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PS4 Backwards Compatibility: Can you play PS3 games on PS4?

Sam Loveridge

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PS4 pic
PS4 pic

Can I play PS3 games on my new PS4?

PS4 backwards compatibility is a hotly debated issue amongst console owners, especially since the Xbox One backwards compatibility is so effortless.

Sony has offered a few solutions to problem, but they're certainly nowhere near as elegant as Microsoft's slick – and mostly free – alternative.

For the PS4, you can play PS3 games via streaming service PlayStation Now. Unfortunately it doesn't come cheap, and fails to take into account physical and digital games you may already own.

Related: PS4 Neo news and rumours

Sadly, you can't just play your old PS3 games on PS4, neither by inserting the disc or downloading them again from PSN. The systems are fundamentally not compatible with each other.

For PS2 games though, this is starting to change. Sony has built an emulator that allows you to play very select titles on the PS4. But, there's a lot of potential to enhance the availability for PS2 titles in the future.

Buy Now: PS4 at Amazon (£269.99) | Tesco Direct (£279)

What makes the complications around PS4 backwards compatibility worse is that Microsoft has solved Xbox One backwards compatibility by creating an Xbox 360 emulator within its latest console. That means you can simply slide any supported Xbox 360 games into your Xbox One and they'll play straight away. Or you can download digital titles from the Xbox Live store. And this is all for free, so long as you own them, that is.

Related: Xbox One backwards compatibility explained

PlayStation Now

So, can you play PS3 games on the PS4? Well, not exactly, but there is a solution. It’s called PlayStation Now, and it will let you stream older PlayStation games to your PS4 (and eventually PS3 and other devices) over your home internet connection.

PlayStation Now was first announced at CES 2014, and since then the service has been launched in full with both rental price options and subscription tiers.

It hit PS4 first, and before making its way to PS3 on May 12 2015. Eventually PS Now will spread to PS Vita and PS TV. It’ll even come to 2014 Sony Bravia TVs too along with select Sony Blu-ray players and the latest Samsung Smart TVs. Exactly when has not been announced yet, though.

In the US and Canada, PS Now costs $19.99 (£13.20) for a one-month membership or you can go for a three-month membership for $44.99 (£29.77). Rental prices range from $1.99 to $19.99 depending on the title and the duration of your rental period, which can last for 4 hours, 7 days or 30 days.

Playstation Now is a costly service in the UK, as there's currently no membership options available. Rentals are in two pricing tiers here in the UK. Games will either cost you £2.99 or £4.99 for a two-day rental (over a weekend perhaps) or £5.99 or £7.99 for a 30-day rental period.

If you haven't used the service before, Playstation Now offers a free trial period for new users. This should allow you to make sure your internet connection is suitable and you don't encounter any latency issues.

Related: PS4 vs PS3

PlayStation Now

But we know what you're thinking, are all PS3 games available through PlayStation Now? Well, the answer is no. PlayStation Now is home to a growing collection of over 100 PS3 games.

These include:

  • Dead Space 3
  • God of War: Ascension
  • Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus
  • Ultra Street Fighter IV
While these are all fairly high-profile releases, PlayStation Now is also features some smaller, slightly more unusual indie games too.

The UK PlayStation Now offering currently includes titles such as:

  • The Wolf Among Us
  • Batman: Arkham Origins
  • NBA 2K14
  • Killzone 2
  • Saints Row The Third
  • Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
PlayStation Now will eventually offer games from the PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS Vita catalogues, but currently there's only PS3 titles available.

Related: What is PlayStation Now? A guide to Sony's streaming service

PS4 vs PS3

Why can’t the PS4 play PS3 games?

The PS3 and PS4 use completely different system architectures, which means the PS4 would need to emulate the PS3’s system in order to make the games work. The figure often quoted is that a system needs ten times the power of the thing it’s emulating in order to do so at full speed.

Sony does claim that the PS4 meets this ‘ten times’ more powerful mark, but producing a workable emulator also requires a whole lot of work when working with a system of the PS3’s complexity. And that means a healthy cash investment, too.

Sony decided not to do this, and it’s sure to be one of the most common complaints about the new console. We can imagine many people simply assuming they’ll be able to play their old PS3 games on the thing.

Related: Best PS4 Deals

What about PS1 and PS2 games?

Although PS1 games are still an elusive beast, PS2 games are now available on your PS4 – albeit in limited form.

Sony stealthily introduced a PS2 emulator to the PS4 through the new Star Wars bundle. The title packages together four classic franchise titles: Super Star Wars, Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Star Wars: Racer Revenge and Star Wars: Bounty Hunter.

But rather than a physical disc, the titles are supplied via a single PSN code, with three of the titles hailing from the PS2 era.

