So far, more than 155 million PlayStation 2s have been sold, but few of the more than 150 million PS2 owners have ever even come close to beating the hardest games for the popular system.
The PS2 may have made 3D games much more “playable,” and it did move us away from the era of ridiculously hard arcade games.
But it also seems to have inspired a new generation of game developers to ask, “What does the future of ridiculously hard games look like?”
Their choices include a driving game where you can’t make any mistakes, a rhythm game that is harder than learning to play an instrument, a beat-em-up that beats you up, and more of the hardest PS2 games ever made.
- 18. Samurai Western
- 17. Haunting Ground
- 16. Twisted Metal Black
- 15. Stuntman
- 14. Manhunt
- 13. Pac-Man World 2
- 12. God of War
- 11. Airblade
- 10. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
- 9. Gitaroo Man
- 8. Jak 2
- 7. Black
- 6. Godhand
- 5. Armored Core: Last Raven
- 4. Contra: Shattered Soldier
- 3. Devil May Cry 3
- 2. Maximo: Ghosts to Glory
- 1. Shinobi
18. Samurai Western
Samurai Western came out for the PlayStation 2 in 2005, but it was never made available for any other game systems.
This game was only available on the PlayStation 2 and has never been made available on any other console.
This is possibly why it’s so hard to find these days.
In this game, the player is in charge of a warrior who is looking for his brother in the Old West.
A fan will have to pay about $130 for a brand-new copy of this game.
17. Haunting Ground
Haunting Ground is a survival horror game for the PS2 that came out in 2005.
This system had its fair share of scary games, and many of them are now hard to find and collect.
In this game, the player is in charge of Fiona, a young woman who gets into an accident and wakes up in a strange house.
This PlayStation 2 game is popular with people who collect them, but it’s not easy or cheap to find a copy.
It will cost more than $100 to get just the disc, and it will cost $310 to get a new, full copy.
16. Twisted Metal Black
The popular racing game Twisted Metal Black has fights that are very violent. In this game, the player chooses a character, each of which has its own traits.
Everyone in the story has a car. And we drive that car in the game. Each car does something different.
From guns to electricity to sharp weapons to heavy weapons, there are many kinds of weapons.
Each car has a different shape. But don’t think that this game will be easy to finish without tricks. Because the monsters in this game are made to be hard to beat.
Stuntman is somewhere between “broken” and “made to be hard,” but I think this unique driving game is still playable enough to be properly called one of the PS2’s hardest games.
Stuntman has the kind of razor-thin margin of error that you usually only see in the hardest bullet hell shooters.
This driving game is already hard to control, but it’s even harder because you only have a few seconds to respond to trick requests that are hard to understand.
It forces you to play in a way that involves a lot of trial and error, which would be hard to like if it weren’t so fun to play as a movie stuntman.
Manhunt is a grindhouse classic that doesn’t get as much love as it should.
However, like many stealth games from the same time period, it’s also incredibly difficult to play, which may have turned off more than a few potential fans.
Even though you can legally make a mistake in Manhunt, most players will find that the chances of getting out of it are so low that they might as well just start over when they get caught.
Oh, and the “Hardcore” mode of this game is even more brutal than the fake death film you’re supposed to be in.
13. Pac-Man World 2
In this world, there are two kinds of people. People who see Pac-Man World 2 on a list of hard games and think, “What?” and people who hear the name Pac-Man World 2 and quickly remember how hard it was.
Some of the levels in Pac-Man World 2 are pretty hard on their own, but only people who have tried to beat the game 100% can really tell how hard it is.
Even though I’ve seen people beat the hardest time trials in this game since then, there was a time when I was ready to believe they were impossible.
If this were a Crash Bandicoot game, it might be the most difficult one ever made.
12. God of War
Even though the original God of War wasn’t the hardest 3D action game for the PS2 (we’ll talk about those games in a second), it’s easy to forget how hard it was.
God of War’s fighting is more than enough to keep you on your toes, but the part where you have to climb a spinning tower of spikes and blades to get out of the afterlife is what really sets this game apart.
This part should be in the Hall of Fame for frustratingly hard platforming tasks in games that aren’t about platforming.
At the time of its release, Airblade was wrongly called a copy of Tony Hawk, but this game had a lot going for it that made it stand out.
Still, Criterion Software could have made Airblade a lot easier by using some of THPS’s better ideas.
The biggest problems here are the time limits and the way the tasks are set up in Airblade.
Like old-school THPS games, Airblade gives you a set amount of time to complete a number of goals in each level.
Airblade is different from THPS in that you have to achieve all of those goals in one perfect run before the time runs out.
Even “good” gamers will find it hard to keep their minds from getting tired of the same tasks over and over again.
10. Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Breath of Fire games are usually pretty hard, but even the biggest fans of the series will usually agree that Dragon Quarter takes advantage of any advantages the series may have in that area.
