Emulation of older generation consoles is now commonplace for fans of the genre. Among the historical consoles most beloved by gamers is the PlayStation 2, a true revolution in the industry thanks to exponential graphical evolution. Using a PS2 emulator can be especially useful for replaying the great classics of the time, while also improving ergonomics by carrying them with you in your smartphone at all times.
PS2 emulator: what is it
Before focusing on what are the best PS2 emulators to use, it is appropriate to understand what it is. In computer science, a PS2 emulator is nothing more than software that has the ability to simulate a third-party program, hardware, or service, virtually.
Specifically, software developed for emulation is tasked with virtualizing games on a given piece of hardware, in this case the PlayStation 2, and allowing them to be used on other devices, be they the PC, smartphone, or a RasberryPie.
PS2 emulator: how it works
Virtualizing a hardware system of a different nature than the one being used might seem complex, but in fact there is a very simple process behind it. The operation of a PS2 emulator is based on reading ISO or ROM images that contain the game files and can be started just as if you were using the PlayStation 2.
By inserting the ISO image on your PC or in your optical drive, the PS2 emulator will, thanks to its internal software, read the digital image and convert it into screen images.
Some emulators already have all the video and audio codecs to boot ISO images, while others require additional installation to achieve the same result.
Most emulators need a PS2 file system in order to start the emulation process, again some already have it, others require additional manual implementation.
PS2 emulator: specifications
Software designed to emulate PlayStation 2 games might seem very similar to others to those who have never used one. Although the purpose of the software is to enable on-screen playback of PS2 video games, they can be dissimilar in several parameters. Let’s look at the features in which the PlayStation 2 emulators differ the most.
Not all PS2 emulators require the same hardware resources, some of which are extremely lightweight and can be used on an outdated PC, while many others are constrained to definitely higher performance hardware.
In this case, a high-performance system can affect not only the graphical aspect of the emulator, but also in the frame rate of the game. The best-performing PS2 emulator is not always also the one with the highest minimum requirements.
Feature that may differ between one emulator and another is to be found in the graphic design. People often tend to think that software dedicated to virtualizing a specific console reproduces the interface identically. Actually, each emulator has its own graphical component, some even tracing the features of the old PS2, but most of them have their own physiognomy.
Choosing a PS2 emulator with a more pleasant interface is not wrong at all, it will also improve theuser experience.
Obviously the main specification of such an emulator is to have the ability to emulate PS2 games, but that is not the only feature available.
Emulation software can add several useful functions for the gamer, such as choosing the video format, arrangement of saves, and in some cases blocking or not blocking the FPS refresh rate.
Choosing an emulator without additional functions greatly limits the potential of such tools.
PS1 backward compatibility
A PS2 emulator usually originates with the purpose of virtualizing only games from this specific console. Emphasis must be placed, however, on some PS2 emulators that have the ability to play PS1 video games as well, providing the player with greater versatility and an even wider choice of Sony home video games.
PS2 Emulator: Benefits
Relying on such an emulator might turn the noses of gamers who like to turn on the original PlayStation 2 and start playing, but is the interaction with third-party software so different?
When analyzing the benefits that a PS2 emulator can bring, it is evident that the gaming experience can even improve by taking advantage of additional features. Let’s see what benefits are gained from a PS2 emulator.
Not everyone has a PlayStation 2 at home or a television set complete with a working SCART jack. This condition limits all those who want to reminisce about the old days and engage in retrogaming.
The nostalgia effect is always present in those who love the video game industry; one can hardly resist the lure of titles belonging to this generation. The PS2 gave birth to some games that have remained in history, and due to an incompatibility with next-generation consoles, it is almost inevitable to rely on a PS2 emulator to appreciate them again.
Thanks to software that can be installed on smartphones or PCs, suddenly one can throw oneself into the past, enjoying PS2 games as they were when they first came out.
Keep the games and the original console
Even more delicate discussion might touch PS2 video game collectors, in fact, the original packages and games of this console are highly sought after and using them in the physical format is tantamount to reducing their price.
A PS2 emulator allows you to boot games directly with an ISO image, thus ensuring perfect preservation of the title.
As you can easily imagine, it is not always possible to find an ISO file of the Deluxe or Limited Edition versions, but it is still a good way to replay the title without reducing its collectible and commercial value.
