The 60 Best Playstation Games
Ever since Sony entered the market as a dark horse during the console wars of the 90s, the PlayStation has always played by its own rules. Whether they were challenging Nintendo for mascot supremacy, making systems that stand for themselves, or battling their rivals in a format war, Sony has always had a plan.
They’ve co-opted the technology and ideas of their competitors and even blazed a few trails of their own. Love ’em for their fantastic original properties or hate ’em for their occasional bouts of cockiness, the PlayStation is once again the console to beat this generation, and the PS4 shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, even with the PS5 just over the horizon.
With that in mind, let’s get moving, and jump into the next round of our Sony celebration!
60 Best PlayStation Games of All Time
60 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Sixteen students are trapped in the best school in Japan. When they were accepted into Hope’s Peak Academy they thought that they were set for life – a qualification from the school almost certainly guarantees lucrative job offers upon leaving – but quickly they discover that there’s something sinister afoot. The students are forced into a deadly game by a hidden antagonist – the only way to leave the school is to murder one of the other students and get away with it. If the murderer can trick the other students into believing their innocence they’ll be released and the rest of kids will be killed, but if the students work out who did it, then the murderer will be executed and life will go on inside Hope’s Peak.
Danganronpa is part visual novel, part Phoenix Wright. Playing as one of the students within the academy, you must spend part of your time getting to know the other students and learning about their various quirks and traits, and then when a murder occurs, solve the crime to ensure the survival of the rest of the students. Featuring a colourful cast of characters, some fantastic villains, and an always engaging mystery story right up until the shocking finale, Danganronpa is an interactive page-turner that you won’t want to put down. (John Cal McCormick)
59 – Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne
Nocturne is the first original Shin Megami Tensei game to come to the PlayStation 2, and it set multiple precedents for all the games that came after it. Things like Persona’s “One More” system and even the graphical stylings of games like Catherine have Nocturne to thank for helping ATLUS transition so well from 2D to 3D.
Set in then modern-day Tokyo, the world in Nocturne is turned into a demonic hellscape following an event known as the Conception. You have to fight and negotiate your way through encounters with demons as a human granted unearthly power. Along the way, you encounter what few other humans survived the Conception, and help them recreate the world in the shape of their desires. There’s also plenty of side-quests, a second dungeon, and even a cameo from a certain Capcom demon hunter.
Shin Megami Tensei III is no slouch on the difficulty either. Not many games out there are bold enough to give you the chance to game over from random critical hits in tutorial encounters, but Nocturne makes you earn the right to step outside the first area of the game. There are plenty of places where the game shows its age. Often times the way around a difficult encounter is to simply grind, Nocturne has plenty of bosses that act as notorious gatekeepers for both unseasoned and experienced RPG players. Clues and directions on where to go can be cryptic, making it confusing to figure out which +50 floor tower you need to be navigating at the given time. Underneath it all, though, is one of the best RPG experiences of the early 2000s. (Taylor Smith)
58 – Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando
As a kid, I remember once going with my mom to the late, great Blockbuster Video to browse their selection of games and movies and walking out with Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando. Not knowing anything about what I later found out was a sequel – I was drawn to the funny looking cartoon fella with the huge gun, I guess – I chose the game among a sea of others, excited for how I was going to spend my Thanksgiving break. When I got home, I placed it on the disc tray and almost immediately fell in love with what came next.
Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando picks up where the Lombax left off in Insomniac’s smash hit Ratchet and Clank, where the lovable heroes defeated the dastardly Drek. In that time, they have become galactic celebrities, yet their fame only proves to court further trouble. For the first Ratchet and Clank title, Insomniac introduced gamers to a brilliant and vibrant universe full of monsters hellbent on destroying our small, hairy hero and his metallic sidekick. The little guys weren’t helpless, however, as they regularly found weapons and over-the-top armaments of abnormal size and firepower. It was an amazing platformer, and Going Commando improved on it in every way. It was funny, exciting, and fascinating all at once, and at any given moment.
After completing Going Commando a few days later, starry-eyed and sore from laughter, I begged Mom to take me back to Blockbuster to snag the original Ratchet and Clank. Been playing them ever since. (Tyler Sawyer)
57 – Yakuza 4
While the Yakuza franchise has been a staple of Japanese console gaming since it debuted on the PlayStation 2 in 2005, the series has struggled to find an international audience due to its foreign nature and strange gameplay. Conversely, it is this unique approach to an open world that ended up drawing players to the games, cultivating a small, but dedicated community that has clamored for faster localizations of newer entries.
Originally released on the PlayStation 3 in 2010, Yakuza 4 expanded on the games’ signature action-adventure style, beat-em-up combat, by introducing three new characters that the player followed, in addition to series mainstay, Kazuma Kiryu. Joined by the escaped criminal Taiga Saejima, crooked cop Masayoshi Tanimura and wisecracking loan shark Shun Akiyama, the player is returned to the fictional Tokyo red-light district of Kamurocho to fight their way through hordes of criminals in a crime drama of epic proportions.
While the press is quick to compare Yakuza games to the Grand Theft Auto series, they are only comparable in terms of theme and scope. Although both focus on the complex inner workings of criminal organizations, Yakuza 4 has a more self-aware and absurd tone with higher emphasis on melee combat. Combat occurs in the form of both random encounters with rival street thugs and narratively impactful showdowns between legendary fighters. Players must make use of surrounding items, acquired weapons that range from baseball bats to nun-chucks, and special “Heat” moves that can only be performed upon stringing together elaborate combos. Additionally, each character has their own play style, with Taiga controlling like a juggernaut, Shun emphasizing rapid kicks and Masayoshi requiring quick defenses.
