How many times have you wanted to play a classic title but have been held back by having too recent a console? If you’re anything like me, when I wanted to play the original Demon’s souls on PS3 when only owning a PS4, you’ll know this is a nightmare conundrum that has you questioning whether forking out to purchase bygone consoles is even worth it.
Thankfully, as we progress into the next generation of consoles, this looks like it will be an issue of the past—well, sort of. In this article we’re going to dive into the backwards compatibility features on the PS5 and Xbox Series X (and S) and see how this will solve some of these issues we’ve had during the last generation.
Xbox Series X|S: The King of Backwards Compatibility
It’s no secret that Microsoft have always placed great importance on backwards compatibility—whether that was playing Original Xbox games on the Xbox 360, 360 games on the Xbox One. But this time Microsoft has really gone the extra mile by allowing four generations of games, stretching all the way back to 2001, on the new console.
All the Way Back
This sounds like the Series X has the potential for thousands of old-school gaming sessions, but taking a closer look the console’s backwards compatibility doesn’t actually include the whole catalogue. Microsoft has published a comprehensive list of the titles which currently consists of 568 Xbox 360 games and 39 original Xbox games.
That said this isn’t really a surprise, as this comprehensive but not all-encompassing catalogue matches that of the Xbox One. Back on October 28th, Xbox director of program management confirmed that “all Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games playable on the Xbox One today, except for the handful that require Kinect, will be available – and look and play better – on the Xbox Series X|S”. The caveat of Kinect games being incompatible comes as no surprise, given that Xbox Kinect is not compatible with the new console.
The improvements players will see in playing old games on the new console are definitely nothing to be sniffed at. Faster loading times, increased frame rates, quick resume and the visual boost of high dynamic range graphics will breathe new life into the old-school classic titles.
The new Xbox will also, of course, support a bunch of recent releases—which are more likely to be what we all care about, right?
Thankfully, due to Microsoft’s Smart Delivery system, save game data will be transferred wirelessly in the blink of an eye, allowing you to continue even the most recent title when you finally get your hands on next gen consoles.
So, whether you just got your hands on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla or have just booted up Grand Theft Auto V for the first time on your Xbox One, you’ll be able to transfer seamlessly to the new console without losing any progress.
And, of course, if you have the new console you will want to do exactly that. Since the new hardware is so much more powerful, it’d be almost conceivable not to! Imagine those long Red Dead Redemption load times being crushed to be almost instantaneous—not to mention the incredible increase in the graphical fidelity.
In sum, the next generation on Xbox spoils us for choice. Bringing much of the Xbox’s catalogue—even all the way back to 2001—to your fingertips, all while taking advantage of the beefy new specs.
PlayStation 5: Joining the Party
Anyone who’s even touched the last two generations of Sony consoles will have been disappointed—at some point—by the fact they didn’t have backwards compatibility. For me, it was when I wanted to play Demon’s Souls—what was it for you?
That’s why Sony fans were delighted to find that the PS5 was designed with PS4 games in mind, allowing an unprecedented amount of backwards compatibility (for Sony).
Sony has confirmed that the “overwhelming majority” of PS4 titles will work on the PS5, claiming around 99% of titles should play on the new hardware. Currently, we only know of 10 PS4 titles that will not work on the new console, which are:
- Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume One
- Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
- Joe’s Diner
- Just Deal With It!
- Robinson: The Journey
- Shadow Complex Remastered
- TT Isle of Man — Ride on the Edge 2
- We Sing
Fortunately, these aren’t the most popular titles of last gen. But on the topic, Sony have also listed a range of games which “may exhibit errors or unexpected behaviour” on the new hardware, a list of which can be found here.
But it’s of course not all doom and gloom—if anything that’s only a very, very small part of it. Playing older titles on the PlayStation 5 will see faster load times and utilise Game Boost, a feature which offers improved or more stable frame rates, while also offering select titles unlocked framerates and dynamic resolution up to 4K.
Take, for example, Sucker Punch’s recent hit Ghost of Tsushima which will utilise Game Boost on the PS5 to great effect, allowing up to 60fps with load times a fraction of what they are on the PS4.
Thankfully, Sony also payed careful attention to the ease of moving to Next Gen, allowing saves to be transferred wirelessly, by USB or across LAN cables between the two consoles—with PS Plus members being able to store their saves on the cloud.
All this said, those wanting to play old PS3, PS2 or original PlayStation titles are out of luck. But, at least there are other options to play such titles; such as the PS2 Classics which can be purchased on the PlayStation Network or the library of PS2 and PS3 games available on PS Now.
It’s clear that both next-gen consoles will allow players to indulge in a range of older titles while taking advantage of the fast, shiny, new hardware. But let’s look at a couple of key examples.
PS5: Days Gone, GTA V, The Last of Us: Part II
When it was released, Days Gone was already a good-looking game, but on the new console players surely won’t be able to go back. The game now runs at a locked 60 frames-per-second (compared to the previous 30) at a much higher base resolution. Not only that but load times average around 1/3 of those on the PS4 Pro—and remember that’s even the beefier PS4!
GTA V saw some improvements in load times and frame rates, however the almost 8-year-old game shows its age. That said, there has been a remaster for next gen announced, which should truly bring the experience up to date.
The Last of Us: Part II, being an incredibly recent release, find it hard to separate itself from the pack. With clear improvements to load times and no framerate drops it’s a shame the game’s resolution is currently locked at 1440p, meaning it can’t truly take advantage of the graphics.
This is to say that the PS5 copes well with backwards compatibility, but we can’t expect every game to see notable improvements across the board. However, games which taxed the older consoles’ hardware are sure to run smoother, and load faster, even if graphical improvements are nowhere to be seen.
Xbox One X|S: Dead or Alive 6, Batman: Return to Arkham, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Dead or Alive 6 has a 4K mode on the Xbox One X, however, is as notoriously bad given the extreme load it put the somewhat dated hardware under. Thankfully, booting it up on the Series X shows marked improvements not only from a visual standpoint, but with a locked 60fps and far faster load times.
Batman: Return to Arkham is an interesting example of software diminishing the opportunity of hardware; with it limiting itself to 30fps—which is less than Arkham Asylum’s 45fps! This trend of self-limitation can be seen across a handful of titles, which disappointingly limits the capacity the next-gen hardware can have on the titles.
That said, some titles which simply couldn’t keep up can now see the light of day, with The Vanishin of Ethan Carter finally being enjoyed at a locked 60fps, at native 4K.
Ultimately, backwards compatibility is a mixed bag across both consoles—with loading times and frame rates often being much better off, but the magnitude of increases really changing between titles. In short, games will load faster and be more stable, but many may play just like before.
So, we can see that both consoles treat backwards compatibility differently—with the Xbox winning out in longevity and sheer variety of old titles available on the new hardware. As we’d be here for days reading the comprehensive list of compatible titles you can find the officially released lists for both the new Xbox and PlayStation online.
But, in short, the vast variety of titles won’t make the console break a metaphorical sweat. The updated hardware will allow for faster load times, higher frame rates and, on occasion, better graphical performance. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that mileage may vary depending on the specifics of the titles you are playing.