Gaming 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Collecting for the PlayStation 2

 
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Introduction

Welcome to the wonderful world of video game collecting for the PlayStation 2, a place where the lines between hobby and hoarding are blurred.

All kidding aside, there’s a lot to love when it comes to the venerable PS2, launched all the way back in the year 2000. In fact, I’ve recently started rebuilding my PS2 game collection and it’s been an enjoyable experience revisiting old titles and playing through games I missed the first time around.

With more than 150 million units sold, the PlayStation 2 is the best-selling video game console of all-time. Nearly 4,000 games were released on the system worldwide, of which there are more than 1.5 billion copies in circulation.

What this means for collectors is that unlike older and more coveted consoles, supplies of PlayStation 2 consoles and games are both plentiful and affordable.

Many of the staples of the console, games like Metal Gear Solid 2 & 3, Final Fantasy X, or God of War, can be easily acquired complete with manual for under $10 apiece. Needless to say, this makes it a great time to be a PlayStation 2 collector.

Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide answering all of your PlayStation 2 collecting questions. We’ll help you figure out which PS2 console version to choose, what games are worth playing, where you can find games and accessories, and much more.

Ready to learn how to collect for the PS2? Let’s begin.

Why Collect For The PlayStation 2?

The PlayStation 2 is a veritable goldmine of ‘00-era gaming’s greatest hits. Don’t just take my word for it - there are three primary reasons why gamers of all ages and experience levels should consider collecting PS2 games:

  1. It’s still quite affordable.

  2. PS2 games are easy to find.

  3. The PS2 game portfolio is massive AND high quality.

For the $60 you’d spend on a AAA modern release, you could instead purchase a literal armful of masterpiece PS2 titles. That’s a whole lotta bang for your buck.

Parents, take note. You can walk into practically any used or vintage game store (like my local favorite, VIP Gamestore) and find a plethora of titles on the shelf suitable for any age range, most of which are priced in the $5 - $10 range.

So now that you’re on-board with the awesome console known as the PS2, where do you start?

The PlayStation 2 Console

  Left:  Original PlayStation 2, with vertical stand  Right:  Slimline PlayStation 2, with vertical stand, 8 MB memory card and DualShock 2 controller

Left: Original PlayStation 2, with vertical stand
Right: Slimline PlayStation 2, with vertical stand, 8 MB memory card and DualShock 2 controller

[Note: If you’ve already nabbed a PlayStation 2 console, you can of course skip ahead to choosing which games you want to play.]

Not all PlayStation 2 consoles are created equal. There are two main iterations of the PS2 hardware: the original PlayStation 2 (often called the “PS2 Fat”) and the slimline model (sometimes called the “PS2 Slim”).

Both are capable of playing CD-ROM and DVD-ROM media and are backwards compatible with original PlayStation games.

Deciding on which version to get will mostly boil down to personal preference, though I will of course highlight any advantages or disadvantages below. Opinions vary in the community, but the main differences come down to the following:


Original PS2

Advantages:

  • Contains a 3.5” expansion bay for internal hard disk drives (HDD). This allows partial game installs and backing up memory card data.

  • The larger case accommodates more third-party mods.

  • Memory card and controller slots are spaced apart and this makes it easier to plug and unplug them.

Disadvantages:

  • Requires an internet adapter for online connectivity.

  • Older models have disc-tray ejection motor reliability issues.

  • While it’s capable of standing upright, the disc-tray design can damage discs. With the original PS2 discs are unsecured and may be jostled and scratched during use.

  • No integrated IR port for pre SCPH-500xx models. Requires dongle to use DVD controller.


Slimline PS2

Advantages:

  • Quieter fans and performance.

  • Significantly smaller console.

  • Built-in ethernet port.

  • No motorized disc-tray. The tray's lid pops open instead.

  • Was designed to safely stand vertical w/ a stand without damaging discs. Discs are secured directly onto the spindle beneath the disc tray lid.

  • Integrated IR port for DVD remote controller.

