We’re finally here – the top twenty absolute best PlayStation games of all time.
Whittling down PlayStation’s greatest ever video games to a top twenty wasn’t easy, but the monkeys at GoombaStomp HQ have worked tirelessly around the clock to separate the Metal Gear Solids from the Metal Gear Survives all for your reading pleasure. Nobody ever completely agrees with lists like these, and while we’re sure there’ll be one or two placings that are guaranteed to make your blood boil – hey, I’m still furious No One Can Stop Mr. Domino! didn’t crack the top ten – what’s certain is that if you pick up any of these titles you’ll be in for a good time.
So, sit back with a mug of hot coffee and take a trip down memory lane as we reminisce about games from long, long ago, and some from not quite so long ago, in our quest to slap the GoombaStomp Seal of Approval™ on what we think is the absolute best PlayStation game of all time.
* * Nominations for games released as of 11/28/2018
The 20 Best PlayStation Games
20 – Ico
When Roger Ebert famously said video games can never be art, I would have pointed him in the direction of Ico – a visually brilliant, thematically rich fable that isn’t just a game, but a powerful emotional journey for anyone who’s ever experienced it. Players assume the role of Ico, a courageous young boy born with horns who has been delivered to a mysterious castle to be sacrificed so that, according to legend, the community will be saved. From there, you must try and escape the grounds and save a princess through a variety of mazes and other brain-twisting puzzles.
Under development for a very long time and released with little fanfare, Ico is a true cult hit. The game was developed by a relatively fresh internal team at Sony, and didn’t receive a big enough marketing push. It was not a commercial success, but it was critically acclaimed for its art and story elements and received several awards, including “Game of the Year” nominations and three Game Developers Choice Awards.
At its core, Ico is a simple, almost classical game, but it served as a strong testament to the potential of video games when released; influencing subsequent games thanks to its minimal dialogue, bloom lighting, and keyframe animation. Anyone who relishes seeing the reach and scope of the genre redefined should not miss this marvelously accomplished work of art. (Ricky D)
19 – Persona 4
Persona 4 is in many ways the perfect sequel to Persona 3. It expands upon the part-dungeon-crawler-part-Japanese-dating-sim framework laid out by its predecessor, while refining the battle system and telling a more accessible but deftly crafted story. The only thing Persona 4 lacks in comparison to part 3 is that the kids don’t shoot themselves in the head to summon their personae this time around, but that’s a small price to pay. Persona 4 is one of the great JRPGs of all time and one that any fan of the genre should make sure to play.
Set in a small town in Japan, the player is put into the shoes of a big city kid dropped into the boonies when his parents leave the country due to work commitments. We go to school, we make friends, and we socialize. But then a series of gruesome murders kicks off, there’s an alternate universe hidden inside television sets, and there’s a talking teddy bear that might hold the key to getting to the bottom of the mystery.
The story is, on paper, bonkers. But the town has such a lived-in feel, and the characters are so well developed and earnestly portrayed by their voice actors that the initially ridiculous premise can be easily overlooked. Socializing with the people of the town is as much of a draw as battling evil creatures, and helping friends through tricky situations at school or home becomes as rewarding as killing a tough boss or enemy. By the time this sixty hour plus JRPG reaches its conclusion, the game will make you care about these characters and friendships, and that’s something that few video games can truly say. (John Cal McCormick)
18 – Final Fantasy Tactics
What would you get if you were to take a medieval setting, throw in a couple of warring factions fighting for dominance over a kingdom, add a hefty dose of political intrigue, some religious fanatics, and toss in a few dragons for good measure? Yes, A Game of Thrones is a perfectly valid answer, but I was actually thinking about Final Fantasy Tactics. Seeing as the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series does pre-date FFT, it’s possible that Hironobu Sakaguchi got inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s work, because Final Fantasy Tactics truly is to video games what A Song of Ice and Fire is to books (and television), with its beautiful settings, mesmerizing-yet-believable characters, and above all else, its truly epic story.
