Sony’s PlayStation 4 is in an envious position right now. It not only has a healthy library filled with must-have exclusives and third party software, but has already surpassed lifetime sales of the Super Nintendo and will likely finish ahead of the likes of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 when all is said and done. With so many consoles and games out in the wild, it’s only natural that a fair number of deserving titles have either been left in the dust or don’t get the recognition they arguably deserve.
Those are the titles I’d like to highlight today: the PS4’s hidden gems, the games that seem to get the short end of the stick whether in terms of sales or critical reception. If you’ve exhausted all of the PS4’s “best” games and are looking for something new to play, you could do a lot worse than the following undervalued games.
15. Rise of the Tomb Raider
Simply put, Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the best games of this generation — honestly, it’s right up there with Uncharted 4 — and yet Crystal Dynamics’ best entry in the Tomb Raider franchise has fallen short of Naughty Dog’s masterpiece in both sales and overall mind share. It’s hard to say just how much of an impact Microsoft’s infamous exclusivity deal with Square Enix had on the game’s prospects, but it does seem like it dampened Rise of the Tomb Raider’s impact, as the game finally shipped on PS4 last year (almost a full year after the original Xbox One release) to little fanfare, despite overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Of course, Rise’s sales couldn’t have been that bad, at least if the rumors of a sequel being in the works turn out to be true, but it’s fair to say that it didn’t do all that well on PS4 or else Square Enix and Sony would be talking about it more. What makes the situation even worse is that the PS4 arguably got the best version of the game, a 20th anniversary edition that came with all of the previously-released DLC and additional content, including a level built exclusively for PlayStation VR. If you’ve somehow avoided Rise of the Tomb Raider up until now, you’re missing out on one of the best action-adventure games of this generation.
14. Wolfenstein: The New Order
Id Software’s Doom reboot was touted by many in the games press as one of 2016’s best games and a model for how to resurrect a classic franchise, but it’s easy to forget that developer Machine Games did the exact same thing two years earlier with 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, which remains one of this generation’s best first-person shooters. Featuring a retro-style design with a modern polish, Wolfenstein took a risk by not featuring any multiplayer whatsoever, but it ended up being the right decision on Machine Games’ part. The developer focused entirely on crafting an engaging single player campaign and what a campaign it is. The New Order is old school in all the right ways, with returning protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz able to switch between about a dozen different weapons and single-handedly take on hundreds of Nazis over the course of the game’s 16 chapters.
And while the story isn’t award-worthy by any stretch, it’s still very engaging, thanks in large part to its alternate history setting, in which the Nazis have already won World War II and now control Europe. Unfortunately, despite rave reviews from critics, it’s unclear if Bethesda has plans to produce a sequel, especially since the publisher has not announced official sales for the game, nearly three years after its initial release. Still, Wolfenstein: The New Order and its excellent expansion, The Old Blood, can now be attained for very low prices and are must-play experiences for anyone who grew up on Wolfenstein and other old school shooters.
Some games are able to get pretty far on style alone and even if CounterSpy, a side-scrolling stealth game developed by Dynamighty, played like garbage, it would still be hard to hate it due to its striking art style and cool Cold War-themed music. Set in an alternate history version of the Cold War, CounterSpy lets you play as a spy on either side of the Iron Curtain as you work through randomly-generated levels to try and stop the enemy from launching their nukes. Movement is restricted to a 2D plane, but in certain situations, players can aim weapons in 3D space, which helps make CounterSpy play quite differently from many other sidescrolling indie titles.
Unfortunately, CounterSpy is not without its frustrations. The random nature of the level design can make it so some levels are next-to-impossible to clear with triggering alarms, which can be frustrating if you’re trying to go through in full stealth mode. There are also some A.I. and control issues that contribute to an overall lack of polish in the gameplay department. Still, if you’re a fan of Cold War spy fiction like James Bond or The Man from UNCLE, it’s easy to ignore these drawbacks, as there aren’t actually that many games out there like CounterSpy.
