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The ones that make non-PS-folk green-eyed.
By Adam Mathew
Historically speaking, when the smoke clears after any console battle and we take stock of which hills have been won and lost, a list of each platform's exclusives will factor heavily in deciding who “won” overall. Sounds silly, but it's true. Take it from a conscientious objector who's the veteran of seven such generational conflicts.
Though the PS3 struggled at times to catch the eye of third-party publishers and secure monogamous deals in the last generation, the PlayStation 4 has enjoyed the lion's share of exclusive deals since its launch in 2013. Looking at the numbers in 2017, one can easily see that the PS4 benefits from nearly twice as many announced exclusives than its closest competitor, the Xbox One. To be fair, my instincts tell me that gap will close considerably with the recent release of Microsoft's ship-righting Xbox One X, and the Nintendo Switch is off to a rip-roaring start as well. The landscape of exclusives will look quite different in 2018, but, for now, PS4 is the way to go if you want to play something that's unique to one console.
It's also worth noting that we're talking about console exclusives in this article. Many of titles on this list will have a PC version floating about on Steam. Providing you have the considerable bankroll required to build the batcomputer needed to run them, there's a good-to-certain chance the PC equivalents of these games will look and run quite a bit better. That said, Sony has a number of first-party developers locked under its umbrella which have delivered must-own games. As a general rule: anything made by industry luminaries Naughty Dog is worth a reflex day-one purchase. In 20 years, I've yet to see an exception to this rule.
Anyway, be sure to bookmark and check back with this article, as we'll be sure to update this list as the years roll on. If the greater-than-10-year lifecycles of the PS2 and PS3 are anything to go by, the PlayStation 4 still has plenty of time left to impress us further. As time goes on and developers learn how to squeeze more out of the hardware, the on-screen results can only improve. My instincts tell me that the coveted “game of the generation” award is not too far away at all.
Speaking of my instincts, it's always worth knowing the credentials of any list curator. Basically, I've been gaming for 30+ years. I come to you from the dark ages, when difficulties were selected via a physical switch on the back of your console; from a time when a 1MB memory cards and the ability to save your progress was a mind-blowing feature. I've been extremely fortunate to have spent 15 years in the games industry (five in the retail space, ten editing full-time for major websites and nationally-produced gaming mags). Bar a few obscure indie titles that were clearly coded by one single, cash-grabbing monkey, I own and have finished every noteworthy game eligible to make this list (and, being a hoarder who's averse to deletion, I'm quite sick of buying external hard drives for additional storage). With all that said, I know my games. Let's get started...
- RELEASE DATE: 21/7/15
- DEVELOPER: thatgamecompany
- PUBLISHER: thatgamecompany
Fair warning: at maybe two hours of runtime, Journey is a fleeting experience, but I guarantee you: it's not one you'll forget in a hurry. Being an exotic and minimalist adventure with a more serious tone, Journey presents a unique online adventure that's filled with mysterious characters, sumptuous visuals, one of the most majestic soundtracks in gaming and... cloth-sky-dolphins. Don't ask, mate. Just go with it.
...filled with mysterious characters [and] sumptuous visuals...
Few games – or indeed any piece of art from any medium – can deliver an experience as magical and emotionally-engaging as this. From the moment you awaken in an unknown desert-scape and glide over your first dune to spy an awe-inspiring landscape, you'll be hooked. This ethereal platformer soars to even greater heights when it seamlessly layers in anonymous co-op with other travelers on their own life's journey (so you'd best make absolutely sure to play this online). Sure, Journey is unorthodox and “artsy” from the outside looking in, but make that leap of faith. You'd need a heart of titanium to dislike this.
Click to order Journey Collector’s Edition from Green Man Gaming
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9. Yakuza 0
- RELEASE DATE: 24/1/17
- DEVELOPER: Sega
- PUBLISHER: Five Star Games
Look, I get it. Games built specifically for Japanese audiences are received by Western consumers like a dish of fugu (adored by diehards, is an acquired taste to some and, if all becomes lost in translation, it's outright poison to others). I'd be very surprised if you couldn't learn to love the cultural exchange that is Yakuza 0, though. It's the hard-boiled crime drama where you bust heads in with stolen bicycles, smash out hilari-bad karaoke, and nail high-scores in Space Harrier during the hedonistic '80s.
...unique cocktail of drama, humour...
Also, being a prequel, this is the perfect hopping-on point for newcomers. In no time, you'll be brought up to speed on mainstay protagonist Kazuma Kiryu and series regular Goro Majima as they fight like hell through Tokyo and Osaka to climb the underworld ladder (typically by buying skills, 3D brawling and chugging enough caffeine drinks to kill a small horse). Do yourself a favour and order this unique cocktail of drama, humour, and a shotgun approach to quirky, distracting mini-games.
