Sony nailed it with their very first console, the PlayStation. However, the PS1’s success was overshadowed by a giant colossus called PS2. Many people these days are jumping on the retro gaming train to relive their childhood days (and to enjoy some timeless classics).
If you bought a PS2, you might be asking “why do PS2 games look so dark?”. This happens because the PS2 isn’t designed to run on modern digital TVs, having been released in the era of CRTs. You can fix the problem by increasing the gamma and brightness on your TV, or by swapping out the default cables with a fresh set of high-quality component cables.
However, if the issue persists, I suggest you check out an upscaler device like RetroTINK or Kaico OSSC. These are also known as line doublers and include additional features such as the ability to turn on scan lines. If you want a more budget alternative to line doublers, get a simple HDMI converter for the type of cable your PS2 uses (composite/ component).
Why Do PS2 Games Look So Dark?
The PS2 outputs an analog signal, using any of the following standards- composite, component, S-Video, RGB, and VGA. Modern LCD and OLED TVs are fed with digital signals via an HDMI cable. As a result, they must first convert the PS2 output into a digital format.
Then, your modern TV upscales each frame using a software algorithm. The results are generally quite bad, resulting in blurry images that look like they’ve smoothed out a bit too much. Details are lost, and you don’t get that old CRT TV look.
Sometimes, the issue can manifest in other ways due depending on the model of your TV and the image processing hardware it has. Your PS2 games might look a lot darker than usual, under default settings when you plug the console into your TV. Usually, this happens when you use component cables because of the way color encoding works on the PS2.
Component cables are the ones with 5 wires. Red, green, and blue for video, with yellow and white for audio. If your TV supports it, try a SCART cable for your PS2. And if you have the cash to spend on a proper retro gaming setup, buy a Kaico OSSC which converts analog RGB (SCART) signals to digital (HDMI).
With the Kaico OSSC (or any similar line doubler), your TV will receive a native HDMI signal as input. The line doubler will deinterlace and scale the PS2 output, resulting in a better image. And you will get a reduction in input lag since your TV’s image processing chip doesn’t have to do as much work.
If you are playing a game like Silent Hill on PS2, it is naturally dark (being an atmospheric horror game). Try some more colorful games like Thunder Force VI or PaRappa the Rapper 2. See if your image still looks dark.
The cable you use also has an impact on image quality. Swap out the old PS2 component cables with a high-quality component cable such as this one. Faulty cables can cause the PS2’s output to look darker than usual.
How Do I Turn Up The Brightness On My PS2?
The PS2 itself has no option to turn up the brightness. Instead, you have to turn up the brightness of your TV. Try slight increments to the gamma and brightness settings, and see if these make your game look better.
It will also depend on the default settings of your specific TV, and how the display is calibrated from the factory. Some screens are vibrant and bright without the need for any tweaking. Others might need their brightness and contrast levels boosted.
Is There A Way To Make PS2 Games Look Better?
If you’re talking about the quality of the game graphics, then no. Not unless you play these on PC with an emulator, and enable features such as anti-aliasing. A PS2 outputs images at 480i/ 480p, which was the standard back then.
Composite is the cheapest, oldest, and worst-looking format. It retains the yellow and white audio cables. But the single red video output is separated into three signals (red, green, and blue connectors).
A good composite cable can improve PS2 image quality. Technically, nothing produces a higher fidelity image than running your PS2 games on a PC via emulation. But the original experience with a CRT television can’t be beaten.
Do PS2 Games Look Better On Older TVs?
Because of how CRT TVs work, they don’t have a fixed number of pixels. These are analog devices and can scale up or down with the input signal. CRTs automatically make a PS2 game look better (or any old console for that matter).
Unless you’re interested in purchasing a big, bulky CRT, there are a few other tricks you can use to improve the experience. First, you can check out a line doubler like the RetroTINK 2x. This will optimize the output of your PS2 for a modern HDTV.
If you aren’t interested in spending over 100 bucks for a specialized device like that, a cheap upgrade is going from composite to component. Composite cables have three connectors- yellow, white red. Yellow and white are used for audio, while the video is transmitted through the red connector.
Can You Play PS2 On 4K TV?
A modern HDTV must process and upscale the signals (it also has to deinterlace the 480i stuff). The upscaling algorithm of TVs is optimized for things like movies, not games. As a result, your old consoles end up looking awful on a modern TV.
If you want to upgrade your PS2 experience, get an HDMI converter for your PS2. There are SCART-to-HDMI converters, composite-to-HDMI converters, and component-to-HDMI converters. Choose one based on the type of cable you’re using.
Can The PS2 Do 1080P?
Some games on the PS2 have alternate display modes, like Gran Turismo 4 which can do up to 1080i. However, no PS2 game can do 1080p. Because 1080p requires more graphical throughput, due to all 1080 scan lines being in the same image.
In comparison, 1080i uses progressive scan so you get two separate images or “fields”. Each contains half of the lines, which are then meshed together to construct the full image. For obvious reasons, 1080p is way better at displaying fast-paced motion (like in video games or sports).
You can use a dedicated upscaler to output 720p images from your PS2, which is easier for a modern HDTV to process. Usually, the PS2 outputs a 480p signal which is quite hard to upscale into 4K (a common resolution for a modern TV).
Hopefully, this article helped make your PS2 games a little bit brighter. The issue isn’t with the PS2 hardware, but with how modern TVs work. It could also be a faulty cable, so replace that and see if the issue persists.
If you’re using composite, switch it out for a quality component cable- your games will look a little better. For hardcore retro gaming enthusiasts, a line doubler like the RetroTINK 2x is an essential item. It makes your PS2 play perfectly on modern 4K TVs, with minimal input lag.