PS2 Emulation is certainly entering territory where you need a more powerful computer, so to set the record straight in terms of expectations and to help you find the best PS2 emulator, check our recommendations in the below guide.
The PlayStation 2 can now safely be considered retro (controversial to some!), it was released in the year 2000, which in my view is effectively a family generation ago, which is a good yardstick on the matter!
The PS2 has a huge library of games, with over 3,800 in total and stacks of genre-defining titles such as Grand Theft Auto III, Resident Evil 4, Metal Gear Solid 2, Ico & Gran Turismo 4 – All absolute classics!
So, if you are looking for how to emulate PS2 games, take a look at our guide below for the best PS2 emulators:-
Best PS2 Emulator for PC, Mac & Linux – PCSX2
Without a doubt, PCSX2 is the best PS2 emulator and remains the emulator that gives the best experience with its very high level of compatibility and functionality. PCSX2 at the time of writing offers compatibility for over 2690 games – Likely more than any of us even played!
PCSX2 offers a wide range of tools to enable you to improve the appearance of your games as well as custom resolutions over 8K possible (although you’ll need some seriously good hardware!). However, running games upscaled to 4K is not difficult to achieve with reasonably modest hardware.
PCSX2 utilises a range of plug-ins that allow in-depth modification and improvements to sound and graphics quality. You can configure everything from the video output scale, post-processing shaders, sound reproduction quality, controller set up as well as PS2 hard disk and ethernet emulation, plus much more!
If you are looking to play PS2 games on your PC, Mac or Linux-based system, you will not currently find a better emulator than PCSX2.
PCSX2 Features Include:
- Multi-core compatibility ensures maximum performance
- Full game controller support makes emulation of the Dual Shock 2 easy
- Boot original PS2 discs
- Cheat patch system
- Memory Card emulation support
- Graphics plugins enabling upscaling to over 8K resolution and post-processing effects
- LilyPad Plugin – Windows plugin which enables support of a wide range of controllers
Best PS2 Emulator For Android – AetherSX2
AetherSX2 is the best PS2 Emulator for Android and is finally ready to use with its release on the Google Play Store.
It is recommended you use AetherSX2 with a higher-end device to get the best from it, such as a Snapdragon 845 or equivalent CPU. But that doesn’t mean you cannot play with more modest hardware, although you’ll need to ensure your device has a 64-bit CPU and version of Android (Lollipop onwards). Most good quality Android devices from around 2015 onwards will at least be able to run AetherSX2, but you will likely want to test tweaking settings to improve performance.
The developers of AetherSX2 also recommend that your device has an Adreno-based GPU, Mali / PowerVR GPUs will work, but will not provide as good an experience.
AetherSX2 is getting some really great reviews and is expected to become the standard in PS2 emulation for Android devices.
Note that you will of course need to obtain yourself a PS2 BIOS and your own ROM/ISO files to use with AetherSX2.
AetherSX2 Features Include:
- Multiple rendering modes – OpenGL, Vulkan & Software modes
- 1080p upscaling
- Save states
- Widescreen mode patching
- Individual game settings
- On-screen controls & Bluetooth controllers supported
Other PS2 Emulators
If you have been looking at how to emulator PS2 games but did not want to use our recommendations above, then check out these alternative PS2 emulators.
Available On: Android
Currently, Android PS2 emulators are a mixed bag in terms of what is good and what is not so good. The current recommendation for the best PS2 emulator for Android is DamonPS2. It is worth noting that your experience in terms of emulator performance will heavily depend on your device and the settings in DamonPS2.
There is currently a free and paid-for version of DamonPS2, essentially the paid-for version removes ads, and has increased graphic resolution options, external game controller options, memory card and save state options.
DamonPS2 Features Include:
- Up to 5x PS2 native resolution upscaling (1080p)
- Widescreen 16:9 option
- On-screen controls
- Bluetooth game controllers supported
- Multiple disc image formats supported
Available On: PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
Play! has been around for a long time now, since 2012 there have been regular updates published to Play!, so it is an emulator in constant development, but the development is fairly slow when compared to the likes of PCSX2.
However, there are some plus points. You don’t need a BIOS file to boot games on Play!, plus there is an iOS version that
you can try out on a jailbroken iOS device.
Play! in all honesty, is not the most complete PS2 emulator, with a fair few bugs and glitches evident in many games, but it is an interesting project to keep one eye on. So, if experimenting is your thing, or you have an iOS device, give Play! a try.
The PS2 has been a tough one to crack in terms of emulation performance, but we have now got to the point where we have two excellent emulators in PCSX2 and AetherSX2. So that now means that PS1 & PS2 emulation is very good across many systems. PCSX2 is without a doubt now one of the best emulators for PC, so be sure to make it part of your emulation set-up.
If you are looking for other sixth-generation console emulators, then also be sure to check out our recommendations for the best Dreamcast emulator and best GameCube emulator.
PS3 emulation is doing well but is still in the relatively early stages of maturity, but with a decent PC, you can certainly get some good performance, check out our best PS3 emulator guide to getting started.
Finally, we have a comprehensive emulator guide that includes all of the above-mentioned emulator guides as well as lots of other useful insights.
PS2 Emulator FAQs
Can PS2 Emulators Play Discs?
PCSX2 can load and play original PS2 discs. If you have a DVD drive for your computer (external DVD drives are easy to find), then you are ready to go. Simply place the disc in the drive and select ‘BOOT CDVD’ from the system menu.
Also, If you are still using PS2 discs and original PS2 hardware, check out our guide on how to play burned PS2 games without modding your console.
Can You Use A PS3 Controller On A PS2 Emulator?
Yes, you can either connect your PS3 controller to your PC via USB or connect via Bluetooth.
If you wish to connect by Bluetooth, make sure your PC either has built-in Bluetooth capabilities, or you can purchase a USB Bluetooth receiver dongle. Make sure you utilise ‘ScpToolkit’ to help your PS3 controller connect with Bluetooth, you can download the latest version here – https://github.com/nefarius/ScpToolkit/releases
What Are The Minimum System Requirements For PS2 Emulation?
The minimum requirements for the best PS2 Emulator, PCSX2 are as follows:-
- Windows 8.1 upwards (64-bit)
- Ubuntu 18.04/Debian, Arch Linux & Other (64-bit)
- A CPU that supports SSE4.1
- A CPU that has a PassMark Single Thread Performance rating of around 1600+
- Has at least 2 physical cores with hyperthreading
- GPU with Direct3D10 support
- GPU with OpenGL 3.x support
- GPU PassMark G3D Mark rating around 3000+
- At least 2GB of Video Memory
- 4GB of RAM
What Are The Recommended System Requirements For PS2 Emulation?
The recommended requirements for the best PS2 Emulator, PCSX2 are as follows:-
- Windows 10 upwards (64-bit)
- Ubuntu 19.04/Debian, Arch Linux & Other (64-bit)
- A CPU that supports AVX2
- A CPU that has a PassMark Single Thread Performance rating of around 2100+
- Has at least 4 physical cores with or without hyperthreading
- GPU with Direct3D11 support
- GPU with OpenGL 4.6 support
- GPU PassMark G3D Mark rating around 6000+
- At least 4GB of Video Memory
- 8GB of RAM
How Can I Play PS2 Games On My Phone?
The best PS2 emulator for Android is AetherSX2. This emulator will allow you to play PS2 games on your Android phone.
All you need to do is install the app through the Google Play Store, then obtain a game disc image which can be booted straight away. No additional BIOS is required as AetherSX2 has its own built-in BIOS.
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!).