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Miss Your PS2? Play It On Series X

Backwards compatibility and emulation are two sides of the same coin. Backwards compatibility lets you use modern consoles to play older games, but you are limited to titles from previous generations linked to that console, as well as games handpicked by the manufacturer. Emulation, meanwhile, is less limited since you can play almost any game on any supported platform. However, emulating games is also morally gray and possibly illegal — even though manufacturers like Sony have also used emulation on many occasions. Ironically, it turns out that the Xbox Series X has a bigger PlayStation 2 library, thanks to emulation, than the PS5 has through backwards compatibility.

RetroArch is an open-source emulator program that can run a variety of games regardless of platform, so long as they have been converted into the proper readable library format. This includes Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo GameCube, and PlayStation titles. Recently, PS2 games were added to the list. Normally, emulation programs are restricted to Windows PC platforms, but thanks to the Series X and S' dev mode, gamers can download and test development builds of programs that use the Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Since dev mode doesn't differentiate between dev builds of official and homebrew software, Xbox Series X|S owners can bridge the console partisan river with RetroArch — assuming they are willing to wade through the legal muck to do so.

YouTuber Modern Vintage Gamer tested a gamut of RetroArch-emulated titles on his Xbox Series S, and he was thoroughly impressed. He ran into the expected occasional bug and glitch, but his experience was smooth, all things considered. For example, Metal Gear Solid 2 and God of War played flawlessly, while Jak and Daxter suffered from slowdown and a weird texture issue that turned Jak's shadow into a semi-opaque poncho.

Some of you might wonder why you would ever want to play PS2 games on your Xbox Series X or Series S with a legally gray program. After all, Sony offers PS2 games for sale on the PS4/PS5 store, and many more titles are available through PS Now. The answer is RetroArch's library is objectively bigger. Beloved titles and cult classics that are absent from the PS4 and PS5 storefront, as well as PS Now, are RetroArch's selling points. These include fan favorites like Timesplitters 2, Silent Hill 2 (the original, not the botched HD Collection version), God Hand, Rule of Rose, and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness.

While Modern Vintage Gamer only tested RetroArch on the Xbox Series S, Reddit users have confirmed the program also works on the Series X. Unless Sony lets gamers use UWP emulators on their PS5s — or adds universal PS2 backwards compatibility — you might need the Xbox Series X/S and RetroArch to get your PS2 classic fix.