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, critical reception, or just popularity in general. 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.
30. Nex Machina
Housemarque is one of the most talented indie developers in the world and have been with the PS4 from the start, having released the side-scrolling shooter Resogun to critical claim alongside the console’s launch in 2013. The studio’s commitment to twin stick shooters inspired by retro arcade coin-ops culminated in 2017 with Nex Machina, a top-down shooter made in collaboration with Eugene Jarvis, the legend behind arcade classics such as Defender, Robotron 2084, and Smash TV. Fittingly, the game mixes elements of all those games and even brings back the hostage rescuing mechanics from Resogun, only this time you’re defending humanity from waves of robotic enemies. A variety of power-ups can be attained in random order in each level and the game provides a nice sense of empowerment as you stack these power-ups on top of each other, though you’ll lose a power-up each time you die.
Much like the best arcade shoot-em-ups, Nex Machina has a high skill ceiling and the “real” game opens up after you complete the arcade mode once through, as there are a variety of challenges available to put your skills to the test. Sadly, poor sales of Nex Machina led to Housemarque releasing a statement in 2017 declaring that “Arcade is Dead,” and that they would be moving on to different types of game development. If Nex Machina really is the last arcade shooter we ever get from Housemarque, as least the studio went out with a hell of a swan song.
29. Night in the Woods
A story-focused adventure game featuring a charming art style and a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, Night in the Woods is a deceptively sad exploratory experience that is also equal parts funny and cute. Following a cartoon cat girl named Mae as she drops out of college and moves back to her hometown of Possum Springs, Night in the Woods leaves it up to the player to delve as deep as they want into the game’s narrative. Night in the Woods really is a game about the little details, as many of the best moments come from simple interactions with other characters or playing in a band in one of a variety of entertaining mini-games.
In terms of gameplay, Night in the Woods doesn’t really offer much in the way of challenge, as its platforming sections are really just employed as an excuse to encourage exploration but then, that’s not really what this game is about. If you’re a fan of story-driven games and are in the mood for an interactive experience that explores some surprisingly serious themes — despite the cute exterior, Night in the Woods takes a pretty nuanced approach to the plight of working-class rural America — this is a game not to be missed.
28. 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 on the PS4, it’s hard not to give a recommendation.
27. Shadow Warrior 2
The PS4 is home to some stellar first-person shooters, especially when it comes to single player-focused ones. Titles such as Wolfenstein: The New Order and Doom have proven that there is still a place for FPS games with lengthy campaigns, but one shooter series that may have flown under your radar is Shadow Warrior 2 from indie studio Flying Wild Hog. Shadow Warrior takes its inspiration from the crass and juvenile Duke Nukem school of FPS design but unlike the trash pile that is Duke Nukem Forever, Flying Wild Hog’s game is both funny and well designed.
Originally released on PC, Shadow Warrior 2 took a step back in the technical department in its transition to the PS4, but it’s still an impressive-looking game graphically. In terms of gameplay, Shadow Warrior 2 is actually quite similar to 2016’s Doom at its best moments and actually does that game one step better in the violence department with its procedural damage system, which allows players to cut and blow off enemy limbs and body parts. With an arsenal of over 70 weapons, non-linear open environments, and a fun 4-player co-op mode, Shadow Warrior 2 may not quite live up to the PS4’s best shooters, but it’s one that fans of the genre owe it to themselves to check out.
26. Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
First released on the PS3 in 2008, Valkyria Chronicles is a tactical RPG set in the fictional region of Europa and is heavily inspired by World War II’s European theater. The game features an interesting hybrid design, where you control your troops from an overhead map, but can take direct control once the battle starts, transitioning into a third-person shooter where you line up headshots and run for cover. While the presence of shooting mechanics may give the impression that Valkyria Chronicles can be bested with raw shooter skills alone, the game’s tactical elements are actually very important for success, as you will find yourself losing battles fast if you don’t take the time to plan accordingly.
The game’s difficulty overall is a bit high, but not unfair, making Valkyria Chronicles ideal for those who don’t want their hands held throughout. The art direction is still impressive almost a decade after the game’s original release and is made even better now that it runs at 1080p and 60 frames-per-second. While this re-release is rather bare bones in terms of additional content, Valkyria Chronicles Remastered is incredibly easy to recommend for anyone who missed the game the first time around.
25. Trackmania Turbo
If you’re anything like us and are disappointed by the lack of good Hot Wheels video games out there (barring the excellent Hot Wheels DLC for Forza Horizon 3, of course), then Trackmania Turbo could be your jam. An arcade racer with a heavy focus on speed and stunts, Trackmania Turbo gets a lot of mileage out of its over-the-top track designs, as part of the challenge is just trying to stay on the track when you’re contending with all sorts of twists, turns, and loop de loops. Throw in a four-player split-screen mode (a rarity these days) and a budget price, and you’ve got yourself a fun addition to your PS4 library that’s easy to pick up and hard to put down.