Early tasks in Dragon Quarter are hard enough for people who know how the game works, but most people can’t handle them while learning the game’s unique and complicated mechanics.
Some of the later boss fights in the game can even make you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, even if you start over as a poor level one character.
9. Gitaroo Man
It was one of the best rhythm games ever.
Gitaroo Man has a good variety of music and artwork that is cute, adorable, and fun to look at.
Gitaroo Man is a pretty complicated game for home consoles that was made by music game expert Inis.
But it’s very hard to finish the missions in this game.
For the hardest tasks in this game, you need to be able to plan ahead and have quick hands.
8. Jak 2
Even though Jak 2 is hard all the way through, I’d say that about 80% of this Naughty Dog favorite is pretty well-balanced and should be playable by action-adventure/platformer fans with different levels of skill.
As you might have guessed, the other 20% of the game is what gives Jak 2 its renown and puts it on this list.
There are a few sudden jumps in challenge in this game that will make you wonder if you did something wrong or changed a setting by accident.
It doesn’t help that the restart system in this game often makes you play some of those parts over and over again.
Black is another game that is hard to rank in terms of difficulty because its different difficulty settings are so different from each other.
If you’ve played FPS games for a while and you play Black on “Easy” or “Normal,” you probably won’t find many problems in this game that you can’t beat with the usual amount of persistence.
Black is a whole different animal on the “Hard” and “Black Ops” settings, though.
In those modes, you can get killed by a light breeze, which is bad enough. But the fact that you have to complete extra goals while dodging bullets is just evil.
Godhand is the only action game that’s really like it.
This strange beat-em-up takes parts from 3D action games like Devil May Cry and classic arcade brawlers, but the focus is on learning the patterns of individual enemies rather than killing waves of them.
Even worse, the game’s “tank control” system is changed in a way that forces you to get used to a much slower pace than you’re used to seeing in games like this.
When you put it all together, you get a game where you always have to learn new tricks to stay alive.
If you’re not the kind of gamer who can pull off complicated fighting game moves in the heat of battle, you might not be able to make it through this truly unique action game.
5. Armored Core: Last Raven
When I think of FromSoftware games, the first word that comes to mind is “hard,” but “balanced” is the second word that comes to mind.
Even though From Software is known for making games that are hard, most of their games are fairly well-balanced.
Armored Core: Last Raven is another game. I have to give FromSoftware credit for making an Armored Core game that even the most dedicated fans of the series found difficult.
However, the way this game forces you to master even the smallest mechanics makes it almost certain that only those with the right mix of patience and skills will even be able to make progress in it, let alone beat it.
4. Contra: Shattered Soldier
Saying that a Contra game is hard is about as cool as saying “water is wet,” so the more interesting question about this series has always been “What is the hardest Contra game ever?”
Well, I still think Contra: Hard Corps is the best, but Shattered Soldier fits in the same conversation.
This is a pure arcade-style shooter with just enough modern (or somewhat modern) gameplay changes to make even people who think they are good at old Contra games find it hard to finish one of the best action games for the PS2.
3. Devil May Cry 3
After the first Devil May Cry established the formula for the series and the second game, Devil May Cry 2, was a big step back, Capcom chose to go crazy and make Devil May Cry 3 arguably the hardest 3D action game ever.
Even though the original North American release of this game is technically the hardest version because Capcom made every optional setting harder and then changed their minds for later versions, it doesn’t really matter which version you play.
This is a perfect example of how to make a hard game, and I love and hate the Devil May Cry team for everything that makes it what it is.
2. Maximo: Ghosts to Glory
The people who made Maximo: Ghosts to Glory seemed to want to see if it was possible to make a 3D version of the kind of crazy difficulty that the Ghosts and Goblins games were known for in 2D.
In the process, they made something that may be even harder than those original 2D games that are known for being hard.
Ghosts to Glory’s combat is just as hard as you’d expect it to be given the game’s history, but this time around, you also have to deal with a surprising number of frustrating platforming parts where you’ll keep falling into the same pits.
This game may look “slower” than the original Ghost and Goblins adventures, but it doesn’t give you a second to catch your breath.
Shinobi is one of the most creative, underrated, and generally best 3D action games ever made, and I’ll back anyone who says it is.
Still, I can’t talk about this game without saying that it’s so hard that 90% of people will quit after only a few hours (or even minutes).
What makes Shinobi so difficult? Let me count the ways:
- A sword that slowly drains your life if you’re not killing enemies
- Fairly common enemies that can block nearly all of your attacks
- Platforming sections that demand nothing short of perfection
- An infuriating lack of mid-level checkpoints
- Boss battles that often combine the game’s hardest combat and platforming mechanics
- A lock-on system that is necessary for success but often leads to your accidental death
People who live for hard games will often admit that Shinobi is sometimes too difficult for its own good, which is honestly kind of an achievement in and of itself.