There was a whole lot of PlayStation to go around this year: new 4K thingamabobs, that VR whatsis, and dozens of worthwhile games to sift through like a Dahlonega scalawag panning for gold. We’re no console warriors (every system has value, every system has flaws) but the breadth and scope of the PlayStation portfolio this year stood out from the competition. We’re not just talking exclusives—you’ll notice there’s only a couple of those on this list—but a broader commitment to balancing the big-budget blockbusters with less publicized, less commercial releases that, in 2016, outclassed their major console competition. This list proves the strength of that egalitarian approach, and illustrates what might be the best argument for the PlayStation 4: it provides a taste of the untamed expanse of the PC market but with the convenience of a console.
Anyway, these are some good games. Maybe check ‘em out if you get the chance.
15. Small Radios, Big Televisions
Psychedelic puzzler Small Radios, Big Televisions isn’t anti-technology, although its ultimate message touches on the dangers mankind poses to the environment, and it holds a certain skepticism towards virtual reality. The technology it fetishizes is at once archaic and unreal and yet in a way is thriving today; its retro take on a VR system that uses analogue cassette tapes evokes the current indie rock tape subculture, the minimal synth revival and the constantly hyped virtual reality escapism that the game eventually criticizes. The puzzle elements are light and easily sussed out, but the psychedelic dreamscapes and slurry synthesizer washes of the in-game cassettes are almost enchanting in their fuzzy unreality—especially after you take magnets to them and degrade them to increasingly abstract states. (At times it looks like what happens when you plug a VHS camera into a television and then point that camera directly at the screen.) This is a thoroughly imperfect game, but one with insight, courage and a clear-cut sense of self, and one where the imperfections are a vital part of its genius.—Garrett Martin
Wander…long enough and you’ll also find interesting sub-plots that key you into new avenues of approach. The best one I found had to do with one woman asking another to infiltrate the same group of people you were trying to in order to save a magazine one of the targets owned. Dangling the prospect of over 200 people losing their jobs over her, the woman convinces her friend to risk her life. She then heads to a nearby bathroom to call her friend as she agonizes over what’s she’s been asked to do. These stories build that sense of place Hitman’s always been great at creating, and they make you want to continue exploring.—Suriel Vazquez
Like Limbo before it, Inside is a dark puzzle game set in a deadly and oppressive world. The boy you control will die suddenly and frequently in violently graphic ways, and the world he explores is almost entirely cast in shadow. Inside is a bit more defined than Limbo, though, replacing that game’s more nature-based fears with Orwellian overtones and a dystopia run by man, and then making your own character complicit in the same kind of mind control that’s ruined his town.—Garrett Martin
12. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Uncharted 4’s best quieter moments are as memorable as any of its action set-pieces, which can be as elaborate and disorienting as anything in the superlative Uncharted 2. True, the quieter moments stand out because there are less of them—the parts where you jump, climb and shoot drag on far too long, as usual—but also because they’re done as well as games like this have ever done them. From Sam and Nathan Drake reestablishing trust after 15 years apart, to Nathan and Elena’s increasing boredom with domestic life, Uncharted 4 spends enough time fleshing out the human stakes to make you care about the shoot-outs and explosions.—Garrett Martin
Oxenfree captures the vicissitudes of friendship, especially the heightened passions of teenage friendship. No matter how believable these characters and their relationships can be, though, you might find yourself wanting to get away from them altogether, especially early in the game. Even Alex, the character you control, can occasionally rankle with her petty reactions and annoying humor. In that way, Oxenfree recreates that sense of self-mortification that should be most acute during your teenaged years, and how we’re not always capable of saying what we want to say.—Garrett Martin