The PS5’s life cycle so far has been unique, to say the least. The console launched to much acclaim back in November 2020, and yet it still feels like we’re still in a transitional phase into the new console generation. Due to manufacturing simply not being able to keep pace with the console’s stupid-high demand, many of the premier games on the system have been released as cross-gen titles to compensate for the PS5’s initially low install base.
Despite these hurdles, the PS5 has quietly amassed a superb library of games in its first three years that offer a little something for everyone. From the sweeping, cinematic epics put forth by PlayStation’s first-party studios, to some wildly creative indie gems that captured the imaginations of the gaming community from out of nowhere, the PS5 catalog is shaping up quite nicely as it enters the next phase of its tenure. Here are the Best Games On PS5 (So Far).
It’s not that Astro’s Playroom blew away expectations. When it comes to console pack-in games, we don’t necessarily even presume they’ll exist, let alone be an essential title in the console’s library (á la the iconic Wii Sports). But this PS5 hardware showcase, starring the eponymous bobbly robot, is precisely that. It’s one of the most polished, inventive, adorable games you can play on PS5, and it serves as a beautiful welcome gift for those hopping aboard the current-gen hype train.
The meta-ness of the game’s environments (GPU Jungle, SSD Speedway) is a charming way of showing off the sheer power of the console while also establishing an emotional connection between the player and the hardware they’ve just spent an inordinate amount of money to get their hands on. But in truth, the thing that brings the whole game together and acts as the glue that makes Astro’s latest adventure so memorable is the infectious soundtrack, which somehow makes the PS5 and its synthetic innards seem cute. GPUUUUUU! Tell me what to DOOOOOO!
It’s difficult to elevator-pitch what’s so brilliant about Deathloop because its greatest virtue really lies in the sum of its parts. The time loop concept is handled perfectly, with Colt’s looping day on Blackreef opening up unique gameplay opportunities (like sticking and unsticking items in time via Residuum) as players attempt to uncover the true nature of the events on the island piece by piece. And the payoff to Colt and Julianna’s homicidal tango is one of the most unsettling and divisive twist endings in recent memory.
On its surface, Deathloop looks and plays a lot like Dishonored, which isn’t a bad thing. But what Arkane has put forward here isn’t a simple retread, with the time loop element adding a palpable sense of both permanence and impermanence to the game world and the stealth gunplay. The guns, Slabs, and Trinkets you employ throughout the campaign make for a truly flexible gaming experience that allows you to play in the style you want (a promise many games make but don’t keep) and harnesses the power of its mind-bending concept exceptionally well.
The Soulslike wave is currently one of the liveliest subgenres in the industry, and From Software’s Demon’s Souls, the gnarled, punishing, poetic masterpiece that helped start it all, still stands as one of the best games of its ilk. Bluepoint Games’ 2020 PS5 remake is about as polished a remake as one can find, with a complete visual overhaul, more balanced combat, and a re-recorded orchestral score elevating the 2009 classic to current-gen standards without sullying or obscuring the original vision whatsoever.
Gameplay is, indeed, king, particularly in titles with combat as refined and timing-based as Demon’s Souls. But art and presentation are essential to the experience as well, and the game absolutely nails the bleak, gothic atmosphere of the original while also painting a bizarrely serene picture of a land that is both tormented and brimming with wonder. It’s easily the best non-first-party title on PS5.
The most extraordinary thing about Elden Ring is its game world, which, without exaggeration, could be the best open-world sprawl ever created. The Lands Between, miraculously, is an enormous upscaling of From Software’s immaculate level design that doesn’t feel diluted at all. The aura of Elden Ring is certainly distinct from its Souls predecessors, with more diurnal, spacious landscapes that fundamentally change the way combat and exploration are approached. But the interior sections of the game bring that grisly, architecturally lush fans come to expect from the studio, and more importantly, despite the vastness of the world, the flow and design of the environments are as high quality as any other title in From Software’s catalog.
The core of Elden Ring’s brilliance is its combat, particularly the maddening wars of attrition with the game’s bosses. These encounters are essential elements of the Souls experience, and the monstrosities and demigods the player faces here are some of the most inspired and insanely difficult the studio has concocted. From the unrelenting Crucible Knights, to the savage Godfrey and the nearly unkillable Malenia, the game’s bosses beckon and compel you to traverse the expansive Lands Between to test your mettle (and patience).
