The 10 Best PlayStation 4 Games of 2021

Play the best fighting, sports, family, and adventure games and more for PS4

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
"The latest entry in the God of War series is easily the best one, and one of the best games available for the PlayStation 4."
"Overwatch was released in May, 2016, and has established itself as one of the best multiplayer games of all time."
"This has won numerous game of the year awards as well as awards for its narrative, visuals, and design."
Best Role-Playing Game:
Atlus Persona 5 at Amazon
"The gameplay is a blend of school and life simulators as well as traditional dungeon-crawling RPGs."
"Along with familiar characters and movesets, MK11 introduces new features like special, high-damage attacks."
"While gameplay is nearly identical, the control scheme was reworked to be more intuitive for newcomers and returning fans alike."
"The game takes players through multiple regions, giving the game's open world setting a diverse feel."
"Experience points can be spent in the skill tree to improve Aloy's stealth, combat, scavenging, and healing abilities."
"The Last of Us Part II thrusts players back into the familiar world of an America overrun by mutated zombies."
"This has been praised for its storytelling, setting, and gameplay that weave together as authentic a Wild West experience."

Choosing new PS4 games to add to your library can be a difficult task when so many seem to get rave reviews. The console's improved hardware and capabilities allow developers to push the limits of graphic design, art direction, and enemy AI in order to deliver new, compelling experiences for players. Classic genres like action and horror have seen renewed interest with titles like The Last of Us Part II and Horizon Zero Dawn which combine well-written stories with tense combat and truly spooky settings to breathe new life into their respective genres. Fighting game enthusiasts can find a bevy of titles from the iconic Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter franchises to fresh IPs like Brawlhalla and Skullgirls. 

Multiplayer games like Overwatch and Dead by Daylight let you play local, friendly matches with friends or team up to take on other players in ranked matches to show off your skill. There have also been a slew of remasters and remakes released for the PS4, including the Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon trilogies and fan-favorites like Shadow of the Colossus. So whether you're looking to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane with an old favorite or try out something new, there is a game and a genre out there waiting for you to try. We've rounded up our top picks and broken down their gameplay, narrative, and mechanics to help you decide which should be your next PS4 game.

Best Overall: Sony God of War

What We Like
  • New setting

  • Satisfying combat

  • Great graphics

What We Don't Like
  • Jumping is contextual only

  • Swimming ability is gone

The latest entry in the God of War series is easily the best one, and one of the best games available for the PlayStation 4, period. God of War (2018) takes a radical departure from its predecessors, abandoning the glittering marble and gold of Greek Mythology in favor of the dark, gritty forests and runic magic of Norse myth. Players once again take on the role of Kratos, but can also utilize his son Atreus in combat to pick off straggling or weak enemies while you take down stronger ones. Kratos has laid aside his Blades of Chaos and now uses an axe imbued with magic, which serves as both a weapon and exploration tool. Players not only deal devastating blows and quick combos, you can throw the axe like a boomerang to stun enemies or freeze them in place to buy time to dispatch stronger foes. 

Players can upgrade skills, abilities, and weapons for both Kratos and Atreus as they collect experience points as well as Iounn Apples and Horns of Mead (which replaced the red and green orbs), allowing them to take on stronger and stronger bosses. What really sets this game apart from the rest of the series is its use of single-shot style camera work. This means that both cutscenes and gameplay run seamlessly into one another, without loading screens, to give a more cohesive feel as you progress through the story and combat.

"God of War mixes brutal action and challenging puzzles against the backdrop of Norse mythology and the relationship between Kratos and his son. It makes for an incredibly compelling game." Ajay Kumar, Tech Editor

Best Multiplayer: Blizzard Entertainment Overwatch

What We Like
  • Tons of characters

  • Special events year-round

  • Local and online multiplayer

What We Don't Like
  • Loot boxes can be costly

  • Role selection may not be for everyone

  • No crossplay

Overwatch was released in May, 2016, and has established itself as one of the best multiplayer games of all time. It pits two teams of 5 players against each other in a variety of different matches that involve controlling areas of a map or escorting a payload to different checkpoints. There are over 30 different heroes to play as, each with their own unique weapons, attacks, and special abilities; more are being added regularly, keeping gameplay fresh and interest in the game high. An updated added a role selection screen, locking players into preferred roles such as support, DPS (front-line fighters), and tank (heavy-hitters and damage sponges). This limits which characters you can play as, and once a role is chosen, you cannot switch once a match has started. The upside to this is that it greatly reduces the likelihood of having an unbalanced team. 

