How to Play PS2 Games on PC or Mac

Enjoy classic games with a PS2 emulator

What to Know

  • Play PS2 games on both Windows and macOS with an emulator, the BIOS from your PS2, and your old PS2 games.
  • We prefer PCSX2 for our Playstation emulator. Macs need a bit of a workaround so consider the risks involved before you try it.

This article explains how to run PCSX2 on Windows and Mac so you can play PS2 games. Scroll to the bottom for info on how emulation works and what you need to get started if you're not sure.

You can download PS2 BIOS files and games from the internet, but do so at your own risk. This tutorial assumes that you own a PS2 and PS2 games and want to play on your PC for the sake of convenience, better graphics, and other benefits.

Using PCSX2 to Play PS2 Games on Your Windows PC

There are a lot of PlayStation emulators out there, but PCSX2 is generally accepted to be the best PS2 emulator available. This emulator is open source, available for Windows, macOS and Linux, and comes with some nice benefits. The graphics look a lot better than the original PS2 thanks to texture filtering and anti-aliasing, and it also includes a built-in video recorder to record your gameplay at any time.

Here's how to play games on your Windows PC with PCSX2:

  1. Download the latest stable release of PCSX2 for Windows from the official download page.

  2. Obtain the BIOS file from your PS2 console if you haven't already done so.

    If you don't already have your BIOS file, PCSX2 provides a tool and instructions on how to obtain your BIOS file. You can also download a BIOS file from the internet, but there is no legal source for a PS2 BIOS file other than a PS2 you own yourself.

  3. Run the PCSX2 installer.

  4. Select Normal Installation to install the emulator in your Program Files directory, or Portable Installation to choose your installation directory and click Next.

    A screenshot of the PCSX2 installer.
  5. Choose whether you want start menu or desktop shortcuts, then click Next.

    A screenshot of the PCSX2 installer.
  6. Choose your install location if you chose the portable installation option, and click Install.

    A screenshot of the PCSX2 installer.
  7. Click Finish.

    A screenshot of the PCSX2 installer.
  8. Place your PS2 BIOS file into the PCSX2 1.6.0/bios folder.

    This folder will be in your Program Files directory by default, or in the custom location that you chose during step six.

  9. Select your desired language, or leave it as System Default, then click Next.

    A screenshot of the PCSX2 installer.
  10. Click Next.

    The PCSX2 first time configuration screen.

    Most people can safely leave all of these options alone. If you see an error when proceeding, return here, click the top drop down menu, and select a different option. You will have between two and four options depending on your CPU. Try each option until you find one that works with your CPU.

  11. Click your BIOS in the upper box, and then click Finish.

    A screenshot of selecting a BIOS in PCSX2.

    If you don't see your BIOS listed, make sure you placed it in the /bios subfolder of your PCSX2 installation, then click Refresh list on this screen.

  12. Click CDVD > ISO Selector > Browse.

    A screenshot of PCSX2 showing how to load a game ISO.

    You can also play PS2 games directly from the disc, but these instructions assume you have ripped your games to ISO files on your computer.

  13. Locate the folder where you store your games, select the one you want to play, and click Open.

    A screenshot showing how to open a game in PCSX2.
  14. Click System > Boot ISO (full) to start your game.

    A screenshot of PCSX2 showing how to load an ISO.
  15. Your game will start.

    A screenshot with a PS2 game playing in the PCSX2 emulator on Windows.

How to Play PS2 Games on Your Mac With PCSX2

Playing PS2 games on a Mac is possible, but it's more difficult due to an overall lack of support. The macOS version of PCSX2 hasn't been updated since 2012, and it only works on macOS Lion. If you're still using Lion for some reason, you can download the macOS version of PCSX2 and follow the same basic instructions given for the Windows version to get it up and running.

For everyone else, you can try this PCSX2 workaround offered by this Github or this alternative PCSX2 workaround Github. These workarounds work on some Macs and don't work on others, and they can also break unexpectedly at any time. Since they are provided free of charge by individual members of the macOS community, there is no guarantee that they will work at any given time.

To use this workaround:

  1. Download the PROM v1.01.dmg file from either of the Github repositories that were provided above.

    Use Safari to download the file, or it will receive a quarantine tag and you will be unable to run it without taking additional steps.

  2. Download PCSX2 from the official site.

    You will need to download the latest stable Windows version, because PROM is just a custom WINE wrapper.

  3. Launch the PROM v1.01.dmg file

  4. If prompted that PROM wants to access your Downloads directory, click OK.

  5. If prompted by the gatekeeper, allow the program to run.

  6. Place your PS2 BIOS file in the pcsx2/bios directory.

    A screenshot of the PCSX2 BIOS folder on macOS.
  7. PCSX2 will launch. Click Next, and then proceed exactly as described starting with step 10 of the Windows instructions.

    A screenshot of the PCSX2 setup process on macOS.
  8. After you complete the setup of PCSX2, you will be able to mount and run game ISO files or disks as described in the Windows instructions starting with step 12.

How Does Emulation Work?

The hardware in your computer is very different from the hardware in your PS2, so you can't just stick a PS2 game in your DVD or Blu-Ray drive and expect it to work. To play PS2 games on a computer, you need a type of software application that's commonly referred to as an emulator. The emulator uses software to mimic the hardware of your PS2, allowing you to play many of your old PS2 games on your Windows PC or Mac.

To play PS2 games with an emulator, you need a few things:

  • An emulator
  • A computer capable of running the emulator
  • The BIOS from your PS2
  • At least one PS2 game