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Published Sep. 21, 2021

There are a lot of reasons to love the PlayStation 5: It has an incredible new controller, unique exclusive games that run with almost no load times, and 3D audio built in for any headset. But “backwards compatibility” is the thing that makes upgrading from PS4 to PS5 a no-brainer (assuming you can find one). According to Sony, “99 percent” of PS4 games are compatible with the PS5. If you own a PS4, chances are you will be able to play all your old and best PS4 games from that console if and when you get a PS5.

Playing PS4 games on a PS5 introduces new possibilities, though. Thanks to the new and improved hardware, you’ll experience higher framerates and shorter load times. Many games have been optimized to take advantage of the powerful PS5 hardware, maximizing those improvements and increasing visual fidelity. In some cases, developers have even taken the opportunity to go back, tune them up, and release ports made specifically for the PS5. The best PS4 games on PS5 make the most of the new console and its “next-gen” features. They look better. They run better. Simply put, it’s worth going back to these games, even if you’ve already played them, because they are better.

How we selected the products

Choosing the “best” video games is not an objective choice. Every one of us has unique tastes and would likely pick a different set of PS4 games to look back at on PS5. Rather, this list represents the technical side of the question; “What are the best PS4 games to play on PS5?” Developers have taken many paths to optimizing their games for the new PlayStation. This set of games represents that range of improvements, including games that have received new content post-release, games that have been re-released as PS5 native software, and games that have been made to take advantage of the PS5 when given the opportunity.

I also happened to have a headstart in doing this research. Prior to joining Popular Science in 2021, I wrote video game reviews for many of the most popular gaming-focused publications, including IGN and GameSpot. More specifically, I updated many reviews with new sections about next-gen game performance on PS5 and Xbox Series X after developers optimized and/or re-released their games on the new consoles. 

What to consider when buying a PS4 game to play on PS5

The great thing about playing PS4 games on PS5 is you don’t need to think about it too much. That said, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind to make sure you’re setting yourself up to have the best possible experience.

Do you have a disc drive?

Before buying a new PS5, consider your PS4 collection. If you’ve been buying physical disc-based PS4 games, keep in mind that you will need to buy the PS5 model with a disc drive in order to play them.

There are two PS5 models available right now: The $499 standard model and a $399 “digital edition, which does not have a disc drive. If you purchase the digital edition PS5, you will not be able to play any PS4 games that you purchased on disc. (There is no physical-to-digital license conversion process). Any PS4 games you purchased digitally will work on either machine.

Check your setup

To really appreciate the best PS4 games for PS5, you need to have a strong entertainment setup. Most late-era PS4 games could run in either 4K or 60 frames per second on the PS4 Pro. When optimized for PS5, many games can do both simultaneously. Ideally that means you’re hooking up your PS5 to a 4K TV. (Almost all 4K tvs and monitors support 60Hz, so there’s no need to worry about the framerate). If you’re in the market for a new TV, we have some thoughts on picking the best TV for PS5 owners.

Also, while the PS5 allows you to play PS4 games using the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller, many games have received updates that add in support for the PS5’s DualSense controller. Those features add extra immersion and depth that you won’t want to miss out on in your games. In general, I’d tell you to set the DualShock 4 aside and use the new controller. The DualSense is more comfortable in-hand, thanks to its longer handles, gets good battery life, and is more durable than the DualShock 4. It’s a better fit for every game, even the ones that weren’t made for it.

Make sure you’re downloading the right version of the game!

Despite the fact that the PS5 and Xbox Series X launched in November, 2020, most developers are still releasing their games on both PS4 and PS5. In many cases, buying either version of the game gets you access to both. (Though that seems to be changing). Here’s the wrinkle: You can download both the PS4 and PS5 versions of a game on your PS5, and downloading the wrong one on PlayStation Network, the PS5 digital store, is easier than you’d think.

To make sure you have the right version, select the game in question in the PS5 menu and press the “…” menu next to the “Play Game” button. The third option down in the dropdown “…” menu gives you the option to switch to the other version of the game. So if it says “PS4,” you’re currently playing the PS5 version. If it says PS5, you’re about to play or download the PS4 version. Also, PS4-native games will have a “PS4” label in the top-left corner next to the name of the game.

Best PS4 games for PS5: Our recommendations

The best PS4 games to play on PS5 tend to be large, epic showcases of the last console generation, which are technically improved by the power of the PlayStation 5. Finding your favorite games is a personal choice, but I believe that all of these games are worth your time, and maybe even worth replaying on the new console if you’ve already given them a try.

