The PlayStation 2 is considered by many to be gaming royalty. Fans look back on the legendary run of Sony's second gaming machine fondly due to the legendary gamut of games released for it among a wide swath of genres. And one of the many genres that enjoyed a renaissance period on the PS2 is fighting games. Some of the biggest IPs in the genre, such as Tekken, Street Fighter, and Virtua Fighter, enjoyed their best moments in the sun thanks to amazing PS2 series entries. Let's all celebrate that momentous achievement by highlighting the 50 best ps2 fighting games ever made.
The 30 Best PS2 Fighting Games of All Time
PS2 Fighting Games
1. 'Tekken Tag Tournament'
Tekken 3 blew everyone's minds as it took the franchise into a new stylistic direction and vastly improved its fighting game mechanics. Tekken Tag Tournament kept the good times rolling by incorporating the greatness of its predecessor and freshening up the formula even more with tag team-based combat. What's crazy is the PS2 rendition looks miles better than the original arcade rendition. The roster's mishmash of series regulars that didn't appear in Tekken 3 and the new faces introduced in that game made for a dream match that's still worth returning to. And that soundtrack? Legendary.
2. 'Tekken 4'
Tekken 4 is considered one of the more disappointing entries in the series. Even still, it provides an evolution as far as signature mechanics go and puts forth a solid offering of fighting game fun. The wide battle arenas truly make you feel like you're involved in a chaotic street fight. On a competitive level, those open stages disrupted the flow of serious play. But from a casual standpoint, it feels great to keep a combo going just by bashing someone against a telephone booth. The soundtrack is heat, Jin's character/combat stylings got a cool upgrade, and the gameplay itself is divisive but still fun in parts.
3. 'Tekken 5'
Tekken 5 is one of the most celebrated fighting games ever made. And one of the reasons for the game's long legacy being kept intact is due to how feature-rich it is. On top of the legacy modes and retooled gameplay, Tekken 5 features a side beat 'em up mode and even arcade versions of the first three Tekken games. Now did Jinpachi infuriate everyone when it came to actually getting every character's ending? Of course (that final boss is so OP!). But we quickly got over our rage since Tekken 5's gameplay is top-tier and it offers so much to do for single-player and multiplayer-minded fighting game fans.
4. 'Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore'
Don't let anyone ever tell you that the Dead or Alive series is way too simple - its rock-paper-scissors approach to throwing hands is easy to grasp yet hard to fully master. This updated version of the Dreamcast rendition of Dead or Alive 2 provides a highly engaging 3D fighter that stands proud right alongside Tekken 5. The appearance of additional characters, stages, and costumes make this game feel like the definitive edition. Plus the increased fight speed and improved visuals gave this version of Dead or Alive 2 everything it needs to be considered among the best in the series.
5. 'Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution'
We have another case here of an updated version of a revered game that's superior to the original in every way, shape, and form. Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution added in the super rewarding single-player mode "Quest Mode" and offered an even better version of the last game's "Kumite Mode." The roster expanded due to the additions of the Judoka-assassin Goh Hinogami and the Muay Thai boxer Brad Burns, who are still Virtua Fighter series regulars to this day. The well-tuned combat mechanics are still intact here, which makes this welcome update one of the Virtua Fighter games to date.
6. 'Soulcalibur II'
The original Soulcalibur is a bonafide classic. And its sequel is right up there as well. Soulcalibur II deepens the series' gameplay by featuring the "Soul Charge" mechanic, wall-specific special moves, and lethal "Guard Break" attacks. Raphael and Talim made their debut here to offer two new styles of combat to the already huge array of weapons styles already on offer. The single-player content is still off the charts here thanks to the "Weapon Master Mode" and a huge offering of special modes you unlock over time. Soulcalibur II is a high mark for the fighting game genre as a whole (although we gotta say PS2 owners got the short end of the stick with Heihachi as its exclusive character).
7. 'Soulcalibur III'
Soulcalibur III went above and beyond to keep the attention of solo players by incorporating one of the series' biggest features that have now become a mainstay - a Character Creation mode. It still feels so good to go back to this game and let your creativity run free as you create all types of recognizable fighters that utilize the main roster members' playstyles. On a gameplay level, the nuts and bolts of this 3D weapons fighter stayed as refined as ever. Plus the debut of Zasalamel, Tira, and Setsuka expanded the game's strong roster even more than before. Soulcalibur III is another huge win for Bandai Namco's prized weapons fighter.
