The way we consume video games has evolved rapidly in the past decade or so. Previously, the only way to play a game was to visit a brick-and-mortar shop to purchase it in physical format. While that option still remains, digital downloads, streaming, and subscription services have been brought to the forefront, giving consumers more convenient options for playing modern games.
Two of the biggest platform holders, Sony and Microsoft, have their own game subscription services with PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass, respectively. Both of these services are similar, giving you a robust offering of games for a monthly (or yearly) fee. While these two services have a lot in common, each has its own unique features that separate them. For potential buyers, it’s worth being aware of the differences between the two, so you can make an informed purchase.
Here, we’ll go through a robust breakdown of PS Now vs. Xbox Game Pass, focusing on what makes them different, while highlighting their most appealing features.
- The best PS Now games for 2021
- The best games on Xbox Game Pass for 2021
- The best game-streaming services for 2021
What are PS Now and Xbox Game Pass?
In short, PS Now and Xbox Game Pass are subscription services that offer hundreds of digital games, each playable on console (or PC) for a monthly fee. This means you can play from a selection of games without actually buying them (so long as they remain on the service). Think Netflix, but for games. To access both, you must have an internet connection in order to download (or stream) the games that make up each list.
With PS Now, you’re able to download certain PS2 and PS4 games on your PS4 and PS5 systems (as well as PC), while PS3 games are also playable, but can only be streamed (more on that below).
With Xbox Game Pass, you gain access to hundreds of games across the Xbox family of systems, including Xbox Series X|S. A PC option is available as well, though it’s separate from the standard Xbox Game Pass subscription. The nice thing is that every first-party Microsoft game is available day and date through Xbox Game Pass, meaning you’ll never have to buy Halo, Gears, Forza, or any Bethesda game again.
Certain games across both services are only available for a limited time, but for the most part, each list continues to grow over time. Again, this is like Netflix, wherein there’s a rotation of content in addition to the permanent offerings that stay on each platform. This keeps things fresh and instills a bit of urgency to play the games that are only available for a limited time.
One of the biggest differences between the two services is the games available on each. This will be a major deciding factor when choosing between the two, so you’ll want to pick the service that includes games you like — or ones you’ve been wanting to try. Many of us who play games have a hefty backlog, so what better way to catch up than by utilizing a subscription service? Below, we’ll compare some of the services’ most popular games.
PS Now games
PS Now has an immense library of 700-plus games, ranging in genre and across multiple platforms. It features PS2, PS3, and PS4 games all in one convenient place. Most importantly, PS Now is home to many of Sony’s first-party exclusives, which are usually of high quality. Be sure to take a look at the full list on the PlayStation site here.
We won’t go through all the games it has available, but we’ll list some of the major highlights below:
- Abzu — PS4
- Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown — PS4
- Batman: Arkham Asylum — PS3
- Batman: Arkham City — PS3
- Batman: Arkham Origins — PS3
- BioShock — PS3
- BioShock 2 — PS3
- BioShock Infinite — PS3
- Bloodborne — PS4
- Borderlands: The Handsome Collection — PS4
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III — PS4
- Dark Cloud — PS2
- Days Gone — PS4
- Detroit: Become Human — PS4
- DOOM (2016) — PS4
- Fallout 3 — PS3
- Fallout 4 — PS4
- Fallout: New Vegas — PS3
- God of War (2005) — PS2
- inFAMOUS — PS3
- Killzone: Shadow Fall — PS4
- Horizon Zero Dawn — PS4
- LittleBigPlanet 3 — PS4
- Mafia III — PS4
- MediEvil — PS4
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots — PS3
- Metal Gear Solid HD Collection — PS3
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain — PS4
- Mirror’s Edge — PS3
- Payday 2 — PS4
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds — PS4
- Prey — PS4
- RAGE 2 — PS4
- Red Dead Redemption — PS3
- Spec Ops: The Line — PS3
- Star Wars: The Force Unleashed — PS3
- Street Fighter V — PS4
- Terraria — PS4
- The Darkness — PS3
- The Elder Scrolls Online — PS4
- The Evil Within 2 — PS4
- The Last of Us — PS3
- The Wolf Among Us — PS3
- Twisted Metal (2012) — PS3
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves — PS3
- Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception — PS3
- Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune — PS3
- Until Dawn — PS4
- Wolfenstein: The New Order — PS4
- XCOM 2 — PS4
Xbox Game Pass games
While Xbox Game Pass doesn’t have as many titles as PS Now, the lineup is excellent and may feature a selection that is more up your alley. Xbox Game Pass is home to more than 300 games and features every first-party Microsoft title available day and date on the platform. Keep in mind, since the Xbox Series X|S is backward compatible, all original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games available on Game Pass are playable on the new machines.