12. Just Cause 3
Just Cause 2 has to be one of the most surprising sequels ever made, as it improved upon its slightly better than average original title in just about every way. Perhaps this helps explain why Just Cause 3 came and went in December 2015 with surprisingly little fanfare, as it looked and played a lot like Just Cause 2. While it’s true that Just Cause 3 feels like more of an expansion to Just Cause 2 than a full fledged sequel, this doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing, especially if you are a fan of what the former game offered. Like many sandbox games though, enjoying Just Cause 3 is very much dependent on you make use of the tools it offers, as it doesn’t really offer anything close to an engaging story.
All you really need to know is that series protagonist Rico Rodriguez likes to fly around and blow things up and if those activities sound enjoyable to you, you’ll probably like Just Cause 3 quite a bit. There are very few open world games that offer this much freedom or potential for experimentation (just search for Just Cause 3 stunt videos to see what I mean) and while the game’s various objectives do grow stale after awhile, this is the sort of game you turn on when you just want to blow everything up and look cool doing it.
11. Titanfall 2
Titanfall 2 is an excellent game that had the misfortune of being released at the worst possible time. Sandwiched in-between the releases of Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare — two of the biggest games of 2016 — Titanfall 2 never really stood much of a chance. The most exasperating part of it all is that the game’s publisher, Electronic Arts, also publishes the Battlefield series, so they were directly competing with themselves by releasing two first-person shooters marketed to the same demographic in consecutive weeks. It’s a shame really because even though Battlefield 1 is a phenomenal game, in some ways Titanfall 2 is even better.
Its campaign mode features some of the best level design since Portal 2 and its multiplayer is fast, fluid, and well-balanced. EA claims that Titanfall 2 sales were lower than expected but honestly, what did they expect when they knowingly sent it out to die? Fortunately, it’s not too late to jump into Titanfall 2 if you decided to opt for another big-budget shooter at the time of its release, as the game is still receiving small but free updates to its multiplayer and the campaign mode alone is worth the price of admission (it helps that it’s not hard to find a good discount on it). Titanfall 2 should have been a best-seller but as things stand, it’s not even clear whether we’ll ever see another game in the franchise.
10. Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
Assassin’s Creed Unity represented a low point for the franchise, so it’s not really surprising that the very next game, 2015’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, didn’t exactly set the world on fire. It’s a shame that Syndicate had to follow Unity because it is a far superior game and even though it is still very much an Assassin’s Creed game, for better and worse, it’s arguably one of the best entries in the series. Following dual lead protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye as they work to stop a Templar plot in Victorian London, Syndicate features the most visually impressive and richly-detailed environment in the franchise and is a step up from Unity in just about every category, right down to the characters and mission design.
Syndicate also took steps to improve the franchise’s traversal mechanics with the addition of the rope launcher, a device that essentially makes you feel like Victorian Batman, as well as carriages to drive and a train when you really need to get somewhere quickly. Overall, Syndicate is not the step forward the Assassin’s Creed series sodesperately needs, but it is arguably the best overall entry since Assassin’s Creed II, which is really saying something given just how many other Assassin’s Creed games there have been in the last decade.
9. Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the Fallen has been routinely labelled as “Dark Souls-lite,” as the game is very much in the same vein as FromSoftware’s popular action-RPG series. While these criticism are justified to an extent, Lords of the Fallen has enough of its own flair to make it worth checking out and is in some ways a good starting point for those who are interested in the Dark Souls games but are intimidated by their difficulty. Setting aside the Dark Souls comparisons for a moment, it must be said that Lords of the Fallen gets a lot right. Its combat is more focused on slow, but powerful weapons, which leads to very satisfying responsiveness when your weapons connect with an enemy.
LotF also shares the same risk/reward progression system as Dark Souls but adds some new wrinkles to it by giving you the choice of either cashing in the currency you earn at checkpoints or pressing on in order to increase your multiplier and potentially earn even more rewards. Although Lords of the Fallen is derivative in some ways, if you think of it as more of an entry point to games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne and more recently, Nioh, rather than a cheap imitation, you may very well find a lot to like about it.
