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Sony’s PlayStation 5, aka the next-next (next-next-next-next?) evolution for console gaming, makes Mother Earth the right planet to be on at the moment. Whether you already own the PlayStation 5, or you’re dedicated to tracking one down next time they’re in stock, here are Pop Sci’s Top PS5 games currently in the console’s excellent growing library.
The following titles are not only terrific games in their own right but they are designed to shine a spotlight on every bell and whistle in the PS5’s formidable arsenal.
- Best updated version of an older classic: Demon’s Souls
- Best example of super-fast load times: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
- Best for showing off haptic feedback: Astro’s Playroom
- Best game to use the PS5’s adaptive triggers: Returnal
- Best all-around PS5 experience: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Best PS5 games
The adjective “high-rez” is wonderfully insufficient to describe what the PS5 can produce. Sony packed in enough processing power to pump out more pixels than your TV can probably handle.
Check out the “perfect particle effects”
Confession: We’re total suckers for graphics. Always have been. Nothing gets us out of bed faster in the morning than a stunning screenshot. What you get with the PS5’s circuitry—thanks to the futuristic, AMD Radeon RDNA 2 GPU—are the most otherworldly graphics we’ve ever seen. Seeing the PS5’s visuals in action reminds us of a quote that our daffy, old college history professor used all the time: “That belongs in a museum,” he used to say.
More power equals less time spent looking at loading screens
What you’ll likely notice first with the PS5’s stunning hardware is the way that the rhythm of your gaming experience changes. The previous generations’ load times? To put it kindly, they were not exactly insubstantial. On the PS5, those load times are virtually nil on the PS5. Sony has stated, point blank, that the PS5 is at least 100 times faster than the PS4. Faster load times mean more immersion. More immersion means that, for example, the virtual NYC that Miles Morales traverses becomes more tangible and cohesive, and convincing.
The gaming gap year
Developers need time to suss out the nuances of new hardware. Which usually makes it A-OK for you to hold off on purchasing a new console at launch. For the PS5, that’s not the case at all. One: Games that are cross-generational on the PS4 and PS5 are clearly superior, in every way, on the PS5. And the PS5 launch already has two games, right now, that would not be possible on the older hardware (Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart). In other words, the PS5 already has games in its library that you simply could not possibly play on the previous machine.
The PS5 is arguably in a league of its own.
Tech is sometimes tricky. Advances in technology, particularly in the video games realm, are tough to articulate. Yes, we’ve been on the graphics-are-getting-better ladder for what feels like ages. Indeed, graphics are how we almost always decide what’s worth owning—and what’s not. The PS5 has stunning graphics. But what’s remarkable about the machine is how hard it works, and how much it hustles, on so many other fronts. What fronts exactly? Keep reading to find out.
Old games look new again
A new console means new processors. The Playstation 5 (tip: insert your monocle before reading this) uses a custom chip that boasts 10.28 teraflops and 36 compute units clocked at 2.23GHz. In case that’s not enough for you, there’s also the 825GB SSD. Also: Never tell anyone that you know what these things are. Or else bullies will take you behind the school and knock your Trapper Keeper right out of your hands.
That complex list of specs translates to the following: the PS5 has crisp, tight, UHD graphics. How crisp/tight, you ask? The PS5’s titles are all unbelievably good-looking (so far). Still, one game out-pixelates all the rest: that game is Demon’s Souls, the 2020 remake of the 2009 original.
Best updated version of an older classic: Demon’s Souls
One look at Demon’s Souls and you’ll say: “Fine, here’s my darn breath, PS5: Go on, and take it away.” Demon’s Souls is the O.G. Souls game that ushered in the era of Old Testament-caliber, pixelated punishment. Side effects include: controller hurling, garment rending, uncontrollable sobbing into your blankie. This game is hard.
