Way back in ye olde September we took out our feather quills and ink bottles, lowered our oil lanterns to a slow burn, set aside our suspicions about this newfangled “penicillin” that people have been harping on about and compiled a list of the pros and cons of the PlayStation Now service where we heaped praise upon its vast library of games.
Since that time, Sony has seen a massive boost in subscriptions to its monthly service (due entirely to our article of course, nothing to do with the sizeable, permanent price drop and addition of huge AAA titles that followed shortly thereafter). This got us worrying that there are now legions of gamers who are new to PlayStation Now being completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of games facing them.
Sure, the AAA big-hitters that are likely to be first in line, but once they’re out of the way, where do you go next? With over 600 titles to choose from, picking the right one can be a daunting task, so we’re here to help by highlighting eight(ish) great games tucked away inside PS Now’s cavernous library that deserve to be at the head of the line.
Please note: We previously published a list of the best hidden gems given away as part of PlayStation Plus. For the sake of diversity we will not be including any entries from that list here, instead this will focus solely on titles available on PS Now that have never been given away as part of PS Plus.
Momonga Pinball Adventures (2015)
Kicking off our list is a pick that may be a little rough around the edges. It may only take a couple of hours to complete, it may have almost no story to speak of… Wait, why did this make the list?
Oh yeah, it’s because Momonga Pinball Adventures is the 100% Roobla approved cure for AAA fatigue. If you’ve just conquered your latest 40+ hour dive into an immaculately designed, painstakingly detailed world and need something a little different before delving into the next, then make this game your detour.
Comprised of a handful of pinball-based levels, an arena and a couple of dangerously addictive mini-games, this small, independent game is exactly what it aims to be – colourful, silly, simple fun.
Tokyo Xanadu Ex+ (2017)
Let’s take a quantum-sized leap from the previous entry, because this gem is almost the polar opposite of Momonga Pinball Adventures. 70+ hour main story? Check. Dialogue-heavy narrative voiced only in Japanese? Check. Side-quests, collectibles, optional dungeons and all that jazz? Quadruple check.
As you may expect, it would be impossible to give something this multi-faceted due explanation in this short space, but at its core Tokyo Xanadu Ex+ is a dungeon crawling action game centred on a group of high schoolers in Tokyo who must investigate strange monster-filled portals opened by a person’s emotional turmoil all while balancing social relationships, school work and maintaining the facade of a normal high-school existence.
If this setup sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone as this title draws frequent comparisons to the Persona series, and justly so. With that in mind, if you’re a fan of Persona and are looking for something similar, or if you’re interested in the franchise but aren’t keen on turn based combat, then this is the game for you.
Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time (2009)
If you already have PS Now, then you may have already seen this one recommended as one of the service’s best offerings on the home page, and there’s a good reason for that. Boasting all the action platforming goodness and hilarious scripting that the Ratchet and Clank series is renowned for, but polished to a T and combined with some ingenious time-manipulation puzzle segments, there’s no doubt that this is one of the Robo-Lombax pairing’s finest adventures.
As one of the longest-running franchises on PlayStation, you may ask “How does this qualify as a hidden gem?”. Well friend-o, it’s because Ratchet and Clank’s initial PS2 outings may have established the duo as valuable mascots and the PS4 reboot reinvigorated the franchise, but the adventures continued all through the days of the PS3, with some less well received than others and the better ones getting lost in the mix. With so many games from the series’ PS3 days featured on PS Now, anyone new to the franchise may not know where to start. So for what it’s worth, start here.
Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland (2014)
Another franchise with so many entries that anyone interested is completely lost when it comes to finding the best point to jump in. In fact, it’s difficult to really tell what the Atelier series is based on the information provided by PlayStation Now. It looks like a pretty standard Japanese Role-Playing Game, but is it?
Well, not really. It has some JRPG hallmarks – a colourful cast of characters, a turn based battle system. But really it plays more like a resource management or shop simulator game mixed in with a JRPG. This entry for example, focuses on Rorona, a young woman who has just taken over an alchemy business only to find that the government is thinking of shutting her shop down, so Rorona must fill orders for the kingdom over the next year in order to prove the business’ worth.
