The 10 Best PlayStation 4 Games to Buy in 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
"One of the most striking, cinematic releases for the PS4 is the newest installment in the God of War franchise."
"Diablo III has, since its original release almost six years ago, been considered one of the best RPGs around"
"CD Projekt Red has long since proved itself as one of the best open-world game makers of all time with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt."
Best Role-Playing Game:
Atlus Persona 5 at Amazon
"The fifth installment in the Persona series is, understandably, the largest and most ambitious yet."
"It’s hard to overstate the impact that the Mortal Kombat franchise has had on the gaming industry."
"Few games were as refreshingly unique as 2005’s original Shadow of the Colossus."
"Few games captured the imaginations of open-world fans in 2020 quite like Ghost of Tsushima."
"The gameplay is both rewarding and difficult, at times."
"The Last of Us is one of the best “on rails” story games of all time."
"After years of development and toiling, Red Dead Redemption 2 was likely one of the most anticipated open-world games of all time."

Choosing the absolute best Playstation 4 games is kind of just like choosing the best video games on the market. That’s because the PS4 gave us some of the best exclusives and triple-A titles that we’ve ever seen on any console. And even though the PS5 is finally here, you can expect at least a few more years of current titles supporting PS4. So, whether you’re looking for a true-to-history open-world title that sends you back in time or an on-rails action game that pits you against zombies and the demons inside us all, we’ve got a game rec for you. Read on for our favorite modern picks, plus a couple of remastered and re-released classics.

Best Overall: Sony God of War

What We Like
  • Superb graphics and style

  • Varied, two-character gameplay

  • Compelling story and setting

What We Don't Like
  • Not as light and arcade-like as previous installments

  • Some controls aren’t terribly intuitive

One of the most striking, cinematic releases for the PS4 is the newest installment in the God of War franchise. Unlike the more magic-heavy gameplay and brighter colors of predecessors in the series, 2018’s God of War opts for a grittier, more down-to-earth approach. Set amongst Norse mythology, players play as Kratos alongside his son Atreus. This pairing allows you to vary gameplay, using stronger primary attacks with Kratos, but picking off stragglers and thinning enemy groups using side attacks with Atreus.

The gameplay is actually quite a bit different from previous God of War games, and that is mostly due to the innovative change in visual style. This game is shot much like other story-based games such as Uncharted or the Last of Us, in that most of the visuals are depicted from one sweeping camera point of view. This means that gameplay shifts smoothly back and forth between cutscenes and actual gameplay. This immersive style is really popular in triple-A games right now, but in God of War it is particularly effective because the Scandanavian environment is so rich and so mood-setting. With heavy melee attacks, sweeping ranged attacks, and a fairly straightforward upgrade system for both Kratos and Atreus, this game offers RPG elements but plays a bit more like an arcade action game. This makes it accessible for casual gamers and those that like to dig in, as well.

"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 Co-op: Blizzard Entertainment Diablo 3: Eternal Collection (Xbox One)

Diablo 3
What We Like
  • Tons of content with two DLC stories

  • Great local or online co-op

  • Excellent performance on PS4

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat dated graphics, even for a re-release

  • Combat can get repetitive for longer play sessions

Diablo III has, since its original release almost six years ago, been considered one of the best RPGs around—not just for its steady progression of skills and satisfying combat style, but for its playful take on what could otherwise feel like an overly dark story. You don’t have to suffer through the dismal grind of something like the Dark Souls series, but you’ll find it isn’t quite as cartoony as a JRPG. In short, it’s a solid game if you want to dig into a tried-and-true classic.

The just-released Eternal Collection comes with the base game, of course, but it also folds in the Reaper of Souls and the more recent Rise of the Necromancer expansions. This means that there is plenty of story-based content to sink your teeth into. But where the game truly shows its longevity and bang for the buck is in the co-op gameplay. You can play with up to four players either locally in couch co-op or online. You can run through the campaigns, which will help new players ease into the game style, but if cooperative play is your focus, we’d recommend checking out the challenges available in Adventure mode, allowing you to mow down hordes of enemies and really put your combat skills to the test.

