Since 2006, the PlayStation 3 has hosted an outstanding amount of games that have ranged from awe-inspiring to diabolically shocking. Here at Power Up Gaming, we aren’t interested in those bad eggs, so instead we’ve crafted a list of 25 delicious gaming goodies – both exclusive and multi-platform – for your consumption.
These games may not be tomes of perfection, but they definitely hinge on it. They represent an entire generation’s efforts to create masterpieces time and time again, a feat that the PS3 has definitely accomplished.
As PlayStation celebrates its 20th anniversary, we invite you to browse our wares, and to comb a list that is so filled with wonder that you will fall in love with each of these titles, all over again. Enjoy.
Harry Bowers: If there’s one thing that video games get slammed for, it’s attempting nothing new. Atlus’s Catherine was one of those rare games that truly stepped up to challenge this. The result was weird, to say the least. Catherine follows the romantic inadequacies of its hapless protagonist, Vincent. Drama, heartbreak and indecision ensue as Vincent attempts to choose between long-time partner Katherine and new impromptu flame, Catherine.
Here’s where things get weird. Moral implications are presided over by a mystical body of demonic nightmare-inducing sheep. Gameplay fixes are administered by proxy of tricky gauntlet-like puzzle sequences where a sleeping Vincent meets retribution for his nefarious practices. The game skirts between the mundane and the wacky as Vincent attempts to come to terms with what he truly wants from life.
Call it luck, or call it vision – either way, team Atlus struck gold here. The story was gripping and the cast completely empathetic. Gameplay matched story pound for pound. There was something exhilaratingly epic about monkeying your way up a rapidly crumbling tower to some iconic classical bangers. Catherine entertained from start to finish, all the while offering up searching questions about relationships, people and humanity. Catherine was an ambitious game which succeeded in doing something honestly different. That’s sadly an accolade very, very few console games can claim to. Fancy a change of pace from beefcake bro-shooters? Then give Catherine a spin; you won’t be disappointed.
Jamaal Ryan: Journey is a product of sharpened craft, the epitome of the emotional language thatgamecompany has used to communicate with players since its early days. Its glistening sights, award winning sounds, and freeing controls can melt any hardened exterior with effortless grace.
Journey conveys a wide range of themes quietly and metaphorically: isolation, partnership, fear, struggle, death, euphoria. This complex palette is delivered with the utmost subtlety, made even more impressive by being compressed into 2 hours. Because of this, Journey is profoundly therapeutic, plucking you from whatever mood you’re in and gently placing you into a better place within a short space of time.
Journey is a timeless work of art, a multi-purposed classic that isn’t just one of the best games on PlayStation 3; it’s one of the best games ever made.
23. Little Big Planet
David Tierney: Looking through the PS3 library, there are few major titles that have as much charm, or as much pure adorableness, as the Little Big Planet series – and the one that started it off was truly spectacular. At a quick glance, it was a simple PlayStation-exclusive 2D platformer, which seemed destined to fade and flop with the likes of (the later attempts at) Crash Bandicoot. But, as you began to play, its uniqueness soon burst through.
The title was accessible with easy controls and an attractive appearance. The beauty of levels was complemented with a classic, bubbly soundtrack, and carried a feeling of expert craftsmanship. One to four players could gather around to play through the main story, either competing maliciously for the highest score, or working together in tandem. Great bonding moments were experienced, and it’s hard to remember one as rewarding (or as terrifying), as that of grasping your friend’s leg as you both swing over a bottomless pit.
Witnessing the creativity displayed by the game’s developers, there was a godlike urge to go forth and multiply – multiply levels, that is! The substantial creation suite was where Little Big Planet truly came into its own; the community virtually exploded with individuals who embraced the creative tools they were given. Innovative original levels, resourceful remakes of games, and countless other exquisite ideas graced the internet. We’re now onto its third iteration, and along the way truly breathtaking projects have been undertaken. There are undoubtedly many more to come!
