10 Most Underrated PlayStation 2 JRPGs

brother and sister playing video games at home

The PlayStation 2 easily has one of the best and deepest rosters of JRPGs of any console ever made. It certainly helps that the PS2 sold north of 150 million units, but that is not to diminish the quality of the JRPG library on the console.

While the likes of Final Fantasy X and Persona 4 rank among some of the best JRPGs for the PS2, there are plenty more fantastic titles in the genre that never quite garnered the sales and respect they deserve. These underrated hidden gems might not have the name recognition today of titles from some more prestigious franchises, but they definitely deserve another look.

The top pick on this list was even awarded the title of “Best PlayStation 2 Game That No One Played” for the year it was released. If you've already played all of the biggest hits (and even if you haven't), it might be time to check out the most underrated JRPGs on the PS2.

Please note that this list will only include one game from a given franchise, but we will add any relevant entries (i.e. prequels, sequels, etc.) too, so make sure to look out for the “Other Great Games In The Franchise” section under select titles.

10. Breath Of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Breath Of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Image Credit: Capcom & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 78
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
  • Release: 2002

After the success of the Breath of Fire franchise on the previous generations of consoles, very few (if any) would have guessed the series' first entry on the highly-successful PlayStation 2 console would be a disappointment in terms of units sold. Yet, the fifth entry in the acclaimed Breath of Fire franchise qualifies as a hidden gem thanks to some lackluster sales around the world.

Dragon Quarter quickly became a divisive game among franchise fans as it looks and feels much different than its predecessors. Not to mention, its runtime comes in quite shorter than the previous game in the series.

While many longtime fans might complain that Dragon Quarter is a Breath of Fire game in name only (along with the returning main character and some other loose series-wide themes), it still remains one of the better JRPGs for the best-selling PlayStation 2 console. An updated battle system along with a great soundtrack make this a joy to play (and replay), even if it is quite the departure from what the series has offered fans before.

9. Tales Of The Abyss

Tales Of The Abyss
Image Credit: Namco Bandai Games & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 78
  • Genre: RPG / Real-Time Battle
  • Release: 2005

Sure, Tales of the Abyss isn't quite as unknown as some other titles on this list, but it is nonetheless a game worth visiting for genre fans who have yet to do so. And with no European version of this game coming until 2011 on the Nintendo 3DS, this game wasn't even available to a solid portion of the game-playing world until half a decade after its initial release.

Despite this PlayStation 2 gem not originally being released worldwide, it still remains one of the best games in a long-running JRPG franchise. Additionally, for new players coming to the franchise, it is widely regarded as one of the more approachable games in the series.

Across the board, Tales of the Abyss is praised for its storytelling, action RPG gameplay, anime cutscenes, character development, and voice acting. The game also inspired a 26-episode anime adaptation and even a manga based on the story. Needless to say, Tales of the Abyss creates an engrossing world to become enveloped in should you choose to pick up this cult classic on either the PlayStation 2 or Nintendo 3DS.

8. Wild Arms 3

Wild Arms 3
Image Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 78
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
  • Release: 2002

Wild Arms 3 makes franchise history by being the first game in the series to have a female main character. Following the aforementioned Virginia Maxwell, this wild west story features a ton of other firsts for the franchise as well: including a movable 360-degree camera, a modifiable turn-based battle system, and it even allows all party members to use its famous magical firearms, also known as “ARMs.”

The game's cel-shaded art style gives this title a pleasant presentation (even today), but it's the evolving story and developed characters that leave their mark on the player. That battle system is also quite enjoyable, which is good considering gamers spend quite a bit of time in it.

Like some other cult classic JRPGs, Wild Arms 3 was re-released on the PlayStation 4 via the PlayStation Network (PSN). The PS4 version remains largely untouched but does feature an improved resolution and PlayStation trophies. It is even playable on the PlayStation 5.

Other Great Games In The Franchise On PS2: Wild Arms 4, Wild Arms 5, Wild Arms Alter Code F

7. Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time

Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time
Image Credit: Square Enix & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 80
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Release: 2003

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time features real-time action combat that is immediately accessible and opens up over time. This more niche title punches above its weight in terms of presentation (especially with its exceptional soundtrack). It also boasts an emotional story and deceptively deep combat.

The third entry in the Star Ocean series has up to 80 hours of content packed into this one game. The sci-fi world and engaging story are both selling points in their own right, but the game's true achievement is its combat.

In 2017, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time made its glorious high-definition debut on the PlayStation 4. Thanks to emulator technology, the original game has been largely untouched but fully up-rendered to high definition. Additionally, its PS4 debut also features trophies and is available on the PlayStation 5.

6. La Pucelle: Tactics

La Pucelle: Tactics
Image Credit: Mastiff & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 79
  • Genre: Tactical RPG
  • Release: 2002

La Pucelle: Tactics is a tactical RPG set in the Disgaea universe. In fact, La Pucelle: Tactics‘ main character is a hidden boss in the first two Disgaea games and a downloadable character in the subsequent titles.

That being said, this spin-off title simply doesn't have the same name recognizability today as the main Disgaea series. Still, like the main collection of games, La Pucelle: Tactics features the same charm and engrossingly deep gameplay.

La Pucelle: Tactics was later brought to the PSP as an updated port with the name “La Pucelle Ragnarok.” However, this version of the game didn't release for Sony's portable console outside Japan. Ragnarok did eventually make its way to PC and later the Nintendo Switch as part of the NIS Classics Volume 3.

Simply put, La Pucelle: Tactics ranks among the Best PlayStation 2 Games Of All Time. If you're looking for a good, underrated tactics game, you should definitely consider checking this one out.

