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RetroArch will soon get the PlayStation 2 emulator PCSX2

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Feel the need to run some classic PlayStation 2 games? It's set to get a lot easier, as the RetroArch team have reported on their work with PCSX2. They've had a bounty open to pay someone to do it since 2018, with it currently sat at $915. The good news is that progress appears to be good!

The RetroArch team noted it's getting "quite usable" and it shouldn't be too much longer until it gets a first release with support for libretro and RetroArch so you can have another emulator under one roof. User aliaspider has been doing a lot of the work, which you can follow the conversation of on GitHub. It currently only supports 64bit and OpenGL / Direct3D 11 with OpenGL having more features supported. It seems Android and macOS are not currently planned for the PCSX2 emulator core.

Check out their work in progress look at it running:

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Find their blog post on it here.

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23 comments
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WJMazepas 3 Nov, 2020
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: TheLinuxPlebIs there going to be any ARM version? I think i saw somewhere that this is x86 only.
Pretty sure PCSX2 is all open source, so in theory just needs a recompile. I don't think it's one of those emulators that are coded in a way they won't even work on 64bit systems.

Unfornately is not that easy. Until today, there isnt a PCSX2 port for ARM. The only that i know is the Damon PS2 that is available on Android


Last edited by WJMazepas on 4 November 2020 at 12:18 pm UTC
slaapliedje 3 Nov, 2020
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Quoting: WJMazepas
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: TheLinuxPlebIs there going to be any ARM version? I think i saw somewhere that this is x86 only.
Pretty sure PCSX2 is all open source, so in theory just needs a recompile. I don't think it's one of those emulators that are coded in a way they won't even work on 64bit systems.

Unfornately is not that easy. Until today, there isnt a PCSX2 port for ARM until today. The only that i know is the Damon PS2 that is available on Android
Interesting.
On that note, I was just wondering why we haven't ever seen any of the higher end SoC makers release SBCs out there like the Pi. I mean some of the cell phones are getting crazy performance, and would make excellent mini computers. Granted I know most of them use closed source blobs for graphics, but the performance of them is pretty nice. I mean Apple thinks it is time, why not Qualcomm?
Hori 4 Nov, 2020
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: WJMazepas
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: TheLinuxPlebIs there going to be any ARM version? I think i saw somewhere that this is x86 only.
Pretty sure PCSX2 is all open source, so in theory just needs a recompile. I don't think it's one of those emulators that are coded in a way they won't even work on 64bit systems.

Unfornately is not that easy. Until today, there isnt a PCSX2 port for ARM until today. The only that i know is the Damon PS2 that is available on Android
Interesting.
On that note, I was just wondering why we haven't ever seen any of the higher end SoC makers release SBCs out there like the Pi. I mean some of the cell phones are getting crazy performance, and would make excellent mini computers. Granted I know most of them use closed source blobs for graphics, but the performance of them is pretty nice. I mean Apple thinks it is time, why not Qualcomm?
There are many SBCs out there other than the Pi, including ones that are more powerful.
RPi though, is by far the most popular of the bunch, and because of that, the one with the most support (especially from the community) and the development work in regards to SBCs or ARM "desktop" (non-mobile) machines is mostly aimed at it.
But yeah, you can still go with other boards if you wish.


Last edited by Hori on 4 November 2020 at 8:47 am UTC
3zekiel 4 Nov, 2020
Quoting: WJMazepas
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: TheLinuxPlebIs there going to be any ARM version? I think i saw somewhere that this is x86 only.
Pretty sure PCSX2 is all open source, so in theory just needs a recompile. I don't think it's one of those emulators that are coded in a way they won't even work on 64bit systems.

Unfornately is not that easy. Until today, there isnt a PCSX2 port for ARM until today. The only that i know is the Damon PS2 that is available on Android

I remember a post in forum from Gregory Henault explaining far and large why it was not such a good idea / hard if you want to search.