With that said, all would be for naught if the gameplay wasn’t up-to-snuff. Thankfully, though, FFT not only met the bar, but raised it, becoming the gold standard for all Tactical-RPGs moving forward. Paving the way for games like Advance Wars, The Banner Saga, Disgaea, and many more, the influence of Final Fantasy Tactics can still be seen in games being released today.
Right from the get-go, the odds were stacked against FFT gaining main-stream popularity, as it released just 6 months after the titan known as Final Fantasy VII. With the world still enamored with Cloud Strife and co., and tactics-based games being a niche genre, many would simply look upon the game as a silly spin-off, not worthy of the praise given to its Roman numeral-numbered cousins, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is Final Fantasy Tactics the pinnacle of T-RPG gameplay, but to many its the rightful king of the Final Fantasy series and the epitome of video game storytelling. A true masterpiece. (Matt De Azevedo)
17 – Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
One of the most controversial ideas from the Hideo Kojima super series, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty has you playing as series newcomer Raiden for an overwhelming majority of the game, making the Solid portion of the title misleading for one who expects the playable hero to be the character you grew to love from the game that preceded Sons of Liberty – Metal Gear Solid.
Controversial idea though it was, it was an idea that worked, as Sons of Liberty was one of the most well-received Metal Gear Solid games of all time upon release. The game opens to find Solid Snake infiltrating a tanker on the Hudson River, seeking a prototype Metal Gear being developed by the United States Government. Soon after the opening introduces the player to the villainous (or not?) Revolver Ocelot – who’s been darn busy – a mysterious military group invades the ship and we see the last of Solid Snake. The next sequence catches up to the boyish and mysterious Raiden, who’s playing the infiltration game himself.
Metal Gear Solid games perfected the action-stealth genre, and Sons of Liberty is as responsible as any of the titles in this series for building the reputation. The stealth sequences haven’t passed their sticker dates, as they’re still fresh fifteen years later – this is a game that has aged remarkably well – and the cinematics were top notch in their day. Trying to follow the story without consulting Wikipedia is only slightly easier than gleaning coherence from Leviticus, which may be the only consistent blemish the game has. Though, to be fair, mixing cyberpunk themes and political conspiracies could never be easily followed without being criticized as simplistic and watered-down. A tough, intriguing, and incredibly memorable game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was, for at least a time, one of the best PlayStation exclusives ever released. (Tyler Sawyer)
16 – Silent Hill
Considered by many to be the definitive survival horror video game, the first entry in the Silent Hill franchise kick-started the genre’s golden age by foregoing the typical action-oriented approach that was popularized by Resident Evil and taking a more subtle approach to its gameplay and story.
The game follows Harry Mason’s search for his lost daughter after crashing his car in the titular town of Silent Hill. Deserted and blanketed in a thick fog, the town gradually becomes darker and more terrifying as its past is revealed through its remaining residents such as the religious fanatic, Dahlia Gillespie, and the mysterious Dr. Kaufmann. By never overtly explaining its events, the setting maintains its permeable sense of mystery, making the town feel like a character in and of itself.
Although the voice acting hasn’t aged particularly well, the writing and atmosphere are as brilliant as ever and are leagues ahead of what was being released at the time. What truly makes the game shine is how its mechanics support its narrative. Emphasizing the ‘horror’ aspect of survival horror, the player’s movement and vision are extremely limited, requiring Harry to stand still to aim firearms or slowly wind up melee attacks, and the environments are kept dimly lit or obscured by fog to effectively use the fully-3D world. Enemies are expertly placed to surprise and overwhelm the player, who already has a low amount of health to begin with and a short supply of healing items. Complicating matters further, the game’s use of controller vibrations to convey the player’s health instead of a HUD adds to the immersion.
