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PS5 Backward Compatibility Needs To Embrace The Forgotten Classics

Rumours are swirling around that PS5 could finally be set to embrace backward compatibility beyond a single generation. Sure, you can purchase select PS2 titles and a handful of remasters on the PlayStation Store, but countless classics remain shackled to a certain system with no way of playing them in the modern landscape.

I own a PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, and PS5 because I’m a serious gamer, but no way should I be expected to dig them out each and every time I fancy revisiting an older game. Unlike other artforms, gaming has yet to figure out a flawless route of preservation. Developers and publishers still earn hefty profits through remasters of beloved classics, so ensuring they are available to play in their existing form with few obstacles isn’t really in their best interest.

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The cynical belief is sadly the truth in this regard, but I feel Sony could subvert our expectations if backward compatibility on its latest console is tackled correctly. With only a few exceptions, almost every PS4 game is available to play and purchase on PS5 right now, making it a breeze to enjoy your exising library with ample performance improvements courtesy of the new and improved hardware.

It’s amazing, and something we’d seldom seen in the console space before to such an extent. Yet for those who have followed PlayStation from the very beginning, the majority of their libraries remain inaccessible. But imagine if things change, picture a future where any of our existing discs or digital purchases suddenly became compatible with PS5, effortlessly meshing with the platform thanks to a bespoke emulator or other such solution.

A recent listing of Dead or Alive 5 on the PS Store alongside pricing details had many suspecting that native backward compatibility was imminent, hinting at Sony’s rumoured Game Pass rival that is set to combine PS Plus, PS Now, and a few new features into a single monthly fee. That service is likely on the horizon, but whether it will factor in backward compatibility remains to be seen. I hope it does, if only to revisit some hidden gems that have long been lost to the passage of time.

When you think of the PS3 you think of The Last Of Us, Uncharted, Resistance, Infamous, and a handful of other exclusive blockbusters that emerged later into the console’s lifecycle. Yet there are so many more bangers that so few people have played, largely because they launched to a quiet reception or haven’t emerged in the years since through remasters or a welcome cultural resurgence. If backward compatibility for the platform truly does emerge in the coming weeks and features the entire library, I hope it doesn’t leave some of these forgotten classics behind, or perhaps even offers a digital avenue or purchase now that physical copies have become such a rarity.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Sony takes a similar approach to Microsoft if it ends up toying with a bespoke emulator. Each title would operate on a case-by-case basis, needing to be tested on the new hardware to make sure it plays nice instead of immediately falling to pieces once you push the start button. Anyone who has tried emulation on PC will know what I’m talking about, but hopefully Sony has the resources to circumvent many of these issues.

If this does end up being the path it takes, I hope it doesn’t just dedicate itself to the big hitters and nothing more. Sony often rejects its own legacy, having fallen into a predictable conveyor belt of narrative blockbusters with its modern exclusive library instead of embracing the variety that helped PlayStation become the platform it is today. Backward compatibility is an opportunity to regain that ground, offering a spotlight to underrated gems or forgotten classics that few people loved at the time, but deserve to be shown to an entirely new audience without compromise.

3D Dot Game Heroes, Folklore, Binary Domain, Tokyo Jungle, Eternal Sonata, Rain, and Fat Princess are just a few of the games that spring to mind right away, and I’m sure that list is desperate to be extended. Maybe take requests, listen to fans to learn about the games they love or would like to see resurrected today. Trophy and controller support is already implemented, given the wider design of Sony’s gamepad hasn’t changed at all since its inception, so if the hardware and emulation both play ball, there is nothing stopping even the most niche of PS3 games being given a second lease of life on PS5.

They won’t be million sellers, and some will only be sampled by a select few, but that’s a sacrifice that comes with being a trustworthy brand in games, showcasing to fans that you respect the medium’s history and are willing to dip into it time and time again to ensure games don’t become little more than memories. That’s the case with so many classics these days, but we finally have the technology and cultural significance to change that, so why aren’t we? Come on, Sony, embrace the past and make it a part of the future. I need a place to play Tokyo Jungle in 2021 that isn’t your dodgy streaming service.

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