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7. Kingdom Hearts (2002)

The PlayStation 2 is widely considered one of the greatest video game consoles of all time, and for good reason. With over 4,000 games released worldwide, the PS2 boasted not only an incredibly diverse library, but also some of the most critically acclaimed and beloved titles in gaming history. And when it comes to role-playing games (RPGs), the PS2 was truly in a class of its own.

From groundbreaking entries in long-running series to innovative new IPs, PS2 RPGs redefined the genre and left an indelible mark on gaming as a whole. Narrowing down the 7 absolute best PS2 RPGs was no easy task, but after careful consideration, here are the games that I believe represent the cream of the crop:

Kingdom Hearts was a true gaming revelation, masterfully blending classic Disney magic with the storytelling and gameplay prowess of Final Fantasy developer Square Enix. Players took on the role of Sora, a young boy chosen to wield the legendary Keyblade on a quest to stop the Heartless from consuming the worlds.

Joined by Donald Duck and Goofy, Sora battled through iconic Disney environments like Wonderland, Halloween Town, and Neverland, meeting and fighting alongside beloved characters like Aladdin, Jack Skellington, and Peter Pan. The action RPG combat was fast, fluid, and a ton of fun, enhanced by a memorable soundtrack and gorgeous visuals that pushed the PS2 hardware to its limits.

More than just a delightful crossover, Kingdom Hearts told a remarkably moving story about friendship, destiny, and the power of the heart. It kicked off one of gaming‘s most successful franchises and remains just as enchanting today as it was two decades ago. That timeless magic earns it a well-deserved spot on this list.

As one of the last major JRPGs released for the PS2, Persona 4 was a triumphant swan song for the system and the genre. Set in the rural Japanese town of Inaba, the story revolves around a group of high school students investigating a string of mysterious murders. What starts as a stylish whodunnit morphs into a gripping supernatural thriller as the kids discover the culprit is pushing people into a hellish TV world and confronting them with their darkest inner selves.

Persona 4 masterfully balanced dungeon crawling with social simulation elements, letting you forge bonds with a memorable cast of characters while juggling school, hobbies, and a part-time job. The stronger your real-world friendships became, the more powerful Personas you could summon in battle. This addicting loop made Persona 4 near impossible to put down.

Add in an unforgettable soundtrack, bold art direction, and a thought-provoking story that tackled heavy themes like identity, sexuality, and self-acceptance, and it‘s easy to see why Persona 4 is so revered. It pushed the boundaries of what RPGs could be and played a huge part in catapulting the Persona series to mainstream success.

As the first mainline Dragon Quest game on the PS2, Journey of the Cursed King introduced legions of new fans to one of Japan‘s most beloved RPG series. And what an introduction it was – Dragon Quest VIII‘s colorful 3D graphics, sweeping orchestral score, and charming voice acting brought its whimsical world to life like never before.

The story followed a nameless hero and his ragtag band of allies (including a spunky thief, a sassy sorceress, and a talking horse) on a quest to lift a curse that had turned the king of Trodain into a troll and the princess into a horse. It was a classic good vs. evil tale elevated by lovable characters, hilarious writing, and a big, beautiful world begging to be explored.

Dragon Quest‘s signature turn-based combat shone on the PS2, enhanced by the new tension system that let you skip turns to power up for devastating attacks. The character building was equally rewarding, with customizable skill points letting you shape your party as you saw fit. Toss in tons of side quests, mini-medals to collect, and hidden secrets to uncover, and you had an RPG that could easily devour 100+ hours of your life.

Even today, Journey of the Cursed King stands as one of the most charming, content-rich entries in Dragon Quest‘s long history. It was a must-play then and remains a must-play now, cementing its status as one of the PS2‘s finest RPGs.

Xenosaga Episode I marked the beginning of one of the most ambitious RPG sagas ever attempted. Developed by Monolith Soft, a team made up of former Square Enix employees who worked on classics like Xenogears and Chrono Cross, Xenosaga aimed to weave an epic sci-fi tale across multiple games, anime, and novels.

Set in the distant future, Episode I followed scientist Shion Uzuki and her android companion KOS-MOS as they battled the alien Gnosis and uncovered startling secrets about mankind‘s past among the stars. Dense, philosophical, and uncompromisingly weird, Xenosaga‘s storytelling was unlike anything else in games at the time.

But Xenosaga was more than just high concept sci-fi. It featured a unique blend of turn-based and real-time combat that kept battles engaging, while rewarding dungeon designs and devious puzzles provided ample challenge for the mind. The stellar presentation also deserves special praise, with a cinematic camera, lush 3D graphics, and an iconic soundtrack that made Xenosaga feel like an epic, big-budget anime film you could play.

Admittedly, Episode I was just the first chapter in a much larger story, and later Xenosaga games failed to fully capitalize on its potential. But taken on its own merits, this ambitious and unconventional RPG was a one-of-a-kind experience that showcased the PS2‘s raw horsepower, and the heights game developers could reach when they dared to dream big and take risks.

