The 10 best PS2 emulators, from worst to best

The PlayStation 2 is a legendary console that was released in 2000 and ran for 13 years as one of the best-selling consoles of all time with over 155 million units sold. It was discontinued in 2013, which can make yesterday’s games difficult to play without official support.

Thanks to emulation, games have the opportunity to never be forgotten. The PlayStation 2 is notoriously difficult to emulate, thanks to its odd family of chipsets built around its central CPU (dubbed the “Emotion Engine”), and getting the emulation right continues to be a tough battle for many hobbyists. Even official developers noticed the difficulties that must be overcome to develop on the fabled system and they had official support from Sony.

Related: The best games on the PS2 in 2021

For this ranking we look at the three platforms currently available for PS2 emulation and include the ranking within each platform from worst to best. The PS2 emulation is currently available on consoles, mobile and PC. Of the three platforms, the PC-based PS2 emulation is by far the best option, although mobile devices can work with varying degrees of success. While console-based PS2 emulation is available, it’s a complicated process that typically involves homebrewing and hacking the consoles to sideload software.

Console based emulation

PS2 emulation is a rough hobby, and there’s a lot to be said for trying it on consoles. Unfortunately, for these emulators to work, hobbyists must either use developer builds of the consoles or use some dubious workarounds to sideload the software. Also, consoles don’t have an open-source option, meaning hobbyists will be at the developers’ mercy.

2) PS2Emu (Playstation 3)

PS2Emu, also referred to as PS2_Emu, could be used on the PlayStation 3 with a large number of supported games. PS2Emu, at this point, relies on BIOS files and almost exclusively vaporware, and has switched to Windows-assisted development. Additionally, thanks to the advent of the PlayStation Store, many PlayStation 2 titles have been made available on the PS3.

Finally, the original launch models of the PS3 offered backwards compatibility thanks to the PS2 chips they contained. This was later discontinued by Sony, and it should also be noted that while most of the PlayStation 2 catalog worked on the original PS3, there were a few titles that did not.

1) AetherSX2 (Xbox One, Xbox One X/S)

AetherSX2 is the stronger choice of the two, but that doesn’t say much about our console-based emulation. The weaker CPU struggles to run these games, and hobbyists will need to purchase an Xbox developer license to put the console into developer mode and sideload the necessary software.

Image via Archades Games on YouTube

AetherSX2 is currently in a pre-alpha preview, although users who have the tools, funds and time could still load some games onto the console. AetherSX2 is characterized by being a fork of PCSX2 and bringing the famous PC-based emulator to multiple platforms.

Mobile-based emulation

It’s no surprise that mobile devices are becoming much more powerful than they were in the early 2000s, and at this point they can offer enough metaphorical juice to run some PlayStation 2 titles. Android is the slight favorite here thanks to its open development environment, but there’s also a unique option for Apple at the moment.

3) Damon PS2 (Android)

This emulator is a commercial closed source PS2 emulator running on Android devices. Many hobbyists recommend avoiding this emulator due to privacy concerns, added DRM, and accusations of code and trademark theft from the community. The China-based company DamonPlay Ltd, which developed DamonsPS2, decided to try to maximize revenue in development, something that raises some concerns in the emulation hobby.

2) Play! (Android, iOS)

To play! is an open-source PS2 emulator that works on a wide range of devices, but excels at being one of the few options available for Apple devices – as long as the Apple device has been jailbroken to escape the walled garden . Apart from this limitation, Play! works surprisingly well on mobile if users can get past the rough setup.

1) AetherSX2 (Android)

Image via ETA Prime on YouTube

The second time, AetherSX2 is mentioned, but as a far stronger candidate. It’s still a closed-source port of the legendary PCSX2 emulator, adding rendering options and a few other options under the hood. It is completely free and available on the Google Play Store. The only downside is that it cannot be used on jailbroken iOS devices.

PC based emulation

With the hurdles in the way of a real PS2 emulation, the PC-based emulation offers most users the greatest latitude to get the software working properly. While AetherSX2 and Play! Both are more than viable options for mobile devices, it’s difficult to top the capabilities and flexibility that PCs offer.

5) hpsx64 (Windows)

hpsx is a work-in-progress emulator and offers some of the more standard quality-of-life options, such as: B. graphics upscaling, not. The controller inputs require some work, audio can drop out suddenly, and outright crashes are not uncommon. That being said, this emulator is notable for being impressively functional while still heavily in an experimental stage.

4) DobieStation (Windows, Linux)

Image via Emulator_Team on Youtube

DobieStation, a PS2 emulator with big plans to become available on Android devices, is a very young emulator at the moment. Some titles are ready to launch already, like Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy X, but there’s still a bit of work to do before DobieStation is ready for the big leagues of emulation. DobieStation shares a few developers with the legendary PCSX2, so it’s worth tracing the developer pedigree alone.

3) Play! (Windows, Linux, macOS)

The same game! from our mobile list Play! It works even better on the PC. Its number three spot on this list shouldn’t discourage users from trying it out, but it’s further testament to the quality of PS2 emulator competition on PC. If you play! On a mobile device, file hierarchies and standardized options can make it worth using the same platform on your PC.

2) AetherSX2 (Linux, macOS)

Aether, a fork of PCSX2, is worth mentioning. It works well with minimal setup, has multiple quality-of-life options, and is available on every platform we’ve discussed so far. The bad news is that it’s a closed source, meaning users are at the whim (and integrity) of hobbyists.

1) PCSX2 (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Gamepur screenshot

PCSX2 is the crown jewel of the PlayStation 2 emulation hobbyist community. Although only available on PCs, this open-source package is the longest-running PS2 emulator project (since 2001) and typically offers benefits other emulators lack. Anyone can contribute to the project via GitHub, it supports original PS2 backwards compatibility for original PlayStation games, has native DualShock 3 support, and can automatically fix game issues as you play (e.g. AI freezing).

If you are simply looking for the best PlayStation 2 emulator available today, you will definitely find the answer in the PCSX2. With a currently 97% compatible playlist from the PlayStation 2 era and still going strong with patches and new features, this emulator is simply the one to beat for everyone else. The 10 best PS2 emulators, from worst to best

Curtis Crabtree

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