God of War II was one of the most impressive experiences on PlayStation 2, serving as the console’s swan song and one of its most important games. For God of War’s next-gen debut, Sony Santa Monica had big shoes to fill, and boy, they did not disappoint. God of War III is visually spectacular, and even after God of War II’s massive battles, the sequel manages to offer some of the most gigantic, epic moments in the franchise. Climbing Mount Olympus on Gaia’s back is jaw-dropping, and that’s only the beginning.
God of War III captures everything that makes the franchise great. The sheer scale of Kratos’ adventure is mind-blowing, and new mechanics and puzzles help to add a new challenge while maintaining the same gameplay that’s always made God of War fun. More importantly, God of War III adds a whole new layer to Kratos’ story, plus one hell of a cliffhanger. God of War III is one of the best games on PS3, and easily the crowning achievement of the series. – Andrew Goldfarb
Catherine is a truly different kind of game because it dares to tell the story of something we don’t often talk about: infidelity. The main character of Catherine is a young man named Vincent. Vincent works at a dead end job, lives in a small apartment, and has a pesky girlfriend named Katherine. That’s Katherine, with a K. But one night, at the local bar he often patronizes, Vincent meets a gorgeous blond girl named Catherine. That’s Catherine, with a C. And that’s when Vincent begins to unravel through a series of nightmares he has, one per night, for an entire week, as he struggles with the repercussions of cheating.
Catherine forces players to make lots of choices and to react to tempting situations they know are wrong. Vincent can’t necessarily control himself around Catherine, but he doesn’t want to hurt Katherine, either, and watching him completely fall apart as the week progresses is something few games are able to replicate. The gameplay itself is almost Q*Bert-like, and the puzzles are both challenging and fun, but what makes Catherine truly stand apart is its daring subject matter and its unapologetic nudging to make us confront some incredibly uncomfortable – but tempting – situations. – Colin Moriarty
Years before Journey, thatgamecompany introduced Flower, a similarly nontraditional experience more about evoking feeling than anything else. In Flower, you control the wind in order to guide flower petals through the environment, taking in breathtaking scenery for one of the most zen, calming experiences in all of gaming. Each new environment offers a different goal, but still has the common theme of letting you move at your own pace to take in the world around you.
The controls in Flower are also nontraditional, and surprisingly one of the best uses of Sixaxis motion controls that PlayStation 3 has to offer. More than just a simple gimmick, shifting your controller back and forth helps you feel more like the conductor of an orchestra than a player, shifting through the beautiful environment around you and truly feeling like a part of the game’s world. Flower is a stunning achievement and early proof that thatgamecompany is one of the best investments Sony ever made. – Andrew Goldfarb
In many ways, Sound Shapes is a great representation of what Sony’s drive to court small, independent developers can result in. Sound Shapes isn’t an early example of indie success on the PlayStation Network, but it is a notable example because of how well it did with consumers, how critically acclaimed it was, and how long it was supported after its release. Created by Canadian developer Queasy Games, Sound Shapes is a simple, cerebral game that, not surprisingly, revolves around music as much as it does around platforming. It’s not challenging in a traditional sense; it’s accessible and undeniably fun to play.
The blob you play as in Sound Shapes simply represents a conduit through which you explore various environments, cleverly split up by album (instead of, say, world). The more you explore and interact with in the environments you encounter, the more robust the soundtrack of that stage will become. The design is simple on paper, but actually quite dynamic in action, and Sound Shapes is an absolutely worthwhile game to play if you’re looking for a break between games of more traditional genres. – Colin Moriarty
Sony introduced something special with LittleBigPlanet in 2008, but its sequel three years later is when the franchise really began to shine. Creating platformers was fun and charming in the original LittleBigPlanet, but LBP2 offers a whole new level of depth that even developer Media Molecule may have been surprised by. By unleashing the massive potential of LittleBigPlanet 2’s creation tools into the community, LittleBigPlanet 2 introduced an incredible new ecosystem that offered infinite possibilities.
