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The PlayStation 4 is still one of the most popular consoles of its generation. Combined with its two variants, the smaller PS4 Slim and the more powerful 4K HDR-capable PS4 Pro, there are plenty of fantastic games to pick from. Sony has some of the best exclusives, with games like God of War, Persona 5, Spiderman, and Shadow of the Colossus. They meld fun and challenging gamplay with a compelling storyline to create unforgettable experiences.
An incredible, brutal combat system
A surprisingly touching story-line
Surreal graphics and sound design
Violence might be too much for some
So far in this console generation, one game stands out as the clearcut example of what gaming can achieve as an art form. Surprisingly, that game is God of War, which on paper sounds like the most cartoonish and juvenile thing imaginable, but we promise it is not! The critically acclaimed series has updated its tone, setting, style, and main weapon for this reboot. God of War has you playing as Kratos, the demigod son of Zeus who is known for his brutality and constant need for revenge. He makes his way from Greek mythology to Norse this time around and uses a magical ax to fend off foes protecting his son Atreus. Its a game about parenting, the burden of passing on your past to your family's future, responsibility, and trust.
But it retains its patented, sadistic action, the main staple of the series, so you won't have to miss out on fighting monsters and demons. The cinematic nature of God of War is one never attempted in games before: the entire campaign is done in one continuous longshot, never cutting away ever. This game features stylized combat, intricate puzzles, hidden collectibles, a more open world to explore, and an epic story that is much more mature than previous entries.
"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
Beautiful maps and lovable characters
Lots of modes and events throughout the year
Competitive and fun as an eSports title
It's best played with friends
With millions of players competing in six-versus-six matchups, Overwatch has cemented itself as one of the leading multiplayer games on the PlayStation 4. Right from the start, Overwatch sets itself up as a fun, playful game with plenty of charm. You have a choice of dozens of colorful characters including a very smart gorilla and a gun-slinging cowboy, each with their own unique battlefield perspectives. Our reviewer liked how every character has its own set of powers and abilities that can quickly shift the tide of battle. To keep gameplay even, no character's primary weapon will help you achieve victory every time, so mix and match to make your team's synergy better than your opponent.
If your mission is escorting an EMP device in London or protecting the secrets of a temple in Egypt, each battle demands proper tactics. Each of the globetrotting maps takes time to learn and master, which keeps users coming back for more. And there are always new events, new maps, new characters, and new modes being added all the time so the fun truly never stops!
"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
A rich narrative with wondrous lore
An intricate and deep combat system
This game will last you hundreds of hours
It's a bit overwhelming to start
Could take you a lifetime to do everything
The brilliance of The Witcher 3 is that its graphics aren't essential to the experience, but that it stands on its strong gameplay and storytelling to truly immerse its players. What we love so much about Wild Hunt is the sense that the world in which it takes place is alive — that there are creatures hiding over the hill on that horizon or people behind every door in that city. This kind of immersive realism takes incredible lore and attention to detail, and thankfully the game is visually stunning so you won't be bored poking through every nook and cranny.
You play as Geralt, a monster hunting Witcher who gets entangled in a search for a king's missing daughter, and a war between two factions. Geralt and his band of whimsical sidekicks and love interests travel around the world by horseback and boat to take on missions, save citizens from ghosts and goblins, and sit down at a tavern to play some cards every once in a while. The Witcher 3 is the epitome of the series, a grand masterpiece of sword-wielding heroes and horrible creatures that rivals any in the fantasy genre. If you're looking to get sucked into a game for months, you need not look further than The Witcher games.
"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
A stylish game with fantastic art and music
A deep turn-based fighting system
Excellent plotting and characters
Not the easiest game to get into
Persona 5 stands out as one of the premiere role-playing games in the genre over the last few years. The beautiful anime style pairs well with turn-based combat mechanics making for a combination that’s hard to beat on any platform. The main protagonist adds a satisfyingly deep story-line by discovering how to harness his Persona powers all while studying for midterms and attempting to having a social life.
There’s little time wasted as players are off to the JRPG races being thrown into the deep end of a mystery casino heist. It’s here that the gameplay takes itself to a new level as one moment you're crawling through a dungeon or fighting a boss and the next you're thrown back into that of a teenage life simulator. Both sections of the game are done so satisfyingly that there's no disappointment in switching from one to the next as they're equally engaging.
Incredible amounts of content to go through
The best core mechanics in the series
Unparalleled campaign for fighting games
Might be too visceral for some people
Mortal Kombat 11 pleases both beginners and veterans, allowing the former to punch buttons and hope for the best while the latter has time to be methodical and go for the kill. With each fight, you can customize your character's looks and earn currency to unlock more later. There’s enough contained within the single player and multiplayer modes to add hours upon hours of replayability. In fact, there’s so much single-player content it’s almost easy to forget about the hours of cut-scenes that pace the story-line or the online modes where you can test your might against competitors all over the world via the PlayStation Network. If the stomach-turning fatalities didn't grab your attention initially, the sublime fighting mechanics will hook you in and never let go. This is a love letter to fans everywhere and a bunch of fun to play with your friends, so we highly recommend you jump into the fray.
