How To Play PlayStation 2 (PS2) Games On Your Mac With PCSX2

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A few years ago Simon took a look at PCSX2, a PlayStation 2 emulator for Windows and Linux. Thanks to a couple of years advancement in hardware and a Mac port, your modern day Apple computer is also a suitable candidate for near-perfect emulation of Sony’s fondly remembered second home console.

This particular tutorial will help you get PCSX2 up and running on a Snow Leopard or Lion Mac computer. Be aware that while a lot of games will be fully playable (some performing at 100% speed at 60fps), others will give you trouble regardless of the computing power at your disposal.

As this is a Mac port of the PC version it lags behind the original in terms of version and some features, though it remains the best Mac PS2 emulator around.

Things You’ll Need

The Mac port of PCSX2 requires a few extra bits of software in order to get things running, all of which are free and easily available. Also requires are relevant PlayStation 2 BIOS files, which you’ll need in order to play anything. If you own a PS2 (or bought one and it no longer works, hence emulation) then these are legal to download.

While it is possible to dump your own BIOS, you’ll need to execute custom code on the console in order to do so. This will require your PS2 to be “chipped”, a process which is not legal. We won’t be telling you how to do this or pointing to any BIOS files, we don’t condone or support piracy here at MakeUseOf.

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Finally you’ll need some games to play. You can check the current compatibility of PCSX2’s various versions with the PlayStation 2’s catalogue in the official compatibility list or wiki. Don’t forget to add reports for any games you end up trying that aren’t listed in order to help the community out. Certain games require specific settings in order to run, and a quick search on the forum or wiki may help resolve performance issues.

The Mac version of PCSX2 currently only supports games in .ISO (disc image) format, and again you’ll need legal ownership of the games in order to download any copies.  If you have a cupboard full of PS2 DVDs then the process to rip your own games is remarkably easy, and perfectly legal for backup purposes.

Install & Setup

The first thing you’ll want to download is the nVidia Cg Toolkit which is required for PCSX2 to run. Once downloaded open the .DMG file then double-click the installer and follow the prompts until the install process completes.

Next head over to the PCSX2 for Mac download page and grab the latest version for your operating system. There are separate versions for Snow Leopard and Lion, as well as some more experimental builds which are more prone to crashing but more advanced in terms of plugin and game support. If you want to play some games without the worry of too many crashes then grab the latest stable version. Once it has downloaded, open the .DMG and drag “pcsx2” into your Applications folder then double click “Libraries.pkg” and follow the prompts to install the libraries.

Once this is done make sure you have your BIOS files handy, and of course a game or two to test.

Playing Games

Launch PCSX2 and a terminal window should launch before an X11 window pops up. First off you’ll want to configure the emulator, so click Config and then Configure. Next you’ll need to specify where you have put your BIOS files by clicking Select Bios Dir and navigating to the correct folder. One thing I’ve noticed in the current version doesn’t like it when your BIOS directory contains spaces, so I had to change “PS2 BIOS” to “PS2BIOS” in order to get it to remember.

You should now be able to choose your BIOS from the drop-down box in the bottom right hand corner. After briefly messing with the graphics settings (by clicking Configure in the Graphics section) I’ve found the settings in the screenshot work best for me on a mid 2012 Retina MacBook Pro, though you’ll naturally want to play around till you’re happy. There are also specific settings for certain games on the right, and these will need to be toggled depending on the title you’re having issues with.

If you have a game controller then you can also configure it in this menu, though you will need to set it up first. You can use an app called Gamepad Companion ($7.99) to configure a range of “PC only” gamepads that work great with emulators like this, though be sure to configure them from this menu before playing.

To launch a game choose File then Run iso image… before locating and selecting the game in question. Clicking Ok will launch the game. You can now enjoy a wealth of PS2 titles on your modern OS X computer. Enjoy!


Do you have any favourite games that work a treat with the Mac version of PCSX2? Any tips for ideal gamepads? Official PS3 and PS2 controllers should work in the latest versions of OS X, without the need for a driver but you might still need Gamepad Companion to help map the buttons to the right functions. I’ve personally had trouble with the latest range of MacBooks however, possibly due to differences with Bluetooth technology in the recent models.

If you’ve got any experiences to share or recommendations to make then be sure to add them in the comments, below.

Image credit: PCSX2 Icon

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38 Comments - Write a Comment



Oh my goodness, I really needed this article! :D I was trying to get PCSX2 to work just a few days ago and almost gave up on it. Thank you!


Spencer Vincent

I got PS3 (the newer one) and loads of PS2 games. Still no way round to use them?


The newer PS3 doesnt have the encoder built in for PS2 games.
Some of the first PS3 had either hardware support and then later software support built in for playing PS2 games.

