Check out our updated spring list of the PS4 games you need to play.
Welcome to IGN’s top 25 PlayStation 4 games, our bi-annually updated list of the games you should definitely check out on your PS4 or PS4 Pro. We’ve updated the list for spring 2019, making a few additions to the list, while also removing a few other games as a result.
In putting together the list, a number of factors have come into play. We considered the quality of each game, our personal preference, the cultural significance of each title, and its remaster/remake status. (Remasters are eligible for the list, but we do consider the amount and quality of updates from the original game in addition to how much we like them.) Our cutoff for game releases to be eligible was March 1, 2019.
Additionally, PSVR-only games have not been included in this list. While we have loved plenty of experiences in PlayStation VR, because there’s a second barrier to entry, and the intention of this list is that you could buy a PS4 and play any of these 25 games immediately, we have omitted them from this list. (We are looking into doing a separate PSVR list, so stay tuned for more details!)
Lastly, know that not we get that not every game could be included — it is a top 25, after all. And though many of our favorite games have been omitted — if you’ve met me, you know my Kingdom Hearts love — know that this list should set you up to have dozens and dozens of hours of fun, no matter what genre you enjoy.
25. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey took the revolutions Assassin’s Creed Origins created for the franchise and evolved them further, creating a gorgeous, dense, and fun version of Ancient Greece to explore. Allowing players to choose either a male or female protagonist, and adding in dialogue choices that can lead to romantic partners, allowed for players to inject more personality into the protagonist than ever before. (Even if the game’s DLC saw controversy for seemingly undermining some players’ choices.) The host of intriguing missions, clever scenarios, and fun combat options — Sparta kicking a foe is never not enjoyable, — Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is undoubtedly one of the best and most robust entries in the franchise yet.
From IGN’s Assassin’s creed Odyssey review: “Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a resounding achievement in world building, environment, and engaging gameplay with occasional problems throughout. Its incredible recreation of ancient Greece is something I’ll want to go back to long after I’ve finished its main story, and its excellent systems mesh together in a way that’s hard to beat. While there are definite rough edges, Odyssey sets a new bar for Assassin’s Creed games and holds its own in the eternal debate over the best open-world roleplaying games ever.”
24. Nier: Automata
Release Date: February 23, 2017 Developer: PlatinumGames Check out IGN’s Nier: Automata wiki Moved down three spots on the list.
Nier Automata delivers a ridiculously entertaining journey full of awesome ideas that is equal parts strange and beautiful. There are few games like Automata, which bounces between game genres and styles with aplomb. Taking place in a futuristic dystopia, this “action-RPG” offers a roller coaster of different gameplay opportunities, wrapped up in a fascinating story that has many multiple endings that encourage poking into every corner of this engrossing world. There are few games that attempt what Neir: Automata does, and it’s absolutely worth checking out this Yoko Taro-directed adventure.
From IGN’s Nier: Automata review: ”Nier: Automata is a crazy, beautiful, and highly entertaining journey full of nutty ideas and awesome gameplay. It may not include the most sensical story or compelling characters, but its frenzied combat — coupled with beautiful visuals and a stunning soundtrack – make it too much fun to pass up.”
23. Monster Hunter World
Release Date: January 26, 2018 Developer: Capcom Check out IGN’s Monster Hunter World wiki Same spot on the list.
The long-running Monster Hunter series broke through with the 2018 hit Monster Hunter World, which not only impressed us with its rewarding gameplay but also with how accessible the game proved to be. For a series that can take some learning to get the hang of, Monster Hunter World produced a fully realized, expansive world
From IGN’s Monster Hunter World review: “Game subtitles so rarely tell us anything about what’s inside the box. How can warfare be infinite, who was actually doing the reckoning in Kingdoms of Amalur, and what the hell is a ‘Breath of the Wild’ anyway? It’s almost a shock, then, to discover how perfectly “World” sums up Capcom’s achievements with the newest Monster Hunter.”
22. Guacamelee 2
Release Date: August 21, 2018 Developer: Drinkbox Studios Moved down two spots on the list.
Equal parts ‘80’s beat-em-up and ‘90’s action platformer, this deliciously comical, vibrantly fun game is a must-have for PS4 owners looking to find themselves entertained and challenged, by this wholly weird and unique story of an ass kicking Lucha Libre wrestler. That’s obviously a very specific niche of people on paper, so to be a bit more specific, Guacamelee is a franchise about battling giant bosses, exploring intricately woven 2D worlds, transforming into a screaming chicken, and running, jumping, suplexing and shifting parallel dimensions your way to victory. When playing alone, the game thrives as one of the best Metroidvanias available, one that will have you scouring every corner for secrets, characters, and upgrades.