The full list can be seen here, but we’ll go through some highlights below:
- A Plague Tale: Innocence — Xbox One
- A Way Out — Xbox One
- Alan Wake — Xbox 360
- Alien: Isolation — Xbox One
- Banjo-Kazooie — Xbox 360
- Batman: Arkham Knight — Xbox One
- Battlefield 1 — Xbox One
- Black — Xbox
- Brutal Legend — Xbox 360
- Celeste — Xbox One
- Code Vein — Xbox One
- Control — Xbox One
- Crackdown 3 — Xbox One
- Dead Space — Xbox 360
- Dead Space 2 — Xbox 360
- Dead Space 3 — Xbox 360
- Destiny 2 — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Dishonored 2 — Xbox One
- DOOM Eternal — Xbox One
- Dragon Age: Inquisition — Xbox One
- Fable 2 — Xbox 360
- Final Fantasy VII — Xbox One
- Forza Horizon 4 — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Forza Motorsport 7 — Xbox One
- Gears of War: Ultimate Edition — Xbox One
- Gears of War 4 — Xbox One
- Gears 5 — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Gears Tactics — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Grounded (Game Preview) — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Halo 5: Guardians — Xbox One
- Halo Wars 2 — Xbox One
- Halo Wars: Definitive Edition — Xbox One
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection — Xbox Series X|S
- Hollow Knight — Xbox One
- Kingdom Hearts III — Xbox One
- Mass Effect Trilogy — Xbox 360
- Minecraft — Xbox One
- Monster Hunter: World — Xbox One
- NieR: Automata — Xbox One
- Ori and the Blind Forest — Xbox One
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Payday 2 — Xbox One
- Quantum Break — Xbox One
- Resident Evil 7: Biohazard — Xbox One
- Sea of Thieves — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Skate 3 — Xbox 360
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order — Xbox One
- State of Decay 2 — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Sunset Overdrive — Xbox One
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — Xbox 360
- The Sims 4 — Xbox One
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Xbox One
- Titanfall 2 — Xbox One
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege — Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
- Yakuza Collection — Xbox One
Ultimately, while the PS Now lineup is larger, Xbox Game Pass has newer games that may be more appealing. It’s a huge deal to be able to play all first-party Microsoft games the day they come out. PS Now does feature some heavy hitters like Horizon Zero Dawn, Bloodborne, and Detroit, but pound for pound, Xbox Game Pass has newer fan favorites like all the Halo games, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, a collection of Yakuza games, Sea of Thieves, Forza, and a lot more. In terms of first-party releases, Xbox Game Pass is the clear winner.
The other issue (which we’ll cover in greater detail below) is that PS3 games available through PS Now can only be streamed, putting a huge damper on some of its best offerings. Whereas with Xbox Game Pass, all the games can simply be downloaded onto your system. To us, that’s a huge win for Microsoft.
At the end of the day, which one you choose will come down to the game selection. This is a personal preference, but if you’re looking for the newest games, Xbox Game Pass takes the cake.
Aside from including hundreds of games available at your fingertips, each service has additional features (or lack thereof) that you should be aware of. The main downside of PS Now is that its PS3 games can only be streamed, meaning your enjoyment of those titles is purely dependent on your internet connection. Since a large portion of PS Now’s lineup is PS3 games, this is a major downside. There is no other way to play PS3 games on a PS4 or PS5, so Xbox Game Pass is much more appealing from a preservation standpoint.