Similar to successful horror films, Team Silent’s minimalistic sound design and composer Akira Yamaoka’s industrial soundtrack heighten the overbearing sense of dread throughout the game, most notably in the use of the series’ staple radio static to signal the presence of monsters, and the game’s iconic theme song. Whether roaming its abandoned streets or fending off its nightmarish inhabitants, Silent Hill continues to be one of the most horrific experiences in gaming. (Matt Bruzzano)
15 – Persona 5
Persona 5 is a JRPG triumph. The latest in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, its tried and tested turn-based combat and unique mechanics are out in full force, and what results is one of the best games in recent years, if not ever.
As a Japanese teenager, you do typical Japanese teenager-y things, like attending school, hanging out with friends, and infiltrating the minds of corrupt adults to battle their evil desires. Y’know, the usual. Persona 5 grants players the freedom to spend their finite time as they see fit. Will they kick back with Ryuji to increase their teamwork in battle? Will they study to increase their knowledge? Or perhaps they’ll make coffee and curry to aid their adventure? Multiple playthroughs are incentivized through Persona 5’s grandiose depth and endless possibilities.
Persona 5’s interface pops with style, modernizing the traditional turn-based combat by eliminating the tedious list approach of command selection. The Phantom Thieves members (the main characters) are superb, with each being entertaining and relatably flawed (also, the English dubbed voices fit the characters perfectly). Persona 5’s story is super long but thoroughly engrossing with immeasurable payoff upon its conclusion (and this comes from someone who almost always dislikes video game stories).
Truthfully, explaining the excellence of a game as gigantic as Persona 5 in a capsule review is impossible. But it’s one of my favorite games ever, and you’d do yourself a disservice to miss it. (Harry Morris)
14 – Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus was the first game that ever me feel bad. While many video games charge you with killing monsters with no real justification for doing so, Shadow of the Colossus asked you to do that and then forced you to question the ethics of what you were actually doing. Did these magnificent creatures, many of which are not hostile at all until you attack them, really deserve to die? Am I… the bad guy here?
It’s questions like these that transform Shadow of the Colossus from a game about nothing more than killing sixteen bosses into one of the most profoundly moving games of all time. Playing as a boy named Wander, you must hunt down and kill the beasts known as Colossi in order to save the life of a comatose young girl. The details of how or why this will work are scant, and much of the game is left up to the interpretation of the player. But as each beast falls, Wander becomes noticeably sicker, and it becomes apparent that maybe he shouldn’t be doing this.
As you ride up to a Colossus upon your mighty steed, there’s something awe-inspiring about the creatures. They’re huge, towering beasts that cause the ground to shudder with every footstep, and in order to defeat them, you’ll have to discover the weakness of each monster. The Colossi all have weak points you’ll need to stab, but it’s getting to those weak points that provide the challenge. Each beast is a puzzle for you to solve, and climbing up the back of a hairy giant, or hanging on for dear life as an enormous flying beast soars above a desert is all just a part of the thrill. With ingenious ideas to spare and plenty of quiet time to think about the implications of what you’re doing, Shadow of the Colossus is a thoughtful game that will make sure you never look at video game bosses the same way again. (John Cal McCormick)
13 – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Like most Konami series of late, Castlevania is in a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. From the God of War meets Shadow of the Colossus design of the Lords of Shadow reboot, to the ongoing parade of me-too clones that drag off the coat tails of this classic: Symphony of the Night.
While it’s uncertain that we’ll ever get another Castlevania game at all – let alone a good one after the recent shake-up at Konami – the fact that we were ever graced with a gem like this at all is reason enough to be satisfied…and what a gem it is!
