Few companies outside of Nintendo can claim to have even a sliver of the effect on the gaming industry as electronics giant Sony has. Ever since the PlayStation emerged in the mid-90s as a dark horse console from a first time manufacturer, video games have never been the same.
In celebration of the 70th Anniversary of Sony two years ago, the crew here at Goomba Stomp put together a list of the top 70 Sony exclusive games of all time and now we are back to expand the list to a top 100!
Chances are if you’ve been playing PlayStation as long as we have, you’ll find a lot to love on this list, and if by chance you haven’t, well get ready to learn a thing or two. As voted by the writers and editors of Goomba Stomp, this is our definitive list of the 100 best PlayStation Games of All Time.
** Editor’s Note: In order to qualify, a game must have been first released exclusively on a Sony console for at least six months if not a year. In other words, don’t expect a game like Tomb Raider or Ade’s Odyssey to appear on this list since they were not exclusive to a Sony console when released.
- Nominations for games released as of 11/28/2018
100 Best PlayStation Games of All Time
100 – Dino Crisis
A spiritual spin-off to the classic Resident Evil formula, Dino Crisis takes the series’ tropes of survival horror, secret labs in the middle of nowhere, corporate conspiracies, unethical experiments gone wrong, and an 80s-style badass female protagonist, but changes the threat from slow-moving zombies to fast-paced Jurassic Park rip-off dinosaurs.
Tank controls and cheesy dialogue abound; Dino Crisis is everything you would want in a game of its kind. Despite not aging as well as its Resident Evil cousins on the PS1 – being bogged down by controls that never feel quite right and an imbalance in difficulty that feels more unoptimized than challenging – it’s still a charming romp.
The quicker Velociraptors are a lot more intelligent than an RE zombie, and a lot more vicious, requiring actual thought put into encounters than just a shot to the head, though at times in an unfair way. Borrowing from Resident Evil 3, with which the game shared a parallel development period, you’ll also be stalked by a T. Rex boss throughout the game, and it’s some true survival horror goodness. Not stopping there, you’ll come across other dinos, ranging from the miniature Compsognathus to the high-flying Pteranodons, all who seem to be pretty mad to be brought back from the dead.
Dino Crisis brings enough of its own unique elements to the table to distinguish it beyond just a Resident Evil with dinos. Plus, being one of the only dinosaur-themed survival horror games, it’s an experiment worth appreciating by fans of the classic style of that genre, especially on the PS1.
Dino Crisis feels like the start of a series that never quite happened, despite a couple of brief but futile attempts. Maybe one day, we’ll see Capcom revitalize the series, as there’s definitely some untapped potential here. (Maxwell N)
99 – ISS Pro Evolution
Time may have been unkind to Konami’s football franchise as its struggles under the financial might of EA and its loyal fanbase of official license-lovers, but in 1999 ISS Pro Evolution was the football game. A precursor to modern-day Pro Evolution Soccer, ISS Pro Evolution was the iteration to garner the moniker of ‘the thinking man’s football game’ that still rings true amongst the community for subsequent releases to this day.
The game boasted a number of important additions from all its predecessors too – most notably the inclusion of club teams. There weren’t very many to choose from at this early stage, and they represented the double-edged sword of only being playable in the new Master League mode. A limiting caveat to two staples of the PES universe that remain as limited as they are essential even in 2018.
It wasn’t just new modes and teams that made ISS Pro Evo so special, though, and with football games, it’s never enough to do all the proverbial talking off the pitch. The game was buttery smooth to play thanks to a host of new animations, and it was practically football in fast-forward compared to the meandering FIFA. Perhaps more significantly, at least in nostalgic terms, was the debut of the era’s latest edition into the footballing zeitgeist – the still-iconic free kick technique of Roberto Carlos that made playing as Brazil essential.
Having dropped jaws during the summer’s pre-World Cup warm up competition, the lary stance, Fred Flinstone runup, and thunderous with-the-laces drive was the poster child for the game’s marketing. Headlining commercials and plastered all over the back of the box, it’s the element the game that lingers longest in the memory. It’s the little things that count, eh? (Alex Aldridge)
98 – Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves
The Sly trilogy was a remarkable achievement of its time. It took the 3D mascot-platformer, which dominated the early 2000’s, and added a unique edge by adding in the mechanics of a stealth game. Sly 2: Band of Thieves is arguably the best game in the series, but Honour Among Thieves was still ahead of its time. It took the mechanics and open world sandboxes of the second game, and added a cast of new playable characters. Sly 3 was about bringing a team together. By finding a new family, you came ever closer to the family you lost.
If Pokemon is baby’s first RPG, then Sly 3: Honour Among Thieves is baby’s first stealth game. You’ll try out the costumes/disguises you’d find in Hitman, the stalking and pickpocketing of Assassin’s Creed, the rooftop scrambling and love for the shadows that you’d need in Thief, and the abundance of gadgets and options popularized by the Dishonored series. Sly 3 is the reason I love stealth games, and if it wasn’t for Sony and Sucker Punch, many more kids would have grown up without love for this genre too. (Chris Bowring)
97 – Detroit: Become Human
When Quantic Dreams’ breakthrough title Heavy Rain hit stores back in 2010, “interactive drama” – as they loved to call it – was a bit of a niche within the gaming industry. But in the years since then, the genre has seen more success stories, from The Walking Dead to Life Is Strange, while Quantic Dreams’ own follow up to Heavy Rain – Beyond Two Souls – disappointed. Everyone else, it seems, was doing “interactive drama” a little better.
Detroit: Become Human is Quantic Dream doing what Quantic Dream does best – and worst – and it goes some way to righting their ship. Love them or hate them, nobody makes games quite like Quantic Dream. It’s a beautiful game – no other narrative focused adventure game on the market can compare – but it’s a little janky to play. It’s got an interesting premise but it’s nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. It presents itself as high art but it’s a B-Movie at heart. And if you can live with all of that then you’ll likely have a good time.