Ease of use
One of the most obvious benefits of using a PS2 emulator lies in its ease of use. As pointed out in the previous lines, you just need to put the ISO image on the device, install the suitable System files, and pay attention to the system requirements. In seconds, one can emulate the desired video game without thinking too much about codes and accessories.
Of course, the portability component is also very important, in fact, with a smartphone emulator you will be able to run PS2 games whenever you want wherever you want. Obviously in this case you are constrained by the battery life of the device being used, but nonetheless it remains an excellent solution for entertaining yourself on the couch or on the go.
PS2 emulator: legality and observations
Now it is time to analyze the best PS2 emulators, but first we must make a necessary digression on the regularity or otherwise of this type of software.
The programs we will include in the list are of course all legal, but it is their use that deserves additional note. Every PS2 video game is copyrighted, which means that you must own a physical copy of a title to start it.
In the event that you do not possess the original game or at least a copy of the console BIOS, you would inevitably fall into a gray line that tends toward illegality. Both the console BIOS and physical copies of the games must belong to the person who starts the PS2 emulator, subject to an irregularity.
Unfortunately, there are several online platforms that make available third-party ISO images, which although they work flawlessly should not be downloaded. We recommend downloading ISO images of PS2 titles only in case you own the original versions, at least to protect the work of the companies that invested so much in the production of the game.
PS2 Emulator: on Windows
Most video game enthusiasts use the PS2 emulator on their personal computers, which makes it easy not only to download ISO images, but also to customize the controller and video settings. Let’s see which emulators to choose to display PlayStation 2 video games on the monitor.
The most popular software used by PC owners is definitely PCSX2, a lightweight and fast solution that allows you to run all games on this console without any particular problems.
Minimum requirements call for a machine with at least 2GB of RAM, and a 3.2 GHz Intel Duo Duo processor, although it is best to aim for a 2.8 GHz i3 or higher. The video card must support Pixel Shader model 2.0 codecs to achieve artifact-free images on the screen.
To install the emulator, you must first download it at the official PCSX2 page and install it like traditional software. You will also need to enter the PS2 BIOS, which is already present in the folder named: rom1, rom2 and rom3. It is recommended that you use it only if you own a physical PlayStation 2.
Having installed all codecs and BIOS you will need to load the ISO image, configure the game controller and then select the Menu section and boot the CDVD from the optical drive, or select the Browse item and choose the downloaded ISO. Clicking Start will start the on-screen game. It is also recommended to set the best audio source.
Those who love retrogaming will surely know RetroArch, a program capable of emulating not only PS2 games, but also many others from the most famous consoles.
In addition to simple emulation of PlayStation 2 ISO images, RetroArch also enables advanced features such as netplay rewind, shaders and virtually nonexistent input lag.
Added to these features is its ability to run on multiple operating systems, as well as to play compatible games online as well. The interface is among the most beautiful, and its open source nature makes it not only free but also constantly being updated.
To download it you can click directly on this link.
Those who want a no-frills PS2 emulator that can run only PS2 video games will find ePSXe the ideal solution. Compatibility with Windows is excellent; you will not need a particularly high-performance machine to use the software.
It offers no special features, but a bare-bones emulation of what are the most common gaming tools, such as the memory card or adaptation to video card drivers.
Like any emulator it allows you to customize the game controller and choose some references before starting the one you want. It certainly does not excel in game interface and functionality, but it is an ideal solution to optimally emulate PS2 titles for those who do not feel like wasting time with video codecs and console BIOS.
It is recommended to be used on a dated computer; it manages to take advantage of older hardware very well due to its lightness in terms of resources and storage memory. It can be downloaded for free from the official platform.
An absolute top-notch alternative, which allows you to emulate most console games, is Emulatorx. Developed now more than 6 years ago, but still a benchmark for those who want to play virtually any title on their Windows PC.
Specifically, this emulator allows you to run games from the following consoles: Gamboy Advance, Super Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, Megadrive, Nintendo 64, and Nintendo DS.
It must be pointed out, however, that some PlayStation 1 and Xbox games are not compatible with the software, but in the case of PS2 emulation the problems are zero.
The features of this program relate not only to the versatility of the console but also to the video playback quality. The graphics are objectively better than most PS2 emulators, as they take full advantage of all the hardware resources of one’s PC.