Defeating enemies nets experience points that can be spent on characters individually, gradually turning their attacks into over-the-top move sets more akin to Dragon Ball Z than actual martial arts. Surrounding the base fighting gameplay is one of the most interactive and richly detailed settings in all of gaming, Kamurocho. Streets are lined with Hostess Clubs, Karaoke Bars, Casinos, Hot Springs and Massage parlors, highlighting the unique cultural facets of Japanese society. Yakuza 4 also adds explorable rooftop areas, back alleys and underground segments that give an already lively world even more depth, making up for the sub-par graphics with amazing art direction. Whether pummeling Yakuza bosses on top of skyscrapers, refilling health at a sushi restaurant or merely wandering the red-light district, a somewhat unreliable targeting system is more than worth working through to experience a criminal underground you have never seen before. (Matt Bruzzano)
56 – Demon’s Souls
If you pay even passing attention to the gaming world as a whole, you’ve probably heard of a little series called Dark Souls, even if you’ve never deigned to actually play it. That’s okay, it’s okay not to be a masochist. But for the rest of us, this is where it all started.
Demon’s Souls is an incredibly difficult (but also incredibly rewarding) action-RPG from…well From Software. With the scope the series has since reached with the Dark Souls trilogy and Bloodborne, a game like Demon’s Souls comes across as little more than a proof of concept at this point. Back in 2009 though, it shook the gaming world right up and down to its foundation.
The return of the old schoolyard days of chatting with friends to see how they got through a certain part or toppled a particular boss was back, and the revolutionary messaging system hammered this concept home even further, as gamers were allowed to help or mislead their fellow miserable souls with scrawled hints here and there. The summoning system, which allowed you to call in a friend for help, and the invasion system, which allowed more malicious gamers the chance to ruin your day, also made their debut here. In fact, almost everything that made the Souls series great premiered right here in the first entry, even if these ideas were only perfected as time went on.
It may be a touch archaic compared to the games that followed it, but Demon’s Souls is still well worth playing and might be, to this day, the cruelest and most challenging entry from this infamous series. Wanna really “git gud”? Then crack open this gem and see what you’ve got. (Mike Worby)
55 – Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal
After Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando introduced an abundance of new ideas to Insomniac’s action-platformer series, its sequel, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, improved and expanded in less-developed areas to create the most refined entry in the franchise. The story follows Ratchet and Clank’s mission to reform the “Q-Force;” a team of space cadets that Captain Quark once led to fighting evil, in order to stop the robotic Dr. Nefarious from destroying all organic life in the galaxy.
Striking a good balance between the series’ staple absurd humor and genuinely funny character interactions, Up Your Arsenal rationalizes our protagonists’ adventure across the universe and manages to convey an entertaining narrative without tripping into the pitfall of taking itself too seriously, which future sequels have suffered from. Returning characters such as Helga and Big Al were a joy to series veterans, while original characters like the robotic pop star sensation Courtney Gears and the antagonist Dr. Nefarious kept the plot fresh and surprising. Aside from the nostalgia of returning faces and locations, gamers with save files of the first two games were also rewarded with discounted items at vendors.
Featuring a good mix of both classic and new weapons, Ratchet’s arsenal was more diverse than ever, with everything from disk blade guns to plasma whips. As weapons are used, they can be upgraded a total of five times (eight if including challenge mode) to dramatically alter their range, damage or effects – assuring that no two playthroughs will ever feel the same. Thankfully, the game did away with the awkward space combat and racing diversions in favor of less clunky platforming segments that tie into Captain Quark’s story. Additionally, a fully developed arena mode dubbed “Annihilation Nation” offered survival modes, weapon challenges, new bosses and gauntlets for the player to be repeatedly destroyed in. If the arena wasn’t difficult enough, Up Your Arsenal introduced online and split screen multiplayer to the series, allowing gamers across the world to beat each other to a pulp with wrenches and weapons of mass destruction. Although the game’s campaign was somewhat shorter than the second game and its multiplayer was fairly basic, the variety of weapons, great level design, and signature Ratchet & Clank tone make Up Your Arsenal the pinnacle of the franchise. (Matt Bruzzano)
54 – P.T.
On one fateful day in August of 2014, a strange game by the name of P.T. appeared on PSN, developed by an unknown “7780s Studio”. Within this game, players controlled an unnamed character in first-person, walking through a series of endless hallways in a haunted house, with each loop bringing about changes to the repetitive structure, seemingly at random. With each loop, the presence of a heavy-breathing radio noise ghost-woman became more and more apparent; sometimes appearing behind a window or at times right behind you, ready to pounce and kill on sight.
As this strange puzzle became an overnight phenomenon, players around the world banded together to find an escape, involving all kinds of specific, cryptic steps. These solutions, mulled over on message boards, sub-reddits and livestreams, often seemed to verge on conspiratory lunacy; blurring the edges of the feasible and the ludicrous.
But, eventually, the game was beaten, leading to the revelation that P.T. was masterminded by none other than Metal Gear’s Hideo Kojima, with help from horror director Guillermo del Toro, as a stand-alone “teaser” for Silent Hills – a revitalization of Konami’s Silent Hill property, starring The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus as the lead character.
This triumphant reveal was, however, soon tarnished, as Silent Hills was canned shortly after by Konami as a result of their now-infamous falling out with Kojima; a confusing decision for many in the face of the tremendous success P.T. had received, and the sure success Silent Hills would have been. Not only that, P.T. was taken off PSN, unavailable for re-download, existing only for those who still have it installed on their PS4 hard drives.
P.T. is now more of an event, or a memory, than a game. With an atmosphere and presentation unlike any other game before it, P.T. had taken its indie horror game inspirations to a meaningful meta level, all the while also making a truly horrifying experience. Its legacy is already etched into gaming history and, while dwelling on what could have been is upsetting, its sole existence cannot be undermined either. (Maxwell N)
53 – WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role
It could be said that WWF SmackDown! 2 has an unfair grasp on gaming nostalgia thanks to its development during the iconic Attitude Era of professional wrestling, but that does the game a tremendous disservice. Pro wrestling’s golden era had itself a more than able tag team partner in the video games medium, as PS1’s SmackDown! series went head-to-head with the N64’s Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy for the crown of ‘Best Wrestling Game Ever,’ and there’s a significant argument that there are still no new entrants in that fight. The fact that they were all published by THQ is quite astounding, but demand was so high for wrestling games in the late 90s/early 2000’s that both SmackDown! 2 and its predecessor were released in the same year.
