Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. But make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.
-Akio Morito, founder of Sony
We’re down to the final three entries in our Console Challenge! Can you believe it, NPCs?!
This means that we’ve now made our way into the current generation of home consoles, beginning with Sony’s PlayStation 4. Not only does today’s listicle of the top 7 best PS4 games bring us into contemporaneity, it also takes us full circle back to where this Console Challenge concept first began.
It all started with myself and the Timely Mage, who was one of the three founding members of TWRM. Last month, we were chatting about the best games on some systems thanks to a video the TM shared with me about the top 7 titles for the PS4. That’s when the idea struck for putting together a huge project identifying the top 7’s for a whole heap of consoles.
So really, we all have the Timely Mage to thank for this event, and for helping to create The Well-Red Mage, as well. Obvs I owe a lot to this dude. The man is going to be moving out of state soon (Escape from California? Lucky!) but we both plan to keep in touch. I talk about games with him privately more than with anyone else I know. We share jokes, memes, recommendations, and real talk, and you can’t ask for a better friend than that.
It is, therefore, my greatest jubilation to present to you the Timely Mage, the blast from the past talking on the modern gaming dominator: the PS4, a system that pretty consistently blows my frickin’ mind.
-The Well-Red Mage
I’ve been a gamer for decades. I love the original consoles that reserve a large spot in my childhood memories. And yet, while nothing can replace those experiences, I am just as passionate about this generation as any.
Coming off of the financially burdensome PlayStation 3 (but still a great system), Sony sought to make a more accessible piece of hardware both for the players and the developers that was also easier to produce. This wrote a great story for Sony’s PlayStation 4 that sent a message to the entire gaming world that PlayStation is “the best place to play”.
Sony’s messaging so perfectly resounded with the gaming community. “While we once had changed the gaming landscape, now the consumer was changing us.” This was spoken by Andrew House during the PlayStation 4’s announcement and wonderfully encapsulates the design philosophy of every aspect of the new system. They had learned the lesson that their dominance was directly tied to the accessibility and freedom of their platform for both developers and gamers.
That initial announcement was the first of many brilliant victories Sony enjoyed leading up to its launch. After leading the conversation, they confidently watched their competition fumble at every turn – literally insulting the audience and pushing a tone-deaf message in sharp contrast to Sony. This was blindingly apparent when you watch one of the greatest moments in E3 history: Jack Tretton revealing the used game policy for the PlayStation 4 in direct response to Microsoft’s digital DRM complimented by a beautifully cheeky video of Shuhei Yoshida and Adam Boyes doing a demonstration. Pure gold.
Fast forward to PlayStation 4 current day and it’s obvious that their messaging wasn’t just hot air. Their exclusive games continue to hold the standard for excellence and their support for indies has fostered a thriving community. Of course, they’re not perfect and have had their share of fumbles but numbers don’t lie; the PlayStation 4 is truly the best place to play for modern day gamers.
#7. Nier Automata
After all of the raving over Nier Automata, I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. I was a little late to the party (over a year) but I’m glad I still showed up. The game is amazing!
It’s odd really: the graphics aren’t the best I’ve seen, the story was expectedly convoluted, and it had an atypical gameplay structure that I’m surprised caught the attention of such a wide audience. What originally had all the makings of being an easily overlooked game with perhaps a small cult following ended up being a sleeper hit selling over 3 million copies.
The story and characters were brought to life with its avant-garde gameplay. Throughout the game, you constantly transition from one style of gameplay (let’s say, a 2D platformer) to another (a shoot’em up, for example) and it works so well. The transitions are smooth and natural with little-to-no tutorials and each segment felt on par or even superior to other games that are solely dedicated to that style.
Of course, the gameplay was not only impressive but the beautiful, award-winning soundtrack will inspire you after you put down the controller. Whether you come for the stylish combat, philosophical themes, or the memorable game design, you’ll leave surprised at how different yet better than expected this game is.
#6. No Man’s Sky
Few indie games have managed to generate as much hype as No Man’s Sky. But as one would expect, unbounded possibilities gave way to unbounded expectations. It’s unfortunate really because I felt the game delivered almost everything it promised but I can understand how the ambiguity and unfinished content would lead others to feel disappointed.
No Man’s Sky is a truly remarkable feat, bringing us over 18 quintillion planets to visit, seamless space travel, and a variety of procedurally generated animals littered throughout the galaxy. The feeling of landing on an unexplored planet, admiring the alien skyline, and interacting with the diverse lifeforms and ships that inhabit the systems delivers a sense of discovery I rarely get to feel in a game.
