You’ve just bought a PlayStation 4 and maybe a game or two, but now you’re wondering what else to pick up. Or maybe you’re on the fence and leaning in Sony’s direction. Or maybe you just want to compare notes.
Either way, these are the finest experiences you can only have on Sony’s flagship console as we near the end of 2016.
Write to Matt Peckham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Software’s delightfully toilsome beat-em-up shifts gears to a Lovecraftian setting with whips and guns. Instead of Dark Souls‘ forlorn high fantasy zones, you prowl macabre coffin-choked streets, observing gothic tableaus framed by cathedral-esque structures with stained glass windows and knuckled spires, as a fat, apocalyptic star looms over the landscape like something out of a Jack Vance yarn.
Buy this game if… You don’t mind making slow progress in a game, and enjoy puzzling out enemy behavior or battling area boss creatures repeatedly to suss out winning strategies. You can buy it here.
Steer clear if… Dying often and sometimes losing hours of work isn’t your thing.
What the critics said: “…a game about pushing the proverbial ball up something more like a mountain, millimeter by grueling millimeter, looking for meaningful perspective on your progress. From Software’s great triumph as a studio—and Bloodborne epitomizes this—is in making that feel like something you want to do, not that you have to.” (TIME)
ESRB Rating: Mature
What would you do as the wind? The dream of a potted plant on an urban windowsill? Don’t worry, Flower isn’t overtly philosophical (or overtly about anything, really). But as you twist the PlayStation 4’s motion-sensing gamepad to maneuver dancing petals through grass oceans, stone rings, steel girders, windmills, striated caverns and pallid cityscapes, you may find yourself wrestling with more than just the gameplay.
Buy this game if… You want to try an exemplar of the indie games movement. You can get it here.
Steer clear if… You don’t like Sony’s gamepad-based motion controls (you have to shift the entire gamepad to move left and right or up and down).
What critics said: “…has the power to change the way that you look at the outside world” (Push Square); “…like rediscovering an old friend” (USgamer); “…there’s no prettier way to inaugurate your new console” (Hardcore Gamer).
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Developer Naughty Dog’s original PlayStation 3 tale of a horror-numbed survivor escorting a young girl through a broken zombie-filled near-future world won the 2013’s Writers Guild of America award (“Outstanding Achievement in Videogame Writing”), an Annie (“Best Animated Video Game”) and a Game Developer’s Choice Award (“Game of the Year”). The PlayStation 4 version overhauls the visuals, then adds all the additional downloadable content.
Buy this game if… You appreciate finely crafted storytelling, you love survival horror games with light stealth elements and a dash of third-person shooting, or you just want to experience one of the finest explorations of the way a relationship can work in an interactive game. You can buy it here.
Steer clear if… You scare easily.
What critics said: “..the version of Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic story of survival that the developer always intended us to play.” (EGM); “…a fabulous story, riffing on Cormac McCarthy and other bleak post-apocalyptic fiction.” (Telegraph); “…the definitive edition of an already outstanding affair.” (Push Square)
ESRB Rating: Mature
A reboot of studio Insomniac Games’ buddy platformer about a Lombax (think “bipedal cat”) and his robot pal Clank battling intergalactic scoundrels turns out to be hands-down the best version of this series yet.
Buy this game if… You love games like Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, want to explore vibrant and elaborate 3D worlds with scads of enemies and collectibles, and love friendly, goofball storytelling. You can buy it here.
Steer clear if… You don’t like cutesy settings, corny jokes or 3D platforming.
What the critics said: “…the best family-friendly game that I’ve played in a long time, it’s one of PS4’s standout titles and a blistering return to the glory days of the 3D platformer.” (Telegraph); “Ratchet and Clank makes the rest of the current-gen remasters look lazy.” (Game Rant); “…a great game for parents and kids to play together.” (Worth Playing)
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Nathan Drake’s superb finale sees the series hero off on a final buccaneering escapade with his long lost brother, fending off fellow plunderers and his own sometimes errant internal compass. It’s the most open, tactically interesting Uncharted studio Naughty Dog’s made—the best in an already critically acclaimed series, and a PlayStation 4 library essential.
Buy this game if… You want to play a game that’s about scrutinizing elaborate set-pieces and puzzling out where to go or how to get there, reveling in the gonzo scenery and connective vertigo, all punctuated by third-person gunplay. You can buy it here.
Steer clear if… You don’t like run-climb-shoot games, pirate yarns or rapscallion heroes in the Han Solo mold.
What the critics said: “Jungle-choked ruins rise crookedly from cliff side foundations like a floating Atlantean paradise. Mist-cloaked mountains frame gobsmacking panoramas that might as well be National Geographic-inspired oil paintings. Foregrounds and backgrounds coalesce in visual pageantry that shouldn’t be possible on 2016-era tech. Nothing you’ve played—on any platform, including PC—approaches what Uncharted 4 looks like.” (TIME)
ESRB Rating: Teen