A PS2 console surrounded by its games.

For many veteran gamers (including us PC enthusiasts), the PS2 era of video games was arguably one of the best times to be alive. Back then, we were introduced to many classic titles that are still celebrated to this very day, like the original Kingdom Hearts (2002), and God of War (2005).

But, if we want to relive our old, happy memories by replaying them today, can we do so on the PC without using an emulator?

No, we can’t play PS2 games on our computers without using an emulator or third-party software. PS2 games are hardcoded to run on their specific system, and this makes it impossible for us to play them on PC without the use of certain software or programs.

This is true for other PlayStation consoles too, such as the PS Vita. However, on a more positive note, game companies have already begun embracing cross-play as a major feature for their new game releases – leading to more games that are playable on the PC – to take advantage of the online cross-platform support.

We can even ‘stream’ console games on our PCs now too, like playing Xbox games via PC Game Pass at home. When it comes to older-generation gaming systems like the PS2, though, more traditional methods, like emulation, need to be considered instead.

Can a PC Read a PS2 Game Disc?

We’ve established that PS2 games can’t be played on a PC. That being said, can the computer read the contents of a PS2 game disc when inserted into the CD/ DVD drive?

Yes, a PC can read the contents of a PS2 game disc. Still, the PS2 game’s core files can’t be run by the computer due to incompatible software or decoding program.

Here’s how a PS2 disc’s content looks like when opened on a PC, showcased by What Happens When:

At the very least, this means we can still review everything present on the disc itself. Although this doesn’t do much for us (tampering with the files could corrupt the disc, making it unplayable), amateur game developers or modders might find this information useful.

For every PC game, an installer program is usually found inside the disc, allowing us to decide whether to install the game on the computer or not. Once installed, we don’t need the disc to play the game anymore, which is more convenient than PS2 games on a PS2 console (a game disc is required for every gaming session).

Is a PS2 Game Playable on a PC without its Disc?

Given that a PC can’t read a PS2 game disc, can a PS2 game still be played on the computer without it?

Yes, a PS2 game is still playable on a PC, without its disc, by using emulators. This is commonly done through the use of PS2 game ROMS which are considered illegal if shared with/ from others online.

Nevertheless, obtaining our own PS2 ROMs by ‘ripping’ them from their original game discs, and then converting them into a different format, like ISO, is entirely legitimate. Some people do this to preserve their favorite PS2 games in softcopy form, which can be quite useful in specific circumstances; not needing to rebuy them once the physical disc is lost or misplaced.

For the most part, though, PC gamers normally use emulators to play PS2 games because some of us might’ve missed out on buying a PS2 console during the early 2000s. Not only that, certain all-time classics, such as the original Shadow of the Colossus, remain console-exclusive, meaning that they aren’t released for computers at all.

Whatever the reason might be, many of us are thankful that video game emulation exists, because most of us continue to play PS2 games on our PCs, even today.

How Do I Play PS2 Games on a PC?

After establishing that PS2 games can be played on a PC by way of emulators, how do we do that?

Well, here’s a general overview of how we do it using the most stable PS2 emulator out there, PCSX2:

REQUIREMENTS: 7-Zip (default PCSX2 file format), PS2 BIOS file (downloaded separately, needed to run PCSX2), and PS2 game ROMs (downloaded individually, saved on the PC)

Downloading & Extracting PCSX2

  1. Visit the PCSX2 website.
  2. Download a preferred PCSX2 build (those under “Latest Nightly” are recommended).
  3. Extract the downloaded, compressed PCSX2 file onto the computer (it comes in 7-Zip format).
  4. PCSX2 is ready to be used once the extraction process is completed (launch the corresponding executable program, e.g. pcsx2.exe).

Launching PCSX2

  1. Open PCSX2, and then click on the Settings tab on the menu bar at the top.
  2. Click on BIOS, and then choose the corresponding PS2 BIOS file that had been downloaded beforehand (as mentioned under REQUIREMENTS earlier).
  3. Change the other settings according to preference (Graphics, Audio, etc.)
  4. Back at the main screen, choose either “Add Game Directory” or “Scan For New Games” which are highlighted in the middle of the screen (identifying PS2 ROMs).
  5. After PCSX2 detects the respective PS2 ROMs on the PC, they will appear on the screen for us to select afterward.

Running PS2 Games using PCSX2

  1. On PCSX2’s home screen, double-click the PS2 game to be played, from the list provided.
  2. The PS2 game will run if everything is working perfectly (different games might require different settings to be changed, especially the Graphics).

CAUTION: Downloading PS2 BIOS and PS2 ROMs from the Internet is widely considered illegal unless done so using our own PS2 console and games.

For a visual step-by-step representation, here’s a video made by Mr. Sujano on YouTube: 

One great feature of PCSX2 is that it allows us to play our beloved PS2 games using the keyboard, changing the keys under the Settings tab. This is outstanding given that even Xbox games via cloud gaming require an Xbox-compatible controller to be played on the PC.

Emulators for other console games are also available from the web these days, including those made for Nintendo gaming consoles, seeing that the company is adamant about not releasing their games on PC. Just remember that emulation is a particularly sensitive subject for video game companies worldwide.

Does Multiplayer Work for PS2 Games on PC?

I believe many of us remember the good old days of playing awesome multiplayer PS2 games, like the original Star Wars: Battlefront II. In 2023, can we still play online with other players using PS2 emulators as well?

Yes, we can play PS2 games online with other players using a PS2 emulator, as long as everyone is connected to the same server. However, this can differ between each PS2 game, with some games’ multiplayer mode being entirely unplayable due to different system restrictions or factors.

YouTube channel, Archades Games, has a video that showcases this possibility:

Essentially, although not every game is planned for release on PCs, almost all of them can be played on the computer thanks to emulators like PCSX2. New technologies, such as cloud gaming and remote play, make this even more possible, limiting the gap between PCs and gaming consoles that exists throughout the years.

If there’s one thing that we might complain about emulators is that split-screen support is still unavailable for many PS2 games at the moment. Regardless, being able to play PS2 games on the computer at all is already a big achievement in my book.

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