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10 Best PS2 JRPGs You Didn't Know Existed

DualShockers logo DualShockers 2/2/2023 Gabriel Williams

The PlayStation 2 is renowned for having a plethora of classical and shovelware JRPGs. Many such titles have lived within the shadows of the more mainstream games that have since been highly acclaimed, with big-name titles such as the original Persona 4, Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy X, and much more.

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Countless more obscure JRPGs would eventually go on to spawn titles that were either sequels or spinoffs, propelling their respected franchises to near-mainstream appeal on next-gen video game systems. Now, going back in time, we're going to list the best JRPGs you didn't know existed on the PS2 console.

Steambot Chronicles

Vanilla Bean And Coriander From Steambot Chronicles © Provided by DualShockers Vanilla Bean And Coriander From Steambot Chronicles

Starting on our list is the heavily obscure title, Steambot Chronicles, otherwise known as Bumpy Trot in Japan. Steambot Chronicles is a sandbox action JRPG in which you take the role of an amnesiac young man named Vanilla Bean. Throughout the game, you can alter the course of the plot and Vanilla's personality, making him a selfless hero or a dastardly villain. Where this game shines is in your ability to have Vanilla pilot mechs called "Trotmobiles." Trotmobiles function as the core gameplay mechanic that you utilize to play minigames, do side quests, and partake in battles against other pilots.

Steambot Chronicles is one of those games you had to discover by chance, as it's a title that had received moderate reviews and no advertisement from Irem and Atlus. A mainline sequel for the PS3 was originally in development but has since been canceled.


Charlone Claudius And Arieta Lyuis On The Front Cover Of Growlanser Generations © Provided by DualShockers Charlone Claudius And Arieta Lyuis On The Front Cover Of Growlanser Generations

Growlanser Generations (Growlanser II & III) and Growlanser V: Heritage of War are rare tactical JRPGs developed by Career Soft. Both games, and the series overall, are titles you once again had to go entirely out of your way to search for in your video game retailer stores. The gameplay of the Growlanser titles is somewhat reminiscent of the Disgaea and modern Fire Emblem games, minus the implementation of grid movements. The titles typically feature a silent protagonist whose personality is determined through dialogue responses and actions, which can eventually affect the games' endings and who you romance.

These Growlanser games were hardly, if ever, advertised even from game magazines like GameInformer. Regardless, Growlanser had developed somewhat of a following among the few fans this series has in the west. Sadly, that fan base wasn't large enough to see half of the titles localized.

Ar Tonelico

The Heroes From Ar Tonelico - Melody Of Elemia © Provided by DualShockers The Heroes From Ar Tonelico - Melody Of Elemia

Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia and Ar Tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica are titles belonging to the Ar Tonelico series, which has received next to no attention from a broad western audience. While the games play like your average JRPG in terms of saving the world, the real intrigue of this series stems from its Diving mechanic. Diving allows the main protagonists to dive into a Reyvateil's (usually the main heroine) mind, during which the gameplay shifts to elements resembling Japanese visual novels with a significant emphasis on the particular Reyvateil's character development.

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Like the Growlanser franchise, the Ar Tonelico series has largely gone untouched across North America and Europe, primarily due to the titles' heavy criticisms regarding the plot, dungeon designs, and simplistic difficulty. But if simple and straightforward JRPGs mixed with visual novels are your thing, then the Ar Tonelico games are right up your alley.

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love

All The Main Heroines From Sakura Wars V © Provided by DualShockers All The Main Heroines From Sakura Wars V

Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love, also known as Sakura Wars V, was initially the only Sakura Wars game to be released outside Japan until the localization of the franchise's reboot, Sakura Wars, on PlayStation 4. Being the fifth installment of a series that lacks localized predecessors, this title naturally went under the radar of many gamers, especially since the game came out extremely late into the PS2's lifecycle.

Sakura Wars V revolves around Shinjiro Taiga, the main protagonist you control. Throughout the game, Taiga has to lead a band of five showgirls calling themselves the Star Division as they fight against the Japanese warlord, Oda Nobunaga. The gameplay uses a rich mix of tactical role playing and visual novel elements that involve you needing to grow bonds with the women to make them stronger. The choices you make throughout the game influence your bandmates either positively or negatively, affecting their strengths, abilities in battle, and the game's many endings.

Mana Khemia

Vayne And Jessica Taking Their Stance From Mana Khemia © Provided by DualShockers Vayne And Jessica Taking Their Stance From Mana Khemia

Though spinoffs of the overall Atelier franchise on the PlayStation 2, both Mana Khemia (Mana Khemia: Alchemist of Al-Revis and Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy) games eventually received enhanced PlayStation Portable ports. These titles would also forever go under the blip of many hardcore JRPG fans.