Still standing as the best-selling combat sports title on a single platform, SmackDown! 2’s iconic legacy is richly deserved. A significant update to the career mode was the key selling point, and playing a co-op tag team career as the Dudley Boyz was enough to send a friend and I literally running home from the store clutching our “halfsies” copy on launch day. The game’s new tag team finishing moves may have been awkward to pull off, but nailing a Dudley Death Drop to win the titles alongside a pal was pretty special.
Pro wrestling is all about big, iconic moments, and SmackDown! 2 was more than able to provide a virtual equivalent. Most notably, the addition of the Hell in a Cell match changed the game forever. From thereon in, no multiplayer HiaC match can ever be competed without a gentleman’s agreement to climb up to the top of the cell as soon as possible and let the battle to powerbomb your opponent through the cell roof begin. An absolute classic that remains a wildly playable flag-bearer of arcade rasslin’ at its very finest. (Alex Aldridge)
52 – Gran Turismo
For years, the advent of a racing game on any console was an opportunity for developers and hardware manufacturers alike to strut their stuff, rev their engines, and take a nascent gaming device for a spin around the block – putting the pedal to the metal to really see what it could do.
The static nature of the cars themselves, as well as a guided, predetermined environment that is being passed through at high speed means that many of our best looking and most impressive games, at least in the early years of a console release, orbit the racing genre in some shape or form. In its day Gran Turismo was unabashedly one of these titles. Melding both realism and impressive graphics into a single game was until this point almost unseen in the home console market, making it not only the beginning of one of Sony’s most prominent and successful series of all time, but the grandfather of a genre that continues to flourish to this day. The most recent Gran Turismo may not be the go-to racing game on modern consoles, but one thing is for sure: every racing sim released post-1997 has its roots planted firmly in Gran Turismo on the PS1.
For its time, the game was a stunning showcase of a 3D-rendered environment for the player to compete in, with vehicles that felt more realistic than many had ever experienced. Having been very used to arcade-like racers for years, Gran Turismo was a welcome step towards realism that car fans had been craving since the inception of the home console. Cars looked and felt more like the real thing than they ever had before, with players being forced to learn how to drive each car they took control of if they wanted to get the best out of them.
What do PUBG, ISS Pro Evolution Soccer, Goldeneye, Halo and Half-Life all have in common? They are all classics that have since been surpassed in quality, but an entire genre or gameplay style has them to thank for its continued success. Gran Turismo is that game for racing fans. (David Smillie)
51 – Gravity Rush 2
The original Gravity Rush for PS Vita is a fun novelty in a rough-around-the-edges package. Gravity Rush 2 is more of the same, but bigger and better. Players control charmingly likeable protagonist Kat in an anime-like cel-shaded world that boasts bundles of environmental variety. Oh, and it also has the Gravity Rush map alongside new Gravity Rush 2 locales – sweet!
The combat may be clunky, the side quests may be scattershot, and the story may be forgettable, but these take a backseat to the Gravity Rush 2’s overwhelming positives. Firstly, Kat’s adventure is chock full of charm. The quirky characters and interactions meld with eye-popping environments, from the grungy browns of Hekseville’s Old Town, to Lei Colmosna’s bustlingly modern marketplace. Exploring Gravity Rush 2’s world is a joy, and said exploration is bolstered by Kat’s miraculous moveset, bringing us to our second point.
Holy cow, the gravity manipulation mechanics in Gravity Rush 2 are fun! The shining quality of its predecessor, they’re given an extra lick of paint before players are allowed to run wild. Soaring through the sky, manipulating the pull of gravity to ‘fall’ to one’s destination, Gravity Rush 2 nails travel and traversal better than any game I’ve played. Fast travel is redundant when such a consistently fantastic mechanic is at play, and for that reason alone Gravity Rush 2 is more than deserving a spot on this list. (Harry Morris)
50 – Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Naughty Dog has an impressive track record for producing some of the best video games over the past decade and is responsible for some of PlayStation’s most visually striking experiences. From the survival horror of The Last of Us to the breathtaking Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the Santa Monica-based developer showed no signs of slowing down when it released Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Originally intended as a downloadable expansion to Uncharted 4, The Lost Legacy was later expanded and promoted to a standalone release at a reduced cost. It’s shorter than the other entries in the series (taking eight hours or so to finish), but it’s also a fully developed, satisfying adventure packed with the exciting action and memorable characters we’ve come to expect from an Uncharted game.
Sure, it’s a formulaic adventure without apology – giving anyone who’s played the original four games a distinct sense of déjà vu – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t compelling. Yes, every shootout and every set-piece in Lost Legacy seem directly lifted from a previous game, but thankfully, Naughty Dog has a rare ability to turn a by-the-numbers summer blockbuster with seemingly cookie-cutter sequences into something majestic. It’s as stirring an epic as Hollywood has ever produced and is peppered with iconic moments – including the game’s finale, which deserves a special shout out for how thrilling it is. (Ricky D)
49 – Yakuza 0
Yakuza 0 is a prequel entry in Sega’s cult classic crime drama/tourist simulator series. Set in the late eighties, the game follows the exploits and mishaps of young Yakuza members Kazuma Kiryu and Goro Majima as they distinctly become intertwined in a bonkers scheme surrounding an empty lot of land in Kamurocho – the series’ version of Kabukicho, Tokyo.
The game’s story alternatives rapidly between serious, sometimes harrowing, character drama and goofy side-story shenanigans, and fans of the series wouldn’t have it any other way. Aiding the narrative is a visceral, responsive combat system with each character having access to four fighting styles, an RPG-style ability progression system, and a tailored open world environment accurately depicting 80’s Japan, packed with side quests and extra activities.
