The Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) can be a tricky system to emulate properly, even more so than with the PS1. Setup is more complex than with classic 8 & 16-bit consoles, and the emulation itself is much more demanding on your device’s hardware.
If you are looking to play PS2 games on RetroArch fully upscaled to 4K, then you will require a decent specification PC with a good graphics card.
But don’t let that put you off, good performance can be achieved with modest setups too. Here’s a quick guide on how to set up RetroArch for PS2.
Here’s what you’ll need before we begin:
- Install RetroArch – Download RetroArch Here
- Have at least one PS2 game disc image ready to test – These are typically .iso or .bin files.
- Have the relevant PS2 BIOS files depending on what region games you wish to play – Search online for ‘ps2 scph bios’ to help you locate a BIOS file.
- To play games, you will need a controller – You can muddle through using keyboard controls, but make life easier by using a decent controller. The 8bitDo Pro 2 Bluetooth Controller is excellent and can also be connected by USB.
- Compatible with PC, macOS, Raspberry Pi, Android & Nintendo Switch
- Bluetooth / USB-C Connectivity
- 1000mAh Li-on Removable Rechargeable Battery
- 6-Axis Motion Sensor & Vibration
- 8BitDo Ultimate Software - Customize button mapping & create macros
Alternatively, why not get an authentic feeling PlayStation replica controller?
Step 1 – Download PCSX2 Files
This first step is necessary to allow the RetroArch PS2 emulator core to function properly, by using some of the assets from the PCSX2 standalone emulator. and copy the files we need across to the RetroArch system folder, to make the RetroArch PS2 core function correctly.
First of all, download the ‘Portable;’ version of PCSX2 from here – https://pcsx2.net/downloads/, then extract PCSX2 from the downloaded archive file into its own folder.
Next, create a folder called ‘pcsx2‘ in your RetroArch ‘system‘ folder. (This can be found in your RetroArch installation directory). Open the pcsx2 folder and leave it open as we will need to copy some files to it next.
Go back to the folder where you extracted the portable version of PCSX2 a moment ago and run the PCSX2 application and go through the few initial setup steps, this will then create a bunch of folders in the PCSX2 portable installation directory that we will need.
Next, select all of the files in the PCSX2 directory, then copy them to the ‘RetroArch/system/pcsx2/‘ folder you just created.
Step 2 – Download PS2 BIOS File
The RetroArch PS2 core on RetroArch requires the use of a PS2 BIOS file so it can boot up games. The RetroArch documentation for PCSX2 core (now known as LRPS2) provides details on the BIOS files required:
If you do not have the BIOS files yet, you will need to search online for ‘ps2 scph bios‘. You will then need to find a site to download PS2 BIOS files from. You can choose from either Japanese, European or USA BIOS files, but other regional BIOS files are also available too.
Once you have got your desired region PS2 BIOS, you will need to copy it to the ‘RetroArch/system/pcsx2/bios/‘ folder.
Step 3 – Download The ‘PCSX2’ (LRPS2) Core In RetroArch
Now we can finally boot up RetroArch.
Once you have RetroArch open, select ‘Load Core‘. (Note – Your RetroArch theme may differ from the one I am using, but don’t worry, the process is still the same).
You will then need to select ‘Download a Core‘.
It’s worth noting that the PCSX2 core has been renamed to LRPS2, so if you were expecting to see PCSX2, then don’t worry, this is all as intended!
Next, scroll down the Core Downloader menu until you get to ‘Sony – PlayStation 2 (LRPS2)‘. Select this, then the core will begin to download and install automatically.
It can also be a good idea if you are using an existing installation of RetroArch and not a fresh install, to go back to the main menu, scroll down to ‘Online Updater‘, and select:-
‘Update Core Info Files‘ as well as ‘Update Databases‘.
This will ensure all the essential files and databases for RetroArch are fully up to date. If you are using a fresh installation of RetroArch, this will not be necessary.
Step 4 – Set Up Your Controller
Next, we want to check that our controller has been recognised and is set up for use with the LRPS2 core.
To access the control settings, go to the main menu in RetroArch, and click on ‘Settings -> Input -> Port 1 Controls‘. Here you should see your controller listed in the Device Index section – I’m using an 8BitDo Pro 2, which RetroArch automatically configures.
If your controller does not automatically get configured, you can map the controls in this section as required.
Step 5 – Choose A game To Play
We are now ready to boot up a game!
Go back to the main menu in RetroArch and select ‘Load Content’. Then navigate to where you have your PS2 games stored. Then select the game disc image that you wish to load.
Your emulated PS2 will now kick in to life and the game will boot.
Depending upon which BIOS you choose and if you have already gone through the initial set-up, the PS2 BIOS may ask you to set the console region and time. If it does, just select the settings you wish to apply and proceed and then the game will boot.
And that is the simplest way to currently play PS2 games with RetroArch and the LRPS2 core.
Now to try to work your way through that PS2 library of several thousand games!
Step 6 – Graphics Options & Upscaling
If you have a well-equipped system with a powerful GPU, then you should be able to upscale your PS2 games, all the way up to 5K resolution if required!
Whilst you are in the game, go to the RetroArch menu by pressing F1 or the button you have assigned to go back to this menu.
Next, go to ‘Options -> Video‘ and here you will find a range of video-related options for LRPS2.
To upscale the resolution of your PS2 games, select ‘Internal Resolution‘ and choose the resolution best suited to your display.
Experiment with these settings and see what works best with your device as performance will vary from game to game as well as how powerful your system is.
RetroArch PS2 Setup Video Guide
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of Retro Gaming experience. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).