Regarding hardware resources, it is worth noting that it is necessary to own a good machine; in this case, an outdated computer will not be able to guarantee a good gaming experience, especially in terms of refresh rate.
MAME Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator
A great PS2 emulator, with which one can entertain oneself on the most famous titles of this console without being afraid that malfunctions will occur, is MAME Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator.
Although it is definitely not the best program around for virtualizing PS2 titles on Windows, it allows you to play more than 5,000 titles quickly and without too many hardware resources.
The real strength of this emulator lies precisely in its lightness in terms of computational resources, a computer with a few years on its shoulders will be able to run PS2 games without too many problems.
The operation is not only based on ROMs, in fact, it is appropriate to download dedicated files to start video games, this results in more computer security, but several additional steps before starting to play.
It can be downloaded in seconds from the dedicated platform by clicking directly on this link.
PS2 emulator: on macOS
People are often led to think that emulation of old consoles is only possible on Windows operating systems, in fact it is possible to use them on macOS as well.
The software listed in the previous paragraph are also available on an Apple operating system, specifically: RetroArch, ePSXe, Emulatorx and MAME Multiple, these can run without any problem on either platform. Separate note deserves PCSX2, which needs some additional arrangements. But now let’s look at the software to choose for optimal emulation on macOS.
Perhaps the only true PS2 emulator for macOS is Play!, software capable of running almost any game from this console without running into system bugs and glitches.
Its operation is based on what are the principles of classic emulators, just load the ISO image inside the software and start the title.
Before this step, however, you must download the installation file, at this link, and run the dmg package. Once the installation is complete, simply click on File, top left, and select the Boot Disk Image option. Selecting the ISO image will automatically start the PS2 game.
The most interesting aspect lies in not having to do any further installation or configuration; everything will happen automatically.
PCSX2 for macOS
The same software examined for emulation on Windows can also be employed on macOS, but with some limitations. In fact, not all PS2 games are able to boot up properly, causing one to give up completely after a few tries.
Virtual Gaming Station
As an alternative to Play! and PCSX2, one can use Virtual Gaming Station, a historic emulator for Apple PC enthusiasts with which one can obtain periodic updates that are very useful for implementing new games.
Again, the catalog of available games is not complete, but given a system as closed as Apple’s, it is still a good way to entertain yourself.
PS2 Emulator: on Android
The possibility of emulating your PS2 games on your smartphone is definitely not to be dismissed, especially if you do not want to boot up your personal computer every time you want to play. PS2 emulators for Android are many, let’s see the ones to rely on for a satisfying gaming experience suitable for everyone.
DamonPS2 Free and Pro
Using this PS2 emulator you can get about 90% compatibility with games from this console, also ensuring good stability with Sony platforms released a few years later.
At the moment, the minimum requirements for a smartphone emulator are much more relevant than PC ones, in fact, to achieve perfect emulation with this software you should have a Snapdragon 835 or 845 processor on devices such as Galaxy S8, S8 or Note 8. As can be guessed, Samsung smartphones are best suited.
Currently, you can download this emulator in both a free version, which allows for less than excellent resolution, and a paid version, capable of reaching 1080P resolutions and eliminating advertising altogether.
The cost is usually around 10 euros. Those who want quick saves can rely on a very reliable emulator for Android.
Could the version of RetroArch for Android have been missing? Obviously not, this application is most likely the most downloaded by those using mobile emulation. Its open source nature allows for several features, which while not too complicated to manage, are not suitable for first-time users.
The program is aimed at users who already have a clear understanding of how a PS2 emulator works, as one must invest several minutes before setting all the parameters to play the game optimally.
The fact that it is completely free, however, is absolutely worth the time used; thanks to effective key mapping and an outstanding controller setting you will be able to customize every aspect of the game. Following a small tutorial on how to take advantage of its full potential is definitely the way to go.
The software can be downloaded from the Play Store and installed in very few seconds.
Those who like to observe the scores given by users on the Play Store will notice how PPSSPP is one of the most popular emulators among gaming enthusiasts. Again, this is a free PS2 emulator with which you can view games in high definition, without investing in paid subscriptions.
Compatibility is excellent with most PS2 titles, and support for 3D graphics is also extremely effective. Also added to these features is a modern interface optimized for better interaction with the end user.
