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Best Playstation Games of All Time Best Playstation Games of All Time


100 Best PlayStation Games of All Time (60 – 41)



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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games Ever

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Yakuza 0

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)

Devil May Cry 3 Dante's Awakening

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

Best Playstation Games

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)

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Humans by birth. Gamers by choice. Goomba Stomp is a Canadian web publication that has been independently owned and operated since its inception in 2016.

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Game Reviews

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ Review: Moon’s Haunted but Still Shines

‘Destiny 2: Shadowkeep’ returns to a familiar destination but Bungie is reworking Destiny with each expansion and Shadowkeep is no exception.



Destiny 2 Shadowkeep Review

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep may be a return to a familiar destination, the Moon, but Bungie continues the trend of reworking Destiny with each new expansion, and Shadowkeep is no exception. Replete with a reworked season pass system, progression systems, customization options, sandbox re-tuning and quest interface, Shadowkeep is both a welcome iteration and extension of the existing Destiny 2 experience offering more RPG-esque player agency than Destiny has ever seen before. While the game is still haunted by some overly familiar issues, Shadowkeep is a welcome expansion and a promising start to the third year of Destiny 2.

Old Haunting Grounds

The Moon isn’t the only familiar face in Shadowkeep. Keeping with tradition, Eris Morn has returned from a long absence for another dark, lunar expansion (the first being D1′s The Dark Below when the character was first introduced) as she investigates a disturbance deep within the Moon. Quite literally haunted by the past, Eris has called upon the Guardians to assist her in finding the source of the phantoms plaguing the Moon and vanquishing “Nightmare” versions of familiar visages from the past.

All is not entirely as old players might remember. An immense hive structure, the Scarlet Keep, now overshadows previously unexplored territory on the Lunar surface. New Lost Sectors hide in the depths of the Moon, and new secrets a la the Dreadnaught or the Dreaming City lie waiting to be discovered by inquisitive players. And at the very center of the expansion an ancient, unknown threat lies in wait, an ominous foreshadowing of the trials ahead.

While the expansion does a decent job ensuring the familiar haunts don’t feel overly recycled, it’s hard to say Shadowkeep makes the most of the Moon. The campaign opens on such a high note as players storm the moon in an unexpectedly matchmade sequence before individual Fireteams independently uncover an unanticipated twist that absolutely shatters expectation. Unfortunately, the narrative quickly devolves into uninteresting fetch quests that fail to live up to the intrigue of the initial mission nor live up to the narrative heights of some of the most memorable missions the Moon previously housed including fan favorites The Sword of Crota and Lost to Light to name a few. That’s tough company to keep, and Shadowkeep fails to measure up.

Similarly, a bit of that intrigue is reintroduced in Shadowkeep‘s final mission, but, like the campaign as a whole, it’s over before the player knows it and fails to live up to the precedent set by previous, lengthier campaign conclusions. More mileage is gotten out of the narrative and destination in the post-game in the way of a new weapon farming system, a new activity known as Nightmare hunts that play like mini Strikes, and a Strike proper, but that does little to alleviate the disappointment of an overly terse campaign that reads like a teaser for what’s to come over a distinct, fleshed-out story.

A New Era, a New Season

Part of that is presumably courtesy of a shift in Bungie’s approach to content releases. While the previous expansion, Forsaken, similarly opted for procedurally released content over the course of the season, Bungie has doubled down on that strategy with Shadowkeep ensuring there’s something new to be experienced each week that players sign in. While certain activities have alway arrived post-launch including raids, dungeons, and exotic weapon pursuits, Shadowkeep and its “Season of the Undying” has seen new PvE and PvP activities launched after the expansion’s initial drop, adding to an already lengthy list of Destiny to-dos.