Disadvantages:

  • No 3.5” HDD expansion bay.

  • Unless you have model SCPH-70000, no slimline consoles possess the circuitry required to connect a HDD.

  • More difficult to modify as the case is smaller.

  • Memory card and controller slots are placed very close together. It saves space but can make them more difficult to unplug.


Both the original and slimline models received several hardware revisions. These increased laser reliability, changed board configurations, and generally improved upon each model in small but helpful ways.

I currently own a silver PlayStation 2 slimline that I purchased brand new at GameCrazy before the company went out of business. I’ve since modified it with a flip-tray to facilitate disc-swapping imported games. While I have owned the original PS2 before, I prefer the slimline for how compact and quiet it is.

At the end of the day, you should attempt to find the newest version of whichever you choose (original or slimline) to take advantage of these hardware revisions and get the most longevity out of your console.

Console Alternatives

Perhaps you’re feeling adventurous or simply don’t have access to a PlayStation 2 console. There are alternatives available - but each are situational depending on what hardware you currently have available.

The main alternatives to the PlayStation 2 console include:

PlayStation 3

We won’t go into a lot of detail here, but there is a backwards compatible version of the PlayStation 3 that will play most PS2 games. These include the 60GB and 20GB launch versions of the PS3, whose emulation is accomplished by containing actual PS2 “Emotion” chips inside of them.

The 80GB Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle WAS backwards compatible, but it was only through emulation software and is no longer functional.

Tracking down a backwards compatible PlayStation 3 will likely prove to be a pain, but if you do manage to find one (or already have one) it can be a convenient way to cut down on space in your entertainment center.

If you don’t have a functioning PlayStation 2 or backwards compatible PlayStation 3, there’s still another option: emulation.

Emulation

As long as you’re providing a PlayStation 2 BIOS from a lawfully purchased PS2, it’s perfectly legal to emulate lawfully purchased PS2 games on your computer.

The most popular option for PlayStation 2 emulation is PCSX2. The main advantages to playing your PS2 games on the computer is significantly improved resolution and downsampling options. Virtual memory cards with save states and widescreen hacks also add to the appeal.

Emulation plays an important role in preserving the rich history of gaming, though this guide you’re reading is primarily focused on collecting original PlayStation 2 hardware and software. If you want more information about emulating PlayStation 2 games, I recommend reading this helpful article by Wes Fenlon for PC Gamer titled, “Why you should play PS2 classics on PC, not PS4.”

...Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Which PlayStation 2 Games Should I Get?

Now that we’ve got the hardware out of the way, it’s time to move onto games. The PlayStation 2’s catalog of games is overwhelmingly vast (4,000+ titles worldwide), especially if you haven’t had the pleasure of immersing yourself in it before.

Before I get into specific title recommendations, there’s something else you should take into consideration: game condition.

Is it important to you that the game has the original case and manual? Does the disc have any significant scratches? These can affect the price (and value) of your chosen game. All the games I purchase are pre-owned and my criteria is that each game should be in good condition and complete with box, art, and manual. It’s a personal decision, so find what works best for you as a collector.

Now it’s time for the games themselves. To make the process easier, below you’ll find my recommendations of titles that every PlayStation 2 owner should try at least once. These are not necessarily the “best” games on PS2 and tastes will vary, but it is a great place to start as you begin to explore all the titles the system has to offer. Check back periodically as this list will continue to be expanded.

Without further ado:

Final Fantasy X

Price Range: $5 - $10

Final Fantasy X is a role-playing game (RPG) set in the fictional world of Spira. The game chronicles the adventures of a young man named Tidus as he and his companions battle to stop the rampaging monster who destroyed his hometown.

The game is rendered in 3D and is the first Final Fantasy title to feature voice acting. Gameplay is standard RPG fare, which each character taking turns performing an attack or action. Characters earn experience and level up as you battle enemies and progress through the game.

The first time I played Final Fantasy X was 2002, a year after it was released. This was the first Final Fantasy title to be released on the PlayStation 2 and it became both a critical and commercial success.