The first masterstroke was casting the lead as a someone other than a Belmont; a series first that allowed for a redemptive plot line rather than the squeaky clean “Holy warrior, killer of demons” schtick. The second is that this character happens to be the badass son of Dracula himself. Alucard (read it backward and then marvel at what a cool name it still is) is a far cry from the Belmont clan, and even though he’s on the same mission, he can go about it in a lot of different ways. Roaming Castle Dracula as a wolf, a bat, or even mist, Alucard’s powers mixed the old school Castlevania gameplay of battling undead legions with a Metroid-style progression and exploration system that opened the world up as you gained more abilities. In addition, it also melded action platforming with RPG elements, becoming one of the very first successful action-RPGs in the process.
If you’ve never battled a giant monster made up of slithering dead bodies in an upside-down castle, then you’ve never truly un-lived. Get it together and play catch up with this game, you miserable pile of secrets! (Mike Worby)
12 – Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Grand Theft Auto III was a game that revolutionized the industry as much as any game ever has. To follow up such an enormous success, Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, shockingly, only one year later, which was bigger, prettier, and far more depraved. Taking place in fictional, Miami-esque Vice City, players follow the antics of former mafia hitman Tommy Vercetti, as he seeks vengeance on those who put him in the clink. All the cocaine, neon lights, and ’80s music in Vice City compel me to make a comparison to a druglord movie here, but I just can’t think of a perfect one – I guess Vice City is a kind of original source for mafia media. Someone call Al Pacino.
I can imagine a person who would be slightly disappointed with Vice City as the game doesn’t do much different from GTA III, but I really don’t know if that person exists. Vice City is the perfect successor to a nearly perfect game – for its time – in GTA III, an enjoyable satire on the drug and party culture of Hollywood’s representation of Miami, and a helluva good time blowing things up.
Helicopters and motorcycles, seemingly minor additions, improved the game by breaking up the monotony of the car-only travel in GTA III. It became such a pleasure threading between cars on a PCJ 600 that I obsessively combed the streets in search of one of these bikes anytime I lost mine in a five-star shootout – an obsession that I feel to this day. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was the first GTA I ever played, and, for me, quintessential GTA. It enhanced the greatness founded by GTA III through better graphics, a more compelling setting, and, most importantly, motorcycles. (Tyler Sawyer)
11 – Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX was overlooked by many people upon release. Whether the switch to high fantasy after two moodier, sci-fi tinged Final Fantasy games was unappealing to some, or whether releasing the game for the original PlayStation after the launch of the ultra-popular PS2 meant their focus was elsewhere, sales for the ninth entry in the long-running franchise took a hit. But those that took a chance on Final Fantasy IX were in for a treat.
Eschewing the jack-of-all-trades battle systems of Final Fantasy VII and VIII and returning to a job-based system like older entries in the franchise, the combat in Final Fantasy IX is altogether more tactical and rewarding than the other PlayStation games in the series. The story too, while whimsical at first glance, has some fairly heavyweight themes hidden beneath the surface, and the development of a few of the characters rivals any seen in the series to date. Throw in one of the best soundtracks that series stalwart Nobuo Uematsu has ever crafted, and you’ve got the trappings of a classic Final Fantasy game. (John Cal McCormick)
10 – God of War (2018)
The God of War franchise looked ready to be put out to pasture after 2013’s coolly-received Ascension, but maybe all it needed was a change of scenery. Enter 2018’s God of War – not a remake, not quite a reboot, but certainly the reinvention that the struggling series sorely required.
This time around the perennially angry spartan Kratos is found living in a hut in the snowy wilds of Midgard – one of the nine realms of Norse mythology – and sets out on a quest to take the ashes of his recently deceased wife to the highest peak in the land. Kratos’ young son Atreus comes along for the journey, and so begins the story of a man desperately attempting to stifle his worst traits in order to raise his son to be a better man than he, all while hitting things in the face with a massive, gnarly axe.
God of War is the rare game that absolutely excels in every category. It’s not a strong story propping up lackluster gameplay, fantastically paced combat encounters resulting in suffocating linearity, or a wonderfully realized open world crafted at the expensive of a strong narrative focus. God of War nails it all, somehow managing the incredible task of making Kratos a somewhat likeable and sympathetic character, while also building a new combat system from the ground up that is absolutely thrilling from the first battle to the last.
