Modern Vintage Gamer just posted a short, but informative video about the history of backward-compatibility on Sony’s game consoles. It covers the ability of certain model PS2’s to play PS1 games, ranging all the way up to the PS5, which is rumored to have excellent support for PS4 games.
Backward compatibility was first introduced with the Atari 7800’s ability to play 2600 games and just a few moths later, Sega launched the SG-3000; Japan’s version of the Master System, which was backward-compatible with SG-1000 cartridges.
Backward-compatibility was made mainstream worldwide with the Sega Genesis’ ability to play all SMS cartridge and card games, including the use of the 3D adapter! This also marked the mainstream adaptation of only supporting one generation behind, as the chips inside the Genesis didn’t include support for SG-1000 video modes. That meant no adapters would be available to play those games, including F-16 Fighting Falcon: The one SMS (card) game that utilizes the video chip’s SG-1000 mode.
Nintendo mostly carried on this mindset of backward-compatibility with its handheld and disc-based consoles: Most Wii’s play GameCube games, the Wii U plays Wii discs, the GBC played GB games (although it’s arguable the GBC is just an extension of the original from a hardware standpoint) and the GBA played all previous cartridges that were released. The DS played GBA games, but nothing earlier and the 3DS could play DS games with no cartridge port available. As a note, backward-compatibility was dropped in the final iteration of GBA and DS hardware.
Microsoft has it’s own history of backward-compatibility, however I expect many good videos to be posted on this subject in the coming months…