Central to the season is the new PvE, matchmade activity, the Vex Offensive, which pits six players against waves of Vex combatants paired and features some minor puzzle elements, all for the sake of earning a series of weapons exclusive to the mode. While the Black Garden locale of the mode is certainly eye-catching, the Offensive, with its recycled mechanics and familiar enemies, doesn’t leave much of an impression beyond that. It might pale in comparison to activities introduced in past seasons (like Warmind‘s Escalation Protocol, or last season’s Menagerie), but is intentionally terse, intended to match this new seasonal philosophy, and will be removed from the game after Season of the Undying (though the exclusive arsenal will still be available in the loot pool obtainable through undisclosed means). Like the Vex themselves, the Vex Offensive might not seem like much independently, but collectively is a piece of a greater whole challenging and rewarding players for participating within the specific season.

Bungie is further defining each season with the inclusion of a seasonal artifact and a season pass system. The artifact, again only available for the season, offers players an avenue for additional, limitless Power gains while also offering unlockable gameplay mods encouraging players to utilize specific classes and builds. The Oppressive Darkness mod, for example, debuffs enemies hit by void grenades, encouraging players to construct discipline-oriented, void builds. Another mod, Thunder Coil, increases the power of arc melee attacks by fifty percent, giving all new life to the Hunter’s Arcstrider subclass. Meanwhile, the season pass operates similar to that of Fortnite or any number of games and replaces the previous cosmetic only level up system of Destiny 2‘s past. From the season’s outset, any and all experience goes toward unlocking rewards from the pass including new armor, armor ornaments, exclusive weapons and exotics, and engrams. The experience requirement for each level is static, meaning progress is fair and steady throughout and never feels throttled. Both seasonal systems are fantastic new additions that reward players for playing the game while making experience gains more purposeful than any other time in Destiny‘s endgame.

New Duds to Boot

Shadowkeep also marks the debut of Armor 2.0, a new system that allows players more agency in character customization than ever before. Whereas armor previously rolled with random perks and a roll of only three stats (Mobility, Recovery, and Resilience), Armor 2.0 comes with no perks and six stats as Destiny 1‘s Intellect, Discipline, and Strength (determining the charge rates of player’s super, grenade, and melee abilities) make their triumphant return. Instead, Armor 2.0 has slots for modifiers so players can pick and choose whatever perks they want just as long as they’ve unlocked those mods. Mods are acquired from most activities, while enhanced mods (better versions of certain traditional mods) are exclusive to some of the game’s more challenging content. While the grind for mods seems excessive in the face of the rest of the game’s grind, it’s a one-time affair, some of the best mods are unlocked via the seasonal artifact, and the payoff is astounding, providing customization like never before.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Convoluting the process, unfortunately, is a messy elemental affinity system where certain mods can only be slotted into armor of a matching elemental type. Mods relating to pulse rifles, for example, are exclusive to Arc armor, so a piece perfectly rolled to a pulse-rifle-inclined player’s preference with a solar affinity won’t do them any good if they were hoping for pulse rifle perks. It was undoubtedly an intentional design decision to generate an arbitrary grind since players won’t need to chase armor with perfect perks any longer but is ultimately a mar on the face of an otherwise pretty great new system.

Axe to Grind

Speaking to the grind, Destiny has often struggled and failed to find the perfect balance of meaningful power climb and tedious grinds recycling the same old activities. Luckily, at the outset of the climb towards max power, Shadowkeep strikes a much better balance centered on beloved ritual and new and or seasonal activities. Power drops now operate on a clearly labeled, tiered system, incentivizing players to prioritize new or challenging activities for maximum gains. Ritual activities (Strikes, Crucible, and Gambit), though tier one, retain their relevance by offering multiple weekly powerful drops for match completions, vendor bounties completed, and rank progression. Previous, otherwise irrelevant avenues towards power have been retired, but this is a welcome reduction and there is no shortage of powerful drops in the climb to max power. That isn’t to say that the grind couldn’t be shorter ensuring more players can participate in endgame activities when they first arrive, but progression generally feels smoother than any time in Destiny‘s past.

