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PS5 and Xbox Series X backward compatibility: What you need to know

Microsoft made a new batch of old games playable on Xbox Series X and S, in celebration of its original console's 20th anniversary.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
Expertise Culture, Video Games, Breaking News
Sean Keane
7 min read

The PS5, Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S all play old games, with a few limitations.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Playing your old games on a next-generation console is a huge deal for people who want to check out titles they missed or revisit the past. Sony and Microsoft  knew this as they launched their PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X last year, both having hyped up their consoles' backward compatibility features. The latter even announced a new batch of old games it made playable on Series X Monday.

The two companies have been battling other console makers for decades -- Sony since 1994 and Microsoft since 2001 -- so they've both built up magnificent back catalogs filled with classics. Let's take a look at how much of each of those libraries you can play on the new  consoles  and how you can transfer your saves.


Your shiny new PS5 will play most PS4 games.

Dan Ackerman/CNET


The PS5, which starts at $400, was designed with PS4 games in mind, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan told CNET last June.

"PS4 titles get even better on PS5. Select PS4 titles will see increased loading speeds on the PS5 console, and will also leverage Game Boost, offering improved or more stable frame rates," the company said in an Oct. 9 blog post. "Some titles with unlocked frame rates or dynamic resolution up to 4K may see higher fidelity."

Read more: PS5 review: Sony built a space-age game console for your next-gen dreams


God of War will look and play better on PS5, thanks to an optimization patch.

Sony Santa Monica

Ghost of Tsushima developer Sucker Punch gave us a sense of how Game Boost works: Once it's enabled, you'll "see an extra option to allow frame rates up to 60fps." 

For the 2018 God of War, developer Sony Santa Monica released a PS5 optimization patch on Feb. 2. Once that's installed, you'll be able to play in 4K resolution and at 60 frames per second. 

The company also released a short list of PS4 games that won't be playable on the PS5:

  • DWVR
  • Afro Samurai 2 Revenge of Kuma Volume One
  • TT Isle of Man - Ride on the Edge 2
  • Just Deal With It!
  • Shadow Complex Remastered
  • Robinson: The Journey
  • We Sing
  • Hitman Go: Definitive Edition
  • Shadwen
  • Joe's Diner

It noted that these games will carry a "Playable on: PS4 only" warning in the PlayStation Store, so you don't download them by accident.

On Oct. 30, Ubisoft released a separate list of PS4 games that won't work on PS5. The most prominent one was 2015's Assassin's Creed: Syndicate. It later pulled that blog post, telling IGN it may have included "inaccuracies involving the Ubisoft titles that will be playable on PS5." Players have since reported that Syndicate is playable, with some odd graphical glitches.

The switch from spinning hard drive to solid-state storage will make them run faster than they did on the PS4, so you won't be staring into the loading screen abyss for quite as long. I timed how long Ghost of Tsushima took from booting up to gameplay on each system; my launch on the PS4 took 1 minute and 40 seconds, on the PS5, it took exactly 1 minute.

If you subscribe to PS Plus, Sony's $60-a-year online service, you get a selection of PS4 games to play at no extra cost through the PS5-only Plus Collection from Nov. 12 (you'll also get free PS5 and PS4 games each month).

First-party games


Batman: Arkham Knight is part of the PS5's Plus Collection.

Warner Bros.

Third-party games

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Battlefield 1
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops III -- Zombies Chronicles Edition
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
  • Fallout 4
  • Final Fantasy 15 Royal Edition
  • Monster Hunter: World
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Persona 5
  • Resident Evil 7 biohazard

You can use your current DualShock 4 controller to play those PS4 games, but you'll have to use the new DualSense for PS5 games. And PS5 won't be backward compatible with PS3, PS2 or PS1 games.

32 of the best games on PS4

See all photos

Transferring saves

It's possible to continue your PS4 adventures on the new console, and Sony has confirmed a few methods of transferring your saves. 

"You can transfer digital games, game data, and game saves from a PS4 console to a PS5 console using LAN cables, or by connecting wirelessly (Wi-Fi). If you've already stored PS4 games and game data in the external USB storage device connected to your PS4, you can bring them over to PS5 with that external USB storage device," the company said in an Oct. 9 blog post. "And if you are a PS Plus member, you can also sync PS4 game saves on PS5 through cloud storage."

