Strap in and grab your favourite DualShock 4: Here be adventures.
By Nathan Lawrence
If you’re a PlayStation 4 owner looking for adventure, you have a lot to choose from. My shortlist had around 40 entries that I’ve whittled down to this first ten below (it’ll grow as more worthy adventure games are released), but let’s talk about what you won’t see here that you might otherwise expect.
For instance, you can have some pretty damn amazing adventures in Minecraft, but I’ve drawn a line in the sand and decided that’s more sandbox than adventure game. Coming at the sandbox angle from a different direction, that’s also why you won’t see open-world games like Metal Gear Solid V listed here. On the other hand, Batman: Arkham Knight could be a possibility for inclusion in this list but like The Dark Knight Rises, it was a particularly weak conclusion to an amazing second entry in a trilogy.
My qualifying here will become a little more hair-splitty later on when you read some of the open-world entries I have included. I could also tell you that Quantic Dream-style games like Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls (well, their PS4 versions, at least) don’t make the cut because they’re more interactive drama than adventure game. While this is true, I also happen to believe that they’re not great games because you can demonstrably disprove the supposed player agency in them. No Man’s Sky is out for obvious reasons andThe Last Guardian didn’t quite have the goods to make my top ten.
Also missing is Full Throttle Remastered: I actually played this version for the first time and thought it was an overrated game. Similarly, walking simulators like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Firewatch aren’t below, either. I umm-ed and aah-ed about including Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, but deemed it to be more of a puzzle game than an action-adventure title.
Phew. That’s a lot of stuff that wasn’t up to snuff for this particular list. Read on for what did make my take on the best adventure games available on PlayStation 4 today.
I’ve been playing and loving adventure games since The Secret of Monkey Island. During those glory days of the LucasArts point-and-click adventures, it was hard not to love the genre. It’s what my friends talked about at school, even if that chatter mostly revolved around exchanging puzzle solution ideas. Back then, there weren’t guides to find on the non-existent Internet.
In more recent years, as adventure games have evolved, my love for them hasn’t changed. There are some I shun – like the walking simulators of this world – but the recent thrust towards action-adventure games is exactly the right kind of gaming experience for this massive Indiana Jones fan. For ridgy-didge credentials, I’m close to celebrating a decade as a freelance games critic. I’ve written about a stack of adventure games during my career and spent a lot of years writing about all things related to Sony gaming for Official PlayStation magazine.
RELEASE DATE: 21 July 2015
PUBLISHER: Sony Computer Entertainment
This isn’t even a remaster and for the longest time, I had this at the top of my list. It’s only because the PlayStation 4 release of this PlayStation 3 game hasn’t had any changes (which felt like cheating) that this gem is so low on my list. Not that Journey needs any changes. It’s already a perfect player-empowering adventure without it. To date, I’ve yet to play a game that leaves me grinning like a kid playing a great game for the first time.
Journey ditches subgenre modifiers in favour of a pure adventure experience. There’s little to no hand-holding, but it’s not a hardcore game. The whole point of the game is to discover what comes next in a subtly-told story. You’ll occasionally come across other players in your world, but you can’t do more than chirp at them to communicate.
Still, you’ll feel compelled to work with them for mutual satisfaction in your joint adventure, even if that cooperation only lasts for a time. What isn’t temporary is the memories of a game driven by its haunting soundtrack, that make for one of the greatest adventure experiences you can have in gaming.
9. Infamous Second Son
RELEASE DATE: 21 March 2014
DEVELOPER: Sucker Punch Productions
PUBLISHER: Sony Computer Entertainment
You may be shocked to hear I missed the original Infamous games. Despite hearing how amazing they were, I never got around to giving them a proper go. I wasn’t about to make that mistake again with Infamous Second Son. This new-gen Infamous picks up where the last-gen version left off. Second Son is an open-world action-adventure game with a sci-fi twist: a Sucker Punch take on an X-Men story with a protagonist who’s much more likeable than the way-too-serious Cole MacGrath.