I consider it to be one of the greatest video games of all time and is a worthwhile addition to any PlayStation 2 collection. I re-purchased the game for $7.49 on eBay. It is in pristine condition and comes with the disc, manual, and original case art.

God of War

Price Range: $5 - $10

God of War is the myth-based story of a Spartan warrior named Kratos and his journey to claim vengeance against Ares, (you guessed it) the God of War. The game was released in 2005 and is a third-person action-adventure for one player only.

This title features hack-and-slash combo-based combat, puzzle solving, and platforming elements. In the game, players will battle a variety of mythological enemies in multiple locations of ancient Greece. You’ll meet multiple Olympian Gods - some friend, some foe - in your quest for revenge.

God of War was critically acclaimed upon release and sold more than 4.6 million copies worldwide. The sequel, God of War II, was released in 2007 and is also one of the console’s most acclaimed titles.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

Price Range: $10 - $15

Metal Gear Solid 3 was the second game in the series to be released on the PlayStation 2. Subsistence is a re-release of the game that features a new camera system that vastly improves the gameplay experience.

Set in the 1960s, this stealth-focused prequel explores the origins of a U.S. special forces operative codenamed “Naked Snake,” as he attempts to sabotage an experimental super-weapon with the power to slaughter untold millions. He’s assisted from afar by various advisors and allies. The story is primarily told through cutscenes and radio conversations.

Players will camouflage themselves and sneak through a Soviet-controlled jungle, battle Soviet soldiers, and face a variety of challenging boss fights that require careful strategy and preparation. Throughout the game, Snake will suffer injuries that must be treated by the player. In addition Snake’s stamina will continuously decrease, forcing players to forage for food in order to maintain his strength.

Metal Gear Solid 3 is one of my favorite games of all-time and I highly recommend it. The retro-theme, stealth action, challenging bosses, and Snake’s unique sense of humor all combine to form a compelling and entertaining gaming experience.

Resident Evil 4

Price Range: $5 - $10

Resident Evil 4 marked a dramatic shift in both gameplay and storytelling for the landmark horror franchise. Gone are the tank-like controls and locked camera angles in lieu for a more action-centric third-person game. Originally intended to be a Nintendo GameCube exclusive, the PlayStation 2 port was later released in October 2005. This title reached the PlayStation 2 with the added bonus of a side mission titled “Separate Ways” that wasn’t featured on the GameCube release.

Players assume the role of Leon Kennedy, a former cop and one of the main characters from Resident Evil 2. Six years have passed and Leon has become a special agent tasked with rescuing the U.S. President’s kidnapped daughter. Throughout the course of his investigation in an unnamed rural area of Spain, Leon discovers that the local population has been infected with a strange but deadly mutating parasite.

You’ll battle a variety of monsters (no zombies this time) and parasite-controlled villagers as you search for the President’s daughter, uncovering a sinister plot in the process. Players acquire and upgrade new weapons throughout the game, battle bosses, attempt to survive a truckload of quick-time events, and make it through the other side unscathed.

Resident Evil 4 is intense, innovative, and ultimately an entertaining ride worth taking. Have an open mind - it ushered in a new era of over-the-shoulder third-person action games in the mid to late 2000s.

“Leon, help!”

Shadow of the Colossus

Price Range: $10 - $15

Shadow of the Colossus is challenging and haunting, yet certainly proof of the artistic talent that goes into video game development. This 2005 action-adventure classic puts players in the role of Wander, a young man on a journey to revive a woman named Mono. He makes a deal with a powerful entity who promises to restore Mono’s life, but only if Wander successfully locates and defeats the sixteen colossi that reside throughout the world.

Each colossus is a towering beast with its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Battling and defeating each is no small feat. Accompanying Wander on his quest is a horse named Argo who serves as transportation and a useful ally against the colossi. These boss fights require trial and error as well as patience and careful timing.

