Console gaming is at a crossroads, finding itself in the center of that transitory phase between console generations. Many games are landing on both last-gen and next-gen hardware. And given that getting your hands on a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series whatever remains damn near impossible, this is a boon all around.
But three months into the next generation, the state of cross-gen games is still mired in somewhat of a foggy situation. Which games are available across generations? And what exactly do the snazzier, sometimes pricier versions offer that those on last-gen tech do not?
Xbox players certainly have the easiest go of the whole situation, thanks to Microsoft’s “Smart Delivery” program. Short explanation: If you own a game on Xbox, you’ll get the best-performing version for your console. The catch is that it’s contingent on developer participation. Many first-party Microsoft games—including Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, and Sea of Thieves—support it, and some major publishers, like Ubisoft, appear to be all in, too. All three of Ubisoft’s recent mega-games support Smart Delivery.
The process is a bit more confusing on PS5, where it’s possible to accidentally download the PlayStation 4 version of a game, provided it’s available across generations. (Here’s how to not do that.)
When a game is “enhanced” or “upgrade” or “optimized” for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, there’s a general benchmark: framerates hiked up to 60 frames per second and resolutions jacked up to 4K. (The less expensive Xbox Series S can run games at 60fps but tops out at 1800p in terms of resolution.) The PS5’s DualSense controller also boasts an impressive suite of haptics, which next-gen versions often take advantage of. Of course, it’s all a case by case basis. Some games can hit 120fps. More often than not, the upgrade is free, but some developers will make you pay a premium.
To that end, here are all of the major last-gen games with next-gen versions out or en route. This roundup is by no means comprehensive. And since Kotaku doesn’t have a crystal ball, it’s limited to games that already exist or will exist in the reasonable future (broadly 2021). Without further ado...
12 Minutes: A-listers James McAvoy, Daisy Ridley, and Willem Dafoe will live inside everyone’s little video game boxes when the Annapurna-published 12 Minutes hits Xbox One and Xbox Series X as a “console launch exclusive.” No release date yet.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Ubisoft’s mead-soaked jaunt through 9th-century England is available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and S. Next-gen versions run at 60fps. Here’s what it looks like on a One S compared to a Series S:
Borderlands 3: The raunchiest of raunchy looter-shooters received a next-gen upgrade last November. In addition to seriously improved load times, the PS5 version also makes deft use of the DualSense controller’s fancy haptics.
Bugsnax: Talkin’ bout Bugsnax? The distressing first-person puzzle game is available on both PS4 and PS5.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War: What, you thought that the latest entry in the biggest-selling video game series of all time wouldn’t be available on as many platforms as possible? The literal figurehead of capitalism is the face of this game. No surprise that it’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and S. Activision saddled this one with a byzantine pricing and upgrade scheme. Essentially, it costs $60 on last-gen consoles and $70 on next-gen ones.
Control: Of all the games receiving next-gen optimizations, few have had a rockier road than Control. After some confusing corporate messaging, Control: Ultimate Edition—which includes the main game, all expansions, and an upgrade path for the next-gen version—will finally be available for $40 next week. It’s also one of the “free” PS Plus games for February.
Cyberpunk 2077: PC players keep talking about some excellent game called Cyberpunk 2077. We console players would like to experience that, too! The troubled open-world shooter initially had next-gen releases planned for 2021. Those versions are still on the way, but for an unspecified date in the back half of the year. It doesn’t look nor run so great on PS4 or Xbox One but runs relatively smoothly on PS5 and Xbox Series X via backward compatibility. Hopefully, the truly next-gen versions bring more significant improvements.
Devil May Cry 5: An expanded and upgraded version of everyone’s favorite Hot Topic simulator released alongside the PS5 and Xbox Series X last year. Called Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition, it boosted the game’s performance, added an extra playable character, and tacked on a new difficulty setting. The Xbox Series X version features ray-tracing, though the Series S version does not.