22. God of War III
Scott Russell: There are many complaints made about Kratos and his tendency to be bit loud and one dimensional, all shout and no substance. He may scream “ZEUS” around five million times in God of War III, but in doing so he is merely adhering to the over-the-top nature of Greek mythology, a world of truly epic proportions.
From the very beginning, the epic visual spectacle is off the charts. Where else would you find a small grey person climbing on a bunch of larger, elemental people, in hope of defeating Poseidon and his giant horse/crab monsters? I think that nowhere is the answer.
Epic violence is also littered throughout. Take, for example, Kratos’ battle with Hades. Fair enough that he had to kill in a violent manner – I would expect no less from the Ghost of Sparta – but was smashing him against the ceiling and pulling out his brain really necessary? For fear of arguing with a man in need of some serious anger management, I suppose it was.
21. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Harry: Today, the words ‘Call of Duty’ are enough to prompt a miniature gag reflex in the throats of gaming’s most cynical folk. To say the franchise has been serialized would be an understatement. At least one COD title has been released every year since 2007; it is the most popular gaming series of all time. The titular FPS lays claim to legions of adorning fans who gleefully return, year after year, to shower publisher Activision in cash. Love it or hate it, Call of Duty is a gaming phenomenon, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare started it all.
The gaming medium was amidst a World War II shooter deluge during the emergent years of the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare was the explosive answer to this creative car crash. As well as reinventing what a FPS could be, Infinity Ward produced a product that technically trounced its competitors in nearly every sense. Gameplay was frenetic and unrelenting. Mechanics were close to excellent; effortlessly snapping to terrorist after terrorist made you feel deadly as sin. But, most importantly, multiplayer was virtual crack.
Infinity Ward seized the console multiplayer monopoly in one fell swoop. Extensive options made for a comprehensive shoot em’ up experience like no other. Extensive leveling and gratifyingly deadly kill streaks nurtured obsessive behavior that redefined addiction. There was a time in 2007 when COD was simply *the* game that you just had to be playing. Modern Warfare’s formula was so good that it’s still being relentlessly scavenged by COD descendants seven years later. Even Einstein would have been proud.
20. Batman: Arkham City
Amber Colyer: There are lots of variations on this classic DC hero who has been close to the hearts of fans for numerous years. One of the most popular iterations and artistic uses of Batman is the dark, gothic noir style that seems to ooze out of the city of Gotham like a shroud of the same bats that haunt its denizens.
Batman: Arkham City not only taps that style, but manages to give it a modern look that creates a heavy atmosphere of dread and a world that feels as though it is on the brink of becoming a nightmare. Add in some superb gameplay, great writing and appearances from some of the best baddies the series has to offer, and the game packs a solid punch to all the fans of Batman, old ones and new.
The game is visually stunning and leaves a lasting feeling upon the player, though the emotions are often left up to them. The creators captured all that encompasses Batman: from the gothic, terrifying tragedy of its heroes and villains alike to even a bit of that goofy nostalgia back from the Adam West days.
Arkham City: a welcome home for the insane and the fanatic with higher standards.
19. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
Harry: There was a time when you’d have been hard pressed to come up with a list of the PS3’s top 10 games, let alone 25 of them. Apart from being slightly quieter than the Xbox 360, the little black beast had very little to show for its hugely inflated price-tag. Times were bleak: the 360 touted Halo, Gears of War and the promise of Fable II; Sony’s camp had Super Rub ‘a’ Dub and Lair. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was one of the first games to truly shake things up.
Naughty Dog’s attention to detail was remarkable. Textures were more vivacious then they had any right to be in the faraway time of 2007. I remember marvelling at the game’s loading screen – yes, the loading screen; it felt like I could reach out and touch that sparkly rotating Spanish coin. But graphics were just the beginning. The core cast’s debut performances embarrassed those of most other games. Nathan Drake’s quest for the fabled treasure of El Dorado seemed to unfold effortlessly. Seven years later, AAA titles are still wishing their stories could be that gripping and entertaining.
