Backwards Compatibility: Which Consoles Offer It?

Playing your old games on your new console is a great thing. I take a look at which consoles offer backward compatibility.


Games console makers have a long history of offering backwards compatibility. This means that your new console has the ability to play games from the previous generation(s).

There are several advantages to this. Firstly, you have an instant catalogue of games – which are usually less expensive. Secondly, you don’t lose all your favourites that you have purchased. And finally, newer hardware means that older games can load quicker.

The shift to optical media made it easier to offer backward compatibility than in the days of cartridge-based games, because of the cartridge shapes and design – a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) cartridge cannot physically fit in a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES or SNES).


Nintendo never offered the ability to play Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom games on a Super Nintendo Entertainment System/Super Famicom, but they did offer the Super Game Boy which allowed original Game Boy games to be played on the SNES/Super Famicom, and the Game Boy Player was an attachment that went on the base of the GameCube to allow it to play Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games.




Game Boy Color consoles could also play original Game Boy games. Game Boy Advance and Advance SP could also play Game Boy Color games, whereas the Game Boy Micro – a mini version of the Advance – offered no backward compatibilty with Game Boy or Game Boy Color games. The original Nintendo DS and DS Lite could also play Game Boy Advance games (via its built-in SLOT-B) – something that was stopped with the introduction of the DSi. All of these were without any kind of attachments.

The Nintendo Wii U can play most Wii games. The Wii can play GameCube games – although this functionality along with GameCube controller ports was removed in later versions of the Wii and in the Wii Mini.


The Sega MegaDrive/Genesis required the Power Base Converter/Master System Converter 2 attachments for it to play Master System.




No other Sega consoles were compatible with each other – except the Nomad, which was essentially a handheld MegaDrive/Genesis, and the MultiMega/CDX, which was redesigned portable combined MegaDrive/Genesis and MegaCD/SegaCD rolled in to one.


When Sony released the PlayStation 2, the fact that it could play original PlayStation games out-of-the-box was a massive advantage – alongside its DVD playback capability. There was a huge catalogue of PlayStation games that could still be played.




The PlayStation 3 could originally play both PlayStation 2 and PlayStation games. However, this stopped with the October 2007 models. The confusion over which PlayStation 3 can play PlayStation 2 games can be quickly cleared up. If it has 4 USB ports, then it can play PlayStation 2 games. The original 20 GB (CECHBxx) and 60 GB (CECHAxx) models offered 100% hardware backwards compatibility, whereas the 60 GB (CECHCxx) and 80 GB (CECHExx) models offered partial software backwards compatibility.

No other PlayStation 3 models can play PlayStation 2 games. Oddly enough, all PlayStation 3s can play original PlayStation games.

The PlayStation 4, on the other hand, has no backwards compatiblity. Sony introduced PlayStation Now, which is a cloud-based paid for service thatcurrently has 400 games available to download to your PlayStation 4. But this isn’t the same, as it doesn’t allow you to use your existing PlayStation 3 discs. All the games offered are PlayStation 3 titles.

Sony recently announced that it would introduce PlayStation 2 and original PlayStation backward compatibilty to the PlayStation 4. I assume this will come in the form of a firmware update or possibly as an app, although no confirmed date yet.

It will also be the first time backward compatibility has been offered this far back, as it is usually limited to just the previous console. Sony is giving a 2013 console the ability to play nearly 20-year-old games.


When Microsoft released the XBox 360, backwards compatibilty with the original XBox was an afterthought. Despite both consoles using DVD drives, you couldn’t play XBox games on an XBox 360.



Microsoft did update the XBox 360 to enable some original XBox games to be played, but even those could show graphically issues – and it required an update to be installed on your XBox 360 for each game.

The XBox One also offers backward compatiblity as an afterthought and are emulated. Just over 100 XBox 360 games can be played on the XBox One at the time of writing this – with further support promised. It is rumoured that they could bring original XBox games to the XBox One too.


While SNK struggled to make an impact against then-giants Nintendo and Sega, they are one of the few companies that offered ‘forward compatibility’.



The Neo Geo Pocket Colour was the successor to the Neo Geo Pocket, however the Neo Geo Pocket – a mono console similar to the Nintendo GameBoy – could play the majority of the new games released for the Neo Geo Pocket Colour.


Backward compatibility is a great thing. It seems some companies pay more attention to this than others. As console players we love this.

For those considering moving from one console to the next from the same manufacturer, backwards compatibility can be a massive influence.

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