The Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) is where you start to find that things get a bit trickier in terms of emulation, more so than with the PS1. Setup is more complex than with classic 16-bit consoles, but also the emulation itself is much more demanding on your device’s hardware.
If you wish to play PS2 games on RetroArch fully upscaled to 4K, then you will require a decent specification PC with a strong graphics card.
But don’t let that put you off, decent 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 – This is explained in more detail here, but you will need this to boot games.
- 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 an excellent controller and can also be connected by USB.
Alternatively, why not get an authentic feeling PlayStation replica controller?
Step 1 – Download PCSX2 Files
This first step makes the whole process easier. By downloading the standalone PCSX2 emulator, we can use this to copy a bunch of files we need across to the RetroArch system folder, to make the RetroArch PCSX2 core function correctly.
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 your ‘portable’ version of PCSX2 a moment ago and select all the files, then copy them to the ‘RetroArch/system/pcsx2/’ folder you just created.
Step 2 – Download PS2 BIOS File
The PCSX2 core on RetroArch requires the use of a PS2 BIOS file so it can boot up games. The RetroArch documentation for the PCSX2 gives details below on the BIOS files required:
You will need to search online for ‘ps2 scph bios’. You will find plenty of results and places to download PS2 BIOS files. You can choose from either Japanese, European or USA BIOS files, but other regional BIOS files are also available.
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’ 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’.
Then, scroll down the Core Downloader menu until you get to ‘Sony – PlayStation 2 (PCSX2). 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 – 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 into 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 PCSX2 core.
Now to try to work your way through that PS2 library of several thousand games!
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of experience in the field, so producing retro orientated content for How To Retro comes is second nature to him. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).