With friends, it’s a frenetic multiplayer co-op experience that feels like a vintage arcade game where you’ll basically create a roving gang of over the top cartoon characters. The world itself is a shimmering, dynamic labyrinth that feels like a classic Castlevania castle with a colorful and fun new coat of paint. The music rules, too, with energetic Mexican string guitars and bumping trumpets fluttering around in the background as you elbow drop, drop kick, and explore. It’s fairly beatable game if you just want to stick to a main path and an incredibly rewarding challenge if you want to 100% it. Guacamelee 2 is one of the best games in its genre and one of the best games available on PlayStation 4.
From our Guacamelee 2 review: “Guacamelee 2 does a great job of balancing all of this referential world-building with the beautiful, brightly colored style of the Mexiverse. I often found myself spending extra time in certain areas, flipping back and forth between the two realms just to experience the art styles of both the worlds of the living and the dead. From temples to the underworld to quiet pueblos pocketed by timeline-melding distortions, I adored watching the vibrancy of Juan’s world pop with earthy browns and forested greens in the land of the living and bright blues and shocking streaks of pink in the land of the dead.”
21. Dark Souls Remastered
Release Date: May 24, 2018 Developer: From Software, QLOC, Virtuos Moved down two spots on the list.
Revisiting the first in FromSoftware’s beloved franchise, Dark Souls Remastered is an incredible version of a challenging as-all-hell but rewarding descent into darkness. With all its included updates, smoother performance, and the indelible experience of the original Dark Souls adventure fully intact and as memorable as ever.
From our Dark Souls Remastered review: “Dark Souls remains one of the most demanding yet rewarding action RPGs ever made, set across an intricately designed world that yields its secrets only to the most intrepid and curious.”
20. Tetris Effect
Release Date: November 9, 2018 Developer: Monstars, Resonair, Enhance New to the list!
How do you make Tetris, one of the best-selling and arguably perfect games, even better? You add in dazzling light shows, music that reacts to your moves, and one of the most blissfully zen gaming experiences of the generation. Tetris Effect, even without its PSVR component, is a transcendent experiences, making a stalwart of the video gaming medium fresh. Its Journey mode includes a couple dozen stages of memorable music, which melds to the blocks you move and place, with backgrounds that, quite literally, take you on a journey from the ocean depths to jungle and desert terrain to the reaches of space. There’s something almost spiritual to the experience, which doesn’t do anything to majorly twist the Tetris formula, but enhances it in a memorably powerful way.
From our Tetris Effect review: “The main campaign of Tetris Effect is Journey, an engrossing series of connected boards each with their own diverse art style, music, and ruleset. Each board is unique and I was constantly surprised by what they offered. One might see you starting underwater as a beautiful particle-effect whale swims around you, while the next will be a desert landscape with a meandering caravan of camels that, halfway through, transitions to a realistic-looking version of the moon complete with an astronaut tooling around in a lunar vehicle. Some don’t have music at all, instead opting for a soundscape drawn from the sounds of wind. Another had me inadvertently creating a jazz jam with the sound effects created by rotating, moving, and dropping pieces.”
Release Date: Januar 25, 2018 Developer: Matt Makes Games Moved down one spot on the list.
An incredible platformer with a wealth of heart, Celeste is packed with secrets that are as enjoyable to find as they are challenging. The beauty of Celeste comes in how its story and themes are echoed so beautifully in the gameplay. Celeste follows Madeline as she attempts to overcome a mountain of a challenge — literally, as she’s trying to scale a dangerous mountain. Simultaneously, Celeste’s story is a touching exploration of mental illness, the very human challenges that come with it and the incredible ability and spirit of those who face it. Those themes come to life in Celeste’s gameplay, strewn across a series of tough but fair platforming levels that have their fair share of challenge, but are so rewarding to complete. Celeste’s instant death-and-respawn system never makes a loss in Celeste feel like one — they’re learning opportunities to improve and overcome the challenges in your way.
From our Celeste review: “Occasionally, while playing Celeste, I’d get light-headed because I’d focus so hard on a sequence of jumps that demanded precise timing and perfect button presses that I’d forget oxygen was a thing my body needed. Trying and failing and trying again, getting a little closer each time, I let the beautiful art and adaptive music of the titular Celeste Mountain – alongside the passionate, relatable story told there – completely whisk me away.”
18. Dead Cells
Release Date: August 7, 2018 Developer: Motion Twin Moved down one spot on the list.