However, PS Now functions on PC by default, which is huge for those looking to play some of their favorite PlayStation games without the need for a PS3, PS4, or PS5. Your enjoyment still comes down to the selection of games on the service, but this is a neat feature that won’t cost you extra money. In order to use Xbox Game Pass for PC, you have to have Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which bundles Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold. Or you can purchase Xbox Game Pass for PC separately if that’s all you’d like. Basically, you can use Xbox Game Pass for PC, but it will cost you extra money if you’re also looking to play games on a console.
We’ve mentioned it above, but Xbox Game Pass includes every first-party Microsoft game available on the platform on release day. That means Halo Infinite, Avowed, State of Decay 3, the next Forza game, Perfect Dark, Gears, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, and more will all launch on the service on day one. You won’t have to buy them individually, saving you lots of money. As for PS Now, there are first-party Sony games available on the service, but all are older. Newer first-party games will not launch within the service, so you’ll have to buy those games as you normally would. Plus, many third-party games come to Xbox Game Pass quickly after launch.
Xbox Game Pass also includes EA Play, which is EA’s own gaming subscription service. Sure, it seems like there are way too many services these days, but the nice thing is that you don’t have to make extra effort to access all the games on EA Play, since it comes with Xbox Game Pass at no additional cost. That means you’ll have access to lots of EA sports games, Need for Speed, Dead Space, Battlefield, and a slew of other fantastic titles without paying extra. In addition, Xbox Game Pass includes a free 30-day trial to Disney+, which is a nice added bonus.
When it comes to extra features, Xbox Game Pass comes out on top. Sure, it’s a bummer that you have to pay extra to access the service on PC, but the fact that it includes all first-party Microsoft games, newer third-party games, EA Play, and a 30-day trial to Disney+ makes it the winner in our book. It also handles backward compatibility in a much more elegant way, allowing you to download — not stream — all your Xbox One and Xbox 360 games.
When it comes to price, you’ll find a substantial difference between the two, which could influence your decision. To shorten the gap between Xbox Game Pass, Sony cut the price of PS Now in half in 2019, making it much more attractive. You can purchase a yearlong subscription to PS Now for $60, whereas Xbox Game Pass bills monthly for $10 (totaling $120 for the year).
There are multiple tiers and options across the two services, which we’ll list below.
PS Now pricing
- 1-month — $10 (first month is $5)
- 3-month — $25
- 12-month — $60
Xbox Game Pass pricing
- 1-month — $10
Xbox Game Pass for PC pricing
- 1-month — $10 (first month is $1)
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
- 1-month — $15
You’ll notice all of the Xbox Game Pass options bill monthly at $10 (or $15 for Ultimate), which is substantially more than a yearlong subscription to PS Plus. In fact, a year of Xbox Game Pass is double the price of PS Plus for the same length of time (if you buy the $60 PS Plus option). So, if price is the only factor for you and you own a newer PlayStation console (or PC), PS Now is the way to go.
The other thing worth considering is the cost of a console that uses these services. If you’re looking to buy a new machine to play games via a subscription service, you’ll need either a PS4, PS5, Xbox One, or Xbox Series X|S — each with varying degrees of availability and pricing. Since the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S are only a few months old, they’ve been relatively difficult to find due to high demand and supply shortages. The older systems have also been tricky to find but only because production on them has slowed down or stopped entirely.
Here are the prices of the systems you’ll need to run PS Now or Xbox Game Pass:
- PS4 Slim — $300
- PS4 Pro — $400
- PS5 Digital — $400
- PS5 Standard — $500
- Xbox One S — $300
- Xbox One X — $400
- Xbox Series X — $500
- Xbox Series S — $300
PS Now and Xbox Game Pass each have a lot of excellent libraries of games and features that make them appealing. The main factors when deciding between the two are cost and game library. PS Now is significantly less expensive and offers more games than its competitor, but at the expense of an older library that lacks an elegant solution to playing PS3 games. Sure, you’ll have to shell out more cash to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, but with the inclusion of all first-party Microsoft games, all of EA Play’s library, newer releases, and other perks, Microsoft’s service is the best choice.
There are many factors that will come into play when picking one over the other, but Xbox Game Pass is miles ahead of PS Now in terms of what it offers. PS Now is certainly better than nothing, but if you have to choose one, our first pick is Xbox Game Pass, if for nothing else but its varied list of games.
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