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The 12 Best Games For The PlayStation 4

Illustration for article titled The 12 Best Games For The PlayStation 4
Illustration: Sam Woolley

Seven years ago, the PlayStation 4 landed with a bang, a Killzone, and a handful of snazzy indie games. Now, on the cusp of a new console generation, it’s practically become a video game version of the Library of Alexandria—thousands of titles, some of which are destined to be remembered in the annals of history. Let’s take a look at the best of the best.

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But first, there’s something to mention.

PS Now and PS Plus Benefit

Microsoft might have Game Pass, but Sony has PlayStation Now. For $10 a month or $60 a year, you get access to a games-on-demand service with a library of more than 800 games, dating back to the PS1. Of the games on this list, just one (Bloodborne) is currently available, but many others (including Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War) have previously had temporary moments of availability on the service.

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Beyond that, when the PlayStation 5 launches stateside on November 12, members of PS Plus will be able to play 18 of the most popular PS4 games on the new console. Some of the games on this list (like God of War, Persona 5, and Monster Hunter: World) will be accessible when the service launches, as will some of the games that used to be on this list (Uncharted 4, Until Dawn, and Infamous: Second Son, among others). If you’re thinking about getting a shiny new PS4 for these games explicitly, it might be best to hold off for the new console.


ellie in the last of us part 2
Screenshot: Naughty Dog

The Last of Us Part 2

Flaws and controversy (both valid and disingenuous) aside, the fact of the matter is that The Last of Us Part 2 is a tour de force. There’s so much worthy of commendation here. We could tell you that the writing rivals anything from a prestige HBO show (indeed, Halley Gross, a writer for HBO’s Westworld, served as the game’s narrative lead). We could tell you that it’s a more-than-worthy follow-up to 2013’s The Last of Us, one of the most acclaimed games of all time. We could go on at length about how tight the gunplay is, how tense the stealth is, how well-realized this cynical vision of a bombed-out America is, how terrifying the fungal not-zombies are. We could, as so many have, sing the praises of Naughty Dog’s unrivaled technical prowess. But, boiled down, the key thing to know about this tremendous game is that it’s all but guaranteed to elicit emotion. Rage, elation, and anything in between, no one who’s played this game can reasonably say they walked away feeling nothing. Whether that’s a positive or a negative is up to you. In our mind, it’s worth giving a shot.

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A Good Match For: Lovers of stealth games, action games, horror games, survival games, story-driven games, really just well-made games in general—there’s not a pixel out of place here.

Not A Good Match For: People who like to rush through games: Part 2 is best enjoyed in bite-sized chunks, not 10-hour marathon sessions.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


ghost of tsushima
Screenshot: Sucker Punch / Kotaku
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Ghost of Tsushima

At a glance, Ghost of Tsushima looks like a pastiche of “stuff that’s been done before.” You’d not be wrong for thinking that, but it’s no reason to skip this one. In fact, Ghost of Tsushima is a terrific distillation of some of the best ideas from this generation of console gaming. There’s an open world, but it’s parceled more manageably, and more enticingly, than anything out of Ubisoft. Combat is a standard mix of swinging swords and dodging (or parrying) other swords, but it’s more slick and responsive than similar action games (including some on this list, like The Witcher 3). Sealing the deal is a distinctive setting—an island off the coast of Japan during the 13th century—that’s rendered in astonishing beauty. Bonus: Ghost is also loaded with subtle quality-of-life tweaks (exhibit A: non-player characters will match your speed) that other developers would be wise to copy in the future.

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A Good Match For: Fans of feudal Japan, Akira Kurosawa, and compulsive open-world gameplay.

Not A Good Match For: Players who want action as difficult as Bloodborne; Ghost can be tough, but it’s by no means punishing.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game, and read our leveling guide.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


horizon zero dawn on the playstation 4
Screenshot: Guerrilla Games
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Horizon Zero Dawn

At a cursory glance, Horizon Zero Dawn may seem overly familiar. It’s got Uncharted platforming, a Far Cry open world with stealth and crafting, Tomb Raider third-person bow fights and Monster Hunter-style battles against massive robot dinosaurs. Wait a minute, did we say overly familiar? Because that sounds great. Horizon actually manages to simmer those promising raw ingredients into something that works even better than we’d hoped. It’s got a steady stream of exhilarating gameplay and awe-inspiring sights all wrapped up in a surprisingly engrossing and satisfying story. As a bonus, it’s one of the most most technically advanced, gorgeous games you can play on a PS4.