Best looking PS4 game on PS5: Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut

Simply stunning

The island of Tsushima looks absolutely incredible on PS5.

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Specs:

  • Framerate Up to 60fps
  • 4K? Yes
  • Length: 50 hours (via HowLongtoBeat)
  • Free PS5 Upgrade? No. Upgrading from the original Ghost of Tsushima to the PS5 version of Director’s Cut costs $29.99. If you purchased Ghost of Tsushima: Directors Cut on PS4, you can get the PS5 version for $9.99.

Why it made the cut: One of the best looking PS4 games has become one of the best looking PS5 games.

ProsCons
Beautiful open-world depiction of Feudal Japan is a wonder to explore Generic sidequests feel like filler
Incredible cinematic storytelling No free upgrade path on PS5
Director’s Cut adds new area and story missions added

In 2020, Ghost of Tsushima got to be the PlayStation 4’s swan song. A sprawling open-world epic set in feudal Japan, Jin Sakai’s quest to retake his homeland from the invading Mongol army told a compelling story with cinematic visual flair. Earlier this year, Sony released an enhanced version of the game, Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut, which adds in a second island to explore and new missions. The PS5 version of Director’s Cut looks about as sharp and beautiful as most of the PS5’s exclusives. Digital tourism has never looked so good.

Most improved by the PS5 remaster: The Nioh Collection

A cut above

The Nioh Collection compiles two great, extremely difficult action games, the first of which looks and feels much, much better on PS5.

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Specs:

  • Framerate Up to 120fps
  • 4K? Yes
  • Length: 78 Hours (Nioh), 72 hours (Nioh 2)
  • Free PS5 upgrade? Yes

Why it made the cut: Nioh Collection is one of the best showcases of how much a PS4 game can improve when optimized for PS5.

ProsCons
Difficult, but rewarding combat They’re REALLY hard. Not for people who get frustrated easily.
Two great games in one package
Nioh gets a big visual and framerate bump on PS5

Nioh and Nioh 2 are two of the hardest PS4 games. The Samurai-themed “Soulslike” action games, a genre known for its difficulty, require precise timing and masterful play to defeat the hordes of hard-hitting demons. The Nioh Collection compiles both Nioh games and all of their post-release DLC content in a single package on PS5. Both games get a technical boost, but the original Nioh, which originally came out in 2017, gets a particularly notable glow-up. Its sharper textures and the potential to run at up to 120 frames per second if you have a 120Hz TV or monitor don’t cover up the game’s age, but make it run much more smoothly. Most PS4 games get a nice lift from jumping to PS5, but the Nioh Collection soars.

Better with a DualSense: Spider-Man: Miles Morales

The Spider-Man Touch

Spider-Man: Miles Morales is fun no matter what, the PS5 controller’s advanced haptics make a huge difference.

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Specs:

  • Framerate: Up to 60fps
  • 4K? Yes
  • Length: 13 hours (Via HowLongToBeat)
  • Free PS5 Upgrade? Yes

Why it made the cut: The advanced haptics in the PS5 version of Spider-Man: Miles Morales are worth experiencing, even if you’ve already played the game on PS4.

ProsCons
Swinging around the city as Spider-Man feels incredible Gameplay may feel a little tired if you’ve already played Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018)
PS5 DualSense features really shine
An entertaining comic-book story

Okay, okay. So I may or may not be cheating a bit on this one. Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the self-contained spinoff of Sony’s 2018 Spider-Man game, was a part of the PS5 launch lineup. It’s available on both PS4 and PS5, though. And while it’s a great game that’s worthy of your time on either platform, I’d be remiss if I didn’t strongly urge you to play it on PS5, even if you’ve already gone through it on PS4. Miles Morales has some of my favorite uses of the DualSense controller’s haptics and adaptive triggers. From simulating the rumble of the New York subway, to tensing the triggers as Miles swings around the city, the PS5 and its tactile feedback connects you to the game in new and exciting ways.

Not a port, but optimized for PS5: God of War (2018)

Smoother slaughter

There’s no PS5 version of God of War, but it still gets a technical bump.

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Specs

  • Framerate Up to 60fps
  • 4K? Yes
  • Length: 32 hours (Via HowLongToBeat)
  • Free PS5 upgrade? No

Why it made the cut: God of War is one of the best PS4 exclusives with no next-gen upgrade, but the game still has some worthwhile PS5 exclusive-features.