Motion Twin’s roguelike makes the act of dying again and again more rewarding than many of its genre. Live, die, repeat in a world replete with lightning-fast combat that leads to some tense, nail-biting moments but also such relief and accomplishment as you make your way through Dead Cells labyrinthine locations. The meta of unlocking new items and abilities that can be employed in each run is a great hook for those whittling their way through rooftops, grimy sewers, and tough boss battles. And though Dead Cells’ world changes each time you die, it’s a fascinating series of locales to explore, replete with tiny details about the world and a host of video game Easter eggs. And MotionTwin’s commitment to updating the game makes it worth revisiting, even if you have to die a few extra times to get back into the swing of things.
From our Dead Cells review: “On my second run through Dead Cells I made it to the last level and was pretty sure I had it figured out. 63 runs later, when I finally took down the boss and stepped into my post-game replay, I’m one-hundred-percent sure I’m just now starting to understand the deep nuances of Motion Twin’s incredible action-platformer. Dead Cells is a triumph of shockingly good game design: the ever-changing guts of its beautifully illustrated levels, a staggering array of game-changing weapons and gadgets, and its breakneck motion fuse into an engrossing loop. It’s so engaging that even after dozens of hours clawing through its island fortress, I’m still discovering and devouring new morsels.”
17. Shadow of the Colossus
Release Date: February 6, 2018 Developer: Bluepoint Games Moved down one spot on the list.
Team Ico’s classic was one of the best games of the PS2, and its stunning PS4 remake captures the isolated action of the memorable, original adventure. Shadow of the Colossus has always presented a unique, isolated adventure, making a series of boss fights its main mechanic, but the upgrade in visuals only makes the haunting experience more affecting. The landscapes are more beautiful and the colossi more awe-inspiring, better invoking the mixture of triumph and sadness that comes with each battle. Bluepoint Games honors Team Ico’s original creation by giving it new life, making this iteration well worth revisiting for fans or exploring for the first time.
From our Shadow of the Colossus review: “Shadow of the Colossus for PlayStation 4 is a stunning return to the classic that first wowed us on the PlayStation 2 in 2005. With completely redone art and spectacular lighting, it expertly captures the original’s unique beauty, awe-inspiring scope, and absolutely heartbreaking story while simultaneously fixing a handful of imperfections. The result is not only an incredible remaster, but one of the best and most beautiful games the PS4 has to offer.”
16. Rocket League
Release Date: July 7, 2015 Developer: Psyonix Moved down one spot on the list.
Rocket League’s ridiculous and addicting take on a familiar sport has been a joy from the start, when it made its debut as a free PlayStation Plus title. The joys of car-based soccer has smartly responded to its expansive playerbase, adding new modes and options that speak to the communities’ interests. And it’s so inherently a fun concept to watch play out, allowing for tense back-and-forth matches and incredible, game-changing moments as players contend with their cars, a giant ball, and gravity. Psyonix’s sports combat game has only gotten more fully featured as its gone along, and the recent addition of cross-platform play to include PS4 has only helped to maintain its position on our list.
From our Rocket League review: “Rocket League’s colorfully absurd cars-playing-sports concept works so well because the energy of its arcadey gameplay meshes with its deep team-based strategy and variety of modes. It’s exceedingly rare to find a multiplayer game that’s welcoming and approachable for new players and so intricate that the best players can earn a living by mastering its depths. Rocket League is a golden example of turning a good idea into something truly amazing.”
15. The Witness
Release Date: January 26, 2015 Developer: Jonathan Blow, Thekla, Inc. Moved down one spot on the list.
The Witness is an unrivaled-puzzler with a power and pull that carried us through its wonderful journey. The ingenious design behind The Witness’ central mechanic makes something seemingly simple deeply complex and multifaceted. You start out thinking The Witness is just a bunch of line puzzles, but the beautiful, multi-biome island the game depicts adds brilliant layers to this core mechanic, simultaneously teaching players the game’s unique language. Sure, you could probably cheese your way through puzzles now and then, but The Witness really demands that you learn what it’s trying to teach you, not just in how to solve one puzzle and then the next, but so that you can fully understand the hidden secrets of its world.
From our The Witness review: “The Witness is a game brimming with secrets: daunting and multilayered mysteries that sunk into my subconscious, tracing snaking paths across my brain until I was literally seeing mazes every time I closed my eyes. That’s the kind of power The Witness has. It hooked me in with its masterful puzzle design and gorgeous visuals, then compelled me forward as I began to carve out my own purpose on the island. It’s a freedom granted by a world as welcomingly open to exploration as it is enjoyably challenging to solve.”
