The 20 best games on PlayStation 3
9th Apr 2012 | 12:00
It's the question on every gamer's lips, their ultimate quest - "What are the top games for my system?" In an effort to give PS3 owners everywhere a handy 'best of' guide, and stir in a bit of friendly debate (after all, you're welcome to disagree with any of our choices), CVG writers stopped, collaborated and listened in an attempt to chart 20 amazing titles spread throughout the five-year history of the console, titles that look and play brilliantly to this day. Here are the 20 best games on PS3.
01. ROCK BAND 3
Anyone who's played Rock Band 3 with other people knows exactly why this sits as the greatest PS3 game ever - it's an absolute riot and the best multiplayer experience going. Sure, you could play solo, and with a pro mode that actually teaches guitar chord structure, drum timing or keyboard skill it's musically helpful, but playing in a four-piece is where it's at.
Be the dummer, bassist, guitarist or lead singer and rock out to a tracklist that, accounting for downloadable songs, sits at thousands. Harmonising Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody with a falsetto friend while another mate thumps out an improvised drum solo is an experience that, in the heat of the moment, dwarfs every other gaming experience going, offline or on. It's a social blast with a miniscule barrier of entry, offering wide appeal stretching across age groups, skill gaps, musical tastes and genders. It's as much fun as you can have with a videogame.
02. MASS EFFECT 2
Mass Effect 2 is the future of games: a sweeping narrative that reacts to choices made previously, expert pacing, a gripping plot that sees you assemble a suicide squad to stop a galaxy-ending threat - it's a fiction unparalleled in videogames, and every bit the equal to entertainment giants Star Wars and Star Trek.
Its key appeal, however, is the writing, skilfully never saying in more words what it could in fewer. Characters are a high watermark, developed and developing as you talk to them. Take Thane, the diseased Drell with an imminent expiry date. Or Wrex, a tank-born Krogan fighting for clan acceptance. These are characters you want to spend time with, and consequently death and romance in Mass Effect hits like a Thanix Cannon.
It's a 30-hour epic without a weak link. A rich universe, convincing characters, an absorbing story...Oh, and the shooting is pretty solid too.
03. THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM
Skyrim is what happened when RPG's stopped conceding to rubbish combat and bad graphics simply because they were RPG's, games traditionally offer quantity over quality. It's as mechanically sound as other games on the market, not a glowing appraisal in itself but startling when you consider Skyrim's scale and ambition.
Simply, it's astonishing. You're chained and dropped in a raggedly beautiful fantasy land home to dragons and kings, and flowers to pick and caves to explore, and potions to mix and armour to forge, and even braised lamb to stew. Marry an Orc, punch a mammoth in the face, summon an undead walrus, blacksmith jewellery, sell it, then pickpocket the cash. Skyrim is yours with which to tinker and toy. Depth has been done in games before, and so has breadth and so has quality. But rarely do all three combine at once. An incredible achievement only possible today.
04. THE ORANGE BOX
Some games in this collection are more than eight years old, yet committing Half-Life 2, Episode 2, Episode 3, Team Fortress 2 and Portal to disc proved this: Valve games don't age. You only have to listen to their developer commentary for an insight into their genius.
Every section of every level of every chapter of every Valve game has been considered, tested and reconsidered until it's perfect. Take the introduction of mechanical beast Dog, who teaches you the ways of the Gravity Gun with a game of fetch. Or commanding a swarm of Antlions. Or stepping off the train into City 17 for the first time, passing through refugee checkpoints and being bullied by guards into putting away their trash.
And let's not forget Team Fortress 2's brilliantly playable multiplayer, or perfect puzzler Portal which introduces one of gaming's funniest characters, GLaDOS. The Orange Box is still masterful after all this time.
05. GRAND THEFT AUTO IV
When it came out in 2007, GTA IV topped many critics' lists. Since then people have had time to reassess. Some discovered it wasn't quite as good as they'd first thought, but we're sticking to our guns. Nothing's changed, and GTA IV is still one of the PS3's best games.
For starters, Liberty City is a contender for the most convincing game world ever. It feels remarkably, vibrantly alive: reggae flares from open windows, taxi drivers hurl foreign obscenities at jaywalkers, people pop umbrellas when the weather takes a turn. A monumental achievement, and that's to say nothing of Niko and his involving American dream-turned-nightmare tale. GTA IV also showcased revolutionary physics.