Although the free version allows for good customization, for maximum performance it is advisable to choose the paid Gold version. The cost is a little over 4 euros and allows some on-screen display parameters to be changed.
Considered a little gem of Android emulation, ePSXe is an excellent solution for those who want to enjoy their PlayStation 2 games without too many frills.
On the Google Play Store, both the free and paid versions can be downloaded, costing 2.99 euros. From an aesthetic point of view it is extremely simple, although its strengths are purely related to technical aspects.
In fact, the software allows all PS2 games, belonging to the European, American and Japanese markets, to be emulated without the slightest uncertainty. This feature is also complemented by the possibility of implementing plugins, which are particularly useful for customizing the application’s functionality.
Those who have already tried this emulator for the first generation PlayStation will find it very easy to use on their Android device. Between the free version and the paid version there is no big difference, it is recommended to experiment with the free program first.
PS2 Emulator: on iOS
Just as much as macOS, Apple-made mobile devices also allow you to emulate PS2 games. Let’s try to understand what they are and how to make the most of them.
PPSSPP PS2 Emulator iOS
In addition to the Android version of this emulator, you can also use the official application on iOS. You will be able to run most PlayStation 2 games and get great performance, without draining the smartphone battery too much.
One of the strengths of this emulator lies in its ability to not have to use jailbreak, as there is already maximum compatibility with Apple’s home system.
Added to this relevant feature is also the ability to play multiple titles simultaneously and to adjust the pace of play, i.e., speed adaptation. However, one must have an iOS 12, 13 or higher system to start it.
Also added to these specifications are: multilingual support, interface customization, volume adjustment, HD graphics, status saving and deletion, as well as support for cheat codes.
We will not dwell much on RetroArch since it is one of the most versatile emulators, consequently its iOS version could not be missed. We must to emphasize that it is essential to jailbreak your iPhone to be able to use it. As anticipated in the previous lines RetroArch needs some expertise in the area of emulators.
Notable features include automatic controller configuration and recording and streaming of the game being viewed on the screen. Customization is also excellent, but one must put in no small amount of effort before finding the perfect configuration to one’s needs as a gamer.
Between the Android and iOS versions, the green dot version is preferable, but those familiar with the jailbreak will find using this PS2 emulator intuitive.
NewGamePad PS2 Emulator
Owners of iPhone 12 and 13 can use this emulator to run PS2 games, taking advantage of maximum compatibility. The software allows ISO images to be mounted without jailbreaking, just download the installation file and see to it that the wizard is completed.
The application is completely free and matches the performance of better-known emulators such as PPSSPP and RetroArch, although a slightly lower level must be highlighted.
In addition to PlayStation 2 games, PlayStation 1 games can also be started, thus pleasing as many fans as possible.
The emulator also provides several interesting features, such as: multilingual support, customization, support for older games, resource lightness, and most importantly, it can directly download ROMs from the dedicated section. It turns out to be among the most plug and play apps available for iOS, an ideal solution for those who don’t want to get too tangled up in settings and specifications.
Also joining the iOS emulators is Play!, already mentioned several times when we argued about PS2 emulators on Apple systems. The excellent emulation capabilities of this software are combined with its ease of use; in fact, you will not need to install the BIOS file to start games. This condition is resolving for those who have no idea where to start with a PS2 emulator.
Play! features three key specifications, which also determine its popularity in recent years. The first lies in the fact that it is completely open source, thus, upgradeable by enthusiasts. The second is to also add other types of games in addition to PS2 games, providing an additional form of entertainment. Third, and most important is the ability to use the application without a BIOS file, making the approach quick and easy.
Happy Chick Emulators
We include among the best PS2 emulators to install on iOS the excellent Happy Chick. This makes it possible to run even very resource-intensive video games, such as GTA, Call of Duty and many others.
To install this software, however, it is necessary to perform a well-defined procedure and not rely on the App Store. One has to go to Appvally and click on the Happy chick icon, from there save the image as a name and arrange to install the application.
The most interesting features are: installation without jailbreak, booting both PlayStation and Nintendo games, and finally the ability to boot triple-A games without any uncertainty.
PS2 emulator: mistakes to avoid
Choosing an emulator is definitely not as simple as it may seem, in addition to the many features available we often get stuck at the first screen without knowing where to start.