Final Fantasy XII was nothing short of a revolution for Square Enix‘s titanic RPG series. Replacing the traditional random encounters and turn-based battles the franchise was known for with free-roaming exploration and real-time, MMO-inspired combat, FFXII played unlike any Final Fantasy before it, and most since.

The world of Ivalice felt alive in a way few game settings ever had – NPCs went about their daily routines, airships soared overhead, and the environments stretched as far as the PS2‘s draw distance would allow. And within that world, players were largely free to go where they wanted and progress at their own pace. It was a liberating evolution of Final Fantasy‘s core design.

Of course, it helped that Ivalice was a world worth getting lost in. Inspired by the Middle East, Mediterranean, and India, it was a land of dazzling architecture, exotic wildlife, and richly detailed cultures. The captivating story of warring empires, political intrigue, and a small kingdom caught in the middle grounded the fantastic setting in relatable, human struggles.

The License Board system provided immense freedom in customizing your party, while the innovative Gambit system let you automate your party members‘ behavior in battle, minimizing tedious micromanagement. And tying it all together was a best-in-class presentation, with jaw-dropping cinematics, emotive voice acting, and a soaring orchestral score.

At the time, FFXII felt like the future of RPGs. And in many ways, it was. Its influence can still be seen in modern RPG design, and its majesty has only grown in the years since its release. It stands proudly as one of the best Final Fantasy games, and one of the greatest RPGs in PlayStation history.

How do you follow up a game as revolutionary as Persona 3? If you‘re Atlus, you make it even better. Persona 3 FES took the already stellar original game and enhanced it with new content, including an epilogue chapter that provided additional closure to its dark, engrossing story.

Set in a Japanese high school by day and a monstrous tower known as Tartarus by night, Persona 3 cast players as a transfer student moonlighting as a member of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad (SEES). Their mission: investigate the Dark Hour, a hidden time that takes place between one day and the next, and eradicate the Shadows that prey on the minds of the innocent.

What set Persona 3 apart was how it used the simulation elements to deepen its RPG gameplay. As you attended school and formed Social Links with classmates and other characters, your relationships granted you access to more powerful Persona to summon in battle. It was an ingenious system that made everyday life feel just as important as dungeon crawling.

The dark, mature story dealt with heavy themes like death, loss, and the search for meaning in a cruel and uncaring universe. The characters felt like real people struggling with relatable issues, and their arcs paid off in heartbreaking and uplifting ways. When combined with the slick, stylish presentation and an absolutely killer soundtrack, Persona 3 was an unforgettable journey from start to finish.

FES elevated that journey to even greater heights with brand new story content, new Personas to collect, additional challenges to overcome, and an extra layer of polish. To this day, it remains the definitive version of one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and a towering testament to the power of the PS2.

Was there any doubt? Not only is Final Fantasy X arguably the best PS2 RPG, it‘s also one of the greatest games ever made, period. The first Final Fantasy game built exclusively for the PS2 hardware, FFX was a stunning showcase for what the system could do. The fully 3D environments, beautifully detailed character models, dazzling spell effects, and seamless cutscenes were jaw-dropping at the time, and still hold up remarkably well today.

But it wasn‘t just the graphics that made Final Fantasy X special. The story of Tidus, a star blitzball player from the futuristic city of Zanarkand who finds himself transported to the world of Spira, was packed with unforgettable moments. His journey to uncover the truth behind the monstrous Sin, and his blossoming relationship with the summoner Yuna, formed the emotional core of a sweeping, powerful tale.

The voice acting brought the characters to life in a way no Final Fantasy had before, while the soaring musical score by series composer Nobuo Uematsu perfectly captured the game‘s mixture of joy, sorrow, and hope. To this day, "To Zanarkand" remains one of the most iconic and emotionally affecting pieces of video game music ever composed.

Equally groundbreaking was the Conditional Turn-Based Battle system, which blended the strategy of turn-based combat with a dash of real-time urgency. The Sphere Grid leveling system allowed for incredible flexibility in customizing your party, while the various minigames, superbosses, and secrets provided nearly endless replay value.

Perhaps most importantly, Final Fantasy X moved players in a way few games ever have. The romance between Tidus and Yuna felt genuine and earned. The camaraderie between party members like Auron, Wakka, and Rikku was palpable. The tragic fate of the summoners and the bittersweet ending left many in tears. It was a deeply human story that resonated with players on a profound level.

Put it all together, and you have an RPG that‘s simply in a class of its own. Final Fantasy X is a landmark game that pushed the boundaries of what was possible on the PS2, and in the genre as a whole. It‘s a shining example of the power of video games as a storytelling medium, and an experience that will live on in the hearts of everyone who played it. There‘s simply no other choice for the #1 spot on this list.

And there you have it – the 7 absolute best RPGs on the PlayStation 2. These are the cream of the crop, the games that defined a genre and a generation. If you‘re looking for unforgettable adventures, richly detailed worlds, and stories that will stay with you long after the credits roll, you can‘t go wrong with any of these masterpieces. Fire up your PS2 and prepare to lose yourself in some of the greatest RPGs ever made.