With Euphoria, previously rag-doll men gained self-preservation, finding their footing in a stumble and collapsing weightily from a gunshot. This, combined with the story and world, makes GTA incredible both from a technological standpoint and an emotional one. Still.
06. FIFA 12
A few short years ago, FIFA appearing on a top-of-anything list is a ludicrous idea, but EA Sports have upped their game considerably. Full licenses, from international teams to English League Two do, of course, return, but there are bold new ideas here. Like the Player Impact Engine, which substitutes samey animation for organic clashes never the same twice. Personality Plus gives players like Aaron Lennon blinding speed, or Didier Drogba the strength of an ox, putting greater importance on squad selection.
Best of all, though, are the matches themselves. Players are responsive, magicians like Messi and Ronaldo loaded with cheeky skills, and goals can come from any angle and any distance. Multiplayer matches especially are battles of wits, almost like real-time games of chess, with tactical manoeuvring and smart play triumphing over ping-pong passing like in previous FIFA's. This is football as it's meant to be played.
Braid's gently whimsical aesthetic couldn't be more misleading. It's like cracking open a colouring book to discover working blueprints for a time machine. Ideas here are that complex, that ingenious, that the brain behind it can't possibly be normal. Designer Jonathan Blow has only released one game this generation, but it was enough to ensure industry-wide recognition. Not just a game with genius puzzles, but genius puzzles full-stop.
Take the rewind mechanic. It's used simply at first, like reversing time to drop the same chandelier on a boss, but soon it's subverted. There's a ring that stops time in the immediate space around it - put it near a turret to clear a path - and a unique mechanic that teams you with a past version of yourself. The ending is unforgettable: play it backwards and the princess is opening doors to for you. Forwards and she's slamming them in your face. Clever, Blow.
08. RED DEAD REDEMPTION
America's wild west hasn't been tapped into by games nearly as much as movies. Red Dead Redemption makes you wonder why the hell not. It nails the frontier iconography, from buffalo-filled plains to snowy forests to bone-dry dustbowls, and a sunset sight from a rocky plateau is one of gaming's best vistas. You can see for miles.
It's a western 'best of'. John Marston's a Last Action Hero in stetsons and the only world he knows is being assimilated by more civilised men. Meanwhile a conflicted lawman fights to protect his town, a snake oil salesman peddles false ailments, and Mexican trouble threatens to ignite a revolution. Before that, however, an entire untamed map is yours to explore. There's poker to cheat at, steam trains to chase, snakes, rabbits and bears to skin (37 species roam the land) and, with Rockstar's returning Euphoria engine, people to realistically drag behind horses. An exemplary Western.
09. STREET FIGHTER IV
Not long ago the fighting genre was missing, presumed dead. Street Fighter IV is single-handedly responsible for its meteoric resurgence, from living rooms to professional tournaments in Las Vegas. And it's easy to see why.
It's an absolutely perfect blend of old and new: close enough to Street Fighter 2 to welcome back old hands, but fresh enough to entice those without history. The close-up, hilariously exaggerated specials are an awesome addition, as are every one of the 39 finely balanced members of a roster which features new faces alongside classic competitors like Ryu and Sagat. And it's as perfect as Street Fighter's ever been, now with online tournaments and rankings, saveable replays and four-on-four battles. It's a slice from the 90's beat-em-up heyday, beefed up and modernized but as good now as it was then. For many, it's the best fighting game of all time. How can Capcom top this?
In 1889, Patent Commissioner Charles H. Duell reportedly said: "Everything that can be invented has been invented". Cue some 120 years of inventions later and Media Molecule made the same mistake, initially proclaiming LittleBigPlanet their first and last in the series of user-fuelled create-em-up's, a game so rich, so customisable, that there was no need for a sequel. Apparently.
How wrong they were. The sequel wasn't just a platform game, but a platform for games, allowing for the creation of racers, tower defence, lightsaber duels and even fully fledged first-person shooters. Every one of LBP's three million user levels were transferred over and could be edited and improved with sparkly new tools like a cutscene editor, music sequencer, customisable AI, grappling hook and a gun that can shoot cakes (or anything you can think of). Additionally, enhanced search options allow a growing community to search for levels with more ease and accuracy than ever.