 With an excellent campaign and two DLC-based stories, plus a rich Adventure mode that comes alive during co-op play, this demonic RPG is a classic brought back to life. [MISSING ATTRIBUTION]

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

Witcher
What We Like
  • Immersive design and graphics

  • Great storytelling and quest systems

  • Well-developed characters

What We Don't Like
  • Can be overwhelming for new players

  • Occasional gameplay hiccups when a lot is going on

Setting aside the recent controversy fueled by the release of the rushed and buggy Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt Red has long since proved itself as one of the best open-world game makers of all time with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This game, originally released with its own share of initial hiccups in 2015, has received numerous re-releases and ports, picking up droves of die-hard fans, both old and new. This is largely due to the richness of the story, its world, its side quests, and its character development. This is a true fantasy RPG, with all the character and aesthetic you’d expect, including magic spells (called signs), a weapon upgrade and repair system, a truly beautiful combat format, and even a full-fledged, in-game card came called Gwent.

But none of the rich storyline or combat would matter if the game doesn’t look good, and even for a game as old as it is, Wild Hunt provides a truly gorgeous visual journey. Whether it’s the dramatic cut scenes (that don’t oversell the graphic capabilities) or the creature design and richly lit vistas, the second you step into the role of Geralt of Rivia, you’ll never want to leave.

"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
  • Varied turn-based combat

  • Tons of puzzles and secrets to explore

  • Great story and characterization

What We Don't Like
  • Very specific to JRPG fans

  • Visual style lacks some focus

The fifth installment in the Persona series is, understandably, the largest and most ambitious yet. Playing as a teenager who attends high school by day and infiltrates the minds and misdeeds of villains by night, the story of Persona 5 feels very unique and very rewarding for first-time players of the series and long-time fans, alike. The style is very in keeping with the cartoony nature of JRPGs, though it does provide its share of depth and darkness as well.

The gameplay, like previous games, puts you in a turn-based combat system mixing ranged and melee attacks, and pairing up to eight types of attack categories (not unlike the type-based combat you’re familiar with in other JRPGs). But the interest comes in the expanded construction of levels and dungeons. While the game does feel fairly linear, it leans into the idiosyncrasies of the different types of levels you’ll traverse. There are also plenty of secrets to uncover, plenty of upgrades to make for your character, and a litany of puzzles to solve your way through. While this game is best for those who already like JRPGs, it’s actually more accessible to new genre players than you might expect.

Best Fighting Game: NetherRealm Studios Mortal Kombat 11

What We Like
  • Sharp, gory graphics

  • Impressively deep playthroughs

  • Brutal, satisfying attacks

What We Don't Like
  • Can get repetitive

  • Controls might feel heavy and sluggish at first


It’s hard to overstate the impact that the Mortal Kombat franchise has had on the gaming industry, let alone fighting games. With almost three decades of gory, decapitating history, this fighting franchise doesn’t need a whole lot of introduction. Mortal Kombat 11, however, brings a fresh take on controls with it. With two different punch and kick buttons, the controls for MK11 are quite a bit more nuanced than the mashing you’d find in simpler fighting games. As a result, to truly succeed in the game, you’ll need to wrap your head around complicated patterns and combos.

Of course, NetherRealm has done a really nice job with packing the eleventh installment of a classic with content that feels new. First off, the story and progression you get with both single-player and two-player playthroughs feels deeply rich. And if the combo memorization worries you, there’s a comprehensive, in-depth training mode to show you the ropes. Of course the graphics are in keeping with the PS4 generation, allowing for absolutely gut-wrenching fatality scenes. The controls do feel a bit clunky compared to the faster pace of older installments, but it is easy to get used to. Overall, if fighting games are your thing, this is about as good as it gets for the modern gaming generation.

Best Remaster: Bluepoint Games 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

Few games were as refreshingly unique as 2005’s original Shadow of the Colossus. That’s because, other than progressing strictly through a story, defeating enemies along the way, graduating to new bosses, and ultimately completing a story, Colossus simply pits you against one giant boss at a time. Once defeated, you are sent back to start over at the altar, being given instructions and then seeking out a new boss. There’s something peaceful about this gameplay style that rewards strategy (much like meticulously hunting prey) rather than brute force.