8. 'Def Jam: Fight for NY'
You can't have Sony's goated second console and not have one of the greatest hybrid PS2 fighting games in your possession. Def Jam Vendetta's focus on wrestling & submissions was greatly expanded to include street fighting, kickboxing, and martial arts combat styles. And not only could you bring the pain to your opponents in the squared circle, but you could also beat them into oblivion within a variety of spirited fight club-like locales. Def Jam: Fight for NY still offers one of the best single-player experiences for fighting game fans and its roster includes a who's who of megastar hip-hop & reggae artists. We still go to therapy over that dammed Fat Joe cage fight, though...
9. 'Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001'
We sure do miss the rivalry that persisted between the two biggest fighting game makers back in the day. Capcom and SNK kicked off the playable feud between them with Capcom Vs. SNK: Millennium Fight 2000. But that playable grudge match improved by leaps and bounds with the release of Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001. New characters from Samurai Shodown, The Last Blade, Rival Schools, and Final Fight ran into the ring for this sequel. Plus the tweaks made to the first game's "Ratio" system and the debut of the "Grooves" meter mechanics gave way to plenty of player creativity to bask in.
10. 'Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes'
Capcom's "Vs." line of fighting games always pitted the very best of Marvel against Capcom's mainstay stars. But then came the ultimate crossover war between both companies in the form of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, which blew everyone's minds with a full character count of 56 heroes/villains. The 3v3 battles allow for fast and furious action that is just as exciting to play as it is to watch. This game is another example of an FGC entity that's still played on a competitive level. And for good reason - Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is full of fun on a casual level and even more enticing on an expert one. Good luck finding a cheap copy of this rarity on PS2 these days!
11. 'Mortal Kombat: Deception'
A lot of loyal Mortal Kombat fans don't have a ton of love for the series' bold turn into the realm of full 3D "klashes" in open arenas. But if you're going to check out the very best of that series' evolution, make sure it's this one. Mortal Kombat: Deception produced a worthy upgrade to everything introduced in Deadly Alliance via interactable stage elements, two Fatalities per character, and the tide-turning "Combo Breaker" mechanic. Now are all the new fighters introduced in Deception hella trash? Yeah! But this game's bloody brawls, way more fun than expected side modes (Chess Kombat and Puzzle Kombat), and lengthy Konquest Mode offset that one blemish.
12. 'War of the Monsters'
Man, RIP to former development studio Incognito Entertainment. Thanks to the hard work of the talented developers that once worked there, PS2 owners were treated to one of the very best PS2 fighting games that completely encapsulates kaiju big battles. War of the Monsters lets a whole bunch of towering behemoths and massive robots duke it out in well-populated cities for the enjoyment of everyone involved. This four-player brawler is pure unadulterated mayhem that we still go back to on a regular basis (you don't want any problems with our god-tier Ultra-V!). War of the Monsters still brings the hype every time in a party setting.
13. 'Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3'
Dragon Ball: Budokai 3 was the perfect trilogy ender to the PS2 exclusive Dragon Ball fighter series. The cel-shaded graphics look even cleaner, the combat got even tighter, and the roster went above & beyond to give Dragon Ball's movie villains and even some GT characters their time to shine. You can't go wrong with this amazing anime fighter that doubles as one of the hypest PS2 fighting games - you'll still get a ton of mileage out of intense Super Saiyan-powered brawls powered by teleport counters, "Hyper Mode," and cinematic "Dragon Rush" attacks. Laying out our rivals with a perfectly placed Ultimate Attack still gives us an adrenaline rush!
14. 'Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3'
The Budokai Tenkaichi games moved the Dragon Ball fighting games forward by taking its fights even higher into the skies. And Budokai Tenkaichi 3 marks the high point for those electrifying grudge matches between a huge roster of familiar faces. Budokai Tenkaichi 3 went crazy with its inclusion of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, and even one-off movie characters. The "Sonic Sway" ability still looks so damn cool to use in battle as you bob and weave out of your opponent's hyperfast strikes. And the nice array of modes in play here (especially the amazing "Dragon History" story mode!) can keep any diehard Dragon Ball fan extra busy.
