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The PlayStation Network is no stranger to unusual games, but Tokyo Jungle certainly rises to the top echelon of the strangest titles on the entire service. And it’s no left field indie game, either: Sony’s Studio Japan helped make it. As the title suggest, Tokyo Jungle is a bit of a madhouse, a post-apocalyptic take on the Japanese city in which animals alone now rule the roost without any humans around to contain them. You play as those animals, ranging from dogs, cats and birds to bears, deer and even dinosaurs. It’s open world and actually (and perhaps surprisingly) gruelingly difficult. It’s all about staying fed, producing offspring and avoiding trouble. In other words, Tokyo Jungle is all about surviving, even if the “characters” you play as are admittedly comical.
The real-time strategy genre isn’t one that often finds a home on console. But this generation, that trend is starting to shift, especially in the realm of downloadable titles. On PlayStation Network, gamers can find a PSN-exclusive RTS called Mushroom Wars. With its whimsical graphics and subject matter, Mushroom Wars might strike you at first as an easy, carefree foray into a childish fantasy world. But think again. Mushroom Wars is a difficult RTS that requires acute attention to detail, quick thinking and solid strategy. As hands-down the best RTS on PlayStation Network, Mushroom Wars is a solid pick for any gamer looking to lose some time while using quite a bit of brain power.
Let’s keep it simple: if you like old-school Castlevania games, then you’re probably going to like BloodRayne: Betrayal, too. With developer WayForward’s pedigree, it would be unsurprising if the game was initially made to be a Castlevania game and reskinned later, but either way, where it draws its inspiration from is rather obvious. Betrayal is a linear, side-scrolling romp with beautiful, glossy HD graphics setting it apart from the 2-decade-old games it would otherwise be right at home next to. But be warned: Betrayal is brutally hard. If you’re not prepared to play a game ripped straight out of the NES and SNES era, you may throw your controller at the wall before long. Steel yourself!
Lumines made its mark as a PSP launch game, but three years later, Lumines Supernova showed up on the PlayStation 3, and it was glorious. The HD graphics overwhelmed the TV, all the puzzle modes made the conversion, and new additions such as a marathon mode and the ability to create your own music tracks rounded out the package. Still, at its core, Lumines Supernova was the same puzzler many had been addicted to in the past. Blocks fall from the sky, and you try to connect similar colors. A scroll bar comes by and adds the block elimination as a sound to the techno music you’re listening to. On paper, if might sound crazy, but as the levels went on and the game got faster, Lumines Supernova pushed you to think fast — and I loved it for that.
There’s always going to be a market for the platformer, but making a downloadable platformer that stands out – therein lies a challenge. Sideway: New York succeeds by pairing a striking art style with some mind-bending gameplay. Here, you’re Nox, and you’re sucked into a 2D world where you go from artist to art. See, Sideway takes place on the buildings of New York. Nox exists on the side of buildings like spray paint, so running to a corner only means you wrap around it to the brick façade on the other side. It makes brains melt, but it also entertains with crazy twists, fun enemies and plenty of tight platforming.
Tower defense games are nothing new, but when developer Q-Games gave the world PixelJunk Monsters, everything felt fresh again. Here, players took on the role of a little Tikiman who had to build gun towers and canons to stop incoming beasts. If the creature got to Tikiman’s home, they’d gobble his leaping children. I had to run from tree to tree looking for gold, dance around my towers to upgrade them, and find precious gems to unlock the best weapons available. All this is happening in a beautiful 2D world with lovely drawings and delightful music. Oh, and as cute as it was, PixelJunk Monsters could test your tower defense skills like few games would.
There are many games on PlayStation Network’s competitor Xbox Live that PSN fans covet. But if there was one game in particular, it was Castle Crashers, the four-player side-scrolling beat-’em-up that took the 360 by storm when it was released in 2008. With tight controls, great graphics and an awesome sense of humor, Castle Crashers was fun to play by yourself, with friends locally, and online. Unfortunately, it took two whole years for it to meander over to the PlayStation Network, but when it did, the PlayStation faithful were extremely happy. The port translated to PlayStation 3 perfectly, and sucked hours and hours from gamers’ lives… even if it was a couple of years late to the party.
Over on Xbox Live Arcade, there’s this awesome title called Shadow Complex. In it, a 3D character moves across a 2D world in something that’s delightfully old school while wrapped in the modern – Rochard is that with puzzles, a lack of gravity and astro-mining. John Rochard was just your average space miner, but when evil dudes invade his space, he grabs his G-Lifter and sets out to best the baddies. For you, this means solving puzzles by altering gravity, tossing crates at bad guys, and relishing the great voice acting. If you connect with the world, collectables and upgrades should keep you coming back even after the credits roll on the main campaign.
