The PlayStation 4 has almost undeniably been the console to own this generation, with a raft of exclusives – and multi-platform smashes – that have made it the envy of Xbox owners worldwide.
The likes of God of War and Spider-Man aren’t playable anywhere else, making the PS4 a must-own if you want to give them a go. And of course Sony’s big black box has the full set of Call of Duty, FIFA, Assassin’s Creed, and more.
With the PS5 nearly upon us, now’s the perfect time to catch up on the best games of this generation that you might have missed – though don’t worry, quite a few of the biggest next-gen games will still come to the PS4 for the next year or so, meaning there’s still more good stuff on the way.
If you want to find out about the best games beyond your PS4, check out our guides to the best Xbox One games, the best Switch games, and the biggest upcoming titles for every platform.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption was a phenomenal open world game for its time, and is one of few games that has stood the test of time, so it should come as no surprise that Red Dead Redemption 2 has set a new standard for open world games.
The open world of Red Dead Redemption is sprawling and varied, but it’s the finer details of the open world that make it feel dynamic and lived-in. You can have impromptu conversations with passers-by, intimidate witnesses to crimes to avoid becoming wanted and, when you want a little R&R, you have can hunt over 200 species of animal, go fishing or play dominoes with other gang members at camp.
We’ve been stopped by outlaws trying to rob us, we’ve helped a woman being attacked in her home, we’ve helped convicts escape prison carts and more – all while randomly exploring the open world out-of-mission.
The missions are action-packed, story-driven and wildly varied – from high-pressure missions like robbing a train to more relaxed missions where you simply have to go fishing – the game offers something new at every turn.
And we haven’t even mentioned Red Dead Online, coming to consoles in November 2018, providing a way to explore the vast open world with your friends.
We’ll end with a warning: Red Dead Redemption 2 may ruin every other open world game for you.
God of War
God of War for PS4 was said to be a complete reimagining of the franchise that would step away from what was offered in 2013’s God of War: Ascension. While this made some fans nervous, Santa Monica Studio has produced what could be one of the best games not only for PS4, but of this generation of gaming.
Kratos, the Ghost of Sparta and son of Zeus, has moved away from his ultra-violent, God-killing ways and has instead chosen to settle down far away in the realm of Midgard. Following the death of his wife, Kratos and his son Atreus must take the ashes to the highest point in Midgard to scatter them.
But it’s not as simple as it seems; despite being Atreus’ father, Kratos and his son don’t have a very close relationship. The story is as much about the blossoming of the relationship between father and son, as it is about spreading the ashes. And while that seems pretty deep for a God of War game, the story is told to absolute perfection.
It’s not the story alone that carries God of War though; the gorgeous and varied semi-open world is an absolute joy to explore, and the combat is pretty close to perfection. Why? Because it has been completely reimagined.
Gone are the fiery Blades of Chaos, with Kratos instead wielding the ice-enchanted Leviathan Axe. Kratos can throw the Axe at enemies and magically summon it back to his hand with the press of a button, much like Thor and his hammer Mjölnir.
God of War ticks all the boxes; it looks stunning, combat is satisfying, offers an emotionally gripping campaign and a variety of things to do once you’ve completed the main story. What’s not to like?
Get on this now, because you’ll want to have played it before God of War: Ragnarok arrives in 2021.
The Last of Us Part II
It’s hard to find fault with Tetris Effect once you’ve played it, even if the initial assumption is: “Well, it’s just Tetris, right?”
Because no, it isn’t just Tetris. I mean, it is Tetris. But it’s also a rhythm game. And a VR experience. And an emotional journey. And a fairly potent hallucinogenic.
Best played on PlayStation VR – though almost as effective on the TV – this take on Tetris syncs your every movement up to the expansive audio, which is in turn connected to a dazzling array of visuals and lighting effects that spill out of the gameplay area and spill all around the screen.
The idea is to enhance the sensation of losing yourself in the game, using an array of audiovisual effects to lull you into a trancelike state as you begin to organise blocks and clear lines without even thinking about it any more.
You can play a variety of individual stages and different game modes, but the heart of it all is the Journey mode: a single-player campaign that takes you on a journey across human history – and gets unexpectedly emotional – all through the medium of Tetris. We never saw this one coming.
DOOM was one of the best games of 2016. DOOM Eternal is better.
The original has been improved upon in almost every conceivable way, with familiar ultraviolence that’s been subtly enhanced throughout by expanded movement and combat options, like dashing and wall climbing or new ice bombs and a flamethrower.