Conversely, content flow might overwhelm casual and even dedicated players as there’s simply too much to do and grind for players tight on time. Bungie now considers Destiny and MMO with proper RPG mechanics, and, in terms of time commitment, that really shows with Shadowkeep. On a certain week, a player might have an accomplished week in-game after sinking only three to five hours into the game. Other weeks the game seems to demand closer to the ten to twenty-hour range. One week, for example, saw the release of the new dungeon, a new Crucible game mode, an exotic quest, a new public event, and the start of the Festival of the Lost, a limited time, Halloween event. That’s simply too much, feels like poor pacing, and favors streamers, Destiny content creators, and hardcore players for whom Destiny is their exclusive hobby, a burgeoning theme with Season of the Undying. While it’s certainly exciting that there’s always something to do in D2, it doesn’t seem true to the game’s roots as a hybrid, a shooter with MMO elements, that could be taken at a more casual pace but still offered an engaging endgame for the dedicated audience. Now, there’s only an endgame with no end in sight.

A Better Destiny Awaits

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for players who want to pay a minimal price for seemingly unending content, and in that regard, Shadowkeep is a steal. A sensational new raid (minus some finicky new mechanics), a foreboding dungeon, an immense new arsenal to grind for, and a better tuned PvP and PvE sandbox in which to enjoy them mean Shadowkeep will keep Guardians’ attention the whole season long and is an excellent proof of concept for the seasonal structure going forward. If Bungie can keep this pace up, year three of Destiny 2 could easily be the best year in franchise history. As a general caution though, Destiny 2 now clearly caters to the hardcore, requires MMO levels of commitment, and is best enjoyed with a regular group; casual, time-restricted, and solo players beware. It might not be the best single expansion release in franchise history (that’s still a toss-up between The Taken King and Forsaken), but, beginning with Destiny 2: Shadowkeep, the third year of D2 is the closest the tumultuous title has ever come to Bungie’s ambitious vision for the shared-world shooter and the game fans have been waiting for these past five years.

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What Are Some of the Switch’s Best Indie Devs Making?




The Nintendo Switch has quickly become the preferred platform for some of the most talented indie studios in the industry. Its pick-up-and-play form factor and Nintendo’s concerted effort to court smaller developers this generation (complete with indie-specific Directs) has resulted in a library that’s positively flourished.

Despite the eShop falling victim to some of the discoverability and shovelware issues that long plagued Steam, there have been some real standouts over the years. Since video games take quite a while to produce, there’s often speculation as to what some of the premier developers have been working on. Let’s take a look at four of the most recognized indie studios on the platform and have some fun trying to figure out what they might be up to.

Sidebar Games

It’s hard to believe that 2017’s Golf Story was Sidebar Games’ first project as a studio. The two-man team from down under balanced a delightful dose of Australian-tinged humor with clear callbacks to the Mario sports games of old to deliver one of the best Switch exclusives in 2017, bar none.

Unlike the other studios on this list, Sidebar has been extremely silent on development progress; we can only glean bits and pieces from the few interviews they’ve done. We know the game has been in development for roughly two years and that Sidebar was still in active development as of March 2019 when they put out the call for a pixel artist for their next project. There’s also a fair chance that the new game will either be Switch-exclusive or target Switch first, seeing as how Golf Story is still one of the Switch’s top 10 best-selling indie games to date as of Spring 2019. If exclusivity worked so well the first time, why not try it again?

What Can We Expect?

Whatever Sidebar is working on, it’s almost guaranteed to be single-player and story-focused. One half of the dev team, Andrew, has gone on record multiple times saying that he’s “very partial to story modes.” This also players into one of their strengths; though there was a great time to be had with Golf Story’s golf, it was all elevated by the game’s ridiculous-yet-lovable characters and wacky situational humor.

Since the team has already deconfirmed a sequel as their next project, there’s really not much to go on. While I’d personally love them to tackle something Mario Tennis-inspired next, there’s a good chance they’ll avoid sports altogether. As long as the wit found in Golf Story is alive and well, though, their core audience is sure to be interested.


Despite being incredibly simple from a visual standpoint, the deceivingly charming Slime-San is still one of the best platformers to come out in recent memory. The game’s striking three-color art style isn’t just unique, but it’s also ingrained into the platforming mechanics in inventive ways. Beyond having a look all its own and a stiff challenge for players who wanted it, however, Fabraz went the extra mile to build a fun cast of characters and even a hub world to explore outside of the main game. It was a pleasant surprise from a relatively unknown developer at the time.