You can play in local matches with friends or online in casual or ranked matches to gain experience points. With enough XP, you get free loot boxes which give you character skins, sprays, voice lines, and in-game currency; you can also purchase loot boxes if you want to take more chances to get a legendary skin. Throughout the year, Blizzard has in-game events featuring special character skins, profile pictures, and emotes.

"The models are sleek looking, and each of the characters feels like it fits into the same world. Maps are also different and visually interesting, with lots of great details." Kelsey Simon, Product Tester

Best Graphics: CD Projekt Red The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

What We Like
  • DLC available

  • New game plus mode

  • Great story

What We Don't Like
  • Dense lore may be deter newcomers or anyone who hasn't read the novels

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released in 2015 by CD Projekt Red. The story has Geralt of Rivia on a search for his missing adopted daughter, Ciri, as she flees from the Wild Hunt. Geralt uses magic as well as two swords, one of steel and another of silver, to battle monsters and human enemies. By completing the various main and side quests available, players gain experience points and gold to spend in order to upgrade Geralt's abilities or buy better armor and weapons. Player choices can affect the main narrative of the game, resulting in several achievable endings; this makes replay value high since players can go back and make different decisions to see how they affect the ending. 

There are two DLC expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, which follow Geralt on bonus missions to track down mysterious entities and dangerous beasts. With the New Game Plus mode, players can start a new game with all of their weapons and abilities intact, allowing them to take on difficult challenges right away or access previously closed off areas. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has won numerous game of the year awards as well as awards for its narrative, visuals, and design.

"The morally complex choices, compelling worldbuilding, and excellent graphics makes Witcher 3 one of my favorite games of all time."Alice Newcome-Beill, Associate Commerce Editor

Best Role-Playing Game: Atlus Persona 5

What We Like
  • Some multiplayer elements

  • Approachable gameplay

  • Excellent music

What We Don't Like
  • English localization isn't the greatest

In Persona 5, players take on the role of a high school student known only as Joker after he has been falsely accused of assault and was forced to transfer schools as a result. The story takes place over the course of a regular school year, and Joker meets fellow students with special powers, creating a vigilante group to take down the evil that grows in the hearts of adults around them. The gameplay is a blend of school and life simulators as well as traditional dungeon-crawling RPGs. Joker can work part-time jobs, create items, or explore the town in order to raise his or his teammate's attributes in order to gain battle bonuses. 

The turn-based combat system lets players use both melee and ranged attacks as well as summon Personas to perform special attacks. This makes combat a multi-layered, fast-paced affair that lets you take several different approaches to enemies in order to gain the upper hand or dispatch them quickly. There are even some multiplayer elements to the game. Players can use the Thieves Guild feature to see what other players have done during any given day and send messages to one another to gain small combat buffs. The narrative focuses on Joker and his companions' desire for freedom from social expectations, their need to find their own place in the world, and growing distrust of the adults in their lives, which closely mirrors many typical adolescent journeys to independence in books, movies, and games.

Best Fighting Game: NetherRealm Studios Mortal Kombat 11

What We Like
  • New finishing moves and block mechanics

  • Custom character creation

What We Don't Like
  • Tedious grinding

  • Many microtransactions

Mortal Kombat 11 is one of the most recent additions to the iconic series from NetherRealm Studios. It uses a 2.5D gameplay style, meaning that the characters and environments use 3D modelling, but only move on a two-dimensional plane, which brings a fresh feel to the classic series. Along with familiar characters and movesets, MK11 introduces new features like Fatal and Krushing Blows which are special, high-damage attacks that can only be performed under certain conditions. The Flawless Block is also a new addition, letting players counterattack after perfectly blocking an opponent's attacks. 

The Mercy finisher allows you to revive an opponent and give them a small amount of health in order to continue the match. Players can use the custom variation feature to select different outfits, weapons, and movesets to create a personalized character to practice combos with or take on local or online multiplayer matches. There are 25 base characters in the game, including iconic ones like Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage, and you can unlock 12 more fighters via DLC or microtransactions.

Best Remaster: Team Ico Shadow of the Colossus

What We Like
  • Improved control scheme

  • Improved visuals

  • Good frame rates

What We Don't Like
  • Camera can be frustrating during combat

The 2018 version of Shadow of the Colossus is a remake of the original 2005 game that was released for the PlayStation 2. The developers at Bluepoint Games remade every asset in the game from the ground-up, using ultra-high definition art to take advantage of the PS4's hardware capabilities. While gameplay is nearly identical to the original game, the control scheme was reworked to be more intuitive for newcomers and returning fans alike. 