Even years after its release, stunning new games are created in LittleBigPlanet 2 every day, and jumping into a random creation with Lucky Dip almost always offers a fun and unexpected “why didn’t I think of that?” moment. With a fantastic single-player mode and an unbelievable amount of DLC to boot, LittleBigPlanet 2 is one of the deepest and most replayable experiences on PlayStation 3. Media Molecule went on to inspire brilliant new takes on the franchise from other developers, and none of that would have been possible without the brilliant success of LittleBigPlanet 2. – Andrew Goldfarb
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a hard act to follow, but developer Rocksteady somehow managed to not only live up to its debut, but actually surpass it by offering a whole new gameplay experience that’s more than just a sequel. Arkham City features much of the same sense of discovery and exploration as Asylum, but on a whole new scale. Instead of an isolated island, Arkham City gives Batman a gigantic playground that brilliantly changes some of Arkham Asylum’s best mechanics.
New areas are still locked away until you get certain gadgets, but progression is far less linear, and you feel like the entire city is yours to explore. Batman still fights most of his rogues gallery, and with tons of new side quests, it’s entirely up to you how many you encounter. Riddler challenges are also on a whole new level, and the Challenge Rooms offer some of the most brutal puzzles in the franchise yet. Arkham City is undoubtedly the best Batman game ever made, and in the running for one of the best open world games as well. – Andrew Goldfarb
DrinkBox Studios is getting better and better with every game the small, Canadian studio releases. After its two Tales From Space games on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita comes Guacamelee!, a cross-play, cross-save game for both Sony’s console and handheld, and an excellent example of Metroivania-style gameplay made modern and fresh. Guacamelee! might be a little too short, but this complaint is actually a backwards compliment, because we wanted to play it more, and more, and more.
In Guacamelee!, you play as Juan, a wrestler who dies, finds a special mask in the afterlife, and is then able to straddle the world of the living and the world of the dead. This mechanic plays a central role in Guacamelee!, making for dynamic platforming and puzzle-solving. Guacamelee! also has an incredible combat system, one that revolves around punches, kicks, grapples, and a litany of special moves. Guacamelee! is cheap, it’s fun, and it’s challenging. If you’re from the old-school, you owe it to yourself to give it a go. – Colin Moriarty
When Resistance: Fall of Man launched alongside PlayStation 3 in 2006, it represented Insomniac Games’ first pivot away from the mascot platformer since it created Disruptor on the original PlayStation. Insomniac may still be best-known for its Spyro and Ratchet & Clank franchises, but Resistance was something truly different for the studio, and Resistance 3 represented a triumph of the alternate history shooter franchise it toiled over for years.
In Resistance, the World Wars never happen. Instead, the asteroid collision we today know as the Tunguska Event was actually the arrival of an alien race known as the Chimera. The Chimera take their time, gathering strength in a closed-off Russia before beginning their conquest for world domination, and by Resistance 3, the situation is truly dire. Most of humanity is dead, and gamers, playing as Joseph Capelli, undertake what is, in essence, a suicide mission to try to stop the Chimera one last time. Resistance 3 is PS3’s best exclusive shooter, and marries story, setting, and gameplay unlike virtually any other shooter on the platform. – Colin Moriarty
Housemarque is one of the most underrated developers in the gaming industry, and as far as amazing games are concerned, their portfolio begins with Super Stardust HD, a PlayStation Network exclusive launched in 2007. Stardust is, in many ways, synonymous with the PlayStation Store, and is one of the best-selling, most popular, and most critically acclaimed PSN games to date. And there’s a simple reason for that: Super Stardust HD is all about pure gameplay.
In Stardust, players are cast in the role of a ship hovering above a planet. As gamers navigate around the sphere, asteroids come from above and collide with the planet, while monsters and other enemies spawn and give chase. Using all of the weapons at your disposal, you’re charged with clearing the planet of foes, racking up an ever-rising multiplier and a high score in the process. Super Stardust HD defines addictive gameplay on PlayStation 3, and its low cost of entry makes it a must-buy, even for those that have an aversion to digital downloads. – Colin Moriarty
Grand Theft Auto IV shows why Rockstar is still the king of open world games. As in most GTA titles, the gigantic, open world of Liberty City offers a ton of variety, from main missions to mini-games, but GTA IV also marks the series’ most compelling storytelling to date. Niko Bellic and his struggles to achieve the American Dream are Rockstar at its best, and even among the myriad movie references, gross-out jokes and “Cousin!” callouts, GTA IV manages to deliver a narrative gut-punch.
