For the first year since it came out four years ago, the PlayStation 4 had some real competition in 2017.
For me and many other game critics I know who don’t play on a PC, the PS4 has sort of been the default console this generation. It’s all just a matter of preference—I’m not saying the PS4 is inherently better than the Xbox One, or anything—but when it came to third party games on multiple systems the PlayStation 4 version was basically what everybody I knew would gravitate towards.
That changed with two things. Nintendo launched the Switch in March, and with its fantastic Nintendo software and true handheld functionality, it was an instant smash. It almost immediately became my preferred destination for any game that might be available for it. (It’ll be very interesting to see how sales break down per console once more third party games launch for the Switch at the same time as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.) And then late in the year Microsoft released the Xbox One X, which is custom-tailored for 4K TVs (like the PlayStation 4 Pro) but with greater processing power, which lets games run at higher frame rates with greater consistency than the PS4 Pro. It’s not a massive jump on the competition, but if you’re looking for the most powerful gaming system on the market, and don’t want to deal with the fuss of building your own gaming PC, the Xbox One X has a step up on the PlayStation 4 Pro.
Still, the PlayStation 4 wasn’t left in the dust, or anything. It just means there’s greater parity in the console sphere than we’ve seen in many years. The PS4 had a fantastic roster of games in 2017, from such exclusives as Persona 5 and a new Uncharted adventure, to thoughtful smaller budget games like Night in the Woods and What Remains of Edith Finch. If you don’t have a gaming PC, it was also the only way to play the brilliant and idiosyncratic Nier: Automata, one of the best games of the last several years.
Here’s our list of the 10 best games that came out on the PlayStation 4 this year. We aren’t limiting this to games that were exclusive to the system; we’re looking at the full lineup from 2017, and focusing on the games that most need to be experienced by anybody into videogames as an entertainment medium and an artform. And we start with a game that introduced a new depth and level of emotional intelligence into one of Sony’s biggest franchises.—Garrett Martin
The Lost Legacy isn’t the best Uncharted since Uncharted 2 (and the second best overall) just because it replaces the increasingly annoying Nathan Drake with two strong women of color who don’t maintain a constant stream of sitcom-level chatter. That certainly doesn’t hurt, though. The game takes its subtitle seriously. Yeah, it’s another would-be action film full of bullets and improbable parkour, but it has greater depth because it explores the lives of its co-leads, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross, and shows how they’re both grappling with the legacies of their fathers and the decisions of their youth. By shifting the focus to these two characters the Uncharted series has struck a narrative vein richer than anything it’s explored in the past.—Garrett Martin
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Wolfenstein II is its simplicity. Today’s first person shooters are all but bogged down by overstimulating user interfaces that distract from the experience. Wolfenstein II, keeping intact its legacy as one of the first proper shooting games, is almost minimalist by comparison. The end result is a fluid experience that encourages forward momentum and continually rewards the player for tackling conflict head-on and at high speed. This is not to say that the game’s stealth elements go underused or ignored. Those too are understated and generally unsaddled with the many tweaks and innovations made to its genre in the past two decades. Whatever method used to tackle a mission, the ensuing rush is completely satisfying.—Holly Green
KO_OP’s candy-colored Gnog is as much of an interactive toy box as a game, especially in VR. It situates its puzzles in a series of three-dimensional boxes that have to be poked, prodded, turned and explored as you try to figure out the exact right way to interact with it. With its fanciful, lightly psychedelic images, and its warm electronic score, Gnog is a soothing multimedia treat.—Garrett Martin
Guerilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn looks like a living nature painting. As the player runs or rides from one settlement to another, the landscape constantly shifts between distinct, gorgeously realized biomes. One minute, it’s a frozen tundra, with sun gleaming off enormous white, snow-covered cliffs, and ground covered in scraggly little bushes and errant branches. The next, it’s an orange sanded desert with towering red clay mesas jutting up into a perfectly clear blue sky. In each, birds and foxes, boar and rabbits frolic. (And, because Zero Dawn is science fiction, herds of robotic bulls, flocks of giant metal birds or a lone, lumbering cybernetic tyrannosaur.) The world is genuinely stunning, a place that wants simply to be soaked in—observed and inhabited. It is our planet in miniature. It’s the globe shrunk down and captured in a videogame console. Sweep the in-game camera around a landscape and it’s almost possible to smell the air or feel the warmth of the sun.—Reid McCarter
Yakuza 0’s overarching faithfulness to its era and place in history provides fascinating insight into the time, and its over-the-top cutscenes and climactic fights quickly endeared me to the series. A hefty batch of side-games and engaging, well-paced combat roped me in and sold me on my first ever Yakuza experience, but the vibrancy of its semi-fictional Japan will be what I remember most. Yakuza 0 doubles-down on the series’ signature combination of hyperbolic action and self-aware comedy, while providing an honest window into a major period in recent Japanese history, and does so flawlessly.—Eric Van Allen
Despite its sometimes too-broad character development and stylistic stumbles, Edith Finch is still a fascinating game—one that has admirably tailor-built its player interactions to fit the varied stories it tells. This is welcome, especially when the inverse approach is so often taken. It’s a game made with real imagination and an honest attempt to capture the unique perspective of its wide range of characters. Given its wide scope, it’s understandable that it’s also a game that succeeds more in concept than execution. Like the subjects of the multi-generational novels whose tradition it embraces, Edith Finch’s individual successes and failures are less important than its overall effect. It’s a story made of stories, and the results of its breadth seem more important than the fine details.—Reid McCarter
Destiny disappointed us at launch because it felt so empty and aimless. Destiny 2 doesn’t suffer the same fate, arriving with a more defined story and a greater variety of environments and enemies. The game’s structure and narrative is now as satisfying as its core action, turning the constant need for stronger weapons and armor from a chore into a compulsion. It’s also a game committed to secrets, letting you discover so much about it that isn’t directly transmitted, giving it a depth and mystery rarely seen in this type of game.—Garrett Martin
Persona 5 might not be for you—maybe you’ve no love for the anime aesthetic, or maybe the notion of an 80-hour game with no open world isn’t your bag. Maybe you don’t like JRPGs!
But maybe, if you’re anything like me, you’ll spend eighty-three hours with this game over the course of a month and sit there as the credits roll with an empty feeling in your chest, turning your year in Tokyo over and over in your head, thinking of the friends you spent time with and the struggles you endured together. Maybe, despite the unreasonable wealth of games that 2017 has afforded us, you’ll navigate back to the main menu and immediately select “New Game Plus.”—Nate Ewert-Krocker
The genius of Night in the Woods is that it grounds its heavy themes not in the worn down characters of Raymond Carver, but in the queer anarchist punks of its lead character’s generation. The game is a rare look at characters who balance all of the burdens above with a love for retro videogames and band practice and drinking in the woods while some blowhard from high school plays acoustic guitar. The game borrows tonally from a variety of sources—everything from the hyperkinetic Scott Pilgrim to the peculiar horror of Haruki Murakami or Blue Velvet back to the blue collar sob stories of Breece D’J Pancake. Plus, did I mention all the characters are animals? Like BoJack Horseman, this aesthetic allows the game to fluctuate rapidly between over-the-top absurdity and soul crushing sadness.—Salvatore Pane
Nier: Automata is a mature, sophisticated game that avoids the JRPG trap of the narrative, the themes and the play being separate entities. Platinum and Yoko Taro are an expert pair here, harmoniously bringing together dozens of eclectic sources from philosophy to anime to history to real-life war to silly, over-the-top fight sequences into one cohesive whole where not a single part feels unnecessary, and all contribute to the larger message. It is a timely story about our priorities as a society and our continued relevance in an increasingly automated world, told in a clever way that makes meaning out of about four different genres worth of mechanics and yet could still be called elegant. It’s a sharp commentary that could only be done through games, and for now, it is easily the magnum opus of either of its authors.—Michelle Ehrhardt
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.