Final Fantasy XVI
Aside from a few quirks here and there, Final Fantasy XVI is the most grounded, cohesive, and epic entry in the long-running franchise since maybe Final Fantasy IX. It really is that good, and its success can largely be attributed to Square Enix taking some risks, overhauling combat and story structure in a way that was a welcome surprise for fans.
The story is something of a ground-level take on Game of Thrones concepts that follows outcast soldiers as they fight for an independent future where they’re free to live their lives (or die) on their own terms. Clive’s anti-hero story is largely devoid of the overly theatrical dialogue that has served as a distraction in the mainline games for so long, and overall, the game feels like it was developed with an older audience in mind. But the real kicker is the buttery-smooth, Devil May Cry-inspired combat, which makes even the most minor of enemy encounters feel like more than just a mundane means of piling up loot and XP.
God of War: Ragnarök
If PlayStation is gaming’s closest equivalent to a film studio, God of War is their flagship blockbuster franchise, telling an epic story with gut and grit and insanely high production value. As story-based, cinematic, Quadruple-A titles go, God of War Ragnarok is a notch above the rest, with Santa Monica Studio proving once again that whatever they put their name on is guaranteed to be a top-tier experience.
Games that elicit emotion that’s so real it brings us to tears are to be cherished, and Ragnarok goes above and beyond with its writing, voice acting, and presentation to create dramatic moments players can get thoroughly sucked into. Kratos and Atreus’ character arcs unfolded beautifully in the franchise’s 2018 reboot, and it’s treated with the same level of care here. The cast of characters has grown in size significantly this time around, but the father-son dynamic remains the focus throughout, to deeply affecting results.
Gran Turismo 7
Almost ten years after the last true mainline game in the iconic driving sim franchise was released, Gran Turismo 7 delivers the ultimate gearhead paradise, with 477 inconceivably detailed cars that look and feel like the real thing. It’s an enormous game chock-full of features, modes (Cafe Mode is unexpectedly cute and Music Rally just shouldn’t be as fun as it is), and online functionality. Taking the cars out for test drives and pushing them to their limits in races is anything but easy (it’s a sim, after all) but feeling your skill develop over time is one of the most gratifying gaming experiences out there.
What the series is best known for, of course, is its focus on ultra-realistic visuals, and in that department Gran Turismo 7 absolutely slays. The cars and their interiors are astonishingly accurate recreations of their real-world counterparts, as are the tracks from around the globe. The sound design is equally impressive, with bespoke engine sounds and tire squeals that add immensely to the sense of immersion. And while the races themselves don’t feature ray tracing, the replay mode features ray-traced lighting and reflections, which is a surefire way to potentially fool passers-by into thinking you’re watching a live race on TV.
Hitman: World of Assassination
Simply put, the recently rebooted Hitman games are all clear contenders for greatest stealth games ever made, and Hitman: World of Assassination does us the glorious favor of collecting all three in a single, endlessly fun package. Seriously, the replay value inherent in this trilogy is mind-boggling considering each level is like a little puzzle box that can be twisted and tinkered with in myriad ways.
There’s something so pure about Hitman’s core gameplay. The player, as Agent 47, must use their ingenuity and resourcefulness to accomplish a variety of tasks within a setting, with a dynamic set of impediments and threats to deal with along the way. It’s a simple concept, but IO Interactive’s riffs on the idea are brilliant and elegantly designed, with the parameters of each mission feeling less like constraints and more like points of inspiration for players to manipulate the NPCs and environments in new and creative ways.
Horizon Forbidden West
What’s impressive about Guerrilla Games is their commitment to not only step up their game in every way, but to listen to their audience and make improvements to their games accordingly. For instance, one of the minor, but nevertheless pertinent, criticisms of Horizon Zero Dawn pertained to the stilted camerawork and lackluster animation during conversations with NPCs. This and a slew of other design shortcomings are addressed and improved greatly in Forbidden West: a more refined, polished evolution of its already exceptional predecessor.