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A Good Match For: Fans of the games mentioned in the description above, anyone who’s ever wanted to go toe-to-toe with a robot velociraptor.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for an easy time. Horizon is a bracingly difficult game, and you’ll have to play smart and aggressively to make it through alive.

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Read our review.

Study our tips for the game.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


arthur morgan in red dead redemption 2
Screenshot: Rockstar Games
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Red Dead Redemption 2

From tip to tail, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a profound, glorious downer. It is the rare blockbuster video game that seeks to move players not through empowering gameplay and jubilant heroics, but by relentlessly forcing them to confront decay and despair. It has no heroes, only flawed men and women fighting viciously to survive in a world that seems destined to destroy them. It is both an exhilarating glimpse into the future of entertainment and a stubborn torch bearer for an old-fashioned kind of video game design. It is a lot, and also, it is a whole, whole lot.

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A Good Match For: Cowboys, open-world connoisseurs, history buffs, lapsed game-playing persons lured by a game whose atmosphere strikingly mimics many masterpieces of film and literature.

Not A Good Match For: Those averse to open worlds, because this sure is the open-worldest of all possible open worlds. Also, Sonic the Hedgehog fans need not apply (your cowpoke’s walking speed is the exact opposite of going fast).

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for playing the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


unit 2b in nier automata
Screenshot: Platinum Games
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Nier: Automata

Nier: Automata will probably surprise you. It starts out as a fast-moving action game in the vein of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, telling a story about hot robots exploring a ravaged future earth. And until the first time the credits roll, that’s what it remains. Keep playing, though, and Nier will begin to open up and transform. It shifts viewpoints and twists inside of itself, eventually unfolding in a spiral of revelations that crescendoes all the way to the grand finale(s). Yes, you must “finish” Nier: Automata five times to get the complete story. But like the rest of this fantastic game, that doesn’t mean what you think it means.

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A Good Match For: Fans of narrative mindfucks like the first Nier or the Metal Gear Solid games; people looking for something ambitious and unapologetically weird.

Not A Good Match For: People who like their game stories straightforward, anyone who doesn’t like beat-em-ups or shoot-em-ups.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


yakuza 0
Screenshot: Sega
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Yakuza 0

What if there was a soap opera that made you cry, but also let you play classic Sega games? The Yakuza series is a unique mixture of melodrama and comedy, packed with compelling characters and criminal intrigue. It’s also a series where you can hire a chicken as your real estate manager and manage a cabaret club. Yakuza 0 is the perfect entry point into the series, spinning a tale of two criminals wrapped up in intersecting plots. The story twists and turns, while the open world provides colorful sidequests and distractions. It starts slow, but if you stick with it, you’ll find one of the most sincere games on the PlayStation 4, emotionally packed and surprisingly funny.

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A Good Match For: Tattoo enthusiasts, anyone who loves a good plot twist, folks interested in great localizations, mini-game lovers, and anyone looking to experience a rich story.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who absolutely hates cutscenes, that one guy who says “this would be better with English voice actors,” and players looking for a shorter narrative experience.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


geralt of rivia in the witcher 3 wild hunt
Screenshot: CD Projekt Red
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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

There’s no shortage of ambition in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Geralt of Rivia’s latest adventure is massive, a world you can get lost in for hours and still have plenty to do. And while many games these days have sprawling landscapes, The Witcher 3 is utterly dense. Every nook and cranny is filled with memorable characters, clever writing, and rewards for curious players. The main story is as thrilling as it is emotionally draining, and the side quests are actually worth doing! Best of all? You don’t need to have played a Witcher game to enjoy the heck out of the third.

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A Good Match For: Open-world fans, especially those who enjoyed Skyrim but were disappointed by the combat. In The Witcher 3, fighting is nearly as enjoyable as exploration.

Not a Good Match For: People who value their time and social life, or those who prefer their games hyper-polished without any framerate drops or other nagging technical flaws.

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Read our review, and thoughts on the game’s (excellent) free DLC.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game, and catch up on The Witcher lore.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


tetris effect in action
Screenshot: Enhance Games
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Tetris Effect

If you think Tetris can’t get any better, then you haven’t played Tetris Effect. Born from the minds behind Rez and Lumines, its trippy journey through wonderfully crafted synesthetic experiences is only amplified by the optional PlayStation VR mode. Tetris Effect’s Journey Mode takes you through 27 sublime levels that also introduce new and very welcome changes to the 35-year-old series. The game also has more traditional modes that let you compete for top spots on the leaderboards and unlock fancy avatars. It’s video game meditation and there’s really nothing else like it.

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A Good Match For: OG Tetris fans who miss the series and newcomers who are curious about learning the intricacies of a nearly perfect game design that feels brand new again; PSVR owners.