Set in the near future in the titular Detroit, androids are a part of everyday life – working as cheap labor, butlers, and maids, and doing the dangerous jobs no human would want to do. Predictably, the androids become self-aware, and the humans are really surprised because apparently none of them have ever seen any of the countless movies and TV shows that have taught us that machines always, always turn on their masters.
Cue some heavy-handed allegories and allusions to social justice – seriously, the robots have to stand at the back of the bus – and a story that never quite manages live up to the potential of the premise, but one featuring surprisingly strong writing and performances, and some genuinely affecting scenes. (John Cal McCormick)
96 – Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil
Released in 2001, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil refined the art of 2.5-dimensional platforming that the developers of the original game, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, strived for. Levels form complex interconnecting and twisting paths that allow the player to interact with the foreground and background long before Donkey Kong Country Returns incorporated the idea. It is a perfect example of how a few simple mechanics can be effectively established and elaborated on over the course of a (relatively short) game without ever becoming tiresome.
The story takes place in the dream world of Lunatea, where the holy bells of the four kingdoms are threatened by the rising chaos from a newly-forming bell. Our protagonist, Klonoa, and his friends must travel to each kingdom and purge the four bells of the evil that has overtaken them to restore order to the world. From the map, the player travels to new levels and occasionally revisits old ones that are dramatically changed as the game progresses. New areas have their own distinct visual style and themes, gradually incorporating new monsters and gameplay mechanics to keep things from getting stale.
Apart from the standard running and jumping controls, Klonoa can use his “Wind-Bullet” power to grab enemies, items, and parts of the environment to traverse the terrain. While holding certain enemies, the player can throw them to the ground to give Klonoa an extra jump or use them as a projectile, to be hurled at enemies or switches. Early sections of the game are fairly easy, but later bosses and areas such as Ishra’s Ark and the Maze of Memories feature punishing fights and more complex puzzles. What really makes this game so memorable is not is not just its excellent gameplay, but the sense of wonder and imagination it inspires in players. The imaginative world, amazing music, and feeling of adventure come together to make Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil the best 2D platformer on the PlayStation 2 and also one of the most unique experiences in gaming. (Matt Bruzzano)
95 – Heavy Rain
Sony’s internal and external partners have always prioritized expanding the audience for games. Whether it was the relative openness of the PSX’s CD format or the recent focus on downloadable indie games, PlayStation is a brand that reaches in every direction to release games for more and different kinds of gamers.
It is easy to see why, then, Sony might sign with developers like Quantic Dream, whose output may not reach the critical and audience success of Uncharted, Killzone and Infamous, but nevertheless display a bravery and distinctiveness that goes far beyond quality.
Heavy Rain, the studio’s first PS3 title, came a few months after the release of Uncharted 2, and only weeks before the spring of God of War III, yet still managed to hold its own. Highly detailed characters and a focus on situations that usually have no place in video games brought a level of warmth and drama to what was basically an interactive thriller movie.
Although the “French-actors-trying-to-sound-American” voices and ropey facial animations don’t hold up as well as they did back in 2010, Heavy Rain pushed the boundaries of what the interactive medium has to offer and arguably laid the groundwork for today’s so-called “walking simulators” like Gone Home and Firewatch.
The game’s focus on aspects of life other than shooting and fighting (while still being a suspenseful thriller) is a refreshing change of pace from other blockbuster stories. Finally, like other media, Heavy Rain and its spiritual kin Indigo Prophecy have shown that scenes of pain and loss or heart-pounding action can have all the more impact when contrasted with the mundane.
The next time in a game that I have to wash the dishes or hold a button to hold my breath, I’ll definitely think of Heavy Rain. (Mitchell Akhurst)
94 – Wipeout
Wipeout is a game that can sometimes be overlooked and not usually considered as distinguished or renowned as some other PlayStation racing titles such as Gran Turismo, Crash Team Racing and Driver, but there is no doubt that it has had a significant influence on the racing game genre as a whole.
Released in 1995, Wipeout, or wipE’out as it was styled, was one of the launch titles for the PlayStation in Europe. Developed by Liverpool based company Psygnosis, Wipeout received critical acclaim upon release. The game is set in the year 2052 and the player can race around seven different tracks based in countries around the world. The futuristic themes, contemporary techno music and general innovation of the game were all praised. You can tell that the team behind the artistic design drew upon other forms of media with futuristic themes, such as Blade Runner and Star Wars. The hovercrafts that you race in would always personally remind me of X-Wings. The future has and will probably always be a popular topic for all forms of media and Wipeout was the first game to try its hand at implementing a sci-fi future theme within the mechanics of a racing simulator.
As well as an electronic musical score, the game featured songs from recognized acts such as The Chemical Brothers and Orbital. The music draws the player into the futuristic setting and makes the game a more enjoyable experience. This emphasis on music as a key component of a video game was something that would be included more and more in games as time went on, and I think Wipeout played a considerable part in establishing that.
Wipeout wasn’t without its faults. The physics of the game were criticized and it was a particularly difficult game to master as you would crash immediately if you even touched the side of the track. However, these were all faults that were worked on for the sequels and it didn’t make Wipeout any less enjoyable. As well as multiple sequels, Wipeout was brought to the PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 and had a Nintendo 64 version. I think that this popularity and the influence it has had on futuristic games and music in gaming make Wipeout a pretty important game and one of the better ones that the PlayStation 1 gave us. (Antonia Haynes)
93- 3D Dot Game Heroes
It could, and probably should, be argued that 3D Dot Game Heroes is one of the PlayStation 3’s most underappreciated titles. An interesting thing to say when you consider the fact that it’s a complete rip off, doesn’t do anything new and looks and plays like a Super Nintendo game farted into a 3D space against its will. With that said, this entirely derivative package somehow manages to create a cohesive whole that far outweighs the sum of its parts.
