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For the second list in our series of countdowns highlighting the best, worst and most noteworthy of the console generation gone by, we’ve decided to stop procrastinating and tackle the big question; the one that’s been a topic of discussion for an army of gamers trapped in reverie at the wonders that the previous seven years have brought: What are the absolute best PlayStation 4 exclusives?
This is without doubt, the toughest list of the series. There’s no question that Sony has trampled the competition when it comes to top notch console exclusives, but after arduous contemplation, ladies and gentlemen – we have that list. Before we get into it though, there’s a few things we should note to make sure we’re all on the same page:
- We won’t be including remakes or remasters on this list, we’re talking brand new games only.
- For clarification, we’re talking console exclusives, so while some of the games on this list may have been released on PC as well as PS4, they still make the list as long as they’re not available on any games console other than PS4.
- If you notice we’ve omitted some of your favourites or titles usually seen at the top of countdowns of this ilk, well odds are it’s due to one of two explanations: Either we loved it but not quite enough to make the top five or we don’t believe those games deserve to be near a list of the best the generation has to offer. If you check out our list of ‘great’ games that…aren’t so great you may just find your answer.
OK, is everyone clear? Good, let’s dive in.
God of War (2018)
2018's God of War is an example of small changes making a huge difference: New camera position, tightened combat with a newly introduced weapon, some optional territory to explore in between the more traditional linear areas, relentless embodiment of fury in the middle of the screen is now an introspective relentless embodiment of fury. All minor changes alone, but together they make Kratos' latest bloody rampage through ancient mythology feel a world apart from his past exploits.
The up-close perspective made every crash of the Leviathan Axe through an enemy skull feel rather than just look violent, the new layout made a refreshing change and Kratos' struggle with his history, destiny and parental responsibility told a richer and more complex story than we'd seen from the Ghost of Sparta to this point.
What's more the scale and artistry of the world led to more dropped jaws than the Clumsy Jaw-holders Convention 2005 (the best-attended convention to date, as we all know). This is a game that barely put a foot wrong and managed to reinvigorate its franchise, setting up the next entries to be some of the most exciting releases in the generation to come.
Marvel's Spider-Man (2018)
Not just one of the best of the generation, but THE best superhero game ever made from where we're sitting. Insomniac Games absolutely nailed the feeling of freedom and exhilaration of swinging through New York City as everyone's second favourite spider-themed hero (90s WCW wrestler 'Arachnaman' being the first, of course).
Amazingly, this sense of freedom was reproduced in Spidey's enemy encounters as the free-flowing combat, variety of abilities and superb fighting animation made every beatdown feel like the a carefully choreographed movie fight scene.
Not only did it give long time fans of the property the game they've been clamouring after for years, Insomniac made it clear that this was a game designed for those veteran fans – littered with references to old adventures and focusing on an older Spider-Man with a few years of superheroing under his belt rather than rehashing the origin story once again, it offered something fresh, fun and completely exceeding all expectations.
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom (2018)
The PlayStation empire is built on a foundation of JRPGs. Ask any long-time fan what separated the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 from the competition and launched the brand to the head of the pack and they'll read off a list of some of the finest Japanese Role-Playing Games ever made; games that secured Sony a loyal fanbase and allowed the brand to expand, experiment and become what it is today.
It's so refreshing that twenty years later, we have a game like like Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. This developers clearly studied everything that made these classics of the genre so beloved and brought them together in one sublime package.
The awe-inspiring, anime-styled fantasy world packed with wonder and mysteries to unravel, incredible animation and soaring score, the kingdom-building mechanic inspired by the Suikoden series that ties side-quests into one greater goal and makes each one completed feel more important for it, adorable collectible creatures to aid you in battle and a smooth, action packed combat system that feels like the culmination of years of trial and error within the genre to get that formula just right.
This is a game that uses the PlayStation brand's past to create something spectacular for its present, it's a celebration of the genre's history and a message to the long-time fans that even though times and trends have changed, there's still something for the people who were there since day one(ish).
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (2016)
When Nathan Drake fell gracelessly from a crumbling building and landed on PlayStation 3 consoles in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, it represented a seismic shift on planet PlayStation. This was the new face of the company, it was time for the JRPG adventurers and the cute anthropomorphic animal mascots of the past to catch a breather, because shorter, cinematic, mile-a-minute spectacles are in, and Nathan Drake was their poster boy.
Drake starred in smash hit after smash hit, establishing a standard of excellence for the Uncharted series in the process. So when Uncharted 4: A Thief's End was announced as a landmark game for the PS4 that would really show off what the hardware could do, fans were understandably frothing at the mouth.
What Naughty Dog delivered in this release didn't just raise the bar for the series with the most exhilarating entry to date (that jeep chase scene still feels like a shot of adrenaline to the heart every time), it provided the rarest of qualities in modern franchises: A story that knew how to end.
This problem is not exclusive to video games, it's a hurdle that even the most lucrative franchises such as Star Wars and Game of Thrones have fallen over, yet with Nathan Drake, we got to experience a beyond satisfying send-off to a character that had become dear to our hearts over the years, while planting the seeds to allow the Uncharted franchise to live on without Nathan Drake at its helm.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017)
What can we say about this game? The fact is that Sony has already said it all. In the lead up to the company's big reveal of what we can expect from the PlayStation 5, Sony's headline act, the finale of the presentation and therefore what biggest reason to buy a PlayStation 5: A sequel to Horizon: Zero Dawn.
To put this responsibility on a sequel to a newly-birthed franchise speaks volumes. Whereas the competition have relied on decades-old mascots, in one game 'Horizon' qualified as the face of a new console generation. Of course, if you've played Horizon: Zero Dawn, this decision won't seem strange at all, you know it's just that good.
A sci-fi story in a post-apocalyptic yet prehistoric setting where all the dinosaurs are robots. It may sound like the premise was pieced together by the manatees at Family Guy, but the rich lore and sublime scripting pull these elements together into a cohesive and engaging storyline that, as good as it is, really takes a back seat to the action...Like, far back. All the way to the back.
Aloy's battles against these juggernauts were pure fireworks. Whether blasting off enemy components and using them against your titanic foe, hotwiring stags and riding them into battle or using the host of weapons, traps and gizmos at your disposal, every fight as an exercise in creativity.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is something you can go back to again and again, whether to explore more of the expansive world and find all of its secrets or just take down a Thunderjaw or two, Horizon: Zero Dawn truly feels like nothing else.