A top-down twin stick shooter that supports up to four friends locally, Helldivers is notable for how challenging it is. Unlike most shooters of its ilk where you recklessly spray and pray to take down hordes of enemies, Helldivers rewards strategy and the careful conservation of resources. Missions are varied in structure and require tactical preparation, as you are able to tweak your loadout before dropping into a mission. Oh and speaking of drops, you have to watch where you call in ordinance, as air supply drops can crush and kill your allies if they land in the wrong spot, and is the rare co-op game where friendly fire is a legitimate concern. You’ll come for the Starship Troopers-inspired tone of Helldivers’ story and presentation, but stay for its addictive, challenging gameplay.
23. Dragon Quest Builders
Dragon Quest Builders is a genre mash-up we didn’t even know we wanted but are glad exists, as Square Enix takes the familiar story-driven RPG formula of their long-running Dragon Quest series and mixes it with a sandbox design heavily inspired by Minecraft and other building sims. The game casts you as a character simply known as “the Builder” and it’s your job to mine and gather resources in order to craft all sorts of different things in a world that has literally forgotten how to create anything (thus putting a clever twist on the “heroic destiny” trope found in many role-playing games). While you’ll probably want to stick to Minecraft if social sandboxes are your thing — Dragon Quest Builders has no multiplayer component — RPG fans in general are sure to get a kick out of this surprisingly engaging game.
22. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
One of the more recent releases on this list, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a psychological horror action game developed by Ninja Theory, the same studio behind other underappreciated gems such as Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DMC: Devil May Cry. Tying in elements of Celtic and Nose Mythology, the game follows the titular heroine Senua as she travels to the homeland of the Northmen, taking her through a land called Helheim, essentially the Norse version of hell. Throughout its six-to-eight hour story, Hellblade is an overwhelmingly sensory experience, to the point where the game actually recommends that you wear headphones while playing.
The use of audio and visual distortion in Hellblade is truly something to behold, as the game smartly uses these elements to convey Senua’s psychosis and delusion as she further descends into a nightmarish world where what you don’t see is almost more terrifying than what you do. Hellblade may not be an overly long experience but in terms of the way it blends its atmospheric narrative elements with more traditional action mechanics, there are very few games that rival it on the PS4.
The latest release from Supergiant Games, the acclaimed studio behind indie hits Bastion and Transistor, Pyre is something of a departure from those games and is best described as an action role-playing sports title. Set in a high fantasy world, players control a character who parties up with a group of exiles as they travel through a purgatory of sorts in an effort to cleanse their souls by defeating other exiles. Like Supergiant’s other games, Pyre is worth the price of admission just for its exquisite art direction, but the core combat system is the true star here.
Featuring a top-down perspective reminiscent of MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2 and presenting it as a sport that feels a lot like Rocket League of all games, Pyre’s three-on-three battles are fun and addicting, to the point where it feels like a missed opportunity that Supergiant didn’t include an online component (the game supports local multiplayer for two players). Really though, that’s about the only knock one can level against Pyre, as it excels in nearly every area of its design and tells a surprisingly emotional story to boot. This is arguably Supergiant’s best game to date and it would be a true shame to miss out on it.
Another Housemarque creation, Alienation is like a summation of the studio’s achievements in the third-person action space they’ve worked almost exclusively in for the last decade, as it features the same finely-tuned arcade action of their previous games, but adds another level of depth with its RPG progression system.
While the character classes and skill trees are nowhere near as complex as something like Diablo 3, they’re a welcome addition that help keep Alienation from devolving into just another shooting gallery experience. The addition of random weapon drops and the collection of various resources that can be used for re-rolling stats on weapons is what will keep you coming back for more, given that the relatively short campaign is designed for multiple playthroughs. Alienation is also a game that has only gotten better with time thanks to multiple free updates and the addition of local co-op (which was conspicuously absent at launch) and is a must-play for fans of twin-stick 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 U.N.C.L.E., it’s easy to ignore these drawbacks, as there aren’t actually that many games out there like CounterSpy.
18. Tearaway Unfolded
First released as a Vita exclusive, Tearaway Unfolded is an enhanced port that retains the whimsical charm of the original while taking full advantage of the DualShock 4 controller’s touchpad features. In some ways, the two games can be viewed as complementary experiences as even though they are largely the same game, they offer different perspectives on the same papercraft world Media Molecule has created thanks to the differences in the Vita and PS4’s features.
For those who haven’t played Tearaway before, it’s a third-person platformer with a heavy emphasis on environmental interaction and just generally soaking in the adorably creative world Media Molecule has created. Tearaway Unfolded includes new items and areas to explore, so there’s enough here to warrant a double dip if you’ve already played the Vita edition, but in a market dominant by violent games, it’s nice to see one that truly is made for anyone to enjoy.