Click to order Yakuza 0 PS4 from ozgameshop.com
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8. Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
- RELEASE DATE: 7/10/15
- DEVELOPER: Naughty Dog
- PUBLISHER: Sony
You'd be mad not to swing right into this offer, because it's three of the finest games ever made, lovingly remastered, retuned and delivered on one disc. Naughty Dog's take on Indiana Jones-style action-adventuring – which is a heady mix of gunplay, fisticuffs, light puzzling and platforming – proves to be as timeless as the ancient treasures it depicts. The secret sauce here is whip-crack dialogue written by one Amy Hennig and a memorable, talented cast led by Nolan North. Basically, Nathan Drake is the most affable mass-murderer in all of gaming (but hey, they're all mercs and pirates, so screw them).
Without a doubt, the unblemished diamond in the centre of this headpiece is Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, one of the most highly acclaimed titles in all of gaming. You owe it to yourself to experience it at least once. That said, there's no Kingdom of the Crystal Skull here – Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection offers nothing but fortune and glory. It's the holy grail of compilations.
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- RELEASE DATE: 8/2/17
- DEVELOPER: Team Ninja
- PUBLISHER: Sony
When FromSoftware delivered Dark Souls III: The Ringed City – the effective end of its best-known series – gaming masochists everywhere began wringing their hands nervously. “Where shall we go now for our medicine?” they shrieked, much as they could with ball gags on. The worry was unfounded, though. Team Ninja was more than happy to step in to dominate us all over again with Nioh, an unabashed love-letter to the hellish difficulty of Dark Souls.
Nioh may look derivative on paper, but in practice it's an extremely well-made game
To label it a clone is a serious injustice, however, as Nioh enhances the formula with refined hack 'n' slash combat, the best loot-farming this side of Diablo, and the most endearing demon-samurai art-style since the Onimusha series. This is bloody, and bloody long, too: mastering every weapon style, meticulously learning enemy weaknesses and exploring a plethora of side content will steal a hundred hours away if you let it. Nioh may look derivative on paper, but in practice it's an extremely well-made game, a supremely rewarding challenge and a worthy inheritor to the currently vacant throne of a sub-genre.
Click to order Nioh PS4 from ozgameshop.com
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6. NieR: Automata
- RELEASE DATE: 10/3/17
- DEVELOPER: Platinum Games
- PUBLISHER: Bandai Namco
What's not to like about an action role-playing game like NieR: Automata? It asks you to hew through murderous robots using YoRHa 2B, a super-powered android in a maid's outfit who wields a sword big enough to be mistaken for God's own letter-opener. And that affection will turn to love when you reach the wonderful genre and perspective switches. Because, while the bulk of fighting is done as a lightning-paced open-world 3D brawler, you'll experience inexplicable shifts to 2.5D platforming, and even the odd Raiden-esque sh'mup level. Automata nails every discipline it attempts and manages to be as engrossing as it is unorthodox.
“You'll never know what's coming next, but you'll love it when it arrives”
This gameplay design attitude of “you'll never know what's coming next, but you'll love it when it arrives” is mirrored in Automata's eclectic soundtrack and Yoko Taro's delightfully bizarre script. Expect off-the-wall moments and well-written characters who explore everything from existentialism, the complications inherent in artificial intelligence and what would happen if you got foul-mouthed robots to put on a Shakespeare production with 3 Romeos and 3 Juliets. The answer, like a larger metaphor for what NieR: Automata delivers, is: absurdly fun ultra-violence that'll entertain “the shit out of thee”.
Nier: Automata PS4 from ozgameshop.com
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- RELEASE DATE: 24/3/15
- DEVELOPER: FromSoftware
- PUBLISHER: Sony
Bloodborne is a bonafide exclusive: a Sony / FromSoftware collab that's never going to appear on any platform but a PlayStation. It's also damned good, too – in many ways (arguably) better than the much-beloved Demon's Souls and Dark Souls games that informed its design. The major differences this time around: this brutally difficult action-RPG ditches the swords 'n' sorcery shtick for one of the best modern Gothic horror stories in ages, and, in most cases, tactical aggression will trump defensive combat strategies. Oh, and you'll be asked to “parry” the incoming attacks of Lovecraftian horrors with a gun. What's not to love about that?
Give Bloodborne time to infect and grow on you – like one of the huge scrotal-esque sacs that its NPCs sport as replacement heads – and you'll be rewarded with an intricate, skin-crawling challenge that's unlike any other. Better yet, Bloodborne continues to expand with a generous side-dungeon system, PvP invasions and New Game Plus difficulties that'll make all but the finest among you bleed profusely.