The game can run at 30fps in 1080p on the PS4 or at 60fps in 1440p on the PS4 Pro, letting you see every detail from the wind in the grass as you search for the colossi to the cracks and gouges in a colossus as you battle to take it down. The Shadow of the Colossus remake has been nominated for several game of the year awards and has won other awards for its fresh take on a fan favorite game.

Best Open World Game: Sucker Punch Productions Ghost of Tsushima

Sucker Punch Productions Ghost of Tsushima
What We Like
  • Gorgeous setting

  • Fun combat

  • Multiplayer

What We Don't Like
  • Open world can feel empty at times

  • Side quests can be tedious

Ghost of Tsushima takes place in 13th century Japan and has players take on the role of Jin Sakai as he embarks on a quest to rescue his uncle, Lord Shimura, from the occupying Mongolian forces. Gameplay allows players to choose between outright combat with enemies or using stealth to avoid combat altogether or pick off enemies one-by-one. Jin has a variety of items and weapons at his disposal including a grappling hook for scaling walls or reaching high areas, firecrackers and smoke bombs to create distractions and disorient enemies, and kunai knives to take down multiple enemies at once. Jin learns new fighting moves from characters he meets along the way, allowing him to battle increasingly stronger enemies. 

The game takes players through multiple regions like forests, villages, and mountainous areas, giving the game's open world setting a diverse feel that unfolds naturally as players progress. Along with the main story, a multiplayer expansion has been added, allowing players to take on new story missions or join 4-player combat missions; it also allows players to start a new game plus, allowing them to play the game from the beginning with all of their high-value gear and fully upgraded abilities against tougher enemies for more of a challenge.

Best Action Game: Guerrilla Games Horizon Zero Dawn

Guerrilla Games Horizon Zero Dawn
What We Like
  • Fast and fun combat

  • Deep skill tree

  • Interesting setting and narrative

What We Don't Like
  • Bland NPCs

  • Clunky enemy AI

Horizon Zero Dawn follows Aloy, an outcast among her people and living in a post-apocalyptic far-future, as she explores various locations and unravels the mystery of why the robots who rule the land have become more and more aggressive toward humans and what happened to the people that came before her. Players can craft a variety of items like tripwire traps, specialized arrows, bombs, and health items to take down both human and robotic enemies, as well as upgraded items like quivers, weapons, and resource satchels to carry more raw materials and ammo. 

Experience points can be spent in the skill tree to improve Aloy's stealth, combat, scavenging, and healing abilities. The DLC expansion, The Frozen Wilds, adds the ability to jump off of mounts to attack enemies, making combat on-the-go easier and. Throughout the world, Aloy may encounter Corruption Zones, areas that are populated by much more aggressive machines; clearing these areas gains experience points and resources in droves. Campfires allow Aloy to fast travel to places she has visited before, drastically cutting travel time across the huge map. There are also a vast number of collectible items scattered around the map to encourage players to explore every nook and cranny of the world.

"If you take the gameplay and combat of Tomb Raider or Assassin's Creed Odyssey. mix it with robot dinosaurs and a young adult female protagonist, you get Horizon Zero Dawn. It's my favorite game to play on the PS4."Ajay Kumar, Tech Editor

Best Horror Game: Naughty Dog The Last of Us Part II

Sony The Last of Us Part II
What We Like
  • Excellent character performances

  • Great audio design

  • Excellent narrative

What We Don't Like
  • Ending may leave some players dissatisfied

  • Second half of the game feels slow and plodding

The Last of Us Part II thrusts players back into the familiar world of an America overrun by mutated zombies. Players take the role of Ellie this time as well as a new character, Abby, gaining insight and understanding as the characters' stories intertwine and feed off of one another. Much like its predecessor, gameplay relies heavily on stealth and exploration to navigate each area, avoiding zombies and uninfected human enemies altogether. The difficulty system determines how many resources like ammo and crafting supplies are available to players, with the highest difficulty making ammo and health items especially scarce; this works very well to heighten the sense of urgency and danger when encountering enemies. 

Human and zombie enemies alike use an improved AI system to make combat more realistic by calling for reinforcements or taking advantage of Ellie and Abby while they reload or deal with another enemy. Human enemies also use guard dogs to track your scent, making stealth more challenging at times. Since Part II takes place several years after its predecessor, the world Ellie and Abby navigate feel more abandoned and empty, resources and uninfected strongholds coming up further and further apart; it adds a sense of desperation and loneliness that the first game didn't have, serving to heighten the relationships between characters and horror of navigating a world filled with more monsters than people.

