PCSX2 was the first Playstation 2 emulator and has remained the best one around. Game compatibility is high, but not quite near perfect yet. It requires a fast computer in order to run sufficiently; this is the Playstation 2 after all so that detail shouldn't surprise you.
On a side note, I highly recommend that you purchase a USB gamepad for usage with PCSX2. For emulation of older classic systems you can away with using just your keyboard, but Playstation 2's mini joysticks make your keyboard impossible (or very difficult).
*If you would like to download PCSX2, I have it in my emulators page.
Introduction to the plug-in system
Playstation 2 emulation revolves around the plug-in system (just like Playstation 1 & N64 emulation). Playstation emulators are merely the shell of the operation. PCSX2 saves you trouble by coming included with the best collection of plug-ins. I'm going to break down the plug-in categories so you know what they are...
GS - the graphic plug-in. This controls the graphics and 3D rendering.
2. PAD - the controller plug-in. This controls how you control your games; whether you use a keyboard or a gamepad.
3. SPU2 - the sound plug-in. This controls the music and sound effects.
4. CDVD - the CD/DVD plug-in. This controls the reading of your CDs/DVDs or images.
5. USB - the USB plug-in. This controls USB emulation.
6. FW - the firewire plug-in. This controls the firewire port of the Playstation 2.
7. DEV9 - the hard disk & ethernet plug-in. This controls the HDD (hard disk drive) and ethernet emulation.
Note that you don't have to stick with the plug-ins that PCSX2 comes with. You might find better and more compatible ones out there if you Google around.
You can't boot up games with PCSX2 without the Playstation 2 BIOS. Click the link right below to download it.
Installation (& BIOS setup)
The initial install
1. Double-click on the install EXE for PCSX2. It'll look something like "pcsx2-0.9.7-r3878-setup.exe".
2. The Choose Components box will be the first screen to pop up. Leave everything checked and click Next.
3. The installation will proceed. You'll be prompted with this box when Visual C++ installs. Put a check that you read the terms and click Install.
4. PCSX2 is installed! Ah, but the installation is not complete yet...
Opening up PCSX2 for the first time
1. Go into your Start menu (your programs list) and open up PCSX2.
2. PCSX2 welcomes you with this screen. Leave the bullet in "User Documents (recommended)" and click Next.
3. You'll arrive at the plug-ins screen. Trust PCSX2 for now and leave the defaults. Click Next.
5. Now minimize this "First Time Configuration" window. Note the path where the BIOS folder is located and open up that folder (it might be different than what my sample shows). Download the BIOS if you haven't already, unzip it, and drag its contents to the BIOS folder.
6. Bring back the "First Time Configuration" window and click the Refresh List button, as shown here. You should now see Europe, Japan and USA BIOS files appear in the white box.
7. Click on your desired country to select it. Then click Finish.
8. PCSX2 is now fully installed and configured! :)
Setting up the keyboard or gamepad
1. Go to Config > Controllers (PAD) > Plugin Settings, as shown here.
2. Click on the Pad 1 tab, and you'll arrive at the screen shot shown toward the right. Notice the heavily buttoned area within the red outline. These are all the buttons you need to configure. Now's the time to bust out your gamepad if you have one; otherwise, you're using your keyboard. Click a button in this area, then press keyboard key or gamepad button that you wish to configure it to. When successful, you should see the configured key appear in the "Device/PC Control/PS2 Control" table.
3. When you're done configuring all your keys, you should have something like this. Click OK, and you're done!
Loading a real PS2 game you own
I'm going to contradict the title of this box by saying I don't recommend loading real PS2 games with PCSX2 via your DVD-ROM drive. PCSX2 is a CPU intensive emulator. Most people don't have a fast enough computer to run it at full speed. By using your DVD-ROM drive you'll have a harder time running games at a good speed. So instead of showing you how to load real PS2 games, I'm going to show you something better: how to create an ISO file out of your game. That way you'll have a backup of your game; as if you downloaded it from the net. Here's how you do it:
How to rip your PS2 game to a file (a disc image)
1. Download & install ImgBurn. You can download it from its homepage.
2. Upon opening ImgBurn, click Create image file from disc, as shown here.
3. Make sure the proper source drive is set under "Source", then click click the "Read" icon - as shown here.
4. That's it! Ripping your game CD will take maybe 20-30 minutes. And by default, ImgBurn will toss the BIN file (the ISO) into Documents. Now you can refer to the box below "Loading a PS2 ISO".