5. Phantom Brave

Phantom Brave
Image Credit: NIS America & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 81
  • Genre: Tactical RPG
  • Release: 2004

Phantom Brave is the spiritual successor to Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, but it's not nearly as celebrated today as its predecessor. The game is perhaps best suited for tactical RPG fans who aren't intimidated by various options and deep gameplay. Those ready to invest some time will find a hidden gem with some serious heart.

Phantom Brave is a little less accessible than Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, but it maintains much of the game's same charm… and some of its pitfalls as well. It won't compete with Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest in terms of production value, but it offers depth and flexibility that are second to none.

The game was remade several times for various consoles and even PC. It was released as Phantom Brave: We Meet Again on the Nintendo Wii and Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle for PSP with some additional features. A PC version with features from both of those titles was released in 2016 and the game came to Nintendo Switch (and PC again) as part of the Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1.

4. Growlanser: Generations

Growlanser: Generations
Image Credit: Working Designs & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 81
  • Genre: Tactical RPG
  • Release: 2003

Growlanser: Generations is a collection of two highly-regarded tactical RPGs, Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice and Growlanser III: The Dual Darkness. Both titles take place in a fantastical world of magic and melee.

This two-in-one package is something that tactical RPG fans should absolutely consider purchasing. It's not as cinematic as the blockbuster JRPGs of the era, but it is an engrossing strategy game for those who enjoy the genre.

Honestly, it's hard to argue with getting two quality titles in one package. Rather than releasing Growlanser II and Growlanser III as separate products as they were in Japan, both games debuted in the West as Growlanser: Generations. The first game was released on the original PlayStation in Japan only.

The Growlanser series is more or less considered to be a hidden gem today outside of Japan. In fact, the fourth game in the series, Wayfarer of Time didn't make its way to the West until nearly a decade after its initial release on the PS2. When it finally did come stateside, it was released as a PSP title.

3. Odin Sphere

Odin Sphere
Image Credit: Atlus USA & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 83
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Release: 2007

Odin Sphere is a 2D side-scrolling action RPG that focuses on beat-'em-up style combos rather than traditional turn-based combat. Essentially, this title is an old-school action RPG that is as beautiful as it is fun to play. The exquisitely layered plot unfolds quite nicely even if the game can become somewhat repetitive at times.

Odin Sphere is a good change-of-pace JRPG for those looking for something a bit more action-focused than the traditional, turn-based entry. It does have a few minor issues (most revolving around its frustrating inventory system), but these can easily be overlooked when the gameplay and presentation are this good. Fortunately, however, these issues were largely solved with the game's 2016 remake for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita titled Odin Sphere Leifthrasir.

As a spiritual successor to the little-known Sega Saturn game Princess Crown, Odin Sphere is something of a hidden gem on the PlayStation 2. The 2016 remake scored even better than the original from critical outlets, but sales still remain on the modest side.

2. Rogue Galaxy

Rogue Galaxy
Image Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 83
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Release: 2005

Rogue Galaxy is a game Sony and developer Level-5 hoped would rival the likes of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. While its sales numbers never reached those lofty expectations, the quality of the game itself gets quite close. After the Dark Cloud games were well-received by gamers and critics alike, it should come as no surprise that Level-5 produced yet another quality JRPG experience in Rogue Galaxy.

This action RPG features more hack-and-slash combat rather than more traditional turn-based battles and allows players the ability to switch between characters. While the game never did sell up to expectations, Sony did re-release Rogue Galaxy in high definition on the PlayStation 4.

While the characters and plot can be a bit on the thin side at times, the quality presentation, vast scope, and addictive gameplay offer gamers one of the PlayStation 2's greatest RPG experiences. It's an award-winning game that fans definitely should consider experiencing.

1. Shadow Hearts: Covenant

Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Image Credit: Midway Games & Wealth of Geeks.
  • Metacritic Score: 85
  • Genre: Turn-Based RPG
  • Release: 2004

Shadow Hearts: Covenant is historical fiction with a fantasy twist. Set during World War I, Covenant is the second (and, arguably best) game in the Shadow Hearts trilogy.

Shadow Hearts: Covenant builds on the successful original game to create a moving story with memorable characters and overall great writing. It is more than a sequel, it's the definitive Shadow Hearts experience on the PlayStation 2.

The World War I setting is a refreshing change of pace for the JRPG genre. This new scenery is accompanied by a compelling story with quality characters. The first Shadow Hearts title is a quality JRPG title in its own right, but Covenant is truly the crowned jewel of the trilogy.

Covenant is a lengthy game that takes roughly 50 hours to beat, but those who get hooked into the plot will likely blow through the campaign to see how it all ends. With very few slow moments sprinkled throughout, it's a story many will want to see through to completion.

Despite all of its praise, IGN gave Shadow Hearts: Covenant its “Best PlayStation 2 Game That No One Played' award back in 2004. Despite its lack of commercial success, however, many outlets consider Shadow Hearts: Covenant to be among the best RPGs of all time.

Other Great Games In The Franchise On PS2: Shadow Hearts, Shadow Hearts: From The New World

EDITOR'S NOTE: Shadow Hearts: Covenant is also referred to as “Shadow Hearts II” in Japan.

Honorable Mentions

Those are our picks for the top PS2 JRPGs. However, that doesn't mean there aren't other great titles in the genre worth picking up. On the contrary, there are a ton of quality recommendations for JRPG fans.

  • Arc The Lad: Twilight Of The Spirits
  • Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana
  • Grandia III
  • Jade Cocoon 2
  • Makai Kingdom: Chronicles Of The Sacred Tome
  • Stella Deus: The Gate Of Eternity
  • Ys: The Ark Of Napishtim
  • .hack// (series)
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