PCSX2 is an open source PlayStation 2 emulator project that’s been in development for more than a decade. It’s compatible with about 95% of the PS2’s 2400+ game library. Sony’s new PS4 emulation can run these old games at 1080p, but on a decent gaming PC you can render them at even higher resolutions like 4K, downsampling them to the resolution of your monitor for a sharper, clearer picture. Even an aging or budget gaming rig should be able to handle 1080p emulation for most games, no problem.
If you’re an old hand at PC emulation, you’re likely as familiar with PS2 emulator PCSX2 as you are with GameCube/Wii emulator Dolphin. Both are free and legal—none of the code in the emulators themselves belongs to Sony or Nintendo—and have improved enormously over years of development, thanks to passionate communities. The great thing about PCSX2, though, and where it really differs from Dolphin, is that you can easily play your old copies of PlayStation 2 games by simply sticking the discs in your computer.
Assuming you still have a DVD drive (if you don’t, find a friend who does), you can plop a PS2 disc into the drive and emulate it straight from the disc. I’d recommend ripping it to an ISO with a free program like ImgBurn so you don’t have to worry about disc read speeds or swapping discs when you want to play a new game.
Admittedly, this all takes a bit more work than spending $15 to re-buy a PS2 game on your PS4, which you’ll inevitably be asked to re-buy on the PlayStation 5 or 6. But that’s the nature of the PC platform. With a little work, you can play just about anything.
And with a little more work, you can make the games better than they were on the original hardware. It becomes part of the fun: you can usually get a game to run without too much trouble, but making it look as good as it can, and run as smoothly as possible, is a satisfying tinkering process. Any problem you encounter you can most likely solve with a simple Google search. That’s the great part thing about emulation communities: they’re filled with people dedicated to making these games run.
With a little time put into PCSX2, you can render the image at 2x, 3x, 4x its original resolution (or higher!), play a PS2 game with a DualShock or an Xbox controller, save to unlimited virtual memory cards or use save states, borrow save files from other players, use hacks to run games in widescreen. And you can take some pretty amazing screenshots.
The Official PCSX2 website is clear and easy to navigate, and the PCSX2 forums receive posts every day. This means that there is an active community which allows you to get help and which will drive further development. Getting support and having an actively developed emulator is extremely important if you wish to avoid frustration and disappointment with emulators.
The great thing about this emulator is that you can insert your PS2 game straight into your CD/DVD drive and the emulator will allow you to play the game on your PC!
NOTE: Remember, it is illegal to download BIOS or ROM images.