15. 'The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match'
The first dream match that took place within SNK's premier fighting game series is this highly revered classic. The King of Fighters '98: Ultimate Match is pretty much the definitive edition of the base game thanks to additional roster members and a wealth of gameplay changes that have been made for the better. It feels so good to take advantage of the three-meter variations with boss characters such as Geese and Wolfgang at the ready. Shout out to this game for throwing in some sweet 3D backgrounds for the console version, too!
16. 'The King of Fighter XI'
It's still pretty wild when you realize that this is the first mainline KOF game to ditch the whole "new year in the title" vibes. But now we've gotten so used to SNK's prized fighter going for numerical title updates, which began with The King of Fighters XI. There's so much to love about this game even now - the roster includes some wild choices that freshened things up a bit, plus the new battle mechanics went hand in hand with all the hype tag-in team play. Pulling off a "Dream Cancel" still feels so gratifying. Seek out The King of Fighters XI if you can - it's one of the more criminally ignored KOF games out there.
17. 'Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus'
Guilty Gear's been going strong since it made its grand debut on the original PlayStation. But once it got going on the PS2 with a line of quality Guilty Gear X2 updates, anime fighting game fans got the best of the very best. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (good lord, that name is something else!) marks the definitive variation of that classic one-on-one brawler. Kliff and Justice got added to the playable roster, a bunch of welcome balance adjustments came into play, and the game's amazing gameplay stayed intact.
18. 'Fight Night Round 2'
You can hop onto Twitter or take part in some random Reddit gaming conversation thread at any time of the day. And we promise you this - you'll eventually come into contact with a bunch of dedicated Fight Night fans that are still lambasting Electronic Arts for a modern-day sequel. For the time being, those same fans are just going to have to relive the glory days. And one of the best ways to do that is by taking Fight Night Round 2 for a few nostalgic spins. This sequel let players go KO crazy with the new Haymaker punch, which added another cool dynamic to the revolutionary "Total Punch Control" control scheme. Fight Night Round 2 is simultaneously one of the best boxing games of all time and one of the greatest PS2 fighting games within its vast library.
19. 'Arcana Heart'
An all-female fighting game? Sign us up! We loved that concept during the 16-bit era thanks to Sailor Moon S and we fell in love with it all over again once Arcana Heart fell into our laps. The series' debut put forward a clever combination of Asuka 120% Limited Burning Fest, Melty Blood, and Guilty Gear. And to add even more greatness to that winning formula, Arcana Heart upped the ante with flight combat and elemental spirits that altered each character's moveset. We'll always adore the ever so wholesome Heart Aino, but we also have a ton of love for Arcana Heart's lovable lady brawlers.
20. 'Bloody Roar 3'
Oh, Bloody Roar. Lord knows we and everybody else are constantly crying out for Konami to give us a compilation of the series' previous entries and possibly tap a development studio to make an all-new one. But while our Slim PS2 still works, we're going to break it out every now and then to enjoy fast & furry clashes in Bloody Roar 3. The uptick in visual fidelity for this third game is readily apparent as the chaotic human/animal hybrid fights unfold. Long the Tiger, Gado the Lion, and Shina the Leopard always stuck out as our roster faves! Bloody Roar 3 and its animal wars help it earns its place among these other beloved PS2 fighting games.
21. 'Super Dragon Ball Z'
Don't sleep! This more traditional fighting game take on the Dragon Ball Z formula is an overlooked gem that needs way more flowers thrown its way. Super Dragon Ball Z adopts traditional special move inputs and the traditional manga stylings of the franchise itself. And with developer input from one of the GOATs that worked on Street Fighter and Darkstalkers, this underrated 2.5 fighter excels. Big props to this game for letting us run wild with Chi-Chi and even King Piccolo, which were nice roster surprises at the time. Super Dragon Ball Z is one of the more criminally ignored PS2 fighting games.
22. 'Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3'
Before the Storm sub-series of Naruto fighting games demanded everyone's attention, the PS2 set the gold standard with the OG Ultimate Ninja series. Out of them all, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 provides top-tier ninjutsu thrills. Coming to blows with your foe takes place on Super Smash Bros.-esque arenas that house special tools that can turn the tide of battle in a hurry. The biggest thrill from this game is still derived from the awe-inspiring "Ultimate Justu" super moves, which are just as epic as their TV show representation. Like Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 3 perfected its series' formula on its third try.