Fabraz has been anything but complacent since Slime-san’s launch. The studio released two free content expansions, ported the game to other consoles, and even got into the publishing business. No matter their other ventures, however, the team has made sure to tease their next project every so often since the start of 2019.

What Can We Expect?

Fabraz speculated that their new game was already roughly 60% complete at the start of October. Since it only began production in December of 2018, it’s safe to assume that the next game will be relatively small in scope. It’s also likely that Fabraz’s next outing won’t be “Slime-san 2,” since the original game received such heavy content additions months after release (including an expansion literally titled “Sheeple’s Sequel.” The team certainly knows how to make magic from very limited resources, so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with a bit more of a budget, a new art style, and tons more experience.

Game Atelier/FDG Entertainment

It feels like Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom came out of nowhere. The team at FDG Entertainment had published indie darling Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King just the year prior and the console port of Oceanhorn before that, but there wasn’t much talk about FDG’s capabilities as a developer. As it turns out, however, Game Atelier’s choice to bring them on as a co-developer was the best thing that could’ve possibly happened to Monster Boy. Five long years of development later and fans were treated to one of the best platformers in recent memory.

Though it launched on all consoles, Monster Boy famously sold eight times more on Switch than PS4 and Xbox One combined, reminiscent of the sales of Blossom Tales on Switch. Needless to say, FDG’s next title will be targeted squarely as the Nintendo community. But what could that next project be?

What Can We Expect?

A Monster Boy sequel. FDG recently celebrated their collaboration with Game Atelier on Twitter and announced that they’re collaborating once more. The commercial and critical success of Monster Boy can only lead one to believe they’re hard at work on a follow-up together. Thankfully, with such a solid base to work off of now, this one shouldn’t take nearly as long to release.


Chucklefish has garnered a great deal of respect in the indie community as both a developer (Starbound, WarGroove) and frequent publisher (Stardew Valley, Timespinner, the upcoming Eastward, and others). Their eagerness to bring so many of their top-notch titles to Switch has made them one of–if not the–most lauded indie studios on the platform. If it’s coming from Chucklefish, there’s a good chance it’ll be of the highest quality.

What Can We Expect?

Witchbrook! Chucklefish announced the game way back in 2017 and instantly had both Harry Potter and Little Witch Academia fans foaming at the mouth. It’s a magical school simulation/RPG where players will attend class, learn spells, make friends, date, and work towards graduation. The company’s CEO and lead designer, Finn, has been incredibly open about the game’s development from the beginning. In fact, he made the ever-changing Witchbrook design document public in August of 2019 to give some insight into the game design and planning process.

Since there’s already so much we know about where the game’s going, this is going to be used as more of a “Hopes for Witchbrook” section. To keep it short, let’s focus on two of the game’s most make-or-break elements: dating and world-building.


One of the things many RPGs struggle with is making dating feel meaningful after the relationship starts. People love romancing in Stardew Valley, but the experience itself is really rather shallow; bring characters their favorite items, talk to them daily, experience a few touching cutscenes and voila! All that’s left is to put a ring on it and have a baby.

My hope is that in Witchbrook, the real fun starts after the relationship begins. Being able to have lunch together, go to festivals, celebrate anniversaries, plan outings, and even introduce them to the player’s in-game friends would go a long way in making the relationship feel more than a ribbon to be crossed.


When someone asks the seminal question “What fictional world would you love to live in?” the world of Harry Potter almost always tops to list (right next to Pokémon, that is). It isn’t just because of magic itself or the emotional ties people have to the cast, but more so because of the immense amounts of personality and lore J.K. Rowling infused into the world. From the dark history of Hogwarts to the vast array of magical beasts to the establishment of Quidditch, there is a whole movie and video game series that has been created based on mere slices of the Harry Potter universe.