11. UNCHARTED 2
Uncharted 3 was a belter of an action romp, but its 2009 predecessor was the larger leap, elevating voice actor Nolan North's irascibly charming treasure hunter Nathan Drake into a gaming icon while sending players on a breathless trip across speeding trains, cities under siege and ancient ruins ripe for plunder. North is the best in the business at charismatic, lovably buffoonish rogues, and it's rare that a game's actually improved by its characters, here both well-written and well-performed.
It's the closest gaming has to an Indiana Jones serial adventure, Drake swinging from one stunning environment to the next like a khaki-garbed Tarzan, all while a romantic balancing act involving an old flame and a sizzling new love rival sparks off bitchy back-and-fourths. There is no better example of PS3 pulling power than an Uncharted set-piece, sometimes guilty of wrestling full control from the player, but never guilty of being dull.
12. BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM
A few years ago good comic book games just didn't exist. With their 2009 surprise smash Batman: Arkham Asylum, Rocksteady showed everyone how it's done. And they did it effortlessly.
That's the thing about Arkham Asylum. It just works - from the grapple gun which launches you across a world filled with references and Riddler puzzles to balletic fighting which, bafflingly, is deep, rewarding, and mostly on two buttons. Batman's not invincible though, and when Joker (an excellent Mark Hamill) sends in armed goons, you'll get the job done through stealth takedowns, glide kicks, explosive gel and, well, thinking like The Batman. In fact, both combat and predator mechanics are so well-designed they were given a separate challenge mode, adding extra length to a game that, with a 15-hour campaign centred around one very bad night at Arkham ( a rogue's gallery need to be recommitted) could hardly be called short.
13. PORTAL 2
Give Portal 2 to someone who's never held a controller and after a bit of fumbling they'll probably have as much fun as you. This is because Portal puts everyone on an equal playing field - an FPS with no goon-shooting, ammo conservation or finicky circle strafing. Just clever puzzles you don't need to be a gamer to enjoy.
Aperture Science CEO Cave Johnson (a disgruntled J.K. Simmons) has been busy, experimenting with goo that speeds or bounces you, while your floating robot companion Wheatly (Stephen Merchant) manages to upstage even GLaDOS: "It's not out of the question that you might have a very minor case of serious brain damage". You'll escape test chambers early on, journeying through the vacated offices and cavernous vaults of Aperture Science. You won't meet another living soul (bar a bird) in the story, so thank GLaDOS for six chapters of online co-op portalling. Funny and smart - a treasure.
14. DARK SOULS
Dark Souls turned off many with its harsh difficulty and uncompromising penalties that could destroy hours of progress if you weren't careful. But that's the point, and people adore Dark Souls because of it. Why? It's one of the most immersive games ever. It's a world of constant wonder, rewarding exploration but also championing tense and cautious treads, constant paranoid vigilance a must unless you want to be gored by an armoured boar or charred by a dragon. And beware the treasure chest that gobbles careless adventurers.
It's brutal, but there are some universally brilliant moments. Like discovering beautiful crystal caves, defeating the Taurus Demon with a clever sword plunge off a ledge, and discovering the gleaming city of Anor Londo after previously bleak trudges through the swampy Blight Town. Online options too are unique. Other players can leave hints, or even invade your game and kill you. Sound fun? You'll love Dark Souls.
15. BATTLEFIELD 3
Forget a campaign so dull it failed to make even co-piloting a fighter jet exciting, Battlefield 3 is the best thing to happen to military shooters since 2007's Call of Duty 4 revolutionized our socks off. This treads a different path, prizing teamwork and tactics across massive open maps populated with vehicles in earth, sea and sky.
Whereas in CoD the person topping the post-match leaderboard is the man with the most kills, in Battlefield 3 you could be the MVP simply by healing wounded teammates, defending bases or resupplying allies with ammo. Developers DICE pull the trick of making people selfless by giving them selfish rewards - points, guns and class-specific equipment like vehicle-repairing blowtorches, mortars and mines. It's less about skill and twitch-reactions (though that'll definitely help), and more about co-operation, strategy and choosing the right role for the job. And sometimes that role is a helicopter pilot with heat-seekers.
