Why Do PS2 Games Look Bad On HDTV?

Modern television sets have much better fidelity compared to old CRTs, or at least that’s what you’d think until you plugged in your old PS2. Realizing immediately upon doing so that somehow the image quality is worse than what you remember from your childhood. Blurry edges, weird-looking character models, and tons of input lag- clearly something is wrong.

Why do PS2 games look bad on HDTV? It’s because of the way images from your console are processed by the TV’s upscaling algorithm which is optimized for movies rather than video games. Your TV is deinterlacing and upscaling at the same time, which creates blurry images while also adding a significant amount of input lag.

You’ll notice that PS2 games look a lot rougher around the edges while playing on a modern TV. Everything from character models to textures is blurrier, and much of the finer detail is lost. This is simply because of the differences in how CRTs and modern digital TVs work, PS2 games were designed with CRT technology in mind.

How Do HDTVs Work with Old Consoles Compared to CRTs

Every modern TV has a fixed number of pixels, which define its native resolution. Any input that is below this native resolution will have to be upscaled, using mathematical algorithms that create an approximation of what things would look like at a higher resolution. Otherwise, you would just have giant empty black spaces on your TV.

For example, if you tried to play a Game Boy Advance game on your TV with no upscaling you wouldn’t be able to see the image. Not unless your face was 5 inches away from the screen. It would be a tiny 2-inch square in the middle of your screen, with the rest being empty black space.

And your TV doesn’t just upscale the 4:3 output of your PS2, it also changes the format to 16:9. Which stretches the image, resulting in awkward-looking characters with inhuman proportions. Some PS2 games supported widescreen natively, but you’d have to enable that option from within the game menu.

CRT televisions work very differently, they don’t have a fixed resolution. Because the image is essentially being projected onto the phosphor coating inside the TV, it can scale up and down depending on the console’s output. This is why CRTs are much better at displaying a wide range of resolutions without losing any visual clarity.

While digital TVs illuminate fixed points on a grid, CRTs are “drawing” the image line by line on a canvas made out of red, blue, and green phosphor dots. This is why the transition from one “pixel” to another on a CRT looks much smoother, there are no fixed points. And low-resolution PS2 games look smoother, with fewer jaggy edges.

Plus, you don’t get the input lag on CRTs as there is no need for digital image processing. Every frame is drawn as soon as it’s fed into the TV. So if you’re playing fighting games on PS2, a CRT is better.

How Can I Make My PS2 Look Better On My HDTV?

You can purchase a composite to HDMI adapter. If your PS2 uses component cables, buy a converter that changes the signal to HDMI. These are active signal converters that take your PS2’s analog output and convert it into digital.

These converters also upscale the image from 480p to 720p, which is much easier for your TV to convert into 1080p/ 4K. As a result, you get higher-quality images with less input lag. High-end upscalers use superior upscaling algorithms and include deinterlacing + scan lines to recreate an authentic CRT experience.

Can PS2 Be Played On HDTV?

Absolutely, as long as your HDTV has some kind of analog input. The PlayStation 2 supports composite, component, S-video, and RGB SCART. For optimal image quality, you should use component cables (PAL users might prefer RGB SCART).

Does PS2 Look Better On CRT or HDTV?

It looks better on CRT, because of how these old analog TVs work. They can vary their “resolution” depending on the type of input and have much lower input lag compared to modern HDTVs. If you play your PS2 regularly and want the best viewing experience, try grabbing a decent CRT (a 36” Sony Trinitron works great).

What Is The Highest Resolution PS2 Can Output?

Normally, it does 480i (interlaced) or 480p (progressive) at 30/ 60FPS depending on the game. However, a few games such as Gran Turismo 4 can play at 1080i. You can find a list of PS2 games with alternative display modes here.

Is The PS2 Slim Weaker?

PS2 Slim is a more compact and efficient redesign of the original PS2, it’s not weaker in any way. Advances in lithography nodes allowed Sony to create processors that were smaller and drew less power. They also moved the power supply outside the console and changed the disc drive.

The improved cooling and smaller node allow PS2 Slim’s CPU to run slightly faster. However, it doesn’t translate to any in-game performance improvements. PS2 Slim is also quieter and less prone to overheating, it’s more durable compared to the fat model.


I hope this article helped you understand why PS2 games look worse on modern HDTVs. The bottom line is that these games were designed for CRT displays and run at a resolution of 480i/ 480p. While upscaling and deinterlacing the signal, modern TVs introduce a lot of jaggy edges that weren’t present in the original image.

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As long as I can remember myself I always enjoyed video games. I had amazing moments playing them and that's why I became a game developer, to create amazing experiences for the players. Read More About Me

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