PS4 Backwards Compatibility Explained

Inserting an older PlayStation Game into the PS4 won't work

It is an old question that is often brought to mind by newcomers- can my PS4 play PS1, PS2 or PS3 games? Well, this guide on PS4 backwards compatibility will give you all of the necessary information to understand the ins and outs. Let's begin.

Of course, the question that gamers will forever ask about their favorite console: is the PS4 Backwards Compatible?

We always want to play all of our games on one console. Our primary gaming tool, our newest addition to the family. So, just how do you utilize the feature available on your PS4? It is not easy, and this is the most significant complaint from PS4 users. They want to play their old games on their favorite console! However, don't feel too defalted,  since Sony's move into the digital age does come with many advantages. Read on.

So, can you play PS1, PS2 or PS3 discs on the PS4?

Unfortunately, no, the systems just aren’t compatible. The PS, PS2, PS3 and PS4 use utterly different system architectures. For the PS4 to be able to play past-console games, it would need an emulator built in due to the complexity. For this to even be possible, the PS4 would need to be ten times more powerful for a PS3 game to run at full speed. Though the PS4 more than meets this requirement, this is highly expensive, and Sony does not feel that this is a valid path. Sony wants to do this for fans, but it is quite the investment and takes a lot of work. Thus, Sony would rather develop news titles for fans to enjoy, hence the many exclusive games available.

PS2 Games look Great on the PS4 - Minus the Disc

Ape Escape 2 PS2 game played on the PS4 Pro.
Ape Escape 2 PS2 game played on the PS4 Pro.

This is where Sony got it right, bringing a growing list of PS2 favourites to the PS4, via PS Now. At this time there is small, but growing pool of games available on this PS2 emulator for PS4 (see further down this article). However, if they can make one game open, in time, they can create an emulated game for them all. Thus, expect many more to be entered into the PS Now catalogue.

What about the original PlayStation?

Keep in mind that the original PlayStation is now over twenty years old as it was released in 1994. It takes a lot of times and effort to bring those titles to the 2010s. However, for those of you wishing to play the classics, we have hope that they too will be available on an emulator or via PlayStation Now in the future.

Unlock Backwards Compatibility with PlayStation Now

Playing your favourite past-time titles is actually increasingly easy. If you have not heard of PlayStation Now, look into it. It is a backwards streaming subscription that allows you to play select titles on your PS4. PlayStation Now offers over 500 PS4 and PS3 games, that is right, you heard me, they even provide PS4 games as well. It currently costs $19.99 a month or $44.99 for a three-month subscription. This price is not unreasonable if you think about it. Sony is continuously adding more titles to PlayStation Now, and for the price of one used game a month, you have access to over 500 titles.

Some fans will certainly grumble at this service as they glance over at the stack of past PS2/ PS3 titles they own. Whilst understandable, newcomers have little excuse other than to jump onboard. Even for collectors, however, you do get a variety of awesome new features. How about earning trophies from your past titles? Not only does this give you a fresh excuse to re-play the games, other than they are awesome anyway, but the expect the visuals to also be somewhat better.

If you are even remotely thinking about trying it out, they also offer a seven-day free trial, so you can test it out and see if it is right for you. Take a look at the list of games you can play! The only bad thing is, you need a reliable internet connection. Thankfully, most gamers will automatically have acquired this at an earlier time. However, for those who have not, they are going to need to now. Remember this is a streaming service; you are playing the games live via the PlayStation servers. If you are not sure if you like it, then try a free trial today.

The Competition

Sadly for Sony, Xbox One and now the Xbox One X has created a built-in emulator so players can insert the discs of their Xbox 360 for smooth play. This gives the Xbox one over on PlayStation. However, backwards compatibility for the Microsoft consoles was much easier and cheaper. It is merely fans that expect Sony to perform the same tasks with more money, power, and difficulty. They can do it, but it will take time. Since Xbox lacks the quality, depth and amount of exclusive games available, there is actually more of a reason for the console to deliver past-games via a disc emulator.

What is the current list of PS2 games available?