Throw in a richer plot, more diverse level design, and extra replayability in the form of cheat codes and challenges, and there’s an awful lot to love here, whether you’re a DOOM veteran or virgin.
Only the truly puritanical will find anything to dislike in ripping and tearing through the hordes of Hell once again.
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Uncharted 4 is a PS4 exclusive that does something truly fascinating: capping off Nathan Drake’s tale with a treatise on what it means to be a treasure hunter may not sound exciting, but it adds emotional heft to a game that until that point was a Tomb Raider knock-off with the bold idea to replace Lara Croft with a dark-haired white guy.
Suddenly, we’re introduced to a Nathan Drake that’s retired from adventuring, constantly trying to spice up his job as a salvage diver to avoid confronting a life he’s not happy with. As soon as he gets a chance to dive back into adventure, he takes it, but the game examines why this is, and does it while delivering some of the PS4’s best third-person action.
Whether you’re breaking out of prison, exploring a town or feels totally unique, while expansive missions in Scotland and Madagascar will stick in your mind for years to come.
Metro Exodus is the third and final instalment of the hugely popular Metro series, and it’s safe to say that it’s the best to date. Exodus sees Artyom and the Spartan Rangers ditch the dark, dank Metro system to embark on a cross-country mission with the aim of finding other explorers and settling down somewhere safe. Of course, being a Metro game, it doesn’t quite go to plan.
The game is the first in the series to offer an open-world format, offering four unique environments for gamers to explore. Each is full of post-apocalyptic points of interest and, of course, dangerous mutated animals to avoid. But despite offering several open world areas to explore, Metro Exodus doesn’t lose that panicked, claustrophobic feel that is so synonymous with the series.
It’s stunningly good-looking too, offering a truly beautiful glimpse at post-apocalyptic Russia.
Essentially, if you’re on the market for a tight, story-driven open world shooter that’ll make you scream like a kid then Metro Exodus is the game for you.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2017, exclusive to the PS4 and PS4 Pro. But what makes the post-apocalyptic open world of Horizon Zero Dawn so attractive? Apart from roaming mechanical dinosaurs and a fiery red-headed heroine, of course.
The game’s storyline is much like a Hollywood movie with an engaging and intriguing storyline: after proving herself worthy to those that labelled her an outcast as a child, it’s up to Aloy to unmask the secrets of her past and in doing so, shed some light on why the world it is as it is, and where the mysterious dinosaur-like Machines are coming from.
Frankly, what’s most impressive about Horizon Zero Dawn is that it’s powered by a PS4, and not a high-end gaming PC (though there is now a PC port if you do have a high-end rig). This is especially true when running Horizon Zero Dawn on a PS4 Pro, as we did, offering 4K output at 30fps by rendering the game in 2160p checkerboard.
Lines are clear and defined, textures are of an extremely high quality and the frame rate is stable while providing one of the greatest gaming experiences available on a console. We take our hats off to you, Guerrilla Games, we really do – and can’t wait for the sequel in 2021, which is coming to PS4 as well as PS5.
Remedy’s latest is a work of art: an action-adventure game that focuses on the obviously-fictional Federal Bureau of Control, a secret U.S government outfit that contains and studies anything that doesn’t fit within the realms of reality.
This could involve you exploring astral planes, picking up reality-bending artefacts and taking out enemies with a mix of telekinesis and the Eldritch service weapon, which warps between different fire modes and shapes depending on what you want or need in any given situation.
Every aspect of Control is brilliant, but the brightest light is cast by the game’s aesthetic. The Oldest House, the setting of the game. The brutalist look of the place in combination with the mundane bureaucratic detritus you find exploring the place makes this a truly unique action game, one of the best on the PS4.
The Last Guardian
We had to wait nine years, and it managed to somehow skip the PS3 entirely, but it was worth it: The Last Guardian is the sort of exclusive that should make anyone without a PS4 very jealous indeed.
The latest game from the creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus sees you play as a young boy tasked with escaping a derelict castle. Your only companion? A giant, magical, half-bird, half-cat creature named Trico, who you’ll have to befriend and help if you want to make it out in one piece.
Across the game’s platforming, puzzles, and fights, it’s that bond with Trico that’ll keep you coming back for more, as you slowly build up trust between the two of you, until by the end of the game you’re happily plunging off teetering towers, confident that the big fluffball will catch you on your way down.