Throw in some wonderful storytelling full of fantastical characters, a semi-open world jam-packed with worthwhile optional objectives to enjoy, and an absolutely glorious orchestral soundtrack, and God of War is not just the best game in the long-running franchise, but one of the best PlayStation games of all time. (John Cal McCormick)
9 – Journey
Visionary. Emotional. Other one word sentences.
Journey was released in 2013 on the PlayStation 3 to incredibly high praise. From critics, anyway. To the general gamer crowd, though, Journey wasn’t quite as highly regarded. Some said it was dull, empty, or pointless, and even went to chastising games media for honoring it the way they did. And it all comes down to prejudices. Whether we want to or not, every gamer approaches a new game prejudging it. Without any experience of a particular thing, we make conclusions about it based on past experiences and things that are probably wholly irrelevant factors.
Instead of letting the game take us somewhere new or guide us through an unfamiliar experience, we assume it has to conform to present ideas of what that game portrays. What this does not mean, though, is that there is to be a huge nebulous of subjective opinion where no one gets to say whether a thing is good or bad; what this means is that there are creators, artists, in our world who want to communicate their perception of the world to those around them who may be interested. That’s what Journey is.
Journey is a game of struggle and ambition. A game of depression and rebirth and interpretation. In it, you are a crimson-cloaked stranger who has to find her way to the mountains in the vast distance. Along the way you’ll encounter monsters who act as guards, trying to halt any progress. Your only job is to evade and escape. There’s no battle mechanic, no way to destroy the mindless foe, just find a way around. After some time and several breathtaking landscapes traversed, you will have found your way.
An unconventional developer and game company that has been one of the only consistent sparks to the “games as art conversation,” and they did it again with Journey. A truly one of a kind, must-play game. (Tyler Sawyer)
8 – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
After a change in direction, a bit of internal strife, and a few delays, fans could have easily been forgiven for being a tad worried about Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Luckily, though, as anyone who has played it will no doubt tell you, the 4th installment in the incredibly implausible adventures of Nathan Drake delivers in spades.
The first thing worth noting here is just what an incredibly gorgeous game this is. Now, I know we live in an age where one in every five triple-A titles seems to get the “MOST BEAUTIFUL GAME EVER” moniker bandied about, but rest assured, this is no hyperbole. Uncharted 4 is authentically the most intricately designed, incredibly detailed, and indelibly jaw-dropping game that I have ever seen–and I’ve played a great many games in my life.
Now, for those of you used to Uncharted‘s particular brand of tricks, this game is not going to have too much new to show you, generally speaking. The set pieces are crazy, the goose chase is wild, and the characters talk to each other (and themselves) as if their always sure they’re on-camera. However, look closer and you’ll see the extra effort that’s been put into an insane degree of understated wonder. Marvel at how there is almost always multiple ways to reach your destination, let your mind boggle at the sheer size of the areas you explore, and simply quake at the amount of gravitas that this hilariously unlikely series of events is able to instill in you. (Mike Worby)
7 – Resident Evil 2
Sequels sometimes get a bad reputation, and not without reason. From rehashing the conflicts and ideas of their forebears to shamelessly running their stories into the ground, sequels can be so detrimental to the stories and experiences that preceded them as to tarnish their legacies entirely.
Luckily, Resident Evil 2 is exactly the opposite of that kind of sequel. Literally, everything here is an improvement over the original. The storytelling is better, the gameplay is smoother, the environments are more diverse, and, thank the gods, there’s no horrible live action opening.