Aloy’s continued story is compelling, beautifully rendered, and touches on some fascinating topics like environmentalism and the implications of man’s synergy with tech. The combat and traversal are really fun, too, but what makes Forbidden West and its terrific DLC Burning Shores must-plays on PS5 is how flat-out stunning they look. This is hands-down one of the best-looking games on the system and a perfect showcase for the hardware’s might, with the DLC having a unique edge in that it was developed exclusively for PS5. The animations look natural and smooth, the environments look lived-in and full of life, and the post-apocalyptic West-coast vistas are straight-up breathtaking. The cutting-edge visuals alone make this one worth the price of admission (which happens to be free if you’re a PS Plus subscriber).
Quietly, Humanity has established itself as one of the best puzzle games of the current console cycle. The puzzle platformer has you play as a dutiful Shiba Inu barking commands at an infinite stream of humanity in an attempt to shepherd them to a goal point. The symbolism of a dog playing master to all of humanity can be interpreted in several ways, but fundamentally, the game is a bottomless source of brilliant puzzles, with some baked into the game and others created by the clever community of players.
The sweet spot for puzzle games of this nature is when they can make you feel completely befuddled and deflated, and yet you’re willing to push just a little more…until you have that exhilarating moment of revelation that makes the solution suddenly well within grasp. It’s a beautiful sensation that requires near-perfect game mechanics and level design, and Humanity has all that and more. Not since the great Portal 2 has a game provided such artful, pure, and intuitive puzzle design.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Much like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse’s greatness caused it to exceed expectations under the shadow of the MCU, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales’s greatness helped it step out of the shadow of not just Insomniac’s original Marvel’s Spider-Man, but Into the Spiderverse as well. The film’s version of Miles has been accepted as quintessential in the pop culture zeitgeist, so video game Miles ran the risk of feeling like a store-brand knockoff. Thankfully, Miles’s story in the game holds its own, with one of the most layered, hyper-personal conflicts between protagonist and “villain” in modern gaming.
Like many of the other titles on this list, Miles Morales boasts a level of refinement rarely seen in games, even those in the AAA tier. Web-slinging around New York City as Miles feels as natural and fun as it did as Peter, the combat is frenetic but easy to follow and control, and the visuals as a whole are so vibrant and stylish that it makes one tremble at the prospect of Insomniac’s upcoming sequel and their hotly anticipated take on Wolverine.
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
To this day, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart stands as one of the most visually spectacular games ever made. The series has always had strong art design, but to see Ratchet’s fur looking so absurdly fluffy thanks to Insomniac Games’ strand technology, and to see an off-camera building reflected on Clank’s shiny dome thanks to ray-traced reflections is simply marvelous to behold.
Then there are the titular rifts, which allow players to warp in space between disparate locations, something that strictly could not be done on last-gen consoles but is very much possible here thanks to the PS5’s SSD. The game is much more than just a tech demo, though, with some wickedly fun shooter combat and some of the most underrated dialogue and voice acting in the industry. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart remains one of the few truly current-gen experiences on the market nearly three years after its launch, and it still hasn’t aged one bit.
Back in 2017, Housemarque, the beloved studio behind arcade-style classics like Super Stardust HD and Resogun, boldly proclaimed in an infamous blog post that “ARCADE IS DEAD.” Pivoting away from the style of game that brought them to the dance, the studio entered into the big-budget arena with Returnal, a nightmarish sci-fi action shooter that retains the precise, meticulously balanced gameplay of the studio’s previous titles while packaging it in an atmospheric, Groundhog Day-esque setting.
What’s been somewhat undervalued about Returnal is its story, which is as psychologically layered and evocative as a gritty A24 art film. As Selene explores Atropos, more layers of her psyche are peeled back, and while some of the revelations can seem a bit cryptic, the story is charged with emotion throughout. The ending and “secret” ending are just rewards for fighting through the game’s ferocious hordes of enemies, and Housemarque should be commended for creating such a cinematically adept story on essentially their first go.
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor
Respawn truly outdid themselves with Star Wars Jedi: Survivor. Its predecessor, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, was already exceptional, and arguably the greatest Star Wars game ever made. But the sequel takes everything that was great about the first and improves upon it, telling an even bigger, more operatic space opera that invokes the spirit of the original films while standing on its own as a worthy buildout of the Star Wars universe.
The set pieces are dazzling, controlling Cal is blissfully smooth, the combat feels sharp, the acting is superb…this is a AAA game that nails virtually everything it endeavors to do. One thing the game does insanely well is facial animation, with each character model emoting almost as articulately as their real-life actor counterparts. It’s a glowing example of how high-end visuals aren’t just for show and can serve and enhance the story immensely if treated with care.
