5 Powerful Handheld PS2 Emulator Consoles Worth Checking Out

Forget about using old hardware when you can play the classics better on modern handhelds.

PS2 gaming is making a comeback. As PS2 kids are now adults, they want to play the classics on more modern hardware and that’s where handheld PS2 emulator consoles come in.

Why bother playing games on original hardware in low resolution when you can play it with upscaling and while on the go? That’s the hook of these handhelds, and while some are better than others, all of these PS2 emulator consoles are definitely worth checking out.

Ayn Odin

Ayn Odin console front on.

Pros
  • Most powerful console in the mid-range price point
  • Great compatibility
  • Killer 16:9 screen
Cons
  • Takes ages to ship
Ayn Odin

Arguably the most sought-after console out there, the AYN Odin delivers the best bang for your buck any way you slice it. 

The Ayn Odin continues to be the most popular and one of the best handheld emulator consoles out there. If you’re talking about PS2 emulator consoles, it’s only a matter of time before someone brings this console up.

And with good reason. It’s affordable compared with the likes of the OneXPlayer and still much cheaper than the Steam Deck and Aya Neo Air.

The thing is, while it’s much more powerful than the lower-specced Anbernic devices, it’s the least powerful console on this list. It can run PS2 games, but it can’t really push them. Higher resolutions or speed hacks are less likely to be as plentiful due to the power limitations.

It’s worth stressing here the Ayn Odin is still a powerful console in its own right, and the PS2 emulation capabilities are strong. It’ll run most games well enough, but harder-to-emulate titles may struggle.

That’s really the trade-off. While the Steam Deck and the like offer up fiercer compatibility, they also cost a lot more. It’s a simple case of money vs power.

The biggest issue right now with the Ayn Odin is the troublesome shipping speed. You could get it within two weeks if you’re lucky, or it could take up to a few months. It all depends on how quickly Ayn can get hold of the parts.

Of course, that’s a similar issue to the Steam Deck, but when the Aya Neo Air and OneXPlayer are easier to get ahold of, it puts the Odin in a problematic position.

What Can the Ayn Odin Emulate?

  • Sega: Genesis/Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, SegaCD, Sega32x, Dreamcast
  • Nintendo: NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS, some 3DS, N64, GameCube, some Wii, some Wii U
  • Sony: PlayStation, some PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable
  • Misc: PC Engine, WonderSwan, Mame, FBNeo, Neo Geo

OneXPlayer Mini

OneXPlayer mini front on.

Pros
  • High-end tech
  • Can run a wide range of systems
  • Stunning screen
Cons
  • Silly price
  • Thumbsticks are fine
  • Better options out there
OneXPlayer

Powerful enough to handle everything thrown at it, the OneXPlayer Mini takes the power of the OneXPlayer and marries it with a design similar to that of the Nintendo Switch Lite. 

The OneXPlayer is getting harder and harder to recommend. It’s a powerful system, no doubt. When you pair the AMD Ryzen 7 5800U CPU or Intel Core i7-1195G7 with AMD Radeon Vega 8 or Intel Iris Xe Graphics depending on which version you want, and throw in a meaty 1TB SSD, you know this thing is going to fly.  Emulation isn’t the issue here.

The issue is that this thing costs over $1000 ($1499 for the pro model). That’s a lot, and when you compare it with the Ayn Odin on the lower end of the scale and the GPD Win Max 2 on the upper, we’re not sure who this console’s for anymore.

It’s powerful, the smaller design is fantastic to play on, and it will run PS2 emulators without many issues. But that cost! It’s a lot, but with newer systems like the aforementioned GPD Win Max 2 available for tech heads, it’s really a console aimed at people who love the OneXPlayer line of handheld consoles rather than the general retro device likers among us.

What Can the OneXPlayer Emulate?