Resident Evil 2 is a true pioneer of game design, from the dual interceding campaigns of its two leads, Leon, and Claire, to its A/B scenario system that allowed for 4 different stories to be experienced through its undead lens. It even introduced the stalking monster trope, which has since become a staple of the entire genre, and would find itself as the lynchpin of the next title in the series, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis. Resident Evil 2 is a standout classic of the PSX era and one of the most enduring titles the survival horror genre has ever produced. (Mike Worby)
6 – Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2 is a bit of an odd duck in the Silent Hill series, and it always has been. Of the three original, classic games, all well regarded in their own rights, Silent Hill 2 is of a decidedly different ilk than its younger brother and older sister. Whereas Silent Hill and Silent Hill 3 focused ostensibly on the history of Silent Hill and the how the Mason family connects with that history, Silent Hill 2 is largely a completely independent entity, and it couldn’t be better for it.
Silent Hill has always drawn from the works of David Lynch, and this is the series at its most Lynchian, with one particularly disturbing scene being a deliberate homage to Blue Velvet. The game also has a clear lineage to Mulholland Drive, with players never exactly sure how much, if anything, is actually real as the game goes on.
A living, shifting, ever-changing box of horror, Silent Hill 2 is easily the best entry in this franchise, and with the recent restructuring of Konami, it will probably remain that way indefinitely. (Mike Worby)
5 – Bloodborne
What could possibly be better than Dark Souls? How about Dark Souls with a hefty dose of HP Lovecraft thrown in?
Bloodborne took what was already one of the best and most revolutionary series of the previous console generation and amped it up the point of perfection. Introducing trick weapons which could be altered to fight in two different ways, nixing the defensive aspect of the Souls series in favor of perfectly timed momentum, and rewarding players even more for gambling with their souls…err blood echoes, Bloodborne made a lot of changes to the formula and, through some miracle, all of them worked out.
To wit, the series’ notorious attention to detail was catapulted even further via the technology of the PS4. The design of the world, the enemies, and especially the bosses, is arguably the best the series has ever seen, and the tighter narrative and theme of the game make for a more focused experience in general.
Plus, Bloodborne is creepy as all hell. When you’re not being stalked by werewolves and other eldritch horrors, you’ll be finding them crucified and on fire as warnings to people just like you. When you swallow your fear and go on anyway, you make a choice that can’t be undone. This game will beat you, bloody you and leave you nearly weeping with fear and frustration, but when those credits roll, you better believe you’re gonna find yourself satisfied…if you can make it, that is.
The first, and still the best, reason to own a PS4, Bloodborne will certainly be fondly remembered as one of the standout games of this era. (Mike Worby)
4 – Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
What more can be said of Naughty Dog’s great generational touchdown? A bigger, better Uncharted game that solidified their reputation for amazing playable action scenes, likeable characters, and gorgeous in-game graphics. It was a huge step up from the first game and, at the same time, is more focused and iconic than its successor, Drake’s Deception.
I suppose that’s a start. With Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Naughty Dog were able to cement their blockbuster chops, bringing us a franchise so critically praised and audience-approved that it outlasted its original console – a first for the studio.
Taking everything that worked in the first Uncharted title and polishing it to a mirror shine, while leaving behind some of the more rough elements, Among Thieves is a true, playable Indiana Jones-style adventure with high stakes, a terrifying villain and fantastical locales for the player to shoot, climb and puzzle their way through. Throw in a few brand new characters that have proven to be fan favorites (Chloe and Tenzin) and you’ve got a monumentally memorable game.
Of course, Uncharted 2 isn’t perfect (what game is?); the writing and characters are as surface-level as any Indiana Jones-wannabe movie. A really well-written wannabe, but a wannabe nonetheless. The cover-based shooting mechanics, while far from boring, never evolve much and were simple even in the year of the game’s release. The levels are also crushingly linear, much more so than any of the other games in the Sony Top 10. Those who want more from their adventure than a single, wonderfully scripted route need not apply.
