The start of a new generation of video game consoles is often an exciting time, as the new hardware offer a wealth of new possibilities for visuals, audio, and game design. However, in spite of these advancements, not everyone jumps on board with the new hardware right away, due to new consoles often being expensive or hard to find soon after they launch, or people simply being satisfied with the machines they already have. This puts game developers and publishers in the awkward position of wanting to take advantage of the new technology while keeping the still-large number of people using last-gen hardware in their potential audience. The solution to this is the Cross-Generation Game, a subtype of Multi-Platform video game that is developed and released simultaneously or near-simultaneously for last and next-gen hardware.
This is more controversial than one might think. Technophiles and early adopters of new hardware are often critical of this practice, as such games typically don't take full advantage of the technology offered by new consoles, with the next-gen versions being more akin to Polished Ports of last-gen titles as opposed to true next-generation games. Others appreciate not being forced to upgrade to new consoles immediately in order to play the latest games. Of course, no one likes this practice when it's done poorly, which can result either in the next-gen versions having little to no noticeable improvements over the last-gen versions, or the last gen version being a Porting Disaster due to the older consoles not being able to handle the game.
This doesn't really happen on PC games, due to both PCs lacking distinct generations for the most part, and because almost all PC games are designed to scale across hardware to a certain extent thanks to graphics settings. That said, game developers often take advantage of this scalability when creating crossgeneration console games, with the last-gen versions using the equivalent of the PC version's low settings, while the next-gen versions can take advantage of the higher settings.
Compare and contrast Moved to the Next Console, where a game shifts entirely over to new hardware without releasing on the previous generation. If a game has radically different versions on different generations, then it's a Reformulated Game instead. Goes hand in hand with the Daddy System trope, where an older console remains popular and supported even after its successor releases.
- The Legend of Zelda
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was originally developed on Nintendo GameCube, but development delays led to the decision to release it on the Wii as well. In North America, the Wii version actually came out almost a month earlier than the GameCube version, though other regions got both versions closer together. The Wii version mirrors the entire game left-to-right, to account for the Wii's control scheme (most of the world is right-handed, while Link is traditionally left-handed). The HD remake for the Wii U was based on the GameCube version, with the Hero Mode being inspired by the Wii version.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Originally developed for the Wii U, it ended up not being finished until Nintendo was ready to release their next console, the Nintendo Switch, which prompted Nintendo to make it a dual release on both systems. The Switch version renders at a higher resolution, and features a more stable frame rate and higher quality audio.
- Spider-Man: Miles Morales launched simultaneously for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. The PS5 version initially offered a choice between ray-tracing and 60 FPS, with a patch adding a third "Performance RT" mode that features reduced-quality ray tracing at 60 FPS. The Deluxe version also comes with a remastered PS5 version of its predecessor featuring the same upgrades present in the PS5 version of Miles Morales.
- Rodea the Sky Soldier is an interesting example. It was originally developed for the Wii, and was completed for that console in 2011. However, despite this, its publisher refused to release it at that time, instead sitting on the game until 2015. During this game, the Nintendo 3DS released, and the Wii U succeeded the Wii, so the publisher decided to commission ports to the former two systems. The 3DS version was developed first, with the graphics being downgraded and the controls being adjusted to utilize the system's touch screen. When it came time to create the Wii U version, the publisher decided to base if off of the 3DS version so that its touchscreen features could use the GamePad. This meant that the Wii U version, aside from its higher resolution, would look worse than the Wii version, in spite of having much more powerful hardware. When the game finally released, first print runs of the Wii U version included the Wii version as a bonus disc. The game's director, Yuji Naka, expressed his dissatisfaction with the Wii U version, telling people to play the Wii version instead and throw the Wii U disc into a sewage canal.
- Scurge: Hive was released for both the Gameboy Advance and the Nintendo DS.
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor released on both 7th and 8th gen consoles; with the 7th gen versions featuring a greatly simplified version of the game's iconic nemesis system, the requisite downgraded graphics, as well as Loads and Loads of Loading, even when opening the pause menu.
- Assassin's Creed:
- Assassin's Creed III released in Fall 2012, around the same time as the Wii U, and was a launch title for that system in addition to coming out on Xbox 360 and PS3.
- Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag released in Fall 2013, around the same time as the PS4 and Xbox One, and was likewise a launch title for both of those systems in addition to coming out on Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii U.
- For Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, versions for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S were released simultaneously, and on the launch day for the latter console. The PlayStation 5 version launched a week later to coincide with the launch of that console.
- Horizon Forbidden West is launching on both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, after the initial announcement of the game only revealed the latter version's existence. The 2023 expansion "The Burning Shores" however will be exclusive to the PlayStation 5.
- God of War Ragnarök will release on both the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 in 2022. This marks the first time a God of War game was available for more than one system at launch.
- Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! released in February 2014 for both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, serving as a launch title for the Japanese release of the latter system. The remake will be released for both eighth and ninth gen systems in early 2023.
- Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami were each released for both the PS3 and PS4 in 2015 and 2016 respectively. However, given that the former system was at the very end of its lifespan at the time, only the PS4 versions were localized - by the time of their worldwide release in 2017, the PS3 had just died out.
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon is an interesting variation. Upon its initial Japanese release on January 16, 2020, it was a PS4 exclusive. But, when it launched worldwide nearly 10 months later, its localization not only came to PS4, but the Xbox One and the ninth-gen Xbox Series X as well, being a launch title for the latter. Then, a Japanese release of the Xbox versions followed in January 2021, with the PS5 version launching in all regions two months later in March. In other words, it received a current-gen, cross-gen, and next-gen release on three separate occasions.
- Rise of the Tomb Raider, released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, was also one of the last games for the Xbox 360.
- Gran Turismo 7 was originally developed as a PlayStation 5 exclusive game, but due to the chip shortage, Sony was unable to produce more Playstation 5 systems all times, so Gran Turismo 7 was changed into the cross-generation game for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.
- Forza Horizon 5 was released on the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven was released for the PlayStation 3 and 4 in Japan, but only the PS4 version was sold internationally.
- Street Fighter Alpha series were passed to home consoles during the generation of PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast. However, they made the impossible: Capcom adapted Street Fighter Alpha 2 to the SNES in an unexpected move as one of the last games for the console, getting a fluid gameplay with less graphics but accurate as possible for the SNES.
- Subverted with Mortal Kombat X, which had Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions slated in addition to the Xbox One and PS4 versions, but they were delayed and then cancelled due to unsatisfactory performance.
- MultiVersus is slated to come out on the eighth-gen Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and the ninth-gen Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5.
- Street Fighter 6 is slated to come out on the eighth-gen PlayStation 4 and the ninth-gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.
- Fire Emblem Warriors launched simultaneously for Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS, although the latter version only worked on the New 3DS model that features improved hardware over the original.
- Grand Theft Auto V might be a champion at this trope, being on PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
- Wolfenstein: The New Order launched for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One simultaneously.
- Halo Infinite launched for both Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.
- Call of Duty:
- Call of Duty 3 released for PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii. Notably this makes it the first and only mainline Call of Duty game to come out on 6th gen consoles.
- Call of Duty: Ghosts, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III were the last titles to be released on the Seventh Gen Consoles but also some of the first titles to be released for the Eighth. Consequently, thanks to this awkward release span, these titles were comparatively forgotten or less well-received, no thanks to the differences in quality and features between generation versions of the game, with Black Ops III being the worst offender, only including multiplayer and zombies for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions.
- Released during the transition between the 8th and 9th generations, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Call of Duty: Vanguard came out on both generations.
- Battlefield 2042 is set to come out on the eighth-gen Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and the ninth-gen Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 on the same day.
Massive Multiplayer Online
- World of Tanks was given a console release for the Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360. This proved to be a controversial decision, as the programmers insisted on keeping all three versions identical, which meant that the Playstation 4 and XBox One versions had to run at much lower graphics and with smaller and less-detailed maps to match the limitations of the 360. This was especially bad for the PS4 version, as the XBox One at least had cross-platform compatibility with the 360 so it got a larger player base in exchange. PlayStation players simply got a game that was continually losing content without any sort of trade off.
- Balan Wonderworld was released simultaneously on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. Given the massively lower computational ability of the last system, its version suffered in terms of performance.
- Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a weird example in that the original release wasn't one, being released exclusively for the Wii U, but its Updated Re-release was, launching simultaneously on Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS.
- Rayman Legends was originally developed as a Wii U exclusive, and was meant to take full advantage of that console's touchscreen-equipped GamePad controller, but poor sales of ZombiU convinced Ubisoft to make it Multi-Platform with releases on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as well. This infamously caused the game to be delayed from February to September 2013, which put it right up against Grand Theft Auto V, contributing to its poor initial sales. Versions for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One followed a few months later in February 2014.
- Mighty No. 9 launched for 7th generation consoles PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, as well as 8th generation consoles PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Xbox One. In hindsight, this cross-generation development was probably a mistake, as developing the game for so many platforms at once put a lot of strain on the small, crowd-funded development team, contributing to the game's many delays that ironically made the last-gen versions less necessary by the time it finally released.
- Sackboy: A Big Adventure released simultaneously on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.
- Sonic the Hedgehog:
- Sonic 3D Blast was originally developed solely for the Sega Genesis, intended as both a triumphant Grand Finale for Sonic on the console he was created on, and to serve as a companion to the Sega Saturn exclusive Sonic X-treme. X-Treme was meant to be Sonic's big Video Game 3D Leap, while 3D Blast would satisfy fans that hadn't upgraded to the new console yet. However, Sega ended up cancelling X-Treme due to its excessively Troubled Production, and attempted to fill the void with a Saturn port of ''3D Blast. The two versions of the game play largely the same, with the Saturn version featuring a few enhancements such as more natural looking backgrounds, weather effects, and 3D special stages.