Beyond that, the introduction of multiplayer completely redefines the series, as the addition of friends into the streets of Liberty City is one of the best new elements added to the franchise since its start. Rockstar didn’t just throw in multiplayer battles, but actually created a perfect expansion of GTA’s open world gameplay that gives the entire game a ton of extra replay value. Grand Theft Auto IV is easily one of the defining experiences of this generation, and without a doubt one of PlayStation 3’s highlights. – Andrew Goldfarb
David Cage’s Paris-based studio, Quantic Dream, has pioneered the Interactive Drama genre, a genre that simply didn’t exist before he and his team endeavored to more closely marry cinema with games. Heavy Rain represents the triumph of Cage’s initiative, a game that strives to immerse, a game that makes every choice you make matter and have real repercussions. Other games have choice, but Heavy Rain defines the consequences of those choices better than anything else on PlayStation 3.
Heavy Rain’s main character is a man named Ethan Mars. Mars is a father, and after some terrible events occur, he’s left reeling from loss. Heavy Rain takes place over a few eventful days, forcing you through the motions of a distressed man trying to find his son. The weight of your choices are felt everywhere – there is no game over in Heavy Rain – and it’s entirely possible that you play the game six different times with totally different outcomes. Heavy Rain is a true feat, and proof of what gaming is capable of apart from gunfire and loud explosions. – Colin Moriarty
BioShock is one of the most important experiences of this generation. The city of Rapture isn’t just a backdrop for the events of the game, but a living, breathing (or, in most cases, dying and broken) world for the player to explore. Andrew Ryan’s failed utopia is one of the most fully-realized environments in the medium, and Irrational’s world building is unparalleled. Audio diaries, the broken rambling of splicers, the terrifying power of Big Daddies — all of the pieces of BioShock contribute to the singular effort of making Rapture feel real.
That world building helps provide a stable foundation for BioShock’s narrative, which not only has one of the most surprising twists in games, but also introduces one of this generation’s most memorable antagonists. Irrational took years to finally revisit Rapture, and the fact that it’s rich enough to return to is a testament to the incredible world they created in the first place. BioShock isn’t just a great game, but a piece of incredible art that no gamer should miss. – Andrew Goldfarb
It took a long time for our industry to finally get its definitive Western, but in 2010, Rockstar nailed it. Red Dead Redemption not only offers an incredible variety in its huge open world, but also one of this generation’s best stories. John Marston is one of gaming’s best anti-heroes, and his journey is proof of how effective storytelling in games has become. The twists and turns in Marston’s tale have a modern sensibility but always feel authentic for the genre and period, something that few developers are able to pull off so flawlessly.
Beyond the success of the core game, Red Dead Redemption also gave us Undead Nightmare, one of the best expansions of this generation and a brilliant way to completely change the game. Add in a ton of multiplayer modes and side missions and you have yet another example of Rockstar’s open world prowess, and a game that nobody with a PS3 should miss. – Andrew Goldfarb
Storytelling in games has come a long way, but few developers are able to convey the poignant, touching narrative that Telltale presents in the first season of The Walking Dead: The Game. Lee and Clementine’s story may not have the flashy graphics or big set-pieces of most AAA titles, but the development of their relationship is one of the most effective stories ever told in games, and easily a highlight of this generation as a whole.
Watching Clementine grow from a vulnerable girl on her own into a strong, precocious companion for Lee helps the player form an incredible attachment, and it’s hard not to become fiercely protective as the events of the game unfold. Even beyond Clementine, the relationships you form with Kenny, Ben, Christa and countless others are defined entirely by the player’s decisions, and The Walking Dead emphasizes choice like few games can. Every decision counts, and every player’s experience is their own. We don’t know much about future seasons of The Walking Dead yet, but if Telltale can maintain this level of quality, it’s clear that they’ve created one of gaming’s new greats. – Andrew Goldfarb
Sony was wise to purchase the Washington state-based developer Sucker Punch following the release of Infamous on PlayStation 3. That’s because the company didn’t have to worry about the immense talent at that studio straying to other platforms, instead allowing the team to focus on a sequel to the amazing PS3-exclusive superhero (or supervillain) game, Infamous. Infamous 2, which launched in 2011, is one of the finest examples of a sandbox game on the console, and its choice-based story – and the ramifications of those choices – make Infamous 2 a truly special game.