The art direction and graphics themselves are stunning. Landscapes stretch out in the distance and convey a sense of loneliness as you fulfill the monumental task of slaying the sixteen colossi practically alone. Shadow of the Colossus is a difficult and beautiful game. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but is certainly well-worth the price of admission to find out.

A remake of Shadow of the Colossus is released on February 6th, 2018 for the PlayStation 4.

Viewtiful Joe

Price Range: $10 - $15

Viewtiful Joe was one of 2004’s most colorful PS2 releases, blending cel-shaded art with its old-school beat-’em-up roots. Movie-buff protagonist Joe is sucked into his favorite superhero film (like The Last Action Hero, but better) and is given the power to become the crime-fighter known as Viewtiful Joe.

Thrust into the leading role, Joe must battle a collection of motley villains in order to rescue his girlfriend who was kidnapped from the real world. Viewtiful Joe is a love-letter to both the beat-’em-ups of the 80s and 90s, and classic Japanese superhero TV shows of the 70s and 80s (like Kamen Rider).

This side-scroller game is over-the-top, visually appealing, hilarious, and above all a blast to play. While it was originally a GameCube exclusive, I’m just glad that Viewtiful Joe and its sequel made it to the PlayStation 2.

“Henshin-a-go-go, baby!”

Where Do I Buy PlayStation 2 Games?

Hunting down PlayStation 2 games is half the fun because most titles are so plentiful. I personally keep a digital list of my current PS2 library along with my list of games I’d like to try or own.

There are four primary ways I’ve found to locate PS2 games. Each have their own inherent advantages and disadvantages. These are local buying and selling listings, game stores, thrift stores, and online shopping.

Local Buy / Sell Listings

It’s a common on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other similar sites to find someone trying to offload an old PS2 console and a handful of games. Prices vary wildly. Some sellers have no clue of the value of their games and just want to offload them as soon as possible. Other sellers over-value their titles and will try to nickel-and-dime you to get as much as possible. All this is to say that your mileage may vary.

From personal experience and anecdotes from our good friend Conrad, I would avoid buying a big box of games if most of the titles aren’t ones you want. Sports games are notoriously difficult to re-sell as their value is so low.

Bring your best negotiation skills to the table and you may be able to work out a sweet deal!

Advantages:

  • You can see the games / console in person to determine condition.

  • Bartering may help you score a good price.

  • Instant gratification and no waiting for delivery.

Disadvantages:

  • Your likelihood of finding a particular game is limited by geography.

  • Sellers may seriously overprice their items. This may be due to ignorance of actual worth or sentimental value.

Local Game Stores

When I say local games stores I am referring to small local businesses rather than large chains like GameStop. It’s good to support small businesses in your community, but I also specify because most corporate retailers have long since discontinued carrying PS2 games. Some with a more retro focus may.

Local games stores are a great way to browse large offerings of PlayStation 2 titles, and they may even carry multiple copies of popular titles. This allows you to choose whichever copy is in the best condition. I’ve also found that local game stores

Advantages:

  • You can browse (hopefully) a wide selection of games.

  • Prices may be cheaper than online retailers or auction sites.

  • You can likely trade in other video game related products in exchange for in-store credit to use toward PlayStation 2 games.

Disadvantages:

  • Potentially difficult to find uncommon or rare titles depending on how actively the store receives trade-ins.

  • Prices can be higher than online. Local businesses sometimes raise prices above market value to stay afloat.

Thrift Stores / Pawn Shops

Your success level with thrift stores and pawn shops will vary wildly because neither specializes in in borderline “retro” video games. It’s all the luck of the draw. You never know what someone will pawn or donate however so it can be a highly effective method of scoring of scoring PlayStation 2 games and accessories cheaply.

On a related note, I know of one person who found a legitimate copy of Castlevania: Dracula X on the Super Nintendo at a Goodwill thrift store for 99 cents. That game routinely sells for $150+. Talk about the find of a century.

Advantages:

  • When you do find games, prices are generally well-below market value.

  • Pawn shops are a good place to find rarer and more valuable titles because the money the pawner receives directly correlates to the value they provide.

