The PS4 went from strength to strength in 2015. PlayStation Plus with its smattering of free games continued to compel, Spotify provided the tunes and (though flawed) PlayStation Now finally arrived in the UK to let us dive back into classic PS3 titles. The best PS4 games of 2015 were just the icing on the cake.
And, without flaming up the fanboys, I'd say the PS4 had the better exclusives over its Xbox rival. I'm still getting frightened by Bloodborne, and still marvelling over Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. It's been emotional, truly. So read on for our picks for the best PS4 games of 2015.
First things first – when it comes to games, it's difficult to claim any collection as a "definitive" best of list. We're all culprits of popping on rose tinted glasses, or have our favourite genres and personal preferences, and as an interactive medium, gaming's one of the most subjective forms of entertainment you can sit down and enjoy. Not every game on this list will be up your street, but, hopefully (given we're not the only ones to have loved 'em) a fair few will be.
As such, we've picked the games here in a mostly unscientific way, but we'll show our workings as transparently as possible. Firstly, all Giz's game-obsessed team members have discussed their favourite titles for 2015 (it's basically all we do when we're not on here writing) to come up with this list before whittling it down to a personal shortlist. In an attempt to prove we're not just raving fanboys and fangirls, we've added an expert comment from a game reviewer beyond the confines of Gizmodo (and linked to their original review). Finally, we've added each game's Metacritic score to give a glimpse of the wider critical reception (though, remember, scores – especially aggregated ones – shouldn't make your mind up for you). The following list is in no particular order.
The Best PS4 Games of 2015
Imagine the fear of dying in a punishing Dark Souls game. Now multiply that by a factor proportional to how comfortable you are playing a fully-fledged horror game. That's Bloodborne. A spiritual successor to the Souls series, it combines the brutal difficulty of Hidetaka Miyazaki's cult hits with a terrifying gothic world full of monstrous beasts and creepy, creepy secrets. It's a tough game, but as with the Souls titles, rewards perseverance, with a satisfying combat system that makes every blood-soaked blow to your foes feel like a real achievement.
Here's what Kotaku's Patrick Klepeck had to say:
Bloodborne is a fantastic game all its own, and requires no experience with anything else to enjoy and appreciate. It may be a riff on an existing idea, but it forges a standalone identity. It’s special, and there’s little else like it.
Metacritic Score: 92
Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
The Uncharted series back on the PS3 served up the Indiana Jones games we all deserved, but never received. Pulpy, globe-trotting action adventures, they had cinematic flair, superb storytelling and a great eye for a set-piece. But with the first romp, Drake's Fortune, creeping towards its tenth birthday, it might have put off those looking to dive in to PS4 sequel A Thief's End in the new year.
Enter Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, compiling the original PS3 trilogy (minus the multiplayer bits) all spruced up for the PS4. Bluepoint Games took charge of porting Naughty Dog's ageing originals, and did a fantastic job. Rather than simply the requisite 1080p resolution jump, all three games are lovingly revisited, with texture improvements, fancy lighting, and a unified combat system that makes the doddering older games sit seamlessly next to the newer ones.
Here's what IGN's Vince Ingenito had to say:
Missing bells and whistles aside, these three exemplary games have never looked or played better than they do here, so whether you’ve played them before or not, Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection should be in your library. These games have aged remarkably well, they’re still an absolute blast to play, and their characters are as charming and memorable as ever.
Metacritic Score: 86
So, if you've been reading Giz at all this year you'll know we've got a soft-spot for the Fallout series. The post-apocalyptic RPG-come-shooters from Bethesda offer giant, densely-packed open worlds and irradiated delights/monstrosities to discover. Plus, you get a pet dog. Always a good thing. Fallout 4 was easily the most hotly-anticipated game of the year and despite some grumbles about the game's visuals and stray bugs, it delivered handsomely. From building settlements to exploring the ruins of Boston there's just so much Fallout 4. You could easily sink 200 or more hours into what Bethesda have created here, and while it's not all uniformly polished, it's all uniformly interesting.
I’ve bought into the new generation’s promises of a magical tech future, and came in to Fallout 4 with my own set of expectations based in part on other, more polished big-budget games. But Fallout’s appeal has always transcended that. The fact that so many people are willing to tolerate Bethesda’s so-called “jank,” that so many people love games like Fallout and Skyrim in spite of and even sometimes because of that jank, is a testament to these games’ deeper appeal.
