Sony revolutionized the gaming industry with its PlayStation 1 console, which is known as the first proper 3D console. Released in 1994, when the SNES and Genesis were still very popular, PS1 featured a CD drive- putting it a step ahead of everyone else. While the PS1 era seems like a long time ago, the PS3 era started in 2006 and ended in 2012.
Some of you might still own a PS3, so do PlayStation 1 games work on PS3? Yes, all versions of the PS3 use software emulation to play PS1 games because the console has such a powerful processor. The PS3 can also read regular music and movie CDs, just like the PS1.
Sony’s old consoles featured dedicated hardware to run games from the previous generation. This design choice ended with the PS4, which is the first PlayStation to feature semi-custom x86 PC processors. These days, the PlayStation and Xbox are just prebuilt PCs running custom operating systems that you can buy for 500 bucks.
Do PlayStation 1 Games Work On PS3?
Yes, the PS3 can play every single PS1 game through software emulation. The emulator is designed by Sony itself and does a very good job of reproducing the original experience. Since the overall controller layout didn’t change all that much between the PS1 and PS3, it feels like you’re playing on a PS1.
The graphics, framerate, colors, sound, etc. are similar to what they would be like on native hardware. It’s quite interesting then, that Sony released the PlayStation Classic to take advantage of the retro console trend. Other companies like Nintendo also released modernized variants of their classic consoles.
Nintendo put out the NES Classic Edition, which once again, uses software emulation to play old NES games. Recreating the original hardware on a fab will consume more time and money than just putting an ARM chip in a box and using it to run emulators. The PlayStation Classic uses PCSX ReARMed to emulate PS1 games and comes with a preloaded selection of 20 games.
You can’t add games via PSN or SD cards. This is why you should not buy a PS Classic if you already own a functioning PS3. A PS3 will play PS1 games just fine, and with better performance than the PS Classic (plus, you aren’t limited to a selection of 20 preloaded games).
Can The PS3 Slim Play PS1 Games?
Yes, even though some people falsely claim that it can’t. If your PS3 Slim can’t play a PS1 disc, try another one. It might be an issue with that specific game disc.
Since all versions of the PS3 use the same hardware and software, they provide the same emulation experience for PS1 games. All PS3 models come with a PS1 emulator loaded from the factory. However, the one thing missing from a PS3 Slim’s motherboard is dedicated PS2 hardware.
The original “fat” PS3 contained a PS2 Emotion Engine chip on the board, to run PS2 games. This was removed on the later Slim and Super Slim models. Maybe this is why people think the PS3 Slim can’t play PS1 games.
Since the PS2 could also emulate the PS1, some people thought that the PS3 Slim can’t play PS1 games anymore. But PS3s emulate PS1 games via software, not through dedicated hardware.
Is The PS3 A Dead Console?
For all intents and purposes, the PS3 is dead. It stopped receiving new games by 2015, at which point most developers had moved on to the new PS4. Plus, its hardware didn’t have the grunt to power modern AAA games.
The last game released for PS3 is Shakedown Hawaii, in 2020. Funnily enough, this is also the last Wii game. Sony stopped providing after-sales service for the PS3 in April 2022, citing the depletion of their parts inventory.
The very last PS3 rolled off the line in 2017. This is quite impressive, considering the fact that this console was released in 2006. While Sony doesn’t make any more PS3s, you can easily find used ones on the internet.
PS3 Emulation On PC
While the PS3 console is dead, the experience it provided and the games it had aren’t going anywhere. Thanks to emulation, you can play PS3 games on your PC. With unlocked framerates and 1440p/ 4K resolutions- better than what the PS3 could ever manage.
However, be warned- the PS3’s Cell processor is a complicated chip. And emulating it isn’t an easy task, which is why we had to wait so long to get a functioning PS3 emulator. Right now, there is only one choice- RPCS3, which is the best PS3 emulator.
The other one, ESX, is still in Beta and undergoing testing. To run some of the more demanding PS3 games on RPCS3, you’ll need at least a 6-core processor (preferably with hyperthreading or SMT). The Cell CPU itself was technically a “9-core” chip, with one general-purpose PPE core and 8 SPEs.
Lack Of Native Backward Compatibility On PS4 And PS5
Sony radically shifted their console architecture after the debacle that took place with the PS3 and its Cell processor. The Cell was supposed to be a giant leap forward in computing, for several different companies. Sony, Toshiba, and IBM formed an alliance called STI to develop this chip.
Sony wanted a gaming console, IBM wanted a supercomputer, and Toshiba wanted to put this chip in their laptops. After four years and $400 million, the result was as grand as everyone expected. The version of the Cell used in the PS3 was a difficult chip to write games for.
Its general-purpose PPE core behaved like any other microprocessor. But there was only one of it, compared to 3 on the Xbox 360’s Xenon. And the 8 PPEs were designed to excel at floating point calculations and parallelized workloads, like GPUs.
In order to get the most out of the Cell chip, developers would have to utilize the PPEs. Which was a tall order since they didn’t share the memory with the CPU and had their own banks of 256KB each. You would have to go through a DMA management queue to get data from the main memory to the SPE memory.
And debugging was also a very hard job on the Cell. Because of this, the PS3 got fewer games than the Xbox 360 for the first few years. And the few it did get were either PS2 ports or games that just ran better on the Xbox 360.
To simplify development, Sony elected to go with a non-custom architecture. They chose AMD’s APU- an x86 processor that combines the CPU and GPU into one unit. This reduced costs and made it much easier for developers to make games.
However, this also meant that the new architecture was incompatible with the old PowerPC-based stuff. And the PS4 wasn’t nearly powerful enough to emulate the PS3 via software. So we lost native backward compatibility at that point.
The PS5 uses a similar architecture, which is why it can play PS4 games. Sony is trying to bring backward compatibility for PS1, PS2, and PS3 games using their PS Now cloud gaming service. However, it’s inferior to native emulation on a local machine.
Modding A PS3
Because the Cell processor is so powerful, you can turn the PS3 into a decent PC by jailbreaking it. Back when the PS3 could still run Linux, some organizations were buying dozens of PS3s and networking them to create a budget supercomputer. Sony released a firmware update to stop this.
So popular was the PS3 in cluster computing, that the US Air Force used 1760 PS3s to build a supercomputer for analyzing satellite imagery. You might not have the budget for 1760 PS3s, but a single one is more than enough to run some excellent homebrew software.
A jailbroken PS3 can also play games directly from a hard drive, without the need for any discs. You can also use the PS3 to run emulators for consoles like the NES, SNES, Game Boy, PC Engine, etc. But be warned- jailbreaking your PS3 is a legal grey area and you’ll be responsible for what you do with it.
The PS3 can play both PS1 and PS2 games. It’s a shame that modern PlayStations lack this feature. PS Now is decent enough for gamers who don’t mind a bit of latency and worse visuals.
However, the real thing is much better. If you want to play old PS1 and PS2 games from your childhood, search for a used PS3. They are quite cheap these days.