While I enjoyed the base game, admittedly feeling more like an early access title, it has continued to grow by leaps and bounds with free, game-changing updates. The introduction of base building, farming, freighters, exocraft, quests, a story, and portals have each created deep metagames and experiences of their own.
I do not envy Hello Games for the brutal reception their game received at launch – deserved or not – but I do admire that they not only endured but continue years later to deliver large updates that evolve and expand the game. While not everyone will be playing this game for the several hundred hours I have, it is a profoundly unique game that inspired many and continues to show a passion for growth.
#5. Infamous Second Son
For the longest time, whenever I was asked what my favorite PS4 game was, I instantly replied with Infamous Second Son. It was one of the first games released on the system and it still holds up very well even today. Its motion capture and particle effects continue to impress, outdoing everything that came before and after until Uncharted came on the scene years later.
It wasn’t only the technology that impressed, the writing and gameplay were also memorable and full of personality. I loved the unique powers that you could obtain and the relationship between Delsin and Reggie gave soul to the anti-(super)hero story.
While Sucker Punch is working on a new IP (which I’m super excited for) I would love to see another full game in the Infamous universe one day.
#4. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
What began as a significant add-on to Uncharted 4 – paying respects to a beloved character of the series who didn’t quite get the closure Nathan did – ended up being a full adventure that rivaled the main title.
Chloe’s entry is AAA in every way. The graphics are jaw-dropping, the casting and motion capture are some of the best in the industry, and the gameplay is refined to perfection.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy not only scratched that fun, over-the-top adventure itch but it told a meaningful and justifiable story that left me wanting to play through it again right after the credits rolled.
So satisfying and fun, I’m very glad Naughty Dog went the extra mile to stretch Chloe’s well-earned chapter in the Uncharted series into a fully fleshed out adventure.
#3. God of War
If you were to tell me a God of War game would be in my top 3 PS4 games even just a year ago I wouldn’t have believed you. I wasn’t only not interested in previous entries but actively repelled by them.
Even during the reveal, the latent effects of my disgust caused me to roll my eyes and think to myself “another one?” despite its gorgeous visuals. However, as I saw more about the new direction and approach I began to warm up to it just a little. By the next big showing I had become interested after learning more and it wasn’t until just a couple months before its release that I truly became excited for it.
Now speaking on the other end of my first playthrough, I am enamored by how beautiful the game looks, how great the character building was, and how immensely fun the gameplay feels. It earned its accolades, not only standing on its own but to convert myself (and many others) who couldn’t stand its predecessors is an amazing accomplishment.
#2. Uncharted 4
With Uncharted 4 advertised as the swan song for Nathan Drake, the pressure was on for Naughty Dog. They’ve long held the platinum trophy for highest standards in video game development so everyone was wondering how they would top themselves this time.
I’ll admit, my first time through Uncharted 4 left me questioning what I thought about the game instead of my “this game is better in every way” reaction that I expected it to be. Where were the crazy “getting sucked out of a plane that you blew up with no parachute” or “escaping a capsizing cruise ship being chased by a wall of water in a storm” set pieces?
Of course it still had great action sequences but I didn’t feel like it escalated it further than previous games. However, what Naughty Dog chose to escalate was the emotional impact and character development by leaps and bounds and it pays off in such a fulfilling way. Thank you Naughty Dog for making Uncharted 4 what it needed to be rather than what my simple mind could conjure up.
When I first heard of Horizon it was from a leak that Guerilla’s new game was about robot dinosaurs with a protagonist wielding a rope weapon used to tie them down. Certainly not the game I expected to make #1 on my list of best PS4 games but here we are.
At first the premise of Horizon sounded like a fun action adventure game out of the PS2 era with no real expectation of story depth. Even up to the point when I first got the notification on my PS4 that the game was available to play I honestly had no idea what to expect in terms of character and plot. It wasn’t long until I realized this game was something more special than I could have imagined.
Horizon earned its place at the top from start to finish. Every aspect of the game – from the unique character design to the rewarding gameplay to the immersive soundtrack – is filled with creative passion and attention to detail. What really won me over, however, was Horizon’s surprisingly smart and intriguing sci-fi story.
Surely the tight third-person gameplay, fulfilling RPG elements, and detailed open world came from Guerilla Games refining them over several iterations, right? No, this is their first foray into the genre and they not only managed to produce a competent product but skyrocketed past the competition and set a new bar for what devs are capable of in the industry.
I also wanted to give a shout out to a few other PS4 games that were personally very memorable:
Life is Strange
The Timely Mage is a stickler for quality games and big-time storytelling, and arguably the slickest of our founding member trinity. A trophy hunter in whom there is no guile, you can find him on Twitter @ProtoAvi taking names and appreciating games.