When we think of role-playing games, the tendency is to visualize PC-based MMO’s or perhaps any of the great open world sandboxes that emerged out of the 7th console generation (PS3 and Xbox 360). However, it’s easy to forget that quite a lot of very interesting RPG’s actually landed on the PS2, which is especially true if you’re only just now getting into video games. This is why we thought it best to take the time to provide a bit of retro insight into this matter by providing you with a list of the 5 best RPG’s released on the PlayStation 2. In no particular order, they are…
Of all the role-playing titles on this list, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King certainly stands out in numerous ways. First of all, it utilizes a specific type of cel-shaded graphics to achieve a very memorable look and feel that’s both sharp and tantalizing. Secondly, both the story and characters are incredibly endearing – after just a few hours even the most stand off-ish gamer will likely be hooked and eager to keep on exploring, desperately trying to make forward progress in this magical world. Outwardly speaking, the game resembles your more standard JRPG models (a la’ Final Fantasy) wherein there’s a 3D overworld to explore as well as incredibly fun turn-based combat. However, where other RPG’s only merely intrigue you a bit, DQ8 sucks you in completely, fully immersing you in the story’s ability to generate player emotions and accord with the characters onscreen. Needless to say, it’s an extremely epic and magical experience that definitely should not be missed if you own a PlayStation 2.
It would be all too easy to simply label Final Fantasy XII as yet another entry in the series, more or less par for the course and largely expected by fans. Peering a bit further, we discover that FFXII is actually something of a stunning achievement for the franchise, especially considering that it was destined to arrive on the PS2. Upon its release it was hailed by critics and gamers alike, even netting some game of the year awards in the process. From an outward perspective the story brings us more of the same sort of plots and settings we’ve come to expect – a mixture of western and eastern aesthetics including a generous helping of somewhat borrowed mythological tropes to produce something that’s equal parts “kind and castle” as well as “steampunk”. Yet another one of the great things about this title is its ojpen world gameplay which actually renders the world in a true-to-scale size, rather than forcing you to meander around on a little mini-map. Moreover, the battle system as well as the growth system added lots of new intricacy and possibility to the mix, thus allowing you to creatively approach the game’s challenges in various ways.
As they say….now it’s time for something completely different. Eschewing the typical JRPG backdrop and story in favor of a more surreal / crime-solving direction, developer Atlus’ “Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4” sees you assuming the role of a young boy in a fictional “nowhere” Japanese town where murders are breaking out like crazy. To put it bluntly – the sort of freedoms we enjoy in typical RPG’s found on modern platforms didn’t really exist in the era of the PS2, however, SMT: Persona 4 actually went a long way toward capturing the same sort of depth, atmosphere, creativity, and choice-generation mechanic. P4 really just builds upon Persona 3’s achievements, but it does this while simultaneously improving upon nearly every aspect imaginable. In other words, the game manages to be a somewhat classic JRPG, replete with turn-based combat, questing, and of course, talking to lots of NPC’s. while at the same time moving away from traditional settings entirely in favor of a more modern and creepy atmosphere.
For the serious RPG fans who can’t get enough fantasy-themed action (a la’ Diablo, etc.) there’s simply no forgetting about Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, which is by all accounts, a game that helped to put this genre on the map for a lot of people. On its face, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is basically a hack and slash title, but what makes it special of course is that its developers managed to incorporate a very great-looking isometric 3rd person title which offers up a fun-filled, largely linear main story quest. Part of what made the game so much fun of course was the fact that each of the three playable characters utilizes their own unique styles of combat, which also includes spells. Basically, as many have said before, this is basically ‘Diablo for the PS2”, which isn’t a bad thing at all.
Lastly, we come to Final Fantasy X, which is an RPG which more or less revitalized the entire FF series in more ways than one while simultaneously delivering PS2 gamers a window into a new type of open world exploration. In short, this means that they actually used 3D-rendered environments on this one in lieu of backdrops, also adding real voice acting and a new battle system / leveling mechanism. To put it bluntly, this is pretty much the game that fans of the franchise had been waiting and hoping for and of course when it actually dropped nearly everyone seemed to love it, critics and fans alike. In essence, developer Square basically improved upon nearly every aspect of the series’ design in FFX, be it gameplay, design or otherwise.
Well, there you have it, what are probably the 5 best RPG’s available in the PS2’s catalog. Sure, there are many others to take note of as well, but in terms of strength of gameplay, look and overall execution, the previous examples stand tall to offer some of the best experiences you can find on the console.