Sony is embracing backwards compatibility on the PS5

During Mark Cerny’s PS5 technical showcase, the Lead Designer confirmed that the PS5’s GPU will offer what the company calls “Legacy Modes” for PS4 and PS4 Pro games. This allows Sony to bring PS4 titles to the next-gen console without any loss of functionality and, we assume, very little input from developers - much like the ‘Boost Mode’ on the PS4 Pro that can boost the performance of unsupported PS4 titles. 

During the technical showcase, Cerny confirmed that the PS5 would only support the “top 100 PS4 games at launch”. That seems logical, but when you consider the fact the competing Xbox Series X offers backwards compatibility not only with the entire Xbox One library but the entire Xbox collection, it’s incredibly limited - and PS4 fans largely agreed. 

That prompted Sony to update the technical showcase post on the PlayStation Blog in the days following the reveal, stating that the “overwhelming majority of the 4000+ PS4 titles” available right now will be playable on the PS5 when it’s released later this year.

The blog post goes into more detail, claiming that the company has already tested hundreds of games and that thousands more are set to be tested prior to the launch of the next-gen console. It won’t stop there either; Sony claims that the games will run at increased frequencies, translating to increased visual fidelity and higher framerates.

“We’re expecting backward compatible titles will run at a boosted frequency on PS5 so that they can benefit from higher or more stable frame rates and potentially higher resolutions. We’re currently evaluating games on a title-by-title basis to spot any issues that need adjustment from the original software developers.”

For more on how the next-gen consoles compare, take a look at PS5 vs Xbox Series X.

Will the PS5 offer backward compatibility with PS3 games?

While Sony has finally embraced backwards compatibility with open arms, it seems the interest is limited to PS4 games. That means you won’t be able to play your favourite PS3, PS2 or PS1 games on the PS5 without subscribing to Sony’s cloud-based PlayStation Now gaming service.

As annoying as that is for consumers, it makes sense from a business perspective. Offering built-in universal backwards compatibility would remove a chunk of subscribers from PlayStation Now as, generally speaking, new titles take a while to appear on the service. Gamers primarily subscribe to the service to gain access to older games not compatible with the PS4 - something they wouldn’t need to do if they could simply pop their old disks in the PS5. 

So, while the PS5 doesn’t offer built-in backwards compatibility with PS3 games, you should be able to access a swathe of PS3-era games via PlayStation Now.

Which games are backwards compatible on PS5?

Unfortunately, Sony is yet to confirm which games specifically are backwards compatible on the PS5, but given its renewed stance to bring the majority of the PS4 collection to the PS5, it’s safe to say most of your game library will probably be accessible on PS5.

We’ve listed a handful of the most popular games of the generation that, while not confirmed, we think were part of Sony’s initial top 100 list confirmed to be working on the next-gen console.

  • Grand Theft Auto V
  • God of War
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • Bloodborne
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • The Last of Us Remastered
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Gran Turismo Sport
  • Monster Hunter: World
  • Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Nier: Automata
  • Metal Gear Solid V
  • Battlefield 1
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
  • Infamous Second Son
  • Kingdom Hearts III
  • Nioh

For more great games, take a look at our pick of the best PS4 games.