We have to learn to live with PlayStation cross-gen games for now

god of war ragnarok
(Image credit: Sony)

I recently wrote a piece about how the PS5 doesn’t feel like a next-gen console. I attribute this to the abundance of cross-gen titles, remastered PS4 exclusives and the lack of games you can only play on PS5. I hoped we’d begin seeing a gradual build-up of PS5 exclusives as 2022 rolled on. Unfortunately, recent news has put a clamp on that.

Bloomberg reports that Sony plans to manufacture PS4 consoles through 2022 to ease pressure on PS5 production. Yes, a year later and searching for PS5 restocks is still an absolute nightmare. With Sony planning to pump out another million PS4 consoles this year, it’s safe to say that we won’t see an end to cross-gen titles anytime soon.

Am I frustrated about this? Absolutely. My PS5 is effectively a glorified PS4 Pro Plus since it mostly exists to play boosted PS4 games. Not to sound like a grumpy old man, but I remember when there was a clear delineation between when one console generation ended and when the next began. The lines started blurring between the PS3 and PS4 generations but have now been effectively erased due to the industry’s inability to move forward. I can’t complain too much about that last point since the world is still reeling from the effects of the global pandemic and the ongoing semiconductor shortage. But knowing I’ll have to wait longer to play real PS5 exclusives stings.

Are more cross-gen games a bad thing?

Horizon Forbidden West

(Image credit: Sony)

My chief concern with cross-gen games is that developers may not be able to realize all of their ambitions. The PS5 and Xbox Series X are exceptionally powerful consoles that developers (in most cases) cannot take full advantage of because they have to make games that run on 8-year-old systems. But does old hardware prevent games from being good?

To answer this question, I’ll use Horizon Zero Dawn — a title that is generally considered one of the best PS4 games and one of the most graphically intensive. Few know that developer Guerrilla Games had to omit flying mechanics because of technical issues. Did the inability to fly around the game’s world stop Horizon Zero Dawn from being an exceptional game? It did not. And heck, it’s possible that Guerrilla figured out how to add flying to the upcoming Horizon Forbidden West. But even if that game has the same basic mechanics as its predecessor, it will still be a great experience — cross-gen or not.

And while I want games that can only run on PS5, I have to admit that PS5-enhanced PS4 games can be stunning in their own right. Ghost of Tsushima, Death Stranding, Spider-Man: Miles Morales and God of War (just to name a few) are jaw-dropping on PS5 due to their respective next-gen patches. Not only do they look better at higher resolutions, but they also play better thanks to running at 60 frames per second.

spider man miles morales

(Image credit: Future)

The same will be true for Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok. Yes, they are still technically PS4 games, but the enhancements they’ll receive will at least superficially make them feel like next-gen experiences. The PS5 will be the best platform to play all upcoming PS4 games. After all, the developers – as limited by PS4 hardware as they may be – will toss in as many PS5 bells and whistles as possible, such as DualSense controller features.

To further illustrate that older (or weaker) hardware doesn’t hobble games, I have to bring up Nintendo. Though I’m not necessarily a fan of the company or the types of games it generally produces, it’s clear that Nintendo fans do not care about cutting-edge graphics or uber-realistic physics mechanics. They are having too much fun playing Metroid Dread, Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. In fact, many gaming sites listed Breath of the Wild as the best game of last generation (some even hailing it as the greatest game of all time). It cannot match the graphical richness of something like The Witcher 3 or Cyberpunk 2077 but that’s of little concern to the vast majority of Nintendo enthusiasts. All that matters to them is that their games are enjoyable.

We have to learn to live with cross-gen games for now

Though I'm still not enthused over the idea of cross-gen games continuing to release well into 2023, I'm going to take a page from Nintendo fans and be content with the games we're going to get. That isn’t to say I won’t care about graphics and performance. I’ll always desire the most from my games in terms of visuals and physics. But if I have to go through two or three more years of cross-gen PlayStation exclusives, I’ll need to adapt and stop being disappointed whenever cross-gen exclusives get announced. As long as the games are awesome then I’ll have to be content with that.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.