Is PS5 backward compatible? Here’s everything you need to know

PS5 and PS4 Pro displayed on a table against a white background
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Mohsen Vaziri)

Is PS5 backward compatible with older PlayStation consoles like the PS4? That might be a question you’ve considered if you’re thinking of buying a PS5, especially if you’re also looking to get rid of older consoles like the PS4. After all, you’d no longer need to keep your old systems around if you could just play its games on newer hardware, right?

Backward compatibility has been a hot topic among gamers for a few console generations now. It’s something that many of us arguably took for granted, especially as consoles like the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 all featured backward compatibility with their prior generations to some extent. That became less of a certainty in the following years, though, as both the PS4 and Xbox One lacked backward compatibility at launch, with just the Xbox One implementing the much-requested features a couple of years into its life.

Thankfully, console makers are starting to wise up to the importance of backward compatibility. Xbox has been a particular crusader in this regard, offering myriad Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles that can be bought from the online store or playable from the disc. The Nintendo Switch is getting better, too, with select titles from N64, SNES, NES and the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis playable via the Nintendo Switch Online subscription service.

So is PS5 backward compatible? The answer is actually a bit more complicated than you might think, as Sony’s approach to the game-preserving feature has come a long way, but isn’t without its caveats. Read on to find out all about the feature on Sony’s newest hardware.

PS5 backward compatibility with PS4 games

If you’re planning on getting rid of your old PS4 console, you’ll be pleased to know that PS5 fully supports backward compatibility with PS4 games. The vast majority of games on Sony’s last-gen hardware will run on PS5, and can be bought from the PlayStation Store or played from the disc if you have it.

For cross-generation games like Horizon Forbidden West and Death Stranding, buying the game on PS5 will also get you the PS4 version at no extra cost. On the flipside, if you buy a cross-generation game on PS4, Sony’s first-party titles usually come with a small upgrade fee in order to get the PS5 version. It’s certainly controversial, but an option worth looking into if you’re making the jump to PS5.

However, some PS4 games did receive free PS5 performance patches, with no need for you to pay extra to experience these older games with current-gen flourishes. Such games include God of War, The Last of Us 2, Days Gone, Ghost of Tsushima, and Horizon Zero Dawn.

Additionally, many PS4 games received PS4 Pro patches to improve the game’s frame rate and offer 4K resolution. These options also work on PS5, and run better than ever thanks to the improved hardware, and load much faster when installed on one of the best SSD for PS5.

Close up of the PS5 and PS5 DualSense controller

(Image credit: Shutterstock/mkfilm)

There are also some edge cases where the PS4 Pro version of a game will run better than its PS5 counterpart, though. That’s certainly the case with Final Fantasy 14 Online, which has a much smoother frame rate when playing the PS4 Pro version on PS5, as opposed to the actual PS5 version of the game where the frames can dip dramatically in busier gameplay segments.

A pretty wonderful PS5 addition is the PlayStation Plus Collection. These are digital versions of some of the best PS4 games, available to download at no extra cost if you’re a PS Plus subscriber. Games featured in the collection include God of War, Persona 5, Bloodborne and The Last of Us Remastered. That’ll save you from buying the physical versions of these games.

Do keep in mind, though, that these are strictly the PS4 versions of those games, and barring any PS4 Pro enhancements, haven’t been optimized for play on PS5 in most cases. That means games like Bloodborne and Persona 5 are still locked to 30fps.

Lastly, there are just six PS4 games that aren’t available to play on PS5 via backward compatibility. These can be viewed on the official PlayStation support page, and will also be marked on the PlayStation Store as “Playable on: PS4 only.”

Back-compat on PlayStation Now

PS Now

(Image credit: Sony)

The PlayStation Now subscription service is another way of accessing backward compatible games on PS5. PlayStation Now is a separate subscription to PS Plus, and costs $9.99 / £8.99 a month. However, the service has vastly improved since its debut, and if you’re a longtime PlayStation fan, it’s a worthwhile alternative to Xbox Game Pass.

That’s because as well as PS4 games, PS Now offers a healthy selection of PS3 and PS2 titles, the latter of which you can download to your SSD or stream them instantly via cloud connection. One thing to keep in mind is that download and / or cloud availability will vary from game to game, and you’ll also need a fairly speedy internet connection in order to accurately stream games through the cloud to prevent serious input lag or visual glitches. PS3 games, for example, can only be played via the cloud.

The downside here is that PS3 and PS2 physical discs are also not supported on PS5, so if you’re looking to play some PlayStation classics, you’ll be tied to whichever games are featured on the PS Now service. Thankfully, the roster of games available on PS Now is updated on a semi-regular basis, so even more retro titles could be added in future.

PS5 Console Covers key art

(Image credit: Sony)

For the players?

There’s a surprising amount of options when it comes to PS5 backward compatibility, then, even if not all the solutions are perfect. Of course, we’d have loved to have seen full PS3 and PS2 backward compatibility via physical discs, and perhaps PS One, too, which currently can’t be played on PS5 in any form. However, we know that would require vast sums of time and resources on Sony’s part to implement. 

After all, even the Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One consoles fall short of providing the full Xbox 360 and original Xbox libraries. The unfortunate reality is that it simply isn’t feasible and requires a lot of work to bring games back. For now, we have to make use of services like PlayStation Now and more immediate backward compatibility solutions like PS4 games being playable on PS5.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.