Demon’s Souls tells the story of a valiant and obviously suicidal hero tasked with battling the forces of evil in the dreary land of Boletaria. There are 22 bosses in Demon’s Souls and every single one of them includes a side order of PTSD. Harrowing and beautiful at the same time, every pixel pops in Demon’s Souls. Keep your blankie close by. New weapons, armor, rings, and Grains, which offer players temporary relief from poison and other evils. You can play at a high framerate for super-smooth motion or crank up the resolution for the most detailed possible graphics. Both look fantastic.
Play PS5 games without delay
The formidable hardware of the PS5 includes an 825GB SSD (translation: A solid-state hard drive). Couple the PS5’s phat SSD with the console’s Integrated I/O that offers a jaw-dropping 5.5 gigs of input per second—that’s a hundred times faster than the I/O was on the PS4—and the result is a game that has virtually nonexistent load times: Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
Best example of super-fast load times: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
No joke: In the time it takes you to say the words “Spider-Man: Miles Morales,” out loud, the game has loaded. Yes, already. No, we are not kidding. Yes, we know your chamomile is not done steeping yet. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. Pop Sci’s tech testers discovered that it takes a mere 2 seconds, on average, to load SM: MM on the PS5. For context, the PS4 version of Miles takes a rather leisurely 20 seconds. That feels like forever when you’re holding your controller and staring at a boring screen.
Better still, play as the slick noob Miles Morales instead of uber-cornball Peter Parker. The seasons have also changed: Now it’s Christmas time in NYC. Miles has his web-spewing hands full battling against a legion of Marvel super villains, including the pesky Tinkerer.
Best of all, Miles has a bad-ass bioelectrical attack that, once charged, can zap baddies, freezing them in place momentarily, while Miles parkour-sculpts the gang down to a more manageable size. *Come for the quickie loads. Stay for the incredible game.
Haptics are happening
New consoles mean new lingo. One of the first words you’ll learn as a PS5 owner is “haptics.” What are haptics exactly? Glad you asked.
Remember “rumble”? Video games have been rumble-enabled all the way back to the N64 era. Instead of making the controller jump around in your hands like an over-caffeinated trout, the advanced haptics technology of the PS5 offers a far more, well, nuanced experience. You’ve likely experienced a similar effect with your high-end smartphone. And no game does a better job of showing off the PS5’s haptic abilities than Astro’s Playroom does.
Best for showing off haptic feedback: Astro’s Playroom
Yes, we know this is the pack-in game that comes with the PS5. (Astro’s Playroom is pre-installed.) And yes, it is odd to point to the pack-in game as a “must-have.” Since you already, well, have it. Having said that, you simply will not appreciate the wonders of the haptics experience until you feel it for yourself.
Imagine if there were, say, forty elves crammed inside the Dualsense, like one of those mini cars at the circus that’s packed with clowns. Each elf-clown is assigned to a specific part of your hand. Instead of a mechanized, abstract rumble, which had about as much personality as the droning school bell that tells us to go to the next class, haptics tech on the Dualsense offers up a veritable symphony of tactile delights.
Take note of the tangible distinctions between walking on a variety of surfaces in Astro’s Playroom. When Astro walks on the grass, you’ll feel a kinder, gentler vibration than when you walk on metal. Another level features falling rain which you can literally feel—right down to the individual raindrops—on the DualSense that you are holding hands.
Astro’s Playroom also happens to be a well-designed platformer, too. Our advice: Don’t skip it. And don’t underestimate it, either. (It’s truly great.) Load up Astro’s Playroom and bask in the wondrous sensory capabilities of the PS5.
DISCLAIMER: The majority of the PS5’s library makes use of haptics in one way or another. However, Astro’s Playroom, after rigorous testing in the Pop Sci labs, shows off the haptics experience better than any other title does. (Though Returnal, which we’ll get to momentarily, was a close second.)
Adapt or die
The DualSense controller offers some of the PS5’s coolest features. We’ve already talked about the haptics, but there’s more. Specifically, we’re talking about the Adaptive Triggers. And, while most PS5 games find nifty ways to incorporate haptic feedback into the experiences, no game arguably shows off the Adaptive Triggers of the Dualsense better than Returnal does.