Not A Good Match For: People who can’t get into puzzle games; players who prefer competitive multiplayer modes; anyone who hates electronic music.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


a line of dialogue in outer wilds
Screenshot: Mobius Digital
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Outer Wilds

“Be curious on your journey!” proclaims one of the characters in Outer Wilds. No line could sum it up better. At the onset, your silent alien hero is given a rickety spaceship and sent off to explore the universe with a single goal: Go on an adventure. Roughly 20 minutes later, the universe explodes, and you wake up on your home planet as if nothing ever happened. Soon you’ll find yourself ticking off goals and jotting down questions: Why is the universe exploding? How did that ancient alien race go extinct? What’s up with that planet that keeps disappearing when you try to land on it? And is it possible to save the universe? Outer Wilds mixes the exploration of Metroid with the time loop of Majora’s Mask to brilliant effect, and it culminates in one of the most satisfying endings we’ve ever seen in a video game.

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A Good Match For: Curious gamers, anyone who loves the idea of getting into a space ship and exploring the cosmos.

Not a Good Match For: Impatient people, people who need combat in their games, people who hate finicky controls.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Listen to our podcast discussing tips for starting the game.

Purchase From: Available digitally on the PlayStation Store.


a monster in bloodborne
Screenshot: From Software
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Bloodborne

If we had to sum up Bloodborne in a single phrase, it would probably be “There’s blood everywhere.” From Dark Souls maestro Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team at From Software, Bloodborne represents both a careful iteration of the Souls formula and a significant departure from it. The games’ fundamental structure and signature difficulty remains, but everything has been intensified, with knife-cuts and quicksilver bullets flying faster than your eye can track. Bloodborne is a gore-soaked masterpiece.

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A Good Match For: Fans of From’s other games like Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, people who like tough games, H.P. Lovecraft buffs.

Not a Good Match For: Anyone who gets easily frustrated by difficult games, people looking for a more traditional RPG with a more traditional story.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


a battle in persona 5
Screenshot: Atlus
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Persona 5

What if you could relive high school but do it way, way better? That’s the promise of Persona 5, and Atlus’s killer social sim slash dungeon crawler more than delivers. You’re a high school student spending a year at a new school in Tokyo, but you’re anything but ordinary. You and your motley crew of friends have the ability to infiltrate the subconscious “palaces” of the various villains and tormentors who challenge you in the real world, changing their hearts and bringing them to justice. As the days tick by, you’ll spend your afternoons deciding whether to go shopping, hang out with your friends, or head into a dungeon to slay some demons. The more you play, the more the cast expands, the story unfolds, and the mystery deepens. What’s really going on? Where do these mystical powers come from? How’s it all gonna end? And will you finally be able to get Makoto to go out with you?

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A Good Match For: Fans of previous Persona games, along with anyone who likes stylish art and killer music. Persona 5 is overflowing with both.

Not A Good Match For: People who hate turn-based JRPG combat, people who don’t like games with a lot of text to read, anyone looking for a game they can finish in a single weekend.

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Read our review.

Study our tips for the game.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


kratos in god of war
Screenshot: SIE Santa Monica Studio
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God of War

God of War is every bit the prestige, mega-budget action game it sets out to be. It’s got uncommonly satisfying combat, gorgeous music and art direction, and gives players hours and hours of fun stuff to do. Like past God of War games, it mixes joyously violent melee fighting with clever environmental puzzle solving. Like past God of War games, it takes players on a Cliff’s Notes tour of an ancient religion, with Norse mythology taking over this time for the Greek pantheon of its predecessors. Unlike past God of War games, however, it takes greater care with its story, revitalizing and to an extent rehabilitating its long-in-the-tooth anti-hero Kratos by focusing on his relationship with his young son Atreus. Their story is full of shocking twists and massive set-pieces, but some of its best moments feature the heroes quietly rowing a boat down a river, regaling one another with stories of ages past. God of War is an unusually thoughtful blockbuster, an epic that manages to be quietly reflective and wildly entertaining at the same time.

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A Good Match For: Fans of Norse Mythology, people who like intense action, anyone looking for something that’ll really show off how good a PS4 game can look.

Not A Good Match For: Those uncomfortable with on-screen violence. God of War’s mayhem doesn’t feel as gratuitous as past games in the series, but there’s still some extremely brutal stuff.

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Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Study our tips for the game.

Purchase From: Amazon | Walmart | Best Buy | GameStop | PS Store


How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 8/7/2020: It’s been a big year for Sony exclusives, as Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part 2—the final two major PS4 releases before the PS5 shows up—kick off Return of the Obra Dinn and Monster Hunter: World.