There are a few performance issues and occasional frustrations with the controls, but The Last Guardian is beautiful – and emotional – enough that you’re not likely to care.
Resident Evil 2
After 2017’s Resident Evil 7 marked a return to form for the faltering franchise, the 2019 remake of Resident Evil 2 sees it fully return to – and arguably surpass – its former glory days.
This remake of the 1998 classic takes everything that worked in the original and amps it up, while carefully excising, tweaking, and modernising the elements that either never worked or have simply aged badly – a tightrope that the follow-up remake of Resident Evil 3 didn’t walk quite as gracefully.
The controversial tank controls are gone, replace with a more fluid control and camera system that’s still just slow enough to keep the tension going. The map and story have both been remixed to keep things interesting, and enemy AI has been updated to make things less predictable – especially in the case of the terrifying Tyrant, which now takes after Alien: Isolation’s relentless xenomorph.
It’s still Resi through and through though, from the ever-tight inventory spaces to the continued insistence that eating a couple of plant pots will pop you back up to full health. And we love it all the more for it.
Norman Reedus’s Incredible Delivery Simulator might not sound like a game worth your time, but something about staggering around a creepy dystopian landscape with a pile of packages and a baby strapped to your chest actually works.
It’d be easy to blame the ol’ Kojima magic, or point at the sorta-multiplayer that sees you taking advantage of the things other players have left behind, but we think the reason Death Stranding is so enjoyable to play is that it’s something completely different.
There are 19 other games on this list, but this is the only one that has you working as a glorified delivery man, where the adventure isn’t so much the destination as it is the journey, and how you’re going to make it.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey
After Assassin’s Creed Origins revamped the long-running series, Odyssey took the baton and ran with it, building on Origins’ foundations to deliver a bigger, bolder game.
Set even earlier, before the Assassins even existed, this ancient Greek historical fantasy expands on the RPG elements that Origins carefully introduced, throwing in branching dialogue, romance options, customisable combat skills, and upgradable gear.
The core loop of exploration, stealth, and combat is mostly unchanged, with a return of your trusty eagle companion too (this time named Ikaros, in keeping with the setting). Sprawling across the Greek mainland and myriad islands against the backdrop of the Peloponnesian War, the lush setting is up there with the series’ best too, and you’ll want to explore it to the fullest, whether on foot or at the helm of your trusty ship.
It’s worth noting that Assassin’s Creed Origins is still fantastic in its own right, and remains one of the best PS4 games too, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is on the way soon.
It’s probably fair to say that Insomniac’s PS4-exclusive Spider-Man game isn’t the most original or innovative game on this list, but it makes up for it by being ridiculously fun to play around in.
This open-world take on the wallcrawling superhero owes a ludicrously large debt to Rocksteady’s Arkham Batman games – most obviously in the combat and stealth systems, which are lifted almost directly from those games, but also in the multi-villain story structure, open world mechanics, and even the traversal mechanics.
For the most part it’s merely an able imitator, but it’s that traversal that brings Spidey into his own, building on Batman’s foundation and elevating itself far above them: swinging around NYC is breathtakingly enjoyable, and it’s easy to lose hours to nothing but webslinging, swooping between skyscrapers and only stopping for the odd selfie.
Everything else about the game is fun – the story is schlocky comic book far, the combat is fast-paced, and the open world is lively (if undeniably repetitive) – but it’s the webslinging that makes Marvel’s Spider-Man almost an essential PS4 game.
Let’s just hope the same is true for the upcoming spin-off Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which will arrive on PS4 as well as PS5 in 2020.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
If you’re looking for action and adventure, Call of Duty is often a solid shout, even if it’s uninspiring. That is, until now. Modern Warfare is the best the franchise has been in years.
Modern Warfare, a reimagining of the hit game that launched Call of Duty’s popularity into the stratosphere, came in and tore up the series’ established rules and the result is a sublime shooter, with both a cracking single-player campaign and a multiplayer with a slower pace and some innovative new features.
Both single-player and the competitive multiplayer are strong, but steer clear of the game’s co-op mode: it’s a bit pants, and why waste your time with that when you can instead dig into some of the best shooting action available for the PS4?
The upcoming Black Ops: Cold War has an awful lot to live up to.
Ghost of Tsushima
Fans have spent years asking for an Assassin’s Creed game set in Japan, and Ghost of Tsushima looks like the closest they’re going to get.