Release Date: May 24, 2016 Developer: Blizzard Entertainment Moved down one spot on the list.
Overwatch is a brilliant multiplayer shooter brimming with Blizzard’s charm and detail, and it’s one that Blizzard has impressively continued to support with new heroes and updates since its launch in 2016. Overwatch earned Game of the Year from IGN in its launch year, sweeping the IGN offices with multiplayer matches after work and at lunches (and sometimes during the work day) that have continued in the months and years since. Blizzard’s rock-solid gameplay allows players in whatever role they play on a team to matter. And Blizzard’s impressive attention to detail has created a rich world of lore that permeates the experience, allowing those who just want a fun multiplayer experience to enjoy the action but offering those who want something more a wealth of character and location information to delve into.
From our Overwatch review: “Overwatch exists at an intersection between design and artistry, a crossroad at which pure tactile joy meets refined, intelligent design to create a rare spark of magic. As a 6v6 multiplayer, objective-based shooter, it finds accessibility not by lowering the skill ceiling, but by broadening the definition of skill. The person with deadshot aim is no more valuable than the person with the decision-making ability to know when a well-timed ability will turn an engagement, or the person with the map-sense to find the optimal locations to place sentry turrets. While it didn’t exactly drown me in options, maps, and modes, it’s blessed with a multitude of tactical layers, and none of them ever came between me and my enjoyment of its intense, swirling teamfights, and thrilling overtime comebacks.”
13. Ratchet & Clank
Release Date: April 12, 2016 Developer: Insomniac Games Moved down one spot on the list.
The iconic PlayStation franchise Ratchet and Clank only got better on PS4 with a beautiful, funny update of the duo’s first adventure. More a remix of the original PS2 game than a straight remaster, there is a gorgeous level of detail to the lombax and robot’s adventure, which also makes some noted story improvements. The titular duo’s initial meeting and budding friendship feels more fully formed and smartly written, while the series’ signature humor is in full force throughout. Veldin, Rilgar, and other worlds are beautiful, Pixar-like environments with plenty to explore, and modernizations made to the gameplay make the adventure as fresh as ever. And of course, Insomniac’s signature knack for wacky weapons is on full display in HD, from Mr. Zurkon to the Groovitron. Insomniac has obviously put its recent focus on VR and Spider-Man, but this latest iteration proves Ratchet and Clank has plenty of life left in it.
From our Ratchet and Clank review: “Insomniac’s Ratchet and Clank on PlayStation 4 is one of the most charming, creative, and rewarding adventures in recent memory. Tagging along with the peppy Lombax and his stoic robotic pal as they jet across the galaxy and blow up everything in sight is an absolutely gorgeous adventure brimming with hilarious writing, beautiful worlds, and an awesome array of weapons. Though it follows the same story as the 2002 original, this is far more than a remake or a remaster. Ratchet on PS4 is completely rebuilt from the ground up, pulling in some of the most successful elements of the series’ later installments, while simultaneously bringing in some great new and refreshing ideas.”
12. Red Dead Redemption 2
Release Date: October 26, 2018 Developer: Rockstar Games New to the list!
Both a stunning technical achievement and a gold standard for video game storytelling in an open world setting, Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the greatest games Rockstar Games has ever made, and one of the greatest games ever, period. Red Dead Redemption 2’s world is a sprawling and stunning recreation of the wild west, packed so full of detail and activity it’s almost daunting; getting from A to B is virtually impossible without going off the beaten path to some other distraction. Said distractions are incredibly accomplished, too – side quests, mini-games, hunting, and gathering are all deeply considered parts of Red Dead 2 in their own right. But of course, it’s Red Dead 2’s characters that stick in the memory most: Arthur Morgan, John Marsten, Sadie, Dutch et al are vibrant, multi-faceted characters, their complex dynamics always shifting and changing, even if their trajectories are set in stone. Red Dead Redemption 2 is nothing short of a masterpiece.
From our Red Dead Redemption 2 review: “Red Dead Redemption 2 is a sprawling Western tale of loyalty, conviction, and the price of infamy, chronicling the inevitable collapse of a motley crew of Wild West holdouts kicking against the slow march of civilisation and industrialisation. Set in Rockstar’s most authentic and lived-in open world ever, there are so many things to do, so many people to meet, and so many places to explore it’s giddily overwhelming. Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t just Rockstar’s greatest achievement to date; it’s a game so lacking in compromise it’s tough to know where best to start discussing it.”
11.The Last of Us: Remastered
Release Date: July 29, 2014 Developer: Naughy Dog Same spot on the list.