Digital Foundry quickly realised that these games were running on an emulator through a number of indicators such as the upscaled PS2 logo, a system for emulating the memory cards and controlling remapping (something third party developers wouldn't be able to do).

When it was exposed, Sony released a statement that reads as follows:

"We are working on utilising PS2 emulation technology to bring PS2 games forward to the current generation," Sony told Wired. "We have nothing further to comment at this point in time."

But now, PS2 games are officially available via the PSN store. To begin with, Sony is offering eight PS2 games to "celebrate its PS2 heritage".

They are as follows:

  • Ape Escape 2
  • Ape Escape 3
  • Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits
  • Bully
  • Dark Chronicle
  • Dark Cloud
  • Fantavision
  • GTA 3
  • GTA: Vice City
  • Kinetica
  • The King of Fighters 2000
  • Manhunt
  • The Mark of Kri
  • Max Payne
  • Okage: Shadow King
  • PaRappa the Rapper 2
  • Primal
  • Psychonauts
  • Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
  • Rise of the Kasai
  • Rogue Galaxy
  • Siren
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunter
  • Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter
  • Star Wars: Racer Revenge
  • Twisted Metal: Black
  • War of the Monsters
  • Wild Arms 3

    professerclever

    November 14, 2013, 6:33 pm

    This is a deal breaker for me and it will be some time before I will feel the need to leave the many excellent PS3 games behind and 'upgrade' to the next gen console.

    juffowup

    November 14, 2013, 9:34 pm

    Short answer: No.
    long answer: Noooooooooooooo.

    Tony

    November 15, 2013, 1:14 am

    You can still keep the PS3 and play it while having the newer system. No need to leave anything

    PlaystionGamer

    November 15, 2013, 2:15 am

    I planned to sell my aging PS3 to subsidize the cost of the PS4, with the assumption that I would keep some PS3 games for my PS4-- this is a deal breaker. How many consoles does Sony imagine the average person likes to stack? Do I have to own a black and white TV for all my old movies? Do I own iPad 1 for all the old apps, iPad 2 for the newer apps, and iPad Air for only the latest apps? Do I keep an old car for driving on old roads, and an new car only for newly paved roads? So stupid.

    barondebxl

    November 15, 2013, 3:36 am

    Yep. Time to move on. Ps4, here we come!

    sbkline

    November 15, 2013, 4:06 am

    I can't see any Sony fanboy saying this great, when the continually mock the xbox one's idea of the cloud.

    Well I hope it works.

    Gary

    November 15, 2013, 4:41 am

    Exactly... Sony are basically saying "yes we could have made it backwards compatible, but it would mean less profit for us in the short term"... However looking at the graphics, I think its impossible for me not to get one this weekend lol

    Panos

    November 15, 2013, 7:37 am

    I think the screw up is in the timing. All these excellent major titles just came out, or are coming out, for PS3. GTA V, GT6, Arkham Origins.

    professerclever

    November 15, 2013, 7:38 am

    I hope you have fun Gary. The backwards compatibility issue could not be solved because the architecture of the machine is completely different and in all honesty, I never played PS2 games on the PS3 even when that was possible, but I cannot honestly say that the graphics on the PS4 are so much better than the previous iteration (yet that is.) Also, better graphics do not necessarily mean better game play.

    MsMa1980

    November 15, 2013, 7:51 am

    I think it sucks that you can not play your ps3 games on the PS4 system i have over 50 PS3 games and hate to give them up and start over :( . I hope they do make something so you can shear both systems i already got a PS3 and was looking forwrord to the the PS4 but after reading this im not so happy about the system anymore :/.

    Gary

    November 15, 2013, 7:54 am

    After watching the launch this evening, I have to say impressed with the capabilities of the new PS4... However as with any early adoption of new tech, its always expensive and you are somewhat a beta tester (so to speak). As for the architecture and backwards compatibility, I completely understand this, however as Andrew states "producing a workable emulator also requires a whole lot of work – and that means a healthy cash investment, too. Sony decided not to do this"... My point originally is that Sony COULD have made it backwards compatible, but it would take the profits away from the shareholders etc... Whilst you might not see an advantage of playing legacy games, I do. The games will be significantly cheaper plus, there will be larger selection of games for my kids to play... Having to pay $60 every time my kids want a new game will leave me broke, however having the option to buy legacy games for $10-$20 is a win win for me...

    accolade

    November 15, 2013, 9:10 am

    I never owned a PS3. But I did own a PS1 and a PS2 back in the day, and I jumped with joy when SONY revealed PS2 was backward compatibile with PS1. I ditched my PS1 gave it to my grandpa and kept my PS1 games which occasionally played on my PS2.

