Let’s go back to the beginning of the millennium and look at the most popular PS2 games of all time.
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Everyone agrees that Sony’s PS2 was a huge success. It beat out strong competition, including Sega’s Dreamcast, Nintendo’s GameCube, and even Microsoft’s first Xbox, to become the most popular game console of the sixth generation.
Smart marketing, the success of its predecessor, and a number of beautiful console-exclusive games and strong first-party games helped it get out in front, and its rivals couldn’t catch up.
By the time Sony released the last official sales numbers for the console in 2012, a mind-blowing 155 million units had been sold. More than a billion games had been sold by 2012 for the system’s software.
With so many popular games for the system, there are a lot of games that could be the best sellers. Over 160 games each sold more than 1 million copies, but which ones sold the most?
Let’s find out by looking at the most popular PS2 games ever.
Kingdom Hearts (2002)
The first Kingdom Hearts game, in which the boy Sora, who has a Keyblade, goes on a quest to protect the different Disney worlds from being eaten by the evil creatures called Heartless, was an amazing game that pretty much blew away all expectations, both from a critical and a business point of view.
Since Square Enix and Disney worked together on Kingdom Hearts, it’s not surprising that it was such a well-made RPG with amazing worlds and characters from decades of Disney cartoons and movies.
Given the talent and properties involved, it’s not surprising that the game was such a commercial success or that it led to a franchise that is still going strong 20 years later. The first Kingdom Hearts game sold an amazing 5.9 million copies on the PlayStation 2. Since then, remasters and re-releases of the game on other platforms have helped it sell many millions more copies.
It’s a real cultural phenomenon that has a wide range of fans, and it’s still one of the best video games ever made. It has more than earned its spot on the list of the Best Selling PS2 Games of All Time.
Final Fantasy XII (2006)
Final Fantasy XII is another game by Square Enix that made it into the top 10.
Square used to work closely with Nintendo, but when Nintendo decided to keep using expensive, limited-storage cartridges instead of CDs on the N64, Square moved production of Final Fantasy VII to the PS1. That game became a real hit, and Square’s games, as well as the Final Fantasy series itself, became closely linked to the PlayStation brand.
So it’s not surprising to see Final Fantasy XII on this list. It was the first game in the series to have an open world, which replaced the linear, separate areas of the previous games. It was also the first game in the series to get rid of random encounters.
Even though this wasn’t a true first for a Final Fantasy game (this feature was already in the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI), it was the first time random encounters were taken out of a single player game.
As always, the production values and craftsmanship were top-notch. Final Fantasy XII was only the sixth game in history to get a perfect 40/40 score in the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it went on to sell an incredible six million copies.
Final Fantasy XII is on both our list of the Best PS2 Games and our list of the Best PS2 RPGs.
Tekken 5 (2005)
Battle Arena Toshinden was the first 3D fighting game I saw running on a PlayStation. It was a Japanese import that came out at the beginning of 1995, and it was the first game that really blew me away with how amazing the then-new console’s 3D capabilities were. However, Namco’s amazing and easy-to-play fighting game Tekken came out just a few months later and took its place (which itself had already appeared in arcades in 1994).
For years, the Tekken series was associated with PlayStation, just like Namco’s Ridge Racer games were. In fact, it wasn’t until the port of Tekken 6 in 2009 that the series showed up on a platform other than PlayStation.
So it was clear that Tekken 5 was going to be a big deal for the PlayStation 2. The real question is how big a deal it was.
When Tekken 5 came out, it sold 6 million copies and got great reviews, making it the most successful fighting game on the system.
It’s also the only fighting game in the top 10 best-selling PS2 games of all time. It’s in good company on our list of the best PS2 games.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
The first Metal Gear Solid game was a real turning point for video games. Its stealth-based gameplay and frequent breaking of the fourth wall made creator Hideo Kojima famous, and the game is still thought of as one of the best ever made.
The hype for the second game was through the roof, and a demo that came with another Kojima-made game, Zone of the Enders, made people even more excited.
It was shockingly advanced for its time, with amazing cinematic sequences and a complicated, thematically rich plot that became a real signature of not just the Metal Gear series, but all of Kojima’s work.
There was some debate about the fact that players didn’t control Solid Snake for most of the game but instead took control of a new character named Raiden. This was kept secret before the game came out, and many fans didn’t like the change. For some, it’s still a point of contention.
But it was clear that it didn’t hurt the game’s sales, since it went on to sell an amazing 7.03 million copies.
Grand Theft Auto III (2001)
Even though it’s hard to believe now, Grand Theft Auto III came out with almost no hype, marketing, or expectations. The first two games in the series, which were played from the top down, were well-reviewed and sold well, but the graphics and general style kept players a bit removed from the freeform, improvised violence.
Even though these games also caused a lot of controversy, which made them more interesting and gave them free publicity, players who got caught up in them still thought they were more funny than harmful.
All of that changed when Grand Theft Auto III switched to a third-person, behind-the-character view. This also increased the level of detail and the number of activities and ways to cause damage.
It was a powerful, visceral, and incredibly compelling game that just kept getting better and better as people talked about it. This third game really made the series what it is today, even though we’re still only on the fifth game in the series 21 years later!
Grand Theft Auto III was a PlayStation exclusive for a few years, which probably helped sell consoles. The game sold 8.305 million copies on the PlayStation 2 alone, making it a cultural force to be reckoned with and helping to make “mature” video games (games that aren’t for kids) a good business opportunity. It’s still one of the best games on our list of best selling ps2 games.
Gran Turismo is one of the oldest games on this list. It came out in 1998 for the first PlayStation. The battle between the disc-based PlayStation and the cartridge-based Nintendo 64 was in full swing, and Gran Turismo helped show what the N64 couldn’t do: total realism. Gran Turismo was like a look into the future because it seemed like you could design every part of your car and race it in races that were almost photorealistic (for 1998).
IGN said it was “absolutely divine.” Other reviews liked how the game could be changed, how it paid attention to details, and how there were many ways to race. About the only thing that was bad about the first Gran Turismo was that you had to earn licences by doing hard driving tasks before you could enter higher level races. When you think about how badly you’d lose races if you couldn’t pass these tests, it’s a pretty minor setback.