Yakuza 0 is the perfect entry point into a much-beloved series, and for returning fans, a fascinating insight into the origin of the Dragon of Dojima. With remastered ports of the remaining PlayStation 3 titles likely headed to the PS4 in the next year or two, there’s never been a better time to tear off your shirt and flex rippling, tattooed muscle atop skyscrapers. (George Cheese)
48 – God of War III
God of War has always been a series which was brimming with potential. The first game boasted a great engine and some of the best use of quick time events ever seen, plus its romp through Greek history was at least engaging, if not always spot on.
God of War II amped things up even more, inserting more crazy set pieces, more variety, better boss fights and a much tighter narrative. In fact, its insane cliffhanger ending made the anticipation for the third one as palpable as it could possibly be, and with the enhanced horsepower of the PS3, boy did it deliver.
God of War III‘s opening is the stuff of legends, as you scale Mount Olympus itself on the back of a titan before doing battle with the Ocean God, Poseidon. But this is only the first of a series of epic showdowns with Olympus’ best and brightest. From the sadistic underworld battle with Hades to the coliseum brawl with Hercules, God of War III doesn’t lack for earth-shaking intensity or world ending gravitas, however, it does flounder a bit in its attempts to redeem Kratos through a surrogate daughter figure. Joel and Ellie this is not, and this piece of the plot is so bad and out of place that it nearly derails the entire thing.
Luckily there’s plenty more to like about the game than there is to take issue with, and it regularly finds itself rightfully in the conversation for the best PS3 exclusives. An awe-inspiring journey to some of the most epic mythical locations ever imagined, God of War III is not to be missed. (Mike Worby)
47 (tie) – Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening
One of the cheesiest reveals in the original Devil May Cry focused on the fact that the honorable warrior of hell, Nelo Angelo, was actually –*gasp* — Dante’s brother, Virgil. Though the moment itself was slathered in that sweet, sweet, pizza-covering nectar, it did stick in the minds of fans, leaving them wondering what the point of a reveal like that would be, unless the series were going to come back to it some day.
Lo and behold, a few years later it did just that, with the prequel Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening. Here we find Virgil as the primary antagonist, and Dante at his cockiest and most defiant. The difference between the two could not be more disparate than it is here, and it’s one of the things that helps the game to succeed so markedly over its predecessors.
It certainly helps that there’s more variety here than ever before, with several new weapons, an incredibly satisfying set of bosses, and enough new characters to really shake things up after the forgettable second entry. Arguably the best game in the series, and certainly the hardest, Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening is one of the great action games of the PS2 era, and holds up surprisingly well even a whole decade after the fact. (Mike Worby)
47 (tie) – Devil May Cry
When gamers are asked to cherry pick their favorite games from the action genre, Devil May Cry is always a game that invariably pops up.
What began as a Resident Evil side story has since morphed into one of the most successful and recognizable action series in gaming history. Focusing on the cocksure half-man/half-demon, Dante, Devil May Cry is still seen as a PS2 classic, even all of these years later.
This is essentially the game that modern action gaming has been built upon, and going back to it, it’s not hard to see why. Battling back the demons of hell is as satisfying as it has ever been, and the many firsts seen in Devil May Cry cannot be overstated. When you’re not smashing bosses with your massive broadsword, you’ll be air juggling their minions with your dual pistols or blasting them to bits with a sawed-off shotgun.
It’s a wild ride, and even if the plotting and puzzle elements haven’t aged very well, it’s still a blast to play, especially in HD. (Mike Worby)
46 – God of War II
In 2007, the hugely successful God of War got itself a sequel. Not on the recently released PlayStation 3, but on the older PlayStation 2 – and it still blew the audience away. God of War II is a bigger and more graphically intense follow up that offered mostly the same and more. The world of the game is enormous and complex, not to the level of a Nintendo game or a Tomb Raider, but connected all the same – and just like the first game, the epic locations, and ledge-jumping traversal foreshadow something like the Uncharted series, with comparable cinematic flair.
Telling the brutal tale of Kratos’ fall from grace, the story picks up right after the end of the first God of War, revealing that the other gods are unhappy with Kratos’s disruptive ways since he achieved godhood. After Zeus himself descends to kill Kratos, the dethroned war god teams up with the Titans in order to gain revenge on the gods of Olympus – but first, he must go on a journey to regain his power by tampering with the Threads of Fate.
Kratos’ second quest is in some ways even more impressive and varied than the first God of War, taking Sony Santa Monica’s interpretation of the Greek Myths to new heights (and depths). In the end, the game is let down only by tending away from the meticulously curated art design and stand-alone structure of its predecessor.
Still, much of what is set up in God of War II would pay off in the blockbuster third installment, and on the whole, it remains a valued sequel to a legendary game. (Mitchell Akhurst)
45 – Until Dawn
Best described as an interactive horror movie, Until Dawn’s story-driven point-and-click game design does a great job in paying tribute to mainstream slasher films while also fully embracing the silliness of the genre. What could have easily been a straight-parody, instead cleverly deconstructs slasher movie tropes in what amounts to roughly twelve hours of nail-biting suspense, unexpected jump scares, and lots of gore.
Where a movie like Scream put a postmodern twist on slasher films, Until Dawn takes on the genre and twists even harder via its most powerful attribute (and something movies don’t offer): interaction. Though there are plot holes in the elaborately concocted scenarios, Until Dawn gets points for its sly wickedness – forcing players to make choices that will determine the final outcome. By the time the ride is over, the game has changed course dozens and dozens of times, nodding and winking but never once losing momentum. Graphically, the game is gorgeous and the sound design is top-notch, which goes a long way in getting players to jump out of their seats; meanwhile, the voice cast (mostly TV stars) all turn in great performances. If you like scary, bloody, gory, grotesque and twisted games – Until Dawn is right up your alley. (Ricky D)
44 – The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I & II
(Released in 2015 and 2016, respectively, for PS3 and PS Vita)
Telling grandiose stories has always been a strength of the JRPG genre. While famous franchises such as Final Fantasy and Tales of wipe the slate clean with each mainline entry, the Trails series says “No!” with all nine of its titles taking place on the same fictional continent of Zemuria; each of which is deeply interconnected to one another. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I & II are the latest in the series to be localized outside of Japan, and bring the conflict enveloping the continent to a frantic boiling point that is absolutely riveting to watch unfold.
