Every time a new gaming console is announced, there is one question that pops up in the minds of millions of gamers worldwide: will it play games from previous generations?

I’m sure we can all agree that after spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on games, DLC content, and accessories, it can be quite a turn-off to hear that the new console will not feature backwards compatibility.

So when the Playstation 3 was released in 2006, on the coattails of the fantastic and highly acclaimed Playstation 2, gamers everywhere were eager to know if they would be able to play their favorite PS2 games after upgrading to the newer, more advanced console.

Since the ability to play older games is such a popular feature, it would be easy to think that Sony would make sure to include it in every one of their consoles; however, the truth is that not every Playstation 3 can play PS2 games.

The original fat PlayStation 3 model

Is The PS3 Backwards Compatible With PS2 Games?

Yes. The PlayStation 3 is backwards compatible with PlayStation 2 games, but only the original launch version of the console. You would need to seek out an original 60GB or 20GB model to play PS2 games on your PS3.

Is The PS3 Slim Backwards Compatible With PS2 Games?

No. The PS3 Slim is not backwards compatible with PlayStation 2 games at all. This goes for the super slim Playstation 3 model as well. They do not play PS2 games.

While the Slim and some Phat models lack this functionality, the original launch PS3s mentioned above are in fact backward compatible with PS2 games and there is a little more you should know about things. So let me tell you about 

The PS3 slim is not backwards compatible

The PS3 That Plays PS2 Games

Backward Compatibility

Before we tell you about the PS3 that plays PS2 games and, more importantly, how to spot one, I think it would be a good idea to clearly define what the industry means when they refer to backward compatibility.

Backward compatibility is defined as the ability of a system to successfully use both interfaces and data from earlier versions of a system.

So, if a Playstation 3 can successfully play games that were designed and released for a Playstation 2, then that PS3 is backwards compatible.

Backward compatibility can even work across more than one generation of systems. For example, the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X can play games that were originally released on the much older Xbox 360, as well as games that were released for the previous generation’s Xbox One.

Unfortunately, backward compatibility is not always achievable because newer systems tend to be built around entirely different architecture than previous ones. This means that backward compatibility has to be achieved through some sort of emulation; which requires a significant time and money investment.

Thankfully, console makers still recognize the added value that backward compatibility adds to their new products, so expect future console generations to offer this feature.

But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s get back to the PS3 that plays PS2 games.

Different PS3 Models

The Playstation 3 underwent several different engineering redesigns throughout its lifespan. And it is in these redesigns that the secret to PS3 backward compatibility can be found.

You see, the original PS3 console was released in 2006 with a fantastic software experience and a great collection of games. However, the console left much to be desired when it came to aesthetic design.

The original PS3, known today by many as the “fat” PS3, was chunky, to say the least. It had a glaring outward bulge and weighed more than 11 pounds.

Initially, no one cared about the ugly design, but eventually, enough people complained that Sony would later release a redesigned PS3 console with a much sleeker, much slimmer profile. Unfortunately, the smaller console came at a price: no backwards compatibility.

This means that if you want to play PS2 games on a PS3 console, you have to get your hands on one of the original, “fat” PS3s.

PS3 that plays PS2 games

PS2 Games On a Fat PlayStation 3

You see, Sony is a company with a reputation to make things more complicated than they have any right to be.

As it turns out, having a “fat” PS3 does not guarantee backward compatibility completely because even within the initial batch of consoles there were different models to be found.

So, if you want your PS3 console to play PS2 games you have to make sure that you have the correct model of the original “fat” console. Luckily there are tricks that can help you spot one in the wild.

First, you should check how many USB ports the console features. The PS3 that plays PS2 discs has 4 USB ports on the front of the console. PS3 systems with only two USB ports are not backward compatible.

You can also inspect the console’s serial numbers to determine if it can play games from a previous generation. Backward-compatible PS3s have serial numbers that contain the letters CECH. If these letters are followed by a letter A or the letter B, you have backward compatibility and your console will play PS2 games.

Some “fat” PS3 consoles have serial numbers that end with CECH followed by the letters C or E, and if that is your case then you are still in luck; somewhat. These consoles do have backward compatibility, but it is limited to some degree, and you won’t be able to play every PS2 game like you would with the consoles whose serial numbers end in A or B.

Is The Backwards Compatible PS3 Worth It?

Finding a PS3 that plays PS2 classics can feel like hitting a jackpot since it increases the pool of playable games significantly. And let’s face it, some of the best games ever made were released for the PS2.

However, these backward-compatible consoles have some noteworthy limitations when compared to the later models released by Sony. For example, the later non-backward compatible versions had more reliable hardware.

Additionally, the PS3s that can’t play PS2 games tend to be easier to find and are found for cheaper prices than the older, bulkier models.

Getting a PS3 that plays PS2 games can be worth it, but make sure to consider all aspects before you commit to the hunt.