3D Dot Game Heroes is at its core a classic Super Nintendo adventure game, with so many nods to the Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that many might consider it a shameless rehash of this classic Nintendo title, however this would be selling the game far short of what it has to offer. Yes, the game is laid out very much like a Link to the Past clone and, yes, the core of the game is essentially the same, but its wrapped up in such a beautiful package that players are forced to sit up and take notice of this wonderful world.
The first thing that will strike player is its sheer beauty, especially considering the game was released all the way back in 2009. The water effects are quite frankly astounding for a game of that age and the world is built out of tiny blocks and given a saturated tint to the point that everything looks like a sort of diorama that can be explored and broken apart. When players kill enemies, they are smashed into their tiny, blocky component parts and the weapon variety on offer is a great twist on this well-established genre. Each sword has a secondary attack that allows players to attack vast swathes of the land in front of them. It’s a fun and engaging way to interact with enemies and a welcome surprise in a game world that feels so comfortingly familiar.
And that’s just it. This game doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does do is create an environment that many will find warm and familiar whilst also new and enticing in a way that will make players want to explore. It’s a love letter to what might arguably be Nintendo’s crowning achievement on a console that sorely lacks classic adventure games. If you are a player that fell in love with Zelda as a child, then you should definitely pick this up. If somehow you didn’t or are too young to remember A Link to the Past, this is a great way to recapture the feel and flavor of this game for yourself without digging up a Super Nintendo. (David Smile)
92 – Twisted Metal Black
The formula of the Twisted Metal series was never an issue, but the age it was showing by the 4th entry was an easily definable problem in the vein of too much, too soon. The series had boasted 4 titles over the course of 5 years and had quickly begun to grow stale in its lack of innovation.
Enter Twisted Metal Black. In a lot of ways Black just feels like the natural progression of the series but in a few other notable ways it comes across as more of an evolution. Take for instance the openness of the level design here, and how it allows for a more frenetic and dangerous feeling to the combat. The main takeaway from playing Twisted Metal Black for the first time is how much more quickly you can find yourself going from the offensive on the defensive in a hurry, due to the increased balance of the gameplay structure.
However, the biggest change that Black brought to the table was in the form of its narrative. Whereas previous Twisted Metals had showcased a structure more akin to fighting game campaigns, Black gave players a bit more to go on, fleshing out its characters and their goals more fluidly. Prior to the YouTube age, this was an important addition, as it gave players a reason to come back to the campaign again and again.
Today you’d be hard-pressed to convince a gamer to come back for a dozen or so replays of the same campaign, but back in 2001, it was an important part of the success of a game like Twisted Metal Black. (Mike Worby)
91 – Odin Sphere
A strong contender for “best game that nobody has played,” Vanillaware’s 2007 PlayStation 2 swan song, Odin Sphere, is one of the most unique games ever created. Combining typical Action RPG aspects with beat ’em up style gameplay, complex farming, cooking, alchemy systems, and a story that is nearly on the scale of A Song of Ice and Fire, Odin Sphere is a master class in every aspect of game design.
To spectators and newcomers alike, the outrageously gorgeous visuals are initially the most recognizable aspect of the game. Prior to the company’s use of hand drawn graphics in games such as Muramasa: The Demon Blade and Dragon’s Crown, Vanillaware perfected their anime-inspired two-dimensional pixel design here, creating a unique aesthetic that easily rivaled any triple-A release of the time. However, this game is much more than just a pretty face, featuring gameplay that works in tandem with its story. The game is framed as five storybooks that are being read by a child in her attic, plus two extra books unlocked upon beating the correct levels in a certain order to see the “true” ending. Every book follows one of the five main characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, over the course of the various wars in the land of Erion.
Gameplay is comprised of 2D beat ‘em up style action on continuous circular levels with multiple exits, offering various branching paths through levels that culminate in incredibly designed, screen encompassing bosses such as the Dragon Kin Wagner, and the titular Demon Lord Odin. Fallen enemies drop energy called “Phozons,” which acts as a form of experience points for one of the games two progression systems. These can be used to upgrade the characters’ main weapons, attacks, and spells, while food is used as “HP experience”, boosting characters’ maximum health.
Additionally, the complex cooking and alchemy systems warrant entire guides to themselves, allowing players to learn various combinations of items in order to craft potions and meals that can strengthen their characters. Although the impressive visuals of the original game can often result in framerate dips and slow down during the more hectic battles, this small caveat doesn’t deter Odin Sphere from reaching the lofty goals it sets for itself. Luckily, an HD remake – Leifthrasir – released internationally in 2016, allowing fans and newcomers alike to experience Vanillaware’s original project with better performance and extra content, and making it the definitive version of the game. (Matt Bruzzano)
90 – Suikoden III
As a direct follow-up to its processor, Suikoden III did a fine job of shifting the series from its 2D roots into the 3D world. While the game did little in terms revolutionizing the genre, it’s solid all around, feeling and acting like many JRPGs of the era, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. After getting over the initial hump presented by the new graphical style, series veterans should feel right at home, as the Rune system and the 108 Stars of Destiny make their successful returns.
Both PS1 era Suikoden games were praised for their originality when it came to how they presented their narrative, and the series’ first venture on the PS2 was again successful in mesmerizing its audience via its storytelling. Rather than focusing on the story of a singular individual, with Suikoden III Konami crafted what they called a “Trinity Sight System”, which has the player following three different viewpoints from three very different individuals. Instead of having a silent protagonist like its predecessors, Suikoden III’s main characters each have a voice and distinct personality all their own. Each of the game’s protagonists hail from different factions with differing ideals and issues; the game avoids the traditional set up of having a clear cut antagonist, instead, leaving much up to the player’s own personal interpretation of “good” and “evil”.
Any RPG enthusiast looking for a mechanically sound game which also features a mature story that circumvents the standard operating procedure of “hero saves world from ominous evil threat” should certainly check out Suikoden III. (Matt De Azevedo)
89 – Twisted Metal 2: World Tour
The idea behind Twisted Metal was always a stroke of genius: take the happy go lucky car combat of Super Mario Kart and amp it up for the edgier PSX. Despite the cleverness of the premise, though, the first game was a little wonky in its design, and it wasn’t until the sequel arrived that Twisted Metal really hit its stride.