Loading a PS2 ISO
1. So do you remember that path to your PCSX2 folder from the installation? (It might be different from my sample picture.) That folder is where you need to toss your PS2 ISO's! Right smack in the main directory of it. Do that first if you haven't already. If you did that and PCSX2 was open, close it and re-open it before Step #2...
2. Go to CDVD then ISO Selector. Your PS2 ISO(s) should be listed here; click the one you want to play. If your ISO(s) is not listed there, try clicking Browse and look for it manually.
*Note: PCSX2 supports the following disc image formats: ISO, MDF, NRG, BIN, IMG.
3. Go to System then Boot CDVD (full). Wait a few moments and your game will load. Enjoy! :)
*If the game doesn't load... hmm... well you probably have a bad ISO. That or maybe the game isn't compatible.
Q: My PS2 game is not an ISO. Help!
PCSX2 only supports games (a.k.a. disc images) in ISO, MDF, NRG, BIN, and IMG. Or more specifically, the filename of your game needs to be "Shadow of Colossus.iso", "Shadow of Colossus.bin", etc. If the game you downloaded is not in these formats, then keep on reading! I'm going to start with the basics...
If your PS2 game is in ZIP, RAR, 7Z format
These formats are forms of compression, and your PS2 game is inside of it! You need to extract it. Windows can extract ZIP files by default; I have directions here. To extract a RAR file you need to install RAR software; 7-Zip and ExtractNow are good free ones. And to extract 7Z you need 7-Zip.
If your PS2 game is in UIF, DAA, CDI, XBX, B51, BWI format
These are ISO formats exclusive to specific burning software. Google around to find what program is associated with that format, install it and burn the game to a DVD. However - if you want my opinion, I say just forget about the obscure format and download the game from somewhere else to get it in ISO or BIN format. Working with these proprietary ISO formats are too much trouble.
You don't need to worry about them! PCSX2 creates them automatically, unlike other emulators that use virtual memory cards.
Simply press Alt+Enter to bring PCSX2 to full screen. Then press Alt+Enter again to bring it back to window mode.
Simply press Escape to pause your current gaming session. When you're ready to continue, go to System then Resume.
Now here's the million dollar question! There's no doubt that you're having speed troubles with PCSX2. You need a fast computer for PCSX2 to run at full speed with its default settings, and not all of us can afford a fast computer. Naturally, to speed things up we need to downgrade PCSX2's performance. To do so:
2. You'll arrive at the screen toward the right. So (1) click the Speedhacks icon, (2) put a check in "Enable Speedhacks", and (3) take note of the outlined area.
3. See those notches under "EE Cyclerate" and "VU Cycle Stealing"? Move them one notch toward the right, as shown here. Click OK when you're done.
4. Continue a game or open a game and see if the speed has improved. If not, go back to the Speedhacks screen and move "EE Cyclerate" and "VU Cycle Stealing" one more notch toward the right.
PCSX2 has great compatibility, but sometimes certain games require hacks enabled to run better; especially Tri-Ace games.
1. Go to Config then Emulation Settings, and click the Game Fixes icon.
2. Put a check in "Enable game fixes" and look in this list for any fix that relates to the game of yours in question.
Save states is a feature that saves the exact spot you are in a game.
1. Once a game is open, press Escape to pause gameplay and go to System > Save State > Slot 0. Your game is now saved! You can choose different slots so you can save several more positions. Go to System > Resume to continue gameplay.
2. To recall a save state, go to System > Save State > Slot 0. If you saved states other than in Slot 0, then choose that slot instead.
Removing the annoying large white box
Is that large white box bothering you? The one that keeps a record of everything you do. Removing it is easy! Just go to Misc > Show Console to remove the check.
Q: My game isn't working!
There can be many things causing this to happen. Let's start with a process of elimination:
• Check to see if the game you're trying to play is compatible with PCSX2. Click here to view the compatibility list. If the game is listed as "Playable" then it should work.
• Did you configure the BIOS?
• Remember, PCSX2 only supports ISO and BIN formats. If you're trying to load another format then that's why it's not working. Read more about this here.
• Are you trying to play a PS2 game that you downloaded? Maybe it's corrupt. Try downloading the game from somewhere else.
Q: Where can I download PS2 games?
Ah, the golden question. Downloading PS2 games is a little tricky since they're very large. Torrents are probably your best option. When in a torrent site, search using keywords with the exact name of the game you're looking for. Good luck!
Chapter 2: The History of Video Game Emulation (not affiliated with this site)
Chapter 3: Downloading & Setting Things Up
Chapter 4: Video Game Emulator Tutorials (below)
Chapter 5: Gamepads
Chapter 6: Extracted Video Game Music