Disadvantages:

  • Difficult to find any particular video game title at thrift stores since they’re donations.

  • Disc-based games donated to thrift stores are often in poor shape.

  • Pawn shops tend to only buy valuable games - this typically means newer releases and not vintage or near-vintage. The only usual exceptions is if it’s a large lot sold together or if the game is particularly valuable (ex. Rule of Rose).

Online

I love shopping online because of how easy it becomes to find practically any console and game imaginable. This is what makes it the most obvious method used by gamers to find specific video game titles. Market standard rates for games do fluctuate over time and you can track the value of any particular game at Price Charting.

The two primary marketplaces online are eBay’s auctions and Amazon’s third-party fixed-price listings. Both can be excellent methods to find PS2 games of all rarities.

Advantages:

  • Widest selection of PS2 games possible. If it exists, you can probably find it online.

  • Prices (especially on auction sites) vary and you can get lucky and nab titles below market value.

Disadvantages:

  • Counterfeit video games are common online, especially on auction sites. For PS2 all you really need to worry about are resealed games sold as “new” or reprinted booklets and cover art. These can typically be spotted if you’re observant.

  • Descriptions of game condition or damage are not always accurate. Don’t bid on or buy anything without high quality pictures that document the condition.

What About PlayStation 2 Accessories?

The PlayStation 2 is compatible with a wide variety of accessories. These include mostly controllers, cables, and others like memory cards. Depending on the quality and function, they can each have an impact on the enjoyment you have with your PS2 gaming experience.

Controllers

Whether you choose first-party Sony controllers or a third-party option, you’re gonna need a controller to play. You can even find modern improvements like bluetooth adapters or wireless controllers, which I’ll go into further.

DualShock 2 Controller (and Alternatives)

 Dualshock 2 controller

Dualshock 2 controller

The DualShock 2 is Sony’s standard controller for the PlayStation 2. It’s comfortable, reliable, and well-made. At 7.8t ft (2.4 m) in length, the DualShock 2 is generally sufficient for most gaming spaces. Generally speaking, if you’re going to use a wired controller with you PS2 I recommend sticking with Sony’s offering. Generics from MadCatz and the like are of a cheaper build quality and in my opinion aren’t as comfortable as Sony’s design.

If you need more range or don’t like the idea of using a corded controller, there are in fact wireless alternatives. For example, Cacella offers a 2.4Ghz wireless generic equivalent of the DualShock 2 on Amazon. If you’d rather use Sony-branded controllers, there’s a way to do that too.

Sold by Gam3Gear, the Brook Super USB Adapter will allow you to connect your PS3 or PS4 wireless controllers to your PS2. The first time you use it you’ve gotta connect your controller via cable, but afterward it will sync to the dongle wirelessly. This is a convenient option if you prefer the quality of Sony’s official controllers.

Arcade Sticks

If you’re a fighting game aficionado, few things in life will bring you greater joy than an arcade stick. These large blocky controllers feature arcade accurate sticks and buttons. They’re accurate, durable, and nostalgic. Hori is the most recognizable manufacturer of such arcade sticks, though MadCatz has offered some in the past.

You can either find an arcade stick specifically designed for the PS2 or use the Brook Super USB Adapter I previously mentioned to get PS3 / PS4 arcade sticks to function on the PS2.

An affordable yet good quality alternative is the Mayflash Universal Arcade Fighting Stick. It features a USB cable in addition to the proprietary PS2 plug. I particularly enjoy using arcade sticks for games like the Street Fighter Anniversary Collection or Capcom VS SNK 2.

Other Peripherals

Here’s where things start to get interesting. Music / rhythm games, dance games, driving games, and more all often require specialized controllers to play.

Your most common types of controllers for music / rhythm games are microphones, guitars, and drums. These are used for games like Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Singstar, and other similar games. Each game was often originally bundled with the necessary controller.

If for whatever reason you don’t have the controller, your best bet to locate one will likely be to look locally at a game store or order one online. Some controllers are console specific so be careful when purchasing one otherwise it may not be usable with the PlayStation 2.

