The PlayStation 5 offers backwards compatibility for the existing PlayStation 4 lineup of games, meaning you’ll be able to play almost any PS4 game you already own on the new console. Some games will also offer the option to upgrade to a proper PS5-optimized next-gen title, like Cyberpunk 2077 or Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
The PS5 will be able to play nearly every PS4 game that’s available through backwards compatibility. Sony also promises that some games will actually be able to take advantage of the extra power on the new console to provide a “Game Boost” for faster or smoother frame rates. That said, Sony also warns that some functionality from PS4 titles may not be available, and there may be “errors or unexpected behavior” when playing backwards compatible titles on the PS5.
Playing PlayStation 4 games off a disc (PlayStation 5 only)
The simplest way to play backwards compatible games (assuming you have a PS5 with a disc drive and a hard copy of the game) is to simply put the disc into your PS5. Some games will require an update to be installed, but beyond that, it’s just plug and play.
Playing digitally purchased PlayStation 4 games (PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition)
Digitally purchased games are slightly more complex, although it’ll still work similarly to downloading any other digital title. Players’ existing PS4 games will continue to show up in their game libraries on the PS5, just like they currently do on the PS4. To install and play one, a player will have to select the game from their library and download it.
And unlike PS5 games (which will need to be installed directly to the internal SSD, where they can take advantage of the speed improvements Sony has made here), PS4 games can be installed and played directly from an external drive.
Sony also notes that it’ll offer an option to transfer both digital downloads and save data from a PS4 to a PS5 over Wi-Fi or a LAN cable.
Players will be able to transfer game saves through a USB storage device from a PS4 to a PS5, and PS Plus subscribers will also be able to sync PS4 game saves through cloud storage.
Sony says that the vast majority of the PS4’s 4,000-plus game catalog will work on the PS5 through backwards compatibility, with the exception of the following titles:
According to Sony, while PS4 games will work with the DualSense controller on the PS5, for the “best experience,” it recommends using a DualShock 4 for playing PS4 games. (Players notably won’t be able to use a DualShock 4 for PS5 games, however.) Other PS4 accessories — including the PlayStation VR headset and specialty racing wheels, arcade sticks, and flight sticks — will also work with the PS5.
Some PS4 games will go a step further. Instead of just offering the option to play the existing PS4 version as it already exists, some titles will offer upgrades to a full-fledged next-gen PS5 version.
Sony notes that it’ll be up to developers to decide where the upgrade is free, if it requires an additional purchase, or if it will only be available for a limited time. Some titles, like Cyberpunk 2077, have promised that players will be able to get a free upgrade to a proper next-gen version once it’s available. Other titles — like EA’s Madden 21 or FIFA 21 — will offer free upgrades but only for a limited time. Sony is also letting developers charge for next-gen upgrades, with the option to offer players who already own the existing PS4 version a discount.
Whatever the case is for your specific game, the process of upgrading is the same, though.
Upgrade a digital PS4 game to its PS5 version (PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition)
To upgrade a digitally owned PS4 game, you’ll have to make sure you’re logged in to whatever account you own the title on. Next, you’ll have to find the corresponding PS5 version of that game on the PlayStation Store, where it’ll have an offer to upgrade from your existing PS4 version to the new PS5 version. (Again, that offer may be free or paid, depending on what the developers decide.)
Then, simply download (or purchase and download) the new PS5 version just like you would any other game.
Upgrade a disc-based PS4 game to a PS5 version (PlayStation 5 only)
Upgrading a physical PS4 disc to its PS5 version is a little more complicated, though. Once you put the disc into your PS5, you’ll have a new option on the game hub in the PS5 main menu to upgrade to the PS5 version. Like the digital option, you’ll be able to either download the new PS5 version (or pay to upgrade and then download, should the game require it).
There’s a big caveat here, though: while you’ll have to keep the new PS5 version of the game downloaded on your hard drive to play it, it’ll only work when the PS4 disc is still in your console.
Transferring save data from a PS4 version to a PS5 version will depend on the developer, according to Sony. It’s promising more details on how that process will work (including for its own first-party titles Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure) closer to launch.
Update October 9th, 2:30pm: Added additional details on transferring PS4 save data.