In 2018, Bluepoint Games stayed true to the original Team Ico developers to build a truly impressive remake of the game. While technically this version sits somewhere between a remake and a remaster, it leans more toward remake due to the ground-up nature of the development. To utilize the PS4’s more powerful capabilities, Team Ico rewards modern players with impressively deep graphics and gameplay so smooth, you’ll forget this is a generations-old title. But all of the charm and grandeur of the original game are here, and because of the simplicity of the structure (literally just 16 colossus bosses to beat), the developer was able to use all the extra power to create detailed, gorgeous graphics. Other than some of the old controls being mapped to the modern DualShock 4 controller and a flashy photo mode, this is as true to the original as it gets.

Best Open World Game: Sucker Punch Productions Ghost of Tsushima

Sucker Punch Productions Ghost of Tsushima
What We Like
  • Gorgeous design and graphics

  • Unique upgrade system

  • Period-specific combat style

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult for non-stealth players

  • The story takes commitment

Few games captured the imaginations of open-world fans in 2020 quite like Ghost of Tsushima. While that has a lot to do with the context of the game and the combat style, the standout feature here is just how beautiful and at times therapeutic traversing the open world can be. Much like you’ll find in Assassin’s Creed games, there’s an attention to historical detail here that makes everything feel cohesive and compelling. Crouching, sneaking, and running through the cherry blossom-laden landscape on your way to discover new areas and secrets is downright awe-inspiring.

Of course, the structure of the game isn’t all formulaic. Sure, the quest-based open-world structure is here, and those familiar with similar games won’t be surprised by the formula. What’s different in this case is the combat and upgrade style. The only true upgrades throughout the game come in the form of literal attack capabilities. Specifically, players unlock new stances as they progress through the game that yield different damage levels to different types of enemies. This is more realistic than a traditional upgrade system as it rewards you with new strategies rather than just video game stat power.

And then there’s the story, which is a historical-yet-fictional tale of a protagonist fighting during the Mongol invasion of Tsushima. This makes for a really interesting playthrough. The characterization is compelling and fits right in with the setting. Overall, the magic in this game doesn’t take place in the form of spells and fantastical creatures—it exists in the realm of one of history’s most colorful periods and locations.

Best Action Game: Guerrilla Games Horizon Zero Dawn

Guerrilla Games Horizon Zero Dawn
What We Like
  • Excellent open-world graphics

  • Truly unique story and setting

  • Excellent characterization

What We Don't Like
  • Sometimes brutally difficult combat

  • Can get repetitive 

When it comes to triple-A console titles, there tends to be two schools of thought; either you double down on a setting or a historical moment and plunge players into a time long past. Or, you throw out the play book and try to create something outlandish and fresh. Horizon Zero Dawn is a strong example of the latter. You start the game as a young tribal warrior named Aloy, learning about the landscape and how your tribe has survived in what seems like a cross between Viking Scandinavia and pre-colonial America. However, the beasts that you’re hunting aren’t beasts at all—they are robotic inventions from a future that, in your case, exists in the past. Very quickly, you receive a futuristic earpiece that serves as your targeting view and helps you to navigate a world where nature has taken back a technological future.

The gameplay is both rewarding and difficult, at times. That’s because you’re essentially using a bow and arrow to fight machines (unless you’re able to tame that machine and co-opt it for your use). This requires you to be very clear what you’re hunting, and what type of arrow or attack is best used to defeat it. If you don’t adopt a “hunting from a blind” mentality with patience and strategy, the combat can be brutal and unforgiving. But the story and the fresh take on setting are enough to grind through it, and it will likely become the most interesting action game you’ve played this year.

"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
  • Truly expert storytelling

  • Simple, satisfying controls

  • Strategically different ways to play

What We Don't Like
  • On-rails story, without much customization

  • Harder difficulty levels can get frustrating

The Last of Us is one of the best “on rails” story games of all time. This former Game of the Year title received a long-awaited sequel in Part II, where this time Ellie is the main character rather than a compulsory sidekick. The last of us exists in well-worn thematic territory—trying to find human connection in the zombie apocalypse. And like any true horror game, there’s plenty of dark, spooky corners to explore and gory enemies to slash through. But the game rewards stealth choices, mostly because your inventory can be fairly scarce, so don’t treat it like a hack and slash.

