The best PS4 games: 20 of this generation’s must-play titles

Update: We’ve added the newly released and very deserving Battlefield 1 to our list of must-have titles. 

The fall season is great – it’s when the best PlayStation 4 games come out. In preparation for the cold winter months ahead, Sony’s stocking its systems (PS4 Pro, PS4 Slim and the original PS4) with some of the best games on the planet so you don’t need to ever go out into the cold.

But with so many great games available, it can be tough to know where to start.

That’s where our guide to the best PS4 games comes in. Between us, the editors at TechRadar have played almost every game the console has to offer, and we’ve put our heads together to bring you this ever-evolving guide to the best of them.

Initially it might have relied a little too heavily on remasters of old PS3 titles such as The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto V, but nowadays the console has a library that’s thoroughly capable of standing on its own two feet, with a great mix of big-budget triple-A titles and indie games alike.

There’s games for the youngins (see: Rayman Legends), games for retro fans (see: Shovel Knight) and something everyone can love (see: Fallout 4).

Yes, the console’s early years may have been cursed by a lack of backwards compatibility with the PS3’s library (a problem now mitigated, if not entirely solved, by the arrival of PlayStation Now), but these days there are enough games made for PS4 for this to be much less of an issue.

In constructing this list we’ve tried to cover a variety of game styles and genres from big to small, single-player to multiplayer. So whether you’ve owner a PS4 since launch, or whether you’re a newcomer to the system, you should find something new to love in our 20-item-strong, best-of-the-best list.

So close but still lightyears away from what we wanted

Before we dive into the full list, we thought we’d give a special call out to one of the most polarizing games in recent memory: No Man’s Sky.

Depending on who you talk to, No Man’s Sky is either the most fantastic open universe exploration game ever created or one of the biggest letdowns in recent history. Where you stand on that spectrum largely depends on how creative you are. No Man’s Sky has little story and not a whole lot of explanation as to what’s going on around you. That said, if you’re the kind of person that can find pleasure just cruising around the galaxy exploring new worlds and finding ways to make space travel more efficient, you’ll probably be more of the former. If you need a rigid plot line and Call of Duty-like first-person shooter controls, this isn’t the space exploration game you’ve been looking for. Move along.

Of heists and men…

Not only is it the best sandbox game on the platform, GTA V is also the best golf game, the best tennis sim, the undisputed virtual yoga champ, one of the best racers… it’s even a pretty serviceable MMO.

We’re used to scale and scope from Grand Theft Auto, but what Trevor, Franklin, and Michael bring us is a staggeringly well-realised city seen from three entirely different perspectives. Trevor, the maniacal rampage killer whom we discover to be in all of us when we play a Rockstar game; Franklin, the classic rags-to-riches character with street smarts and the ability to pull off a bandana; and Michael, the troubled criminal with a dysfunctional family and a beer gut to show for his life of violence.

However you play GTA V – a multiplayer muckabout, a story-driven third-person actioner, a flight sim – it reveals itself to be the best game on both this generation and the last.


Naughty Dog’s best, made better

Many games have offered us post-apocalyptic visions of the future, but none have been as brutal, as believable, or as touching as Joel and Ellie’s story.

It was near-perfect on PS3, but with current-gen’s increased performance ceiling Naughty Dog found ways to ramp up the visual fidelity to ‘drop the controller and stare’ levels. A radical tonal departure from Uncharted’s jovial treasure-hunting escapades, The Last Of Us Remastered demonstrates the California studio’s ability to strike a darker mood, populating the overgrown ruins of its setting with a cast characterised by murky morals but still getting you to care for them like your own bessies.


Hope you don’t have a swear jar

From Software’s enigmatic and notoriously challenging Souls titles all hold critical and fan acclaim, but none are as stylistically interesting as the quasi-Industrial era Bloodborne.

It plays like an RPG set indelibly on a hidden difficulty mode with all the helpful text pop-ups removed, which is to say it requires more than a modicum of patience from the player.

But that’s the point – in Bloodborne, you get out what you put into it. Victory’s all the more rewarding when you’ve watched your enemy, memorised his attack patterns, struck at the opportune moment and prevailed via the game’s impeccable melee combat.


Lara’s origin story finally makes its way to the PS4

Has it really been 20 years since we first saw Lara in action? How the time flies when you’re upgrading from a 32-bit resolution to upwards of 4K. But no matter how many years go by, Lara still manages to find a handhold in our hearts.

Despite being the sequel to a prequel about the young life of the Lara Croft, Rise of the Tomb Raider feels like the pinnacle of the series. The reboot which saw a brave new direction for the franchise seemed a lot of the time to be little more than a bit of light Uncharted cosplay, but Rise is a far more accomplished game.

There’s now a genuine open world which feels like there is always something to do, and something more than just harvesting up collectibles in exchange for a light dusting of XP. There are also tombs. Yes, that might seem a fatuous thing to say given the name, but the previous game gave them short shrift. In Rise though they are deeper and more plentiful. Plus, on top of everything else, it’s got VR support, which is pretty neat considering that there aren’t many PlayStation VR titles around these days.

