Top 22 BEST PlayStation Games of Each Year (2000 - 2021)
VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
The 21st Century has been great for PlayStation, with must-play titles being churned out each year. For this list, we're taking a look at the best PlayStation game of every year between 2000 and 2021. Do note that we are prioritizing first-party games and exclusives. Our list includes “Uncharted 4: A Thief's End” (2016), “Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus” (2002), “God of War III” (2010), “Resistance 2” (2008), and more!
Script written by Ty Richardson
2000: “Final Fantasy IX”
As folks were gearing up for the PlayStation 2, the original PlayStation was bombarding us with one last wave of fantastic games. If you were an RPG fan at this time, you were eating well with titles like “Wild Arms 2”, “Chrono Cross”, and “The Legend of Dragoon”. However, the crown for 2000 has to go to “Final Fantasy IX”. Square Enix had already delivered two home runs with “Final Fantasy VII” and “VIII”, and “IX” once again blew all expectations out of the water. The story is fantastically written with exceptional character development, the visuals were just as breathtaking as the games before it, and the music was equally beautiful. Needless to say, FF9 deserves the praise it continues to receive today.
2001: “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty”
Within the PS2’s first year, we saw a wealth of fantastic titles: “Devil May Cry”, “Twisted Metal: Black”, “Silent Hill 2”, and even “Grand Theft Auto III”. Ultimately, the best game to come out of 2001 was this. “Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty” subverted our expectations in a way we didn’t know we wanted. Just about everything that made its predecessor so great was expanded and improved upon here from visuals to AI to stealth and cover mechanics to everything in between. If you owned a PS2 at this time, this was a must-play.
2002: “Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus”
Whereas Jak and Daxter got their start the year prior, Ratchet and Sly would debut this year to form the holy trinity of PS2 mascots. Between the two though, our sneaky thief would come out on top. The first “Sly Cooper” is far from perfect, but it was much different than many other platformers we had seen at that time. The artstyle, stealth mechanics, character design - it all formed into one stylized and fun package. Of course, everyone will have their preference between the three, but we gotta give it to Sly for the stronger debut.
2003: “Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando”
The reason why we didn’t choose the Lombax for 2002 is because the original game has not aged all that well with its sometimes cumbersome controls and outdated weapons wheel. “Going Commando” was where the franchise found solid ground. In addition to improved controls, the second game in the franchise came with more minigames to indulge in, more crazy weapons to dispatch foes with, and an experience system that encouraged users to learn and use weapons more often to unlock more powerful iterations. The first game nailed the basic ideas, but “Going Commando” was what showed Sony the IP’s potential.
2004: “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater”
Though a bit light on the exclusives, 2004 was still a great year for PlayStation with titles like “Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal”, “Sly 2: Band of Thieves”, and “Killzone”. On the other hand, “Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater” was one of those very, very rare games where it’s hard to complain about anything. Stealth mechanics were expanded upon with the inclusion of camouflage suits. Stamina became a requirement to expertly perform maneuvers…or prevent hunger from blowing your cover. Even if you aren’t a fan of realism in games, you have to admire the mechanics and how deep “Snake Eater” gets with its own designs.
2005: “Tekken 5”
2005 saw some fantastic games, but we simply cannot ignore the finale to “Tekken’s” long-running PlayStation exclusivity. “Tekken 5” is the kind of package that any fighting game fanatic would want. Not only did you have an excellent fighter with astounding visuals, the biggest roster we had seen yet, and incredibly responsive controls (at the time), you also had an entirely separate beat ‘em up campaign for Jin Kazama and access to the arcade versions of the first three games! What you had in “Tekken 5” was a massive celebration that beautifully commemorated the tenth anniversary of the franchise. If you wanted some good ass “Tekken”, this was the installment that went above and beyond to satisfy you.
2006: “Guitar Hero II”
Shockingly, 2006 was a rather slow year for the PlayStation scene. (Must have been that six hundred-dollar price tag for the PS3.) And so, what was the best game to get at that time? We’d say it was “Guitar Hero II”. This would be the last time “Guitar Hero” was exclusive to PlayStation, and it blew the roof off the only way rockstars can. Improved visuals, tighter controls, and a playlist just as kickass as the first game’s all made “Guitar Hero II” an instant hit. Truly a gem in an era we will never get to relive again. (Because honestly, does anyone really wanna mash on plastic oversized peripherals anymore?)