The newest game on our list is also the shortest. Three hours long, some may question the value of Thatgamecompany's final PS3 exclusive post the similarly dazzling Flow and Flower, but unless there's a secret 'hours to pounds' ratio, Journey is every bit as important as games triple the length.
It's a solitary trip over tundra's, down dunes and through glittering caves, the game never telling you where to go or indeed why. Upon completing Journey, however, the 'why' becomes clear - for the journey itself: carving a path through silky sand as your cape floats in the breeze, or the breathtaking sunset surf down a sandy mountain, or the mad dash from a stone dragon. Multiplayer in which you'll randomly encounter other humans is equally enigmatic. You could beckon them by whistling (your only method of communication) and travel together, or bypass them entirely. The choice - like the journey - is yours.
17. GOD OF WAR 3
With Bayonetta and her vicious transforming barnet winning over the speedy fingers of hack-and-slash fans everywhere, it's easy to forget moody pale demi-God Kratos' titanic adventures in God of War III. Combat is arguably not as tight, nor as open to possibilities as in Bayonetta (switchable weapons like lion-headed cestuses and the Nemesis Whip aside), but the world, mythology and gut-churningly gory beast-slaying satisfies like nothing else.
It's the best-looking brawler ever made too, a wary exploration of a dark grotto with Medusa's disembodied head for a torch showing off stunning lighting, and fluid chain-and-blade combat done a disservice if only seen in static screens. The highlight, however, is epic Titan battles. Felling a foe that could crush you between his fingers, or hiking a mountain only to discover it's actually a gigantic monster, are defining moments of the generation. Give it plus points for quick-time-executions that'll make your gran vomit.
18. CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE
It's the (game that gave birth to the) best-selling game of all time. This is Call of Duty at the height of its powers, before mechanics lost impact through repetition and the campaign became a parody of itself. It's fresh, raw, and running at 60 frames-per-second.
The campaign is an eight-hour globetrotting blockbuster veering between rainy ship assaults, nightgoggled extractions and Iranian rescues missions, at one point literally dropping a bomb on you. It's also got one of the greatest FPS missions ever, a tense Chernobyl assignment behind enemy lines: belly-crawl past a convoy, snipe the arm off a wanted terrorist, then drag your captain to safety in a thrilling helicopter evacuation. And then there's a multiplayer so brilliant it's barely changed. Hundreds of games since have nabbed its addictive perk system, clever levelling, and the guilty pleasure of instant gratification. A beast of a shooter that's smarter than you think.
Bioshock has been hailed as a philosophical triumph. Don't worry if all that objectivism flies over your head, however, as the game itself stands firm with inventive mix-and-match combat. Combine the freezing powers of ice with a wrench to cracking effect, electrocute foes in puddles of water with a lightening bolt, or buff up your whirlwind trip-mine with fire.
There's more to Bioshock, however, than fighting and philosophy. The underwater city of Rapture is a fascinating setting, miraculous, tragic. Founded as a place where men could excel free from religion or government, now a hellish playground for Big Daddy's in diving suits and mutated Splicers. But it's not without beauty. Like the initial descent into Rapture which passes you by schools of fish and a blue whale on the way, or a poignant moment listening to a doomed New Year reveller's memoir. It weaves a delicate story over a thick layer of firepower.
20. VALKYRIA CHRONICLES
Sick of hard-hitting first-person shooters? How about something altogether airier? Sega's 2008 gem Valkyria Chronicles splashed onto PS3 in a burst of watercolour, a painting in motion that, thanks to the gorgeous CANVAS engine, remains one of the console's best looking games. And it plays equally well - think Advanced Wars in third-person and loosely based on WWII (Europe is 'Europa' and surprisingly-not-annoying anime teenagers act as troops).
Teams take turn to attack, each squad mate able to move a certain number of steps before attacking. Flank a tank with lancer Largo and target its vulnerable rear with a bazooka, or pick scout Alicia and get to high ground for good sightlines. Rustling down in foliage reduces opponents' Top 20 PS3 Games as of 2012