Screenshot by Gamepur

The 10 Best PS2 Emulators, ranked from worst to best

Relive the glory days of the PlayStation 2.

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

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Thanks to emulation, games have the opportunity to never be forgotten. The PlayStation 2 is notoriously difficult to emulate thanks to its strange family of chipsets based on its central CPU (called the ‘Emotion Engine’), and proper emulation continues to be a difficult battle for many hobbyists. Even official developers have noted the difficulty that must be surmounted to develop on the fabled system, and they had the official support from Sony.

Related: The best games on the PS2 in 2021

For this ranking list, we’re going to look at the three platforms currently available for PS2 emulation, and contain the ranking within each platform from worst to best. PS2 emulation is currently available on consoles, mobile devices, and PC. Of the three platforms, PC-based PS2 emulation is by far the best option, although mobile devices can operate to varying degrees of success. Console-based PS2 emulation, while available, is a convoluted process typically involving homebrewing and hacking the consoles to sideload software.

Console-based emulation

PS2 emulation is a rough hobby, and there’s something to be said for attempting it on consoles. Unfortunately, for these emulators to work, hobbyists are going to need to use either developer-builds of the consoles or use some iffy workarounds to sideload the software. Further, consoles don’t have an open-source option, meaning hobbyists are going to be at the mercy of the developers.

2) PS2Emu (PlayStation 3)

PS2Emu, also referenced as PS2_Emu, could be used on the PlayStation 3 with a large number of supported games. Needing BIOS files, and almost entirely vaporware at this point, PS2Emu has shifted over to Windows-supported development. Further, many PlayStation 2 titles were made available on the PS3 thanks to the advent of the PlayStation Store.

Finally, the original launch models of the PS3 offered backward compatibility thanks to the PS2 chips in them. 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 some titles that would not.

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

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

Image via Archades Games on YouTube

AetherSX2 is currently in a pre-alpha preview, although users that have the necessary tools, funds, and time could still load up a few games on the console. AetherSX2 is notable for being a fork of PCSX2 and bringing the famed PC-based emulator to multiple platforms.

Mobile-based emulation

It’s no surprise that mobile devices are becoming far 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 easy favorite here thanks to its open-dev environment, but there is currently a singular option for Apple as well.

3) DamonsPS2 (Android)

This emulator is a closed-source commercial PS2 emulator that runs on Android devices. Many hobbyists recommend avoiding this emulator due to privacy concerns, additional DRM being added, and accusations of code theft and trademark theft from the community. The Chinese-based company DamonPlay Ltd, which has developed DamonsPS2, opted to attempt to maximize revenue in development, which tends to be received with concern in the emulation hobby.

2) Play! (Android, iOS)

Play! is an open-source PS2 emulator that works on a multitude of devices, but is notable for being one of the very few options available for Apple devices — as long as the Apple device has been jailbroken to escape the walled garden. That caveat aside, however, Play! works surprisingly well on mobile devices 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’s entirely free and available on the Google Play store. The only drawback is that it cannot be used on iOS jailbroken devices.

PC-based emulation

With the hurdles in the way of true PS2 emulation, PC-based emulation offers most users the most wiggle room to get software working properly. While AetherSX2 and Play! are both more than viable options for mobile devices, it’s difficult to surmount the possibilities and flexibility offered by PCs.

5) hpsx64 (Windows)

A work-in-progress emulator, hpsx doesn’t offer some of the more standardized quality-of-life options, such as graphic-upscaling. The controller inputs need some work, audio can cut out suddenly, and outright crashes aren’t unheard of. This being said, this emulator is noteworthy for being impressively functional while still heavily in an experimental stage.

4) DobieStation (Windows, Linux)

Image via Emulator_Team on Youtube

A PS2 emulator with big plans to become available on Android devices, DobieStation is a very young emulator as it currently stands. Some titles can be booted already, such as Shadow of the Colossus and Final Fantasy X, but there’s a bit to go before DobieStation is ready for the big leagues of emulation. DobieStation shares a few developers with the legendary PCSX2, which makes it worth tracking by developer pedigree alone.

3) Play! (Windows, Linux, macOS)

The same Play! from our mobile device list, Play! works even better on the PC. Its spot as number three on this list shouldn’t discourage users from giving it a try but is more evidence of the quality of competition of PS2 emulators on personal computers. If you’re using Play! on a mobile device, it may be worth your time to use the same platform on your personal computer thanks to file hierarchies and standardized options.

2) AetherSX2 (Linux, macOS)

A fork of PCSX2, Aether is worth noting. It functions well with minimal setup, has multiple quality-of-life options, and is available on every platform we’ve discussed thus far. The bad news is that it’s closed-source, meaning users are stuck on the whims (and integrity) of hobbyist developers.

1) PCSX2 (Windows, Linux, macOS)

Screenshot by Gamepur

PCSX2 is the crowning jewel of the PlayStation 2 emulation hobbyist community. While it’s only available on personal computers, this open-source package is the longest-running PS2 emulator project (since 2001), and typically offers advantages that are missing from other emulators. Anyone can contribute to the project via GitHub, it supports the original PS2 backward compatibility for original PlayStation games, offers native DualShock 3 support, and can automatically fix game issues while you’re playing (such as AI freezing).

If you’re simply looking for the best PlayStation 2 emulator currently available, the answer is unequivocally found with the PCSX2. Currently boasting a 97% compatible game list from the PlayStation 2 era, and still going strong with patches and new features, this emulator is simply the one to beat for all others.


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