PS5 is here, though somehow it’s still more elusive than my commitment to work out consistently. Your trusty ol’ PS4 may soon find its spot in your entertainment center taken over by its futuristic descendant (if not already). Before or after that eventual console coronation passes, take some time to embark on these essential PS4 gaming experiences. Yeah yeah PS5 has backwards compatibility – and these games aren’t going anywhere – though as time rolls onward a new generation of games will blossom into the market and demand our attention. Before that time comes, dedicate some of your sweet sweet gaming sessions to these games and you’ll be damn glad you did.
Take the following journey in no particular order, it’s all excellent. Many of these are in the PS Plus Collection thankfully, and some have free PS5 upgrades if you own the PS4 version.
NO spoilers ahead – just quick innocent details.
God of War
The intro will suck you in with its beauty and depth. So few words spoken, yet every scene is steeped in meaning. Each setting is immaculately detailed. Challenging combat leads to amazing progression. Level design encourages exploration. Engaging characters spout entertaining dialogue. Beautiful storytelling synced with touching character development. Play it, love it, then do NG+ on “Give Me God of War” difficulty to truly become a god in your own right.
Plot in a pinch: After settling into a peaceful life on Nordic lands for many years, the Greek god of war Kratos must embark on a journey with his son to fulfill the last wish of a passed loved one while eluding the native deities.
A paranormal mystery-thriller packaged into a brilliant third-person-shooter with sharp impactful gameplay, Control swiftly became my favorite game of 2020 AND 2021. The suspenseful eerie tone lures you into a setting you can’t walk away from. Every bit of lore pulls you deeper and reveals disturbing details, sometimes making you laugh and sometimes making you say “What the absolute fuck?!“. Control’s story and gameplay are top-notch, eventually making you feel like a badass Jedi gunslinger which will absolutely leave you wanting more. Luckily there are two DLCs to scratch that itch. This game consumed me until I finished it. I could not play anything else. It had assumed control.
Plot in a pinch: Jesse Faden ran from the law most of her life, but now walks through the front doors of the Federal Bureau of Control. These people were responsible for the disappearance of her brother, and they somehow know of the otherworldly presence that guides her. Enough running, enough mystery. Jesse decides to take control.
Dark Souls 1 – 3
Modern classics that invented its own sub-genre. If you haven’t played them because you’re scared of them being too hard, kindly get over it and play these action-adventure-RPGs. The sense of accomplishment FromSoftware games give you is unlike anything else. It may sound odd, but playing Dark Souls very much feels like coming out of a dark spot in life – and many players have lauded its ability to combat depression. You will fail over and over, but as long as you get up and keep trying you’ll find that you’ve had the strength all along to reach a better place. And ohhhh man that sweet taste of victory after trying and trying and trying – Pure happiness and pride. Conquer the creatures of dark, forge your own path, and praise the sun!
Plot in a pinch: The Age of Fire nears its end. Will you, a lowly dreg barely holding onto its own sanity, conquer the challenges ahead and reignite the First Flame to extend the reign of Fire — or let the fire fade, and usher in an age of darkness?
A PS4 instant classic, and heralded as one of the best PS4 games ever released. Yep it’s a FromSoftware title in the vein of Dark Souls, but more brutal!!!
So get immersed in this beautifully horrific Lovecraftian world by throwing on your victorian-era cloak and pouring yourself a glass of blood (what?), because Bloodborne’s environment will leave you drenched in awe. It has everything Dark Souls has – top-shelf level design, tight combat, incredible lore, abso-fucking-lutely brutal difficulty – yet managed to bore its way into its own cozy niche. Cease your hunt for the next epic game and dive into this dream of a journey.
Plot in a Pinch: A blood-borne disease plagues the city of Yharnam, where your journey begins. You – a seemingly immortal hunter – are spiritually bound to the Hunter’s Dream, the city itself, and the task of finding the source of the plague. A frenzied hunt for the infected seizes the population, ushering townsfolk and hunters alike into the madness that consumes the city. Unable to truly die, your hard-fought footholds and discoveries may lead to peaceful enlightenment, or uncontrollable insanity.
Persona 5 / Personal 5 Royal
If you enjoy JRPGs or turn-based RPGs in general, take a leap of faith and buy this game. I did solely because GameInformer’s January 2018 article “The Top 100 RPGs Of All Time” ranked it at #19, right behind the original Final Fantasy 7 (my all-time fave). Now P5 was released worldwide in April 2017, so claiming a spot that high on the list in such a short time demanded respect. And holy shit, it deserves every ounce of that respect. P5 overflows with style, immense narrative depth, and is unfalteringly captivating. The art direction makes every action a visual joy, and the soundtrack — THE SOUNDTRACK DUDE — is so good that you’ll be listening to it for weeks after you finish the 100+ hour campaign. Well-rounded characters and heartfelt storylines make it impossible not to get pulled into this world.
Plot in a Pinch: Some adults think they can get away with anything. Abuse power, abuse people, take anything, charge you with assault even though they committed it themselves, it goes on. There’s gotta be a way to make them realize their flaws and reflect… to change them from the inside out. It’s up to you — a high-schooler on probation in Tokyo — to band together with a few fellow rebels and face the dark hearts of the city’s elite, changing society for the better one heist at a time.
Final Fantasy VII Remake: Even if and especially if you never played the original FF7, this game deserves to be played. I kept it down here since otherwise the entire article would be about this game. Gorgeous, fun as hell, it doesn’t miss a beat from the OG game.
Ghost of Tsushima: The Director’s Cut version just came out – and while I haven’t played that part yet – the main game is simply phenomenal. Holy shit I’ve never taken so many screenshots in a game. Breathtaking beauty combined with satisfyingly smooth gameplay.
There are so many others that could be included here, so list ’em off in the comments if you want! Thanks for reading!