It’s not just the main plot that makes Zemuria such a gripping setting, though, as its denizens are equally memorable. They speak with dialogue beyond the generic lines found in many other games and have genuinely interesting lives that develop as the game progresses. Characters get married, they get kicked out of their homes, they get into arguments with other; it’s witnessing these individuals live out their lives full of ups and downs without a “side quest” moniker attached that creates that extra layer of believability.
All this is punctuated by a deeply strategic, turn-based combat system that challenges players to the best of their abilities. While the graphics may not stand out as anything special, a phenomenal soundtrack perfectly captures every aspect of the game, especially for some of the more tender moments of the story. Fans of JRPGs, or even those that just appreciate fantastic world-building, owe it to themselves to embark on the Trails of Cold Steel. (Matthew Ponthier)
43 – Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII was always a contentious entry in Square’s storied series. While it was the first (offline) Final Fantasy to show enemies in the open world, and allow real time battles, it also had a cast of cardboard characters as your party, and one of the least exciting quests in the history of the franchise.
Enter The Zodiac Age. While we could argue the strengths and weaknesses of Final Fantasy XII until the moogles come home, one thing we can all agree on is that, over a decade later, the pacing of this game is awful. Luckily The Zodiac Age allows you to speed things up with the simple press of a button by either 2x or 4x the regular pacing of the game. This feature, also present in the PS4 version of FFVII, is an absolute godsend. Whether you’re grinding for levels or searching for a certain rare item, the ability to speed the game up at will improves Final Fantasy XII immeasurably.
Speaking of improvements, The Zodiac Age also re-tools the job system of FFXII, gives the game a face lift, and alters the item placement of the original game (though that last bit can be a bit of a pain). When you’re killing Yiazmat in 2 hours instead of 12, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you’re playing Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, which is absolutely the definitive way to play the game. (Mike Worby)
42 – Vagrant Story
Dark and moody dungeons, a melodramatic high-fantasy story full of drama and politics, a unique RPG combat system and ass-less chaps – if the combination of such things gets your attention in any sort of way, then Vagrant Story on PS1 might be your kind of game.
Part of Final Fantasy’s loosely connected (but not really at all) “Ivalice Alliance” series of games, which includes Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story is simultaneously nothing like the Final Fantasy games of its time, while harking back to the very early days of the franchise in its storytelling and faux-Shakespearean character and world creation.
Its character design, which sometimes resembles a high-fashion raid on a medieval army’s supply closet, is immediately fitting despite looking ridiculously out of context – something I can’t say for most Square-Enix RPGs.
What’s added is a layer of macabre, mostly boosted by the kind of low-poly, mysterious nature of a lot of PS1-era games, making the creepier environments of the game look even more unfriendly.
Though a cult fanbase exists today, it’s a crime that Vagrant Story remains largely unknown. Perhaps the “The Phantom Pain” title shown at the end credits of the game was an indicator of a planned sequel that we never got to see, or a glimpse into the creation of a broader series. Or, maybe it’s just a subtitle for the game. Who knows.
Looking back on Vagrant Story today, despite all the visual elements of the game not only aging well but becoming even more enticing and unique, it’s hard to say that the sometimes overly obtuse gameplay is all that welcoming. It’s definitely the kind of RPG that could use a little bit of a gameplay tune-up to even out a few of the rough edges. From Square-Enix’s unexplored back catalog, I can’t imagine a better candidate for a remastered treatment than Vagrant Story, maybe similar to FFXII Zodiac Age. (Maxwell N)
41 – Suikoden
Asking a gamer to think back on the golden days of the JRPG will more often than not result in a nostalgia-filled trip down memory lane, with specific stops during the 90’s to reflect upon things like SquareSoft and their genre-defining Chrono and Final Fantasy titles; games like Earthbound, Fallout, and Planescape: Torment among others would get mentions, but one game which seems to fall just short of most people’s lists is Konami’s Suikoden.
Playing as the son of a great army general, the game’s lead character learns of treacherous individuals within the upper echelon of his own kingdom, forcing him to abandon his home and join a rebellion to fight on the side of the oppressed, with the goal of overthrowing an empire. The game’s plot was praised for its originality when compared to its contemporaries, and its musical score is hailed as one of the greatest of the generation.
Graphically the game resembles SNES classics like Final Fantasy VI, but with more realistically proportioned sprites, and gameplay wise Suikoden often finds itself being compared to Final Fantasy VII. The game features 3 types of battle systems. Normal, turned-based combat is the primary form of conflict resolution, with the other two types being one-on-one duels and war battles, which are both resolved using a simple rock/paper/scissors system where the player selects one of three commands and hopes for the best. Perhaps the game’s defining characteristic is its insane amount of recruitable party members; throughout the 20+ hour journey you’ll be able to enlist the services of over 100 different characters known as the “108 Stars of Destiny”. Later entries in the series would follow suit by also having a massive amount of potential allies.
Suikoden may not have the heritage of Dragon Quest nor the pedigree of Final Fantasy, and even within its own series Suikoden II steals all the praise, but the original still holds a special place in the heart of many a gamer. (Matt De Azevedo)
XO19: Top 10 Best Announcements of the Show
Xbox just had their best XO presentation ever, and it wasn’t even close. Here’s a rundown of the best announcements from XO19.
Microsoft had a lot to prove going into its fifth annual XO showcase. Console launches are on the horizon, cloud competitor Google Stadia is about to ship to early adopters, and Game Pass subscribers are as hungry as ever for new additions to the lineup. Then there’s the fact that XO has always been looked down upon by the gaming community in general as a lackluster, padded presentation.
