When you look at the list of Android emulators, you'll find a lot of recurring themes. There are many more NES and SNES emulators available than for something like the PS1 or PS2. A lot of that has to do with the difference in graphics for what Sony was using back in the day, even compared to other graphics-intensive consoles like the Dreamcast or N64.
So when you're searching through the best emulators for Android looking for a great PS2 pick, there simply just aren't as many options. And this may come as a bit of a surprise considering just how popular the PS2 was and continues to be for many. Thankfully, if you're dead set on emulating some of your favorite PS2 games on your Android phone, you're not completely out of luck.
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Even though there aren't too many PS2 emulators for Android out there, the few available on the Play Store are great. AetherSX2 swooped onto the scene in December 2021, and though it's still in early access, it's made a name for itself as the go-to PS2 emulator on Android systems.
You'll need a fairly high-end Android device to play it with the best performance possible since it recommends a Snapdragon 845 (or equivalent). Anything less will cause performance to suffer — though this will vary from title to title. Developer Tahlreth also recommends devices uses Adreno GPUs as opposed to those with Mali or PowerVR GPUs.
AetherSX2 features settings that can be adjusted on a per-game level, touchscreen and Bluetooth controller support, save states, widescreen patches and upscaling, and a lot more.
What makes it even better is that it uses the same code as PCSX2, another well-known PS2 emulator built for PC, so it has a strong support foundation. Tahlreth received permission to use the code and it is licensed under the LGPL. As we'll go into later, the same can't be said for DamonPS2.
AetherSX2 has quickly become the go-to PS2 emulator on the scene, using the same code as PCSX2. It's still in early access and has some issues to work out, but it's easily one of the best PS2 emulators you can download for Android today.
Download from: Google Play Store
Unlike something like ePSXe for PS1 emulators, Play! is a relatively new emulator to land on the Play Store. And like its PS1 counterpart, it doesn't go down the RetroArch path by being compatible with a bunch of different consoles. Instead, the developers are only focusing on being able to provide a solid emulation experience for those who want to play PS2 games on their Android phones.
Because the app is still relatively new to the scene, you won't find a bunch of bells and whistles to tweak gameplay settings. But what you will find is an automatic library scanner that locates your PS2 games and doesn't require you to download and use a BIOS in order to work.
You won't find a vast library of supported games, as the developers are continuing to push regular updates to fix issues that arise. For example, the current version number on the Play Store is only 0.51, so Play! hasn't even hit its 1.0 release yet. The developers do have a list of compatible (and non-compatible) games on GitHub, so you can sift through to see what works and what doesn't. Best of all, Play! is completely free to download and use, and you won't have to worry about any in-app purchases.
If you want the best PS2 emulation experience on Android, then Play! is the way to go. The app is in constant development, is open source, and the developers even a running list of compatible games.
Download from: Google Play Store
Why we recommend that you stay away from Damon PS2
For years, DamonPS2 has been the default PS2 emulator on Android, as there really haven't been any other contenders. However, in the past few years, there have been some rather questionable discoveries made by users who have dug deep into the company behind DamonPS2 and the information that is collected on your device.
Thanks to the EmuGen Wiki and some Reddit investigating, there are more than a few privacy concerns to be aware of. First of all, DamonPS2 is closed source, which isn't strange on its face since there are plenty of apps that go this route versus being open source. However, with the update to version 3.0, DamonPS2 started requiring a constant internet connection and access to users' personal data, such as contacts and location data.
And if that wasn't enough, there's also the matter of whether the DamonPS2 team "stole" code from the developers of PCSX2. This is another PS2 emulator (and a quite popular one) for PC users who want to play their favorite PS2 games. In a blog post back in 2018, the developers released a statement in regards to the code that they claimed was stolen by the DamonPS2 developers. At the time, DamonPS2 was removed from the Play Store before the requested DMCA takedown was able to run its course, which would have left DamonPS2 banned from the Play Store.
Finally, there's the matter of performance. DamonPS2 is only recommended to be used with devices using at least the Snapdragon 835 chipset. This leaves plenty of potential users left with subpar performance, which is just not a great experience, especially if you were to spring for "DamonPS2 Pro."
The fact of the matter is that while Play! and AetherSX2 are still being actively developed, they're really the only PS2 emulators that we can recommend in good faith. There seems to be no "funny business" taking place, and since both are open source, this makes it easier for bugs to get squashed and the development process to continue to progress.
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Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.
- Jennifer LockeGames Editor - PlayStation, Android, VR