Gameplay matched story stride for stride, too. Controls were slick; weapons were varied; baddies came thick and fast. Uncharted was close to perfect as a third person cover shooter. A bold, late-game twist ensured things never felt stale by the end, either. Zipping in and out of cover to dispatch pirate after mercenary after who knows what next never failed to manufacture some of the tensest gaming moments I’ve had cradling that flimsy Dualshock.
Drake’s Fortune had soul. That’s something that can be said for only a handful of games today. Certainly, its successors bettered it in many ways, but Drake’s Fortune still has a lot to offer gamers – and teach developers – today. Any self respecting PS3 fan owes it to themselves to reach the stunning conclusion of Drake’s debut adventure. There’s treasure to be found on that little Pacific Island.
18. Far Cry 3
Adam Lloyd: Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity? Missing out on one of the most fun games in Ubisoft’s stable!
Far Cry 3 isn’t without its problems (mainly related to its protagonist and story), but it does feature a host of memorable characters, and a sandbox environment that is incredibly fun to mess around with. The game gives you your own virtual desert island playground, and it’s up to you what you tackle next. Whether you stalk around the outposts like a silent predator, hunt tigers and sharks (or the deadliest game of all, man), or simply ride jetskis into people on the shoreline, very few games offer this sense of openness, yet provide such entertainment around every turn.
17. Red Dead Redemption
Harry: Developer Rockstar is known for its raucous worlds chock-full of death, loathing and debauchery. Red Dead Redemption was no exception to this when it emerged on the scene in 2010. This time, however, the Grand Theft Auto developer chose to switch up the megalithic cityscapes of their flagship franchise for the cold, dusty, plains of the Wild West. The maniacal magnificence of GTA’s familiar haunts translated better than anyone could have imagined.
Red Dead Redemption had all the six-shooters, explosions, horses, bar fights and ponchos you could possibly dream of, all wrapped up in a familiarly intoxicating Rockstar package. A massive cast of characters never failed to be convincing, empathetic, or straight-up hilarious. Zany happenings and an impressive attention to detail ensured the West always felt like a living, vibrant world. Red Dead Redemption was far more than just GTA with a facelift, though. Touting an ending of such emotional power that few games can rival, Red Dead Redemption, in every sense, stood up for itself as an unforgettable experience.
Rockstar perfected the video game Western in just one go; the very best Spaghetti Westerns were realized in all their virtual glory here. For this reason, Red Dead Redemption will forever be romanticized as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of video games.
16. Mass Effect 2
Tara Jayne: When I picked up Mass Effect 2, it was on a total whim – and why? Because it starred Yvonne Strahovski as Miranda. As a big fan of hers, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn’t expecting to really like Mass Effect, it being a shooter and all, but my god, it was the best whimsical decision I’ve ever made.
The story had me hooked straight away, and yes, this was the first in the series that I played, but that didn’t make it any less of an amazing gaming experience for me. I loved the depth of the characters, the interactions, the options, and above all else I loved this concept of alien races and humans fighting alongside each other to save the universe. Mass Effect 2 presented a world to me that I could never have imagined. I never felt that the game got repetitive – I was so deeply engrossed in its story and world that for a while everything else went away when I played.
I didn’t play as Commander Shepard. I was Commander Shepard.
15. Assassin’s Creed II
Scott: There was certainly something very special about Assassin’s Creed II. It was a game that changed so much about its predecessor, while still adhering to its basic formula. It removed the repetitive missions and replaced them with story-centric tasks; it made combat and movement in general more fluid; it removed the monotone-voiced protagonist, and brought in the more impassioned figure of Ezio; it created a cinematic experience that hinged on action, suspense, romance and revenge.
You travelled with Ezio through a large span of his life, from his birth and into the beginning of his middle age. This gave you a chance to love him for the charming, passionate and extremely likeable individual that he truly was, although it was clear from the start that cheekiness was his forte: “Your sister seemed quite satisfied with the ‘handling’ I gave her earlier.”
As well as our romantic champion, the story was also riddled with other interesting heroes and villains, most of whom were taken directly from history. Leonardo da Vinci was on hand as your friend and inventor, aiding in your quest with a handful of helpful devices, including an improved hidden blade that spared one of Ezio’s precious digits (poor Altair).