Metacritic Score: 87
Star Wars Battlefront
You love Star Wars, right? Of course you love Star Wars. Everyone does. Which is why I can confidently say you'll love Star Wars Battlefront too. It's not the best shooter on this list – look to Destiny: The Taken King for a more meaningful campaign, for instance – but it is the only game on this list where you can take part in the Battle of Hoth, take out some Rebel scum in an AT-AT and then skewer Skywalker on the end of Darth's lightsaber. Even if the shallow gunplay wears thin, you'll be stirred back into action by the incredibly-detailed visuals and long-memorised John Williams score.
Kotaku's Nathan Grayson said:
Battlefront is not the best game ever, and it’s certainly not the best shooter ever. To top it off, I’m worried about its ability to keep people entertained long-term, something crucial for a healthy multiplayer game. But there’s a feeling of childlike joy to playing it and thinking about it. It’s a game I will probably not go back to regularly, but when I want some silly, Star-Wars-flavoured fun, I’ll be happy to have it waiting on my hard drive.
Metacritic Score: 72
Like the Uncharted collection, Journey made its debut on the PS3. It's a testament to the quality of the original experience then that it still holds its own on Sony's newer PlayStation 4 console. This remaster was a more subtle one than that of Nathan Drake's (it's a simple 1080p / 60fps refurb), but it still shouldn't be missed. If you've never played it before, Journey is a beautiful, accessible game that's as much a meditation on videogames as it is a game itself. That probably sounds a bit pompous, but from its unique, almost-calligraphic art style to its brilliant anonymous multiplayer, Journey constantly looks to illicit an emotional response from you, as you trek towards a distant, mysterious goal. To say much more would be to spoil Journey – it's a wonderful thing, and a great introduction to modern gaming for any fence-sitters you may know.
Gamespot's Kevin VanOrd had this to say in his full review:
It is possible that Journey will not move you. In such a case, it is simply a beautiful game with a glorious soundtrack, grounded by a wistful cello melody later threaded through a warm quilt of winds and strings. The chance you might be swept away, however, makes it worth plunging your feet into the warm sand.
Metacritic Score: 92
Forget FIFA. Forget PES. This year's best kickabout didn't see you lacing up your digital boots, but instead revving your rocket-powered engines. Rocket League came out of nowhere to be this year's must-play PlayStation multiplayer game, pitting teams of gravity-defying motors against each other in bouts that were half indoor football, half Mad Max's Thunderdome. The fact it was briefly free as part of the PlayStation Plus subscription just made its delights that extra bit sweeter, knowing that many of your pals could jump in for a quick round without having to synchronise a trip to GAME.
Kotaku's Luke Plunkett and Patrick Klepek loved the game so much they fought over the right to review it. Klepek nails it with this comment:
Let me be clear: I fucking hate multiplayer games. Even when I have to review games with multiplayer, I’m cringing the whole time. It’s why I didn’t even want to bother with Rocket League, and ignored everything people were saying during the first week of release. I only started playing the game because people were so enthralled by it, despite the servers being a shit show the first week. Nobody else at Kotaku was playing, and it seemed like someone should. That’s how the addiction began, that’s how I started playing Rocket League and not playing any other video game in what was supposed to be a slow summer for games.
Metacritic Score: 85
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Do you like your RPGs filled with sex, monsters and violence? Have you rinsed your Game of Thrones boxset? Do you have several hundred hours to spare and a soft spot for beardy, gravelly voiced men? Then The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is for you. A game truly worthy of the overused "epic" description, it's a dark, brooding, expertly-written open-world RPG with enough quests and lore to make Tolkien blush. It also looks gorgeous, with inventive monsters to battle, giant cities to explore and the best in-game horse since The Ocarina of Time's Epona. Following months of a generous drip-feed of DLC, the first "proper" expansion, Hearts of Stone, proved just as worthy of your attention too. A must-have, even if you've never had an interest in the series or RPGs in general before.
Kotaku's Kirk Hamilton puts it best:
Wild Hunt is a grand adventure that feels distinctly of its time. It manages to set new standards for video game technology while accentuating the fleeting nature of technological achievement as an end unto itself. It is a worthy exploration of friendship and family, mixing scenes of great sorrow with scenes of ridiculous lustiness, tempering its melancholy with bright splashes of joy and merry monster guts. Come for the epic showdown between good and evil; stay for the unicorn sex.