Naturally, it’d be silly to expect Chucklefish to achieve as much depth in an indie project as one of the most successful authors of all time did over the course of seven books, but there’s still plenty of potential. Since the game will primarily take place at the school, exploring why the school was created and how it’s changed over the years could be quite interesting. Then there’s how different populations of the world at large feel about magic, how various magical species play a part, the favorite magic-imbued pastimes of students in the world of Witchbrook, and so on. The key will be to infuse magic into every element of the world (and gameplay) as naturally as possible. And after reading through the extensive design doc, I’ve no doubt Chucklefish will be able to pull it off.

The indie scene on the Switch is thriving more than ever. New talented developers are making the platform their home every day, and those who’ve already proved themselves are hard at work on their next premium experience. The next wave of releases from these studios can’t come soon enough.

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‘Death Stranding’: And Now for Something Completely Different



Death Stranding Slow Connectivity

Video gaming as a medium has often been perceived as little more than a toy. Even with Nintendo pushing the NES as a part of the home and more than just a toy– a strategy they’d adopt again for the Wii– there are still many who see games as toys, rather than an expression of an art form. It makes perfect sense, though. If there’s one thing modern video game culture has pushed front and center this past decade, it’s instant satisfaction. As big-budget games embrace homogeneity, the medium’s priorities have shifted from capitalizing on its inherent interactivity to making sure gamers are never bored with their $60 toy. Reggie Fils-Aime famously said “If it’s not fun, why bother?” for a reason, but when every big-budget game is paced the same, structured the same, and plays the same, where’s the fun to be found? 

About Death Stranding…

It’s far too early to even assume what kind of impact Death Stranding will have on the medium & industry (if any), but as one of the last big budgets games to release in 2019, Hideo Kojima’s first crack at the “strand game genre” is a nice note to cap the decade off on– one that serves as an almost necessary palette cleanser as the medium heads into the 2020s. Death Stranding offers audiences a chance to breathe, to look at themselves in the mirror, and to reconnect. Not just with the world and others, but with a medium built on interactivity. 

Hideo Kojima is often criticized for his cutscene ratio, to the point where it’s not unusual to see critics suggest he just make a film, but the fact of the matter is that most games do need a story. Not just that, video games have the potential to present a story better than any other medium. Readers and viewers can place themselves in the shoes of their protagonists, but a game makes the player become the protagonist. How we control our characters, how we play, how we interact with a virtual world– all this is a reflection of ourselves, one that only the gaming medium can offer. 

Not that it often does, at least not meaningfully. Modern developers are afraid to lose consumer interest, and the increasing shift towards the “games as a service” model has ensured that gameplay loops are simple to pick up, simple to get into, and simple to stay into. Games are something to be played with– toys. And there’s immense value in that. Video games can be a fantastic way to reduce stress & clear one’s thoughts regardless of how they’re designed, but such an approach means that the average gamer is going to be accustomed to gameplay loops that are structurally derivative of one another. 

On the flip side, there are the games that prioritize narrative too much, or simply devalue their own gameplay with extraneous content. From Hideo Kojima’s own gameography, this is a mistake he clearly made with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. Even from this decade, it can be argued that what little importance Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain placed on the story ended up hurting it in the long run because it distracted from the core gameplay loop. There’s a reason so many developers follow similar game structures and build off similar foundations: they’re reliable, they get the job done, and it does result in great games. Both The Last of Us and God of War (2018) are clear examples of how mechanically homogenous & predictable games have gradually become this past decade, but they’re still great games.

Death Stranding is one of the slowest AAA titles to release in quite a long time.

Death Stranding is most comparable to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and perhaps The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but really only on the most surface of levels. Death Stranding has AAA backing, but it has the creativity and ingenuity of a modern indie. While AAA developers have lined up for uniformity, the indie half of the medium has arguably never been better. Those who grew up alongside video games are now developing their own, calling back to and even evolving forgotten genres. All the while, AAA games only move closer to the Disneyfication of movie production– hit all the key demographics, make it “accessible” for everyone, and make sure there are no real ideals or beliefs. No need to upset potential consumers, right? 

