When thinking of video consoles, it’s hard not to mention the PlayStation 2, the best selling console of all time. After its release, the PS2 quickly became one of the most played consoles and still is, featuring some of the best games ever made in video game history.
Of course, the amazing, well-known games that made the PS2 so awesome are still being remade in today’s gaming world, with titles such as Final Fantasy X, Persona 4, Kingdom Hearts, and Tales Of the Abyss all seeing series refreshes of some sort. However, since the PlayStation 2 was so well-known, it had a large library of memorable yet underrated games, and those games should be re-recognized to this day.
The PS2 contains some of the best games ever made, and many of them have become forgotten treasures. Although the critically acclaimed titles are often talked about, there are several underrated games that are well worth playing and should never be forgotten. From dark RPG comedies to funky space moves and a devil summoning detective, there are several games that are definitely worth playing in our world of next-gen consoles.
So without further ado, are 10 underappreciated and underrated PS2 games you probably never played:
1Shadow Hearts series
Shadow Hearts (2001)
Shadow Hearts Covenant (2004)
Shadow Hearts: From the New World (2006)
Shadow Hearts is another great forgotten PS2 RPG by Sacnoth and published by Midway Games in 2001. The game is set in an alternate timeline of the early 20th century, where a group of heroes must fight against dark forces to prevent the world from being destroyed. The game features a unique battle system that combines turn-based combat with a “Judgment Ring” mechanic that requires players to time their attacks and spells for maximum effectiveness.
The story follows a young man named Yuri Hyuga, who possesses the ability to transform into powerful monsters. Along with a diverse cast of characters, including a vampire, a ninja, and a fortune-teller, Yuri sets out to stop a cult that is attempting to resurrect an ancient evil known as the “Malice.” The game’s plot is dark and mature, dealing with themes of death, sacrifice, and redemption.
The game’s graphics are a mix of 2D backgrounds and 3D character models, which give it a distinctive visual style. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, is also notable for its haunting melodies and atmospheric sound effects.
Shadow Hearts was critically acclaimed upon its release and has since become a cult classic. It spawned two sequels, Shadow Hearts: Covenant and Shadow Hearts: From the New World, which continued the series’ unique blend of horror and RPG elements. Overall, Shadow Hearts is a must-play for fans of the genre and remains one of the most innovative and engaging RPGs of the PS2 era.
2Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
Release date: 2004
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is a critically acclaimed RPG developed by Atlus for the PlayStation 2. The game was first released in Japan in 2003 and later in North America in 2004. It is part of the Shin Megami Tensei series, which is known for its dark, mature themes and complex gameplay mechanics.
In Nocturne, players assume the role of a high school student who is transformed into a demonic being after the world undergoes a catastrophic event known as the Conception. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, where demons and other supernatural creatures roam freely. As the protagonist, players must navigate this dangerous world, battle other demons, and make choices that determine the fate of the world.
One of the game’s defining features is its combat system, which is turn-based and heavily emphasizes exploiting enemy weaknesses. Players can also recruit and fuse demons to create stronger allies, and can even negotiate with them to join their party without resorting to violence.
Nocturne’s narrative explores themes of chaos versus order, as players are given choices that ultimately determine the fate of the world. The game features multiple endings, each of which depends on the player’s actions and choices throughout the game.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is considered a classic of the RPG genre, known for its challenging gameplay, complex narrative, and mature themes. Its influence can be seen in many subsequent RPGs, and it remains a beloved and highly regarded entry in the Shin Megami Tensei series.
Release Date: 2001
ICO was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001 and follows the journey of a young boy named Ico, who is born with horns on his head and is banished from his village to a remote castle. Once in the castle, he meets a mysterious girl named Yorda, who he must help escape from the castle’s evil spirits and their queen.
The game is known for its minimalist design, with a focus on exploration, puzzle-solving, and platforming. Players control Ico and must use his strength and agility to navigate the castle’s perilous terrain and protect Yorda from harm. Throughout the game, players must solve a variety of puzzles to progress, such as finding hidden switches, navigating through obstacles, and lighting torches to ward off enemies.
One of the unique aspects of ICO is its use of a non-verbal communication system between Ico and Yorda. Since Yorda speaks a different language than Ico, the player must use visual cues and gestures to communicate with her, creating a deeper emotional connection between the two characters.
The game’s stunning visuals, haunting soundtrack, and emotionally-charged storyline have earned it critical acclaim, with many reviewers citing it as one of the best games of all time. ICO has also been cited as a major influence on the development of subsequent games, such as Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian, both of which were also created by developer Team Ico.
4The Xenosaga series
Episode 1 (2002)
Episode 2 (2005)
Episode 3 (2006)
Monolith Soft’s Xeno series contains some of the best games ever made, from Xenogears to Xenoblade Chronicles. However, the Xenosaga series for the PS2 is a masterpiece of its own, containing three games, or episodes, in the sci-fi RPG series. In Xenosaga, players are dropped into a world in which people live in space colonies across a galaxy, defending themselves against various threats.
An organization called the Galaxy Federation keeps control of the humans, and there are various conflicts that the amazing cast of characters must overcome. The lead character Shion Uzuki’s life is explored as well as the various cast members who have deep backstories. Xenosaga has quite a bit of text and dialogue, combining RPG gameplay and movie-like elements. It was a very innovative series that is by far still worth playing today.
5Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit)
Release Date: 2005
When we think of episodic adventures, it’s easy to think of some of the biggest hits such as Life is Strange, Heavy Rain, and Telltale games. However, one of the earliest episodic games existed on the PlayStation 2, and it was called as Indigo Prophecy (Fahrenheit in some countries). This game is from the creators of Heavy Rain and Beyond Two Souls and was their first attempt at an interactive movie-like story, that would set an example for the years to come. The plot revolves around a string of murders that are linked to people being possessed at the time of the crime by supernatural entities.
Like Heavy Rain, Indigo Prophecy contains several QTE combat scenes as well as simple day-to-day actions controlled by analog sticks and the buttons on the controller. The players take control of many protagonists, have a mental health meter, and must go through multiple choices that affect the endings. The story for Indigo Prophecy is very intricate and well thought out, and it’s definitely a must-play for fans of episodic adventure games.
6Space Channel 5
Release Date: 2000
Space Channel 5 is a music video game for the PS2 that was released in 2003 and was developed by United Game Artists and published by Sega. The game follows the adventures of the intergalactic reporter, Ulala, as she investigates and defeats aliens who have invaded Earth and brainwashed humans through the power of dance.
The gameplay involves matching the beat of the music by pressing buttons in the correct order in response to on-screen prompts. As the player progresses through the game, the difficulty level increases and the music and dance routines become more complex. The game is set in a futuristic world with vibrant, colorful graphics and quirky character designs that have become a hallmark of Sega games.
In addition to the main story mode, Space Channel 5 also includes several mini-games and multiplayer modes that allow up to two players to compete against each other. The game features a memorable soundtrack that includes funky and catchy tunes that have become fan favorites.
Space Channel 5 is a unique and entertaining game that combines music, dance, and sci-fi elements to create a memorable and enjoyable experience. The game’s innovative gameplay mechanics and charming aesthetics have made it a classic among fans of music and rhythm games.
7Shadow of Destiny (Shadow of Memories)
Release Date: 2001
Stories with time travel always have a certain type of charm to them, exploring the ideas if time travel actually existed, and the problems when messing with time. Shadow of Destiny follows the protagonist Eike Kusch, as he continuously travels back in time to prevent his demise, which players must prevent each chapter. He goes through several eras, which is something not often explored in some of the more recent time travel adventures, making Shadow of Destiny stand out in terms of story.
Eike tries to find out through his traveling between eras the motive of his murderer, fighting against time in order to stop himself from dying. Rather than solely focusing on the theory of multiple worldlines, Shadow of Destiny focuses on traveling years in the past and the future, with a focus on dialogue and character interaction. The characters in this game are also unique, from the waitress (Eike) who accidentally takes with him to an alchemist from the 1500s. This game contains eight endings, each with a different outcome than the last. As a time travel story and interactive adventure, Shadow of Destiny holds up, and is worth playing for any fan of this genre.
8Devil Summoner: The Raidou Kuzunoha Series
Raidou Kuzunoha and the Soulless Army (2006)
Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon (2008)
As stated before, Shin Megami Tensei games have their own form of unique storytelling, with different endings that revolve around Chaos, Neutrality, and Law. The game series is immensely popular in Japan and has somewhat of a presence in the west, with several underrated games that are definitely worth playing. The Raidou Kuzunoha series is one that was often overlooked and is one of the most memorable SMT spin-offs to date.
Players take on the role of Raidou Kuzunoha, a teenage detective who is the “devil summoner” of the famous Kuzunoha family, who can contain demons in a tube, solving cases along the way. The setting and gameplay set Raidou’s story apart from the other Shin Megami Tensei games, especially with the real-time action battle sequence that replaces turn-based battles that SMT is known for. Like all SMT games and spinoffs, Devil Summoner’s two Ps2 games are definitely worth playing and looking into, especially for fans of detective stories with Pokemon-like elements.
9Taiko Drum Master
Release Date: 2004
If you have ever been to an arcade at an anime convention or at a bigger venue, it’s not unlikely that you have come across some form of Taiko Drum Master, a unique rhythm game that involves using sticks on a plastic drum. However, many people do not know that Taiko Drum Master actually had a home release for Ps2, with a plastic drum set included.
The drum gameplay is not like Rockband’s, as it only contains a single drum for players to either hit the middle or sides in order to achieve a higher score. The track list contains enjoyable hits and songs such as “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire, as well as the Dragon Ball Z Theme. The style and gameplay of Taiko Drum Master are really fun, and if you regret selling your copy as I do now, the price is very reasonable for a new set. Taiko Drum Master is undoubtedly one of the most underrated PS2 games.
10Beyond Good and Evil
Release Date: 2003
Probably one of the most underrated PS2 games is Beyond Good and Evil, an action-adventure game that released on the console in 2003. The game takes place in 2435, and revolves around the strong female protagonist Jade and her newfound photography job that leads to a discovery that she can never forget, and must stop before it’s too late.
Players must obtain evidence through many puzzles while completing other segments and mini-games. Beyond Good and Evil is very unique, combining futuristic elements with day-to-day objects we are familiar with. The method of storytelling is executed very well, keeping players interested until the end. Although this game has won multiple awards, it somehow was overlooked several times. Luckily, it still is available as a physical copy, as well as being on the PSN store. And, hopefully, we’ll get that Beyond Good and Evil 2, one of our most wanted video game sequels.