Best Crime Game: Rockstar Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption 2
What We Like
  • Excellent narrative

  • Fun combat

  • Plenty of story and side missions

What We Don't Like
  • Offensive portrayals of Native Americans

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to its 2010 predecessor, following the outlaw Arthur Morgan as he navigates an increasingly civilized Wild West and comes to terms with his differences with his gang leader. The positively huge world map contains fictionalized regions based on the western, midwestern, and southern United States, and is filled to the brim with main story missions and side quests. Being a Rockstar game, RDR2 has a system much like the Grand Theft Auto games where player actions can trigger law enforcement reactions, resulting in bounty hunters and sheriff's deputies alike tracking your movements throughout the region in order to capture or kill you. 

The honor gauge allows players to see how completing, or not completing, a mission or task will affect their public image. High and low honor affect the story in different ways, opening up different dialogue options with NPCs and branching narrative paths; honor levels also unlock specific outfits and benefits like store discounts or more items looted from a corpse. Arthur Morgan can take on side missions like bounty hunting to earn money, duelling strangers, and even hijacking stagecoaches and trains for loot. Red Dead Redemption 2 has been praised for its storytelling, setting, and gameplay that weave together as authentic a Wild West experience as players can get.

Final Verdict

God of War is a high-water mark for the PlayStation 4, combining fun combat, engaging gameplay, and a compelling story to create a well-rounded experience. The departure from Greek mythology breathes new life into the series with new locations to explore and new abilities to try out on enemies. The Shadow of the Colossus remake does its best to faithfully recreate a PS2 fan-favorite. All of the game's assets were rebuilt from the ground up to look excellent in both 1080p and 4K, and the improved control scheme makes combat and gameplay more approachable for returning and new players.

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and testers use several factors to evaluate the quality of PlayStation 4 games. We play through each game, judging the game based on the coherence of its plot, the quality of its graphics, and the overall enjoyment of its key gameplay loop. We balance the subjective elements of personal likes and dislikes, with an overall view of the genre as a whole and the value proposition offered by the games in terms of length and payoff. We also compare each game to a similar rival to help us make a final evaluation. Lifewire purchases each game; we do not accept review codes. 

About Our Trusted Experts

Kelsey Simon has been writing for Lifewire since 2019 and she's been a gamer even longer. She owns several consoles, two Nintendo Switches, and even built her own gaming rig. She liked Overwatch for its brightly colored graphics and the unique maps and gameplay modes that act as a twist on the battle royale genre. Best of all, it's free.

Ajay Kumar is Tech Editor for Lifewire. With over seven years of experience in the industry, he's reviewed everything from phones and laptops, to games and gaming accessories. He built his own gaming rig and owns all the major conoles. He loved God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn for their mix of open world RPG elements with character-driven stories.

Alice Newcome-Beill is Associate Commerce Editor at Lifewire. Previously published at PC Gamer and GamesRader, she's been a gamer since the time she was six. She built her own PC, has all the latest and greatest accessories, and liked Witcher 3 most for its morally complex choices that force a player to think.

Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for Lifewire, Digital Trends, TechRadar and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.

What to Look for When Buying PS4 Games

Gameplay - The way in which you interact with other players and the game’s challenges, also known as gameplay, will largely determine your experience. In cooperative gameplay, for instance, you’ll team up with other players and work together to defeat an AI opponent, whereas in competitive gameplay, you’ll be pit against other players. In linear gameplay, you’ll be tasked with challenges must be completed in a specific order, whereas in nonlinear gameplay, there can be many sequences. Consider what you’re looking to get out of your gaming experience and choose accordingly.

Graphics - Graphics are separate from gameplay. In general, the more realistic the graphics, the more immersive the game will be. That’s not always the case, though, because not all games are intended to be realistic. Some cartoon games are equally as enveloping, especially if they are geared towards younger kids.

Rating -Rated T for Teen,” “Rated E for Everyone.” These are phrases you hear at the end of every video game commercial, but what does it really mean? The letter rating in the corner of each video game box displays its Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating and it’s made up of three parts: Rating categories (“E” for everyone; “E10+” for ages 10 and up; “T” for teens; “M” for mature 17+; and “A” for adults only), Content Descriptors (Comic mischief, mild language, etc.) and Interactive Elements (In-Game Purchases, Users Interact, Shares Location, Unrestricted Internet, etc.). Be sure to check this before buying a game, especially if it’s a gift.

Was this page helpful?