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PlayStation 5 backward compatibility: PS1, PS2, PS3 games unplayable

Sony's next-gen PS5 will not play PS1, PS2, or PS3 era game discs, backwards compatibility support is exclusive to PlayStation 4.

4 minute read time

Sony's next-gen PS5 will not play PS1, PS2, or PS3 game discs, Ubisoft confirms.

PlayStation 5 backward compatibility: PS1, PS2, PS3 games unplayable 20

A new post on Ubisoft's support page confirms the PlayStation 5's backwards compatibility is exclusive to PS4 game discs. "Backwards compatibility will be available for supported PlayStation 4 titles, but will not be possible for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, or PlayStation games," reads the post. The only way to play these games on PS5 is via PlayStation Now or buying select games on the PS Store. Game discs won't be supported.

This isn't a surprise. The PS5's backwards compatibility feature emulates the PS4 on a logic level, not a chip level, and is only made possible by the x86 architectural links between the PS4 and PS5 era. The PS3 uses the CELL architecture which is tremendously complex. Before the PS5, PlayStation consoles literally had previous generation console SoCs included alongside the new ones; the 20GB PS3, for example, had a built-in PS2 chip. The PS2 likewise had a built-in PS1 chip when it shipped in the 2000s.

PlayStation 5 backward compatibility: PS1, PS2, PS3 games unplayable 25

Sony says that every PS4 game has to be manually adjusted to be playable on PlayStation 5, but they still expect thousands of PS4 games to be supported when the PS5 launches. The next-gen PlayStation will natively boost in-game performance of PS4 games to add tightened frame rates, upscaled resolution, and faster load times via the new PCIe 4.0 SSD.

The PlayStation 5 has three modes, two of which downscale the console's GPU and CPU speeds to emulate a PS4 and PS4 Pro. Not every PS4 game that is playable on the PS5 will be optimized with specific features like ray tracing, ultra-fast loading times, and 120FPS. Those games require extra enhancement patches.

  • Native Mode - Fully unlocks the Navi GPU at 2.23GHz for next-gen games
  • PS4 Pro Legacy Mode - Downscales the GPU to 911MHz, 218GB/sec bandwidth, and 64 ROPs to emulate the PS4 Pro
  • PS4 Legacy Mode - Drops the GPU to 800MHz with 176GB/sec bandwidth and 32 ROPs to emulate the base PS4

Optimized PS4 games can run on the PS5's Native Mode to get the most out of the system.

Here's what PS5 architect Mark Cerny said about backwards compatibility in the March PS5 tech stream:

"The PlayStation 5 GPU is backwards compatible with the PlayStation 4. One way you can achieve backwards compatibility is to put the previous console's chipset in the new console, like we did with the PS3. But that's of course extremely expensive.

"A better way is to incorporate any differences in the previous console's logic into the new console's custom chips. Meaning that even as the technology evolves, the logic and the feature set that powers the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro titles rely on, is still available in backwards compatibility mode."

"One advantage of this strategy is that once backwards compatibility is in the console, it's in. It's not as if a cost down [hardware omission] will remove backwards compatibility like it did on the PlayStation 3."

Here's everything we know about PS5's backward compatibility:

This isn't the first time Ubisoft talked about backwards compatibility.

Back in February, lots of gaming sites got Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot's words mixed up and thought Ubisoft confirmed PS1, PS2, and PS3 games would be playable on PS5. But in fact Guillemot was referring to PS4 games that are playable on PS5.

"What will also be new in this industry is those consoles will be be running almost all the back catalog of the previous consoles, it will be something new in the industry and will help the old generation to continue to be big consoles on the market for years to come," Guillemot said in a February earnings call.

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Derek joined the TweakTown team in 2015 and has since reviewed and played 1000s of hours of new games. Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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