AC2 was certainly something special. I will reiterate those words again and again if necessary. Its improvements on the first game’s story, characters, game play, and aesthetic make it the best Assassin’s Creed to date.
14. Tomb Raider
Tara: Tomb Raider is definitely one of those games that pretty much defined my childhood. I played The Last Revelation multiple times – I was so obsessed with the Ancient Egypt theme and getting to play as Lara Croft was also a plus. I love Lara, and I loved her in the PS3 reboot too, despite the fact she was given a huge overhaul. I was lucky enough to swipe a press copy of this game (addressed to Tara Croft, might I add) and maybe that gives me a slight rose-tinted view of the game, but I adored it.
I loved the gameplay, I loved the bow and arrow, I loved using stealth to take down my enemies. Most of all, I loved Lara. Voiced by Camilla Luddington (who seemed to divide critics), she was given a gritty story and I think Luddington gave Lara conviction and emotion that we hadn’t seen from her before. Lara was not a pair of boobs this time around, she was a whole character. Tomb Raider is gruesome and unapologetic, but it’s an absolutely enjoyable rollercoaster ride from start to finish.
Chris Mawson: It’s fair to say that I, and many others, reacted to Square Enix’s initial announcement of a Tomb Raider reboot with more than a little scepticism. However, by the time the game’s breathtaking opening cinematic was over, I was sold. It was clear that the self-assured, larger-than-life, busty bombshell gamers had known up to that point as Lara Croft was long gone – and in her place stood a much more vulnerable, naive young lady.
In Tomb Raider, Lara’s trepidation and clear aversion to the offtimes violent survival tactics she had little choice but to employ in order to make it off the (ostensibly) supernatural island Yamatai alive made her come across to players as far more relatable and human, certainly to a greater extent than in previous TR titles.
If Naughty Dog’s Uncharted borrowed from the original Tomb Raider, the influence came full circle here. Tomb Raider’s core gameplay took much from Nathan Drake’s shenanigans (and to great effect at that), while introducing a number of its own innovations to keep things engaging throughout.
13. Portal 2
Adam: Portal 2’s biggest achievement was that it failed to offend the millions of cake-doting, companion cube-hugging fans of the first game. Any game that garners as much attention as the original Portal did will usually suffer from follow-up syndrome, where it fails to live up to expectations and annoys the community with retcons.
To the game’s credit, it managed to iterate on the tightly-focused original with a larger budget and more comprehensive story, while retaining that dark humour and bleak charm that made it so successful. The game contained more laughs than a tickle-fetish clown party, thanks to exceptional script writing and the voice talents of Stephen Merchant. Combine this with rewarding puzzles that never felt cheap, and Portal 2 was one of the most comprehensive experiences that you could have on a console.
12. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Harry: The Uncharted series features no less than three times on this humble list. That’s no mistake. Three is also the number of games that have released on the PlayStation 3 bearing the Uncharted name. That’s no coincidence, either. Nathan Drake’s handsome face dominates roughly a ninth of this list because Naughty Dog created something truly special. The Uncharted formula has failed to be anything less than excellent so far. Touting more explosions, more climbing and more cheese than ever before, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception left PlayStation gamers spellbound all over again.
Much like a crack addict will always remember their first bump, the Sony faithful will never forget their first tango with Deception’s finest moments. Hanging by a thread from that ground-bound plane, escaping that sinking cargo-ship, that painstaking foot-search for water across the Rub’ al Khali desert: these were some of the most iconic moments in recent gaming memory. As if he needed to, Nolan North once more proved himself as the big daddy of video game acting. Uncharted 3’s story was more intense than ever, its set-pieces grander than anything and multiplayer as comprehensive as you could possibly want. It had everything we could ever ask from an Uncharted sequel.