Costume Quest, Costume Quest, Costume Quest – some games get humor right, others get engaging gameplay, some nail a unique visual style: Costume Quest has all of this is spades. After Wren’s little brother is kidnapped by monsters, big sis and her ragtag group of friends have to trick or treat around town in an attempt to find the boy. Sometimes you get candy – the game’s currency – and sometimes you get to battle the monsters themselves. When this happens, the little kids become the giant embodiment of their costumes and make use of the suits’ special abilities in turn-based combat. We don’t care what month it is. Buy this game and enjoy.
Go ahead and laugh — yes, we’re putting Tetris on this list. If you’re giggling at the thought of a nearly 30-year-old game being on here, you clearly missed one of the PSN’s best puzzlers. Tetris arrived in January 2011, and it brought a fresh take on the classic game. Sure, you were still fitting shapes together to make solid lines, but this was in high definition. This packed modes that changed the way you played, online leaderboards, and online multiplayer. Sending lines to my opponent’s screen in Battle mode and screaming at my partner in team mode are some of my favorite online PS3 memories. Yeah, it was “just” Tetris at its core, but 2011’s Tetris is frickin’ awesome.
It’s simple science: Dragons love gold. And getting as much gold as you can is the basic gist of Hoard. A simple looking game from developer Big Sandwich Games, Hoard casts you and your opponent as dragons. For 10 minutes, you ravage the countryside burning down carriages, capturing towns and stopping thieves. All these actions reward you with gold that you take back to your hideout and use to upgrade your dragon’s abilities. When time’s up, the dragon with the most money wins. Simple, right? Well, the idea is, but mastering Hoard and its maps will take time — and then there’s the constant fight to be the best online.
When Closure came out, it snuck up on people. Folks didn’t expect that this game – which takes a graphical cue from Limbo – would be anything more than… well… something forgettable. And those people were dead wrong. Closure is a puzzle game focused around a brilliant and unique interplay between light and dark. When an object is lit, it actually exists; when the object isn’t lit, it disappears entirely. This creates a compelling and totally enjoyable system for gamers to explore and figure out. It is truly a thinking man’s game, one right at home on the PSN.
If any single game is evidence of a gaming company listening to its fans, it’s Mega Man 9. The original six Mega Man games on the NES were classic 8-bit affairs with tight controls, awesome graphics (for the time) and music that’s still considered some of the best gaming tunes of all-time. But then the original series went in a different direction on other consoles, and then faded completely. Ten years after Mega Man 8 came to PlayStation, however, Mega Man 9 came to the PlayStation Network in its 8-bit glory. Finally reborn was the series’ acute attention to gameplay, tickling nostalgic old-schoolers the world over.
Housemarque. That single name means a great deal to PlayStation Network gamers, because its smash-hit arcade shooter Super Stardust HD is considered one of the finest games on the service. But Super Stardust HD came out in 2007, and gamers long-awaited what the Finnish studio had in store for its next game. Players had to wait for over three years to find out, however, as Dead Nation came exclusively to the PSN in late 2010. A twin-stick shooter like Super Stardust HD, Dead Nation put players in the role of zombie-hunting bad-asses who had to work their way through an undead-infested city. Dead Nation could be played on your own or with a friend locally or online, and is renowned for its high difficulty level… as well as the level of addiction many experience while playing.
Match-three games are nothing new in video games. Usually you’re presented with a grid of tokens or gems, and you need to match three like objects for points. Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords took that basic idea, shoved in a whole bunch of RPG leveling mechanics, added spells, tossed in a story, and unleashed it on the world. The game came to just about every platform with its basic visuals and colorful characters, but that doesn’t mean the PS3 version was any less awesome. Many an IGN editor spent days upon days with the “simple” game in feeble attempts to match skulls and save the land of Etheria.
Are you looking for a game that’s truly addicting? If so, you may not need to look much further than Plants vs. Zombies, a title from PopCap Games. Plants vs. Zombies initially made its appearance on iPhone over a year before it ever arrived on the PlayStation Network, but it found a worthwhile home on the PSN nonetheless. Plants vs. Zombies has a simple theme – use various kinds of plants to protect your home from incoming hordes of zombies. Its tower-defense, RTS-style gameplay is expertly executed, and its whimsical presentation is both over-the-top and totally awesome. PvZ might have been a game made to play on the go, but it’s just as enjoyable – if not more-so – on your PlayStation 3.
When I reviewed the full, five-episode season that makes up The Walking Dead: The Game, I said that this was a title we’d look back at in 10 years and point to as the one that changed the “adventure game” genre. What makes The Walking Dead special isn’t the puzzles developer Telltale Games put in (there aren’t many). The Walking Dead resonates because it makes us feel. As Lee Everett, we’re out to protect a little girl named Clementine from people and monsters during the zombie apocalypse. This boils down to making decisions and living with the consequences. As such, the game mutates as you play. Relationships get stronger or fall apart based on your choices. Party members change. In the end, we all get to one of two endings, but the journey there is the real story – and that’s something that’s different for each person because it comes down to how you feel.