23. 'Fire Pro Wrestling Returns'
Everyone loves them so casual wrestling simulation fun when it's time to hop into a WWE game. But only the most dedicated of that fanbase is able to grasp the intricate ins and outs of Fire Pro Wrestling Returns. This 2D grappler features one of the most complex gameplay mechanics known to man. But once you come to grips with what it has to offer, it's hard to put it down. Besides this game's amazing array of devastating moves to utilize, Fire Pro Wrestling Returns also offers tons of replay value thanks to its massive custom creation suite.
24. 'WWE SmackDown! Here Comes the Pain'
The SmackDown! games ascended to godly status once Here Comes the Pain made its entrance onto the PS2. The overall presentation of this WWE simulator was miles better than its predecessor due to improved lighting and a livelier crowd. Plus the grappling system got proper adjustments that expanded everyone's arsenal for the better. Plus this game introduced the concept of a modern wrestling game featuring celebrated legends, which we're happy to see is still being applied to the WWE 2K series. We also have to commend Here Comes the Pain for giving us and the rest of the homies hours of unlimited fun with the Elimination Chamber match.
25. 'Street Fighter EX3'
A lot of Street Fighter fanatics throw dirt on the 3D games developed by Arika (the devs behind Fighting EX Layer). And to us, we consider that a crime. Street Fighter EX3 delivers the most compelling variation of those games with multi-person fights, a banging soundtrack, and a wealth of tools that made every fight erupt into a super-move extravaganza. Your mind will be blown the very first time you successfully land a "Critical Parade" and a "Momentary Combo." Tekken Tag Tournament isn't the only tag fighter you need on your PS2 - Street Fighter EX3 deserves equal billing.
26 'Street Fighter Anniversary Collection'
This dual compilation of the two Street Fighter games that always get awarded with superlatives from casual players and pros alike is a must-have in this day and age. On one side of the coin, you have Hyper Street Fighter II - The Anniversary Edition. And what's so dope about this offering of the game is how it incorporates every version of each character for the ultimate dream battle. And when you flip that coin, you get one of the best console ports of fighting game royalty in Street Fighter III 3rd Strike - Fight for the Future. It comes with some extra battle options that add a few nice wrinkles to the battles at hand. If you're going to have at least one Street Fighter title within your library of PS2 fighting games, make sure it's this one.
27. 'Street Fighter Alpha Anthology'
The other half of the amazing Street Fighter compilation trend that went down during the PS2's legendary run is the Street Fighter Alpha Anthology. This one's the type of package that should be a part of every fighting game fan's collection. Look at this list of bangers right here - Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams, Street Fighter Alpha 2, Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold, Street Fighter Alpha 3, and Super Gem Fighter Mini Mix. Each of those classic 2D fighters provides an amazing playable history lesson for Street Fighter buffs everywhere.
28. 'The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga'
The PS2 got a lot of love from SNK in the form of brand new KOF mainline games and 3D spinoff entries. And it also received some quality compilations that brought back all of the retro series installments that made the series such a phenomenon in the first place. The most essential one from that aforementioned group is The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga. Getting into all the madness of the ongoing KOF saga and the undying beef between Kyo Kusanagi & Iori Yagami is all included in this worthwhile collection. All in all, you get 2D fighting game excellence via KOF '94, KOF '95, KOF '96, KOF '97, and KOF '98.
29. 'Samurai Shodown Anthology'
SNK's other fondly remembered fighting game staple also thrived on the PS2. The best way to experience the good old days of Samurai Shodown is through this next SNK compendium. Samurai Shodown Anthology compiles the first six games in the series, so fans definitely get their bang for their buck by copping this one. All the fatal slashes, bloody soaked encounters, and hot-blooded weapons-focused battles Sam Sho fans celebrate to this day are encased within this amazing retro collection.
30. 'Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 2'
Before Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, and Joe Higashi ran together as a unit in KOF, they made it their sole mission to bring down Geese Howard and several other baddies that plagued South Town via the Fatal Fury series. While the first few games in the series are solid entries, this collection features a much better lineup in comparison to the first one that features those first few games. Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 2 comes with the series' best entries, in our opinion. Real Bout Fatal Fury, Real Bout Fatal Fury, and Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers are pure SNK fighting game bliss.