The Uncharted franchise is all about fast lines and fast thrills. More seamless, more accessible than any of its predecessors, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception championed unashamed fun with no compromise. Naughty Dog’s latest entry into its iconic franchise is what gaming is all about. Uncharted 3 is essential gaming. It’s harder to bestow any higher seal of recommendation than that.
11. The Walking Dead: A Telltale Games Series
Chris: It was by pure chance that I stumbled across Telltale Games’ take on The Walking Dead. Having never previously read the comics or watched the TV show, the title slipped completely under my radar throughout much of 2012. When I finally decided to give it a shot after discovering it in my friend’s PS3 games library, I was blown away. Narrative-heavy games weren’t really my cup of tea at the time, but I soon found myself drawn into Telltale’s trademark rich storytelling and interactive, novel-like gameplay.
Set shortly after the outbreak of a zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead followed the trials and tribulations of Lee Everett, a university professor (and convicted murderer to boot), and his relationships with the group of fellow survivors he found himself attached to.
An atypical graphic adventure, The Walking Dead’s primary focus was not on puzzle solving, but instead on the building of relationships with other characters – particularly Clementine, a young girl Lee rescued early on and subsequently cared for throughout the game – in the face of extremely tough and often disturbing circumstances.
Through the episodic series’ core gameplay mechanics of branching dialogue trees and quick-time events, the developers were able to create a rich and extremely emotive storytelling experience, the likes of which gamers had seldom seen before.
The Walking Dead was a true watershed moment in my personal gaming history; never before had I invested as much in a video game’s characters as I did with Lee and Clementine. Indeed, never before had I found myself in tears as a consequence of my in-game actions.
Adam: Bioshock holds a legacy that very few games of its generation can compete with. The game launched at a time when the market for first person shooters was beginning to saturate, and proved that not all games have to contain grizzled hunks of man-flesh blasting aliens in the face. Not only did Bioshock tell an amazing story, but everything in this weird world of underwater cities, possessed children and crazed splicers is justified and has a reason to exist.
There’s still plenty to shoot at, but the game’s real focus is on the themes of rampant industrialism, morality, and the dynamic of a once great city that has fallen from grace. The Big Daddies are formidable opponents, but fighting them puts you in the role of the aggressor. Moral choices are at the forefront of your decision making, and the game strives to make you think.
While the plot does struggle in the final act once Andrew Ryan bows out, Bioshock is still a masterclass in what gaming can be.
9. Heavy Rain
Scott: Heavy Rain may be the butt of several jokes (Jason!), but I happen to think that it is a storytelling masterpiece, and that David Cage has successfully created a game that deals with empathy in a way that is both dark and powerful.
I wanted Ethan Mars to succeed. I wanted him to come out of his trials in the least amount of pain possible, something that was not an easy task, considering the high level of sadistic torture conceived by the Origami Killer.
My preference may have been to save Ethan and his son Shaun, but that doesn’t mean that this is the required outcome. Every character can meet a grisly demise by the end of the story; no one has to make it to receive an outcome. This then created an innate desire for me to care for each protagonist. I didn’t want Jayden to die in a car crusher, and therefore his death (and every other death) was more impactful as a result.
8. Metal Gear Solid 4
Adam: Looking back at the PS3’s history, MGS4 is arguably the most important game that came out on Sony’s console. The PS3 and the first instalments of soon-to-be key franchises such as Uncharted and Resistance had failed to gain much traction with the recent Xbox converts, and it looked like Sony was heading for a slump. However, when Metal Gear Solid 4 released, the game shifted consoles on its own. It received perfect or near-perfect scores in most publications and generated more positive buzz than a hippy bee keeper.
Was all the hype justified? While the story was nearly impenetrable for outsiders (and often seemed insane even to those of us who had played the series since its inception), in terms of its gameplay, MGS4 is still the best example of Metal Gear Solid to date. All systems had been streamlined and refined, from the camera problems that plagued older games, to the automatic camouflage system. All of the best elements from previous games were there and better than ever.
Additions such as shoulder-switching for better aiming, the option to lay on your back while camouflaged and throw a grenade over a wall, and the staggering number of weapon customisations you could make all added up to create the most comprehensive MGS game ever. You could even play the game as a first person shooter if you were so inclined, but when the stealth mechanics are so good, why would you?
