PS4 Backwards Compatibility Explained

Sony’s PS4 video game console has been a runaway success from almost the day it was announced. Sony played the console market right. The PS4 maintained the same rules around disc and digital games as the PS3. Smartly, Sony bet on a slew of online services to enhance the PlayStation experience. What the PS4 lacks during some months is big-name releases though. People who have already purchased a PS4 usually see these droughts as an opportunity go to back and play some of their favorite older titles. New console buyers want to know that the game library they’ve invested in isn’t going to be a complete waste if they decide to upgrade to a newer console. That’s where PS4 Backwards Compatibility comes into play.

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PS4 Backwards Compatibility is a loaded topic for gamers. Many game consoles have offered users an opportunity to keep their library from their direct predecessors. When this console generation started, neither the Xbox One nor the PS4 offered it, citing big differences in the internals that power modern gaming consoles. Microsoft offered up a life boat to users that do want backwards compatibility from their console last fall with the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility Program. Nintendo has always offered backwards compatibility for Wii games with the Wii U. Microsoft’s willingness to offer the feature triggered a wave of people all asking if Sony would introduce PS4 Backwards Compatibility.

Sony has a PS4 Backwards Compatibility system, but it’s very, very different from what other consoles offer today or have offered in the past. In fact, parts of it predate Microsoft’s offering.

PS4 Backwards Compatibility: Sony PlayStation Now

The primary way that PS4 owners can get access to games that were meant for older consoles is through PlayStation Now. PlayStation Now is a game rental service, just without the need to pay postage or maintain a queue of games you’d like to play. PlayStation Now launched back in 2014.

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Instead of mailing games off to you like other rental services, PlayStation Now gives you access to servers where you can play PS3 games that you no longer have physical access to. To function, the service requires that you have a 5Mbps high-speed internet connection. There are no big game downloads once you’ve decided to rent a game. You’re actually playing the game on Sony’s servers. Sony is streaming that footage back to your console. Trophies are included with each PlayStation Now game rental. Some rentals include downloadable content too, but that’s on a case by case basis.

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Read: PlayStation Now Subscriptions: 5 Things You Need to Know

The trick to PlayStation Now – and the reason why Microsoft and Nintendo are able to claim that they offer access to older games for free – is PlayStation Now’s status as add-on service. It’s not included with a PlayStation Plus subscription at all. The service has hourly, daily and monthly rental rates per game.

A PlayStation Now subscription lets users sign up for $20 a month and get access to a huge library of games instead of paying for each game rental on its own. The PlayStation Now subscription library is a bit smaller than the regular PlayStation Now subscription though.

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PS4 Backwards Compatibility: PS2 Emulator for PS4

PlayStation Now is a huge part of what makes the PS4 unique. In fact, many assumed Sony would never go the traditional route and bring PS4 Backwards Compatibility to users in a more traditional way. These people were work wrong, sort of.

A PS2 emulator introduced late last year gives PS4 owners the ability to play some classic games on their console. Because there’s an emulator involved, there’s no need for a constant internet connection. More importantly, you don’t have to keep paying for access to these PS2 games. Once you buy them, they are yours to keep on your console and play for as long as you want.

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Unfortunately, you don’t get access to these games without spending money in some way. Even if you own a physical copy of the game already, you’ll need to buy the PS4 compatible version again. These games are upgraded to support high-definition displays, Share Play, streaming over Twitch and Remote Play. Trophies are supported too.

PS4 Backwards Compatibility: Games on the PS4 with PlayStation Now Subscription

These games are available for PlayStation Streaming when users have a PlayStation Now subscription. Sony works with publishers to expand this line-up of games pretty regularly. Again, this library is mostly separate from the group of around 400 games that can be directly streamed through the service on a per-game basis instead of with a subscription.

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PS4 Backwards Compatibility: PS2 Games on the PS4

Here are the games that you can download to your console and play using the PS2 emulator for PS4. Gotta Be Mobile will continue to expand on this list as Sony fills out its library.

  • Ape Escape 2 (Coming)
  • Ape Escape 3 (Coming)
  • Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits
  • Bully
  • Dark Chronicle
  • Dark Cloud
  • Fahrenheit
  • FantaVision
  • Grand Theft Auto 3
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
  • Kinectica
  • The King of Figthers 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 Kassai
  • 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

Sony is always working to add more PS2 games to this list. Each is available for purchase within the PlayStation Network Store.

Good luck with your PS4. Though it’s a little complicated, there’s a lot to like about the way the PS4 Backwards Compatibility works.