Virus induced post apocalyptic zombie survival stories are kind of a dime a dozen across nearly every pop culture medium these days, but The Last of Us manages to stand above the rest by focusing less on the horrors of the world or even a group and more on the core dynamic between two incredibly well written but ultimately tragic characters. Joel and Ellie begin as two strangers – one of them, a grieving father and the other an orphaned teenage girl – and navigate a nightmarish, creature infested landscape by crafting survival tools, scavenging for weapons, and traversing the crumbling remnants of a once normal society.
With only each other to rely on, their bond strengthens as it tested by not only the deformed, screaming monsters that roam the land, but also the last remaining humans scattered about, some of which turned to vile, sinister acts after the downfall of normalcy. The Last of Us: Remastered tells a tale that is just as engaging to unravel as it is to actually play, thanks to a series of highly polished combat and survival systems and a gorgeously bleak world to explore. It’s equal parts Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and James Mangold’s Logan and the end result is one of the most beautiful and haunting stories ever told in a video game and one that will stick with you for years to come.
From our The Last of Us Remastered review: “In 2013, I called The Last of Us on PlayStation 3 a masterpiece. The same holds true of its PlayStation 4 “Remastered” sibling. You can’t go wrong with either version, but with Remastered you’ll get a better framerate that smooths out gunplay, a prettier, sharper look, and a bunch of DLC content rolled into the package from the get-go (not to mention a whole fresh set of Trophies to earn again, if you have a whole lot of time on your hands).
Whether you’ve already experienced it on PlayStation 3 or have no idea what you’re missing, The Last of Us: Remastered is worth your time and attention. PlayStation 3’s best game just became PlayStation 4’s, too.”
10. Fortnite: Battle Royale
Release Date: September 26, 2017 Developer: Epic Games Same spot on the list.
Epic hs done a tremendous job keeping its blockbuster hit Fortnite: Battle Royale fascinating, engaging, and just fun to play. Epic continues to add new modes, new items, and new oddities — what other game has a Weezer-branded island you can visit — and Fortnite’s actually gameplay remains as solid, and open to fan feedback, as ever. But it’s Epic continued promise to keeping the world of Fortnite fascinating that has made such a mark on the industry, including even those who don’t really play it. From Avengers tie-ins to in-game items appearing in the real world to in-game Marshmello concerts, Fortnite has become one of the biggest cultural touchstones of this moment in entertainment, while also handily remaining so fun to play. Even if you, like me, often hide for as much of the match as you can.
From our Fortnite: Battle Royale review: “Stiff arming its way through the crowded battle royale genre, Fortnite Battle Royale sets itself apart by trading the traditional, bland military simulation vibe with vivid colors and an outstanding, freeform building system that’s unlike anything else in competitive multiplayer games.As its name suggests, Fortnite Battle Royale fits so neatly into the battle royale genre that blew up last year that the basic description sounds as standard as you can get: Up to 100 players are dropped onto a large but constantly shrinking map with the goal of gathering weapons and gear to become the last person or team left standing. But if you look just a little closer, it can’t be mistaken for any other game because the vehicle you’re skydiving out of is, inexplicably, a flying party bus – a nice change of pace from a drab military plane – and the place you land is a giant, beautifully colorful island, instead of a realistic landscape, surrounded by a violent storm.”
9. GTA V
Release Date: November 18, 2014 Developer: Rockstar Games Same spot on the list.
Rockstar’s latest and greatest open-world felony simulator made its debut at the tail end of last console generation’s life cycle, breaking records as the fastest-selling entertainment product in history, so it’s no surprise that it got ported to current gen. Whether you’re after a sprawling single player campaign that provides ruthless skewering of 21st century American life, or a constantly-updated online multiplayer component with an extremely active community, or a sandbox where you can do crimes, Grand Theft Auto V really does have something for everyone. Seriously, is there any other game where you can play the stock market AND trip balls on peyote so hard you turn into a deer?
From our Grand Theft Auto V review: “GTA V has an abundance of such moments, big and small, that make San Andreas – the city of Los Santos and its surrounding areas – feel like a living world where anything can happen. It both gives you tremendous freedom to explore an astonishingly well-realised world and tells a story that’s gripping, thrilling, and darkly comic. It is a leap forward in narrative sophistication for the series, and there’s no mechanical element of the gameplay that hasn’t been improved over Grand Theft Auto IV. It’s immediately noticeable that the cover system is more reliable and the auto-aim less touchy. The cars handle less like their tires are made of butter and stick better to the road, though their exaggerated handling still leaves plenty of room for spectacular wipeouts. And at long last, Rockstar has finally slain one of its most persistent demons, mission checkpointing, ensuring that you never have to do a long, tedious drive six times when you repeatedly fail a mission ever again.”