There’s plenty of heart in the main storyline, and plenty of interesting stuff to do outside of it. Plus, there’s an army of occupying fascists to dispatch in new and exciting ways, based on the new powers you unlock. While I used to gush at how pretty the PlayStation 3-era Infamous games were, Sucker Punch took things to a whole new level with Second Son. It’s not crucial that it’s a gorgeous game, but it sure helps immerse you in (weirdly named) Delsin Rowe’s addictive world.
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Trivia time: Sony doesn’t even classify this as an action-adventure game on its official PlayStation page [https://www.playstation.com/en-au/games/uncharted-4-a-thiefs-end-ps4/]. For a series that stole the limelight from Lara Croft’s tomb raiding (which lifted tomb raiding from Indiana Jones), it’s hard to see Uncharted 4 as anything but an action-adventure game. Really though, I’m trying to distract the Uncharted fanboys about why this is so low on my list.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is a great game, and even occasionally fantastic. But that doesn’t change the reality that – and brace yourself, because here comes the fighting words – the Uncharted series peaked with Uncharted 2. Among Thieves is peak Nate Drake and, as a fellow Nate, I feel I’m an authority on the matter.
Jokes aside, Uncharted 4 provides a Return of the King-like second ending to a cast of beloved characters in a fitting final adventure. The fact that the usually bolted-on multiplayer is now must-play (and at 60fps) means Uncharted 4 is even more appealing.
Oh, it’s also one of the prettiest games you’ll ever play on PS4, and is more memorable (with more content) than Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.
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We’re so few games into this list, and I feel that I’m already courting so much controversy. Of course, it’s not controversial to include the fantastically received Grand Theft Auto V in such a list; but what might upset people is, like Uncharted 4, how low it is on my list. Let’s talk this through.
For the longest time, I’ve never thought of Rockstar’s range of sandbox games as action-adventure titles. While I’ll gladly engage in debate over the nuanced differences between open-world or sandbox, you’re really looking for a genre to put "action" in front of and, for me, it’s not "adventure". Until now. It’s tricky to include some of the other games in this list below without conceding that GTA V is an action-adventure game.
Still, enough about splitting hairs and more about why GTA V is here. Well, the chances are good you know why it’s here. The PS4 version of the last-gen game feels like more than just a remaster, particularly with the unessential-but-fantastic first-person mode. This is peak GTA, and whether you’re campaigning alone, heisting cooperatively or battling competitively, there’s a tonne of fun to be had in Rockstar’s fully-featured offering.
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A lot of these other adventure inclusions feel similarly themed, so it’s good to have an option (well, two if I’m being honest) that has a prefix that’s different to "action". Cue the entry of Oxenfree, a horror-adventure game that’ll haunt you long after you’re finished. Thankfully, you’re incentivised to return by the promise of multiple endings (and it doesn’t take long to beat it once).
At last! An entry that ties into the choose-your-own-adventure book origins of the game genre.
PlayStation 4 owners had to wait patiently for a few months for Oxenfree to release, while Xbox One and PC fans raved about this unique adventure. Thankfully, like the number-two game on this list, the wait was worth it.
Oxenfree isn’t particularly deep when it comes to gameplay mechanics, but the realistic convo options (including the option to cut people off) means you’re constantly engaged with this stellar supernatural tale. It may be almost entirely driven by dialogue, but saying that’s a bad thing is like saying that nothing happens during the opening of Inglourious Basterds beyond two dudes talking.
5. Yakuza 0
RELEASE DATE: 24 January 2017
Maybe you’ve never played a Yakuza game and feel you can gloss over this one. Don’t do that. Yakuza is the Yakuza game to play, whether you’re a fan of the long-running series, or never touched it before. First and foremost, Yakuza 0 is a prequel, which means you don’t have to worry about watching hours of YouTube videos to catch up on the "previously in Yakuza" stuff.
Sega has built a fantastic backstory about a fascinating leading man, with a quirky splicing of drama and comedy. You’ll stick around for the story, but you’ll also appreciate the moment-to-moment gameplay, like the bone-breaking fisticuffs, or the bevy of attractive things to do on the side. A strong offering of any of these elements alone could entice people to play, but the way they’re masterfully balanced means Yakuza 0 feels like so much more than the sum of its parts.