Introducing new characters, more diverse levels, and ton of new ways to leave each other in a pile of steaming, smoking wreckage, Twisted Metal II: World Tour was an endlessly replayable romp that urged you to come back, again and again, to see how Calypso would screw over the next set of contestants with his Wishmaster-esque hijinks.
A classic for the decidedly fringe genre of car combat, Twisted Metal 2: World Tour is neck in neck with Black as the best game in the series. (Mike Worby)
88 – Jak II
With an increased focus on story, one that would come to define Naughty Dog with its Uncharted series, later on, Jak II manages to keep its adventure-platforming spirit while at the same time pivoting away from the collect-a-thons that had defined the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 era.
Despite the smaller number of collectibles and the addition of a gun, the actual mechanics aren’t as far from Jak and Daxter as you might be led to believe. Even with new mini-games and tougher bosses, there’s still plenty of hopping around, swinging on monkey bars and dodging spinning things – it just takes place in a city rather than the original’s Banjo-Kazooie-inspired playgrounds.
One controversial part of Jak II is its notorious difficulty – coming in-between the invention of the auto-save and the more forgiving checkpoints of more modern games. The actual platforming is still fun as a test of dexterity, but since one wrong move sends the player all the way back to the start of the level, it’s clear that Naughty Dog were still several games away from mainstream success.
The other controversial aspect of Jak II is the change in direction of its story. Immediately more serious, including a scarier cadre of villains and a more complex plot, Jak II has drawn flak as an example of the grimdark aesthetic that dominated the late nineties and early noughties. However, anyone who plays the game will discover this reputation is greatly exaggerated.
The game is actually just as creative and funny – if not more so – than the first Jak and Daxter. Moving away from the straight-up cartoon silliness of the first, Jak II takes a more Star Wars or Blade Runner approach: with colorful neon streets, a population oppressed by Stormtroopers (I’m sorry, Krimzon Guard), and far-flung, exotic locations. Yes, the game is thematically darker – it does begin with the happy-go-lucky hero of the first game being tortured by Baron Praxis – but it is no more unsuitable for kids than the Sonic Saturday morning cartoon, or even Star Wars itself.
It may be outshone by its more popular predecessor, but Jak II has plenty to offer those who give it a chance. (Mitchell Akhurst)
87 – Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
The Danganronpa games are awash with despair. Each and every facet oozes despair. The antagonist’s goal is to inflict despair. Upon booting up any Danganronpa title, you’ll experience despair too. Fortunately, though, it’s a morbidly pleasant despair, like being informed your limbs have rotted away, but on the bright side, you’re now eligible for the ‘replacing your rancid limbs with tentacles’ body augmentation experiment you’ve always wanted.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, like its predecessor and sequel, features a misfit cast that’s trapped in antagonist Monokuma’s death game. Slowly but surely, murderous intent seeps into the minds of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair’s characters, and corpses start appearing. An investigation and class trial follows each killing, where the culprit is flushed out via a handful of mini-games.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair boasts the strongest cast of the trilogy, alongside the greatest locale (a tropical paradise of different themed islands). The gameplay is nothing special, but the zinger is an all-enveloping evil drenching every inch of atmosphere. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is horror without being horror. The emotional investment one establishes with the lovable characters is relentlessly exploited through Monokuma’s game of death (your feelings will be shot to bits following Chapter 3). The murder methods are outrageously creative at times, with a highlight being Chapter 4’s Grape and Strawberry house mystery. On top of all this, the juxtaposition between Monami’s peace-seeking personality and Monokuma’s sheer villainy is to die for. (Harry Morris)
86 – Crash Bandicoot
The gaming scene of today is virtually overflowing with games that rely on complex and intricate mechanisms in order to make themselves stand out from the competition. New improvements to the engines of games are always being made, and we’re all stoked to see what brand new innovations will grace the games of the future.
However, sometimes you get a little tired of all the cutting edge graphics, the intricate storytelling that relies on an abundance of plot twists and deceit, and the perplexing gameplay itself. Sometimes simplicity can be more than enough to make a game worth playing, as proven through the release of Crash Bandicoot.
Crash Bandicoot is delicately charming when it comes to pretty much every aspect of the game. It’s based on simplicity in its purest form – all you need to know is that you use the D-pad to move around, the X button makes you jump, and finally, the circle button makes you attack. That is all the controls in the game whatsoever. The only objective of the game is to move from the start of the level to the end of the level, abolishing enemies and wreaking havoc as you make your way across the delightfully exotic worlds, animated in the finest quality the original PlayStation had to offer. As you move through the levels, you break boxes, kill turtles and other colorful animals who mean you harm, and collect apples as a system of points.
It’s a joyfully simple concept, and it makes for an amazing experience. This recipe of simplicity managed to propel Crash Bandicoot into the limelight, making it one of the bestselling games on the entire system, and Crash Bandicoot was rendered a mascot-like figure for Sony, reigning uncontested through the late 90’s. The franchise eventually spawned sequels, and games like Crash Team Racing and Crash Bash, all as a result of this wonderful first installment. (Johnny Pedersen)
85 – Crash Team Racing
I can’t recall which title I played first: the original Crash Bandicoot or Crash Team Racing, as I had an enormous stack of demo discs from the original PlayStation magazine, and I frequently cycled through them to find the best games. The disc with Crash Team Racing wore out. Go-kart racing is one of the most unexpected genres to emerge from the days of the Super Nintendo, and it’s one that fizzled relatively quickly (except for Mario Kart, obv.) Bringing that delicious go-kart love to the PlayStation console in late 1999 was the beloved Crash Bandicoot, after three enormously successful platformers.