These criticisms aren’t to be dismissed, but they are by no means deal-breakers. The Uncharted series, like Half-Life 2, or the contemporaneous Modern Warfare series, is best enjoyed as a meticulously designed roller-coaster with (at the time) unparalleled graphics and a thrilling story. (Mitchell Akhurst)
3 – Final Fantasy VII
A game has to be more than just a game. In order to truly make itself stand out, a game has to be an experience, not a mere piece of electronic components on a disc. It has to be an adventure, something larger than life that you as the player can immerse yourself in, and become one with. As soon as the game displays the title screen, you have to be there in spirit, and then, if the game is truly remarkable, you will find yourself in tune with the game you’re experiencing alongside the characters. You’re feeling the same emotions as the characters, you’re even fighting the same battles, facing the same struggles, and overcoming the same obstacles as the characters.
Final Fantasy VII is this kind of game. As you progress through the levels of the game, you progress on a personal level. You get to bond with Tifa and Barrett as if you were truly Cloud incarnate. The game is so well put together, the combat system manages to be exciting and thrilling, unlike many other games where the combat is turn-based. Sure, the graphics are a little outdated now, but the positive aspects of the game are so great in number that they completely redeem the damage time has inflicted upon its visuals.
One may wonder why exactly this game stands out so much from the other Final Fantasy installations, and truth be told, it’s near impossible to say for sure. Chances are, Final Fantasy VII just struck gold, as the characters are appealing, the levels are intricate-yet-inviting, the combat is exciting, and the story itself draws you in and refuses to let you go until you have seen everything the game has to offer. This is truly a remarkable game, and we’re all excited to see the HD remake that’s in the works right now. Can the technology of today stand up to the mesmerizing original work? Only time will tell. (Johnny Pedersen)
2 – Metal Gear Solid
The PlayStation 1-era was a time of fast-paced, chaotic, loud platforming games. The main plot of games like these were to transport yourself from A to B in a simple fashion – you’d go forth, running and beating up every enemy on your way with no discretion, rampaging through the various breakables in the levels in order to find some sort of power-up that would make you able to beat up even more enemies, and break even more of the scenery. Sure, it was a glorious mess, but at one point, things had to change.
1998 marked the debut of Metal Gear Solid. Instead of relying on your ability to rampage through everything that could possibly be broken, you had to really sit back and think for a while, as stealth and cunning were the main aspects of the game. You play as Solid Snake, an elite super soldier who can infiltrate pretty much anything, anywhere. Sure, you did have the option to simply shoot at the opposition and attempt to fend off the retaliation. However, developer Hideo Kojima had managed to create a game where the sophisticated mannerisms of operating in a covert fashion were fun.
Because of this groundbreaking game, we’re now faced with an abundance of stealth games on pretty much every major platform. Metal Gear Solid managed to make slow-paced, intelligent gaming just as appealing as the rowdy platformers of the same era. Eventually, Metal Gear Solid became just as essential a game as Crash Bandicoot, Ape Escape, Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider and Tekken. Hideo Kojima managed to revolutionize gaming forever, and every video game enthusiast should try this game. (Johnny Pederson)
1 – The Last of Us
With The Last of Us, the cinematic-loving geniuses at Naughty Dog proved themselves once again as one of the most accomplished development teams in the world. The confident and handsome survival thriller was instantly hailed as the new bar for what gaming could and should be moving forward. The Last of Us is Hollywood stuff, of course, and it borrows from dozens of carefully chosen inspirations, among them George A. Romero’s original Dead trilogy, The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later and Cormac Mccarthy’s The Road. While the game’s cynical portrayal of survivors turning on each other is a very familiar premise – The Last of Us is also the rare video game that follows a traditional storyline and then improves upon it. Set twenty years after a pandemic radically transformed civilization – The Last of Us follows Joel, a salty survivor, who is hired to smuggle a fourteen-year-old girl, Ellie, out of a rough military quarantine. What begins as a straightforward, albeit risky job, quickly turns into a highly emotional, palm-sweating journey that you won’t ever forget.
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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