Dancing games are similar - franchises like Dance Dance Revolution typically come packaged with a dancing mat controller. Replacements can be found online or in person. If you get one secondhand, I recommend trying it out first to guarantee that it is fully functioning. It’s not uncommon for a game mat that’s been repeatedly stomped on to eventually break down and cease functioning.

In the case of driving games, it is more uncommon to see steering wheel controllers packaged with the game itself. These are often optional but available for players who don’t mind shelling out the extra cash to improve the realism of the game or gain enjoyment from the simulated driving experience.

Most other peripherals are only useful on a case by case basis. These can include the EyeToy, Buzz! Buzzers, and a few other random ones. As always, check the back of your game’s case to see what controllers it requires or is compatible with.

A/V Cables

Composite

The composite cable is the standard red / yellow / white cable that comes with the console. You’re probably familiar with it if you have a Super Nintendo, N64, GameCube, PS1, or any other older console. The visual fidelity is acceptable if you’re playing on an old CRT television, but on any type of HD television I wholeheartedly recommend upgrading ASAP. Don’t throw away your composite cables, however, as they’re a necessary evil if you want to watch DVDs or play PS1 games.

Component

Component cables (also called YPbPr cables) are in my opinion the best audio-visual option for playing games natively on the PS2. Most televisions still have component inputs but some newer TVs manufactured post-2016 do not, as I found out the hard way. Component cables will allow you to enjoy PS2 games in 480i, which is the highest quality video mode the PS2 is capable of out of the box.

I already said it, but it’s worth repeating: you can’t play PS1 games on the PS2 while using component cables or PS2 to HDMI adapters. All that’ll show up is a blank screen, so it’s a good idea to hang onto your composite cables if you plan to take advantage of the backwards compatibility.

PS2 to HDMI Adapter

Amazon stocks a variety of PS2 to HDMI adapters that you can plug directly into the back of your PS2 that allows you to use an HDMI cable with the console. This allows you to get component cable quality without having to purchase the component cable itself.

The usefulness of this is situational. In my particular case, my 4K television doesn’t have component inputs so I was forced to find a different solution. I wasn’t about to suffer through the blurry mess of using composite only.

There is a trade-off to using these adapters. It requires external power through a micro-USB cable (which is included) and that can be plugged into any USB port of the PS2. In addition, this adapter protrudes approximately an inch and a half out of the back of the console.

If you’re using a PS2 slim, the placement of micro-USB input is annoying as it gets in the way of the power cable input. Definitely a poor design decision. Since my PS2 never moves from its place on my entertainment center, this isn’t much of a hassle but it is something to be aware of if you don’t have a lot of space.

Alternatives

If you’re feeling like trying something different, you can also find RGB SCART and S-Video cables that are compatible with the PlayStation 2. The usefulness of either cable will be situational for the average PS2 player.

In my experience, RGB SCART cable does make certain colors appear more vibrantly, and is especially noticeable in comparison with composite cables where colors may be more muted. Visual clarity is also improved - you’ll have a similar experience using a PS2 to S-Video cable. (Fun fact: S-Video inputs can still be found on a variety of computer monitors.)

To be fair, both options provide a better visual experience than the standard composite cables but finding modern televisions that will support these is challenging unless you use a SCART to HDMI converter box.

Other Accessories

Memory Cards

 ps2's 8 mb memory card

ps2's 8 mb memory card

Memory cards are one of the most essential accessories for anyone who wants to play PS2 games. Sony’s official memory cards were only ever produced in 8 MB, which is not a lot. As your game library grows you may even find yourself running out of space.

You can find officially licensed third-party memory cards in 16 MB and 32 MB. If you don’t mind dabbling in unofficial third-party memory cards, I’ve seen some sellers online offer as large a capacity as 128 MB. Beware if you see any card online touting credentials as “official Sony product” if it’s above 8 MB.

