Which Video Game Consoles are Backwards Compatible? Compare Wii U, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

There has been a lot of talk lately about backward compatibility with video game consoles. So what does it mean when a video game system is backward compatible and how does backward compatibility impact which of the big three video game consoles (Wii U, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4) you should buy?

What does it mean if a video game console is backward compatible?

If a video game console is backward compatible it can play video games that were developed for the previous version of that console.

Fans of specific video game consoles love when they can continue to play their old favorites on their new consoles. However, making video game systems backward compatible isn’t always easy and can sometimes eat into the manufacturer’s bottom line.

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Wii U

Super Mario Maker Console Deluxe Set - Nintendo Wii U

The Wii U has been backward compatible from the moment it was released. So not only can you play all the games that were created for the Wii U, but you can also play EVERY game that was ever made for the Wii on the Wii U. All you need to do is put your Wii game disc in the Wii U console and you will be able to play the game. There is no game download or installation of additional software required.

If you are thinking of buying a Wii U here are some deals on popular bundles.

Xbox One

Xbox One 1 TB Console - Fallout 4 Bundle

When the Xbox One was first released it was not backward compatible. Since the initial release, Microsoft has listened to the customers who are asking for backward compatibility by introducing it in their update to the Xbox One on November 12th, 2015.

This backward compatibility feature does function the same way as it does with the Wii U.

First, when you insert an Xbox 360 game disc into the Xbox One you will need to download a digital copy of the game onto the hard drive before you can play the game, which is something you don’t have to do with the Wii U. So even though Xbox One will be using the copy of the game that is stored on your hard drive you will still need to keep the game disc in the Xbox One in order to play. If you are thinking of buying an Xbox One and you have a lot of Xbox 360 games that you would like to play on it you might want to think about buying a 1TB version of the console to make sure that you have enough storage space.

The second way in which Xbox 360 backward compatibility works differently than it does on the Wii U is that not every Xbox 360 game is currently backward compatible with the Xbox One. Microsoft announced that 104 games would be backward compatible when it launched. They also said that there will be hundreds more Xbox 360 games that will be backward compatible in the months to come. However, we never heard a statement from Microsoft saying that eventually, all games that were made for the Xbox 360 would be backward compatible. We also currently don’t have a detailed list of the titles that will be added to the backward compatible games catalog. You can read more about Xbox One backward compatibility including the current backward compatible game library here.

If you are thinking of buying an Xbox One here are some deals on popular bundles.

PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4 500GB Console - Star Wars Battlefront Limited Edition Bundle [Discontinued]

The PlayStation 4 IS NOT backward compatible. So if you buy a PlayStation 4 you need to be OK with the PlayStation 4 games that are available. If you have an earlier version of PlayStation you will need to be OK with the clutter associated with having your old PlayStation sitting out if you want to play your old PlayStation games.

If you do want to play games for previous versions of PlayStation on your PlayStation 4 your only option is to use PlayStation Now, which is a subscription service from Sony that allows you to play select games from previous versions of PlayStation online. So there isn’t any way to play any games that you already own for free.

You might think that Sony might be motivated to do what is necessary to make the PlayStation 4 backward compatible in order to better compete with the Xbox One and Wii U. However, that would mean that Sony would have to ignore the substantial investment they made to create PlayStation Now. So given the fact that they already have a sales lead on the Xbox One and Wii U, don’t plan on seeing backward compatibility for the PlayStation 4 anytime soon.

If you are thinking of buying a PlayStation 4 here are some deals on popular bundles.


The only console that is 100% backward compatible is the Wii U. Xbox One is working toward backward compatibility starting in the fall of 2015. Meanwhile, Sony has no plans for backward compatibility for the PlayStation 4 other than its online subscription service, which obviously requires the consumer to spend more money.

On one hand, backward compatibility shouldn’t be the deciding factor of which video game console you buy, because after all if you are buying a new console you want to take advantage of the new capabilities it has to offer. On the other hand, knowing that you can still play older games that you already own or that there are a multitude of lower-priced pre-owned games that you can buy can make a console attractive to buy as well – especially if you are undecided on which console you want to buy.

We will update compatibility information if things should change.

Below are some popular video game bundles. Happy Shopping.

Wii U Bundles


PlayStation 4

Xbox One

Last update on 2024-07-24 at 17:54 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

About Dan G.
Dan G.

Dan is a video game enthusiast who has been playing games for over three decades. Starting out as an "old school" gamer, Dan has since embraced the modern age of gaming, thanks in part to his kids who inspired him to explore today's current consoles and games.

With a passion for video games and a desire to help others, Dan has become an expert in the field, specializing in video game consoles and hardware. Through his numerous articles and reviews he enjoys answering questions and helping parents understand the different options available for their kids.

If you're looking for expert advice on video games and consoles, Dan is a go-to source for reliable and informative information.