Infamous 2 reintroduces players to the hero (or villain) of the original, Cole MacGrath. In the first game, Cole dealt with issues in Empire City, but this time, he heads south to New Marais, a fictional metropolis largely modeled after New Orleans, Louisiana. The stakes are raised in Infamous 2, as Cole is always in danger because of his superpowers, and what’s really cool about Infamous 2 is how it connects to your save file from the original game. Infamous 2 is a solid action game that tells an interesting story, and is Sucker Punch’s best game to date. – Colin Moriarty
If anyone else ever argues that games can’t be art, The Unfinished Swan is a fantastic counterpoint. Giant Sparrow’s debut tells the story of a young boy named Monroe journeying through a storybook to find a swan that has escaped from his mother’s painting, and its unique style makes it so much more than the average game. The Unfinished Swan begins with a stark-white world that the player navigates by throwing black paintballs, and later evolves into mechanics involving water, light and even platform creation. Every new area and every new turn is surprising and completely reinvents the game, all while maintaining the touching story of Monroe and presenting a consistent and unique art style.
Sony has cultivated many unique studios and developers, not the least of which is thatgamecompany of FlOw, Flower and Journey fame. With Giant Sparrow signed to the same contract as thatgamecompany, it’s hard not to ask: if this is their FlOw, what will their Journey be? The unbelievable potential shown in The Unfinished Swan makes that an exciting future to look forward to. – Andrew Goldfarb
For fans of the JRPG, it’s been truly sad to see the genre decline so rapidly this generation. Yet, there are beacons of light in the darkness coming not from the big RPG developers and publishers, but from smaller, quainter studios. One such game is Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, a tried-and-true JRPG from Japanese developer Level-5. And unlike so many JRPGs released recently, Ni No Kuni unapologetically delivers on every front with the gameplay, story, and charm that once made the JRPG the mightiest genre of them all.
In Ni No Kuni, players take control of Oliver, a young boy suddenly thrust into an alternate dimension. It’s there that he, along with his mysterious lantern-nosed companion, find themselves on a path to – no surprise here – save the world. What makes Ni No Kuni truly special, though, are its characters, its Pokemon-like gameplay systems, and, perhaps most notably, its outrageously gorgeous graphics provided by none other than famous Japanese anime firm Studio Ghibli. Looking for an excellent JRPG on PS3? It doesn’t get more excellent than Ni No Kuni. – Colin Moriarty
Portal 2 is a beautiful game. The puzzles are brilliant, the humor is unrivaled, the mechanics are sound, and every room feels like something new. The original Portal was arguably perfect, yet Portal 2 somehow manages to improve upon it in every way. The new gels and excursion funnels completely transform the game; suddenly thinking with Portals isn’t enough, and bouncing, running and creating new Portal surfaces with gel bring an entirely new element.
More importantly, Portal 2 has heart to match its humor. Beneath the brain-bending puzzles, awesome new characters and hilarious writing, Valve actually has a great story to tell this time around, and the history of Aperture Science adds unexpected depth to the experience. Co-op is a fantastic addition as well, and using four Portals instead of two is yet another new wrinkle that entirely changes the game. Sequels are hard, but with Portal 2, Valve makes it look easy. – Andrew Goldfarb
There’s something special about a game that lets you do whatever you want. Bethesda Game Studios’ Fallout 3 is one such game, and although it’s not the only one of its kind, it may very well be the best open-world, sandbox RPG ever released. Set in the Capital Wasteland – formerly known as Washington D.C., but with a distinct nuclear taint – Fallout 3 dares its nameless protagonist to find his or her own way through the horrors of the post-apocalyptic United States.
What makes Fallout 3 truly memorable, however, is that it’s about more than finding your own way. Sure, the Capital Wasteland is a vast swath of land that can be seen at your leisure, but it’s the people inhabiting that land that truly matter. The stories they tell, the quests they give, and the choices they force you to make all give Fallout 3 its beating heart. There are few games as immersive as Fallout 3, and every PlayStation 3 gamer owes it to his or herself to find out why. – Colin Moriarty
PlayStation 3 gamers are well aware of the saga surrounding Mass Effect 2’s launch on Sony’s console. Like the original Mass Effect, ME2 was originally designed to appear strictly on Xbox 360 and PC. But a year after Mass Effect 2 came to those platforms, it mysteriously appeared on PS3, giving the PlayStation faithful their first taste of BioWare’s epic, choice-laden space RPG, but without any context provided by the first game.