I bought one with the hardware support and it really works fine with playing the older PS2 games – and new PS3 games.

You can find more information of what versions of the PS3 that are able to run PS2 games : just google PS3 and you will find.


Sohel Zaman

Simply josh and just love it. Surely will give it a try asap.


Ramón García



Rean Uehara

There goes several hours of my day..


Victor Cesto

Nice, I’ll be able to play Tekken on my Mac. Thanks!



download all the stuff… but when i open pcsx2 SL version.. IT just wouldnt open..!! help me..!!

Tim Brookes

What version of OS X are you running? I can’t think why, and it’s been a while since I wrote this, but I doubt the port has been updated for Mountain Lion yet so there may still be some incompatibilities. Otherwise, make sure you have X11 installed and the nVidia Cg toolkit…

Sorry I can’t be of more help!



AHHHHHH, help im running mac os x 10.5.8 and this article help me what am i doing wrong!!!

Tim Brookes

Did you grab the Leopard-specific builds from this page:

From what I remember Leopard requires XQuartz:

Snow Leopard and above don’t need XQuartz (it comes with the OS afaik) but this should help if you’re having trouble on 10.5. Don’t forget you need the nVidia Cg toolkit as well!

Good luck, let us know if it works.




I’m running Snow Leopard and I can’t seem to find libraries.pkg or the NVdia CG Toolkit. I’ve checked with both finder and spotlight. What happened? Also, I never got a .dmg for PCSX2. I got a .pkg which was the installer. I moved PCSX2 into the applications folder once it installed, but now I can’t find libraries.pkg for the next step.


I installed XQuartz, and now when I open PCSX2 it says the libraries aren’t loaded, which is true, but I still can’t find libraries.pkg to load them, and i’ve checked everywhere! It’s like it doesn’t exist on my computer! Any tips on where it might be hiding? Or is it in one of the 3 applications somehow? (PCSX2, XQuartz, or NVdia Toolkit?) I’ve even tried looking through hidden files. It’s no where to be found.

Tim Brookes

I’m not sure, again the Lion version comes as a DMG with the libraries.PKG included. You could always try and install the Lion version and see if that works?

Also consider posting on the forum, someone might have had a similar problem and found the solution. You could always consider upgrading too if your Mac supports the latest releases?



Cant seem to work my ps3 controller with this are there any free gamepad applications ive tried downloading a ps3 driver tool from but nothing works it just quits when i run a game

Tim Brookes

Yeah support is patchy with the new Apple laptops – the Retina MacBook Pro I’ve got isn’t too good with joypads it seems.

I’ve searched high and low and there does not appear to be any free apps for this purpose. GamePad Companion lets you do keyboard mapping, which is good but not perfect though it might have to do. Obviously it’s annoying having to pay for something to find out if it works, but it’s the only choice at the moment. The developer really should offer a free version, I’m sure a lot more people would buy the full version if they could test out a free version first.


Try controller mate. My ps3 controller is working fine after I use the configuration.



why cant i select the bios file when im on the bios directory thing? it wont let me selecet the bios file i downloaded.

Tim Brookes

You need to select the folder it’s located in first, then choose the BIOS file. I’m not sure why this wouldn’t work, but make sure you’ve extracted the file if it’s ZIP/RAR etc…



Every time I try to run the Bios (no disk) to test, I get this error. “GS plugin failed to initialize. Error Code: -1″ I downloaded the cG toolkit and am on Lion. Any thoughts?

Tim Brookes

Aside from checking you’ve got the libraries installed, I can’t think what might be up there. I had no such issues on Lion, and didn’t need to separately install XQuartz either.

Have you tried searching the error you receive? How about posting in the Mac section of the official PCSX2 forum, here:

I can’t think what else it could be, unless you have fairly old hardware (even so, it should still run albeit poorly). Good luck, let us know if you find the solution!



When I launch it I get this error:

Error: Unable to initialize gtk, is DISPLAY set properly?

[Process completed]

I followed all the steps, can you help me please?

Tim Brookes

Are you running Lion? If you are running an earlier version make sure you have XQuartz downloaded and the correct version of the emulator for your OS.

I haven’t tested this in Mountain Lion yet, so if you’re running 10.8 then I’m guessing there are likely to be incompatibilities. I can’t really offer too much more in the way of help, with no way of reproducing the error it could be anything. The best bet is for you to head over to the official forum and see if anyone else has had the issue, or make a new thread:



Mac 10.6.8

Previously tried to run pcsx2 and had some problems. Some sites saying I need CG Toolkit, some saying I needed that & XQuartz. I have both now.