All of that changed with XO19. This was, by far, the best XO in the event’s history. In fact, it featured more shocking reveals and genuinely impressive announcements than a good deal of Microsoft’s recent E3 press conferences. From new IP reveals, to first-time looks at gameplay, to a couple “I never would’ve believed you a week ago” shockers, it’s clear that Xbox stepped up its game from years past. Here’s our list of the best announcements of the show.
10. Everwild Reveal
It’s not too often that we get to experience a new IP from Rare. Their last attempt, Sea of Thieves, was a fully multiplayer, always-online affair that gradually garnered a cult following thanks to some of the best community engagement and most consistent content updates in the industry.
We don’t know what type of game Everwild is yet, but it’s certainly oozing that same colorful, ambient charm that made players fall in love with Sea of Thieves all those years ago. Seeing as how we only got a cinematic teaser, though, it might be quite some time before we’re running around these gorgeous environments.
9. ID@Xbox Lineup
The ID@Xbox team has pulled it off again. Despite being stuck with an almost insultingly poor time slot in the presentation, several of the indies shown off in this short montage rivaled some of the show’s AAA spotlights. It had everything from high-profile indies like Streets of Rage 4, Touhou Luna Nights, and the Yacht Club Games-published Cyber Shadow, to more modest beauties like SkateBIRD, Haven, Cris Tales, and she dreams elsewhere.
The best part? All of these are launching on Game Pass day and date. The worst part? No actual dates were announced for anything shown. Regardless, it’s encouraging that so many high quality indies are continuing to come to Xbox (and that relationships with Devolver Digital and Yacht Club are rock-solid).
8. West of Dead Reveal/Open Beta
Raw Fury has one of the better eyes in the indie publishing scene. Gems like GoNNER, Dandara, and Bad North have all released under their watch, and West of Dead might be their best acquisition yet. It’s a heavily-stylized twin stick shooter that switches things up by making tactical cover a core part of the experience.
The trailer hinted at roguelike elements being present, and the ever-popular procedurally generated levels should significantly up replayability. How it plays, however, remains to be seen…unless you have an Xbox, in which case you can play the exclusive open beta now before the full game comes to all platforms next year.
7. Halo Reach Release Date
The Master Chief Collection has long been the one golden goose that endlessly eludes those outside of the Xbox ecosystem. Earlier this year, though, Microsoft made waves when it announced that it was bringing the entire collection over to PC. Reach is the first step in that process, and it’s finally making its way to both PC and Xbox One as part of the MCC on December 3rd.
It’s just a date, but the fact that so many new players get to experience one of Halo‘s most beloved outings at last easily made it one of the highlights of the night.
6. Grounded Reveal
Who woulda thought? Fresh off releasing one of the best RPGs in years with The Outer Worlds, Obsidian decided to show off a passion project from one of its smaller teams: Grounded. The premise? Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: Survival Edition.
Players take control of kids the size of ants as they fight off actual bugs, cook, craft armor and weapon upgrades, and build shelter to survive in the wilderness of someone’s backyard. As silly as it sounds and looks, and as unexpected a project it is for Obsidian to undertake, it genuinely looks rather promising. The cheerful color palette is a welcome contrast to the dark, brooding aesthetic so many other survival games have adopted. There are plenty of details left to be uncovered, but if early impressions are anything to go by, this is one to keep on your radar early next year.
5. Age of Empires IV Gameplay Reveal
Age of Empires is one of the most esteemed strategy franchises in history. Despite having this beloved IP in their back pocket, however, Microsoft hasn’t published a new mainline game in the series since 2005. Age of Empires IV was originally announced over two years ago, and after buttering everyone up with the release of Age of Empires II Definitive Edition that afternoon, the first glimpse of gameplay was finally shown at XO19.
Simply put, the game looks gorgeous. Every building is full of detail and the countryside looks surprisingly lush and picturesque. Witnessing hundreds of units charging down the valley towards the stronghold in the trailer was mind-blowing as an old-school fan. They didn’t show off any innovations or moment-to-moment gameplay, but it’s looking more and more like the future of the franchise is safe in Relic’s hands.
4. Final Fantasy Blowout
Xbox’s success in Japanese markets has become something of a running joke over the years. Though inroads were clearly made with Bandai Namco, many more Japanese publishers won’t go within a mile of the platform. Possibly through working with Square Enix’s western division to put the latest Tomb Raider and Just Cause entries on board, it looks like the main branch has finally decided to give Xbox players a chance.
Starting this holiday, Game Pass subscribers will gradually get every single-player Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy VII. More shocking still, The Verge reported that the Xbox team is working to get the massively popular MMO Final Fantasy XIV over as well. The sheer value of having every post-Super Nintendo Final Fantasy game included in Game Pass (even XV) is ridiculous. It remains to be seen what the rollout cadence of these ten titles will look like, but considering how long each of these are, one per month wouldn’t shock or disappoint.
3. The Reign of Project xCloud
With Stadia launching just next week, Microsoft had been surprisingly quiet on their cloud gaming front up to this point. The service had gone into preview for those lucky enough to get in and, by most accounts, it had been fairly well-received. The real question came down to what Xbox was going to do to make itself stand out from its competition.
The bombs dropped here felt like the equivalent to the thrashing Sony gave to Microsoft back at E3 2013. Microsoft shadow dropped 40+ new games into Preview for players to test (for free) including Devil May Cry 5, Tekken 7, Bloodstained, and Ace Combat 7. Even better, xCloud will support third-party controllers including the DUALSHOCK 4 and will finally show up on Windows 10 PCs in 2020.
Perhaps the most damning announcement, however, is that xCloud will be integrated with Game Pass starting next year. Only having to pay for a Game Pass subscription to access 100+ games and play them in the cloud (including Halo, Forza, The Outer Worlds, and all those Final Fantasy titles) makes xCloud a far better value than Stadia right out of the gate. If this didn’t force Google to adjust its strategy, we might be looking at a very short cloud gaming war.