  • Sega: Genesis/Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, SegaCD, Sega32x, Dreamcast
  • Nintendo: NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS, 3DS, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
  • Sony: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, some PlayStation 3
  • Microsoft: Xbox, Xbox 360
  • Misc: PC Engine, WonderSwan, Mame, FBNeo, Neo Geo

Valve Steam Deck

Shot of the Steam Deck front on.

Pros
  • Massive screen size
  • Outstanding performance
  • Can play AAA and retro
  • Over 4000 games verified
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Really, really big
  • Not all games are compatible
  • Getting used to the ins and outs of Steam OS takes time
Steam Deck

The current King of emulation, the Steam Deck offers up unrivaled performance alongisde an achievable price tag. 

The Steam Deck is the current king of handhelds. Its compatibility with every retro console and a reasonable buy-in price make it one of the best handheld PS2 emulator consoles available.

It is, however, freaking huge. The seven-inch screen is absolutely stunning and being able to upscale the resolution of older systems means retro games look better on the Steam Deck than they did on original hardware.

But the size of this monster makes it feel more like a home console than a portable gaming device. Don’t get us wrong, it’s an amazing system that packs in everything from thumbsticks to mouse pads, but the girth isn’t for everyone, especially those with certain accessibility issues.

As a retro gaming device, though, the sheer power inside the Steam Deck is what makes it such a strong contender. EmuDeck is easy to set up and it’s capable of running the tougher consoles like PS2 and PS3 – something that isn’t possible at the more affordable end of the scale.

What Can the Steam Deck Emulate?

  • Sega: Genesis/Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, SegaCD, Sega32x, Dreamcast
  • Nintendo: NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS, 3DS, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
  • Sony: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3
  • Microsoft: Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox Game Streaming
  • Misc: PC Engine, WonderSwan, Mame, FBNeo, Neo Geo

AYA Neo Air

YouTube player
Pros
  • Up to PS3 emulation
  • Stunning OLED screen and design
  • Cheapest Windows handheld
Cons
  • Still pricey
  • Some minor bugs
  • Awful battery life
AYANEO Air

The most affordable Windows handheld out there packs a punch with up to PS3, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch emulation. 

While discussing handheld PS2 emulator consoles, you can’t forget about the Aya Neo Air. It’s a fantastic device that’s only major drawback is the battery.

In RetroDodo’s review, the site notes the battery struggles to keep up with the gameplay, resulting in around 45 minutes of PC gameplay on the base console.

We’re in two minds about this, though. For commuters, it’s a pass. And battery woes hinder how portable this device can be. But for people at home looking to game while the kids are on the TV or someone’s watching Netflix? Sure, you’ll need to be plugged in constantly, but that’s a manageable problem.

The Nintendo Switch Lite can manage around five hours of usage, so if you plan to game all day on a weekend, you’re going to need to plug back in at some point. So if you’re fine with playing while being plugged in, the Aya Neo Air is well worth considering.

Despite not being all that portable (the pro model does up the battery power somewhat) due to the low battery capacity, the strange thing is the Aya Neo Air is the first console that actually feels portable. It’s quite the paradox like that.

The slimmer design feels great to hold and play on and the lighting really makes this console feel unique.

On the power side of things, the Aya Neo Air can handle PS2 emulation with ease. It’s not 100 percent compatibility across the board but thanks to the choice of the AMD Ryzen 5 5560U Zen 2 or AMD Ryzen 7 5826U Zen 3 paired with either Radeon Vega 7 Graphics or Radeon Vega 8 Graphics, you’re getting one beast of a handheld.

It’s also capable of running the latest PC games, though you will need to drop the settings down a bit to accommodate. And the battery will drain faster. Because of course it will.

What Can the AYANEO Air Emulate?

  • Sega: Genesis/Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, SegaCD, Sega32x, Dreamcast
  • Nintendo: NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS, 3DS, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
  • Sony: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3
  • Microsoft: Xbox, Xbox 360
  • Misc: PC Engine, WonderSwan, Mame, FBNeo, Neo Geo

GPD Win Max 2

Side shot of the GPD Win Max 2.

