With the PlayStation 4, Sony managed to not only correct for the difficulties developers had with creating games on the PlayStation 3, but also hit that sweet spot in terms of price to make it the second bestselling home console ever, only falling short of the PS2. Over the seven-plus years the console has been on the market, thousands of games have been released on the system, making it impossible to keep up with all the ones worth playing.
Sony makes sure you know about most of its big-budget first-party games, and well-established franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, and all the yearly sports titles basically sell themselves at this point. But what about those other great to fantastic games that come out on the PS4 with little to no buzz outside of passionate fans? If you’re looking for some of those hidden gems on the PS4 you may have overlooked, or never even heard of at all, we’ve collected some of the best.
Housemarque was one of the last holdouts that kept putting out high-quality arcade titles all the way through the PS4’s lifecycle. They made a name for themselves with games like Super Stardust HD on the PS3 and Resogun, arguably the best launch title on PS4. Nex Machina, released in 2017, is nothing revolutionary when it comes to gameplay. It’s a top-down shooter with bright colors, bite-sized levels, fast-paced action, and just plain fun action. There’s no deep story or intricate characters here. It’s just you and hundreds of enemies to strafe, dodge, shoot, and bomb as you chase that new high score. Throw in some awesome power-ups, graphics that are just a joy to behold when the action ramps up, and that “one more run” feeling after a death, and you’ve got an incredibly addicting formula.
Hohokum had an uphill struggle to make a name for itself right from the start. Not only does it have a hard-to-market, and remember, title, but the game itself is not easy to explain in words. It would best be described as an adventure game, but it is more like interacting with a charming series of art pieces. This is a game for those who don’t want, or need, a game to give them a checklist of objectives to complete. If you’re in the mood for a more calm experience where you can go at your own pace to discover what you can interact with, and how, you’ll be drawn into this colorful world in no time.
The first title that originally launched on the Vita before getting a second life on the PS4 is the absolutely adorable Tearaway Unfolded. This popup-book experience gives the likes of Paper Mario and Yoshi’s Crafted World a run for their money in terms of the most charming use of a papercraft aesthetic. The world is just a joy to explore as each new environment uses the paper art style to convey a surprisingly large amount of different environments. Of course, the paper art style isn’t just for looks, either. The game invites you to contribute to its world in surprising and exciting ways that we won’t spoil here. Tearaway Unfolded, in many ways, feels like what Astro’s Playroom is for the PS5 but for the PS4.
Gravity Rush Remastered
Our second game that often goes overlooked for being a Vita port is the gravity-bending action-adventure Gravity Rush Remastered. Set in a city floating in the sky, players take control of a woman named Kat who has lost her memories but has the power to manipulate gravity. You use these powers to sail through the skies, navigate through obstacles, and fight enemies in ways, and from angles, you never have before. The story is told through comic book-style scenes spoken in a nonsense language that really lends to the otherworldly feel. With a compelling mystery to unravel, side quests to complete, challenges and time trials, and skills to level up, Gravity Rush Remastered is a rush of an adventure you won’t find anywhere else.
This game describes itself as a real-time tactics roguelite, which might scare off a lot of players. While those descriptors are true, the game itself isn’t nearly as complex or punishing as it may sound. You are put in charge of a group of islanders in the North attempting to escape a pursuing Viking army through procedurally generated islands. You will set up troops to defend these islands from the invaders, earning gold, upgrading troops and commanders, and moving on to the next island. The simple art helps everything stand out and become instantly readable once you get acquainted with the game. Tactics games aren’t too common on consoles, and this is one of the best you can return to over and over for a fresh experience every run.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
What didn’t this amazing JRPG have going against it with a name like that? Most probably wrote it off as being a game for kids, or because they just think of Digimon as a Pokemon rip-off. The truth is, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth is one of the best JRPGs on the console hardly anyone talks about. And no, you don’t need to know a thing about Digimon to enjoy this ride. Speaking of Pokemon, however, fans of those games will find a lot to love here. With more than 200 digimon in the game to level up, evolve, and take into turn-based battles, plus the lengthy story and side quests, you can easily sink dozens of hours into this deep JRPG. If you end up falling in love with it, then you can also move right on to the sequel, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory.