In order for you to enjoy your PS2 emulator without too much inconvenience, you should avoid trivial errors. Let’s see which ones and why they are often the cause of malfunctions.
One of the most common mistakes when choosing an emulator is to rely on an operating system that is too up-to-date. Some software is only compatible with operating systems from a few years ago, a condition that can be circumvented with the compatibility modes offered by Windows.
Right-click on the PS2 emulator .exe file to click on Properties. From here you should select the compatibility section and enter a previous operating system.
A PS2 emulator usually can configure game keys automatically, relying on the database already stored in the BIOS. This function, while useful for those who have no special needs, becomes a problem for those who like to customize keys.
Not all emulation software allows for controller customization, therefore, it is advisable to evaluate this feature well.
16:9 or 4:3
The video format of a PS2 game changes depending on the title started. Being able to choose between the canonical 4:3 and the more modern 16:9 can make all the difference in the world for an optimal gaming experience.
Some emulators allow the format to be changed and adapted to the display being used. Obviously a smartphone may differ in size from a PC monitor, relying on a versatile PS2 emulator is the smarter choice.
The size of an ISO image, especially of the most important PS2 video games, is in most cases one of the characteristics that must be taken into account in order not to make mistakes. In fact, some sites that distribute ROMs, to speed up users’ downloads, make a single image file by merging multiple CD-ROMs or DVD-ROMs.
Most PS2 emulators can also read such formats, but you might often be faced with an error message. It is recommended to download ISO files of individual CDs or DVDs.
Mistake not to be made absolutely lies in making a download of an infected ROM. There are so many platforms on the web that make ROMs available, but not all of them are ethically appreciable.
Making the download from a reliable website is the first step to using emulation in the best way possible. Damaging your PC or smartphone to play video games is not the smartest move to make.
PS2 emulator: where to get games
As pointed out in the previous paragraph, choosing the best emulator is not enough if you have no idea where to download ROMs. Noting that you must use a proprietary PS2 BIOS and ISO images of which you own the game, it is interesting to take a look at platforms that allow you to download PlayStation 2 games quickly.
Those who like all types of emulation will find romHustler.net the ideal solution. Thanks to the built-in search engine, you will be able to find the desired ROM and download it with excellent speed. Certainly the easiest ISO images to find are those for the U.S. market, but looking hard you can also find several European titles, perfect for Italian gamers.
One of the most well-stocked portals for searching PS2 ROMs is definitely Emuparadise, here are both ISO images and ROMs cataloged by console and year of release. Again there is an advanced search bar to speed up whether or not the game is on the site. Definitely a very viable solution for European PlayStation 2 video games.
Describing this site is by no means easy; the variety of solutions offered for gamers is almost endless. You can download more than 560 thousand ROMs for more than 500 different systems, hardly your favorite title is not included within the database of TheOldComputer.
The large number of PS2 video games available, however, is met with a slightly slower download than the previous two websites. This slowdown is due to a server that is always loaded due to a particularly active user base. Fortunately, PS2 games are not large in size, so, the download will still turn out to be not too long.
Another platform dedicated to downloading PS2 ROMs is Doperoms, which is very useful to take advantage of the database from more than 170 thousand games. The portal allows you to download all titles for free, it will not be complicated to search for the desired title if you take advantage of the advanced search bar. It is not the best site among those listed, but it might surprise you with its speed of downloading files.
PS2 emulator: the best games
But what titles to download from these platforms to relive the excitement of Sony video games with your own PS2 emulator? Here is a quick list of must-try video games. As you can easily imagine, the following list is not given by personal taste, but by the appreciation of enthusiasts and the ratings of reviews on the web and in trade journals.
Top games: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Ratchet & Clank 3, Final Fantasy X, God of War 2, Gran Turismo 4, GTA: San Andreas, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Okami, Shadow of the Colossus, and Silent Hill 2.
A PS2 emulator is the best solution to relive the games of the past. The PlayStation 2 gave birth to unforgettable titles that can still instill wonderful emotions and memories today. A quality emulator, even one that is not necessarily paid for, can provide an optimal gaming experience.
The choice between one software over the other depends on one’s needs and the device used for emulation. Between smartphones and PCs, it is recommended to veer to the device you use most on a daily basis.