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.
This article has been updated since it was first published.