It’s time to head back to the very start of the millennium as we check out the Best Selling PS2 Games of All Time!
By all accounts, Sony’s PS2 was a massive success, seeing off strong competition – and lots of it too, with Sega’s Dreamcast, Nintendo’s GameCube and even Microsoft with their first Xbox – to become the dominant force during the sixth generation of games consoles.
A combination of savvy marketing, the success of its predecessor and a host of stunning console exclusives and strong first party titles saw it establish a lead that its competitors just couldn’t catch up to.
By the time Sony issued the final official sales figures for the console in 2012, it had sold a mindblowing 155 million units. As for the system’s software, by 2012 more than a billion games had been sold!
With the system associated with so many popular games, there’s plenty of contenders for the biggest selling titles; over 160 games sold more than 1 million copies each, but which ones sold the most?
Let’s find out as we take a look at the Best Selling PS2 Games of All Time.
The first Kingdom Hearts game – which sees the Keyblade-wielding boy Sora take on a quest to protect the various Disney worlds from being consumed by the evil creatures known as the Heartless – was an absolutely phenomenal game, exceeding just about all expectations from both critical and commercial perspectives.
Given that it was a collaboration between two entertainment behemoths – Square Enix and Disney – it’s not a surprise that the massive crossover Kingdom Hearts was such a lavishly, lovingly produced RPG with incredible worlds and a vast array of characters pulled from decades of Disney cartoons and movies.
It’s perhaps not a surprise that the game became such a commercial success – or that it led to a franchise that’s still going strong 20 years later – either, given the pedigree of the talent and properties involved. The first Kingdom Hearts game sold an astonishing 5.9 million copies on the PlayStation 2 – and has sold many millions more since, thanks to the various remasters and re-releases of the game on other platforms!
It’s a genuine cultural phenomenon with true crossover appeal – and remains one of the finest video games of all time, more than earning its place on the list of the Best Selling PS2 Games of All Time.
Another Square Enix title makes it into the top 10 with Final Fantasy XII.
Closely associated with Nintendo until they decided to stick with expensive, storage-limited cartridges instead of moving to CDs on the N64, Square shifted production of Final Fantasy VII to the PS1. That game became a genuine phenomenon and Square’s games – as well as the Final Fantasy series itself – became closely associated with the PlayStation brand.
So it’s no surprise to see Final Fantasy XII here – and it’s one that featured a number of firsts for the series, not least an open world to replace the more linear, separate areas of previous games; another innovation was the removal of random encounters.
Though this wasn’t strictly a first for a Final Fantasy game – the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI having already included this feature – it was the first time that random encounters were removed from a single player entry.
As always, the production values and craft on display were second to none; Final Fantasy XII became only the sixth title in history to be awarded a perfect 40/40 score in Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu – so the fact that it went on to sell an astonishing six million copies shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Though Battle Arena Toshinden was the first 3D fighting game I saw running on a PlayStation – acrtually a Japanese import, way back at the beginning of 1995 – and the first title that truly wowed me with regards to the then-new console’s spectacular 3D capabilities, it was usurped just a few months later with the release of Namco’s incredible, accessible fighting game Tekken (which itself had already appeared in arcades in 1994).
The Tekken series became synonymous with PlayStation for years – just as Namco’s Ridge Racer titles did too – so much so that it wasn’t until the port of Tekken 6, in 2009, that the series made an appearance on a non-Sony platform.
So Tekken 5 was obviously going to be a big deal for the PlayStation 2 – but just how much of a success it was is the real story here.
Tekken 5 was released to stunning commercial and critical acclaim – selling 6 million units to become the most successful fighting game on the system.
It’s also the only fighting game to make it into the top 10 best selling PS2 games of all time – and you’ll find it in esteemed company on our Best PS2 Games list too.
The first Metal Gear Solid game was a real milestone for video games – its stealth-based gameplay and frequent fourth wall breaking elements shot creator Hideo Kojima’s name and reputation into the stratosphere, with the title still highly regarded as one of the very best video games ever made.
The hype for the second game was off the charts; a demo provided with another Kojima-produced title, Zone of the Enders, fanned the flames of anticipation even more.
It was a startlingly advanced title in its day, with incredible cinematic sequences and a convoluted, thematically rich plot that became a real hallmark of not just the Metal Gear franchise, but Kojima’s work in general.
There was some controversy about the fact that – for the vast majority of the game’s length – players were in control of Raiden, an entirely new character, rather than Solid Snake. This had been hidden entirely prior to release – and the change didn’t go down well with many fans, remaining a sore point to this day for some.
However, it clearly wasn’t detrimental to the game’s commercial performance – seeing as it went on to sell an amazing 7.03 million copies.
It’s hard to believe now, but Grand Theft Auto III arrived with almost zero expectation, hype or marketing. The first two games in the series – played from a top-down perspective – had been critically lauded and sold well, but the visuals and general style kept players at a bit of a distance from the freeform, improvisational carnage.
Though these games also generated significant controversy (which only increased the attraction and gave them free publicity), they still felt more amusing than harmful for players who got sucked into them.
That all changed with the change to a third person, behind the character viewpoint in Grand Theft Auto III, which also upped the level of detail and sheer variety of activities and methods of destruction on offer.