If you do not want to research yourself or click on links, this is what is currently available (from the date this guide was published):

Ape Escape 2

Ape Escape 3

Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits

Bully

Dark Chronicle

Dark Cloud

Destroy All Humans

Destroy All Humans 2

Fatal Fury Battle Archives: Volume 2

Fahrenheit

Fantavision

Fu’un Super Combo

GTA 3

GTA: Vice City

GTA: San Andreas

Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life

Hot Shots Tennis

Kinetica

Legaia 2: Duel Saga

The King of Fighters 2000

Manhunt

The Mark of Kri

Max Payne

Metal Slug Anthology

Okage: Shadow King

PaRappa the Rapper 2

Primal

Psychonauts

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Red Dead Revolver

Red Faction

Red Faction 2

Resident Evil: Code Veronica X

Rise of the Kasai

Rogue Galaxy

Samurai Showdown VI

Siren

Star Wars: Bounty Hunter

Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter

Star Wars: Racer Revenge

Twisted Metal: Black

War of the Monsters

Wild Arms 3

The Warriors

And there you have it; a breakdown of just how the backwards compatibility for PS4 works and how you can use it. Keep an eye out for further news and updates on the subject. Who knows, maybe 2018 will hold much more than expected when it comes to Sony games and consoles.

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34 Comments

  1. Hey numbnutz u gotta pay for those rehashed ps2 games on ps4. No where do u say that. Liar. Uniformed pony

  2. Sorry but you’re really uninformed if you believe PS4 would be able to emulate PS3. You realise that the Cell CPU even TODAY is FASTER in certain complex floating point calculations than any Jaguar CPU (Ps4, Pro, X1 or X1X)?!!
    It’s simply mathematically and technically impossible to do on PS4 hardware!

  3. Sorry but the XBone NEEDS backward compatibility since they hardly have any current gen games to play with.
    So XBone looks backwards while PS4 moves forward with new and exciting games.

  4. This reads like a bullsh*t ad for PS Now. If the PS3 was good enough to emulate PS1&2 games then the PS4 can, plain and simple. There is no excuse. Sony is just greedy and would rather make people buy “remastered” games than let them play the normal versions they already bought on PSN last gen. It’s f*cking ridiculous, and the #1 reason why I refuse to buy a PS4.

  5. Everything needs backwards compatibility, because there’s literally no excuse to not have it. Leaving out a feature that would take all of five minutes to code for and implement is just plain bullsh*t.

  6. Exactly what compatibility issue are you implying? If my 11-year-old PS3 can run PS1 games, the PS4 can as well. I bet there are smart-fridges on the market now that could run PS1 games.

  7. get lost with this trash article!
    Sony are lying greedy bastards! enough said!
    they owe us Other OS, and now we have to pay for freaking games we already paid for in the past and still own!

  8. I can kinda see why this is for PS3 games being more complicated but seriously. You telling me the thing can’t emulate PS2 hardware to play the disks? My 8 year old laptop can do that. And it gets even more of a pathetic excuse with PS1 games. Phones can emulate this ffs. It’s pure greed.

    Buuuut on the other hand, I have GPD XD and not only does that emulate PS1 games perfectly as well as PSP games, I can take that on the go, it’s faster and is free. You have the balls to charge people for Castlevania SotN 10 bucks … again … again? I paid for it on PS Vita and then got it on PS3 and rather than just give it on PS4 you expect people to pay again? No thanks, I’ll emulate instead

  9. Yeah it doesn’t praise PlayStation and Sony enough. If they did that this article would be amazing.

  10. uh, so that’s an official sony site? because not even sony could have licked their own ass that clean…

  11. @author Are you even for real. This is the most utterly pathetic piece of shit i have read in a long time.

    Please don’t give us the shit about Sony can do it, but there is to much work!!!!
    But hey just pay for a crappy solution instead of using your own games.

  12. More like there’s a lack of accuracy throughout that makes it worthless, as it fails to explain anything correctly.

    But you knee that already.

  13. Your 11 year-old PS3 was designed to run PS1 games. The PS4 is not. The PS4 doesn’t even support music CDs, not out of greed, but because it becomes too costly to maintain compatibility with legacy formats.

    Contrary to your claims, it takes more than five minutes of code to implement. There’s also the matter of licensing: these games were meant to be played on specific hardware, so the license doesn’t extend to new hardware. Why do you think 360 and OG Xbox games are done on an individual basis?