Look, I get that Destiny and its expansions have sold ridiculously well and that it’s one of the most successful new franchises of the current console generation. Still, even with its commercial success and dedicated fanbase, I feel like Destiny doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The problem is that when Destiny first came out in 2014, it largely deserved the criticism it received. The game was a mess, with a poorly-explained narrative, obtuse systems, and an overall lack of content. Of course, we’d later learn that this was due to the fact that Bungie, the game’s developer, scrapped much of their original plans for the game pretty late into development but that didn’t excuse the fact that Destiny was in a pretty sorry state for pretty much its entire first year on the market.
But then, Bungie released The Taken King expansion and things started to get better. Much better. Bungie started building on the game’s solid foundations — it’s one of the most satisfying first-person shooters ever made from a pure gameplay perspective, in my opinion — and started to add things the game really needed: clearer quest objectives, more interesting environments, and honest attempts to actually make the lore interesting (admittedly, it’s still all pretty confusing to this day). Given how much time has passed since its initial release and the fact that a sequel is set to come out later this year, I wouldn’t recommend newcomers or even those who played Destiny in the very beginning but dropped out soon after give the game another go, but just know that the game is a much different (and better) beast than what it was originally.
7. The Evil Within
Directed by Resident Evil creator Shinjki Mikami, The Evil Within is something of a spiritual successor to Mikami’s 2005 masterpiece Resident Evil 4, which should be enough to make you want to check it out. A third-person horror game focused on exploration and gunplay, The Evil Within definitely skews towards old school gameplay conventions and offers players a more modern, nostalgic twist on survival horror games of old. Unfortunately, those overly familiar trappings both help and hinder the game, as while The Evil Within delivers some great scares and lays on the gore thick, its difficulty levels are all over the map, leading to some frustrating combat sections.
And while the story has some interesting ideas, it ultimately collapses under its own ambitions and is overly convoluted (but to be fair, the Resident Evil games aren’t exactly known for spinning Pulitzer Prize-caliber yarns either). Despite its shortcomings, The Evil Within is well worth seeking out if you’re a fan of Mikami’s previous work or action-horror games in general.
6. DmC: Definitive Edition
Originally a late-cycle PS3 release, Capcom re-released DmC: Devil May Cry as a definitive edition on the PS4 in early 2015. The problem with DmC is not that it’s a bad game — in fact, it’s actually a really good game — but rather that it’s not a good Devil May Cry game, at least in the traditional sense. DmC rebooted the popular series that started out back in 2001 on the PS2 and many fans were downright livid about the changes. Series protagonist Dante was turned from an effortlessly cool demon hunter into a douchey scumbag and although the game shared many similarities to previous entries in the series, new developer Ninja Theory was clearly aiming for something dramatically different with their reboot, to the point where many felt betrayed by the whole endeavor.
The thing is, if you can set aside your fandom for the original Devil May Cry games and just appreciate DmC for what it is — a great action game with interesting level and enemy design — you’ll probably find a lot to like. Devil May Cry has always been known for having intricate combat systems and while DmC’s systems are certainly more simplified and accessible than previous games, they’re arguably more fun thanks in large part to the way Dante’s weapons are balanced out. While Capcom was reportedly “very happy” with the sales of the Definitive Edition, it feels like DmC is often overlooked due to the negative stigma around its dramatic design changes. While it’s not the best Devil May Cry game out there, it is a solid action game in its own right and can be picked up at bargain prices these days. Definitely worth a look!
5. Never Alone
Created by a team of indigenous game developers, Never Alone, or Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (“I am not alone”), is a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer that not only celebrates indigenous culture, but is also a very well-made game to boot. Starring an Iñupiaq girl named Nuna and her adorable Arctic Fox companion, players swap between the pair in order to complete a number of puzzles spread out among the game’s eight chapters. Admittedly, Never Alone’s actual gameplay is probably its weakest element, as the platforming is solid but not as polished as it could have been, but it makes up for these shortcomings with its overall presentation.
As already mentioned, Never Alone is a celebration of indigenous cultures but it goes a step further than most games by actually trying to educate the player on its subject matter. There are a variety of documentary clips strewn throughout that provide context for elements of the game’s design and while you can easily just skip through them to play that game, that would be missing half the point of what Never Alone is trying to do: provide a window into a world that few people have much knowledge about. Plus, it’s not everyday that a game lets you play as a cute Arctic Fox, so Never Alone definitely has that going for it too.
4. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
Sadly, this game is not an adaptation of BBC’s Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but what it is is a pretty darn good detective game. Similar to L.A. Noire but without the tedious open-world stuff, Crimes & Punishments is a game that very much tries (and largely succeeds) at putting you into the unique mind of its title sleuth. While the game’s style and setting is very much based on the classic Arthur Conan Doyle vision of Sherlock Holmes, the impact of the BBC adaptation is felt throughout, most notably in a gameplay mechanic that allows you to look over someone’s clothing and having various labels pop up.
The game gives you the tools and abilities to solve its various cases, but since each case has multiple endings, it’s very easy to mess up if you’re not paying attention (there is an option to reveal the true result if a particular case leaves you baffled). Sure, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is definitely a niche title but considering it’s arguably one of the best games available in the surprisingly barren detective game genre, it’s hard not to give a recommendation.
Look, I’m not even sure if Overcooked counts as an overlooked game; all I know is that more people should be playing and talking about it because it’s one of the best multiplayer party games on the PS4. Tasked with saving the world from an evil giant meatball monster (is there any other kind?), players take on the role of chefs who must hone their culinary talents by preparing and serving as many orders as possible in increasingly bizarre locations.
Although it’s disappointing that Overcooked has no online multiplayer, it is definitely a game that becomes more entertaining with each new player that gets added in local co-op (the game supports up to four). Each round of Overcooked is hectic and difficult, requiring communication and teamwork in order to nail a three star rating on each level. Factor in an adorable art style and memorable soundtrack and you have a recipe for one of the PS4’s best multiplayer experiences that deserved to be a bigger hit in 2016.
2. Until Dawn
I’m convinced that Sony had no idea what they had with Until Dawn, which helps explain why it was released with barely any marketing push to speak of back in 2015. It’s a shame too because Until Dawn is one of the PS4’s strongest exclusives and an excellent new franchise that deserves to continue. Until Dawn isn’t so much a game in the traditional sense as it is an interactive drama (think Telltale’s The Walking Dead) and one that wears its love for the horror genre and its many conventions on its sleeve. Set in and around an isolated cabin on the fictional Blackwood Mountain, the game centers around a group of eight teens who have to try and survive the night against increasingly disturbing and mysterious forces.
What begins as a seemingly run-0f-the-mill slasher flick begins to morph into something much more ambitious that covers practically every corner of the horror genre, contributing to a surprisingly engrossing narrative that you’ll want to see through to the end. With its branching narrative paths, Until Dawn is very much dependent on the player’s actions, which can lead to all sorts of grim and sometimes even hilarious outcomes. Combine that with a great cast of performers that includes Hayden Panettiere, Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek and the always delightful Peter Stormare and Until Dawn is truly something special that every PS4 owner should experience.
1. Mad Max
In another notable case of poor timing, Avalanche’s Mad Max game had the misfortune of releasing on the very same day as Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, another open-world game that benefited from a much larger fan base and better critical reception. While MGSV is indeed the better game, that doesn’t take away from what Avalanche accomplished with Mad Max, which is a better game than it really has any right to be. Mad Max isn’t an adaptation of the movie Mad Max: Fury Road, which was released a few months prior, but it does contain some of the same settings and overall style.
Considering the game’s map is overflowing with side missions, collectibles, and other points of interesting, you’d be forgiven for thinking Mad Max was an Ubisoft game. But while the game does suffer from some of the same problems as titles like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry, Mad Max actually makes attempts to be more substantive than its open world laundry list design would suggest. Part of this may have to do with the game’s environmental design, which delivers one of the most visually-arresting post-apocalyptic landscapes in video game history.
Equal parts beautiful and repellent, Mad Max gets a lot of mileage out of making you feel like an inhabitant of a world in which hope is hanging by a thread … but also one where you can harpoon a bandit in the face and send him flying over the hood of your car. Factor in an addictive upgrade structure, explosive car combat, and satisfying melee brawls, and Mad Max is arguably one of the best hidden gems of its generation.
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