2007: “God of War II”
Yes, we are aware that the original “God of War” came out in 2005, but honestly, a few aspects of the first title haven’t aged well. (Tower of Blades, anyone?) The sequel, on the other hand, remains an absolute treasure and a perfect sendoff for the PlayStation 2. While “God of War II” didn’t change much in terms of gameplay, it did refine other areas that hampered the original game a smidge, such as the climbing speed, difficulty spikes, and overall technical performance. In other words, it was an achievement in showcasing the power of the PS2.
2008: “Resistance 2”
Another rare year that was light on exclusives, 2008’s landmark PlayStation title was arguably “Resistance 2”. While “Ratchet” was still going strong with the new “Future” games, Insomniac was eager to continue yet another banger sci-fi IP. Admittedly, it isn’t the strongest in the series when it comes to story (depends on how much you liked the previous game), but “Resistance 2” was stronger than its predecessor in other ways. The multiplayer was more balanced, the level design evolved, and it took complete advantage of the PlayStation 3’s capabilities. Considering how young the PS3 was at the time, “Resistance 2” was very impressive.
2009: “Uncharted 2: Among Thieves”
It’s highly regarded as the best game in the franchise, and deservedly so. “Uncharted 2” simply nailed every single aspect of its design, and considering some of the faults of the first “Uncharted”, it caught us off guard to see something this spectacular. Characters are fully fleshed-out with their own motivations and personalities. The visuals boast more detail than before. And moving Nate around was more satisfying than ever. Regardless if you’re playing the original or the PS4 remaster via “Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection”, you need to play this game at least once.
2010: “God of War III”
Ah, yes, the closing chapter in Kratos’s story (…or so we thought) greatly exceeded our expectations. Where do we even begin? The combat was faster and more fluid than “God of War” had ever been before, the music and level design complimented the epic scale of the story perfectly well, and the boss fights and deaths were way more gory and gruesome! “God of War III” was proof that Sony was turning its six hundred-dollar ship around with some truly exceptional games, and it only got better from here.
2011: “LittleBIGPlanet 2”
The original “LittleBIGPlanet” was a smash hit for PS3 when it launched back in 2008 thanks to its creative level design, charming vibe, and focus on letting the user build their own levels. “LittleBIGPlanet 2” took those ideas a step further and then some! Not only could players design their own platforming levels - they could make actual games out of them! Racing, shooter, horror, you name it. The tools included in “LittleBIGPlanet 2” were highly flexible and easy enough to understand for you to really let your imagination loose. This amount of creativity is what made it so heartbreaking when the servers were suddenly shut down in September 2021.
Beautiful. Stunning. Emotional. Brilliant. Excellent. These are the words we would use to describe “Journey”. Coming from thatgamecompany (the studio behind 2009’s “Flower”) and Sony Santa Monica, “Journey” was an experience unlike anything we had come to expect from video games. The music, the environments, the story, the puzzles - it all blended into this marvelous trek to the summit of a mountain which hides the mysteries of an ancient civilization. It is without a doubt an incredible game that is a requirement of anyone who plays video games. You won’t regret it.
2013: “The Last of Us”
Let us just set aside the conflict and toxicity that “Last of Us” has attracted and rewind back to its initial launch in 2013. Love it or hate it, the original game still resonates with us on so many levels, and we aren’t just talking about the story and its “emotional” moments. The enemy design - solid. The cinematics - great. The voice acting, writing, and character development - all spectacular. Say what you will about the 2020 sequel or the PS5 remake, it does not negate the quality of the original “Last of Us”, and you can see that for yourself on both PS3 and the PS4 remaster.