Sound Shapes is special for so many reasons; it would be impossible to name them all. But the paramount reason is stands apart is that it’s a standard game-type – a side-scrolling 2D platformer – with all of the trimmings of the classics and absolutely none of the “been there, done that” feel that would otherwise weigh it down. There are no games like Sound Shapes, even if it’s from one of the industry’s most-visited genres. Therein lies its brilliance. Sound Shapes, not surprisingly, revolves around audio. There’s no combat, and “dying” in the game is easily forgiven. What’s most important is finding objects strewn around various environments to complete each stage’s soundtrack. It’s a blast both on PS3 and Vita, and comes highly recommended.
There’s a lot of emotion in the final 10 slots of our PSN list. Limbo touches on awe and anger. On the awe side, there’s the fact that the game just gets going when you turn it on. There’s no cutscene – you’re a boy in a seemingly empty world, and you need to push forward through the black and white world of silhouettes. The ambient sounds, the striking visuals, and the unexpectedly brutal deaths – it left us slack jawed on our first playthrough. Then, the anger comes. Now, this isn’t the bad kind of anger. This is the “OMG, why can’t I figure out this puzzle?!” anger. The kind that builds as you try everything you can think of to cross a seemingly simple gap. Limbo can be maddening, but that’s part of the game’s unending charm.
If someone says that a video game can’t be art, you can rest assured that person has never played Flower. From the brilliant minds of developer thatgamecompany, Flower puts gamers in a role they’ve never been in before — a flower petal flying through the air. Sound strange? It certainly is, but Flower is also an undeniably cerebral experience. It encourages gamers to explore beautiful maps in order to find more and more petals from awakening flowers, and the entire game is controlled with your DualShock’s SixAxis capability. So sit back, sink into your couch, and enjoy one of the most unlikely critical hits gaming has ever seen.
Leave it to Pac-Man — a character synonymous with video games — to return as a digital download and totally blow the competition away. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is one of those games that nearly everyone you talk to loves. If you want to just motor through the Technicolor levels munching fruit and ghosts, have at it. If your parents are over and want to relive the arcade heyday for a bit — even though the rules have changed here — they can. If you want to obsess over leaderboards and watch replays in hopes of shaving seconds off your time, feel free. Pac-Man Championship Edition DX packs crazy ghost combos, tons of maps, and a cheap price tag.
Most PS3 gamers agree that one of the most talented developers working on PSN exclusives is a Finnish studio by the name of Housemarque. And it’s very first foray into PlayStation Network development was in the form of Super Stardust HD, which came out less than a year after the PS3 was introduced to the masses. Super Stardust HD is a unique arcade-style game that requires gamers to fend off various asteroids with a small ship outfitted with a trio of specialized weapons. By upgrading these weapons and using other power-ups, players will survive for a longer and longer period of time, running up their multipliers and score. Super Stardust HD might single-handedly be the most addicting game on the entire PlayStation Network and has kept droves of loyal fans coming back for more, even four years after its release.
Out of all of the games on this list, The Unfinished Swan is one of the most unique. The entire game revolves around the experiences of Monroe, a young boy thrust into an ever-changing world that he can explore and ultimately manipulate. Created by Giant Sparrow, a studio with two more PlayStation exclusives still on the way, The Unfinished Swan is short – you can beat it in about two hours – but in that time, you will play a game unlike any you’ve played before, one that constantly flips the script and keeps you guessing. Sony struck gold by finding this studio and securing their games as exclusives. And while The Unfinished Swan is amazing in its own right, it’s hard not to wonder what else this small team of developers has up its sleeve.
For those who have been following IGN PlayStation’s list of top PS3 and PSN games for years, it may come as a surprise that Shatter is no longer the game in the first slot. It’s been bumped down to number two, but that doesn’t make it any less epic. At first glance, Shatter is nothing more than a brick-breaking game, but the fact is it’s one of the most addicting and rewarding games on the entirety of the PlayStation Network. It’s well-made and mechanically unique, and its soundtrack is absolutely stellar. Shatter is still drowning in the cream of the crop of PSN games; every PS3 owner owes it to himself or herself to play it.
Was there any doubt that Journey – IGN’s Game of the Year 2012 – would take home our top honor? There shouldn’t have been, and most people who have played Journey can tell you why: the game is fantastic. The worlds are beautiful, the sound design is inspiring, and the gameplay feels as light as air. But what makes Journey special and leads to it being No. 1 is what you take away from it. Some people finish Journey and cry. Some finish Journey and just sit in silence. Some restart the admittedly short game as soon as they can. Journey tells a story without words. It’s all about getting the traveler to the mountain. What you take away from the sandy slopes and the dark caverns is up to you, and that’s awesome.