Sony's 2021 plans might be all about PlayStation 5, but the PlayStation 4 still has plenty to offer. With well over 1,500 titles to choose from, the sheer volume of games in its library, coupled with the subjective nature of the medium, makes it impossible to be definitive. So we’re not going to be.
Instead, we got together to imagine someone had never picked up a PlayStation 4 controller before. Why? I don't know, maybe they went for an Xbox One and are looking to catch up on exclusive games they've missed. Or they've been trapped down a well for seven years and have just returned home to discover a FedEx box dated November 15th, 2013 on their doorstep. Or perhaps they just clicked on this article to scroll down to the comments and tell us how terrible our opinions are.
Either way, we'll be regularly revising this list to tell you the ten games we'd recommend to someone looking to see what PlayStation 4 is all about.
For this edition, we’ve finally said goodbye to Resident Evil VII (which is still excellent), and welcomed Ghost of Tsushima to the fold.
Take the weird Twin Peaks narrative of Alan Wake, smash it together with Quantum Break's frenetic powers and gunplay, and you've got Control. Playing as a woman searching for her missing brother, you quickly learn there's a thin line between reality and the fantastical. It's catnip for anyone who grew up loving The X-Files and the supernatural. It's also a prime example of a studio working at their creative heights, both refining and evolving the open-world formula that's dominated games for the past decade.
Buy Control at Amazon — $39.99
Final Fantasy VII Remake
We thought it would never happen. Final Fantasy VII was an iconic RPG that’s credited with opening up the genre to the west. It peppered the Top 10 lists of the best games of all-time and introduced the long-running Japanese RPG series to polygons, 3D maps, and countless other innovations of 32-bit consoles. 23 years later, and three PlayStation iterations later, Square Enix dared to remake, not remaster, the game. It would be, contentiously, episodic, expanding out the story of Midgar and the opening part of the game into a single game.
It’s all very different. It’s also gorgeous, with a modern battle system that no longer focuses on static characters and menu choices. Somehow, and we were ready to be underwhelmed, the battle system works. FF7R’s fights are slicker and more enjoyable than those in Final Fantasy XV, the latest entry in the series. Each character, from iconic mercenary Cloud through to eco-terrorist Barret and flower girl Aerith, play in entirely different ways, using the space between themselves and enemies in very different ways. Some sub-missions and distractions feel like they’re there solely to eke some more hours out of your playthrough, but the world of the original has been thoughtfully reimagined for PS4, so it’s a minor complaint.
Buy Final Fantasy VII Remake at Amazon — $49.94
God of War
Sony's God of War series had laid dormant for half a decade when its latest incarnation hit stores in early 2018, and for good reason. Antiquated gameplay and troubling themes had made it an ill-fit for the modern gaming landscape. No more. SIE Santa Monica Studio's God of War manages to successfully reboot the series while turning the previous games' narrative weaknesses into its strengths. Kratos is now a dad, the camera is now essentially strapped to his shoulder and Sony has what is sure to become a new series on its hands.
Buy God of War at Amazon — $18.30
Ghost of Tsushima
This tale of samurai vengeance is like Japanese cinema come to life. There are multiple betrayals, the sad deaths of several close allies, tense sword fights, villages and castles under siege, and even a ‘Kurosawa mode’ black-and-white filter you employ for the entire game. The world of feudal Japan, with some creative liberties, is gorgeous, with fields of grass and bullrushes to race through on your faithful steed, temple ‘puzzles’ to navigate around and fortresses to assess and attack.
As you make your way through the main story quest, and more than enough side quests and challenges, you unlock more powerful sword techniques and stances, as well as new weapons and forbidden techniques that are neatly woven in the story of a samurai pushed to the edge. It still suffers from one too many fetch quests, artifacts scattered across Japan’s prefectures, but the sheer beauty of Ghost of Tsushima tricks you into believing this is the greatest open-world game on PlayStation.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s up there — but what Ghost of Tsushima truly represents is a very refined example of a template that really came to the forefront in the PlayStation 4 generation.
Buy Ghost of Tsushima at Amazon — $57.46
Horizon Zero Dawn
After years spent churning out various Killzone titles, developer Guerrilla Games finally cut loose with a rich and imaginative new game in Horizon Zero Dawn. The game blends gorgeous post-apocalyptic open world with combat, crafting and a quiet but memorable story. Sure, it might not break new ground, but Horizon does everything so well that it doesn't even matter. It also, two years after its release, remains one of the most beautiful games of this generation. (Horizon Zero Dawn is free to download from April 19th to May 14th on the PlayStation Store.)
Buy Horizon Zero Dawn at Amazon — $16.89
Marvel’s Spider-Man + Miles Morales
Finally, you don't have to pick up Spider-Man 2 on the GameCube to get your web-slinging fix anymore. For almost 15 years, that game was held as the gold standard for a Spider-Man game, and I'll let you into a secret: It wasn't actually that good. Marvel's Spider-Man, on the other hand, is a tour de force. Featuring the best representation of what it's like to swing through New York City, well, ever, Insomniac's PlayStation exclusive also borrows liberally from the Batman: Arkham series' combat and throws in a story that, although it takes a while to get going, ends up in a jaw-dropping place.
With the launch of the PS5, Insomniac released a Miles Morales spin-off game, which follows the eponymous character as he attempts to protect NYC in Peter Parker’s absence. It's a standalone that you can play without owning the original, but we'd play the first title before Miles Morales as, while the stories are fairly disconnected, you'd lose the impact of the first game's narrative, and the mechanics are also changed a little in the second game, making it strange to go back to a game with a reduced moveset.
Buy Marvel’s Spider-Man GOTY edition at Amazon — $30.99
Buy Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales at Amazon — $49.88
Persona 5 Royal
The original Persona 5 was a great RPG, combining the trials of being a high-school student, falling in love, studying for tests and the rest with righting society’s wrongs and summoning spiritual creatures to fight your battles. The series goes to Tokyo for the first time, ensuring there are now even more things to do with your time. In this refreshed edition, you meet Kasumi, a new character for your party, and face a new threat right after you thought you saved the world. (This also involves three extra months bouncing between Shibuya and Shinjuku.) The original had great characters, loads of style, and a memorable soundtrack — and Persona 5 Royal improves on the formula, with more activities and some trickier optional boss battle for those craving bigger challenges.
Buy Persona 5 Royal at Amazon — $52.99
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 is the kind of game no one but Rockstar, the team behind the GTA series, could make. Only when a studio is this successful can it pour millions of dollars and man-hours into a game. Rockstar's simulation of a crumbling frontier world is enthralling and serves as a perfect backdrop to an uncharacteristically measured story. While the studio's gameplay may not have moved massively forward, the writing and characters of RDR2 will stay with you.
Buy Red Dead Redemption 2 at Amazon — $33.09
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice isn't just another Dark Souls game. FromSoftware's samurai adventure is a departure from that well-established formula, replacing slow, weighty combat and gothic despair for stealth, grappling hooks and swift swordplay. Oh, and while it's still a difficult game, it's a lot more accessible than Souls games — you can even pause it! The result of all these changes is something that's still instantly recognizable as a FromSoftware title, but it's its own thing, and it's very good.
Buy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice at Amazon — $48.23
Tetris Effect is both the best Tetris game in years and the best PSVR game perhaps ever. From the mind of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the developer behind Rez, Lumines and Child of Eden, Tetris Effect blends classic Tetris gameplay with music and a whole lot of particle effects to create something that's more than the sum of its parts. Immersive to the point of transcendentalism.