I can add to it: first you clearly don't just need to recompile, since PCSX2 is a JIT, so porting to ARM means rewriting a code generator for it. Since PCSX2 was never thought with the idea of having a host agnostic architecture or just multiple backends for hosts, even the x64 port is non trivial (and even then, it would be simpler, not trivial). Adding ARM support would be far worst.
Indeed, ARM is not a very good host for JITs, its ISA is not very efficient in term of icache footprint (like many RISCs) and will usually cause a lot of inflation in term of generated host code size VS target(PS2 here) code size - on the opposite, x64 or x86 thx to being very footprint efficient will result to a lower code inflation, even deflation on some blocks.

Now on the PS2 arch itself: emulating it is hard, the arch is really not standard, not at all: you have 3 cores, not two of them being the same. Parallelizing it is very hard too, since synchronization between cores is very exotic (even modern SMP parallel simulation is non trivial btw, see Qemu's MT TCG effort). As such, you mostly need to resort to 1/ tricks to still make it more parallel (hurts precision) and 2/ High single core performance to soak having to emulate two cores on one thread still. Add to that the fucked up version of floating points in PS2 (which forces you to clamp since it is 100% exotic) and you have a recipe for a pretty bad experience on ARM hosts - and even a bumpy ride on x64 until not so long ago.
And of course, when I talk about parrallelization, I only talk about one target core, one host thread. Mutli host thread for one target core can be used for defered optimization, but it's wayyyy harder to do. As such you can count that you will need at least 20 times the target raw performance here to get anywhere close a reasonable emulation, on one core (very very raw estimation would be 4GHz per core, at least 4 cores for the EE+2VUs+the graphics core- just to give an idea, Hz are not the precise/right way to express that). Raspi is far from that target...

TLDR, ps2 emulation is not simple, even if it is quite old. Don't expect to have a pleasant ride on a raspi anytime soon.

A solution would be to go the same road as PS3 emulation, that is, some kind of Static Binary Translation pass, which could considerably reduce the overhead - particularly for the floating point problem I'd expect. But that's no picnic either.
WJMazepas 4 Nov, 2020
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: WJMazepas
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: TheLinuxPlebIs there going to be any ARM version? I think i saw somewhere that this is x86 only.
Pretty sure PCSX2 is all open source, so in theory just needs a recompile. I don't think it's one of those emulators that are coded in a way they won't even work on 64bit systems.

Unfornately is not that easy. Until today, there isnt a PCSX2 port for ARM until today. The only that i know is the Damon PS2 that is available on Android
Interesting.
On that note, I was just wondering why we haven't ever seen any of the higher end SoC makers release SBCs out there like the Pi. I mean some of the cell phones are getting crazy performance, and would make excellent mini computers. Granted I know most of them use closed source blobs for graphics, but the performance of them is pretty nice. I mean Apple thinks it is time, why not Qualcomm?

They probably dont release due to costs. The public that needs a high performance SBC is really small and is willing to pay a lot for it, so you see cases like the Jetson Xavier which is pretty expensive.
At this price, just makes more sense to buy a small PC
slaapliedje 4 Nov, 2020
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Quoting: WJMazepas
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: WJMazepas
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: TheLinuxPlebIs there going to be any ARM version? I think i saw somewhere that this is x86 only.
Pretty sure PCSX2 is all open source, so in theory just needs a recompile. I don't think it's one of those emulators that are coded in a way they won't even work on 64bit systems.

Unfornately is not that easy. Until today, there isnt a PCSX2 port for ARM until today. The only that i know is the Damon PS2 that is available on Android
Interesting.
On that note, I was just wondering why we haven't ever seen any of the higher end SoC makers release SBCs out there like the Pi. I mean some of the cell phones are getting crazy performance, and would make excellent mini computers. Granted I know most of them use closed source blobs for graphics, but the performance of them is pretty nice. I mean Apple thinks it is time, why not Qualcomm?

They probably dont release due to costs. The public that needs a high performance SBC is really small and is willing to pay a lot for it, so you see cases like the Jetson Xavier which is pretty expensive.
At this price, just makes more sense to buy a small PC
That's a valid point, which Apple knows their fans will pay that expensive price anyhow for what amounts to a phone in a laptop.
Botonoski 7 Nov, 2020
PCSX2 for me has always had huge performance discrepancies between the windows and linux versions. The game on which I most often test, Black, is unplayable under linux, but fine under Windows. Could be some sort of driver issue as running PCSX2 under wine results in the same poor performance as the native port, though in every other application I've ran through wine I have not notices OpenGL performance suffer really at all compared to running the app natively under Windows.