- Sonic Unleashed is technically two separate games — the original was released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 while a reformulated port came out on the less powerful Wii and PlayStation 2. Barring the PS3 version, all of them were released on the same day (outside Japan).
- Sonic Frontiers was released for every eighth generation console (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, & Nintendo Switch) alongside both ninth generation consoles (PlayStation 5 & Xbox Series X|S). The latter two versions feature a higher framerate than the others (which target 30fps).
- Psychonauts 2 released for the 8th generation PlayStation 4, Xbox One, the new 9th generation Xbox Series X|S, but curiously not the PlayStation 5, likely due to Microsoft purchasing Double Fine during the game's production.
- Nintendo's puzzle games Wario's Woods and Yoshi's Cookie released for both NES and SNES, with the latter also having a Game Boy release.
- Elden Ring launched simultaneously for 8th and 9th generation consoles.
- Persona 5 was originally developed for the PlayStation 3, but due to Schedule Slip pushing its release date well into the life-cycle of the PlayStation 4, it launched for both systems simultaneously. The PS4 version offers modest but noticable improvements such as a higher resolution of 1080p compared to the PS3 version's 720p, and a more stable framerate with less screen tearing.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition launched for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One simultaneously, with the cross-generation development being a notable contributor to the game's Troubled Production.
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team combined this with One Game for the Price of Two. Red Rescue Team was on Game Boy Advance, while Blue Rescue Team was on Nintendo DS.
- Tales Series
- Tales of Zestiria and Tales of Berseria both came out for both PlayStation 3 and 4, though the PS3 version of the latter only released in Japan.
- Tales of Arise was originally planned for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in its original announcement back in 2019. Since then versions for the ninth-gen Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 were also added, with all versions released on September 2021. The ninth-gen versions offer the ability to either target 4K resolution or 60 FPS gameplay with variable resolution.
- Scarlet Nexus released on the eighth-gen Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and the ninth-gen Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 the same day. The eighth-gen aim to target a 1080p resolution at 30 FPS while the ninth-gen has a target of 4k resolution at 60 FPS.
- Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin came out on March 18, 2022, for both eighth-gen (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) and ninth-gen (PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X) consoles. In an interesting twist, its initial two demos were exclusive to the PS5 before its third was released for all systems.
Rhythm Games Occurs a lot in this genre much like with sports games, due to its popularity with many casual video game fans who might not upgrade to new hardware quickly.
- Games in both the Rock Band and Guitar Hero continued to come out on the PS2 in addition to 7th generation consoles even after that generation was well underway.
- Just Dance 2019 was released for 3 generations of Nintendo hardware (the Wii, Wii U, and Switch) in addition to PS3, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360. The following game, Just Dance 2020 finally gave up on the Wii U, Xbox 360 and PS3 but still managed to come out on the Wii. According to some sources, Ubisoft would have continued releasing the series on that console were it not for Nintendo ending support for the release of new Wii games that year.
- Devil Engine's expansion pack DLC Devil Engine Ignition was only going to be released on PC, Switch, and PS4 in 2019. However, for a variety of reasons, it ended up getting delayed by four years, and as a result it got released not only on those platforms, but on PS5 as well, in 2023.
Sports Games This is the rule rather than the exception with sports games, due to the broad appeal of sports leading developers to seek a similarly broad audience for their games. Sports games typically continue to release on older consoles long after other genres of games abandon them, likely due to the large number of people who own consoles just to play sports games and are therefore likely to put off buying into the next generation as long as possible. As proof of this, look up a list of the very last games released on various consoles; a good chunk of them are sports games.
- FIFA 14 launched on not 2 but 3 generations of hardware, being one of the last games for the PlayStation 2, a 6th generation console, while also coming out on the 7th and the then-new 8th generation consoles.
- Resident Evil Village is the first cross-generation release for the Resident Evil series, releasing on the eighth-gen Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and the ninth-gen Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5. The ninth-gen versions, naturally, takes advantage of the consoles support for ray-tracing.
- Both Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain released for both 7th and 8th generation consoles.
- Sniper Elite III released around the time of the end of the Seventh Generation of Consoles and beginning of the Eighth in mid-2014, and as a result released for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One as well as Microsoft Windows.
- Sneak King, along with two other games Pocket Bike Racers and Big Bumpin' were 3 games that were developed as part of a promotional deal between Burger King and Microsoft and sold at the former's restaurants for $4 each. The games ran on both the original Xbox and Xbox 360, but instead of just being regular Xbox games that run under backward compatibility on the 360, they included native versions for each console on the same disc, and were curiously the only games to be released in this format.