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.
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.
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.
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 favorite 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. And don’t forget, there’s plenty you can do to get more out of your Mac gaming experience.
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