I came across your tutorial and for some reason it’s the only one that works. Perhaps I was downloading an incorrect version of pcsx2 (it came in a disc image with a Libraries.pkg & a WXWidgets.pkg, while yours was simply the application installed directly to my applications folder).

I am having some problems though. I can’t get the graphics to be smooth, and the menus are “doubled” or blurry almost. The sound is also a bit behind. It seems as if that last glossy layer of the game is missing or something.
Also, I made it just past the intro of FFX, entered the second screen, and my controls stopped working (I use the keyboard)

I also read in the comments that I shouldn’t need XQuartz, but when I open pcsx2, it automatically runs as if it’s through XQuartz.

Do you have any insight? Could it be a bad ISO? Both my ISO & my PS2 BIOS are from “legitimate internet businessmen” *cough*

(It had me worried for a while too: before I went into the sound config I wasn’t getting any sound. For some reason the default setting was Mute.)

Tim Brookes

Glad to hear things are half working, at least!

As for your problems, well PCSX2 for Mac needs XQuartz to run so you do need it yes. Before 10.7 (Lion), it was a mandatory download but these days it comes already installed on Lion and Mountain Lion negating the need for a download. You do of course need the CG Toolkit too, for all versions.

The problems you describe sound like typical emulation issues, and I’ve experienced plenty myself on various platforms in the past. Have you tried many more games? I’ve checked the compatibility list and FFX should work, though that is the PC version and not the Mac version of PCSX2. Have you tried messing with graphics settings or looking for special fixes in the advanced settings? I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to suggest, other than trying other games or considering the fact that your hardware might not be PCSX2-friendly.

I don’t think the BIOS will have much to do with it, though you should always try and make sure the BIOS matches the region of the ISO, but then often the games won’t run unless you do. I’d try a few more games (perhaps FF7?) and see how far you get. The fact that you can get it to run at all is a good start, remember that!

After some more Googling I found this thread which might help you out: – It talks about changing the graphics plugin, which sounds like a good start. It’s slightly outdated, but not in your case as you’re still on 10.6 :)

Good luck, let us know how it goes.



What are BIOS files?

Tim Brookes

A BIOS file is an image of the machine’s BIOS – i.e. the machine’s firmware. BIOS stands for Basic Input/Output System and acts almost like a fingerprint for the hardware. In modern consoles the BIOS is required to run any games, and often dictates the region – i.e. PAL or NTSC. By changing the BIOS file you can effectively change the version and region of the console.


How do I get the bios? Also, I have a couple games I would like to try, can I just put them in my Mac or do I have to copy them first? If so, how? Are there more detailed directions on how to do everything needed?




Please help, when i try and locate the directory of the bios file, it is faded and i cant click on it. What might be causing this?

Tim Brookes

Hmmm… I’m sorry but I don’t know, I haven’t had that problem. Have you restarted and tried multiple times?



Why go through all this hoops and install a flawed old version. Installing Windows on Virtual Box, and THEN installing PCSX2 for Windows is easier, faster and way more satisfying.

Tim Brookes

I don’t buy that I’m afraid, especially with Virtual Box. Maybe if you were using Parallels or another VM package that has semi-decent 3D support, but you’re way more likely to encounter graphical problems, glitches, missing textures and such using Windows 7 on Virtual Box with experimental 3D support.

Maybe it’s better with Vista or XP, but on my rMBP (mid 2012) the 3D support in VB on Win 7 is crap.



This wont work for me. i run pcsx2 and it opens terminal and an x11 window called Bash saying i dont have any libraries even though i made sure i had everything.



when i run the pcsx2 it works fine and everything but when i run the .iso for the game i wanna play it suddenly closes and says pcsx2 has “quit unexpectedly” i tried configuring the cpu thingy and the game actually runs just at a verrry slow ffp but its too slow to even play… is there another solution? please help :'(

Tim Brookes

Unfortunately it just sounds like a case of bad emulation. It might be worth looking up the game in question e.g. “Metal Gear Solid PSX emulation” to see if others have had similar issues with it.

Don’t forget not all games will work!



I’m running a PCSX2 emulator on a Macbook Pro Retina Display laptop and the game, Persona 4 runs perfect. It just has terrible overlapping texture problems. Do you think there’s a way to fix this? An example of the texture problem is the bodies are see through , sometimes the backgrounds layers are moved to the top making it hard to see the things under it and walls are see through things like this. I tried looking around but i can’t find i solution so far,,. Do you know anyway to fix this? Thanks in advance :)

Tim Brookes

Unfortunately the best I can do is point you to the PCSX wiki entry for the game in question:

It looks like a lot of people have had success with it, and they have noted their graphics configurations there so maybe have a play around. There is also a note about a serious texture problem.

Emulation is patchy at best, and speaking from experience often the best way to try and fix these pesky bugs is to experiment.

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