2. Square Sharing the Kingdom Hearts Love
Kingdom Hearts 3 releasing on Xbox One was somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand, players who had left the PlayStation ecosystem after playing the first games had a chance to see the arc’s conclusion. On the other hand, new players had no options for going back and experiencing the series’ roots.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5+2.5 Remix and Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue finally coming to Xbox next year is a godsend for younger players and new players alike. More important, however, is the tearing down of those over 15+ years old exclusivity walls. Just like with many of the Final Fantasys, the main Kingdom Hearts games had been married to PlayStation systems for years. This shift at Square is an exciting one, and it bodes particularly well for the next generation of Xbox hardware.
1. Yakuza Finally Goes Multi-Console
It seems like Phil Spencer’s trips to Japan finally paid off. In what was arguably the most shocking announcement of XO19 (right next to Kingdom Hearts), it was revealed that SEGA is taking the Yakuza series multi-console at last. Not only are Yakuza 0 and Kiwami 1+2 coming to Xbox, but all three are going to Game Pass next year as well.
Does this mean support from Japanese studios will increase across the board? Of course not. But getting big names like Bandai Namco, Square Enix, and SEGA on board is nothing if not encouraging. Xbox is clearly pulling out all the stops to ensure a diverse suite of third-party support come Scarlett’s launch next year, and it’s the healthiest the platform has looked in a very long time.
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‘Garden Story’ First Impressions: The Coziest of Adventures
Long-awaited Twitter darling Garden Story just released its first demo. Here’s what we learned after playing through it twice.
Following the unfortunate (but understandable) delay of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there’s been a distinct lack of chill, aesthetic games to fill the void. Garden Story’s charming environmental art and animation have earned it a dedicated social media following, but it wasn’t until Picogram released a demo just a couple days ago that anyone with a Steam account could actually experience the game for themselves. So, just how fun is this wholesome little RPG?
Setting the Scene
Garden Story’s demo centers around the newly-appointed village guardian Concord (a grape) and their first steps in rebuilding Autumn Town, a community ravaged by a sinister force known as “the Rot.” Chatting with villagers reveals a bit of insight into the situation at hand; it’s soon clear just how much the other townsfolk need the player’s support.
There are several clear parallels to old-school Legend of Zelda titles here, but Garden Story manages to set itself apart rather quickly. For one, this isn’t a solo adventure; the player sets out with Rana (a frog) and Fuji (a tomato) on a friendly quest to be as helpful to the surrounding community as possible. Seeing friends around and watching cute scripted cutscenes between the crew does a great job of instilling a sense of camaraderie and friendship.
In another pleasant twist, everything here is themed around building rather than destroying. Instead of traditional swords and bows, Concord repurposes his dowsing rod and scavenging pick into makeshift weapons. The combat itself calls to mind Stardew Valley; simple, minimal, and clearly not the main focus. There’s a pesky stamina bar that restricts the number of times Concord can attack and how far they can run, frequently forcing players to pause between barrages. In this way, encounters often come off as more of a necessary evil in Concord’s town rehabilitation journey than a main attraction.
Rebuilding a Community
So, how does one go about aiding the town? The method highlighted in the demo was by attending to a quest board with three different types of requests: Threat (combat), Repair (exploration), and Want (gathering). Each is accompanied by a task that plays an integral part in keeping Autumn Town safe and in good working order (e.g. clearing out Rot, finding sewer access so new resources can flow into town, and so on).
Aside from fulfilling requests, there are a few interesting hooks to incentivize hitting every shiny thing you come across regardless. The more different types of items are scavenged, and the more catalogues are filled by being updated with new materials, the more literature becomes available to give little bits of insight into Garden Story’s world and history. Then, in another parallel to Stardew Valley, any leftover resources can be sold in the pursuit of buying tool upgrades.
While the full game will feature four locations to explore and tend to, there was still plenty to do in Autumn Town itself by the end of the demo. Rana mentioned that villagers will post new requests daily, and the demo even featured a mini side quest (called “favors”) that led me to obtain a brand-new tool. Between daily requests, favor fulfillment, and dungeons spread across four different regions, it’s looking like there will be a good bit of content here for those who really want to hang around Garden Story’s world for as long as possible.
Though it remains to be seen just how enticing its complete gameplay loop and accompanying systems are, Picogram’s latest is already delivering on its core appeal: being a cozy, relaxing experience. The color palette is soft, the lighting is moody, and the soundtrack is right up there with the Animal Crossing series as having some of the most mellow, loopable tunes around.
In fact, it’s the sound design in particular that gives Garden Story such an intimate feel. From the sound of a page turning when entering and exiting buildings to the gentle gurgles of a bubbling brook in the forest, it’s clear that composer Grahm Nesbitt poured a ton of love into making this one feel just right. Here’s hoping the full game more than delivers on all the potential shown here.
Garden Story is slated to release in Spring of 2020 and is available to wishlist on Steam.
How Asynchronous Online in ‘Death Stranding’ Brings Players Together
Hideo Kojima’s latest game creates a sense of community by aiding other players on the same perilous journey.
Video games have always been fascinated with the idea of player interactivity as a means of crafting a power fantasy. The player typically goes on a hero’s journey, eventually culminating in them being the one and only savior of the world inside the game. Typically associated with single-player games, MMOs also crafted that same narrative but with the conceit that everyone is going on this journey. Often the acknowledgments of other players are in multiplayer-specific features such as PvP and Raids. Destiny is a great example of a series that takes players on the same journey and makes no promise that the story is different between players by even allowing them to engage in playing story missions together. It all feeds into the larger narrative of Guardians fighting together to save the Light. A game that handles this very similar and perhaps more successfully is Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.
