If you boot up the PlayStation Store or go for a casual browse on PSN, you may notice there are thousands – literally thousands – of games listed that you can try. Often, they’re on sale, too. Luckily, we’re here to tell you that there are, indeed, ‘essentials’. Sure, it’s hard to keep the best PS4 games to a short, easily digestible list, but we’ve managed to condense the key experiences that every PlayStation fan needs to enjoy.
Truly, the PS4 will be remembered as one of the best consoles of all time. Aside from being home to some of the best PS4 games, Sony’s immensely popular console has the prestige of being one of the best-selling bits of gaming hardware of all time. Whether you’re looking to play games produced and published by Sony to show off the heights the hardware can reach or if you’re more interested in the third-party megahits that made the console so popular, you’re in for a treat if you’re only just delving into the backlog now.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Superhero games aren’t generally regarded as top-quality experiences, with the exception of the Batman Arkham games. Marvel’s Spider-Man in 2017, however, finally gave Marvel that same level of pedigree thanks to an original experience that’s one of the very best games on PS4. Insomniac Games turned out to be the perfect developer for the world of Peter Parker, bringing its trademark humour and style to the fore like never before.
And then, in 2020, along came another Spider — Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales, to be exact — web-slinging its way to critical acclaim and winning both best PS4 and PS5 game at Sony’s 2020 Best of the Year rundown. It also gave gamers a new slant on the storied comic book tale, with Parker now mentoring 17-year-old Miles Morales, who himself must now balance radioactive adolescence with protecting New York City. Improvements from 2017’s entry include better combat and a more natural feel when swinging around the Big Apple looking to deliver some vigilante justice.
Bloodborne represents the near-perfection of the Souls-like formula from Hidetaka Miyazaki, putting a smart twist on gameplay that requires players to be aggressive. All of the brilliant design of Dark Souls is here, but even stronger in a lot of ways. Combat is honed to a fine sheen, with a wealth of different options for weapons and build and enough challenge to please any type of player. It may seem like a small change, but allowing players to regain health they just lost by attacking integrally changes the entire game, shifting the player’s role in combat from defensive in the other Souls games to offensive here. Boss design is also some of the best seen in FromSoftware’s history, with each one feeling genuinely memorable.
By combining elements of Lovecraftian and classic horror Bloodborne creates a fascinating world, with the city of Yharnam at its center. Few games manage to nail the utterly horrifying atmosphere that Bloodborne does, even while bringing a wealth of visually diverse locations. Even years later Bloodborne feels like FromSoftware’s definitive game, and the ultimate realization of the formula the studio established with Dark Souls. It’s an integral experience for any PS4 owner, and just one of the exclusive titles that makes the console so special.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
You can scarcely mention the best games of the last generation without The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt coming up, and for good reason. Geralt’s third adventure is a visionary open-world game, with The Witcher 3 representing an astounding leap in quality over the previous title, The Witcher 2 and one of the few games do player choice as well.
The Witcher 3’s world is massive, but it’s packed with meaningful things to do. So many sidequests in the game end up being surprisingly relevant to the main narrative, or hold emotionally-charged personal stories. So many of the game’s systems grow and change across the experience, from a wealth of combat options that open up to the countless games of Gwent that make you lose track of time. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the rare open-world game that really manages to deliver on the whole premise of the genre, with a fascinating world that feels like it grows and changes around you.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Final Fantasy VII seemed like an impossible task to remake, but Square Enix managed to pull it off with incredible gusto. The Final Fantasy VII Remake almost feels as innovative as the original game did in 1997, and that’s impressive. For the first time it feels like Final Fantasy really managed to make the jump to action combat while still retaining elements of its turn-based history. Final Fantasy 7 Remake’s combat feels buttery smooth and each of the four playable characters feel entirely unique, requiring players to form different strategies based on party composition.
The city of Midgar is more realized than ever before, too, and its dank streets shine with neon colors. Final Fantasy VII Remake also sports some of the most impressive character models seen on the PS4, and a brand new voice cast injects an exciting new edge to the well-known characters. Square Enix took a massive chance with Final Fantasy VII Remake, both in terms of narrative and gameplay. At least for now those risks have completely paid off, and Final Fantasy VII Remake is one of the most well-realized and robust RPGs available on the PS4.
