The market for handheld emulation is forever growing, and so is our ongoing list of the best retro handhelds.
This is because the technology used to do so is getting cheaper while the natural way to play PS2 games is increasing, so we’re in a special moment time where PS2 emulation is both affordable and easily accessible.
But that said, choosing a handheld that can emulate PS2 games is more challenging than expected, especially when you consider that this market can be a little shady at times.
But do not fear, I have tested hundreds if not thousands of handhelds over the years, and below are my personal best handhelds for PS2 emulation.
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AYN Odin – $239
The AYN Odin was originally released in early 2022 after being successfully crowdfunded. It felt as if this handheld came out of nowhere, and that’s because it did.
AYN created one of the best Android handhelds on the market all for under $240, with enough power to emulate the best PS2 games incredibly well with an easy to use user interface, a large screen and bad ass LED lights.
One of the best reasons to buy a AYN Odin for PS2 emulation is the price tag, it’s one of the most affordable PS2 handhelds on the market that can emulate all of your PS2 games.
Typically, more affordable handhelds under the $200 mark cannot emulate all PS2 games well, the larger 3D games will show signs of struggle, which you will see further on in this list
AYN Odin Specifications
- Octa-Core Snapdragon SD845 Quad-core Kyro Silver @ 1.8GHZ (Base)
- Octa-Core Snapdragon SD845 Quad-core Kyro Gold @ 2.8GHZ (Pro)
- Ardeno 630 @ 787 MHz
- 4GB RAM (Base) / 8GB RAM (Pro)
- 64G Internal Storage
- 6″ LCD Touchscreen Display (1920 x 1080)
- HDMI Out
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Android 11
- 5000MAH Battery (Base) / 6000MAH Battery (Pro)
- USB Type-C
The AYN Odin also feels greats in the hand thanks to the large screen, smooth ergonomics and reactive buttons, even the D-PAD feels like the old school PSP!
It also comes in a few different models, but if you want the best possible performance go for the Pro model even if it costs a bit more, but the base model will run most PS2 games well.
Steam Deck – $399
There’s no denying that the Steam Deck is one of the best handhelds on the market, Valve have created an affordable, powerful device for the masses, and are even happy to take a loss on hardware to make a profit on software further down the line… and it’s working.
Many gamers will purchase a Steam Deck primarily to play their library of PC games, but it also has the ability to emulate most retro consoles, including the Playstation 2.
You will need to do some research on how to play PS2 games on the Steam Deck, but once you’ve followed our guide, you’ll be ready no time, and even able to add all of your other retro games to an easy to use EmuDeck library.
It might be a bit big in the hands, but it’s incredibly comfortable, features a great 1080p display, touch sensitive pads and a near perfect user experience.
Steam Deck Specifications
- CPU: Zen 2 4c/8t, 2.4-3.5GHz (up to 448 GFlops FP32)
- GPU: 8 RDNA 2 CUs, 1.0-1.6GHz (up to 1.6 TFlops FP32)
- 7″ IPS Display (1280 x 800px @60hHz)
- 16 GB LPDDR5 on-board RAM (5500 MT/s quad 32-bit channels)
- 64GB – 512GB Internal Storage
The ergonomics, matched with the affordable price and ease of use makes this for a great contender as one of the best handhelds for PS2 emulation.
Oh, and it will ship within a week, which can’t be said for most on this list.
AYANEO Air – $549
The AYANEO Air is another handheld that emerged swiftly onto the scene, and is one of the best handheld gaming PC’s on the market, especially for those of you looking for something a little more portable.
AYANEO are well known for creating premium handhelds, typically Windows based, but they are soon to be launching an Android version of the AYANEO Air.
This device uses it’s own UI known as AYANEO Space to turn the Window’s operating system into a more pleasant experience, and even though its not perfect it does help jump you straight into your game library.
With any Windows PC you can install any of the best emulators for PC to your handheld, and with the simple loading of your ROM’s you can emulate a wide number of games thanks to the incredible specs that this device has.
You may need a keyboard and a mouse to get past the cumbersome setup process, but once that’s done this device is truly incredible and certainly one of the best handhelds for PS2 emulation.
AYANEO wanted to create one of the smallest, most powerful portable handhelds, and they have done just that with fashion.
AYANEO Air Specifications
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5560U Zen 2
- GPU: Radeon Vega 7 Graphics
- Storage: 128GB SSD
- Screen: 5.5-inch – 1920 x 1080 OLED
- RAM: 8GB/16GB DDR4 @3200MHz
- Price: $650+
It has superb build quality, a great crispy screen, strong buttons, flared shoulder buttons and superb performance, it will emulate any PS2 game you throw at it, but only for 3 – 5 hours before it needs charging again.