    The only way you get around that is how Sony did with the PS3: having the legacy hardware inside the new console. The PS4 doesn’t have that hardware, and including it drives up the price of the console.

    I also recall that there were some issues with the emulator for the PS3, anyway. That’s part of the reason why software emulation didn’t work for every PS2 game: Sony had to reverse-engineer the software as best they could, which didn’t work for all games.

    But I’m sure you knew all this, right? Since it matters so much to you, you kept up on what was being said, and what happened with previous emulation and BC solutions in other generations, so I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know, right?

  14. “now we have to pay for freaking games we already paid for in the past and still own!”

    No, we don’t.

  15. Nice essay, buddy. Feel better about yourself now? The launch PS3 had legacy hardware in it, but the later models didn’t. They also don’t need legacy hardware inside the PS4. Smart fridges are powerful enough to power through all PS1 and PS2 games, as all emulators do.

  16. Now, does that sound like even a significant number of PS2 games? It’s not even all the most popular games from that console. It’s a drop in the bucket, compared to the 2500-odd titles that released for it. With that kind of disparity, doesn’t it make sense that there’d be some sort of hindrance at play? Some reason why they couldn’t just take a PS2 title and port it over?

    Even now, the best software emulator out there for PS2 doesn’t play all games perfectly, and requires quite a bit of brute force besides. That should be a rather strong indication that it isn’t a simple task to implement emulation for even the PS4.

  17. Emulation for that one is probably simple, but I think there’s a hardware issue there. The PS4, after all, doesn’t even play audio CDs(I’ve never tried a DVD, so I don’t know if that works, but it’s possible). I’m not as familiar with the lens array of the PS4 as I was with the PS3, but the latter had multiple lenses included. If I remember correctly, it’s because the lasers required for the different formats are different, meaning they need different physical lenses. CD/DVD could use the same lens, but the blu ray would have to use a different one.

    This naturally results in more complication for development, and I don’t know if there would be licensing issues for PS1 games, but I imagine that might be the case, too, otherwise the 2700(VGChartz shows the PS2 at over 3500 games; I used the wikipedia list before, but it does admit it’s incomplete) PS1 games would be better represented than they currently are.

  18. And don’t get me wrong: most of my favorite games hail from the PS1/PS2 era, so I’d love nothing more than the ability to play them all on PS4(not as relevant as it used to be, since my whole library+consoles were stolen a few years back). I’m currently on my fourth PS3, second PS2, and second 360, and I’d love if I could consolidate that a bit.

    But I understand why it’s not always plausible.

  19. the ps3 had the processing chips from the ps1 and ps2 inside the machine which is how they managed backwards compatibility with some games alongside the ability to read CD’s, the ps4 does not.

    backwards compatibility from previous-gens to next gen is more complex than you realise both in terms of hardware and software, prior to ps3 Sony used on-chip RISC operating systems, ps4 was the 1st Sony console to use pc-style architecture, to enable full backwards compatibility the ps4 would require all the processing and graphics chips from the previous gen consoles and also have cd-rom reading enabled with addition of being able to handle multi-disc games.

    Microsoft has used pc-style architecture and hard drive saving throughout their console series making backwards compatibility much easier, but even they haven’t managed to get every game to work and some that do have had additional problems either in-game or the servers being shutdown.

    There is also the big issue of licences, a lot of the ps1 and ps2 developers are now either defunct or merged with other developers.

  20. well, considering the thousands of times they’ve programmed ps1 emulators, and the fact the ps4 is so overwhelmingly more potent _and_ straightforward than the ps1, it wouldnt be a gargantuan effort, that i know

  21. This is complete and total BS. If I get a PS4 I’m going to need to have both my PS3 and PS4 connected to the TV because I REFUSE to give even 1 penny to Sony to get games I already have. At the VERY LEAST if a purchase had been made through your console from the PS store they know you bought the freakin’ game and should let you DL the PS4 version from the store for free. Only 2 of my games have an actual physical disc, if I need to re-buy those 2, I will definitely go to the USED game store some old guy runs down the street from me and wait until a used copy comes in there or buy a USED copy from Amazon or something. I will NEVER use PS Now and I will NEVER buy a new copy of a game I already have. I don’t want my money going to Sony or game companies that won’t give you a PS4 version for a game you ALREADY PAID for.

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