    I would buy a PS4 today had it had PS3 support so I could play the back library of PS3 games I missed out on.

    But to buy two consoles is ridiculous.

    SONY is being lazy today.

    grapesarecool

    November 15, 2013, 9:26 am

    i'm not really sad about this besides one game, my favorite games squeal actually: Dark Souls 2. Why the hell would they release a game ONLY for the last gen systems when the next gen systems will be out for months.. i just want to get rid of my old console.

    driver

    November 15, 2013, 9:29 am

    guys it the next genfo games.. most people i know will trade in their ps3 to get ps4... the problem is people who wasnt clever enough to seewhy buy these big games on ps3 when in the same month he ps4 is out......

    grapesarecool

    November 15, 2013, 9:30 am

    Look, Sony is already cutting down the cost for a lot of things. free games, new severs, lower costing hardware. Do we really have to steal money out of their pocket?

    Trevor Totten

    November 15, 2013, 1:05 pm

    Most of my games are via PSN anyway, which I got when free. Hopefully they go with the "play for free as long as you have the disk" idea. I think they will try to please gamers as much as possible though. Seems to be their theme this time around, with a lot of decisions they've made.

    I had the launch day PS3. Don't think I played a single PS2 game on it, other than to see if the graphics were any better. Played PS1 games more often!

    Binarybasher

    November 15, 2013, 1:11 pm

    The Ps3 was and still is a fantastic console, I have a good collection of blueray games.

    I live with the worst Internet connection ever (thanks BT) which means any steamed service is going to be useless.

    This decision by Sony to not enable backward compatibility between the new Ps4 and Ps3 will mean my decision to order has just gone away.

    It's a real shame as I was about to pre-order the Ps4 from Amazon, but now I feel I cannot justify the cost, initial cost and ongoing cost.

    I'm sure I am not the only gamer disappointed.

    I enjoy Sony products, but I do feel they let the customer down with new products like this.

    Typed from my Sony Z1 smart phone.

    Binarybasher

    Obamasuxx

    November 15, 2013, 3:14 pm

    To bad so sad. No PS4 for me. No way SONY will I dump my investment of HUNDREDS of dollars of PS3 games. Your decision to make your console cheaper than the xbone by scraping your backward compatibility was a real stupid one since now you will lose sales anyway because of this. Think about it boneheads, if you are now making people decide if they should dump their old PS3 games to get a new console, you have opened up the door to "Which console should I get since I have to dump my games anyway". dummies.

    brenro

    November 15, 2013, 4:17 pm

    My PS4 will sit on the same shelf as my original, backwards compatible PS3. What's the big problem?

    John

    November 15, 2013, 5:01 pm

    Here is an insane solution, just keep your Ps3. Xbox one is not going to be backwards compatible either because both systems are technologically incompatible with their respective earlier counterparts. If you wanted sony to make another Ps3 rather than a far more advanced system then just go buy another Ps3 and quit bitching.

    Michael

    November 15, 2013, 5:17 pm

    Backwards compatibility to the directly previous generation is not typically achieved by emulation as the article states. Emulation is used to play games from much older consoles such as with Game Gear games on the 3DS. If new hardware is similar to old hardware in certain ways then compatibility is made easier. The console creator may even keep some old hardware which isn't necessary to play new games just to achieve backwards compatibility. For instance the DS had an extra older processor in it just to handle certain GBA games. What's nice is that usually by the time the new system is launched the old system's hardware can be made quick, cheap, and small. Making backwards compatibility feasible. So the conclusion I'd draw from this is either the PS4 and PS3 have vastly different hardware architectures or that direct backwards compatibility is not worth it to Sony as a business decision. Probably a mixture of both.

    Eve online ftw

    November 15, 2013, 7:02 pm

    The ps4 and ps3 are using two totally different processors. The ps4 is using an AMD APU while the ps3 was using a custom processor made by IBM and sony. This made compatibility very difficult in the beginning of the ps3s life. As far as emulation goes it does not just include older systems. It is the act of emulating a certain system ie. The ps3.

    Brian Darnell

    November 15, 2013, 7:38 pm

    If you are playing Call of Duty Ghosts or any other PS4 game, are you able to play with people that have the game on PS3? If you are the PS4, can you play with people who are on the PS3?

    Riley Hayman

    November 15, 2013, 8:04 pm

    I know it's completely unheard of, but just keep the PS3 too. Really the most you'd get from trading it in is probably $100-150 at most.

    Don

    November 15, 2013, 9:03 pm

    How about PS2 games? I have a ton of those but no PS3 games as I switched to the 360 last gen. That would be nice to dig out the old PS2 games without having to hook the system up.

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