ProsCons
Incredible, epic story Not native 4K
Tight, precise combat
4K and 60fps at the same time

God of War (2018) is a hybrid reboot/sequel is a tour de force that reimagines everything about the PS2-era cinematic brawler franchise. Its more precise, strategic combat and touching story is among the PS4’s best. 

While Sony has abstained from re-releasing God of War on PS5 so far, the original is one of many games to receive what I like to call the “PS4 Pro+” treatment. On a PS4 Pro, God of War can run in “checkerboard” 4K, a technique used to prioritize rendering the important parts of an image as sharply as possible, or at 60 frames per second instead of 30. On PS5, it can do both of those things simultaneously. This compromise, combining the “resolution” and “performance” modes found on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, has been added to a fair number of last-gen games. This allows the PS5 to run the game in the best possible way without any kind of remastering or updating. 

Like Nioh Collection, God of War’s combat feels much better thanks to that framerate boost, so the upgrade feels substantial if you haven’t experienced it yet, even if it was technically possible on the PS4 Pro.

Plays like it’s supposed to on PS5: Control: Ultimate Edition

Mind-bending

Caption As creepy as it is gorgeous, Control demands a PS5-level of computing power.

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Specs

  • Framerate: Up to 60fps
  • 4K? Yes
  • Length: 17 hours (via HowLongToBeat)
  • Free PS5 upgrade? Yes, but only for Ultimate Edition. Players who own the original version of Control will need to buy Ultimate Edition to upgrade.

Why it made the cut PS4 wasn’t ever the best way to play Control. On PS5, it looks and runs great.

ProsCons
Creepy supernatural mystery story Doesn’t run at 60fps with ray-tracing on
Fun telekinetic powers and shooting
Some of the best ray-tracing in a game to date

Control is one of a handful of late-era PS4 games that didn’t run so great on the standard console. Unlike the PC version, or even the PS4 Pro, the game couldn’t always keep up with the telekinetic desk-chucking and surreal wall-morphing that’s supposed to occur quickly and seamlessly. Control: Ultimate Edition, a compilation of the game and its DLC available on both PS4 and PS5, adds enhanced fidelity options and DualSense functionality. More importantly, though, it runs well no matter whether you play the game at a smooth 60fps, or prefer the visual mode that locks in 30fps and adds ray-tracing, an advanced graphics technology that simulates natural lighting. (Either way, the game runs in 1440p, upscaled to 4K). Even though you still have to pick and choose your visual enhancements, the fact of the matter is you will enjoy Control: Ultimate Edition much more on PS5.

FAQ

Q: What PS4 games should I play on PS5?

Any of them! Aside from a small number of incompatible games, the entire PS4 library is playable on PS5. As we’ve discussed in this list, there’s a substantial, growing list of games that have been updated to take advantage of the new console in some way or have been re-released. Those games will show the biggest improvements when you play them on PS5, versus playing them on PS4. That said, most games I’ve tested have shown some performance improvements.

Q: Is the PS4 better than the PS5?

No. While comparing generations of consoles is often less straightforward than comparing technical specifications, the fact that the PS5 can play almost every PS4 game and runs them more smoothly ensures that there’s no meaningful debate to be had about which console is better.

Q: Why would I want to play the PS4 version of a game on my PS5?

As we discussed earlier, the PS5 can run the PS4 version of any game, even ones where you own it on both PS4 and PS5. Aside from reporters like me looking to cross-check both versions and preservationists who want to ensure people can retain every version of every game for history’s sake, there’s very little reason to hang back and play on PS4, rather than PS5.

From a pure gameplay perspective, the PS5 version will always be better, but there are two small things that might bring you back. First, many games have separate sets of Trophies for PS4 and PS5. Trophies are PlayStation’s cross-generation progression that charts special milestones you hit in every game you play. If you’re a trophy hunter and you want to play a game again earning all the PS5 trophies, you might be compelled to go back. Second, the PS4 and PS4 versions of a game are often different sizes. If your hard drive is nearly full, you can check to see if the PS4 game is smaller. It’s actually bigger sometimes, though, so it’s a long shot.

Final thoughts on the best PS4 games you can play on PS5

There are tons of great PS4 games, and you shouldn’t ignore them just because Sony’s focusing on making games for the PS5. The best PS5 games will be waiting for you when you’re ready to play them. Whether you’re playing the best PS4 games on PS5–the technical gems–or your personal favorites, there are plenty of reasons to take advantage of the PS5’s backward compatibility.

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