The PlayStation 2 is the best-selling console in video game history, selling over 155 million units in its lifetime. Even after the PlayStation 3 was released, PS2 games and consoles continued to be manufactured until 2013.
The PS2 also included online support for many games, although that has now been discontinued for several years. However, just like with the Nintendo Wii, people have worked hard to find their ways around servers being shut down, and the result is a method that allows you to still play PlayStation 2 games online even today.
PlayStation 2 Had Online Play?
Indeed, PS2 Online launched in 2002 in North America, and early PS2 units required an additional PlayStation 2 Network adapter and a broadband internet connection; Slim models that were released later on in the PS2’s lifespan would have a network adapter built into the console.
Unlike services such as Xbox Live, all online multiplayer for PS2 was done through third-party servers that were the responsibility of the games/developers themselves; there were no official PlayStation servers. Later games that had online play would need to authorized through the Dynamic Network Authentication System (DNAS.)
All things considered, the third-party servers for many games remained popular for years; in fact, the last online server for a PS2 game to shut down was Final Fantasy XI on March 31st 2016.
The fact that these games continued to be played for years and years means that some people would still itch to play them even after servers were shut down; and it turns out that you can do just that, with a little workaround.
How To Play PS2 Games Online
Xlink Kai is a gaming network that seeks to build a comfortable community of gamers by providing online support for games and consoles that have long been left behind; GameCube, PSP, Xbox and much more all can have some online capabilities restored through Xlink Kai.
It began as a passion project in 2003 as a way of improving the quality of play from third-party servers and to build a network that was free of toxicity. Today, there are over 2 million users who have signed up with Xlink Kai, with hundreds of users coming on per day.
As such, they are the go-to site to figuring out how to smoothly get your PS2 running online play again.
Setting Up PlayStation Online
Unlike setting up Wiimmfi for the Nintendo Wii, Xlink will be a much more demanding process, with more steps and more hardware requirements than a simple SD card.
To start, Xlink lists the required hardware as:
- A router/hub with Open Ports
- A decent computer
- 1 to 2 CAT-5 ethernet cables
- A copy of Gran Turismo 4
- A PlayStation 2 Network Adapter*
*The adapter is only necessary for older consoles; later editions, such as the PS2 Slim, have Network Adapters built into the system.
Before anything, you’ll need to register with Xlink and download the Kai Engine, which will be the tunneling program that allows you to play PS2 games online. The trick will be to use Gran Turismo’s Multi-LAN Race feature to create a new network configuration that allows you to plug in the appropriate information and get the program running.
The process is long and detailed and so rather than try to paraphrase it, it’s highly recommended that you follow these instructions on the Xlink site; this guide walks you through every step and it’s guaranteed to get Xlink Kai running on your PS2.
What PS2 Games Can You Play Online?
Not every game that had online play originally is still playable via Xlink Kai; popular games such as Final Fantasy XI only have fan servers on the PC and are not playable on PlayStation 2 anymore.
Having said that, there are still over 50 games that can be played online, although not every game has an active player base at any point in the day. The most popular games at the moment appear to be TimeSplitters 2, SOCOM II: US Navy Seals and Star Wars: Battlefront.
How Can I Find People To Play With?
If you’re looking to just jump into one of the more popular games, a good place to find people would be the Discord set up for Xlink. As the project began as a way to build a community separate from the larger fanbase, the Discord only has a few hundred members but it will either provide you with opportunities to play, or point you in the right direction. There are also forums for PS2 online gaming enthusiasts.
And of course, convincing friends to set up PS2 online is worth it if you want to play a specific game that may not have many active users. The long process might be a tough sell but if you get together a good group of people, some old school fun could be in store.
PlayStation 2 online play wasn’t as big a knockout as Xbox Live when online gaming came to consoles, but it still had a large enough player base to live for a long, long time. And the fact that players can relive some of that glory is just awesome.