Metacritic Score: 92
Destiny: The Taken King
Despite hooking in millions of players, Destiny had a rocky launch. A great shooter, yes, but not quite the MMO-lootfest Star Wars-rivalling space opera that Bungie had promised. The Taken King expansion fixes all that. Finally, there's an endgame worth playing, some method to the loot madness, and something approaching a worthwhile story. All the while keeping that wonderful, weighty shooting. If you haven't dipped in before, The Taken King certainly shows Destiny at its best yet, though you'll have to get to the upper levels of the game to appreciate it at its finest.
Tom Phillips of Eurogamer rounded it up thusly:
With this expansion, Bungie has changed the foundations of Destiny for the better. This expansion is far larger, its focus far wider than anything that has gone before, and it has lifted the entire Destiny experience as a result - whether you start the game now, return after some time away or never stopped playing. By focusing on improvements to the game's story, as well as the stories players will forge themselves, Bungie has made The Taken King a hugely successful addition.
Metacritic Score: 85
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
And now for something completely different. Say goodbye to monster-slaying, toodle-oo to space battles, farewell to firefights. Heck, say goodbye to a "jump" button. Instead, say hello to an eerily quiet corner of the English countryside, and the secrets behind the disappearance of its inhabitants. A singular experience from The Chinese Room, the minds behind Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, it's divided opinion. Its harshest critics call it little more than a walking simulator, while its biggest fans describe it as a masterclass in interactive story-telling. Whatever your stance (I'm firmly in the latter camp), it's undeniably interesting, and its short playtime (around six or seven hours) means you won't feel too time-cheated should it not fully resonate with you.
Gamespot's Alexa Ray Corriea had this to say:
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture uses subtle cues to guide you through its world and then gives you the space to digest what you find. It's a wonderful example of what games can achieve narratively while presenting minimal physical engagement and tasking player imagination with the rest. That sense of futility never leaves you, but whether or not you cling to the story's threads of hope is entirely up to you; no happy ending is forced on you... just an ending. The moral of the story is whatever you think it is, and there's no wrong way to feel as you sift through its bright, empty world. And while I had my moments of frustration in navigation, that didn't stop it from dazzling me. I left Shropshire exhausted, spent, and utterly impressed by The Chinese Room's magnificently crafted journey, both in how it brought me to its conclusion and the conclusion itself.
Metacritic Score: 78
Batman Arkham Knight
Be the Bat. Truly, totally, be the Bat. The Batman Arkham games have long been trail-blazers when it comes to both superhero games and licensed properties, but Arkham Knight was something else. It just gets everything about Batman so right, from its portrayal of the rogues gallery villains to the feeling of gliding above the incredibly detailed Gotham City. Meaningful side-missions rival the best that the main story has to offer, while the plot is a twisty-turny masterpiece that puts even Nolan's efforts on the ropes. And, though it was knocked at launch, spend enough time upgrading the Batmobile and you'll find it's every bit the nightmare on wheels that it should be. A real class act, and a fitting way to end the series. Shame about the PC version, though.
Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead said:
The gameplay is good, and very often great, but we knew that already. It's a known quantity. As a Batman story, this is something else. It dares to tackle not just the surface details of the character, but explores his psyche. It portrays him as, frankly, kind of a dick and also as a man of unflinching honour. The Batman of Arkham Knight is a complex, contradictory figure, a hero with real depth and dimension, and we get to wear the iconic cowl for one last mind-boggling night of mayhem. Miss out on that? You must be joking.
Metacritic Score: 87
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Depending on who you talk to, Metal Gear Soild V isn't only the best Metal Gear game. It isn't even only the game of the year. It's the best game ever. I'd say that's pushing things a bit too far (it's still all about nonsensical and melodramatic unless you've religiously played every other game in the series), but the quality of its stealth-action gameplay is undeniable. Cinematic in scope, visionary designer Hideo Kojima provides you with wide-open battlefields to exploit with all manner of gadgetry, making each mission a thrilling exercise in covert planning and execution. Throw in a very good multiplayer mode, and it's another few hundred hours sat gripping your gamepad.
GamesRadar+'s Dan Dawkins was blown away:
MGS5 is a masterpiece. It's hard to imagine another AAA game that will be allowed a five-year development cycle, yet feel so completely the work of one man. A game where you can visit a prisoner's cell and hear Joy Division, just because it's the director's favourite band. MGS5 is a worthy legacy, and its imprint will be felt in open-world games for years to come. Just try re-visiting GTA 5 and experience the frustration of not being able to Fulton Extract a storage container, let alone use its contents as part of a complex micro-management resource simulation. Kojima has set a new bar for open-world control and depth of interaction.
Metacritic Score: 93
Anything we've missed? Sign off with your games of the year and why you've chosen them below.