The cloud storage method is the simplest approach, but it's a little fiddly. You'll have to make sure the latest save is backed up to the cloud from your PS4 and manually download it on your PS5 -- hopefully a future update will make the PS5 automatically detect and download cloud saves once a game is installed.

However, it warned that the ability to transfer game saves between a PS4 version and a PS5 version of the same game is down to the developer, and it'll vary with cross-gen games. It's highly unlikely that any developer will decide not to give you the power to transfer. So far, Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure are confirmed to have save transfers if you upgrade to the PS5 versions.

PlayStation 3

You might want to hold onto your PS3 to play games from its library.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Revisiting PlayStation's past?

If you want to play those dusty old original PlayStation, PS2 or PS3 discs, you're out of luck. Sony moved away from backward compatibility after the initial batch of PS3s, and PS4 couldn't play any games from the older consoles -- so that 2008 copy of Metal Gear Solid 4 will remain on your shelf until the world goes cold. This is the case on PS5 as well.

However, there are a few ways to access old games on PS5. There's a selection of PS2 Classics you can buy on the PlayStation Network, and Sony's $9.99 a month PS Now streaming service lets you access a massive library of PS2 and PS3 titles (along with a rotating selection of PS4 games -- these can be downloaded to your console). These games are playable on the PS5.

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to access the massive library of original PlayStation, PSP or PS Vita games without tracking down the old hardware or a mini console. Your options for playing classic games on PS3, PSP or Vita will soon become even more limited, since Sony is shutting down the PSN Store for those devices this summer.  

Read more: Game subscription services: Read this before you choose one


The Xbox Series X and Series S are backward compatible with games from all of Microsoft's previous consoles, but not all such titles.

Xbox Series X and Series S 

Microsoft has been more ambitious with backward compatibility. The $499 Xbox Series X and $299 Series S play original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games. That's four generations of games, stretching back to the first console's 2001 launch.

But it doesn't include literally everything. Microsoft has a comprehensive list of the games that play on its new consoles. And titles that require its defunct Kinect motion sensor won't work at all.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original Xbox on Nov. 15, the company added more than 70 games to its backward compatibility catalog. However, it noted that this would be the last batch of old games it would make playable on its new consoles.

Old games get a visual boost on the Series X and Series S, by way of high dynamic range graphics. The new consoles' hardware may also reduce game loading times and increase frame rates. It also offers the Quick Resume feature.

Read more: Xbox Series S restock news

It also made several Xbox and Xbox 360 games available via Xbox Cloud Gaming, which means Xbox Game Pass subscribers can play them on an Android device.


Your Xbox 360 is largely irrelevant thanks to the Series X's ability to play old games.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Save transfers

This is incredibly straightforward because Microsoft's Smart Delivery system lets you transfer save files from any Xbox Series X compatible game.

"As was the case with our current backwards compatible titles, you won't have to worry about losing any progress either," the company said in a June 15 blog post. "Thanks to our commitment to compatibility across generations, you can be assured that when you purchase a game on Xbox One today, your game library, progression and entire gaming legacy moves forward with you if you jump into the next generation with Xbox Series X."

If you've still got saves for 360 games you want to access, you can transfer to Xbox Series X by uploading it to the cloud. You can't use this method to transfer saves from original Xbox games to the Series X, so you'll have to start that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic play-through from scratch.

The 31 best games on Xbox One

See all photos

Maximizing your Xbox library

Microsoft also has a subscription service, the $10 a month Xbox Game Pass, that'll get you access to a rotating library of older games. New Xbox exclusives also launch on the service, so you'll get Halo Infinite and other upcoming games the day they become available. The $15 Game Pass Ultimate option will also get you access to Xbox Cloud Gaming, EA Play games and the ability to play many titles on PC.

Unlike the PS5, you'll have plenty of controller options no matter what generation of games you're playing -- the Series X and Series S controllers are compatible with Xbox One games, the Xbox One console itself and PCs. You can also use your Xbox One controllers on your Series X and Series S.