The 7 Absolute Best Open-World Games for the PlayStation 2

Best PlayStation 2 action games

The 7 Absolute Best Open-World Games for the PlayStation 2

Open-world games have quickly risen in popularity, going from a video game niche to a plethora of titles that frequently dominate video game charts.

While we see more open-world magic with later-generation consoles, the PlayStation 2 still offered some excellent titles that helped introduce millions of gamers to the genre. That’s especially true for the Grand Theft Auto series, an open-world mainstay that has helped popularize this style of gameplay and would go on to become some of the best-selling games on the PS2 console

Let’s dive into the best open-world games for PS2!

What is an Open-World Game? 

In the video game world, you often have two types of games with which to play. The first type pushes you down a linear path where you often complete tasks, missions, or levels on your way to fight a series of increasingly difficult bosses. The second, the now hugely popular open-world genre, allows you to virtually explore the world you are in freely and often without consideration for mission completion. You have a wide variety of side missions you can complete, large amounts of weapons at your disposal, and can travel around by foot, horse, car, plane, or even helicopter. 

Was the PlayStation 2 Known for Open-World Games? 

As is generally the case, the PlayStation 2 was known for a wide variety of game genres, with open-world among them. Among the list of the best-selling games on the console, three of the top six games are considered open-world with the lowest ranked selling at least 8.3 million copies.

Given this data, it’s safe to say that the PS2 was well-known for open-world games along with other popular genres like racing, role-playing, fighting, sports, and more. 

Take on the Bullies!
Bully (PlayStation 2)
  • Great humor and voices bring the hilarious story to life
  • Takes groundbreaking and original gameplay and humorous tongue-in-cheek storytelling to an entirely new setting: the schoolyard
  • As a troublesome schoolboy, you'll stand up to bullies, get picked on by teachers, and play pranks on malicious kids
  • You'll also win or lose the girl and ultimately learn to navigate the obstacles of the fictitious reform school, Bullworth Academy
  • At long last, stand up for the nerds, geeks, and unrepresented!
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09/07/2023 03:36 pm GMT

One of Rockstar’s lesser-known titles, emBully/em is often considered a Grand Theft Auto-style game if it took place in a school. Released in 2006, Rockstar takes you into the world of boarding schools and protagonist Jimmy Hopkins as he navigates his way around school and bullies. 

Whether he’s on skateboard, bicycling, a go-kart, or on foot, Jimmy must figure out how to increase his own popularity and make the bullies pay at the same time. As is the case with most Rockstar titles, there’s plenty of violence to be had, but after selling 1.5 million copies on the PS2, it’s clear that wasn’t a big concern for many gamers. 

The single-player world does have a linear set of missions and objectives you can complete that progress the overall story but you are also able to freely roam around the game world. The town of Bullworth has plenty of side missions or you can opt to attend a class, which emBully/em presents as a minigame within the larger world.

Earning an 87 Metascore, emBully/em remains one of Rockstar’s most underrated open-world titles that still plays as well today as it did more than a dozen years ago. 

Pick up your copy of emBully/em for the PS2 on Amazon here

Jak II - PlayStation 2
  • Take control of Jak and enter a new game world for all-new missions in fantastic new platformer levels
  • Meet a cast of characters with personal agendas, entangled motives and mysterious relationships
  • Fight your way through hordes of enemies using the classic attacks and tail-bashing, or use a new arsenal of weapons
  • Ride Jak's new hoverboard up mountains and ramps, or across large gaps, for a new level of freedom in gameplay
  • Explore visually stunning and intricately detailed environments, including a massive metropolis three times larger than the original world of Jak and Daxter!
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09/07/2023 03:21 am GMT

Arguably the most engaging (and most difficult) title in the Jak franchise, Jak II is all about over-the-top action platforming with lots of guns and great graphics.

In the game, you will visit Haven City where there is plenty of opportunity to engage in both platforming gameplay but also gun-based combat. With the large variety of weapons at your disposal, there is plenty of gunfighting in your future with this title. Developer Naughty Dog went somewhat darker with this title and, while it didn’t make every fan of the franchise happy, it resulted in a greater overall personality for the game. 

You could approach the gameplay through an open-world style and not a forced linear approach which only heightened fan praise. The game does take place in the same universe as Jak and Dexter, though it happens around 500 years before those storylines will take place. 

