Sony’s newest console, the imaginatively named PlayStation 4, will be in stores next Friday.
The PlayStation 3 isn’t being decommissioned just yet (they’re still putting out new soccer games for the PlayStation 2, even) but its time is obviously winding down. The PS3 wasn’t a transcendent fad like the Wii or as prevalent in the American zeitgeist as the Xbox 360, but between big-budget showstoppers like the Uncharted series and a late-cycle push for smaller, artier indie games, the system features more than its fair share of must-play exclusives. As the PlayStation 3 begins its slow march to obsolescence, let’s look back at the best games that didn’t exist on any other console.
Few games are as perfectly named as Journey. That’s all this game is about, my forward momentum as I undertake a mysterious quest. I don’t know why I’m doing it, or what waits for me on the mountaintop, but I know it must be done. In reducing the journey to its most primordial form, Journey attains a universal power.—Garrett Martin
Little Big Planet 2 is difficult to quantify, much less qualify—larger perhaps than any single console experience out there, built as if by hand by extraordinarily, terrifyingly bright people and brought to life with a kinetic sensibility. An ode to joyous, chaotic motion, you are the toy box and the toys wrapped into one, the Rube to my PS3’s Goldberg. You have music in your soul. You are a spectacularly groovy game.—Kirk Hamilton
There have been seven installments of MLB The Show, and any of the ones from MLB 09 on could anchor this line-up. Sports games are incredibly obtuse role-playing games for sports fans, and few sports are already as picked apart by stat nerds than baseball. MLB The Show thoroughly recreates almost all facets of the sport for home consumption, with incredibly lifelike presentation and the defining career mode in sports games. It’s hard to imagine how any baseball series could be better than The Show.—Garrett Martin
The Last of Us is an uncommon (and uncommonly powerful) big budget shooter. It depicts the gravity of its situation with an appropriate amount of sorrow and desperation, but also lingers on the few moments of escape and relief that Joel and Ellie are able to find. That makes these characters feel more human, which makes the inhuman conditions they struggle through more disturbing. The Last of Us makes you care about the end of the world again.—Garrett Martin
Sound Shapes twists the basic tenets of the classic side-scrolling platformer into a form of interactive music-making. Every element of the game serves a musical purpose. Coins aren’t just collectibles but musical notes that add new instruments and melodies to the level’s soundtrack. There’s an invisible staff behind each level that determines the note of each coin—the higher the coin is on the level, the higher the note. Platforms aren’t just bricks or elevators but words that move, twist and disappear according to a song’s lyrics. Instead of simple obstacles to avoid or monsters to dispatch enemies are drum machines that contribute to the beat. Sound Shapes beautifully unites music and game into a single, tightly wound aesthetic unit.—Garrett Martin
Before Journey, Thatgamecompany proved with Flower that games could leave an emotional mark upon players, even if it didn’t necessarily look or feel like what we expect from a videogame.—Garrett Martin
The better you are doing at Dyad, the less clear it is what is going on. Colors explode across the screen, the music swells and you attempt to navigate chaos, audiovisual and tactile, rumbling feedback that blend together. You think you can see a pattern. Is it apophenia? Do you even have time to parse it? What are you even doing?—Brian Taylor
Valkyria Chronicles never stood a chance in America—it’s a soapy tactical RPG about anime teens fighting in a thinly veiled analogue of World War II. It’s its own entire niche, buried within about three other niches. Challenging battle scenarios feel more immediate and action-packed than usual for the genre, due to a camera that switches from an overhead battle map into the third-person when you command a unit. It’s the story that makes Valkyria truly memorable, though. Beneath its broad strokes and RPG conventions lies a surprisingly tender and mature look at lives ravaged by war.—Garrett Martin
Outside of a Jack London story or a trip across a tightwire between skyscrapers, you will never feel so acutely aware of your survival as in Demon’s Souls. It’s an action role-playing-game, in the same genus as say, Fable II, but by modern standards it’s punishing and austere. The echoey sound design and charred, damned environments try to daunt you, but when you beat each one, the victory tastes that much sweeter. Demon’s Souls asks a lot—and it deserves nothing less.—Chris Dahlen
Some game designers are obsessed with making games that look and feel like movies. Few games have pulled it off better than Uncharted 2, a big, loud action blockbuster that is proudly dumb in a very smart way. Naughty Dog’s cinematic sequel never forgets that it’s a game, wrapping its well-written and well-acted story around an exciting platformer-shooter hybrid. The collapsing hotel sequence remains a technical marvel, and one of the most memorable moments in gaming.—Garrett Martin