The PS5 could run any PS4 game — but there's a catch

(Image credit: Sony)

Backwards compatibility is going to be a big part of the upcoming PS5 and Xbox Series X battle, and the good news is that both parties are clearly on board. We know the Xbox Series X will run almost every Xbox One game around, but Sony has been a bit more cagey about the PS5’s abilities only stating it “believes” that the “overwhelming majority of the 4,000+ PS4 titles will be playable on PS5”.

But if popular streamer Lance McDonald is correct, it looks like the PS5 will run any PS4 game. It just might not run them well.

In a deleted tweet captured by ResetEra, the streamer wrote: “There’s been some confusion about this in the past and I can clear it up now. The PlayStation 5 can run all PlayStation 4 games without per-game whitelisting. Sony continue [sic.] to test titles but the system will not prevent you from launching untested games.”

Assuming it remains that way at launch — a big assumption for reasons I’ll get on to in a minute —  that would be quite a big deal. Sony would essentially be letting people find out for themselves if the games work as expected without any additional patching. It’s in stark contrast to how the Xbox One currently handles Xbox 360 games: only pre-approved games that are certified to work can be played.

McDonald justified deleting the reveal with another tweet… which is now also deleted. “I deleted a tweet out of respect for the platform holder, feel free to interpret that however you like.”   

  • Watch blocked streaming sites and avoid network throttling with a PS4 VPN

PS5 backward compatibility: A work in progress

So will this be how backwards compatibility works on PS5 when it launches later this year? That’s how it appears at the moment, assuming McDonald isn’t just pulling our collective leg, but given the PS5 isn’t out yet, it’s also possible that this is just how things are on pre-release hardware. Which would make sense, given Sony has said that it’s in the process of testing thousands of games.

It’s entirely possible that Sony will decide to lock down the PS5 to only run whitelisted games upon release, and there are pros and cons to this approach. In the pros column, you’re (virtually) guaranteed that anything you start won’t have a game-breaking bug 30 hours in. 

In the cons column, of course, is the fact that Sony and its partners would get to dictate what games will work and which ones won’t. And while Sony has stated that “almost all” of the top 100 PS4 titles by play time will be available at launch, your favorite niche indie game may well not be – even if it works flawlessly. 

Time will tell. We still don’t have a PS5 release date in sight, but we expect to find that out in the near future along with the possible price and pre-order info. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.

  • d0x360
    That doesn't really make sense. The reason they would run without poking and prodding is because they use different CPU and GPU architecture. Yes it's x86 based stuff but the language and function calls in the games are different than PC and they are also generally different between console generations.

    The PS4 ran on GCN and games would be made for it very specifically... The PS5 is presumably RDNA2 which is completely different but more importantly so is Sony's sdk and the ps5 compiler. It shouldn't even really understand a significant amount of the code from a PS4 game.

    I dunno... Guess we will see but I prefer Microsoft's method. Of course between series x and Xbox one it's 100% compatibility. With Sony it's apparently it will run but probably badly? I think I'd find that more obnoxious than anything. Of course I only really own system exclusives on the PlayStation side of things so I imagine those will work so it won't matter much to me in the end.

    Probably be able to emulate them before long anyways...
  • Hardware Geek
    I was heavily leaning towards getting the series X before getting a PS5, but with the PS5 having more exclusives that I actually want to play, the ability to run any PS4 or even most PS4 games is making me reconsider. I'm hoping it will enhance the PS4 games, in which case I'd just get an external SSD for my One X and wait a year before buying the series X since I don't plan on buying both at launch, but I definitely want to get one of them at launch and will wait to buy thee other one until something comes out that I want and can't buy on the other one. The new fable is the only game on series x I want at the moment and hopefully that also comes to the one x.