Each month, the player is tasked with managing the days allocated to them in order to fill the orders and as well as help various other customers by travelling to dungeons to pick ingredients or obtain them from enemies (in the most laid back and easy battles imaginable for the most part), working in the shop to create the requested items or by taking some much needed rest.
The Artelier series is unique alright but it’s also delightfully obsessive and the featured music comprises of the juiciest ear worms you’re likely to find, so take a load off, dive in… and help poor Rorona keep her business afloat!
Bloodrayne Betrayal (2009)
Vampire-centric 2D action platformer Bloodrayne: Betrayal is quite possibly the least well known game on this list and that’s a crying shame, because this is an absolute beauty. Its smooth combat, stylish manga inspired art direction and fantastic soundtrack that blends blistering heavy metal guitar with foreboding, gothic piano gives it a unique atmosphere that’s a blast to play.
The game actually received solid praise upon its release in 2009 with the only common criticism being that it was too darn hard. Unfortunately, Bloodrayne: Betrayal was released a year before Demon’s Souls (2010) when it was decided that an unrelenting challenge with no option to change the difficulty setting was suddenly a good thing…
…But unlike Demon’s Souls, this title doesn’t use oppressive difficulty as a gimmick to provide mystique to a clunky and tedious game. On the contrary, Bloodrayne: Betrayal‘s fluid, fast paced combat is a delight and once the player gets to grips with the mechanics, the first half of the game can be a breeze. However, once you cross the half way point room for error becomes increasingly narrow, until refining to a tightrope’s width in the final stages where only perfection will do.
Stick it to the Man (2013)
OK, that last entry was getting a little intense so it’s a good thing we’ve hit some comic relief in the form of light-hearted adventure Stick it to the Man.
In this game players take control of Ray, a hard hat tester who wakes up from his coma to find that a gigantic pink spaghetti arm is now protruding from his head, allowing him to read minds and grab items from peoples’ thoughts. Ray must use his new-found powers to solve puzzles, evade the men in black suits on his tail and try to return to the normal existence he left behind.
The developers of Stick it to the Man took great influence from the work of Tim Schafer, a fact made clear by the visual presentation which resembles a dream you’d have after marathon sessions of Psychonauts (2005) and Can I Eat All the Cheese in the House Before Bed? (timeless), its off-beat humour that keeps the laughter flowing throughout and the bizarre story that will both confuse and intrigue in equal measure. So if you could use a good chuckle, or if you’d just like to be pleasantly confused for a good few hours, then give this one a try.
Again, you may be wondering whether games fronted by a PlayStation mascot qualify as hidden gems. But think about it – even within the category of Sony’s adorable anthropomorphic mascots, poor Sly gets overlooked: Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon remained loved enough to feature in a ton of games and have full remakes on PS4, Ratchet and Clank have been consistently featured for two decades and even Jak and Daxter got six games…
…Then there’s Sly and the gang. After the original trilogy, they had to wait a decade for a sequel which turned out to be a one-off, leaving the Cooper Gang lost to time for almost seven years and counting.
Believe us when we say that the HD Remaster of the original trilogy still holds up today. While the solid sequels change noticeably from the first adventure, increasing in size and focusing more on stealth and stylish presentation to reflect the suave bandit at its forefront, the original is a must play. It has an old school sensibility that’s rarely captured today; fun, cartoon platforming and a level layout reminiscent of Super Mario 64 (1996), the game just oozes nostalgia and warmth.
Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition (2018)
Hollow Knight is at the apex of 2D action platformers – which is a pretty stacked genre in its own right. Its beautifully desolate artistry, smooth combat, challenging but engrossing boss fights and world so full of intrigue that every corner begs to be explored make it stand apart from the competition.
After release it became a critical darling and beloved by fans but remained all too easily overlooked by anyone unfamiliar with the game. Being developed by small indie studio Team Cherry, much of Hollow Knight’s publicity stemmed from its strong reviews, but unfortunately, that didn’t translate into mainstream attention enjoyed by other notable indie titles like Journey (2012) and Limbo (2010). Well, now’s the time people – play the game, tell your friends and help right a wrong.