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.

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.

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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!

Conclusion

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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Comments (38)
  • krayon

    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: http://wiki.pcsx2.net/index.php/Shin_Megami_Tensei:_Persona_4

      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.

  • nininionn

    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!

  • craftylamma

    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.

  • bert

    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.

  • Mimi

    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?

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.