Being the final Crash Bandicoot developed by Naughty Dog, Crash Team Racing was the perfect end to their Crash development – the title made for some chaotic fun and featured intense multiplayer. Spending an afternoon cussing at my cousin on any of the variety of courses was a time well-remembered. Bonding, even. Crash Team Racing drives dangerously close to mimicking kart racers that came before – Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing – though it differs in one area that, unsurprisingly, really matters: Crash Team Racing felt faster than the aforementioned racers. Speeding through the giant tunnels of the sewer level was both gross and exhilarating and would test your twitch response time.
Simply put, Crash Team Racing was one of the best racers to be released for the original PlayStation, an incredible four-player party game, and, to some, better than the competing kart racers of the day. One day, I hope to revisit those tracks with my daughter. (Tyler Sawyer)
84 – LittleBigPlanet
Play. Create. Share. The mantra behind Media Molecule’s inaugural PlayStation 3 exclusive, LittleBigPlanet, remains representative of one of the most innovative and endearing experiences of the past console generation. Released early in the system’s life cycle, this unique platformer with an emphasis on user-generated-content paved the way for games such as Super Mario Maker and ModNation Racers. Gameplay is kept simple and intuitive, featuring typical platforming mechanics with the addition of the ability to grab certain materials with the R1 button and switch between three planes of depth by pressing up or down on the joystick.
The campaign, entirely comprised of levels made within the game’s “Create” mode, takes up to four players around the world on an exciting adventure to retrieve the stolen creations of the world’s “Curators” from an evil Curator called “the Collector.” Along the way, players will solve puzzles, fight bosses, and most importantly, unlock materials to use in the game’s extensive level editor. Tutorials narrated by the legendary Stephen Fry guide newcomers through the basics of customization and, while LittleBigPlanet boasts some of the most complex editing tools in gaming, it is very accessible. Upon completion, players can upload their creations to the internet to be played and rated by the world.
Since the game’s release, the community has made everything from fully functional calculators to reimagined games and movies, and by filtering levels by rating, name or popularity, Media Molecule showcases the cream of the crop. Tied together by a diverse soundtrack and amazing art direction, LittleBigPlanet has become an iconic Sony exclusive, prompting the game’s protagonist, Sackboy, to appear in both television commercials and Sony’s crossover fighting game PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. While the jumping and plane switching systems can be unwieldy at times, these shortcomings can be forgiven for the sheer amount of imaginative content that the community has cultivated. (Matt Bruzzano)
83 – The Last Guardian
Team Ico’s PlayStation exclusive trilogy, will go down in history as some of the greatest works of art Japan has provided this industry. The often forgotten cult classic Ico, the groundbreaking PlayStation 2 masterpiece Shadow of the Colossus, and the long in development final chapter, The Last Guardian. The Last Guardian is perhaps the most curious of the three. Originally slated to be a PlayStation 3 exclusive, it instead endured over 10 years of development hell before finally, and quietly, releasing onto the PlayStation 4.
It didn’t make as great a thud among the masses, as Shadow of the Colossus once did, but for those who played it, it was just as magical. There is a certain charm and whimsy which so few developers seem able to craft. Like a Studio Ghibli film, there is a wholesomeness to The Last Guardian. A mysterious boy and a mysterious creature. They are intertwined by fate, relying on each other to escape the cavernous depths they’ve both become lost in.
You play as the young boy, unable to fight or traverse many of the obstacles ahead. It is only by forming a bond with the creature dubbed Trico, that you can solve the world’s many puzzles. That is The Last Guardian at its core, a puzzle game. However, it is a puzzle game with so much grandeur, so much love, and so much meaning. Some found Trico and his at times erratic behavior cumbersome and annoying, I found the realism of trying to work with a wild animal, simply magical.
There is no other game like The Last Guardian, not just only a Sony platform, but on any platform. That is why it deserves a spot on this list. (Chris Bowring)
82 – PaRappa the Rapper
PaRappa is a paper thin cartoon dog living in a three-dimensional world and he’s in love with a sunflower named Sunny Funny. Also vying for the affections of Ms. Funny is Joe Chin: an obnoxious, charismatic, and egotistical dog with a massive chin. How can PaRappa show Sunny that he’s the right dog for her? Spoilers: it involves a rap battle with moose driving instructor and a kung fu master with an onion for a head.
PaRappa the Rapper is a hell of a lot of fun, and while it was short (it could be completed in one sitting in less than an hour) it was massively influential. It might seem ridiculous to consider today, but when PaRappa the Rapper was released there were no mainstream rhythm games on the market. The success of PaRappa opened the gates for the likes of Amplitude, Guitar Hero, and Rock Band, with the latter two games going on to spawn numerous sequels and make millions of dollars. Rock Band never had a level where five people in a queue for the toilet have a rap battle to decide who gets to get in the cubicle next, though, did it? (John Cal McCormick)
81 – Metal Gear Solid IV: Guns of Patriots
After the utterly bonkers final third of Metal Gear Solid 2, and Metal Gear Solid 3 providing no answers for the questions left posed at the end of that game, fans had waited a long time for closure on the mysteries of the Metal Gear Solid series. Hideo Kojima went out of his way to try and please them, packing Guns of the Patriots with solutions to practically every unanswered question left hanging in the Metal Gear series, even the ones we didn’t know had been asked. This was a double-edged sword; while the game was a love letter to long-standing fans of the series, it made the game absolutely incomprehensible to people giving the franchise a go for the first time.
Solid Snake, now suffering from accelerated aging thanks to being a clone of the world’s greatest soldier, Big Boss, comes out of retirement for one last job to take down the spirit of his nemesis twin brother, Liquid Snake, who is possessing his other nemesis, Revolver Ocelot. If all that makes no sense to you then you probably need to play the other games in the series before taking this one on, but if reading it made you grin, then the allure of the baffling and brilliant Metal Gear Solid series is obviously within you. Guns of the Patriots might be ridiculous, melodramatic, overblown and bewildering, but it’s also a marvelous send off for one the greatest PlayStation heroes of all time and a dense, rewarding final chapter for longtime fans of the series. (John Cal McCormick)
‘Disco Elysium’: A Thought-Provoking Mystery
For the most part, the majority of games are easy to classify, but from time to time a game is released that defies conventional rules and resists simple categorization. Disco Elysium is just such a game. On the surface of it, it’s a topdown, isometric RPG of the oldest of old schools. It draws upon long-established systems, structures, and mechanics that make it comfortably familiar. However, beneath that patina of tradition lies something completely unexpected and utterly unique.
