While online gaming is huge now and it has been that way for a while, there was a time when “multiplayer” on the back of a game box meant something else.
It meant hitting the couch with a friend or two, plugging in as many controllers as you could get your hands on, and either competing against or cooperating with those friends.
While the PlayStation 2 is known best for its JRPGs and franchise-establishing hits like the Metal Gear Solid games, that’s not all it was. The console also had some great multiplayer games.
We’re focusing on local multiplayer games only, so you won’t see Monster Hunter, SOCOM, or Resident Evil: Outbreak here, as good as those games were.
While the mainline Baldur’s Gate series is a more tactically minded RPG, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance takes its inspiration more from Diablo.
Playing this on your own would be fairly fun, but add another player and, like Diablo, the entire experience becomes much more fun. The sequel is also great.
First-person shooters weren’t easy to come by on the PlayStation 2, and examples with multiplayer were even harder to find.
Red Faction 2’s campaign may not have been as fun as the first game, but the head-to-head multiplayer more than made up for it.
Even though it’s only two-player, there are plenty of maps and modes to keep things interesting for a while yet.
One of the best fighting games on the PlayStation 2 also happens to be one of the best multiplayer games on the system? What a surprise!
The large cast of characters means you’ll get plenty of variety, and the easy to pick up but tough to master nature of fighting games makes it satisfying to build your skills against your friends.
Yes, it’s a confusing title, but we’re talking about the PS2 game from 2005, not the 2017 game for PS4 and Xbox One.
That said, Star Wars Battlefront II is cut from the same cloth as its similarly named follow-up, though fans argue that this earlier game is in many ways superior to games that followed.
The PS2 isn’t the best system for the game, but it’s still great.
Metal Arms: Glitch in the System might be one of the most underrated PS2 games of all time. The single player offers up some truly challenging third-person shooting and the multiplayer is fantastic as well.
Sadly, on the PS2 you’re limited to two players head to head, rather than the four-player action on the Xbox and GameCube versions. It’s still absolutely worth playing, even today.
Take Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, strip the Dungeons & Dragons setting and underlying rules system. Now replace that setting with Everquest’s Norrath, then double the player count.
That’s Champions of Norrath: Realms of EverQuest in a nutshell. While Dark Alliance may have a better (skeleton of a) story and setting, if you want to play with more than two people, Norrath is the one to go for.
Twisted Metal: Black might now be better known as the game that would spawn Twisted Metal: Black Online, but unless you’re looking to go online, this is the version to play.
Sadly vehicle combat games seem to have largely disappeared. If you miss the glory days of cars with missile launchers strapped to them, this will take you back.
Contra has always been a game largely known for two things: difficulty and co-op. Contra: Shattered Soldier has both of those, especially the difficulty part.
If you and a buddy have played through the NES and SNES Contra games too many times to count, it’s time you met Contra: Shattered Soldier.
We’ve already got one fighting game on this list, but 2D fighters aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. On the PS2 you’ve got your fair share of 3D fighters, including a few great Tekken games, but in this case, we’re going with Soulcalibur II.
10. Crash Nitro Kart
Crash Nitro Kart isn’t Crash Team Racing, and there are people who will never forgive the game for that. That said, Crash Nitro Kart is still a quality kart racer, and sometimes that’s the exact type of game you need on a console.
Other kart racers exist on the PS2, but if you’re looking for Mario Kart-inspired four player mayhem, this is your best bet.
Straight out of the box, Unreal Tournament has one of the strangest control schemes for a first-person shooter on a console ever. Once you take the time to swap the controls for a more familiar layout, UT translates relatively well on the PS2.
Single player is non-existent, other than bot matches, so local multiplayer is where it’s at, including a number of Unreal Tournament’s legendary game-changing Mutators.
Couch Co-Op Multiplayer Lives On!
The phrase couch co-op gets thrown around a lot these days, even when you’re talking about competitive multiplayer.
While the focus on online multiplayer meant that couch multiplayer took a backseat during the era of the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, it’s back in a big way.
No matter what your system of choice may be from the Xbox Series X|S to the PlayStation 5 or even the Nintendo Switch, you’ve got plenty of options for local multiplayer!