8. Uncharted 4
Release Date: May 10, 2016 Developer: Naughty Dog Same spot on the list.
Naughty Dog’s fourth installment in its iconic adventure series ushered in a great deal of heart and a new familial dynamic, bolstered by stunning performances from Nolan North as Nathan Drake and Troy Baker as his erstwhile brother Sam. Beautifully written incidental conversations peppered throughout the action help fully realize its characters beyond cut scenes, and a strong emotional throughline born from the push and pull of responsibility vs adventure makes Uncharted 4 the most mature in the series (and it’s topped off by that beautiful coda). It’s still got those breathtaking parkour and frantic action sequences, though, and traveling through its world, both horizontally and vertically, is a giddy delight. It helps that Uncharted 4 is one of the best looking PS4 games to date; it’s stunning vistas and meticulously choreographed action sequences are pure eye candy from start to finish.
From our Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End review: “In amongst its frantic combat, slick parkour, and outrageous action choreography, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End achieves something wonderful: maturity. This is less a breezy lad’s tale revelling in fortune and glory and more a story about the lads when they’re all grown up, bolstered by an equally developed graphics engine and career-high performances from its cast. A surprisingly assured set of multiplayer modes ices the cake.”
7. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Release Date: September 7, 2018 Developer: Insomniac Games Same spot on the list.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a masterclass in comic book joy, an expertly built world that perfectly encapsulates the child-like wonder of looking up at the looming, inspiring skylines of New York City and the superhero-like triumph of effortlessly scaling the tallest buildings in the Big Apple. It’s a game about Spider-Man made by people who deeply, truly, genuinely adore Spider-Man, from his costumes, to his friends, foes, and family. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a gorgeous technical triumph that is utterly sublime to play. One second you’ll be zipping webs above a crowded midtown street, hoisting yourself up into the sunset and flawlessly dashing between giant skyscrapers. The next, dive kicking a thug from a mile in the air, chaining combos between his criminal cohorts, webbing them to walls, and leaping back towards the rooftops without ever touching the ground. The simple act of soaring and flipping through the city is satisfying and addictive that you’ll likely want to explore every corner of it and nab every collectible before even finishing the story. Once you do decide to settle down and move the narrative forward, you’ll find a heartwarming story of love and loss, awkward adolescence, and tons and tons of ass kicking. Along the way you’ll unlock iconic Spider-Man suits, take down nefarious villains in gigantic, explosive setpieces, and bask in the realization that the modern comic book movie renaissance that we’re all so gleefully enjoying has finally, finally made its way back to video games.
From our Marvel’s Spider-Man review: “At its core, Insomniac Games’ new adventure strives to make you feel like Spider-Man. And, thankfully, Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4 succeeds at nearly every swing across Manhattan’s rooftops. I was left delighted at nearly every step of its 15-hour adventure thanks to a surprisingly deep tale that mines the plights of both Spider-Man and Peter Parker to great emotional success. Underpinning that engrossing narrative is an excellent set of webswinging mechanics, which — combined with fun gadgets and plenty of puns — makes for thrilling action in both the massive setpieces and in the quiet, confined corridors of tense sequences. Insomniac’s first foray into the realm of Marvel superheroes is a continually exciting adventure whose open world and combat are only occasionally caught up in a web of overly familiar trappings.”
6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Release Date: September 1, 2015 Developer: Kojima Productions Same spot on the list.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is without question the most ambitious entry in the Metal Gear series. So ambitious, in fact, that it’s something of an unfinished masterpiece. While a lot of hardcore fans of the series were disappointed by the game’s scattered story, it’s hard to deny that the moment-to-moment gameplay is absolutely phenomenal. On top of rock-solid movement and a huge, sometimes literal, sandbox to explore, The Phantom Pain gives players a huge arsenal of weapons, vehicles, gadgets, and AI companions to approach missions creatively. As always, stealthy tactical gameplay is rewarded heavily, but if a mission goes sideways (or if you’re feeling squirrelly) the game doesn’t punish you too hard for getting get loud and messy. Even if you’ve never played another Metal Gear game, this is a hell of an experience. If the plot leaves you with a big question mark over your head, don’t feel left out. That’s part of the fun.