Developed by the small, independent studio ZA/UM, with a story penned by Estonian novelist, Robert Kurvitz, and a painstakingly detailed world crafted by artist Aleksander Rostov, Disco Elysium stands apart from most RPGs in that it is startlingly realistic whilst simultaneously being grimly fantastical. Set on an isolated archipelago in the wake of a failed communist revolution, the game casts players as a detective sent to solve the murder of a man found hanging in the backyard of a rundown boarding house/cafe. It’s a simple setup made all the more complex by the fact that the player character is suffering from a severe bout of alcohol and drug-induced amnesia. The mystery that needs to be solved concerns piecing together exactly who the player character is, as much as it involves reconstructing the chain of events that resulted in a brutal death.
Arriving at conclusions to both conundrums requires navigating complex webs of social and political intrigue. Along the way, players will encounter union bosses, disgruntled workers, war veterans, and all manner of extraordinary and mundane citizens just trying to go about their daily lives in a place that seems designed to thwart their ambitions at every turn. More than that though, players will be required to engage in continuous internal dialogues that involve the protagonist gradually putting themselves back together. The result is character customization in a quite literal sense of the word. Rather than the standard array of physical options that most games of this type present players with, the options are entirely psychological. Player actions and choices determine the overall structure of the internal workings of their character. Whether they decide to be a high-minded idealist trying to better themselves and the world around them in whatever way they can or opt to descend into anarchic, hedonistic self-obliteration such choices determine exactly who and what their version of the character is.
The foundation of stats and skills that are usually inert background components that all RPGs are based on is firmly in place. However, rather than being a numerical bedrock upon which all gameplay is based, Disco Elysium takes those sets of modifiers and statistics and makes them an active part of character progression and world development. As you progress through the game, skills points can be used for a variety of purposes. They can be used to upgrade core character stats, of which there a total of twenty-four covering a whole range of mental, physical, and social attributes, that govern player’s ability to immediately interact with the game world. However, they can also be used to learn or forget particular thoughts These thoughts develop depending on how players decide to approach situations and solve problems and can unlock semi-permanent bonuses and even penalties.
Much as in reality, the things the character is capable of are largely dependent on their frame of mind. If players opt to make a character that is brash and uncouth then they will find it difficult to subtly manipulate interactions to their benefit or arrive at unobtrusive solutions to various situations. On the other hand, if they elect to play a character that is more thoughtful and introspective, or cunning rather than crass, then they will find it difficult to emerge unscathed from more physical challenges. It’s an interpretation of character development and player progress that feels much more organic than in any other game of this sort. This is probably where Disco Elysium does the most to stand out from other such titles. Such a flexible approach to progress is hopefully something that other companies will emulate going forward, as it allows the character to develop a true personality that goes a step beyond the mathematically-oriented, incremental statistical increases that are usually the norm.
The ways in which player action, character interaction, and game reaction combine together is probably the closest it is possible to get to a truly curated dungeon master-guided play experience in an RPG. There is such a wide and unpredictable variety of moment-to-moment options that players can never be certain what exactly is going to happen next. This sense of improvisational unpredictability is a quintessential element of any RPG, but it is often lost in translation from tabletop rules to computer game mechanics. This pitfall is avoided thanks to the fact that the world of Disco Elysium was conceptualized as a tabletop game but doesn’t actually exist as one yet. As such the developers were able to implement systems without the expectation of adhering to pre-existing mechanics. This expectation has often been the downfall of many such games in the past, such as the much-maligned Sword Coast Legends which was lambasted for its apparent butchery of the 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons ruleset. It will be interesting to see if Larian Studios can avoid similar problems with Baldur’s Gate 3.
As intriguing and unconventional as Disco Elysium is, and no matter how deserving it is of the accolades it won at 2019’s Game Awards, it’s hard to recommend it as something to play if you’re looking for fun. It’s relentlessly grim even when it’s trying to be funny, and its stream of consciousness style makes even the most basic of interactions a minefield of potential disturbing possibilities. With its biting combination of continental existentialist ennui, pseudo-Lovecraftian undercurrents, and socio-political critique it isn’t a game that you play for the sheer joy of it, but rather for the esoteric and unusual experience that it offers. That being said, in a market that’s full to bursting point with crowd-pleasing blockbusters and oftentimes strictly by-the-book sequels or carbon copy titles, it can be incredibly rewarding to delve into a game as intricate and nuanced as Disco Elysium.
Interview with John Staats, First-Level Designer for ‘World of Warcraft’
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with John Staats, first-level designer for the launch version of World of Warcraft.
The first iteration of World of Warcraft, often called “Vanilla WoW,” has a strong pull of nostalgia for many fans. From inspiring countless other MMOs, to imbuing an entire generation of players with memories that they will never forget, to inspiring Blizzard to re-release it earlier this year, Vanilla’s footprint is undeniable.
Recently, I had the chance to talk to John Staats, a first-level designer on World of Warcraft‘s initial launch, to discuss his recent book, The Wow Diary: A Journal of Computer Game Development, which chronicles his own personal experience with developing WoW‘s initial release.
In a lot of ways, The WoW Diary reminds me of Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier. Both books address the challenges of game development, including the incredible amount of hours that game developers work and the dreaded “crunch” when a project has to be delivered on time. Your section on how your colleagues described their work on StarCraft was particularly interesting. What do you think is the public’s biggest misconception about how developers work?