Epic sense of scale to the world
Memorable boss encounters
The minimalist story
Not a "pick up and play" type of game
A PlayStation 2 classic, Shadow of the Colossus got a complete top-to-bottom remaster and it looks like a brand new game. It also got some new control options, so it plays a lot better too, since the original had some clunky controls. The game is structured in a unique way, where the bulk of the journey is taking down massive giant monsters in epic boss battles, and if that sounds repetitive and monotonous to you then I'm sorry, that's mostly what you'll be doing. But if that sounds awesome to you, then this is the right game to purchase because you will literally climb skyscraper-sized creatures to take them down in an effort to bring back the love of your life. You ride on your horse and battle boss after boss, some flying around, some in the water, and some charging straight at you like a bull. But no matter the odds, you have to defeat every last one, and it's satisfying all the way until the end.
It makes you feel like Spider-Man
Swinging around New York is mesmerizing
Funny, sweet, and touching story
When the game makes you not play as Spider-Man
While Spider-Man can do whatever a spider can, thankfully in this PS4 exclusive you can do whatever he can as well now. You play as Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson, and Miles Morales throughout the campaign, but are primarily the titular webhead, and there is a bustling and riveting New York City to explore. You'll encounter the typical enemies and villains (Doc Ock, Kingpin, Electro, Rhino, etc.) and get upgradeable gadgets to help you take down foes. Spidey can ride the subway to get around, or just run around rooftops listening to a podcast from J. Jonah Jameson. The story follows Peter and Aunt Mae, and the main antagonist Mr. Negative, and you'll swing from mission to mission solving mysteries, stopping crimes, and getting into acrobatic feats of strength and agility. This is a dream come true for comic book fans, and the perfect superhero game to buy for your PS4.
Fresh new world to explore
Great central mystery in the plot
Fighting robot dinosaurs is awesome
It can get repetitive at times
Robot dinosaurs. There isn't much else that needs to be said to sell you on this game, but that alone is the most awesome thing in a video game and there are plenty of them in Horizon Zero Dawn. This is a new franchise for Sony and the PS4, and it follows protagonist Aloy as she enters into a world that is equal parts post-apocalypse and tribal prehistoric times. She gets sucked into a narrative quickly, and you have to get to the bottom of a pretty good mystery while using arrows and bombs to take down robot dinosaurs and other animals fused with technology. Horizon is an open world game, and you can freely explore the world looking for side quests to complete, merchants to barter with, fast travel points, and unlockables and hidden goodies. But mostly, this is a game about robot dinosaurs, and figuring out ways to either trick them into traps, hack them to fight alongside you, or just bash them down with your bow.
Robot. Dinosaurs. Enough said.
"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
Atmospheric levels and enemy designs
Great combat and RPG mechanics
Dazzling graphics and terrifying audio
Long load times
It's a difficult game to beat
While not the first thing to pop up when you think "horror game", Bloodborne is a scary good time and a must-play for thrill seekers and adrenaline addicts. It's not a traditional horror game because its main intent is not to scare you at every possible moment, but this game is definitely frightening and fits the bill perfectly. Bloodborne is an action RPG that is set in a twisted Halloween inspired town, and around every corner is a werewolf or zombie or horrible Cthulu type beast that wants to rip you to shreds. You create as a custom hunter, who wields a blade or ax and a pistol or shotgun, and have to fight your way past the creepy citizens and monsters to earn blood vials and blood echoes. Bloodborne is a game drenched in a spooky atmosphere, with disgusting bosses and haunting sound effects, and is downright hardcore in its treatment towards the player. This is a hard game, but worth it to learn its ways and master its combat, and one of the best the PS4 has to offer.
Fun story-driven missions
Lots to do in the open world
Somewhat slow movements
Red Dead Redemption 2 is Rockstar's action-adventure game focused on the world of outlaws and cowboys. The game is set out west where two outlaws are on the run from federal agents and bounty hunter. As the main character, Arthur Morgan, you have to rob, steal, and fight to survive in the harsh and lawless environment of the west.
The game is story-driven, but also has a number of missions ranging from heists and train robberies, to cattle rustling and bordellos. The scenery is beautiful, with rugged mountains, open plains, swift rivers, and a range of environments including rain and snow. Anyone who loved the previous iteration in 2010, will love Red Dead Redemption 2 as well.
The best PlayStation 4 games are ones that mix an interesting gameplay loop and great graphics with a compelling storyline. For those features, you won't do better than God of War. Telling the story of a father and son, the game's backdrop of Norse mythology, challenging boss battles, and unique setting make it one of the most memorable games to play. For something more lighthearted and fun, we like the battle royale Overwatch. It has lots of fun gameplay modes, unique battlefield, and quirky characters.
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.
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.
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.