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Death Stranding was backed by Sony and developed by a massive development team, but Hideo Kojima’s direction is far more in-line with the modern indie scene than that of his AAA cohorts. Death Stranding is one of the slowest AAA titles to release in quite a long time. It’s slow to start, slow to pick up, and even the core gameplay loop is slow. It takes hours before players get their first vehicle, and even longer before they finally get a weapon. Death Stranding saves its actual core gameplay loop for so late in the experience that it’s not unreasonable to suggest the game sees an entire genre shift halfway through. But that’s missing the point. Death Stranding’s “genre shift” is only going to feel so for those who don’t want to engage with the first half’s crawl– those who just want to play with a toy. 

Of course, just wanting something simple and immediately engaging to play is fair enough. For working adults with limited time to play a game, in particular, but not every game is going to resonate with everyone, even if a game like Death Stranding is designed for anyone. Death Stranding seems inaccessible & foreign in a generation where every big genre release plays like the last, but between a myriad of difficulty options and an online system designed to make the player’s life easier– one that works & works well– Death Stranding takes the medium’s interactivity to its next logical step: connectivity. Real connectivity, though. A connection that goes beyond playing against or with someone for a few minutes. 

In Death Stranding, players can leave a tangible mark on, and in, the world. Players can build structures for others, share with others, and just do something as simple as “liking” others. Those opening hours are incredibly valuable as– without the means to kill or fight back– players are forced to interact with the game world on a deeper level beyond combat. Death Stranding takes its time developing its gameplay loop, drip-feeding weapons, and concepts. Even the online component opens itself slowly, forcing players to understand what it means to be alone before they can forge real connections– with the world, others, or themselves. 

This is what Hideo Kojima understands better than the majority of modern AAA developers: games can connect a feeling directly to the player. Death Stranding’s best moments (as any should be) stem from gameplay. Kojima’s storytelling is engaging as ever, but it exists to bolster the gameplay– as does the slow pacing, as does the aggressive enemy AI, as does locking out weapons for hours on end– everything in Death Stranding is ultimately in service of connecting players to Sam in a way that feels genuinely meaningful. Through Sam, audiences can observe an America that’s in ruins, but one that society is rebuilding.

As Sam reconnects America, opportunities arise to finish bridges for others, leave supplies in remote areas, or just warn of dangers ahead. It’s very Dark Souls-esque in nature, but with a gameplay loop that minimizes traditional action, Death Stranding is the rare AAA game that’s bold enough to embrace the medium and everything it represents, for better or worse. A video game interacts with an audience in a way that books and film can’t. Controlling an avatar is an intimate act and reflects us better than most might realize. Death Stranding recognizes this fact, turns its back on modern gaming mainstays, and attempts to reconnect the medium together. 

Death Stranding is a slow game, but the longer path walked only presents an opportunity to reconnect oneself to the heart of gaming: interactivity. 

AAA gaming and the indie scene shouldn’t be divided. A gameplay loop doesn’t need instant satisfaction to be engaging. Story and gameplay shouldn’t feel disconnected. Standard online multiplayer can be more rewarding when PvP elements are tossed to the wayside or even just outright ignored. Death Stranding resembles the average AAA title in many respects, but it allows itself to be eclectic, off-putting, & sincerely unfiltered– in regards to politics, human nature, video games themselves. Only time will tell if “strand games” will take off, but keep in mind that the stealth genre didn’t exist when the hit “action” game Metal Gear released for the MSX2 in 1987. As Death Stranding makes abundantly clear, everything changes with time. 

The 2010s have not been a bad decade for the medium, far from it. The past ten years have seen truly legendary consoles and games come out of the woodwork, but it’s impossible to deny the shift that occurred (and had been occurring) in AAA game development– one that’s driven the medium far away from meaningful interactivity, where flavor of the month games long to be played for all eternity, like Toy Story-esque monstrosities given form. Death Stranding is a slow game, but the longer path walked only presents an opportunity to reconnect oneself to the heart of gaming: interactivity. 

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