The biggest misconception is how expensive developers are! Most publishers and studio heads are always portrayed as the bad guys, but the truth is there’s so much risk in game development, it’s just insane. If a company is upfront about long hours, then I see no problem with longer hours to some point. Unfortunately, the law isn’t so flexible. After WoW shipped, we dropped to capped 40-hour weeks (mandatory) and it sucked. Everything was so schedule-conscious that we stopped experimenting.
Studios are all different. Some people asked if unions were the answer, and they might help in some cases, but they would make other situations worse. There would certainly be fewer games out there without crunches. I dunno. I’m from Akron, Ohio. I’m just happy to have worked in the entertainment industry!
As a developer, even at somewhere like Blizzard, fan feedback seems like it’s able to affect team morale. In the book, you mention a few cases of this. What was it like to work under the pressure of fan expectations?
World of Warcraft feedback wasn’t nearly as bad as Warcraft III, because the company was too quick to promote their first 3D title. Making a 3D game has such a sharp, painful learning curve that engine re-writes caused long delays. The fans were unfamiliar with the long waits associated in making 3D games, so they were especially angry.
The class designers definitely had it bad on World of Warcraft. People never post when they’re happy, the forums are usually very negative. And there’s strange “voodoo” where people report glitches or errors that aren’t really there. There’s a LOT of voodoo reports that designers need to verify, and that eats up their schedule.
Kevin Jordan once joked that he was going to claim to be a character artist at the launch party signing table, just to avoid being drawn into discussions about rogues versus shaman duels. For the most part, WoW was so much better looking, better playing, better running than the competition, we had it easy. Still, we put pressure on ourselves: for the most part, the fans were pretty cool.
You state in the book that you got your start in modding computer games on the PC. Did you have any prior experience with other game systems, or was your only experience with the PC?
PC only. I was actually a Macintosh user exclusively because I was in advertising in NYC. I bought my first PC in the mid-1990s. As a Mac person, there weren’t many games available (thank you, Steve Jobs), so I only played a few titles on my roommate’s machines. They always had to kick me off whenever they came home. When I got my own, I relentlessly played FPS and strategy games.
One of the more interesting comments that you make in the book, and one that I was curious about while reading, was the following: “Writing stories is so easy it seems nearly half the people in the industry want to do it[…] it’s unreasonable to expect players to follow a storyline, detailed or subtle.” Do you think games are ever capable of delivering complex and subtle stories, or is it beyond the medium’s scope?
I honestly doubt stories will become more subtle for most genres. Most games pull the player’s attention to non-story elements like socialization, user interface, goals, and combat tactics. Looking for things is rarely fun. It’s just too hard to expect the average player to follow nuanced stories… and you never want to risk players becoming confused with your plot.
You use the phrase “computer games” throughout the book instead of the more commonly used “games.” Was there a semantic reason for this?
Ranchers and farmers are in the agricultural industry, they have a completely different set of concerns.
There’s a huge difference in developing computer games versus console games. It’s so much easier to make games for a console. They’re far more predictable, and optimized for specific types of games. Developers are influenced by all kinds of games; pen-and-paper RPGs, tabletop board games, card games, handheld devices… and all of them are very different to produce. I didn’t want to lump everything into the “games industry.”
You mention early on that you’ve suffered “a neurological problem in [your] hands that hinders [you] from using a computer for significant lengths of time.” Given the increasingly interconnected nature of modern society and how much time you spent on computers during your career in the games industry, how hard was it to adjust?
I played FPS games before I became a level designer. I played up to 14-16 hours a day when I had the time. That’s without stopping, BTW. I would eat leftovers between matches. I was nuts.
Blizzard and Nintendo have always seemed like analogous companies to the outside public. Both spend large amounts of time and money crafting games that have long-standing appeal and excellent quality. Both don’t worry about winning the public relations war and, instead, depend on the endemic quality of their games to do the talking for them. Did anyone ever make that comparison inside of Blizzard?
It was a very conscious effort to avoid distractions. There’s so much temptation for some people to jump into every conversation, there was a company-wide mandate to keep your mouth shut. We had Bill Roper for our spokesperson, and if the public thought he personally made all our games, that was fine with the developers (he wasn’t even a dev!). This lets every member of the company, as a whole, take credit for the collective products. Other industry developers will weigh in on every conversation, and journalists will seek out the same developers for opinions. On top of the risk of crossing wires with the company’s official opinion, so much exposure could create jealousy.
At one point in the book, you mention that an acquaintance of yours, Scott Hartin, had worked making console games in Japan and hated it. Was this a common complaint among those who had worked in Japan?
He’s the only person I know who’s worked there, and it was something he said in passing. I thought it such an interested idea, that different cultures tend to work in different ways. Who knows? Perhaps it might have just been the studio he was in, that made them work that way.
Ragnaros and the Molten Core raid have emerged as a large part of the lore surrounding the vanilla release of World of Warcraft. It’s also something that you mention receiving compliments from fans about. What part of Molten Core are you the most proud of?
I’m proud that we ninja’d it into the shipping game without the producers having it on our to-do list! It was a passion project Jeff Kaplan rallied people around. I’m glad he did. We were working on so many bugs after we shipped, there’s no telling how long it would have taken to update the live servers with a content update like MC.
As a historian, having an oral history of one of gaming’s largest and most influential games is an incredible resource. In the beginning of the book, you say that you struggled with compiling your development diary because, to a large degree, you were afraid of underrepresenting some of your hardest co-workers. In the end, why do you think more oral histories, such as your book, aren’t published?
I can absolutely tell you it’s because the author needs to take notes. I can’t do a sequel to The WoW Diary because I stopped taking notes after we shipped. There’s just no way, I’d get everything wrong, or release a bland, broad-strokes version of how things went down. That’s where my book stands out, the details make the story vivid.
Blizzard released WoW Classic back in August. What are your thoughts on it?
I’m surprised they did. No one has ever done something like this before. Redoing someone else’s work doesn’t sound like a fun project for developers, who are in nature, creative people. It just isn’t fun to walk in someone else’s footsteps. I’m also keenly interested to see how it plays out. Do they relaunch expansions? Does it affect the retail version? I honestly don’t know, but my popcorn is ready!