It was a potent, visceral and unbelievably compelling game that just grew and grew by word of mouth – it was this third entry that really made the series what it is today (though we’re still only officially on the fifth entry in the series, 21 years later!).
Grand Theft Auto III was a PlayStation exclusive for a few years, which no doubt helped to shift consoles during that time as well; the phenomenal 8.305 million sales that the game racked up on the PlayStation 2 alone really did mark this out as a cultural force to be reckoned with – and helped to further cement ‘mature’ video games – games definitely not for kids – as a viable commercial prospect but nonetheless one of the best on our best selling ps2 games list!
The first Final Fantasy game on the PlayStation 2 (following the release of VII, VIII and IX on the PS1), Final Fantasy X gave players an incredibly colourful, audiovisual spectacular that blew most other games out of the water from a technical perspective – and was as deep and engaging as any other Final Fantasy game from a gameplay point of view too.
Still highly regarded as one of the finest games of all time, Final Fantasy X racked up a massive 8.5 million sales on the PlayStation 2.
The series clearly found an audience hungry for Square Enix’s critically acclaimed, commercially dominant JRPG titles – and Final Fantasy X was a brilliant way to kick off the next chapter for the franchise, truly embracing the capabilities of the 128-bit PS2’s Emotion Engine.
Like Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy X also appears on both our best PS2 Games and Best PS2 RPGs lists.
Though more of an evolution of Grand Theft Auto III’s gameplay and mechanics than a true revolution, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is arguably the pinnacle of the series on the PlayStation 2.
The heady mix of nostalgia, fuelled by the neon-drenched mid-80s setting – the Miami-esque Vice City of the title – and a phenomenal soundtrack that’s still yet to be surpassed in the series (and, arguably, in any video game ever) gives Grand Theft Auto: Vice City an incredible ambience.
The city felt just right in terms of its size and scope – big enough that it felt like a real place to explore, but not so big as to be overwhelming or have any empty areas just there to add scale. The voice acting from an excellent cast – including Ray Liotta as main character Tommy Vercetti, a real contrast to the silent protagonist of Grand Theft Auto III – added another layer of sheen to the brilliant production.
This was Grand Theft Auto III turned up to eleven, heading at 88mph back to the mid-80s. It was and remains a glorious game; no wonder it outsold its predecessor to such a degree – shifting a monumental 10.25 million copies on the PlayStation 2.
The Gran Turismo series – with its phenomenal attention to detail, huge collection of cars to amass and compellingly realistic driving model – became an instant hit the moment the first game was released on the PS1.
The jump to PS2 provided a huge leap in graphical fidelity with which to render its beautiful cars – and in this second PlayStation 2 entry in the series, the formula was even further refined.
Improvements to the physics model and new additions such as the B-Spec Mode (in which players are a crew chief, issuing orders to the driver on the track), Driving Missions and even the first ever Photo Mode in the series all added up to make this an essential entry for fans of the Gran Turismo games.
For gamers who are also car enthusiasts, there’s no greater excuse to own a PlayStation than the Sony-exclusive Gran Turismo games – and it’s clearly a hugely popular title with console owners, with this title having sold a frankly incredible 11.76 million copies on the PlayStation 2. Unsurprisingly, Gran Turismo 4 also features on our best selling PS2 games list and our Best PS2 Racing Games list!
The first Gran Turismo game to arrive on the PS2, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was an instant commercial success – selling a million units in its first three days on sale in Japan alone.
The first two Gran Turismo games had truly pushed the PS1 hardware to its limits, from pretty much every conceivable angle – not just from an audiovisual perspective, but also in terms of their realism and the incredible array of licensed vehicles they contained.
So it’s no surprise that the first next-gen release for the franchise would look to set new standards – and it didn’t disappoint. Though the number of cars on offer ‘dwindled’ (though dropping down to a selection of 180 vehicles was hardly a small number), in every other aspect of the game, it was Gran Turismo tuned to absolute perfection.
Series creator Kazunori Yamauchi even collaborated with peripheral maker Logitech to create the GT Force steering wheel specifically for the game – which added force feedback and an incredible sense of immersion to the onscreen action.
Small wonder that the game ended up selling 14.89 million units on the PlayStation 2 – and of course, this one also makes it onto our best selling PS2 games list.
So here we are at the very top of the list, with the third and final Grand Theft Auto game on the PlayStation 2 – which was by far the most ambitious game in the series at that point.
Rockstar went all out on adding features to San Andreas, with lots of RPG-esque personalisation to truly make the game’s protagonist, CJ, your own – and greatly increased the size and scale of the game’s world, with an absolutely enormous city (along with surrounding areas) to explore and cause hilariously chaotic carnage in.
The story felt much more cinematic and involving than before too, with a starry cast featuring well known actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn, Peter Fonda, James Woods, William Fichtner, Ice-T and even Danny Dyer voicing characters in the game.
The infamous ‘Hot Coffee’ mod controversy saw the game attacked by the media and politicians, leading to it receiving an ‘Adults Only’ rating in the US.
This led to San Andreas being temporarily removed from retail in its original form, returning with the offending scenes removed in an updated version.
Clearly, the old adage of ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ applied for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas – the temporary unavailability of the game had no negative effect on the commercial performance of the game.
This perhaps even added to its allure, as it went on to become the biggest selling PS2 game of all time – with an incredible 17.33 million copies sold on Sony’s second console.
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.