2014: “inFAMOUS Second Son”
As with most consoles in their first year, the PS4 was a tad lean on games. Of the ones we experienced, “inFAMOUS Second Son” was the one that stood out most. We can understand why folks might have problems with this one as it heavily deviates from Cole MacGrath’s storyline in favor of new hero Delsin Rowe. Credit where it’s due though, “Second Son” does come with its own ideas to differentiate itself, such as the smoke, neon, stone, and…er, video powers, which all offer new ways to fight and traverse the world. Sure, it gets caught up in some of the PS4’s now outdated novelties, like the touchpad, but for what it was, “Second Son” was a great game.
Honestly, there just wasn’t anything that launched in 2015 that could possibly top this. Despite “Bloodborne” being quite old, it still holds up in so many ways. Just like FromSoftware’s other critically-acclaimed series, “Dark Souls”, “Bloodborne” features an expansive, albeit linear world that has been loaded to the brim with secrets. On top of that, the vast selection of weapons give a ton of replay value on account of how different each one plays. And this goes without mentioning the compelling narrative and stunning enemy design. Now, Sony, where is that sixty frames update for PS5 users, hm?
2016: “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”
It had been some time since we last saw Nathan Drake, and we were ready to finally see how the story ended for our hunky hustler of a thief. What we got was a game that almost rivaled “Uncharted 2” in excellency. The acting was as stellar as it had ever been, the graphical fidelity took full advantage of the PlayStation 4’s hardware, and the open world design gave us a promising glimpse into the future of the IP. Plus, that Crash Bandicoot easter egg was pretty neat, wasn’t it?
2017: “Persona 5”
JRPGs can be extremely hard for most folks to get into due to their notoriously lengthy campaigns and extensive plot. But there was something about “Persona 5” that made people start paying attention to the genre a lot more than before. Was it the brilliant story? Was it the unique Baton Pass mechanic that allowed players to chain attacks together? Was it the chill and casual life sim aspect where you could hang out with characters or improve your stats through various challenges and minigames? Or maybe it was the mesh of turn-based RPG mechanics and time management skills required to conquer dungeons and bring down corrupted hearts? We’d say all of the above.
2018: “God of War”
Man, deciding on 2018’s Best PlayStation game was admittedly kind of difficult with “Marvel’s Spider-Man” releasing the same year. Ultimately, the Dad of Boi surpasses Spidey because there aren’t any stealth missions to bog things down. “God of War” was fantastically crafted in every possible way. The imaginative world, the acting, the character development, the way you can chain attacks between the Leviathan Axe, Blades of Chaos, and Atreus’s arrows - everything about this game is satisfying, even when going up against yet another troll miniboss. Honestly, how can anyone say “God of War” wasn’t one of the best games of 2018?
2019: “Blood & Truth”
Shockingly, 2019 was not a big year for PlayStation. Sure, we had a couple of solid titles like “Concrete Genie” and the “MediEvil” remake. However, those with PlayStation VR headsets got an experience unlike any other. Developed by Sony’s own London Studio and based on the “London Heist” demo included with “PlayStation VR Worlds”, “Blood & Truth” allowed players to live out their own action heist movie with fantastic set pieces, explosive moments, and solid gunplay. Simply put, this is one of those games you need to experience for yourself in order to understand.
2020: “Ghost of Tsushima”
Whereas some folks would prefer “The Last of Us: Part II”, we can’t shrug off certain problems with the story and pacing, among other things. That’s part of the reason why “Ghost of Tsushima” takes our spot for 2020’s Best PlayStation game in every possible timeline. The other reasons regard the tight and complex combat system, the intense set pieces for duels, the variety of weapons for sneak attacks and ambushes, and the incredible methods the world uses to show you objectives and secrets. It all meshes into the ultimate samurai-ninja fantasy that every PS4 owner should experience.
2021: “Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart”
To think that “Ratchet & Clank” would be one of Sony’s best IPs twenty years after its debut… It’s something no one thought back in 2002, and yet it’s not all that surprising. “Rift Apart” was arguably the strongest outing we had seen from the Lombax and warbot in a long time at this point. Even with a new HUD and new mechanics like the Phantom Dash and Rift Tether, it still felt like classic “Ratchet & Clank” with even more fresh ideas. And that goes without mentioning the incredible story and introduction of characters like Rivet and Kit. Truly a remarkable title for the PS5 to see in its first year.