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Sony finally details PS5 backward compatibility

‘More than 99 percent’ of PS4 library playable on PS5 at launch

a product photo from the front of the PlayStation 5 controller, the DualSense, showing a close-up of the D-pad and analog sticks
You can use the PlayStation 5’s new DualSense controller to play PS4 games on a PS5, but Sony recommends sticking with your trusty DualShock 4 gamepad.
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

With just over a month to go until the debut of the PlayStation 5, we finally have an idea of how PlayStation 4 backward compatibility will work on the next-generation console. The good news is that Sony’s testing has fulfilled the company’s previous statements: “When the PlayStation 5 launches this November, more than 99 percent of the 4000+ games available on PS4 will be playable on PS5,” Sony said in a PlayStation Blog post published Friday afternoon.

Of course, that means that some PS4 games won’t work with the PS5. Thankfully, the current list on the PlayStation support site is tiny, with just nine titles designated as incompatible. And luckily, none of them are heavy hitters, although there’s no word on whether this list will change over time. Here’s the full lineup of games, which Sony says will be labeled as “Playable on: PS4 only” in the PlayStation Store:

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

(In case you’re wondering about P.T., it is not playable on PS5.)

It’s worth noting that Sony still hasn’t demonstrated any PS4 games running on PS5, so we don’t know what kind of performance to expect. This is in stark contrast to Microsoft, which has made backward compatibility a key pillar of the Xbox Series X and Series S experience.

Sony’s support page also explains how backward compatibility will work on PS5, along with some caveats and limitations.

The PlayStation 5 has a feature called Game Boost, which will deliver “improved or more stable frame rates,” said Hideaki Nishino, PlayStation senior vice president of platform planning and management, in the PlayStation Blog post. “Some titles with unlocked frame rates or dynamic resolution up to 4K may see higher fidelity” with Game Boost, and/or “increased loading speeds.”

Note that all of that applies to “select PS4 titles” — the only backward-compatible games Sony specified in the article were The Last of Us Part 2 and Ghost of Tsushima — but all PS4 games will “take advantage of” the PS5’s “new [user experience] features,” according to Nishino. Ghost of Tsushima developer Sucker Punch Productions announced on Twitter that Game Boost will provide faster loading speeds and “an extra option to allow frame rates up to [60 frames per second].”

On its support site, Sony cautions that “some PS4 games may exhibit errors or unexpected behavior when played on PS5 consoles,” and advises that you “try to boot and play your PS4 games on your PS5 console to see if you are happy with the play experience” before, say, buying any downloadable content for those games.

PS4 games will be playable on the PS5 directly from an external USB drive. That includes existing PS4-formatted USB drives — you’ll be able to plug them straight into the PS5 and play any PS4 games sitting on them, just like with a USB drive of Xbox One games on the Xbox Series X or Series S. In addition, you can move digital games, game data, and save files from a PS4 to a PS5 via LAN cables or Wi-Fi. And PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to sync PS4 saves via the service’s cloud storage.

Two hands holding the Sony PS4 controller with the DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment.
A PS4 controller with the DualShock 4 Back Button Attachment.
Photo: James Bareham/Polygon

However, Nishino noted in the FAQ that “the ability to transfer game saves between a PS4 version and a PS5 version of the same game is a developer decision, and will vary title by title for cross-generational games.” For instance, Insomniac Games is supporting PS4-to-PS5 save file transfers for Spider-Man: Miles Morales, but not for Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered. Sucker Punch announced on Twitter that it will allow Ghost of Tsushima players to transfer PS4 saves and pick up where they left off.

If you own physical PS4 games and a standard PS5, you’ll be able to pop those discs directly into the next-gen console and get going. (You’ll need to insert a particular disc every time you want to play the game in question.) Disc-based PS4 games can’t be played on the discless PS5 Digital Edition, since Sony doesn’t tie ownership of them to PlayStation Network accounts. Any digital PS4 games that you own can simply be downloaded from your “Games home” on the PS5.

Sony is bringing back Remote Play for the PS5, giving PS5 owners the ability to use the feature to stream games from a PS4. However, that experience won’t take advantage of the PS5’s Game Boost feature, since the game will be running on a PS4.

PS5 users will be able to play PS4 games with the PS5’s new DualSense controller as well as the PS4’s DualShock 4 gamepad, although the support page recommends using a DualShock 4 “for the best experience.” And Sony said earlier this year that officially licensed third-party PS4 peripherals, including controllers, racing wheels, arcade sticks, and flight sticks, will work on the PS5 with both PS5 games and PS4 games.

PlayStation VR titles will be compatible with PlayStation Move wands and the Aim Controller, although there’s an interesting limitation there: The PS5’s new camera peripheral (the HD Camera) is not compatible with PS4 titles. If you want to play existing PSVR games, you’ll have to hook up the PS4 camera (the PlayStation Camera). Doing so will require an adapter that Sony said previously “will be provided at no additional cost to PS VR users.”

The support page also notes that the Share menu — the options that you can pull up on a PS4 by pressing or holding down the Share button on a DualShock 4 — “cannot be displayed during PS4 gameplay on PS5 consoles.” Not to worry, though: You’ll see the PS5’s new “create menu” instead, and you’ll still be able to capture screenshots and gameplay videos while using backward compatibility on PS5.

Here are the default controls, according to Sony:

• Single press the create (DualSense) or SHARE button (DUALSHOCK4) to show the create menu

• Press and hold the create (DualSense) or SHARE button (DUALSHOCK4) to take a screenshot

• Double press the create (DualSense) or SHARE button (DUALSHOCK4) to start and stop video recording manually.

Four other PS4 features won’t work on the PS5: the PS4 Second Screen mobile app, which lets you control your console with a smartphone; game companion apps, presumably like the one for Red Dead Redemption 2; PS4 tournaments; and in-game Live from PlayStation. We’ll have to test everything for ourselves when the PS5 debuts on Nov. 12.

Update (1:29 p.m. EDT): We’ve added details about storage and startup for backward-compatible games to this story.

Update 2 (2:50 p.m. EDT): We’ve updated this story with information on external storage and other details from a new PlayStation Blog FAQ.

Update 3 (Nov. 19): Chair Entertainment announced that it has patched Shadow Complex Remastered to make it compatible with the PlayStation 5, bringing down the number of incompatible PlayStation 4 games to nine. We’ve edited the article to reflect this, and that P.T. is not compatible with the PS5.

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