The PlayStation 3 (PS3) is fondly remembered today due to its stellar library of titles, but the consoles backwards compatible with PS2 games are even more valuable today. That said, seeing as how only a select few models of PS3 consoles are actually backwards compatible with both the PS2 and PS1 collection of games, things can get a little bit complicated for those who are less familiar with the various console models released over the system's decade-long lifespan.
Which PS3 models are backwards compatible with PS2 games? Original 60GB PS3 consoles that start with the model number “CECH-A” and 20GB PS3 consoles that start with the model number “CECH-B” are backwards compatible with PS2 games. 60GB consoles that start with the model number “CECH-C” and 80GB PS3s that start with the model number “CECH-E” are also backwards compatible with PS2 games, but via emulation. All other PS3 models are not backwards compatible with PS2 software unless they have custom firmware.
(Editor's note: PS3 consoles that use emulation means that they don't have a PS2 chip inside of them. They still read and play PS2 discs, but through a different process. PS3 consoles with model numbers that start with “CECH-A” and “CECH-B” essentially have PS2 consoles inside of them, so they operate as a PS2 would. PS3 consoles that start with the model number “CECH-C” and “CECH-E” use a software process to emulate the PS2 hardware. Those consoles play PS2 games as well; they just take a different technical route to do so.)
(Please also note that we have seen reports that firmware updates can cause consoles to lose their backwards compatibility. From what we've observed, we DO NOT find this to be the case. Any console that shipped as backwards compatible with PS2 or PS1 games should still be even after a firmware update.)
Which PS3 models are backwards compatible with PS1 games? Every PS3 is backwards compatible with PS1 games. Any of the PS3 models are capable of reading physical PS1 discs.
How To Tell If You Have A Backwards Compatible PS3 (4 Steps)
As we said, every PS3 is backwards compatible with PS1 games, but the PS3 consoles that are backwards compatible with PS2 software are a little bit trickier to spot. That said, it's all pretty easy if you know what you're looking for.
Step 1. Make Sure You've Got An Original “Fat” PS3
First of all, you want to make sure you've got an original “fat” PS3. Sony later released a redesigned PS3 with slimmer, sleeker designs aptly named the PS3 Slim and PS3 Super Slim respectively. The Slim and Super Slim consoles take up much less real estate under the television and typically feature larger hard drive options.
To put it simply: the original (or “fat”) PS3 has a glossy, metallic finish and the words “PlayStation 3” printed on the console. The redesigned PS3 Slim features a matte finish with “PS3” engraved into the console’s cover. And finally, the Super Slim console has a sliding disc cover as opposed to the mechanical disc drive found in the previous two designs. The top of the Super Slim console also features a more perforated texture.
As the names suggest, each redesign is slimmer than the last. As pictured in the image above, it is fairly simple to tell each model apart if you know what you are looking for.
If you want a more detailed explanation of all the differences between the various PlayStation 3 models, make sure to check out our article, PS3 vs PS3 Slim vs PS3 Super Slim: What Is The Difference?
Step 2. Check Hard Drive Size
After you've identified which PS3 model you're working with – again, it should be an original “fat” PS3 – the next thing you need to check to tell if a console is backwards compatible with PS2 games is the hard drive size. 20GB and 60GB consoles with model numbers that start with “CECH-B” and “CECH-A” respectively will be compatible with PS2 games. (Please note that we cover model and serial numbers information in more detail in Step 4)
Again, 60GB consoles that start with the model number “CECH-C” and 80GB PS3s that start with the model number “CECH-E” are backwards compatible with PS2 games via emulation. These models still play PS2 discs, but they emulate a PS2 console while PS3 systems with model numbers that start with “CECH-A” and “CECH-B” essentially have PS2 consoles inside of them.
Step 3. Check The Model Number
Now that you've identified console models and hard drive sizes, the next thing to do is to find the model number. The model number for PS3 consoles will be located on the back of the system by the bar code sticker. The model number will be directly after the 11-digit serial number. Once you find locate the model number, you're only going to need the first five letters.
Again, only PS3 consoles with model numbers that start with “CECH-A” or “CECH-B” are backwards compatible with PS2 games as they essentially have PS2 technology inside of the system itself. PS3 consoles that start with the model number “CECH-C” or “CECH-E” are also backwards compatible with PS2 games, but through emulation only. These consoles still play PS2 discs, but they play them through a process of emulation while the earlier “CECH-A” and “CECH-B” models essentially have the innards of a PS2 console. All other PS3 model numbers are not backwards compatible unless they are using custom firmware.
Step 4. Check The Number Of USB Ports (Easy Optional Step)
Again, this step is completely optional, but it is another way to tell if your PS3 console is backwards compatible. If you have already followed the first four steps, this one is unnecessary, but it is a helpful and easy way to check for PS2 backward compatibility.
When it comes to identifying which “fat” PS3 consoles are backwards compatible with PS2 games, the easiest way to tell is to count the number of USB ports. Consoles backwards compatible with PS2 games will have four USB ports and the other consoles (not backwards compatible with PS2 software) will only have two USB ports. In other words, four USB ports mean the PS3 console is backwards compatible with PS2 games and two USB ports mean the PS3 is not.