Blizzard has been criticized recently for their communication with players. How different does it feel when you are on the corporate side of that relationship?
No one is criticized when your games stink. LOL! Seriously though, complaints never stop, so it’s never a big deal. Whether it’s about lawsuits or controversy, Blizzard usually takes the high road, and disengages from distractions; it lets them focus on what they want to be known for… making good games. I’m glad to see they’re still doing this.
Final question. As something of a hardware nerd, I’ve got to ask, how did developers handle the rapidly progressing technology of the late 90s and early 2000s, when Moore’s Law was in full effect?
Blizzard games sell well because they target low-end systems. Most studios weren’t, and aren’t, smart enough to realize this. Most studios want to be the first kid on the block to have a shiny new feature. While the industry chased after expensive features that narrowed their audience to customers who had top-end computers, the savvy companies focused on the low-end machines. To answer your question, Blizzard avoided the Moore’s Law trap.
A big thank you to John Laats for agreeing to be interviewed and providing us with a review copy of his book. If you’re interesting in learning more about John Laats, his work, you can find him at his website.
Indie Games Spotlight – Looking Ahead to 2020
The year is coming to an end. The holidays are just around the corner. We’ve already published our list of the best indie games of 2019 and now it is time to start looking forward to 2020. In what is sure to be our last Indie Games Spotlight of 2019, we take a look at some of the indies set for release next year. This issue includes a student project that led to the creation of an indie studio; a story-rich and fully narrated puzzle game; and a comedic occult adventure game that takes place during World War II. All this and more!
Imagine, “if Limbo and Portal had a weird baby.”
Aspyr and Tunnel Vision Games announced that their long-awaited, award-winning puzzle game, Lightmatter, arrives on Steam on January 15, 2020.
Lightmatter is an atmospheric, first-person puzzle game set inside a mysterious experimental facility where the shadows will kill you. The game tells a sci-fi story about a maniac inventor who has created the ultimate power source called Lightmatter. Players must explore the facility in an attempt to discover the hidden plot while facing challenging puzzles that require mastering different light sources to survive.
Not only does the game look great but what’s even more impressive is that Lightmatter originally started out as a university project where a group of Medialogy students wanted to explore lights and shadows as the primary gameplay mechanic in a puzzle game. After creating a 15-minute prototype, the team offered it as a free download on Reddit. To their surprise, the game became an overnight success with thousands of downloads and multiple accolades from game conferences around the world. It didn’t take long before they created Tunnel Vision Games with the mission to take the light/shadow concept further and turn it into a fully-fledged game. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nine Witches: Family Disruption
Investigate the Occult
Nine Witches: Family Disruption is the comedic occult adventure game you’ve been waiting for. From Blowfish Studios and Indiesruption, the game takes place in a rustic Norwegian village on the fringe of World War II, where a supernatural scholar investigates the Nazi’s plan to conjure a dark ancient power and strike a devastating blow to the Allied powers. Players must investigate their plots by communing with a variety of eccentric characters from the realms of both the living and the dead. It’s your job to unravel a mystical mystery and put a stop to the Okkulte-SS’s evil schemes before it’s too late.
“Nine Witches: Family Disruption was born from my desire to blend world history with magic and my personal sense of humor,” said Diego Cánepa, designer, Indiesruption. “I’m grateful Blowfish Studios are using their powers to help me bring the game to consoles and PC so this story can be enjoyed by players across the world.” If you like indie games with beautiful, retro-inspired pixel art and a comical story dripping with gleefully absurd, dark humor, you’ll want to check this out. Nine Witches: Family Disruption summons supernatural hi-jinks to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam for Windows PC in Q2 2020.
Explore a mysterious ship.
Ahead of next year’s anticipated release of Filament, Kasedo Games & Beard Envy have revealed an exclusive look into the making of the upcoming puzzle game with the first in a series of short dev featurettes. Developed by three friends in the front room of their shared house, Filament is a story-rich and fully narrated puzzle game centered around solving sets of cable-based puzzles whilst exploring a seemingly abandoned spaceship. According to the press release, Filament lets you freely explore the mysterious ship, solving over 300 challenging and varied puzzles in (almost) any order you like.
If you’d like to learn more, we recommend checking out the short episode series which explains the complexity and variety of puzzles and offers an insight into how the game was made. Filament will release for PC and consoles next year.
West of the Dead
The Wild West has never been this dark.
Announced at X019 in London, West of Dead is a fast-paced twin-stick shooter developed by UK-based studio Upstream Arcade. The game stars Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy) as the voice of the main protagonist William Mason, a dead man awakened with only the memory of a figure in black. His existence sets into motion a chain of events that have truly mythic consequences.
Thrown into the unknown procedurally generated hunting grounds of Purgatory, your skills will be put to the test as you shoot and dodge your way through the grime and grit of the underworld. No one said dying would be easy and West of the Dead will surely test your skills. The battle for your soul will take place on Xbox One, Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC in 2020.
The Red Lantern
Survive the Alaskan wilderness in this dog sledding, story-driven, rogue-lite game
We first took notice of The Red Lantern during a Nintendo Direct earlier this year and ever since we’ve been impatiently awaiting its release. The Red Lantern is a resource management game where you and your team of five sled dogs must survive the wilderness and find your way home. Set in Nome, Alaska, you play as The Musher, voiced by Ashly Burch (Horizon: Zero Dawn, Life is Strange), as she sets out to train for the grueling Iditarod race.
The game combines rogue-lite elements into this story-driven adventure game, where hundreds of different events can occur—like fending off bears, resisting frostbite, attending your dogs, or receiving a signature moose-licking. This might be the first and last dog-sledding survival game we will ever play but that’s fine by us because judging by the screenshots and trailer, the game looks terrific. The Red Lantern is Timberline Studio’s debut game and is funded by Kowloon Nights. The game will be releasing on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in 2020.
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