Destiny 2: In December, shortly after the Beyond Light expansion landed with a bang, Destiny 2 received a next-gen upgrade, allowing the endless looter-shooter to hit that 4K60 standard. Cross-generation play was introduced when the next-gen consoles launched, and load times were significantly slashed on the newer machines. Heads up: Speaking from experience, if you party up with someone playing on an original Xbox One, you won’t load into strikes any faster.
Disco Elysium: In March, the beloved role-playing game will receive an enhanced version (Disco Elysium - Final Cut) featuring fully voice-acted lines for PS4 and PS5. The PS5 version will be able to hit 4K at 60fps. Disco Elysium - Final Cut will release in the summer for Xbox Series X and S and the Nintendo Switch.
Doom Eternal: Hellspawn, beware. Doom Eternal will receive a next-gen upgrade of some sort for both Xbox and PlayStation. No word on a release date or what, exactly, the upgraded versions will bring to the table.
Far Cry 6: Initially planned for a February release, Far Cry 6 has been pushed to some point after April 1. It’ll release across generations.
Forza Horizon 4: In Forza Horizon 4, it is now possible to go from 0 to 60...frames per second, that is! Real talk: Forza Horizon 4 is one of more than two dozen games that were “optimized” for release on the Xbox Series X and S in early November. On the higher-end console, it can hit 4K at 60fps. Zoom, zoom.
Gears 5: 120. That’s the number of push-ups any Gears 5 character can do in one minute, and it’s also the number of frames per second Gears 5 can hit on Xbox Series X and S following an optimization upgrade. For that sky-high framerate, you’ll need a compatible display, naturally, and it’s only available in the competitive mode. The rest of the game runs at 60fps.
Gears Tactics: This smarter, slower Gears spinoff was a PC-only game before November when it landed on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. Not sure why you need a boosted framerate for a tactical game, but hey, it doesn’t hurt.
Goodbye Volcano High: Anthropomorphic animals. Broody music. Indie-film vibes. Can’t wait to say hello to Goodbye Volcano High when it hits PS4 and PS5 sometime this year.
Halo: Shortly after the Xbox Series X and S launched, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was upgraded to allow for framerates of 120fps on the new machines. The next entry in the saga, Halo Infinite, is planned for release later this year (maybe, hopefully). It’ll be playable across all Xbox platforms, and the multiplayer mode will be free-to-play.
Hitman 3: Agent 47’s latest jet-setting quest to take out some high-profile targets with sociopathic creativity released on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and S.
Horizon Forbidden West: The follow-up to Horizon Zero Dawn is on the horizon for both PS4 and PS5 owners but won’t come out until the latter half of the year.
Immortals Fenyx Rising: Like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft’s Greek-inspired map game released across generations and features the next-gen enhancements de rigueur. One word of advice: Play it on any platform other than the Switch, if you can.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits: Ember Lab’s Kena: Bridge of Spirits will come to both PS4 and PS5 in March. According to a Game Informer interview, the game loads in two seconds flat on PS5. The lush forest environment will look noticeably better on PS5, too, as something had to give for the developers to ensure combat is equally smooth on PS4 as it is on PS5. (Personally, of all the games announced at last year’s spree of Sony events, Kena is the one I’m most pumped about.)
Maneater: “We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat:” The Game received a free next-gen upgrade at launch. (The PS5 version was also one of January’s “free” PS Plus games.) I haven’t had a chance to try this one yet, but a colleague told me that the DualSense implementation is more like a lack thereof.
Marvel’s Avengers: A next-gen-optimized version of Marvel’s Avengers was supposed to release day and date with the PS5 and Xbox Series X and S. Last fall, those upgrades were pushed to an unspecified date in 2021, with developer Crystal Dynamics citing the pandemic and catastrophic wildfires as reasons for the delay. Crystal Dynamics will detail more about the next-gen versions on February 16.
