Here’s Why The PS5 Can’t Play PS3 Games

Here’s Why The PS5 Can’t Play PS3 Games
Image: Sony/Sucker Punch

The PlayStation 4 kicked off a new era for Sony. While previous models of the PlayStation 2 and 3 included backwards compatibility for older games, the PlayStation 4 was the first console to stand on its own. Support for PlayStation classics has been fairly lax since then, with the upcoming PS5 only supporting the PS4 and not older PS3 games.

The fact is the PS3 has an impressive back catalogue filled with games yet to be remastered. inFAMOUS, Metal Gear Solid 4, Heavenly Sword and Resistance spring to mind, but there’s plenty deserving of an appearance on next gen consoles. But the challenges of porting PS3 games onto the PS5 are holding these games back.

The underlying architecture of the PS3 is cited as the major reason Sony hasn’t pursue backwards compatibility in the PS4 and PS5. As Modern Vintage Gamer explains, the PS4 featured an underpowered Jaguar CPU incapable of properly emulating PS3 games.

That being the case, the PS5 is far more capable with its 8-core 16-thread Zen 2 architecture and 10 teraflop GPU — so why is backwards compatibility still an issue?

The blanket response is the PS5 just ‘isn’t compatible‘ with PlayStation 3 games. This is despite Windows PCs being able to emulate the console via programs like the RPCS3 emulator. If homebrew developers can create an emulation architecture without source code, surely Sony can do the same.

But it’s more complicated than you’d think.

In a new video posted to YouTube, Modern Vintage Gamer explains the PlayStation 3 rocked a unique and hard-to-replicate cell processor system:

“The [PlayStation 3’s] cell processor combined a general purpose power PC core (or PPE) which featured a 3.2 GHz dual-core CPU as well as eight additional co-processors known as synergistic processing elements (or SPEs) which were also clocked at 3.2 GHz.”

These SPEs are a unique system difficult to take advantage of, with developers later describing the console as a nightmare to work with. In addition to this, the PS3 also included an Reality Synthesiser (RSX) chip, a special GPU based on the Nvidia 7800. To get the best performance outcome for games, developers had to relearn development techniques and incorporate new systems into their games.

The PS3 is an incredibly complicated system and it’s for this reason emulation of its games are supremely difficult. Having the PS5 support PS3 games would be a costly exercise for Sony and one not worth the added investment.

To find out more about why PlayStation 3 games won’t be available on the PS5, check out this very good explainer from the experts at Modern Vintage Gamer:

For now, the best thing to do if you have well-loved PlayStation 3 games is to hold onto the console. While PlayStation Now does offer PS2 and PS3 games on the PS4 (with PS5 support currently unconfirmed), this service still isn’t available in Australia.

With that in mind, hold your PS3’s close.


  • Even Microsoft seems to have their lesson when it comes to backward compatibility going from a full spectrum promise to a more reserved position and finally deciding that a player/demand driven model is probably the best way forward when talking about older games.
    Their efforts in to bringing the older games forward is worthy of high praise but I can only imagine how much of that catalogue was actually touched.

    As for Sony, they should absolutely get on to remastering some of the PS3’s generation defining greats, just seeing that Infamous shot makes me want to play it again.

    • Every day I think about inFAMOUS being left behind in the PS3 era, I get a little madder. Those games are so fantastic and I’m super disappointed we’ve not seen a remaster for current gen. Doubly so since the sequel is on PS4.

      • So true, I played it multiple times over that generation and it just did not stop standing on its own merits every damn play through.

      • Disagree. Great games,sure, but I’d rather they stop remastering old IP and concentrate on new games.

        There are PS3 games I still want to play. That’s why I still have a PS 3.

        On the other hand, if all the remasters are like FFVII, then… OK.

      • Wasnt one of the infamous games available at ps4 launch?

        The first two were great but I never got around to the ps4 one.

    • It should be noted that Microsoft’s messaging is becoming more fully throated again – seems to be more of a resourcing issue when approaching XS launch than one of de-commitment.

      • Are they making any noise about getting more BC OG Xbox games than the (checks Xbox site) 33 that are currently Xbone BC?

        … that list is actually shorter than what the 360 had BC.

        • Of course, the 360 had emulation rather than code recompiling + an amount of emulation. Whilst not as exhaustive, the experience is definitely better.

          But yeah, its been mentioned that Microsoft will be revisiting it. I’d expect they may just make an emulator for all the stuff they can’t recompile once that avenue is exhausted.

          • Its good to hear its better, since I’d heard that the existing 360 emulation was very hit and miss. In either case, its a pity that they basically need to do a lot of work to get it going. I’m holding out for when they can achieve near or full compatibility. There are a few games on the list I’d be interested in revisiting, but more that aren’t.

  • I really enjoy Modern Vintage Gamer. I certainly don’t understand a lot of what he talks about but I can cobble together *some* understanding.
    I winder what his background is? I assume he lives in America but I’m keen to know more about him.

    • A community project does not require the level of polish a product from Sony would require. If RPCS3 plays your game with occasional glitches, you’ll be impressed. If you bought a console on the promise that it would be able to play any PS3 disc and you see glitches, you’ll be disappointed.

  • I thought it was rather common knowledge that the PS3 Cell Processor and related architecture was the main reason why hardware backward compatibility wasn’t achievable in the PS4 (and now 5).
    And now that PS4 and 5 are using x86 architecture, BC won’t be an issue between those systems.

      • It is.
        I clicked thinking there was some OTHER reason beyond the brutally obvious one.
        Maybe there are still a few people out there that don’t know this.

  • As the article states, PS3 emulation is and has been possible on PC’s for a long time now, made by developers who don’t even have access to the system source code.

    I believe Sony could make PS3 emulation possible on PS4 and PS5, they just weren’t interested in trying

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