Pros
  • Powerful enough to run up to PS3
  • Doubles as a laptop
  • Flip top makes it harder to break
Cons
  • Price
  • Design won't be for everyone
  • Somewhat awkward to play on
GPD Win Max 2

The GPD Win Max 2 marries the portability of a laptop with the power of a high-end gaming device. It's pricey, that's for sure, but if it's pocket power you're after, the Win Max 2 is worth checking out. 

The GPD Win Max 2 is what happens when companies take risks. It won’t be for everyone, and given how popular horizontal handhelds are compared with verticals and hybrids like this, that’s understandable.

But for those looking for something different from the rest, the Win Max 2 packs in power that’s hard to rival into a laptop-style case complete with a keyboard.

For running Windows, that keyboard is sure to get a workout. With the Steam Deck and similar you can hook up USB keyboards, but that’s cumbersome for a handheld, so having the option there is nice.

Let’s talk power. You’ve the choice between the i7-1260P or AMD Ryzen 7 6800U for the processor, then for the graphics, there’s the choice between the Intel Iris Xe Graphics 96EU and the AMD Radeon 680M. RAM is up to 32GB.

That is a frankly obscene amount of power to be playing with. If it’s high-end power you’re after, the GPD Win Max 2 is easily one of the best handheld PS2 emulator consoles going. So much so, even the Steam Deck can’t hold a candle to it.

As well as PS2 emulation, the GPD Win Max 2 also offers up 80’s and 90’s retro gaming alongside the more recent releases like GameCube, Wii, and Nintendo Switch.

As we say, the laptop design isn’t for everyone, but if you’re after a truly portable gaming laptop that’s an emulation powerhouse, the GPD Win Max 2 is well worth checking out.

What Can the GPD Win Max 2 Emulate?

  • Sega: Genesis/Mega Drive, Master System, Game Gear, SegaCD, Sega32x, Dreamcast
  • Nintendo: NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS, 3DS, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Nintendo Switch
  • Sony: PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3
  • Microsoft: Xbox, Xbox 360
  • Misc: PC Engine, WonderSwan, Mame, FBNeo, Neo Geo

Why Pick A Handheld Instead of Original PS2 Hardware?

Nothing beats the feeling of playing on original PS2 hardware. That said, as the PS2 console was released before HD TVs became widely adopted, the visuals are burry even on modern TVs.

With handheld consoles, the experience isn’t the same but if the device is powerful enough you can upscale the resolution, resulting in a much more crisp screen. Not only that, the faster processing power can also lead to improved loading times.

Battery Power

It’s worth noting that battery power across the board is not great. Even with premium offerings like the Steam Deck, don’t expect to be gaming all day long.

Some are worse than others – like with the 45-minute Aya Neo Air – but if you’re looking to play AAA games on a system, that battery life is going to tank, fast.

The Steam Deck can pull around 86 minutes with everything on high, but when playing low-spec indie games on the lowest settings, that time can reach up to seven hours.

If you’re running emulators, that’s going to drain the battery faster, so be sure to factor in how much time you’ll spend plugged in before you make any decisions.

What Is the Best Budget PS2 Emulator Console?

This is an easy one to answer, thankfully. The best budget PS2 emulator console is the Ayn Odin.

It’s the most affordable and as we mentioned above, the power vs price is the best trade-off. Shipping is still dire, and the Ayn Loki is due to be released soon, but if you’re after power at a low price, the Ayn Odin remains one of the best options out there.


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Wesley Copeland

Wesley Copeland is a gaming and tech journalist with over 10 years of experience writing online. Originally starting in video games before specializing in tech and toys, you can find his bylines at IGN, VG24/7, Kotaku, Tech Radar, Games Radar, PC Gamer, and many more. He's also highly passionate about how tech can be used to better our day-to-day lives.