What’s perhaps most interesting about Part II isn’t that it follows in the expert, storytelling footsteps of its predecessor, but because of the social subject matter it addresses. The main controversy that plagued this sequel when it was release was its clear goal to communicate specific things about human nature, with the main character being part of a same sex couple and the challenges she endures throughout. This makes the stakes of the game much higher, as not only are you navigating a zombie apocalypse, but you’re navigating the same social discussions we navigate in our real, zombie-free world. In short, if you don’t want Naughty Dog to tell you a story with a clear point of view, or you want a game that gives you more freedom to set out on your own journey, look elsewhere. Otherwise, going along for this ride will be as rewarding as it is terrifying.

Best Crime Game: Rockstar Red Dead Redemption 2 (Xbox One)

Red Dead Redemption 2
What We Like
  • Rich, meticulous design

  • Satisfying gameplay

  • Well-told main story

What We Don't Like
  • Obsessive detail can be dry at times

  • Side quests start to feel tedious toward the end of the game

When Rockstar took the sandbox-style gameplay made so popular with the Grand Theft Auto series and put it in the literal sandbox of the wild west, players couldn’t get enough. And as such, after years of development and toiling, Red Dead Redemption 2 was likely one of the most anticipated open-world games of all time. And with borderline ludicrous attention to detail, it’s almost unfathomable how Rockstar managed to do it while still telling a compelling story. And like any good crime story, the lines of good and bad are blurred throughout. You can tie up a criminal and toss him on a train track just as easily as you can an innocent bystander. You can spend time fishing, or you can chase down wrongdoers in the name of law and order. And that’s only the stuff you do outside the main quest, which is a western as well-told as any film. 

It is important to note that the game, much like other period open-world games, follows its logic and atmosphere to a fault. There’s nothing outlandish here. The combat and gameplay feel brutal and desperate, just like it would feel if you were on the 1800s frontier. And aside from a few surprises, nothing will catch you off guard, thematically. It’s a crime game, for sure, but it’s more apt to call it a Western game. If you want to feel like you’re traversing the prairie with your trusted horse, and you don’t want to leave your couch, this is the way to do it.

Final Verdict

We aren’t breaking any new ground by telling you that God of War is a must-play. The newest installment of one of the most successful gaming franchises of all time packs plenty of punch, and in this case, a heck of a lot more grit for your money. The added sidekick gameplay makes slashing through this Norse legend a truly customizable experience. But, while style and genre are very subjective, if we had to recommend one more game on our list to play, it would be The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This game, going on half a decade in existence, is still every bit as fantastic and immersive as it was on its release. Playthroughs can take you in dozens of directions, and the well-designed landscape will have you lost for hours of fantasy exploration.

FAQ

Should I play an open-world or story-based game? This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself when deciding on a game to buy. Whether you want an right-out-of-the-box experience that puts you in the driver’s seat of a cinematic story or you want to wander your way through a sandbox, discovering the story on your terms, is the first step in figuring out whether the game is right for you. Open-world games allow you to sink in many more hours of gameplay, while story-based games can be more easily timed, but also tend to have cleaner, easier-to-control graphics.


What is the difference between a remake and a remaster?
In recent years, there’s been an influx in games ported to non-native systems, most often adding slightly spruced up graphics. But what constitutes a remaster vs. a remake? The key distinction here is whether a studio rebuilt a game from the ground up. Doom (2016) for instance is a true remake because it was completely reimagined for modern hardware. Something like the Bioshock Collection on the other hand is just a polished version of the same game originally released for the Xbox that now exists on Nintendo Switch, PS4 and more.

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.

Jason Schneider is a tech reviewer, writer, and gamer with about 10 years of review experience. His fondest gaming memory is getting the N64 for Christmas the year it came out (quite the feat), but his favorite game right now is Control.

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?