MGS4 was set to be Hideo Kojima’s swansong from the series, and many aspects of the plot evoke nostalgic memories from previous games. The entirety of chapter four, for example, was one long love letter to fans of the series. For that, MGS4 fully deserves its place on any list of the greatest PS3 games.
Scott: The ending of Metal Gear Solid 4 may be an immensely melodramatic affair, with enough emotion and tears to fill up the grand canyon, but I happen to think that those final cutscenes complete the Solid Snake saga with power and finality. For me, everything ties up beautifully, a seemingly impossible feat considering the ridiculous complications that are so central to the series’ plot. Every character is given time to present their position now that their arcs are coming to a close.
Otacon is overcome with catharsis because of the deep emotional scars left upon him from the loss of his life’s loves; Sunny is allowed to bask in a newfound world outside of the Nomad; Raiden is able to regain his humanity, as well as his family; Meryl puts aside the tribulations of her past and forgives her father; Drebin shares an emotional soliloquy that evokes his freedom because of the dissolution of the war economy.
Sadness and joy are rife throughout the ending, as well as the inescapable feeling of despair when awaiting to witness the fate of Solid Snake. The final scene not only provides an emotional farewell to our grizzled hero, but also harkens back to the finale of Metal Gear Solid 3, as Snake salutes Big Boss’s grave, only to be confronted by the man himself. The ending is a poignant celebration of both characters, as they have succeeded in obtaining liberty in a world engulfed by conflict. As the scene closes with even more emotion and the opening melody of the credits begins, I can’t help but tear up.
Solid Snake, Hideo Kojima and the entire Metal Gear franchise: Here’s to you.
7. Grand Theft Auto IV
Chris: Although Grand Theft Auto IV was eclipsed in almost every way imaginable by its sequel, the game is still rightly considered one of the PS3’s greatest titles, and its Metacritic score of 98 is not to be sniffed at.
While the PS2 Grand Theft Auto trilogy revolutionised open world games, GTA IV took them up yet another level. Its breathtaking version of the New York-inspired Liberty City perfectly captured the hustle and bustle of city life, and it truly felt like a living, breathing world.
Backed by the strong, gritty story of Niko Bellic – an Eastern European war veteran who initially sets out in search of the American Dream before being (predictably) dragged into Liberty City’s criminal underworld (filled with a cast of believable, unsavoury characters) – Grand Theft Auto IV improved on its predecessors’ gameplay exponentially, bringing the series to the seventh generation of consoles with a bang.
Retaining GTA’s core gameplay of on-foot and vehicular action-based missions, one of the biggest improvements made to Grand Theft Auto IV was a complete overhaul of the combat system to include an effective cover and health system. As always, optional side missions, collectibles and a variety of activities provided enough replayability to keep the title a staple in PS3 gamers’ collections for months on end.
Mid-mission checkpoints were also finally introduced to the series for the first time with the release of one of two expansion packs, The Lost and the Damned (the other being The Ballad of Gay Tony), both of which, along with a decent multiplayer mode, added a great deal of content to the already rich title.
6. Bioshock Infinite
Adam: God only knows where we’d be without Ken Levine. Back in 2007, his team at Irrational Games reinvented the first person, story-led shooter by basically remaking System Shock 2 underwater. The original Bioshock was amazing in terms of storytelling and atmosphere, creating enigmatic, memorable characters such as Andrew Ryan and Sander Cohen.
While Bioshock Infinite was a little more divisive among critics, the game was a refinement in terms of pacing and gameplay. The mechanics on offer take a lot from previous Bioshock games, but they have been combined with a plot that very rarely dips or deviates into drudgery. The dynamics between Booker and Elizabeth are examples of fantastic storytelling, showing that video games can be a worthwhile narrative medium. Add in some amazing sound design that feature contemporary songs reimagined for the era, and Bioshock Infinite instantly becomes an atmospheric classic.