While lacking any direct player-to-player interaction, Kojima’s latest game is drenched in the conceit that community is crucial to triumph over adversity. You can read many articles about the game’s ideas of community from fellow writers on the site. What hasn’t quite gotten the attention it deserves is how revolutionary Death Stranding feels in terms of utilizing asynchronous online to greatly affect the game itself. Games like Dark Souls and other FromSoftware titles have included the ability to leave notes (which Death Stranding also offers) that help (or trick) players as they venture throughout the world on their own. How those notes’ effects are manifested are often on a much smaller scale – helpful at times but often to warn players of an impending way they might die. They don’t have a large impact on the player, only a temporary means of cheating death.
Where Death Stranding becomes something greater in scale is in what it lets other players do to other peoples’ single-player experiences. In the game, you play as Sam Porter Bridges who is tasked with reconnecting America from coast-to-coast. At first, the game thrusts Sam into its narrative, taking the reluctant, isolated character and forcing him to eventually realize the importance of hope and connections in dire times. As Sam starts bringing more and more people onto the Chiral network (which allows instantaneous communication and the transferring of 3D-printable goods), so too does the game open up and reveal its ultimate goal: to bring players together.
This doesn’t mean players will ever talk to other players, and the game very much avoids any real negative actions that can be performed on players. In fact, someone could play the game without ever actively engaging with online features. Instead, the game will passively hand out “likes” to other players whose ladders are used or roads are driven. If one wanted to fight the game’s narrative and instead keep Sam isolated and away from the community that the Chiral network provides, they could definitely do that – no matter how antithetical it would be to do so. Death Stranding even offers an offline mode that would nullify all of that and keep the experience solely on the player’s impact on the world and no one else’s.
Yet there’s a reason the online mode is the default mode. It was near the end of Episode 3 (which also happens to be when the game unloads almost all of its mechanics onto the player) when I finally realized the impact I was having on other people’s games. I had spent an entire day playing the game, but focusing largely on delivering premium deliveries – these are optional challenges that essentially boil down to carrying more cargo, damaging cargo less, or getting to your destination in a set amount of time. Death Stranding doesn’t ever tell you the best way to get somewhere. Instead, it places a wide array of tools in front of you and assuming the Chiral network is set up in an area, it can provide a rough guide on places to avoid or infrastructure already built. However, one of the key pieces of infrastructure missing for my playthrough was roads. My efforts immediately became focused on building a network of roads that made their way all throughout one of the larger areas in the game.
The game doesn’t ever make you build roads. It tells you the option is there but it doesn’t force your hand. Often tools will be introduced, like zip lines and floating carriers, but the game never demands that they’re used. Of course, engaging with those tools will make your life easier. There are easy ways to start building infrastructure in Death Stranding: ropes and ladders can help to scale mountains or plummet depths. Those will remain in the world for other players to use and will even appear on their maps as they hook up areas to the Chiral network. So, someone who plays the game earlier than someone else could lay down ropes and ladders, and depending on when the other person starts playing, they will find those once they have progressed to a point where they are traversing that area. Where the game becomes even grander in its sense of community is the realization that the more players commit to building roads or setting up zip lines, the more other players benefit.
The reality is that ladders and ropes are temporary – they cannot be rebuilt, they can only be replaced. The game’s Timefall – a weather phenomenon that acts as rain but ages anything it comes into contact with – can reset an entire map after a while if there is nothing more substantial placed on the map. So in my game, I decided that whenever I could build a road, I committed to doing so. This could mean going to multiple waystations and collecting materials that have amassed over time from deliveries, or going out in the world and finding these materials like Chiral crystals. At a certain point, I would load up a truck with multiple deliveries that were on or near the roads I had built, as well as with as many metal and ceramic materials I could load into the truck before it reached capacity. As I delivered packages, I’d replace them with more deliveries and more materials from each waystation. Eventually, I’d find myself at a point where a road was not built yet and would then build that road.
Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding .
In contrast to a game like Dark Souls, actions in the world such as providing notes on the ground or helping another player with a boss battle is helping them cheat death. The community that is being built is not one that has any lasting effect on the world in the game. No Man’s Sky may let players interact with each other and further their knowledge of the universe within the game, but often that help is relegated to an isolated planet. It’s a more contained impact. Hideo Kojima created a game where players don’t just build infrastructures for themselves, they can intentionally or inadvertently assist other players throughout their games. This leads to players like myself creating strand contracts with other players who have built things I liked in the game. A strand contract is a powerful feature because it means more of that players’ roads or other items built for the world will show up more frequently in my game.
Every Action in Death Stranding Creates Hope
One of the perks of building so many roads is you also get a lot of likes, whether passively given because someone used the road or actively provided by a player because they not only used the road but were appreciative that someone built it. It’s hard not to feel important in someone else’s life when you’ve made their experience less cumbersome because they no longer have to drive over rocky terrain or through enemy territory but instead can take a highway to their destination. What’s better is that more substantial developments like bridges and roads can be repaired by other players and even upgraded. So while I laid the initial roads down, I actually haven’t spent any materials repairing them. Instead, notifications come in and tell me players have repaired roads I’ve built. There’s no real reason to do that unless the infrastructure built was necessary to their journey through the game – making it easier but also providing the same feeling of helping out a larger community.
Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding – a game that doesn’t even try to be subtle in its intentions. Traversing Kojima’s version of post-apocalyptic America is harrowing on your own. With just your two feet and a package to deliver when the entire world itself is trying to stop you from doing so, America isn’t just divided – it’s hostile. Where Death Stranding shines brightest is when it offers a helping hand. Players aid one another to achieve the same unified goal: save the country. All of this is under the assumption that the country can be saved, but there is no denying that seeing someone else’s rope hanging off a steep cliff, or a Timefall shelter where it rains Timefall on a constant basis, is one of the most satisfying feelings. In Death Stranding, it isn’t enough to know that you’re making progress, but that everyone is willing to assist others to reach the same end goal. It’s a game where every action creates hope and is built upon the idea that we are at our best when we work together.
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