In my current setup I use two Sony 8 MB memory cards. I’ve dabbled in third-party memory cards but generally stick to my tried-and-true Sony PS2 memory cards, model SCPH-10020. There’s a practical reason for my decision: higher capacity third-party cards often use compressed memory and as such are more liable to suffer data losses. I’ve experienced this while using third-party cards for both my PS2 and GameCube and it’s incredibly frustrating to get “data corruption” or “please insert memory card” messages.

Your mileage may vary, but in my case two Sony 8 MB memory cards is enough space for me generally. When I lose interest in a game or finish it I’ll typically delete most of the associated saves. Some games take up more space than others, especially sports games with large rosters or career modes. It wouldn’t be nearly enough space I wanted to have save files for all 60+ games in my collection all at once, however.

Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. Less storage space per card means you’ll need more cards to store all of your save data.

Hard Disk Drives (HDD)

 Playstation hdd w/ network adapter

Playstation hdd w/ network adapter

Introduced in models SCPH-30000 and SCPH-50000, the original PlayStation 2 console contains a 3.5” expansion bay that is designed for both the network adapter and HDD.

[Note: It’s worth mentioning that earlier models were only released in Japan and contained a PCMCIA slot instead. All U.S. release original PS2 consoles contain the expansion bay. This expansion bay was removed completely from the slimline.]

The PlayStation 2 HDD requires a network adapter, as it connects to and draws power from it. Once the combined HDD / network adapter assembly is inserted into the back of the PS2, it’s secured externally with two screws.

Sony’s official HDD has a capacity of 40 GB, though you can use different capacity hard disks that aren’t Sony brand. “Official” usage of the HDD allows you to primarily do two things: backup memory card data and partially install games to reduce loading times. Only 35 North American games support this installation feature.

“Unofficial” usage of the HDD allows you to accomplish a lot more. I won’t get into too much detail, but it is possible to use unofficial software and methods via HD Loader and HD Advance to copy games to the HDD and play them without the discs. From a legal standpoint, this is viewed similarly to ripping your own games to create ROMs for use with emulators. You should of course already own the game you’re copying.

Further hacks of the HDD allow modders to launch homebrew software, play games from any region, and access a wider variety of audio and video files. You can find more information about performing this mod in the PS2 HDD Modding Tutorial at The ISO Zone.

For most beginning PS2 collectors, the HDD isn’t particularly necessary unless you’re going to playing one of the 35 games that supports installation.

Stands

Depending on your model of PlayStation 2, there are a variety of Sony and third-party stands available. Both can technically be operated either vertically or horizontally. In my opinion, the original PS2 is best left horizontal in order to project your discs. When the console is set upright, gravity can has the disc to bounce around during operation or if the console is bumped or knocked over. These movements over time can cause scratches to your disc. This is due to the design of the disc tray.

The slim PS2 doesn’t have this problem. Discs are secured directly to the motorized spindle inside the disc tray, so there’s no way for gravity or anything else to bounce the disc and scratch it up. It’s like the difference between a DVD player or a portable handheld CD player: one sits loosely and the other is locked into place.

Just to be on the safe side, never switch the orientation of your Playstation 2 (either model) while it is running. Be sure to turn off the console completely before changing from vertical to horizontal or vice versa.

In either case, I would recommend snagging an official Sony stand if possible. Both consoles have two variations: one that’s shaped like an underlined letter U where you set the stand upright inside of it. The other is flat and is attached to the bottom of the console with a screw. This is the type of stand that I have for my PS2 slim. I found one for about $16 (including shipping) from a Japanese seller on eBay.

Network Adapter

 playstation 2 network adapter

playstation 2 network adapter

If you plan to play any PS2 games online (yes, people still do this in 2018) then you’ll need either a PS2 with existing ethernet connectivity or an adapter. You’ll only need an adapter if you’re using an original PS2, as Slimline models include ethernet connectivity right out of the box.

As I said, the original PS2 doesn’t have any built-in ethernet connectivity and must use an adapter which attaches to the back of the console. There are third-party adapters available, but generally I recommend sticking with official Sony products and the PlayStation 2 Network Adapter is no exception.

