Finally. Android CPU’s are now powerful enough to emulate Sony Playstation 2. Luckily, we got a competent developer (Tahlreth) that is truly talented and gifted us a working version of the emulator, AetherSX2. While not (yet) perfect, you can play your PS2 ISO’s on your phone, but only if you have a Snapdragon 8xx tier chip at your disposal.
AetherSX2 easy tutorial
Here is what you need to get started. It’s really simple as long as you have a bios dump and PS2 ISO games already on your phone.
- Head over to Google Play and download AetherSX2. If the link goes down, check the bottom of this page.
- Make a folder on your storage called ROMS. If you don’t know how to do this, or how to use X-Plore, check out this guide. Or my Duke 3D tutorial for a video.
- Copy the PS2 Bios and your ISO games to that folder.
- Launch AetherSX2 and follow the first on-screen wizard. Load your PS2 Bios and point the emulator to the ROMS folder you created.
- Accept defaults for everything else, but switch OpenGL to Vulkan if you are running Mali GPU
That covers the basics. From this point, all you have to do is tap the desired game and the emulator will launch it. Memory cards, as well as save states are fully supported, so make sure you use them.
Let’s be honest here, if you don’t have any external controller already attached to your phone, it’s time to buy one. It doesn’t matter if you are using $15 AliExpress clone or Razer Kishi v2, everything beats the touchscreen. Then again, if you don’t like lugging around an extra piece of gaming equipment, the touch screen is still a viable option for games that don’t require fast reflexes (RPG’s for example).
Yes, AetherSX2 can map almost any controller. It doesn’t matter if it’s Direct or Xinput, if it connects to your phone, you can map the buttons. But, in case you still wish to try the on-screen controls, I will gladly inform you that they work better than expected. Especially for games that are using the analog stick. Everything is neatly packed, responsive and everything can be reorganized, resized and re-arranged. Compared to FPSe and ePSXe, AetherSX2 on-screen controls are godlike.
AetherSX2 graphics and hacks
If original PS2 graphics are too dull for you, AeherSX2 can upscale the resolution with a simple tap or two. Of course, that process requires pure horsepower under your touchscreen, and last gen CPU’s like Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 just won’t cut it. Upscaling beyond 2x native resolution requires something like Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 or MediaTek Dimensity 9200 with healthy amount of RAM as well.
But sure, if you can provide the oomph, AetherSX2 will happily render it out, rainbows will appear, fireworks will light up your (AMOLED) screen and everything will be right in the universe once again.
That is, if you have a Galaxy S23+, Oppo Find X6, OnePlus 11 or something in that rank sitting in your pocket. Otherwise, stick to the native resolution.
If you stumble upon a game that simply refuses to work, there are number of things you can try to “fix” it. Start by long tapping the game name and selecting “Game Properties”. Once inside, select the “General Settings” tab and tap the “Set Fast Settings” option. This will enable user-provided patch codes that will likely help in extreme situations. This is not recommended for games that run great out of the box, like God of War 1 for example. While in the properties menu, you can also alter graphic settings, controls, audio or manually assign “Game Fixes”. If you mess something up, just get back to the “General Settings” tab and tap “Set Optimal Settings” to revert it back to normal.
AetherSX2 is simply great
No, it’s not perfect, no emulator is, but AetherSX2 is truly a great piece of software. It even supports retroachievements, and is flexible enough to provide you enjoyable experience.
Since Sony Playstation 2 uses DVD as a medium, games can often be quite large (3 to 4 Gigabytes), which makes transferring your entire library on your phone nearly impossible. No matter if you have 2TB SD Card or 1 TB phone storage, you will run out of space eventually. Best practice is to select 2-3 games you want to play right now, and keep them on your phone storage. Finish them, delete the files and add another batch.
Don’t worry, all you need is a file manager to back up AetherSX2 save states and memory cards. The correct save state locations are “/Internal Storage/Android/Data/xyz.aethersx2.android”. Here you will find two folders, memcards and sstates. Simply copy those folders to a safe location and back them up!
Did the development stop for AetherSX2?
Unfortunately it did. I don’t have a first hand information what exactly happened, but judging by this thread on Reddit, people were acting like people do, they didn’t bother to do their own research and used the developers discord channel as a help desk. This apparently made the developer angry, so he stepped aside. The last official version is 1.4, and there is an alpha build (1.5) that you can try for yourself from the link below.
Hopefully Tahlreth will change his mind and continue to support AetherSX2, or at least some other talented person will pick it up (if possible at all) and continue the development process.
For now, you can still get the latest 1.4 version on the Play Store, the official site or the backup I provided. Please just don’t blindly install any APK file you come across on the web, it can really mess up your phone for good.
Dejan B. – “AetherSX2 PS2 on Android” PS2 on Android