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4. Persona 5
- RELEASE DATE: 4/4/17
- DEVELOPER: Atlus
- PUBLISHER: Five Star Games
What a masterpiece. Persona 5's claws will sink into you early and deep, thanks to its tale of a group of troubled high school students who live dual lives as Phantom Thieves. The day-to-day drama of being a Tokyo high-schooler must still be navigated, but there's also the need for the Phantoms to undertake fantastical adventures by using otherworldly powers to enter the hearts of people. Needless to say, when their stories start to delve into the dark nature of humanity (while delivering a series of masterful plot-twists that genuinely play upon your emotions) expect Persona 5 to enter your own heart and take up permanent residence.
Oozing with a slick, psychedelic visual style, and a face-melting acid jazz soundtrack, Persona 5 is the most polished JRPGs in years; an impossibly high benchmark set for the genre. The only potential pitfall: neophytes may not set aside enough of their calendar before becoming hopelessly captivated by this game's fast-paced battle system, vibrant world and loveable rogues who demand triple-digit hours of your attention. Upside: you'll love every single second you spend here.
Click to order Persona 5 from ozgameshop.com
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3. Horizon Zero Dawn
- RELEASE DATE: 1/3/17
- DEVELOPER: Guerrilla Games
- PUBLISHER: Sony
An open-world action-RPG where you stalk ludicrously dangerous dinobots and harvest their innards for precious loot: that's essentially what Horizon Zero Dawn is, and of course the formula works. The icing on the top is Guerrilla Games including a grounded and likeable heroine, a slew of creative weaponry and visuals that consistently put jaws on floors.
Over the course of many centuries, decimated tribes of humanity have clawed their way back to some semblance of civilization, and learning the history of this world and the nature of the aforementioned megafauna machines is a gripping adventure. Finding out how the robo-pooch got this screwed requires many hours of exploration, leveling and sifting through the old world tech that litters the corpse of this world. Indeed, Horizon Zero Dawn itself feels like you’re digging through the bytes of gaming's greatest mechanics, too – stealth and platforming harken from the Assassin's Creed series, while the hunt-loot-and-craft shenanigans are reminiscent of Far Cry. While it may crib from the genre greats, though, the moment-to-moment action HZD stylishly weaves feels fresh, frenetic and often superior to the source of influence.
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Includes all content from the Digital Deluxe version of the PlayStation 4 title, along with The Frozen Wilds expansion.View details
2. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
- RELEASE DATE: 10/5/16
- DEVELOPER: Naughty Dog
- PUBLISHER: Sony
All good things, even great and beloved gaming franchises, must come to an end – but what a mind-blowing send off Nathan Drake receives in Uncharted 4. This last hurrah offers everything you'd expect from an adventurer who started life as Indiana Jones's spiritual understudy and grew to be a contemporary of equal-standing – ancient antiquity acquisitions, swashbuckling violence and the biggest set-piece moments this side of Señor Spielbergo. The only things missing are Nazis and a whip (though, to be fair, the new grapple hook mechanic is arguably superior to the ol' bull-cracker, and South Africa mercs die just as well).
Naughty Dog also pushes the envelope by taking the linear-design blinkers off to offer levels so expansive a jeep (or boat) is required to get around. That sort of freedom-of approach, combined with a greater emphasis on stealth, makes for a number of tactically-rich encounters. And, obviously, the strategies you pick up here will serve you well in the teamwork-focused, over-the-top online multiplayer. Whether it's kick-arse solo adventuring, intense online headshot-hunting, or co-op survival, Uncharted 4 is a priceless treasure that delivers top-shelf gaming. It belongs in any self-respecting gamer's museum.
Click to order Uncharted 4: A Thief's End from ozgameshop.com
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1. The Last of Us Remastered
- RELEASE DATE: 30/7/14
- DEVELOPER: Naughty Dog
- PUBLISHER: Sony
When it comes to richly-painted, emotionally-resonant interactive story-telling, or just pushing Sony's hardware to insane new benchmarks, Naughty Dog are peerless creators. 2013's The Last of Us remains their magnum opus. It's a survival-horror experience that appeared during the final gasp of the PS3 generation, but this incredibly dark tale (of a grizzled survivor escorting a young ward through a post-pandemic America) has been allowed to shine like never before in this PS4 remastering.
but this incredibly dark tale has been allowed to shine like never before in this PS4 remastering.
Sneaking through environments and desperately scavenging the resources needed to craft the weapons required to survive an encounter – sometimes against hostile survivors, but also freaky cannibalistic mutants – has absolutely stood the test of time. No nail-biting encounter ever plays out the same thanks to incredibly reactive AI, and this combat seamlessly interweaves with an incredibly well-directed and acted narrative. I honestly cannot say enough good things about this title. It's the sort of game you'll wish I could erase my memory for, just so I could experience it with fresh, wide-eyed wonder all over again.
Click to order The Last of Us Remastered from ozgameshop.com
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