Best game to use the PS5’s adaptive triggers: Returnal
Selene Vassos stars as the no-nonsense protagonist of Returnal. She crash lands on the planet Atropos and finds herself locked in a Groundhog Day-esque time loop. How the frack is she supposed to get out of this? Answer: By exploring the alien planet and uncovering secrets about—you guessed it—herself. Oh, and also by blowing the tentacles clean off the zeppelin-sized extraterrestrials who swarm her with bullet-hell projectiles.
Returnal’s aliens, like many of the beaches in Florida, are both gorgeous and cruel. No, this is not a game for the timid. Indeed, gird your loins before pressing Returnal’s START button. Fortunately, the PS5’s Adaptive Triggers are on your side. They essentially turn each Dualsense trigger into multiple buttons. Example: Hold the left trigger halfway down to aim down sight (A.D.S.). Or, pull the left trigger—yes, the same button—all the way, to the max, to switch to your weapon’s alt-fire mode. You do this by feel. The triggers reliably offer a specific degree of resistance—it feels like a rubber band stretched to capacity—to the point where you never (whoopsie!) press the trigger all the way down when you intended to A.D.S.
The way forward, the PS5 shows us, is not more buttons; the way forward is simply to convey more information via the already existing buttons. As a result, Returnal’s buttons are far more engaging to interact with. Returnal is a sublime sensory experience, one that presents a bit of a learning curve. Trust us: Your digits will adapt quicker than you think.
Power isn’t everything
The Ratchet & Clank series has been around since 2002. So it’s apt that the most sublime of the PS5’s stable of terrific titles (so far) stars the Sonny and Cher of video games: the bipedal lombax named Ratchet and his dutifully droll robot counterpart, Clank.
Crazy weapons? Check. Heartwarming story? Check. Cartoonish alien enemies? Check. Raritarium upgrades? Check. Seeing the dynamic duo on the new console is truly a stunner. Rift Apart moves us. It makes us laugh. It challenges our hand-eye coordination, again and again.
Best all-around PS5 experience: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
Mike Daly, one of Rift Apart’s directors, says: “We wanted to make a game that was new and took the experience further than it had before. When we were thinking about what we could do, knowing what we could never do before, it became clear that so much of the structure of games is informed by how you’re able to load things into memory.”
Marcus Smith, another director of Rift Apart, says that thanks to the PS5’s custom-designed SSD (see: the Spider-Man: Miles Morales entry above), the game “utilizes dimensional rifts … These are things that would not have been possible without the [SSD] of the [PS5].”
Daly and Smith are both referring to the Rift Tether, which is honestly one of those rare, once in a console generation game design breakthroughs that come along every 3 to 7 years or so. “Rift Tethers” in Rift Apart serve as conduits or paradigm shifts from one realm to another realm. They look like rips or tears in the time-space continuum. You can literally travel through the tears, in real-time. Smith adds: “It is an unbelievable game-changer … You’re in one world [in one moment], and the next moment, you’re in another.”
Rift Apart has puzzle-solving, haptic feedback (feel those bolts as you hoover them up, quite literally), adaptive triggers, and retina-scorching 4K visuals. Rift Apart does a great many remarkable things, including introducing a new character named Rivet. But the Rift Tether mechanic? Now, this is truly something that only the PS5 can do. Indeed, it’s only a small taste of the ways that games will potentially change in the not-so-distant future.
Q: When did the PS5 come out
The PS5 has been on the market since fall 2020, but you may not have known that since they have been almost impossible to get. The release also happened in relative slow-motion with Sony dripping out information about the system for more than a year before the official release.
Q: Can you play PS4 games on PS5
According to Sony, the “overwhelming majority” of PS4 games will work on the PS5. It’s worth noting, though, that not every title will get a swanky PS5 upgrade. You can check out Sony’s official support page to get a more complete answer.
Final thoughts on the best PS5 games
When choosing the best PS5 games, it obviously comes down to your specific tastes. But, if you want to show off what your swanky new console can do, be sure to check out what next-gen features the title supports. Oh, and have fun.