Welcome back to PlayStation, Lara, we’ve missed you.


Out of this world online multiplayer

Calling Destiny ambitious is a disservice to the game. It’s an ambient world (er, galaxy) that operates in real time. It combines single- and multiplayer into a single campaign, seamlessly transitioning between the two. It’s from the team that made Halo, so while Destiny may not have the iconic face of Master Chief plastered on the box, it will have the same creative minds doing what they do best: sci-fi.

So what do you do? Imagine a first-person shooter-inspired World of Warcraft. You’ll create a character and build him/her from a rookie enforcer to earth’s savior by unlocking abilities and improving your expertise with one of the four main types of weapons. Before long you’ll be haunting the same locales for a rare weapon drop and partying up with friends to take down some of the toughest space brutes this side of a Sith Temple.


A refreshing jump back in time

In the latest Battlfield game, DICE takes players back in time to World War One and by doing so completely rejuvinates the once stagnating franchise.

Battlefield 1‘s historical setting helps it to stand apart from the rest of the modern military shooters on the market with all new weapons, vehicles, and level designs that feel fresh and capture the chaos and brutality of war.

The game offers a poignant and entertaining single-player campaign that sets a new standard for first-person shooter. Broken into six sections, each following a different character and front line location, the campaign never feels dull or repetitive.

The single player campaign even feeds neatly into Battlefield 1’s multiplayer mode which, while familiar, also benefits from the much-needed breath of life that the change in setting gives.

Graphically impressive, entertaining, and sometimes touching, Battlefield 1 is a return to form for the series.

The homecoming we’ve waited seven years for

All things considered, this is one of the best games Bethesda has made. It ticks all the boxes: a massive, detail-oriented open-world; still-fantastic tenets of looting and shooting; a story filled with intriguing side quests and subplots that feel like they matter; and of course a classic soundtrack that brings it all to life. In many ways it’s the game we’ve been waiting for since Fallout 3 steered the series away from its top-down role-playing roots. Not only is the world itself wider, but the plot is better, and more digestible, than any of the games before it. There’s still a sense of mystery about what’s happening but you no longer have to dig forever and a day through terminals to piece it together.

Welcome home, stranger.


Multiplayer doesn’t get any better than this

We do a lot of whining about Call of Duty. We roll our eyes and joke how there’s a new one every year and how there’s, like, no difference. We say all these things and yet every year we know how we’re going to spend the month of November: fragging friends and family in the latest Call of Duty game.

Black Ops 3 deserves a spot in your gaming armory for two reasons: it has awesome multiplayer – and there’s almost no better way to blow off steam than going 10 kills in a row and calling in an airstrike on a team of people you’ve never met before but suddenly want to beat in the worst way imaginable – plus, it has one of the greatest game modes ever conceived, zombies.

If shooting zombies straight in the face doesn’t you feel like it’s money well spent then nothing will.


Hate basketball? Here’s the game that’ll change everything

It’s not that an advanced understanding of the sport is irrelevant in NBA 2K – you’ll appreciate its depth and ultimately get a lot more out of it if you’re an aficionado of the real sport – but rather that it’s so good, the uninitiated will want to learn both the game and the sport.

Other sports sims attempt to create the illusion of a wider universe beyond game day, but Visual Concepts’ game goes way above and beyond. Its MyCareer mode plays out like a star-studded series of One Tree Hill, tracking your user-created baller’s progress from rookie to All-Star and league MVP via a ridiculous number of celebrity cameos, dressing room dramas and tough moral decisions.

It’s Mass Effect in Air Jordans, essentially.


Hey! You spilled some of your RPG on my baseball game!

For the longest time Xbox One owners were stuck with a single choice in baseball games while members of PlayStation Nation were blessed with two: the MLB 2K series and MLB The Show. The former, before it was canceled, was a fine interpretation of America’s favorite pastime. In it, you’d coach a team to victory or create a virtual avatar and put him out onto the diamond to live out your unrequited love for the game.

But the 2K series was AAA baseball compared to MLB The Show.

What makes The Show the best game in town is the insanely deep Road to the Show mode that puts you in the cleats of a rising star and guides you on the path to glory. Along the way you’ll bust your hump trying to make the jump from the AA leagues to the AAA teams, and then again when it comes time to go from the amateurs to pros, all the while investing in an almost RPG-like stats system. Controls are fluid and the tutorials in 2016 are better and more concise than in years past, meaning you won’t be stuck swinging haphazardly while all your veteran friends run circles around you.


Stories don’t come bigger than this

Geralt didn’t have the smoothest of entries to PS4, but after some heavy patching and a lot of angry words about visual downgrades, we’re left with an RPG boasting tremendous scope and storytelling.

Oh, and combat. And don’t forget Gwent, the in-game card game. And there’s the crafting to get stuck into. And the alchemy.

You’re rarely short of things to entertain yourself with in The Witcher 3’s quasi-open world, then, and all the better that you’re in a universe that involves the supernatural without leaning on the same old Tolkien fantasy tropes. Invigorating stuff.