From our Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain review: “I had planned it all very carefully. There were way too many guards still looking for me, and with sunrise coming shortly, I had almost no chance of making it out to the nearest safe landing zone with an injured prisoner on my shoulders. But I wouldn’t have to. During the night, I planted some C4 on this outpost’s radio communication equipment, the anti-aircraft battery, and most importantly, their AA radar. So I took a deep breath, detonated all three at once, called in a chopper, and watched it all unfold. After a short while, my ride swooped in, blasting an APC to bits with a ferocious rocket barrage, and cutting infantry down with heavy machine gun fire as I scrambled from my hiding place to the main courtyard, prisoner in tow. I hopped in with my precious cargo, and then jumped on the side-mounted minigun to keep the newly arrived reinforcements at bay as my chopper smoked and sputtered its way out of the hotzone.
That’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain almost all the time, and what’s truly incredible is that none of this escape was scripted or directed. My mission was simply to get that prisoner out alive. The rest of it, from the time of day I chose to approach to crippling the base’s ability to deal with an aerial assault was a testament to how perfectly all the pieces of Phantom Pain’s gameplay fit together. It is, unquestionably, my favorite Metal Gear to play…”
5. Horizon Zero Dawn
Release Date: February 28, 2017 Developer: Guerrilla Games Same spot on the list.
Horizon is one of the most beautiful open world games ever crafted. Blades of grass sway in the wind beneath blooming sunrises. Woodland creatures skirt across mossy hills and babbling brooks. Towering cities formed from the ashes of a once prosperous society loom in the distance. And most importantly, giant, awe-inspiring mechanical dinosaurs outfitted with terrifying weaponry roam the land, roaring, gnashing, and trampling their prey. When iconic PlayStation developer Guerrilla Games revealed they were pivoting away from the Killzone franchise to make an open world robot dinosaur hunting game starring a warrior redhead who was outfitted like a pot brownie dealer at Burning Man, the world was cautiously optimistic.
The end result, however, is a vast, wondrous, and unique open world action game with just the right amount of RPG elements that come together to create a brilliant first entry into what players hope will become a legendary franchise for years to come. Taking down a gigantic boss with an active strategy of well placed melee strikes and projecticles is one of the most thrilling experiences on PlayStation 4, and looting the shrapnel of a downed robot for much needed upgrade parts afterwards is equally satisfying. Horizon takes some of the best elements of existing open world games and weaves them together to make something wholly original and new.
From our Horizon Zero Dawn review: “There’s something about being dropped into a brand new game world and finding it to be dense with deeply considered lore, terrifyingly aggressive creatures, and tantalizing questions that leaves an indelible mark on the memory. Horizon Zero Dawn is one of those games, and it carves out a unique identity within the popular action-roleplaying genre. Coupled with wonderfully flexible combat and a story that touches on unexpectedly profound themes, I found it hard to tear myself away from Horizon even after I’d finished its main campaign some 40 odd hours later.”
4. Persona 5
Release Date: April 4, 2017 Developer: P-Studio Same spot on the list.
A massive, gorgeous JRPG, Persona 5 is an engrossing adventure brimming with style and flair. Set around the fictional Shujin Academy, Persona 5 sees you navigating school life by day and descending into the corrupted mind palaces of villainous opponents in order to change them away from their corrupt endeavors. The students who make up Persona 5’s ensemble cast make indelible marks on the game as they are introduced and further become embroiled in the Phantom Thieves. Persona 5 does a great job of balancing the two facets of its gameplay, letting players really dive into the social connections in the real world and allowing those to influence the dungeon exploration and turn-based action of the massive and varied palaces. Coupled with a continually engaging combat system, a soundtrack full of earworms, and a twisty, wild story, and Persona 5 delivers one of the deepest JRPGs of the generation.
From our Persona 5 review: “In stark contrast to the slow burn of epic-length cutscenes that greet you in previous Persona games, Persona 5 starts its long journey with a bang by throwing you directly into a fast-paced foot chase through a vibrant, stylized Tokyo casino. That’s a bold move, and it’s emblematic of the entire experience. As we’re introduced to the complex yet approachable turn-based battle system in those opening moments, series fans will recognize not only returning systems from Persona 3 and 4, but also long-absent elements like ranged weapons and negotiation that haven’t been in a Persona game in over a decade, adding more depth and variety to combat. Persona 5 is the culmination of everything the JRPG series has been building to, with familiar elements dialed up to 11 and some welcome new surprises added into the mix.”
3. The Witcher 3
Release Date: May 19, 2015 Developer: CD Projekt Red Same spot on the list.
