Whenever a new video game console is announced one of the first questions to inevitably get asked revolves around backward compatibility. After spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on a system, accessories, games, and DLC for a system, it can be painful to imagine having to start all over just because your current system is out of date. So with the release of the PlayStation 3, PS2 owners started asking whether or not they would be able to continue playing their favorite titles after they upgraded to the newer, more advanced PS3 model.
One would think that the answer to backward compatibility is as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but for Sony, nothing is ever that simple. The answer to whether you can play PS2 games on a PS3 is determined not only by which edition of the PS3 you purchased, but the serial number of the precise PS3 you purchased.
Like many consoles, the PS3 has gone through a few different incarnations of engineering. The original (or “fat”) PS3 is a noticeably larger console than the “slim” or “super slim” consoles that Sony later released for those who wanted a sleeker design on their entertainment center. The “fat” PS3 is the only model with which you can simply insert your old PS2 games and have them start right up without any further modifications necessary.
Now, like we said, Sony doesn’t always like to do things the easy way. Having a “fat” PS3 does not guarantee reverse compatibility. There were a few different model releases within even the larger console variant. In order to determine whether your PS3 can play your PS2 games, we will need to take a look at a couple of features including the serial number located on the exterior of the console itself.
First check how many USB ports exist on your PS3 console. If your PS3 has 4 USB ports across the front of the machine, you are in luck! On your journey to backwards compatibility you have advanced to the next step. If you see that there are only 2 USB ports on the front of your system, we apologize, but your journey to Sony-approved, legitimate backwards compatibility has come to an end. You do have other options we will discuss below, but we’re not quite there yet.
After verifying that your PS3 has all 4 USB ports, we are then going to be taking a look at the serial numbers of your specific console to determine where along the path of enlightenment, I mean, backward compatibility your console has brought you. You will be looking toward the end of the serial number for the 4 letters CECHxxx.
Once you find that section of the serial number, the letter immediately following the H will tell us where you stand. If that letter is an A (on the 60 GB PS3 model) or a B (on the 20 GB PS3 model), congratulations! You have full hardware backwards compatibility! Should that letter be a C or an E, you will have limited backwards compatibility. You will be able to run many PS2 games, but there will be games that you run into issues with. If that 5th letter in that specific section of the serial number is anything but the 4 listed above, we’re very sorry, but your hardware supported backward compatibility quest has come to an end.
Welcome to option 2 of playing your favorite PS2 titles on your PS3, the PlayStation Store. Now, we’re not going to say anything about Sony’s motivations with this option, but many of your favorite PS2 games are available for purchase on the PlayStation Store. This gives players, like yourself, the ability to play the PlayStation games you loved on your PS2 on your next generation system.
Of course this does lead you to “repurchasing” a game you already paid for, but loading up the PlayStation Store, going to the “Classics” section (specifically the PS2 Classics) will allow you to add games to your cart, purchase, download, and play all of your favorite PS2 games with improved graphics and processing speed. It is not as ideal as simply popping in the discs you already own, but it is an option for those titles you weren’t ready to drop as soon as Sony dropped your console.
Many users have taken to a process known as Jailbreaking their PS3s to force the ability of backwards compatibility. This does involve altering (or modding) the hardware inside the PS3 to allow for the play of PS2 (and PS1) games. That being said, there are several things to take into consideration when considering this type of an alteration. The first thing you will need to consider is that it will immediately void any warranty Sony has provided on the hardware of your PS3. If you have owned your system for awhile and feel like you have already received your money’s worth, this becomes a very different conversation than if you just unwrapped it from the box today.
The second consideration when it comes to jailbreaking is that it can lead to a permanent ban from the PlayStation Network. This is not a simple process, it takes around 17 steps and a knowledge of what you are doing to successfully mod your PS3 system each of which has to be done precisely and in a specific order or you run the risk of destroying your console. As such, it is not the course we would recommend, but it is an available option.
Of course, we wish that the question had a more simplistic answer – yes or no, but given Sony’s propensity of doing things the hard way, there are a few different steps and options to navigate whether your specific PS3 is backwards compatible. Now that you know what you are looking for and how to tell what steps you need to take, we wish you the best gaming experience your PS3 can provide.