battles.

4 Suikoden 3

Metascore: 86

Suikoden 3 game art

Suikoden 3

Released
October 22, 2002

Genre(s)
JRPG

How Long To Beat
62 Hours

Suikoden 3 takes place 15 years after Suikoden 2, which is one of the best JRPGs on the PS1. The sequel tends to be overshadowed by its predecessor, but it is another masterpiece that represents Konami at its peak.

The storyline is phenomenal, and the same could be said for Suikoden 3‘s battle system and visuals for its time. The plot develops over three different character perspectives and is known for good character development in its story.

3 Dragon Quest 8

Metascore: 89

Dragon Quest 8

Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King

Released
November 15, 2005

Developer(s)
Level-5

Genre(s)
JRPG

How Long To Beat
62 Hours

The grandfather of the JRPG genre, Dragon Quest is still going strong after decades on top, particularly in Japan where the franchise is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Dragon Quest 8 is the quintessential entry in the series; it represents everything that is great about Dragon Quest while offering a very traditional turn-based JRPG experience. On paper, the latter might imply that the game could be boring to revisit in this day and age, but Journey of the Cursed King has so much charm and polish that it is 100% timeless.

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Boasting excellent cel-shaded visuals and telling an enjoyable adventure featuring a great cast of characters, Dragon Quest 8 is the best PS2 JRPG if someone is specifically looking for a classic campaign that tells a typical good vs. evil narrative.

2 Persona 4

Metascore: 90

Persona 4

Persona 4

Released
July 10, 2008

Genre(s)
JRPG

How Long To Beat
73 Hours

Coming out long after the PS3’s debut, Persona 4 was the PS2’s swan song, and the console could not have gone out on a better note. Even if the eventual release of the superior P4 Golden rendered the vanilla version obsolete, that does not take anything away from the PS2 original since it is still brilliant. As with all modern Persona games, the campaign is split into dungeon-crawling and social sim sections, with the latter hogging most of the playthrough. Thankfully, the non-combat sections are arguably the best part of each game since Atlus regularly delivers gripping stories that are not afraid to get dark if required.

Persona 4 is not only the best turn-based JRPG on the PS2 but also the console’s best monster-collecting gaming. While exploring the TV World, players will encounter Personas, who they can negotiate with to add them to their team. They can even fuse Personas together to create a more powerful monster.

1 Final Fantasy 12

Metascore: 92

Final Fantasy 12

Final Fantasy 12

Released
October 31, 2006

Genre(s)
JRPG

How Long To Beat
65 Hours

Initially polarizing due to being quite a departure from previous entries in the franchise, Final Fantasy 12‘s reputation steadily rehabilitated over the next few years, especially after the launch of The Zodiac Age version. The latter provides the optimal way to experience this RPG as it incorporates quite a few quality-of-life adjustments, but its core strengths are all found in the PS2 iteration (particularly the Japan-only International Zodiac Job System version).

FF12 drops random encounters in favor of on-field enemies, a positive change that heightens the game’s immersion. While the protagonist can be divisive, the actual story is among the best in Square Enix’s franchise, and the same can be said for the secondary characters. The combat system takes some getting used to, but once it clicks, it really starts to shine.

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