CD Projekt Red’s open-world fantasy epic immediately established the Polish studio as a major contender in the world of AAA video games. Based on the fantasy novels of Andrej Sapkowsky, The Witcher 3 puts players in the role of Geralt of Rivia, a monster-hunter with superhuman abilities. He’s essentially the archetypal “woodsman” from so many fairy tales, or sort of like a fantasy version of Wolverine who works for the department animal control. When he’s not beheading critters and beasties, Geralt must navigate the tense human political climate, help townsfolk with a variety often hilarious tasks, and still find time for a game of cards and some hot, sensual lovemaking. The Witcher 3 is one of those games where it’s hard to see the bottom. While there’s a big, huge, epic story to get caught up in, it’s just as easy to fall in love with The Witcher 3’s little details and charming character moments.
From our The Witcher 3 review: “The Witcher 3 is as dense and deep as the other two games in the series in terms of RPG mechanics, and the overwhelmingly massive open-world environment has at once made that depth more intimidating, and in the long run, more rewarding. It’s difficult to express just how huge and open this world is: verdant, rolling fields liberally dotted with swaying foliage of every shape and size fill the space between loosely connected, ramshackle townships where people struggle to scrape by. A full day/night cycle and dynamic weather pull it all together, cementing The Witcher 3’s landscape as one of the most authentic-feeling open worlds I’ve ever seen. A handy minimap points you where you want to go, which might seem like a crutch, but honestly, without it, I’d have been hopelessly lost. That a world this size still feels so purposeful, and full of things to do is quite an achievement.”
Release Date: March 24, 2015 Developer: FromSoftware Same spot on the list.
Bloodborne is a brutally difficult, immensely terrifying action horror game that will immediately kick your ass. You’ll spawn, die, and repeat until you throw your controller, swear at your television, and vow to walk away forever. Once outside the dim confines of Bloodborne’s dense, evil, snarling network of contorted beasts, wretched howls, and stark-raving murderous lunatics, you’ll enjoy a quiet, cheerful walk amidst the sunshine in the real world, free from Bloodborne’s punishing ways. But a voice in your head will begin to ring and linger, calling you back, urging you to return, push forward, and conquer. And when you do, you’ll find yourself improved and fueled, patient and energized, ready to tackle it’s gristled, hairy bosses, rotting cathedrals, and wet, corrupt catacombs. Then you’ll die again, but this time you’ll be stronger, wiser, and older and prepared for the most foul of beasts to leap from the shadows and tear you apart all over again. Bloodborne is a horrible, vile world where every reward brings risks and fear is palpable. And while its challenges feel insurmountable and out of reach, your skill and determination will eventually prevail and you’ll press forward through the night. Death is frequent. Frustration is certain. But ultimately, victory is possible, and when achieved, becomes one of the greatest feelings in the world.
From our Bloodborne review: There’s incredible power to Bloodborne. It’s not just an amazing dance of dodges and swipes through encounters that often push the limits of reflexes and endurance, it’s a thought-provoking experience that’s wormed its way into my mind and melted my resolve. But through perseverance, patient growth, and determined skill, it’s proved itself an unconventional adventure that ultimately gives much more than it takes – which at times can be a staggering cost…After more than 60 hours of grappling with its terrors, monsters, and the environment itself, I’m left dumbfounded by Bloodborne’s capability to draw powerful emotions from me, and make me earn the successes that I’ll remember for years to come.
1. God of War
Release Date: April 20, 2018 Developer: Sony Santa Monica At the same spot on the list.
God of War shows an obvious level of care that went into crafting its world, characters, and gameplay, evolving a longstanding PlayStation franchise into a testament to the power of storytelling in video games. Every aspect of God of War feels intentional, interconnecting with every other major aspect of the game, making exploring every inch of its world a rewarding opportunity. Everything from the main narrative to side missions to seemingly innocuous collectibles factor into your, and Kratos’, understanding of the world and its major players. And God of War brilliantly never makes any of that feel like a dry history lesson, from the use of Atreus’ journal as a way of communicating information through his eyes to the many hilarious but insightful musings from Mimir, God of War is constantly making smart, economical use of storytelling. It’s also just such a fun experience, with Kratos’ axe being one of the most satisfying game weapons we’ve used in awhile, and bundled with smart progression, fascinating environments, and an impactful story, God of War is undoubtedly one of the finest experiences of the generation.
From our God of War review: “I expected great action from God of War, and it delivers that handily. But I didn’t expect it to be a thrilling journey in which every aspect of it complements the others to form what is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s a game in which Kratos, a previously one-note character, becomes a complex father, warrior, and monster, embattled both on the field and within his own heart about how to treat his son; one in which the world opens up and shifts, offering rewards in both gameplay and knowledge of its lore that I treasured with each accomplishment. The obvious care that went into crafting its world, characters, and gameplay delivers by far the most stirring and memorable game in the series.”