The unlikeliest games story of 2022 was an indie game in which a cat explores an oppressive cyberpunk city leaping into contention for Game of the Year. Stray isn’t exactly ingenious from a game design perspective, and the puzzles are actually pretty leisurely throughout. But what is ingenious is how the sights and sounds of Walled City 99 combined with the sheer joy of slinking around the environments to make the game an absolute dream to play.
One of the subtleties that makes Stray so unique is the verticality of the level design. BlueTwelve Studio take full advantage of the core concept—cats are nimble and small, so why have them traverse flat, wide-open environments? The treacherous alleyways, interiors, and rooftops you encounter throughout the game are wondrous to look at and seriously fun to navigate. This world wasn’t built with cats in mind, which adds depth to the gameplay, and perils to the fuzzy feline’s journey home.
Street Fighter 6
Capcom makes great games in a wide variety of genres. But man, when it comes to fighting games, they’re truly in a league of their own. Street Fighter 6 is already being hailed as one of the greatest fighting games ever made, with a dizzying list of modes and features fueled by gameplay that is sophisticated enough to headline Evo tournaments for years to come, but also approachable enough for casual players to have a blast.
The Drive system is one of the most revolutionary developments in the series’ history giving players the opportunity to think and play more tactically than ever before. Starting each fight with a full Drive Gauge invites a more strategic style of play that flies in the face of every perception and precedent players have had of the super gauge mechanic since it was introduced decades ago.
While the list above largely focuses on games that were initially released for the PS5 since its launch, here are a few notable titles from previous generations that are also available to PS5 owners:
There are a lot of subtle but impactful changes Dead Space makes to the original game’s formula. Protagonist Isaac talks now, for instance, and some of the environments and enemies have been tweaked to make gameplay flow a little smoother. Visually, the game is gorgeous and detailed, a far cry from the 2008 original. But the best thing about EA Motive’s reimagining is that it doesn’t futz with the vibe of the original game one bit. Visceral Games got the eerie space horror atmosphere just right the first time, and chopping up lurching abominations limb by limb on PS5 feels just like the good ol’ days.
Death Stranding: Director’s Cut
Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding is one of those titles that might not be for everyone. But those who get it view it as an irrevocable masterpiece. It’s an odd ode to Americana, plays unlike any other game out there, subverts all expectations of how pacing in adventure games “should” be handled, and features one of Norman Reedus’s best performances. In many ways, the player is challenged to meet the game halfway—this is anything but a passive experience. But the feeling you earn after enduring the trials and tribulations the game throws your way is indescribably gratifying.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake/Integrade
Maybe no game has ever had tougher expectations to live up to than Final Fantasy 7 Remake. It came out nearly five years after it was announced, and it was attempting to reimagine one of the most revered games ever made. But Square Enix rose to the occasion with a reimagining that features real-time combat, stunning graphics, and some positively epic boss fights. The game was phenomenal on PS4, and it looks and plays even better on PS5.
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut
Sucker Punch’s Kurosawa-esque take on the samurai genre was one of the very best games of 2020, and Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut uses the power of the PS5 to deliver the ultimate version of the already fantastic original. The game runs at a steady 60fps, features an expanded draw distance, and offers a director’s commentary, making it well worth playing on PS5 whether you’re new to the game or not.
The Last of Us Part 1
As they’re likened to do, Naughty Dog went above and beyond in making The Last of Us Part 1, their remaster of the genre-defining PS3 classic. This isn’t a simple up-res, performance-enhancement job. The studio rebuilt the game from the ground-up with new assets, textures, character models, environments, and animations. While some were underwhelmed by the look of the remaster, if you look at side-by-side comparisons to the original, it’s clear to see that this is a drastically better-looking version of the game.
Resident Evil 4 Remake
To this day, Resident Evil 4 still stands as the defining moment for the long-running survival horror series. It was better than every entry before it, and served as the blueprint for every entry to come. Capcom’s remake does the original game justice with beautiful rebuilt visuals and a few additions to gameplay like inventory management tweaks, an auto-save feature, and a parry mechanic. This is a can’t-miss PS5 title, particularly for those who missed the original.