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Update 12/20/2019: We’ve added Outer Wilds and Return of the Obra Dinn while finally saying goodbye to long-tenured entries Overwatch and The Witness.

Update 2/11/2019: We’ve added Tetris Effect, Yakuza 0, and Red Dead Redemption 2 while removing Rocket League, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

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Update 11/14/2018: We’ve added Marvel’s Spider-Man and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey while taking off Fortnite and XCOM 2. 

Update 5/3/2018: We’ve added God of War and Fortnite Battle Royale while removing The Last of Us Remastered and Hitman.

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Update 3/9/2018: We’ve added Monster Hunter: World and XCOM 2 while removing Inside and Resident Evil 7.

Update 6/2/2017: We’ve removed Uncharted 4 to make room for Nier: Automata.

Update 4/19/2017: We’ve added Persona 5 and removed Destiny, which Bungie has been winding down in preparation for a sequel.

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Update 3/8/2017: After much debate we’ve added Resident Evil 7 and Horizon Zero Dawn, while removing Diablo 3 and Grand Theft Auto V. These cuts are getting harder and harder, people.

Update 12/09/2016: We’ve added Hitman to the list and retired Metal Gear Solid V.

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Update 9/23/2016: Inside makes its way onto the list, while Until Dawn departs.

Update 7/27/2016: Overwatch joins the list; Assassin’s Creed Syndicate comes off.

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Update 5/26/2016: Welcome, Nathan Drake. Goodbye, Batman. We’ve replaced Arkham Knight with Uncharted 4 this time around.

Update 2/11/2016: The Witness makes it in, and Fallout 4 heads out. Also, we’ve added a video version of this post up top!

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Update 11/26/2015: Fallout 4 and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate hop onto the list, knocking off Final Fantasy XIV and Assassin’s Creed IV.

Update 9/18/2015: The list gets another update: The Binding of Isaac, Transistor, and Dragon Age: Inquisition clear out to make room for Rocket League, Until Dawn, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

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Update 7/16/2015: These swaps are getting harder. After much deliberation we cut Wolfenstein: The New Order, despite our affection for the surprisingly good story-driven first-person shooter. We’re also saying goodbye to another over-achiever, Shadows of Mordor, whose best trick, the Nemesis System, isn’t enough to keep it on our ever more competitive top 12.

Update 04/07/2015: Bloodborne slices its way onto the list while Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate says goodbye.

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Update 11/25/2014: The fall has arrived, and with it a bunch of great games. Dragon Age: Inquisition, GTA V, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate and The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth edge out Resogun, The LEGO Movie Videogame, Don’t Starve and TowerFall Ascension.

Update 10/21/2014: We’ve added Destiny and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor to the list, and removed Infamous: Second Son and Need for Speed: Rivals to make room.

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Update 8/28/2014: Two games enter, two games leave. Outlast and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition make way for Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition and The Last of Us: Remastered.

Update 6/18/2014: Change is in the air, as Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Fez, and Injustice: Gods Among Us clear out to make room for Wolfenstein: The New Order, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and Transistor.

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Update 4/14/2014: Our PS4 list has hit its 12-game ceiling, and we’ve added (and removed) more games than in any other single update so far. Rayman: Legends, LEGO Marvel Superheroes, Doki Doki Universe and Strider all clear out to make room for Infamous: Second Son, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Towerfall: Ascension, The LEGO Movie Videogame, and Fez.

Update 3/10/2014: Two more games make it onto the list: Last year’s fine Rayman Legends and the satisfying remake of the NES classic Strider. One more and we’ll be at 12, after which we’ll have to start cutting games to make new additions.

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Update 2/14/2014: Our second update brings with it two games: The graphically enhanced Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and the pee-your-pants-scary Outlast. Only three more additions before we hit our ceiling of 12 and have to start cutting games to make room for new ones.

Update 1/27/2014: Our first addition to the PlayStation 4 Bests list is Klei’s excellent survival game Don’t Starve, which brings the total number up to seven.

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Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best Nintendo Switch GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods

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Note: While some games on this list are download-only, all of them can be purchased on the PlayStation 4’s online store. If you buy any of these games through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers’ affiliates program.

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DISCUSSION

I’m really looking for an excuse to buy one if these. Problem is that I already own a powerful PC, WiiU, 3DS and Vita. So far the only games that are mildly appealing to me are The Last of Us and Bloodborne. Generally I like pretty much anything but horror, although shooters will have to be outer amazing to entice me to play them with a game pad. Any recommendations?

I well most likely get one for Persona 5...