5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Tara: Anyone who has played Skyrim or any other entry from the Elder Scrolls series probably has an idea of how much it consumed their life at that time. Skyrim definitely stole at least a couple of months of mine, and I have no regrets. I really am a sucker for big fantasy epics and Skyrim didn’t fall short of my expectations.
What I enjoyed most about Skyrim was that there wasn’t a defined class system, so I could use any weapons I found. That really helped to build up an idea of my protagonist in my head and gave me the option to create my own hero without limitations.
The story of Skyrim wasn’t particularly strong or immersive, but the freedom that you were given from the start made up for that. You could decide how this game would work for you, such as choosing to ignore the story because there was so much else to be doing. I never did like killing the dragons.
Jamaal: After mucking around for well over 70 hours, I effectively ruined my future in Skyrim. Abusing the Oghma Infinium glitch maxed out my Imperial’s progression to the point that The Elder Scrolls V stopped being an RPG, and just became hunting grounds for the overbearing dragons that shook the world every time they appeared.
But despite my godlike prowess that allowed me to brute-force violent solutions to every problem, Skyrim was still daunting. No developer that has serviced me as a gamer in the past two decades, not even Rockstar, has even come close to building a world that was so convincingly dense. It had culture. It had mystery. It had independence. It had presence.
And even as I consider it my favorite RPG of all time, my favorite aspect of Skyrim was the lovely, lovely soundtrack. My heart melted with every melody in ways that nearly brought tears to my eyes. I smiled every time I stepped into Whiterun, closed my eyes in each loading screen, and pumped my fists whenever the Dragonborn theme Shouted through my speakers. Bethesda has a masterful taste in pairing score with setting, audibly illustrating even the most mundane moments and making them memorable.
4. Grand Theft Auto V
Scott: Grand Theft Auto V is many things. It is a world full of the living and the detailed. It is a violent story of crime, betrayal and redemption. It is a biting satire on today’s American society, what it is to be an American. It is a beautiful landscape, filled with countless ecosystems, from rocky mountains and glitzy mansions, to deep sea wrecks.
It is a game that astounds me in the gigantic, as well as in the minute. Sure, the huge state-size landmass that Rockstar has created is entirely impressive, but the little things also make it an incredibly lifelike and immersive experience. Angry drivers flip you off, hikers take pictures of the spectacular views atop Mount Chiliad, characters will sweat while running, pedestrians take shelter from the rain, stubble will grow on your face over time, hats and glasses will fly off after punching someone in the face, and so much more.
Grand Theft Auto V will present you with a simulator for life, a simulator that, while heading to work, will leave you thinking: “Boy, do these graphics suck.”
3. Fallout 3
Georgie Catto: So… where to begin? Where to end? With a game this deep, this awe-inspiring, those are questions with no real answers.
With just a few glimpses into a bleak underground childhood, you are dropped into a world destroyed by war, an atmosphere heavy with heartbreaking loss. Alone you must meander your way across a wasteland populated by mutants, ghouls and people stripped of all their civilised trappings – scavengers just trying to survive in an environment where one generation’s sins have decimated everything that we once took for granted.
But things aren’t as bad as they may seem – there are still touches of hope, of humour in this desolate place: the cola cover-up for a product that makes your pee glow; the vampires who prefer mercy over murder; and your father – a man with the hope and vision to make the world just a little bit better. Will you follow in his footsteps, become as much a demon as the men who destroyed the planet, or simply wander, taking in as much as you can of a game as rich as any we’ve encountered?
Hours can be spent simply following the story, but days will disappear as you get drawn into the joy of exploring another burnt-out building, discovering glimpses of a long-vanished world.
Skyrim was great, Oblivion excellent and Fallout: New Vegas buggy but brilliant, but none of them created quite the atmosphere of this bleak survival masterpiece. This was a game not drowning in exposition, but submerged in a lore as complex and fulfilling as a thousand Dragon Age: Inquisitions.
This game ranks third in our list (something I may or may not have argued about), but possesses a depth that even those that managed to surpass it lacked, an experience that will stay with you long after you finally hang up your laser pistols and leave the desolate emptiness of the Capital Wasteland behind.
2. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Scott: Drake’s Fortune may have launched Naughty Dog’s career on the PS3, but Among Thieves certainly upped the ante with its globetrotting escapades. The jungles of the first game still remain beautiful seven years later, but the variation in environments within Nate’s second outing create an awesome sense of worldwide adventure.
Each location helps to develop a difference in tone throughout. The opening sections in a Turkish museum envelop a feeling of mystery and espionage, while the later levels are presented as more dire affairs; Nate is brought to the brink of death in a snowy Himalayan train chase gone wrong. Even though the game’s tone continues to change, every area is beautiful from start to finish. The war-torn Nepalese city is sprawling and dense, snow feels textured as our hero trudges through it, and wooden beams and stone structures crumble realistically.
All of these locales provide the perfect backdrop to an Indiana Jonesian adventure full of suspense, action and wise-cracking, pirate-slaughtering sons of bitches.
1. The Last of Us
Jamaal: There’s a common saying in the game’s industry, “No game is perfect.” However, I’d argue that The Last of Us is a deserved exception.
The Last of Us may be a competent stealth game, and an unforgiving multiplayer experience, but its systems and mechanics are marinated in such a delicious artistic realization that, to me, it creates a nearly flawless piece of media.
The harrowing worldbuilding and unparalleled performances set an achingly morose tone throughout its entirety. It demanded your buy-in not only to each of the characters’ motivations, but how you played the game. There isn’t a single title that I can think of that has effectively maintained stride in the same way The Last of Us did from its painful opening to that gut-punching finale. And yet every encounter, every piece of dialogue, every second as I was scavenging for items and crafting tools moved in perfect synchronization with what The Last of Us was trying to sell.
It’s one thing to achieve such an unforgettable and emotional single player experience, but it’s nearly unheard of to replicate that in a multiplayer capacity. The Last of Us’ Factions did just that, with a brutal but balanced methodical combat design, an agonizing real-time crafting system, and a real emotional motivation that took the form of people who you were trying to protect or lead in this post-apocalypse. Fun fact, Factions is the only multiplayer game to give me chest pain; that’s how good it is.
Many like to hold retro classics as their all-time favorite games. Not me. I proudly hold The Last of Us in that regard, defining what I love about this industry.
Harry: There are games… and then there’s The Last of Us. It represents the culmination of seven years’ worth of exemplary pixel-pushing efforts from landmark studio Naughty Dog. The Power Up Gaming team is made up of dedicated, lifetime gamers: it came as no surprise that each of us felt so compelled to unashamedly heap praise upon Naughty Dog’s love letter to the gaming medium.
Naughty Dog’s seminal sampling was the PS3’s swan song when it graced store shelves in late 2013. It’s rare to find a team so committed to making every single facet of their game so consistently impeccable. That soundtrack, that world, that story, that gameplay, those characters: all of them melded so perfectly together to create a truly profound whole.
The arduous plight of Ellie and Joel through the heart of a post-apocalyptic America was an exodus if there ever was one. Tense gunplay intermingled with blood curdling exercises in infected evasion. The Last of Us grabbed hold of you and refused to let go. It’s a painful journey that needs to be played, an artwork that has to be experienced to be believed; it’s a bright new chapter in video game design.
The Last of Us is a labour of love through and through. Only a few games like this come out every decade. The Last of Us is not only the best game on the PlayStation 3, but the best game on the PlayStation 4 and one of the greatest games of all time. If you haven’t already, there’s one thing that you should take away from this list: drop everything; play The Last of Us.
Although it got off to a sluggish start, the PlayStation 3 will ultimately be remembered as a fantastic console, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and high-quality video games. With a library of nearly 800 titles, it’s been a hard and arduous task for us to narrow down this list to only 25 games – and even harder to agree on a consensus ranking. That said, do you think there are there any glaring omissions that deserve a place here? Are you angry that Uncharted made the list three times? Please let us know in the comments section below!