This open-world actioner is a little bit paint-by-numbers – there’s a big map with side quests and collectibles to tick off, an expansive upgrade tree, and options to approach encounters by either stealth or all-out-action. This isn’t an Ubisoft game, but it might as well be.
Still, there are subtle touches that elevate Tsushima above most of its competition. There’s the complete Japanese dub for fans who want a touch more authenticity to the experience. Or the ‘guiding wind’ mechanic that subtly blows leaves and grass in the direction of your next objective. Or simply the fact that every now and then the game asks you stop and compose a haiku.
It doesn’t hurt that the combat is ace, with a stance mechanic that sees you constantly shift fighting styles to overcome your foes – though it’s a shame that the oh-so-generic stealth can’t compete, meaning the choice of play-styles is really made for you.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But maybe add some new modes. This has been the mantra of FIFA for a long while, but FIFA 20 has added a whole new mode, Volta, which reinvents FIFA Street for a new generation.
Everything’s here as you might expect: FUT, the friendship ruining house-rules Quick Play mode, even the Champions League rights grabbed in FIFA 19 to let you feel like you’re clutching the trophy yourself after you leather Man City.
Add to this new and improved handling, and the fact that Volta really is quite good, and this is your favourite football game, but y’know, the best possible version of it – at least until FIFA 21 turns up.
Final Fantasy XV
At 200 hours for a complete playthrough (and at least 40 for the main story alone), Final Fantasy XV is pretty undeniable value for money- luckily, it’s also a good enough game that you’ll probably want to stick around for all 200 of those hours.
The game sets you on a road trip with a few buddies, but since this is a Final Fantasy game, there’s obviously a lot more to the story than that, and it’s packed with all the requisite twists and turns to keep you engaged throughout.
FFXV shakes up the series’ turn-based combat with a new dynamic, real-time system that lets you perform joint attacks with your teammates. It takes a little getting used to, but once you do it’s effective, intuitive, and above all fun.
The open-world lets you travel just about as far as the eye can see, and visit everything along the way, and the game world is packed with activities and side quests to keep you occupied. Get on it now before Final Fantasy XVI arrives on the next-gen PS5.
When have secret experiments on space stations ever gone right? Throw in memory modifications and eery aliens and it’s hard to really feel surprised that everything went a bit skewy on Prey’s Talos I.
You step into the shoes of Morgan Yu, one of the station’s head scientists, as you contend with the outbreak of the Typhon, an assortment of gooey black extraterrestrials with a penchant for mind control and murder.
While most of these enemies are pretty typical, the best are the Mimics, scuttling spiders that also have the ability to disguise themselves as every day objects – potentially making Prey the first game to scare you with a coffee cup.
There’s a pretty open character progression system, with options to focus on strength, hacking and repairing, or more outlandish Typhon powers of your own, while Talos I itself is also open to explore (mostly) freely.
If there’s a downside to Prey it’s that the story, while initially promising, never quite comes together entirely. That, and it’ll all feel very familiar if you’ve played the likes of BioShock or Dishonored before. Still, it’s tremendous fun, and easy to recommend.
Far Cry 5
Set in the fictional region of Hope County, Montana, you find yourself in the shoes of a Deputy in the local police force, sent in to arrest the leader of a separatist cult – Eden’s Gate – known as Joseph Seed. Upon his arrest and subsequent escape, it soon becomes apparent that to deliver justice to Joseph, the land must be liberated and his “Heralds” must be brought down first.
One upside of being set close to the Rockies in the US is that Far Cry 5 looks stunning. Luscious green forests, sprawling lakes, and towering mountains cover the landscape, making every view a breath-taking one. It’s well populated too, with tons of friendly people trying to take their homeland back and cultists trying to kill everyone, but even the local fauna has a huge amount of range from Deer to Bears, and even a few Caribou and Moose.
When not out liberating the land from cultists, there are plenty of other side activities to carry out: Hunting animals, base jumping with a wingsuit, mimicking a stuntman, and even fishing. Few give tangible rewards unless the skins of certain animals are required in a mission, but everything that is done can grant perk points in order to upgrade abilities.
Far Cry 5 is a rollercoaster of emotions; from the sheer adrenaline of the gameplay to the psychological trauma resulted from the most disturbing underlings in the series’ history. A hugely enjoyable experience, even if it’s certainly got a few pacing and open-world teething issues to address.
There’s a sequel on the way too, and the good news is that Far Cry 6 will be another cross-generation release, coming to the PS4 and next-gen consoles in 2021.