Moons of Madness
Don’t worry, horror fans, we haven’t forgotten about you. Moons of Madness aims to capture that oh so elusive yet enticing Lovecraftian style of horror, and for the most part, succeeds. You will play as Shane Newehart, an engineer on the Trailblazer Alpha base set on Mars, who begins to experience some disturbing hallucinations … or perhaps they’re more than that. While the gameplay isn’t anything to write home about, the themes of the story and impressively disturbing and creative visuals make this short but sweet trip into madness one that might just stick in your mind a little longer than you want it to.
My Time at Portia
If you’ve already designed the perfect functioning farm in Stardew Valley and have more Bells than you know what to do with in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, then My Time at Portia will be your next addiction. This entry in the booming life sim genre might’ve been made by a small indie team, but aside from a simple art style, you’d never guess it. The setup is bare-bones, as most are in this genre, where you are starting a new life in the titular town of Portia trying to fix up your father’s rundown workshop by doing tasks for the other people in town, growing crops, collecting resources to craft and build, and even engaging in some light action RPG combat. Not to worry, there’s also a full relationship system with the people in town to dive into. There’s a surprising amount to sink your time into if you let this game get its hooks in you.
Taking all the best cues from the Batman: Arkham series, Mad Max isn’t a movie tie-in game that tries to retread the same beats as the film. Instead, it takes what made the most recent movie so amazing — the setting, weapons, brutality, and colors — and crafts an open-world experience that feels just as savage as you’d hope. The game mixes satisfying melee combat, exploration, progression, and car combat in a winning formula that was praised by many outlets upon release. So what caused this game to become a hidden gem with the Mad Max name and positive reviews? Unfortunate timing. Mad Max released on the very same day as the massive Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and was completely eclipsed by this game’s shadow for most gamers.
The Evil Within 2
The first Evil Within actually had a ton of attention brought to it. Famed Resident Evil 4 director Shinji Mikami had returned once again to the survival horror genre, with his new studio making a game that not so subtly referenced his old franchise. Unfortunately, The Evil Within failed to live up to expectations and didn’t leave a lasting impression on many. Fast-forward a few years, and a sequel came out that spiced up the formula in a lot of positive ways. The game wasn’t directed by Mikami this time, but introduced smaller hub levels to explore, find collectibles and materials, and do some side quests in. The combat was tightened up, and while the story has some pacing issues after the first half, it remains a solid horror-themed adventure that plays with space and time in very cool ways.
Night in the Woods
Another story-driven adventure game, only this time featuring a cast of humanoid animals, Night in the Woods tells a surprisingly relatable and grounded story. You play as Mae, a young cat who has just returned to her hometown after dropping out of college. You explore her old town, revisiting places and people from her past, as she grapples with how things, and she, have or have not changed. The gameplay mainly focuses on some dialogue choices and deciding who you want to spend time with, as well as some light platforming and exploration if you want to see everything and everyone in the game. Don’t let the cute animal cast make you think this game won’t tug at your heartstrings or bring up some tough subject matter, because these animal characters are some of the most well-written and realistic characters in the genre.
What many consider to be the best game released at the worst possible time, Titanfall 2 was basically sent out to die by publisher EA between their own Battlefield 1 and that year’s COD Infinite Warfare. Titanfall 2 deserved a better fate than that. Unlike the first game, a multiplayer-only Xbox One exclusive, the sequel upped the ante with a single-player campaign way better than anyone expected. Naturally, the competitive multiplayer was just as strong, featuring the most satisfying and fluid movement in any FPS on the market, plus giant mech combat that they somehow managed to balance together into a perfect symphony of design. Lately, the developers have been working on Apex Legends, which features a toned-down version of their movement systems from Titanfall 2, but without the giant mechs to pilot, it just isn’t the same. While we may never see a third installment to give this franchise the chance it always deserved to shine, a dedicated fan base keeps the game alive today. Even so, the campaign alone is worth the price of admission, and there are not many FPS titles we can say that for.