The best, most terrifying Souls game yet

PS4 owners have already been blessed by FromSoftware’s perverse sense of creativity this console generation with BloodBorne. Well, lucky you, they’re back it again with Dark Souls 3.

If you’ve played previous Souls games, you’ll be right at home here. But don’t get comfortable. This game might be more accessible to new players, but it isn’t easier. The gameplay is faster, the enemies are tougher, and the victories are more satisfying.

Play this if you’re looking for a challenging game that will keep giving you reasons to come back.


A retro throwback? Dig a little deeper

Sharing surface level similarities with Towerfall Ascension, Shovel Knight also eschews polygons for beautifully evocative arrangements of pixels that’ll make you pine for a bygone era – until you realise that it’s actually a hell of a lot more fun to play than the Castlevanias et al that influence it.

A knowing and challenging RPG complete with idyllic villages, impossible boss fights and (mercifully) mid-level saves just to remind you what decade you’re in, it’s among the best-executed hybrids of old-school punishment and modern amusement in years.

PS4’s version gets a wee pixelated Kratos cameo, too.


Armless fun with PlayStation’s most insipid icon

Let’s get this out of the way early doors: Rayman is a dial tone of a character, beloved by no one since his very first outing on PS1.

Rayman Legends though? An absolute gem.

Brought to life by the gorgeous UbiArt Framework engine (which also powered Valiant Hearts: The Great War, among others), it’s a distinct treat for the eyes. But it’s the limbless wonder’s level design that really sets Legends apart from other PS4 platformers.

You’ll tumble and leap through Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. You’ll find yourself battling a dragon in perfect sync to a wordless cover of ‘Black Betty.’ You’ll swoop and glide through hell, the ocean floor, and… holy damn, if you don’t start to like the blithely smiling Rayman a little bit along the way.

You win this round, Ray.


Every arrow points in this pixel-perfect brawler’s direction

“I didn’t spend three hundred quid on a console for this,” you say, gesturing at the lack of 8 X MSAA and god rays in Towerfall Ascension’s artfully drawn 16-bit era environments, presumably having just left the Tate in disgust after realising Kandinsky’s ‘Swinging’ is well below 1080p.

Yes, there’s a small but vocal backlash against games who share this couchplay multiplayer meisterwerk’s retro aesthetic, but let’s leave them to miss out on the best two-player local experience the console has to offer.

Ostensibly it’s simple enough: armed with a bow, some retrievable arrows and the ability to Mario-jump your opponent to death, two to four of you duel to the death. However, the depth and subtlety just keep on expanding, even after weeks of play.

Every horror fan’s fantasy

If you’ve ever sat through a 90s horror movie shouting directions to the mindless idiots on-screen who are about to get eviscerated because they’ve all made such obviously stupid moves, then Until Dawn is the game for you.

To be fair the group of teenagers at the centre of the story have made their first mistake going up into an isolated, snowbound cabin with no phone reception, but from there on it’s up to you how they interact, where they go and, essentially, who dies.

It’s an experience not to be missed.


The end of the long and dusty road

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End hasn’t been out for very long, but we can already tell that this is going to be a Game of the Year contender come December. The game was tasked with an impossible task by bringing a satisfying close to Naughty Dog’s classic adventure series and delivered something well above our expectations. Exceptionally high production values, an engaging story about a wayward brother and an adventure to remember, Uncharted 4 has them all in spades.

Though Naughty Dog’s Uncharted journey has finally reached its destination, you’re guaranteed to treasure the memories it created forever.

If you’re a PS4 owner, it would be criminal not to take this ride.


There’s always time for a little game…

Life is Strange is emblematic of episodic gaming, beautifully crafted. Sure, Telltale’s games have been great examples too, but the writing and themes of Dontnod Entertainment’s tale of teenage angst and temporal superpowers is something else.

With a story where your actions have real, and far-reaching, consequences it can be rather tense when it comes to making your choice. And trying to figure out all the possible consequences given the time-shifting fun makes them all the more tricky.


Once on this island

Famed designer and Braid creator Jonathan Blow has finally managed to release his second major game, The Witness. After nearly seven long years in development, The Witness presents you with a vibrant, surreal 3D world to explore very much in the vain of Myst.

The similarity with that iconic, ’90s-era puzzler begins and ends with the fact that you’re stranded on an island with no explanation and the only answers lie behind an increasingly difficult series of line puzzles. This is a world rich in color and character that, while frustrating at times, offers far more freedom, far more depth and far more beauty than its ancestors.

This one’s a contender for the best indie games of 2016, no doubt.


How many Snakes does it take to change a lightbulb?

Okay, so Hideo Kojima’s last game for Konami – and his last ever Metal Gear game – might be a little tough for the MGS n00b to get to grips with, but it’s still one of the best stealth-action games ever crafted. The open-world shenanigans will satisfy all your behind-enemy-lines / Rambo fantasies and probably confuse you with crazy plot twists and a million characters all with the same gravel-toned voices.

But hey, that’s all part of its charm, right?


Leave a Reply