Both titles take a slightly different take on the gameplay aspect in contrast to the mainline Atelier games, which involve a high school setting dedicated to teaching its students the art of alchemy. The core mechanics, however, remain the same. You take the role of Vayne from Mana Khemia, and Razeluxe and Ulrika from Mana Khemia 2. You are tasked with taking on assignments from your instructors as you proceed through dungeons to gather materials needed to synthesize assigned items to advance the story. This is a particular yet exciting take on the series if you're looking to play Atelier games with Persona-like gameplay similarities.

Shadow Hearts

Yuri Hyuga Holding An Unconscious Alice Elliot From Shadow Hearts © Provided by DualShockers Yuri Hyuga Holding An Unconscious Alice Elliot From Shadow Hearts

While slightly more noted in the western world, Shadow Hearts is a series that has released only four installments, the latter three being on the PlayStation 2. The gameplay of Shadow Hearts is what you'd expect from your typical JRPG, but where it wins the hearts of many fans is its heavy use of enemies and settings inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and its emphasis on cosmic horror.

Though the series has received a lot of praise from fans and critics alike, this fantastic franchise has sadly yet to see more sequels. On the bright side, game developers Kato, Machida, and Hato have started game development on a title called Penny Blood, which more or less serves as the spiritual successor of the Shadow Hearts series.

Atelier Iris

Klein And Iris On The Front Cover Of Atelier Iris - Eternal Mana © Provided by DualShockers Klein And Iris On The Front Cover Of Atelier Iris - Eternal Mana

The Atelier Iris trilogy is another of the mainline Atelier games that has been swept under the notice of most PS2 JRPG fans. With a steady rise of the franchise's popularity thanks to the Atelier Ryza titles, some fans have gone back in time to try out this gem of a trilogy they initially missed.

If you played any of the future Atelier games at this point, then you know what to expect from this trilogy. Except for Atelier Iris 3, the first two Iris titles don't have time limits that are apparent throughout the rest of the franchise. Players who go back to play the first two Atelier Iris games can do so leisurely without the stress of needing to do specific actions under a given time pressure.

Radiata Stories

Jack And Ridley On The Front Cover Of Radiata Stories © Provided by DualShockers Jack And Ridley On The Front Cover Of Radiata Stories

Made by the developers who gave you the Star Ocean franchise, tri-Ace's Radiata Stories has surprisingly not received a lot of attention from Square-Enix fans and advertisers. This is evident by the fact that a little over 413,000 copies were sold worldwide. What this title is noted for, for the few who grew up playing it, is its rich world inhabited by hundreds of NPCs, each programmed with their own daily life schedule and personalities. Even more apparent is that nearly every one of those NPCs (around 176) are recruitable as party members. However, how you win the trust of these NPCs depends largely on Jack's (the main character) current level, the time of day, and the story's progression.

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With how ambitious Radiata Stories was with its unique gameplay mechanics, story, and hundreds of recruitable allies, it truly is a mystery how this game missed a lot of people's sights during the PS2 era. Hopefully, both Square-Enix and tri-Ace will think to remaster this game or perhaps even develop a sequel for it sometime in the near or distant future.

Stella Deus: The Gate Of Eternity

The Major Characters From The Front Cover Of Stella Deus - The Gate Of Eternity © Provided by DualShockers The Major Characters From The Front Cover Of Stella Deus - The Gate Of Eternity

Yet another tactical JRPG that you probably didn't know existed is Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity. This particular title stands out for its character designs by Shingenori Soejima, renowned for his art direction in the highly acclaimed Persona franchise.

In a world called Solum, you take the role of a young man named Spero on a mission to locate and open the Gate of Eternity. Throughout his quest, Spero can amass over twenty party combatants and lead them to victory through the game's various battle missions that can only be completed via specific objectives. If you're looking for a game resembling Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre mixed with Persona-style character designs, this title is very much worth checking out.

Eternal Ring

Cain Morgan On The Front Cover Of Eternal Ring © Provided by DualShockers Cain Morgan On The Front Cover Of Eternal Ring

Known by some to be the spiritual precursor of the Souls series, Eternal Ring is also noted as the first RPG released on the PS2. Debuting as a launch title on the console, Eternal Ring is the game that would inspire FromSoftware to eventually develop the Dark Souls series, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and the highly acclaimed Elden Ring, all of which have achieved numerous praise and accolades.

In Eternal Ring, you control Cain Morgan, a magician who utilizes the power of magic rings imbued by elemental gems to boost his attributes and fight the hoards of beasts he encounters on his quest. Though the gameplay leaves much to be desired, its mixed-to-negative reviews doesn't change the fact that its roots have engendered the creation of a series that has become one of the best-selling video game franchises in the world.

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