Metro Exodus: In addition to the standard visual enhancements, a planned update for Metro Exodus will introduce ray-tracing to the game on next-gen consoles. Date TBA.
Nioh: Both Nioh and Nioh 2 are coming to the PS5 on February 5. Both games will be able to hit 4K at 120fps, if your display can support that. Like Control, the upgrade paths are a little confusing here. If you played Nioh 2 on PS4, you’ll be able to upgrade to the PS5 version for free, minus any DLC you didn’t purchase. You can also pick up The Nioh Collection, which includes remastered versions of both games, for $70.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps: Most next-gen upgrades improve performance to that standard 4K60 benchmark. Not Ori and the Will of the Wisps. On Xbox Series X, the whimsical precision platformer can hit 120fps and resolutions of up to 6K, provided you have a compatible display.
Rainbow Six Siege: As of December, Rainbow Six Siege received a next-gen upgrade allowing for 4K visuals and framerates of 120fps. It’s free almost anywhere on the planet except for Japan, where the upgrade costs 100 yen for PS5 players.
Resident Evil Village: This nightmare factory will be out for PS4, PS5, and the Xbox lineup on May 7. A free demo is currently available for PS5 owners, with an expansion to other consoles slated for the spring
Riders Republic: Ubisoft hasn’t detailed the next-gen enhancements for the don’t-call-it-a-Steep-sequel Riders Republic—which was planned for a February release but will now come out later this year. Ubisoft did, however, confirm that the game will come to basically all platforms, current- and last-gen. I’ll just say this: 60fps won’t even remotely be fast enough to render all the sick, lightning-fast 1080s I plan on busting out.
Sea of Thieves: Among all the games Kotaku messed around with during last fall’s Xbox Series X preview period, Sea of Thieves gave us the most grief in one aspect: Whether or not it was next-gen! Even though the Xbox Series X listed it as an “optimized” game, inspecting the file info revealed that, wait a minute, Sea of Thieves was categorized under the Xbox One’s codeword. Weird. (Sea of Thieves is indeed a cross-gen game.)
Solar Ash: The striking Solar Ash is planned for release on both PS4 and PS5 in June. No word on an exact date or what the different versions will bring to the table. One thing’s for sure, though: No matter the platform, Solar Ash is a looker.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: Respawn Entertainment’s terrific laser-sword simulator received an update that optimizes the game for next-gen consoles, boosting the framerate to 60fps and, on Xbox Series X, bumping post-processing up to 4K.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales: The latest Spider-Man game is available across PlayStation generations but loads literally five times faster on the PS5. It’s also way better looking on the newer console, even featuring a mode that allows for ray-tracing at 60fps. Miles Morales is a follow-up to the 2018 Spider-Man game, which received some next-gen enhancements itself in Spider-Man: Remastered, included only to those who picked up the Ultimate Edition of Spider-Man: Miles Morales.
Stray: When Stray was first revealed as a console exclusive for PlayStation, it was slated for both a PS4 and PS5 release. Curiously, the PlayStation store lists it as a PS5-only release. (Kotaku reached out to Sony and the game’s publisher, Annapurna Interactive, for clarification.) Either way, it’s out in October.
Watch Dogs Legion: Three Ubisoft-published map games walk into a bar. Three Ubisoft map games walk out of the bar, updated with 4K graphics. Watch Dogs Legion is one of the three.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Yes, The Witcher 3 is getting a next-gen port. You’ll be able to transfer your saves from Xbox One to the Xbox Series X and S. No word on that functionality for PlayStation, what the upgraded version will entail, or when it will come out.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon: The latest Yakuza game was among the crop of Xbox games to receive a next-gen upgrade and to support Smart Delivery at launch. The PS5 version is planned for release in March and will be free to owners of the PS4 version.
Correction: 1/29/2021, 5:30 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this post misstated the next-gen upgrades for Watch Dogs Legion and the platforms on which Yakuza: Like a Dragon is available. Kotaku regrets the error.