17. Sniper Elite 4
World War II games are only now just starting to come back into vogue with Call of Duty’s long-awaited return to the bloodiest conflict in human history, but Rebellion has quietly been pumping out WWII games for years with its Sniper Elite series. Ditching COD’s epic scale approach, Sniper Elite still follows the one man vs. everyone model seen in countless shooters over the years, but in this case it’s because you play a stealthy sniper behind enemy lines. It’s an interesting take on empowerment, as you will die in seconds if you try and run n’ gun approach, but if you’re careful and methodical, you can set up some incredible combat encounters in Sniper Elite.
The series hasn’t really evolved much over the years, so you really can’t go wrong with either Sniper Elite 3 or 4, but we’d lean toward picking up the latter because its mission structure is more diverse than its predecessors and it’s easily the most polished. If you don’t have a patient bone in your body, Sniper Elite 4 probably isn’t for you, but if you’re a fan of taking your time and setting up the perfect combat encounter, there are few games that offer as rewarding a stealth-based experience as Sniper Elite 4.
16. What Remains of Edith Finch
One of the most popular genres to evolve out of the indie scene in recent years are first-person narratives, alternatively known as the somewhat derogatory term “walking sim.” Titles such as Gone Home and Firewatch have earned rave reviews from critics, but have been criticized by some as not being “real” games, since they don’t contain much in the way of traditional gameplay mechanics and don’t have fail states.
Setting aside the issue of whether or not something like What Remains of Edith Finch — the latest title from Giant Sparrow — a “game” or not, the truth is that it offers one of the most affecting narrative experiences on the PS4 and that’s not something that should be so easily dismissed. Following the multi-generational history of the Finch family, players explore the family’s massive, labyrinthine home, learning about each family member at a rapid pace. Although What Remains of Edith Finch only lasts a few hours, it’s a beautiful game that would be a shame to overlook.
15. Velocity 2X
Very few games successfully jump back and forth between two different gameplay formats as well as Velocity 2X. Featuring a mix of Galaga-esque ship combat and 2D platforming levels, Velocity 2X is, at its name implies, a game focused on speed. You gain new abilities as the game progresses that put an emphasis on rapid movement and attacks, and while it can all be a bit overwhelming at first, the game’s intuitive, responsive controls become second nature before long.
One of the most clever components of Velocity 2X’s design is its sliding difficulty scale. Each level has a running timer and to achieve 100%, you have to not only finish in a specific amount of time, but hit other specific milestones as well. However, these objectives are entirely optional, meaning you can take your time with each level if you so desire. This is also a cross-buy game on Vita, making it a no-brainer pick-up if you own Sony’s handheld as well.
Playdead made a name for themselves with their fantastic side-scrolling platformer Limbo back in 2010, and while it would be easy to write off their latest game, Inside, as spiritual successor that doesn’t really do all that much different, that would be a massive disservice to what the studio has crafted. Simply put, Inside is not only a worthy follow-up to Limbo , but is arguably even better than its predecessor. Although it retains the same try-and-die learning curve, Inside’s world feels more fleshed out than Limbo’s and is darkly disturbing in all the right ways.
Themes of slavery and conformity run throughout and while some players likely took issue with the game’s vague narrative, we adored how open to interpretation everything is, especially the game’s third act, which features one of the best twists of the year. It’s hard to really talk about Inside without giving much of it away and considering it’s a relatively short experience, it would be a real shame to have this game spoiled. All you really need to know is it’s a must-play and arguably the best indie title of the year.
Released in early 2017, it was hard to not know anything about this action role-playing game from Team Ninja considering the rave reviews and hype it received at the time. However, given the flood of other incredible games that would end up being released over the course of the year, it feels like Nioh was quickly forgotten about, which is a shame because it’s still one of the best games of its kind on the PS4.
Set in a fantastical version of feudal Japan, Nioh owes quite a bit of its design philosophy to FromSoftware’s Dark Souls, as this is another third-person action game with tough but rewarding gameplay and a wealth of conflict to explore. However, describing Nioh as a Dark Souls clonet does a disservice to what Team Ninja has accomplished here, as Nioh actually plays quite differently, opting for a faster, more aggressive combat style in comparison to Dark Souls more methodical approach. This is a special game and without a doubt one of the PS4’s best exclusives to-date.
12. 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.
11. 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 prior 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. The best part is that 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. And when you’re done with those, you can pick up the also very good sequel, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus!
10. 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.
9. 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.
8. 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 was not the step forward the Assassin’s Creed series so desperately needed — we’d have to wait for 2017’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins to get that — 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.
7. 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.
6. 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-worthy 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.
5. 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!
4. 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.
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.