The Last of Us Part II
The Last of Us Part II definitely disproves the saying “lightning doesn’t strike twice,” as it manages to meet and exceed nearly everything the first game did. Whether you’re looking at storytelling or gameplay mechanics, The Last of Us Part II has simply refined the lot, and it’s one of the most visually impressive games ever made to boot. Survival and gunplay feel even tenser and more demanding than before, and Naughty Dog simply has a way of keeping things varied and interesting across the entire experience.
From start to finish The Last of Us Part II is unforgettable, especially with the emotional rollercoaster it sends you on.
Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 could already lay claim to being one of the best JRPGs of all time, and Persona 5 Royal makes that experience even better. The brand new third semester is a stellar addition to Persona 5’s story, introducing a phenomenal villain and narrative twist that really changes the game. Persona 5 Royal is the perfect example of how a turn-based combat system can still work wonders, with snappy battles that focus on exploiting the enemy’s weaknesses.
The heart of Persona 5 is the charming cast of characters, who all grow and change in meaningful ways across the game’s 100-hour narrative. It’s impossible to not get invested in the story of the Phantom Thieves, and the series’ trademark social simulation is more engaging than it’s ever been before. Persona 5 Royal is a one-of-kind RPG that simply can’t be matched by anything else.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Horizon: Zero Dawn was a massive change for the developers of Killzone, but it’s clearly a passion project that turned into something special. Even though the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s not your usual dreary scene. Horizon’s gorgeous world is filled with vegetation and vibrant culture, as well as plenty of danger with the terrifying robotic dinosaurs that stalk the land.
Horizon’s combat is its strongest feature, as each robot provides a unique challenge. Luckily, the game gives players a wealth of ranged weapons and traps to take them down, allowing for a lot of different approaches to combat. A strong story, fantastic protagonist, and fascinating world are just a few of the reasons Horizon is one of the best open-world games on PS4.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar is one of the most prolific developers in the industry, and Red Dead Redemption 2 represents the studio’s crowning achievement so far. The level of detail packed into every aspect of Red Dead Redemption 2 is astonishing, from the unique skinning animations for each animal to the way smoke wafts off the barrel of a gun.
Red Dead Redemption 2’s Arthur Morgan is iconic, and a great hero for a little time in the Wild West. Morgan is happy to get his hands dirty, but he’s a cowboy with a heart of gold underneath the rugged exterior, which makes the gut-wrenching story hit even harder. Red Dead Redemption 2 may not have the tightest shooting mechanics out there, but it presents a bountiful Wild West world that truly puts you in the shoes of a rough and tough cowboy. This is seen as one of the best PS4 games and one of the best Xbox One games, too – there’s a very good reason for that.
God of War
For a long time God of War seemed like a one-note franchise that celebrated ultraviolence, but against all expectations the 2018 reboot managed to redefine both the franchise and Kratos as a character. Taking place years after the original trilogy, the new game begins to show a softer side of Kratos as he raises his son Atreus. God of War has an emotional and relatable story, even while bringing back that trademark machismo and hyper-violence.
On top of redefining Kratos, God of War reboots the entire combat system with an over-the-shoulder style. The real highlight, however, is Kratos’ axe that can be thrown and retrieved at will, creating a combat experience that you can’t get anywhere else.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Uncharted 4 puts an unforgettable cap on Nathan Drake’s adventures, and is perhaps the very best action-adventure game in the entire PS4 library. The narrative of Uncharted 4 is still the rollicking adventure tale fans expect, but at its core are deeply personal stories about the relationship between Nate and Elena as well as his long-lost brother Sam.
Uncharted 4’s production values have refined everything to an absurd degree, from tighter shooting to bombastic set pieces. Uncharted has been one of the defining franchises for PlayStation, and any PS4 owner owes it to themselves to play A Thief’s End. It’s one of the best PS4 games out there, critically and commercially, for a reason.
Grand Theft Auto V
Can you really call your PS4 collection complete without a copy of Grand Theft Auto V? That was a rhetorical question, of course, for the deliriously high-octane 2013 classic still more than holds its own today. There’s no end to the fun you can have with its three principle characters — low level crook Franklin Clinton, ex-bank robber Micheal De Santa, and arms dealer Trevor Phillips — because even if you do manage to complete all the missions with this ragtag bunch, there’s still a bucket list of crazy capers to tick off. Bigfoot won’t find itself…
From baking desert to faux LA cityscape, the open world of San Andreas feels as pioneering today as it did close to a decade ago. Its wide open realm and constant list of updates are also key reasons why GTA V continues to be one of PlayStation’s most popular games online. The streets really won’t forget.
Missing any favourites? Let us know what you think.