Jak finds his missions within the game by navigating around Haven City, talking with a variety of different characters, and then attempting to complete missions that take place beyond city limits. Earning an 87 Metascore for its unique gameplay and mix of shooting, platforming, and driving, emJak II/em is often regarded as the Grand Theft Auto of the platforming world. 

emJak II/em is available on Amazon for the PlayStation 2 here

Shadow of the Colossus - PlayStation 2 (Renewed)
  • This Certified Refurbished product is tested and certified to look and work like new. The refurbishing process includes functionality testing, basic cleaning, inspection, and repackaging. The product...
  • Innovative gameplay combines the puzzle and action/adventure genres
  • Journey across picturesque landscapes and unearth the ferocious beauty of the 16 Colossi
  • Combat each Colossi with skill and resourcefulness, using your magical weapons
  • Overcome a variety of terrain challenges placing great emphasis on pure exploration
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09/07/2023 10:41 am GMT

Released in 2005, emShadow of the Colossus/em is a beautiful fantasy and open-world title that offers a wonderfully deep story.

In the game, you follow along as the “Wander” as he sets off on a mission to help resurrect his female companion. Originally developed for online multiplayer, the game’s development cycle ultimately led to it becoming a single-player title. The open-world environment that developed as part of the creation of the game is one of the most memorable of any open-world game on the PlayStation 2. 

Even with its open world, there’s plenty of action, adventure, and puzzles to keep you going until you find and destroy each Colossus. The “Forbidden Land,” where emShadow of the Colossus/em takes place, feels unpopulated with NPC interactions often taking place far apart from one another. Of course, there’s also your horse companion, Argo, who quickly becomes one of the most critical aspects and characters of the game. 

Ultimately, the story feels both heartbreaking and incredibly engaging which makes for mixed feelings while playing through. Still, the heartbreak wasn’t enough to stop the game from earning a 91 Metascore. 

emShadow of the Colossus/em is available as a renewed title on Amazon here

SSX 3 - PlayStation 2 (Classics)
  • Drop onto the lower peak of the biggest mountain you've ever seen, as you seamlessly board from one area to the next - enter competitions, take on Big Challenges, and discover hidden collectables
  • Be careful -- besides the six returning characters, four new rivals will do what they can to stop you. Viggo, Nate, Griff and Allegra offer a new level of competition
  • All-new rail parks, racecourses, and unbelievable half-pipes are waiting -- try out the mind-blowing new trick combos here, or the amazing new Uber Tricks
  • Grind billboards, board press logs, even hand plant the fence line -- over 100 challenges to board
  • Play any way you want -- players get the option of competing in any events or go freeriding
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09/07/2023 11:52 am GMT

While the idea of an open-world sports game might be a little difficult to imagine, emSSX 3/em proves it’s very real.

What helped separate this title from not just the SSX games before it but sports games, in general, was that players could freely roam anywhere using “free ride” mode. Within this mode, players move around the different maps and courses of the game without having to start or stop a race and explore new areas of the emSSX 3/em world as they frequently open up as you explore. 

Of course, this is still a racing game so there’s plenty of action too with freestyle events among the most popular. How many tracks can you pull off on one ride down the course? 

A bevy of customizable characters awaits you along with customizable snowboards and plenty of tricks to try and master. emSSX 3/em wasn’t known for its realism and that was part of the fun as you could defy gravity and go over the top without worrying that a tree is going to ruin your day.

With so much fun to be had, emSSX 3/em earned a well-deserved 93 Metascore on the PlayStation 2. 

Pick up your copy of emSSX 3/em for PlayStation 2 on Amazon here

PlayStation 2 PS2
The PlayStation 2 is home to tons of fantastic games, and the open-world titles for this console don’t disappoint!


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09/08/2023 05:10 pm GMT

A combination action, third-person shooter, and open-world game, emGrand Theft Auto: Vice City/em is the sixth installment in the massively popular franchise, earning a 95 Metascore.

The gameplay follows fictional mobster Tommy Vercetti who, after going to jail, seeks out revenge on those who put him behind bars all while working to establish his own criminal empire. 

emVice City/em consists of two main islands and feels like it’s modeled after Miami where players can travel around by motorcycle, boat, car, and foot. Wherever you go in emGrand Theft Auto: Vice City/em, you’ll want to be well armed, and oh are there so many weapons at your disposal. How about a rocket launcher or a sniper rifle? There are plenty of those hiding away in emVice City/em

The game took full advantage of the PlayStation 2 hardware with excellent detail put into different builds and the overall city setting. Every mission takes you to exotic locales around the city where you can stay on the main mission or venture off into side missions as you expand your empire. You can purchase property and tools to help you on your way to the top of the crime world which is just a bonus. 