Thankfully, all of that confusion has since been cleared up. The entire Mass Effect trilogy is now on PlayStation 3, but in many ways, Mass Effect 2 continues to be the best of the bunch. With an amazing cast of characters combining familiar teammates with all new faces, Mass Effect 2, like the games in the franchise that came before and after it, hinge almost entirely on player choice. Sure, the action is incredibly tight and the story immensely engaging, but few games before or since have hit all of the right notes in terms of giving players complete control over their destiny. Just make sure to play the original first, and port your save over! – Colin Moriarty
There’s something about Shatter, something so undeniably special that it’s virtually impossible not to highly recommend it to any PlayStation 3 owner. At its core, developer Sidhe made a game that’s easy to describe – it’s a break-breaking game akin to Breakout or Arkanoid – but underneath its surface, Shatter explodes into something far deeper and far more special. It’s not just a brick-breaking game. It’s the best brick-breaking game.
As such, Shatter doesn’t simply let you bounce an object back and forth between a barrier and some blocks you have to destroy. It lets you manipulate those objects with gravity, strategically pulling and pushing multiple balls. Shatter gives you dynamic stages to complete, and it even, somehow, has amazing boss battles. That’s right… a brick-breaking game with boss battles! Oh, and its soundtrack is to die for. For PS3 owners, Shatter is a must-have. – Colin Moriarty
Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was a standout title in the early life of PlayStation 3, but Among Thieves is when the franchise truly became spectacular. Naughty Dog is really able to flex its narrative muscles for the second installment, which cements Nathan Drake and friends as some of the best characters in the entire PlayStation ecosystem. Uncharted 2 improves upon Drake’s Fortune in every respect, including one of the most memorable opening scenes of any game on the platform.
As if that wasn’t enough, Naughty Dog completely nails the addition of multiplayer, introducing an element to the franchise that consistently keeps players coming back for more. What could have been a tacked-on mode instead became one of the most appealing parts of Uncharted gameplay, and set the table perfectly for a fantastic continuation in Uncharted 3. It’s no surprise that Uncharted is one of the most important franchises for Sony this generation, and Among Thieves is the reason why. – Andrew Goldfarb
When you release a game as ridiculously good as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, it’s undoubtedly difficult to follow it up. Yet, when it came time to create Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, developer Naughty Dog met the challenge head-on, crafting a pulpy action game that, in many ways, bests the title that came before it. In Uncharted 3, players once again play as Nathan Drake, the brilliant, loveable adventurer always a misstep or a stray bullet away from untimely death. But it’s the nature of his third adventure that sets Drake’s Deception apart.
Unlike in Drake’s Fortune and Among Thieves, Nathan Drake is, at this point, a known commodity. He has a team of people surrounding him far vaster than merely his mentor, Sully, and the love of his life, Elena. As such, Chloe and Cutter join up with Drake and his core team to help him on his most dangerous exploits yet, as he chases after the location of a lost city known as Ubar. Uncharted’s awesome presentation, beautiful graphics, amazing voice acting, and solid gameplay are all here, and better than ever. – Colin Moriarty
Journey is so much more than just a game. An experience like no other, Journey is such a meaningful trip through life and death and companionship that it’s hard to even categorize. Thatgamecompany created a game that’s not only timeless and beautiful, but a perfect representation of the creative ecosystem that makes PlayStation 3 so special.
Journey has few specific objectives, no time limit, and no score. It’s simply about living and exploring. Finding a companion and wandering the world of Journey with them manages to be more emotional than most traditional narrative experiences, even without communicating with other players directly. Even when another person enters your game, you don’t know who they are and you aren’t notified when they leave. Like life, people come and go and some make more of an impact than others. Few other games are capable of a message so subtle and yet so poignant, and even fewer are as beautiful as Journey. – Andrew Goldfarb
Naughty Dog is best-known for its Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, and Uncharted series, but with its PS3-exclusive post-apocalyptic game The Last of Us, the Sony-owned developer somehow delivered a game better than all of those. Placing you in the role of Joel, a grizzled survivor going through the motions 20 years after the end of the world, The Last of Us is a dire, dark, and difficult game, one that requires you to bear witness to and participate in the horrifying realities of a dying world.
At the heart of the experience is Joel’s relationship with a young girl named Ellie. At first, Joel and Ellie share an uneasy friendship with one another, but that unease quickly turns into trust and love, as the pair develop a father-daughter relationship that helps them survive the grimness constantly surrounding them. The Last of Us isn’t only very easily PlayStation 3’s best exclusive. It’s arguably the best game of the generation on any console. – Colin Moriarty