Most official Sony DNAS servers for the PlayStation 2 went permanently offline back in 2012 (with the last going down in 2016), but in some cases there is a way around this.

Alternatively, games that used GameSpy’s servers and didn’t require you to be logged into the service can still be played through OpenSpy, an unofficial server.

Playing your PS2 online via Local Area Networks (LAN) is still an option for games that support it. There are two LAN options depending on the game.

The first is what Sony called “System Link” and it requires physically connecting at least two PlayStation 2 consoles together, up to a max of however many the specific game supports. To accomplish this you’ll need two things: an original PS2 and a 4-pin FireWire cable. The reason you need an original PS2 for this is because the slimline doesn’t have the necessary “I-Link” FireWire 400 port. It is possible to connect more than two PS2 consoles via FireWire with the use of a FireWire hub.

The second method (and only LAN option for the PS2 slimline) is LAN over IP. There are two different ways you can go about this. You’ll either need two standard Cat 5 ethernet cables and an ethernet hub to connect it to, OR an ethernet crossover cable. For more than two players, you’ll need to go with the ethernet hub option. For only two players it’s perfectly fine to use the specialized crossover cable to directly connect your two PS2 consoles.

[Note: Crossover cables may LOOK like standard ethernet cables but aren’t. Crossover cables are designed for connecting two devices directly. You can tell the difference by looking at the ends of the cable. If both ends have identical wire color orders, it’s a standard ethernet cable. If the color orders don’t match, then you’ve got a crossover cable.]

Once you’ve got your PS2 consoles connected for LAN gaming through any method, you’ll need to setup the network connection. This is typically accomplished from within that particular game in the multiplayer menu. Follow the prompts to create network settings, which can then be saved onto your memory card for use next time.

Multitap

I have fond memories from the summer of 2003 playing 007: Nightfire with 4-players via the multitap. You see, that’s the thing about the multitap: it’s only useful if you have friends who want to play too.

Assuming you’ve got some buddies and want to play the PlayStation 2 in glorious 4-player action, you’ve got to find the correct multitap version for your particular console model. There were two official releases of the multitap for the PlayStation 2. One was created specifically for use with the original PS2 and the other (you guessed it) is for the slimline PS2. They’re not cross-compatible without modification, so your best bet is to just get the multitap you need for your specific console.

Assuming you want official Sony products, the original PS2 requires multitap model SCPH-10090 while the slimline PS2 uses model SCPH-70120. I should probably mention that #10090 doesn’t work with backwards compatible PlayStation games, while the slimline’s #70120 does. If you plan on playing Crash Team Racing or some other 4-player PS1 game on your PS2, you’re gonna need to keep this in mind.

Your best bets for finding either model is to check out your local game stores that still carry PS2 accessories or head to eBay. Search with the specific model number and you’ll be in business.

Headset

If you plan on playing any PlayStation 2 games online or in separate rooms from your friends, you may just need a headset. The PlayStation 2’s headsets are all USB-based. Most USB headsets work, but to be on the safe side I would only get one that specifically says it is compatible on the box or is otherwise branded for the PS2.

The first game I recall seeing packaged with a headset was the original SOCOM game. Being able to communicate with your teammates verbally will help you coordinate your actions and of course trash talk. Headsets can also be used with some singing, karaoke games, and band games.

Some PS2 games like Konami’s Lifeline require a headset or microphone as the entire game is controlled by speaking scripted commands.

Parting Thoughts

Thank you for reading! My hope is that this guide will be a useful resource to you as you begin and expand your PlayStation 2 collection. The PS2 is a wonderful console that I believe still deserves to be played and enjoyed by gamers of all ages and experience levels.

I'd like to take a moment to thank Evan Amos. Without his contributions to the public domain, many of the high quality photos currently in this guide would not have been possible. Thank you!

If you have any questions about anything PS2-related that was or wasn’t in this guide, please feel free to comment below or reach out on social media. Please check back periodically as I continue to update and expand this guide.