Grab your copy of emGrand Theft Auto: Vice City/em from Amazon here

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - PlayStation 2
  • Drive through the largest GTA environment ever -- The game has three cities players can explore, for a gaming area 5 times larger than Vice City
  • Recruit new characters into a street gang and take over by leading drive-by shootings against rivals
  • Steal all-new vehicles, including bicycles
  • Improved fighting elements -- smoother hand-to-hand combat, plus the ability to hold a weapon in each hand
  • New graphics elements as cars get dirty and even rust, the longer you drive them
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09/08/2023 05:10 pm GMT

Another Grand Theft Auto game to make the list, emGrand Theft Auto: San Andreas/em was a 2004 PS2 game of the year for Metacritic when it handed it a 95 Metascore.

The game’s focus is on Carl Johnson who is looking to find a better life in a city full of trouble. The time period is the early 1990s and San Andreas easily stood out upon its release, thanks to enough side missions to keep you occupied for many hours. Like Vice City, emGrand Theft Auto: San Andreas/em allows you to complete the linear storyline or jump into different parts of the city to explore side missions or just cause a whole bunch of chaos. 

Make sure your driving skills are up to par as you will be doing a whole lot of carjacking in this game. This wasn’t the best-selling PS2 game for no reason as 17.3 million copies were sold to gamers who wanted to live through the eyes of the main protagonist. 

With those same eyes, you’ll discover plenty of real-world locations that remind players San Andreas is a fictional version of Los Angeles and what the city looked like in the early 1990s. 

emGrand Theft Auto: San Andreas/em is available on Amazon here

Grand Theft Auto III
  • Grand Theft Auto III (PS2)
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09/08/2023 04:56 pm GMT

Selling more than 8.3 million copies and earning itself a 97 Metascore, emGrand Theft Auto III/em is memorable for all the right reasons.

Widely considered the open-world game that jump-started the Grand Theft Auto universe, it was also the first title in the franchise to use 3D mapping with a third-person point of view. 

The game asks you to follow the main protagonist, Claude, as he ventures through Liberty City, a fictional New York City. The game just shines whether you are hijacking an ambulance and taking it for a ride or just riding around town seeing how many red lights you can ignore on any given day. Don’t forget to outrun the police when they see you stealing a car, you definitely do not want to get caught. 

emGTA III/em won numerous “game of the year awards” which is a testament to how well Rockstar delivered the open world concept. Even though a little controversy developed upon its release thanks to the heightened violence levels, that didn’t deter gamers who wanted their first taste of what a real open-world game could be like. Little did they know that it would become a phenomenon and that it would spawn a number of sequels all committed to the open-world genre. 

Grab the best open-world game for PlayStation 2, emGrand Theft Auto III/em, on Amazon here

Final Thoughts

The PlayStation 2 may never be solely known as an open-world console but the numbers don’t lie as Grand Theft Auto titles dominate its best-selling games list.

While everyone has an opinion on which of the GTA games is the actual “best,” there’s no disputing that the games helped usher in a whole new set of fans to open-world gameplay just as Shadow of the Colossus showed that storylines can vary enough to be both heartbreaking and consuming all at once.

The 7 Absolute Best Open-World Games for the PlayStation 2 FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the best open-world game for the PlayStation 2?

Among heavy competition, Grand Theft Auto III is considered the best open-world game for the PlayStation 2, thanks to its 97 Metascore. 

When was the PlayStation 2 released?

The PlayStation 2 was released on October 26, 2000 in North America but released a few months earlier in Japan on March 4, 2000. 

Is it true that the PlayStation 2 is the best-selling console of all time?

Yes, with more than 158.7 million consoles sold worldwide, the PlayStation 2 is the current record holder for most video game consoles sold. 

How many Grand Theft Auto games were released for the PlayStation 2?

All totaled, Rockstar released three different Grand Theft Auto games on the Playstation 2 resulting in sales of more than 36 million games sold just for the GTA series on the PS2. 

When did the PlayStation 2 come off store shelves?

The PlayStation 2 would stay on store shelves for a whopping 13 years between 2000 and 2013 when it was replaced by the PlayStation 3. 

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