Whether you’re in it for one hell of a yarn, brutal brawls, hours of mini-games, or a killer soundtrack, Yakuza 0 punches all the right boxes.
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Take note, Quantic Dream: this is how you execute a gamified interactive drama. However, moving swiftly on from digs at David Cage games, I want to focus on that word "execute" because it’s particularly relevant in Until Dawn. You’re being hunted and unfortunately for you and your in-game pals, you’re the kind of teenagers who attract serial killers. The story is pretty much cliché 80s horror territory, but that provides a safe backdrop for a game that plays out in a very unsafe way.
That unsafeness mainly applies to the characters' longevity and they can die horrible deaths if you make stupid decisions for them. The thing is, you’ll soon find yourself endeared to these weird and wonderful characters to the point where, when they die it’s actually upsetting. Sure, you might want some of them to meet ugly fates more than others, but you’ll fight to protect your favourites.
When you find yourself ranking the characters in terms of which ones you’d like to die least, you’ll know that Until Dawn has you in its clutches. This is an adventure where your decisions can have big bloody consequences for the game’s heroes.
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Finally, it’s happened. It might have taken ten years, but Ubisoft finally made an Assassin’s Creed game that lives up to the promise of the original premise. That’s not to say that there haven’t been strong offerings in between, but even the better entries in the series have still suffered from familiar sins that have been there since the origin of the franchise.
You know the ones. Hard-fail pursuit missions. Janky free-running. Enemies who attack one at a time and are mostly defeated by counter combos.
But forget about all of that because Origins has set the new standard of what should be expected from the series moving forward. And that future is brighter than Ra. The great thing is that this isn’t just a lazy sequel (well, technically, prequel) that simply fixes long-running issues and asks fans to be happy. It evolves areas in awesome directions, with deeper and much-improved combat, layered storytelling across main and side quests, and a massive world to explore. Assassin’s Creed Origins has already taken dozens of hours of my gaming time, and even though I’m done with the main story, I’m still far from done with the game.
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Here’s another entry where Sony and I disagree on its categorisation. For Sony, it’s just straight-up action [https://www.playstation.com/en-au/games/rise-of-the-tomb-raider-ps4/]. For me, it’s absolutely an action-adventure game. If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones.
But if action-adventure gaming has a name, it has to be Lara Croft. Lady Croft nicked Dr Jones’ fedora and made such a compelling action-adventure franchise that Indiana Jones games felt like knock-offs of Tomb Raider games.
Then the series went stale. Cue the entry of a timely reboot from developer Crystal Dynamics and Lara Croft was back on track. Except the Tomb Raider 2013 was great but not amazing.
It seems the amazingness would be held back for its sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider. Not only does it remember that a Tomb Raider game should actually have some decent tomb raiding, it escalates Lara’s next adventure in all the right ways.
The storytelling and characters are great. The action and set pieces are top-notch. The progression system and sprawling hub worlds are engrossing and engaging.
This, ladies and gentle-gamers, is how you make a sequel.
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To date, my self-imposed rule for these best-of lists has been to include a minimal number of remastered games and to put those games as close to the bottom of the lists as possible. Otherwise, it feels like cheating. With that in mind, brace for hypocrisy.
The Last of Us Remastered is absolutely the best way to play one of the greatest games of all time. That’s coming from someone whose primary gaming platform is a PC, and who was in truth more of a fan of my Xbox 360 than my PlayStation 3.
There’s really only one fault with The Last of Us Remastered, a carry-over from the PS3 version, which only becomes a negative if you notice it, so I’m not even going to point it out. Outside of that, even at my nit-pickiest, The Last of Us Remastered is a delight.
That doesn’t really encapsulate how heartbreaking it is, at times – in a very beautiful, very satisfying way – but it’s so perfectly executed and so damn stunning on PlayStation 4 that the appeal to stop writing and just go play it again is so damn tempting that I might not even finish this sen
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