There’s certainly no shortage of new and exciting games that came alongside the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. New installments in massive third-party franchises like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon all look and play great on the new consoles, and Sony brought a handful of its own exclusives in Spider-Man: Mile Morales, Demon’s Souls, Sackboy: A Big Adventure, and the wonderful Astro’s Playroom. While there’s enough here to last us well into the new year, I’m already looking forward to the lull once all of that initial hype subsides.
Traditionally, there’s a quiet period following the excitement of a console launch. Nintendo 64 infamously went weeks and sometimes months without a single new game release in that opening year. Granted, the ones we did end up getting were oftentimes instant classics like Mario Kart 64, Star Fox 64, and GoldenEye 007. Likewise, it took almost a full year for PlayStation 2 to shine with games like Grand Theft Auto III, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and Final Fantasy X. More recently, the first half of 2014 was a quiet period for both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and neither one had as strong of a launch lineup as we saw with this fall’s new consoles.
And while we already know of quite a few exciting games on the horizon, including Immortals Fenyx Rising, Cyberpunk 2077, and Call of the Sea in December, I’m actually not stressing about the upcoming lineup whatsoever. In fact, if the entire calendar for the foreseeable future were blank, I genuinely wouldn’t mind it. That’s because both PlayStation 5 and to a greater degree Xbox Series X are offering easy access to all of the games we may have missed or want to play again from the past generation — while squeezing better performance out of them than ever before.
First off, I love how seamlessly 99% of my game library and their respective saves can transfer over to the new consoles. Be it a newer ongoing game like Marvel’s Avengers, cleaning up post-game challenges in something like Final Fantasy VII Remake, or a generational favorite that I plan on replaying on an annual basis like Outer Wilds, it truly felt like I could get rid of my old consoles the second I set up my new ones. Well… not the PlayStation 4, because that 1% of games that can’t be brought over includes P.T., which will remain in my rotation for years to come.
But apart from what you already own, both companies offer services that let you dig into some of the true classics of the past generation — and occasionally even further. Sony’s inclusion of the PS+ Collection cobbled together some undisputed favorites of the last few years, including God of War, Bloodborne, and Persona 5 (though sadly not this year’s incredible and updated Royal version). It also has some that a lot of folks might have missed, like Fumito Ueda’s The Last Guardian, Ratchet and Clank’s 2016 soft reboot, and the wonderful party-horror-adventure Until Dawn.
Likewise, Microsoft’s Game Pass library is absolutely stacked with Gears, Halo, and Forza all looking better than ever, as well as the massively underrated Sunset Overdrive from Insomniac. There’s also a slew of incredible indies from the past year or two, like Spiritfarer, Carto, Carrion, and Afterparty. And of course, given how much the Xbox Game Studios team has grown in recent years by bringing in studios like Double Fine, Ninja Theory, Obsidian, and most recently the upcoming acquisition of Bethesda Game Studios, Arkane, and the like, the future of Game Pass is looking extremely promising.
It’s also nice that so many of these games fit into neat, topical boxes. Folks who loved Ghost of Tsushima can try out Infamous Second Son, which I replayed earlier this year and was floored by just how well it held up after over six years. We can dive into Ratchet and Clank, Resident Evil 7, and God of War before Rift Apart, Resident Evil Village, and “Ragnarok” come out. And there’s 20 years of Halo games to help you catch up on your lore before Infinite and a trio of Fable classics to tide us over until we see more from Playground’s take on the fantasy franchise. Sure, Sony could definitely do a better job of making its classic PS1-PS3 libraries easily available in some form, but that’s another issue entirely.
It’s even remarkable how games of the past generation grew and evolved over time. I’m not just talking about the obvious examples of No Man’s Sky, Warframe, Rainbow Six Siege, and Final Fantasy XIV. But how Assassin’s Creed Odyssey’s incredible expansions took us to Atlantis, Ghost of Tsushima added in a remarkable cooperative multiplayer component, and Gears 5 recently gave us the ability to replay the entire game with Dave Bautista swapped in as Marcus Fenix. Even if you happened to play these PlayStation and Xbox games at launch, chances are they’ve all morphed into something else in the time since then.
Seeing Twitter accounts like Wario64 post incredible deals on games that I (gladly) paid full price for at launch continually reminds me of the benefits that can come with being a bit late to the party. If you somehow dive into one of the new consoles without having been there for the past generation, you’re immediately hit with a wave of amazing experiences to catch up on.
I’m going to enjoy the relative peace and quiet of the next few months, because before you know it, Far Cry 6, Horizon Forbidden West, and Final Fantasy XVI are going to be here, and it’s going to be a nonstop sprint through the rest of this young and exciting console generation. And honestly, that’s not a bad problem to have.