I hope the retroarch port doesn't have this issue, I dual boot for five specific applications, and one of them is PCSX2
slaapliedje 7 Nov, 2020
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Quoting: BotonoskiPCSX2 for me has always had huge performance discrepancies between the windows and linux versions. The game on which I most often test, Black, is unplayable under linux, but fine under Windows. Could be some sort of driver issue as running PCSX2 under wine results in the same poor performance as the native port, though in every other application I've ran through wine I have not notices OpenGL performance suffer really at all compared to running the app natively under Windows.

I hope the retroarch port doesn't have this issue, I dual boot for five specific applications, and one of them is PCSX2
Yeah, I experienced the same issue with the PS3 emulation as well. Part of this is due to some of the plugin differences. The DirectX one seems to be much more advanced than the OpenGL one.
Botonoski 21 Nov, 2020
Quoting: slaapliedjeYeah, I experienced the same issue with the PS3 emulation as well. Part of this is due to some of the plugin differences. The DirectX one seems to be much more advanced than the OpenGL one.
The Ubuntu focal repository has a 1.5 build that, according to some on github, for whatever reason has worse performance than it really should, and worse than even 1.4 builds.
I recently tried 1.6 and 1.7 builds of PCSX2 and it gave substantially better performance than what I was used to, could even fast forward in games that used to barely run. It was far more of a pain than it should've been to get those later builds working on my system and I nearly entirely gave up. The official PCSX2 PPA only has daily git builds, and they're quite unstable, and on my system not able to get into a game before hitting a segfault, couldn't compile PCSX2 myself due to it using a web of old dependencies that would've ruined my install (Probably could've set up a container, but that came off as too much of a pain in my mind, was at the end of my rope at that point already), when I did finally discover builds of the emulator that worked, well they didn't actually work, they just failed in a different but fixable way, for whatever reason PCSX2 1.6 and onward just hates the AMDGPU Pro drivers and can't find an OpenGL compatible GPU with them installed. While I needed the Pro drivers to prevent Blender from crashing when using the Eevee renderer I eventually gave in and just removed them, this wasn't the first time those drivers gave me this kind of issue so whatever, good riddance.
I've been picking away at this issue off and on for two weeks now and dabbled with it at points much earlier, it's been driving me crazy. Seems like PCSX2 is a bit of a mess and needs some major refactoring or something, I don't know, maybe I just need to switch to a rolling distro. Either way I can't wait for the libretro core to come out and hopefully put all these efforts of mine to waste.
Hexatope 5 Dec, 2020
Quoting: slaapliedje
Quoting: TheLinuxPlebIs there going to be any ARM version? I think i saw somewhere that this is x86 only.
Pretty sure PCSX2 is all open source, so in theory just needs a recompile. I don't think it's one of those emulators that are coded in a way they won't even work on 64bit systems.

Quoting: HoriHopefully the future Pi5 will be able to run at least some PS2 games but the Pi4... I can't see how it could be able to reasonably run any of them.

They did just release the pi 400 that you can overclock quite nicely as it has a massive heat spreader stuck to it inside the keyboard. I'll probably pick one of those up eventually.

Judging from how the regular Pi 4B 4GB model handles Lakka with any shader enabled, I doubt even the 400 with an overclock would be able to handle PCSX2, Though I will admit that pi 400 would be an absolute must have for emulating ZX Spectrum or Commodore machines.

Quoting: The_Aquabatany words if the release of retroarch on steam is approaching?
I highly doubt you'll see RetroArch on Steam, due to legality concerns behind the acquisition of game and bios ROMs. Not something that Valve would want to get involved with, I'm sure.

Also, kind of curious why you'd want this on Steam? It's already freely available through repo's on linux so I feel like it'd be kinda unnecessary to put *another* game launcher in the way of your.. game launcher.
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