AYANEO 2S – $999
The AYANEO 2S is one of the most powerful handheld gaming PC’s on the market, beating the Steam Deck and ROG Ally. It’s the newer and more powerful version of the AYANEO 2.
It’s AYANEO’s “all out” handheld while trying to perfect the best ergonomics for a handheld of this size, and I can confirm, it’s an absolute beast, maybe even overkill for PS2 emulation because that’s not what it does best.
This is a device for PC gamers, period. But, if you wanted to emulate your favourite PS2 games on the side, it can do that too, without even breaking a sweat.
The AYANEO 2S makes the Steam Deck look and feel ten years old, the team behind this device has put a lot of time and effort into making it comfortable, modern and minimal.
It’s one of the most comfortable handhelds ever made.
It has a bezel-less display, a glass lens on the entire face of the device, LED’s behind the large analogue sticks, USB-C charging, fingerprint identification and large shoulder buttons that feel great.
Just like its little brother, the AYANEO Air it features Windows an AYANEO Space to make organising your games library and tweaking performance settings as silky smooth as possible.
It can play most of your AAA games at 30FPS or more, on a stunning display, and a premium body, with battery life lasting between 2 and 6 hours depending on what you play.
For PS2 games you’ll get 5+ hours out of this with ease.
AYANEO 2S Specifications
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7840U
- GPU: AMD Radeon 780M
- Up to 32GB RAM
- Up to 4TB Storage
- 7″ Bezel-less IPS (1920×1200) 323 PPI
- 13050mAh Battery
As you can tell from the specifications this is completely overkill for PS2 emulation, but that said it will power any game as close to perfect as you can possibly get.
ROG Ally – $899
The ROG Ally received a lot of attention when it released in June 2023, being dubbed the “Steam Deck Killer” by many outlets, and although I don’t think it will kill it, I do think it aggressively competes with it… even if it’s almost double in price.
Is it more powerful than the Steam Deck? Yes. Is it better? Debatable. Is it one of the best handhelds for PS2 emulation? For sure, if you got a lot of cash!
We interviewed popular YouTuber Casey Neistat recently, and the ROG Ally is now his go-to gaming device because it does everything, and doubles up as a gaming PC when synced with a keyboard and PC.
It’s close to $1,000 which means it’s again overkill for PS2 emulation but it does it well without any hiccups by setting up PCSX2 on Windows the right way.
ROG Ally Specifications
- CPU: AMD Ryzen™ Z1 Extreme Processor (“Zen4” architecture with 4nm process, 8-core /16-threads, 24MB total cache, up to 5.10 Ghz boost)
- GPU: AMD Radeon™ Graphics (AMD RDNA™ 3, 12 CUs, up to 2.7 GHz, up to 8.6 Teraflops)
- 7-inch IPS Display (1920 x 1080)
- 16GB LPDDR5 RAM
- 512GB PCIe® 4.0 NVMe™ M.2 SSD
A true all-round monster handheld that can emulate your PS2 games flawlessly on a machine built to last many, many years.
ANBERNIC RG405M – $178
The ANBERNIC RG405M is an affordable retro handheld that’s sub $200 and features a full body metal shell.
Even though it’s on the list it cannot emulate every single PS2 game, this device doesn’t have enough power to run games like God of War at silky smooth frame rates, but it “can technically” run it and I wanted to feature this device because some of you may want something affordable that “gets by”.
After my thorough testing I would say 60%+ of PS2 games will run on here, it’s just the big ones that require lots of 3D animations and power which will show signs of struggle, for example, lowered frame rates and audio cracking.
This is a handheld built purely for retro emulation, uses Android 12 as its operating system and typically comes pre-loaded with a bunch of games straight out of the box with an included SD-card.
The build quality is superb too, as its built from metal so bumps, scratches and drops rarely affect it. It’s one of my favourite retro handhelds of the year so far, and i’ve reviewed a lot of them and i’m more than confident adding it to this best handhelds for PS2 emulation list.
- 4-inch IPS touch screen (640 x 480)
- CPU: Unisoc Tiger T618 64-bit octa-core 2*[email protected]+6*[email protected]
- GPU: Mali G52@850Mhz
- 4500MAH Battery
It’s an all-round great retro handheld, but please do remember that this will not play all of your PS2 games flawlessly, some will struggle some won’t, but it’s a great device to test the waters if you’re not wanting to spend over $200 for a device!
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A 31 year old British fella that’s had a Gameboy ever since he was a child. Brandon is the founder of RetroDodo and has created a YouTube channel with 260,000 subscribers dedicated to retro gaming products. He now wants to create the No.1 site to showcase the latest retro products from around the globe.