Four Questions To Consider When Buying Cross-Gen Games

by Joseph Stanichar on Jul 10, 2019 at 12:15 PM

With Microsoft’s Project Scarlett and the PlayStation 5 likely to release next year, we’re set to enter another era of cross-gen games. It’s that awkward time where old consoles are pushed to their limits, and the new hotness won’t likely reach its full potential for a few years. Developers will eventually stop support for the PS4 and Xbox One, but until that happens, here are some good questions to consider before deciding if the last-gen game will do the trick, or if you’re better off waiting to play it on the new hardware.

Is any content missing from the last-gen version?

We recognize that more advanced consoles can run more advanced games, but do your research to make sure you’re getting a complete experience. Are all of the major modes and features present? Sometimes they aren’t. For example, Call of Duty: Black Ops III completely cut its single-player content from the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions. If you played Call of Duty for the online and always ignored single-player, this likely wouldn’t be a huge issue. If you did enjoy Call of Duty’s single-player outings, this could have been a deal-breaker, even if the game was $10 cheaper.

Are there any features on newer platforms that significantly improve the game?

Games on newer hardware can offer richer experiences than their last-gen counterparts, often because of new control options or increased horsepower. For example, the addition of motion aiming in Twilight Princess or the more complex nemesis system in Shadow of Mordor. With solid-state drives being a large selling point for next-gen consoles, dramatic differences in load times between games could contribute to a better or worse overall experience. In some cases, the differences may not be dramatic enough to invalidate buying the last-gen version, but it’s always a factor to consider.

Does the last-gen version have any advantage over the current-gen version?

This can happen! Many people prefer to play Twilight Princess on the GameCube (despite the aforementioned motion aiming) because of the barely noticeable difference in graphical quality coupled with attacking being mapped to an actual button, as opposed to the Wii’s awkward waggle controls. You may also want to play on an older console if that’s where your friends are playing for online modes. Maybe there’s a glitch in the newer version (or a good glitch in the older one if you’re a speedrunner), worse controls, or longer load times. Whatever the reason, the best way to play – at least from certain perspectives – could be on the old platforms.

Does the last-gen version look ugly?

No matter what technical wizardry developers can pull off, the version on the newer consoles will – and should – look better. However, versions on older platforms should be graphically comparable to other games on that platform. When comparing shots from both versions, you should be able to say, “Yeah, I can see more detail in the guy’s hair on the left,” not “Wow, the guy on the right looks like his face is melting.” Just because last-gen games will probably look worse, doesn’t mean they should look bad.


If the past generation is any indication, we’ll see more remasters in the next console generation, so read Joe Juba’s piece on the rights and wrongs of making one of them.