The First Ten Games You Should Buy For Your PS4

It's the time of year when people start considering a new system and the PlayStation 4 and XBox One are going to look mighty enticing. You're going to need something new on which to play "Destiny," "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare," and "Dragon Age: Inquisition," aren't you? And the capabilities of the PS4, while arguably unfulfilled as of August 2014, are still there. This is a powerful, remarkable machine with a better controller than the PS3, more intuitive interface, and greater potential to be the all-in-one entertainment machine that Sony and Microsoft has been promising for years. Scan the latest offerings on Netflix, watch your Ultraviolet movies through Vudu, check out your favorite team on MLB.TV, or search the PlayStation Store for new movies or the latest episodes of TV shows. These are just a few of the ways that I use the PS4 because, to be honest, there haven't been a lot of reasons to use it for gaming. That's going to change. And so I'm here to offer a service. When you DO finally get a PS4, here are the first ten games you should play, a mix of PSN offerings and on-disc titles, some of which are PS3 remasters or upgrades that still play better than "Knack" or "Killzone: Shadow Fall." In fact, what's overwhelmingly sad about this list is that there's only one TRUE PS4 exclusive. The rest are all games that play better on the PS4 (sometimes significantly) but until more great games play ONLY on the PS4, the next generation of gaming won't have really begun. These are the first ten games to play when you get a PS4, alphabetically, with quotes from my original reviews and links back to them.

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.

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While one could spend significant time merely searching the open seas for frigates to overtake or islands to explore treasure chests, the story of “Black Flag” is just as engaging, and more so than any previous “AC” game. Kenway is a charismatic lead, as he rises high enough in the ranks of the pirate world that he begins to run missions with Blackbeard himself. What’s so remarkable about “Black Flag” is the way the open-world exploration beautifully intertwines with the overall narrative. Traveling from port to port, taking down enemy ships and forts with a stunningly-designed ship combat system that’s easy to learn and hard to master, killing your enemies from the shadows, and upgrading your character and ship along the way – it becomes difficult to separate the “side missions” from the major ones. A lot of open-world games are so in name only. You can’t really do much outside of the core narrative. Everything here weaves together into one, remarkable experience.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Call of Duty: Ghosts
Call of Duty: Ghosts. Image © Activision

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What is there to say about a new “Call of Duty” game? It’s hard to believe that there’s anyone in the current or beginning generation of gamers who has yet to play one of these games. Telling you what I think of a “Call of Duty” is like telling you what I think of McDonald’s. You already have an opinion about the Big Mac. Having said that, I have to form an opinion on this specific installment and it feels like a nice transitional title, one that successfully takes the franchise to the PS4 but doesn’t do much beyond that. One could call it treading water but it also certainly doesn’t drown. It’s a familiar, enjoyable, addictive experience that can bridge the system for millions of gamers. Mission accomplished.

Child of Light

Child of Light. Ubisoft

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“Child of Light” is the first PS4 game to blend it all—gorgeous, unique graphics with some of the most addictive RPG gameplay of the last several years. It is a deceptively simple game that gets more challenging and customizable as your party grows and your skill sets increase. It is the rare RPG that doesn’t feel cluttered or repetitive and yet still offers waves of second-by-second decisions that need to be made and even a bit of grinding and side missions for those looking for RPG staples. It is 25% of the cost of most PS4 games, runs for hours (and that’s without much exploration and zipping through the dialogue scenes quickly), and is so satisfying that I was actually sad when it was over. I didn’t want to leave this world.

Infamous: Second Son

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I must say that “Second Son” looks absolutely amazing. Sucker Punch has fully embraced the potential of the PS4. Want some stats? When Delsin turns into smoke and dashes forward, he breaks apart into 11,000 individual particles before reforming. Actor Troy Baker’s face was captured to 22,321 separate vertices for in-game animations. Each raindrop is considered a separate particle to be rendered by the graphics engine and there are 30,000 of them. Every horizon, every neon sign, every NPC—“Infamous: Second Son” is the best-looking PS4 game yet.

The Last of Us Remastered

The Last of Us Remastered. Sony

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If you’re on the backlash bandwagon and are one of those people who don’t get the hype, the PS4 version won’t persuade you. It is, at its core, the same story. And if the saga of survivors Joel and Ellie didn’t interest you in 2013, it won’t in 2014. But, to be honest, you and I don’t see the purpose of video games the same way anyway. For me, “TLOU” hits every box on the checklist of what we want from games. It is perfect escapism, creating some of the most intense action scenes in the history of the form. It is also something deeper thematically, a game that allows us to relate to characters and consider how we would act in the same situation. And, finally, it is an incredible visual accomplishment, creating a world that feels fully realized and lived-in.

MLB 14 The Show

MLB 14 The Show. Sony

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The PS4 version of “MLB 14 The Show” is the best sports game ever made. Yeah, I said it. I’m on that journalistic limb, living the hyperbole, embracing the melodramatic exclamation. It’s the BEST.

Rayman Legends

Rayman Legends. Ubisoft

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The levels have attained a 3D quality with the PS4 graphics engine, approaching Hollywood cartoon-caliber animation. My 4-year-old son loves to watch me play “Rayman Legends” like it’s another Saturday morning offering and the visual polish on the PS4 version makes the graphical presentation even more impressive. This is a GORGEOUS game, one that all platformer developers should play. You know those issues that hamper your enjoyment of other platformers due to weak visuals? Bad camera angles that force you to fall; lack of depth that makes jumping impossible; inconsistent combat because of 2D scrolling weaknesses? None of that is here. None. There are a few levels that feel kind of perfunctory, I’ll admit that fact, but 80-90% of “Rayman Legends” simply works.

Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy. Cellar Door Games

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Get ready to die. Get ready to die again and again and again. Reportedly inspired by brutal games like “Dark Souls,” the brilliant and addictive “Rogue Legacy,” now available on the PSN after a fantastic 2013 run on home computer systems, forces you to die. Sure, death is a common building block of all video games from Mario to Nathan Drake, but rarely has it been so cleverly ingrained into the arc and focus of a game that never falls below ridiculously entertaining. I died a lot while playing “Rogue Legacy” over the last few days. And I loved every minute of it.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Square-Enix

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Given my obligation to play all of the major and many of the minor games for the PS3 and PS4, I understandably don’t have much time to revisit even my favorite titles. Being able to play through even the best games of the year for a second time is a luxury my schedule does not allow. And yet I will play through “Tomb Raider” again (I’m almost halfway there already) on the PS4. Although this amazing game feels so different on the PS4 that it hardly qualifies as a replay.

Watch Dogs

Watch Dogs #3
Watch Dogs #3. Image © Ubisoft

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“Watch Dogs” is an imperfect game that you simply must play. It is an ambitious, epic crime saga a la “Grand Theft Auto” but with a modern, tech bent for gamers who know what the NSA does and believe in Edward Snowden. It is ultra-violent, ridiculous, and over-the-top in ways that can both thrill and frustrate in the exact same moment. Brilliantly redesigning Chicago in much the same way that Christopher Nolan did in “The Dark Knight”—one block will be meticulously accurate to the real city and the next totally reorganized/fictional—it features the most fascinating and well-constructed environment yet created for the PS4. You NEED to see this game. However, seeing it and even enjoying its addictive, deep variety of gameplay can’t fix the storytelling problems or the sense that this is a title that’s more cluttered than refined. According to Ubisoft, the game is already a massive hit, selling more copies in its first day than any title in the company’s history (and, so you know, they make the “Assassin’s Creed” and “Far Cry” games so it’s quite a feat). So simply to be a part of the gaming world, you need to know what "Watch Dogs" is all about.