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Best PS4 games 2021: ultimate picture and sound

For all the talk of Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles selling like hotcakes, vast numbers of households across the world are still gaming on a PS4 or PS4 Pro. This is partly due to the high cost and low stocks of the new consoles, of course, but it’s also the case that the PS4 remains a great console that’s more than capable of creating stunning gaming worlds, even without new tricks such as 4K at 120Hz and variable refresh rates.

In short, there’s plenty of life left in the PS4 yet. So here, in no particular order, is our pick of the best games out there that prove just how good Sony’s ‘old’ console can be, while also giving your surround sound system a great workout into the bargain.

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

Developer Naughty Dog has a reputation for being able to convert PlayStation horsepower into stunningly immersive and cinematic games, and no title proves this more than Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

This stunningly slick and gorgeous action-adventure transports you to a diverse series of locations across the globe, all brought to life by arguably the most imaginative use of textures, light, and natural environmental effects the PS4 has seen to date.

Expert voice acting and more than 850 possible facial expressions, meanwhile, create characters you really care about, while immaculate 7.1-channel audio ensures that the epic, mysterious lands you’re exploring enjoy a three-dimensional life that spreads far beyond the confines of your screen.

God Of War

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

As well as being hugely enjoyable to play, God Of War is a technical tour de force. Its dynamic lighting and rich colour palette make outstanding use of HDR, while the PS4 Pro version also delivers some of the most detailed, genuinely 4K-like visuals the console has ever produced.

Frame rates are remarkably stable, too, considering the sheer scale of the action (and enemies). Sealing the deal, though, is the consistently brilliant way everything is staged, with the camera always feeling like it’s in exactly the right place to enhance the drama and ensure that no part of the sophisticated combat system ever feels awkward. So cinematic is GOW that we half expected to find ‘directed by James Cameron’ in the final credits.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

In some ways, Guerilla Games’ masterpiece feels like a spiritual partner for God Of War in terms of its graphics. Both games feature vibrant and detailed landscapes, and both use HDR aggressively to bring characters, enemies and wild exterior environments to life. They also successfully manage to deliver huge landscapes that feel packed with details and both handle enormous, varied and well-animated enemies extremely well indeed.

Despite the complexity of the enemies and environments, there’s scarcely an immersion-breaking bug to be found throughout HZD’s epic run time. As if all this wasn’t enough, the gorgeous new world is fleshed out by a detailed and imaginative ‘3D’ sound mix.

 

The Last Guardian

Best PS4 games

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On some levels, The Last Guardian is a controversial addition to this list. Released back in 2016, it can run sluggishly at times, and it doesn’t have that pristine polish many of our other featured titles do. For pure atmosphere and beauty, though, there’s nothing like it – aside perhaps from 2018’s remake of Shadow Of The Colossus.

The muted colour palette, stark use of light and shadow, and moody use of mist to build a sense of mystery about what’s up ahead all combine to create a uniquely otherworldly and haunting aesthetic. This is reinforced by a suitably elegiac score and evocative sound effects.

The sheer scale of the game’s ambition (and one of its lead characters) takes your breath away, while the unusual 360-degree world the game creates, where depth below you is as important as height above you, also helped The Last Guardian to deliver one of the PS4’s best virtual reality demos.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

Although Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is seriously pretty, especially when you arrive in England, Odyssey is still the most consistently jaw-dropping Assassin’s Creed title on PS4. For us, at least, Valhalla feels a little like a PS5 title ported to PS4, whereas Odyssey feels designed from the outset to push the PS4 to its limits.

The scope of the game is astonishing, even by open world standards, and the opportunities for just standing there ogling huge swathes of it in startling detail from mountainous or architectural vantage points are gloriously plentiful.

The mythical backdrop to the story and period allow the game’s artists to add a little more romanticism to the world than usual too, while the use of colour and HDR brightness is some of the most aggressive we’ve seen.

Gran Turismo Sport

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

While Polyphony Digital hasn’t delivered a ‘typical’ new Gran Turismo instalment for the PS4, it did give us a new approach in the shape of Gran Turismo Sport. And happily, this shift to an online racing game didn’t mean the end of its trademark spectacular visuals.

This is especially true when it comes to the car models, which glisten and gleam with levels of detail, three-dimensionality and texturing so impressive – and, for the first time with a GT title, in HDR – that just drooling over your car collection feels worth the price in itself. The visual splendour is reinforced, too, by a practical symphony of painstakingly accurate engine sounds.

Red Dead Redemption 2

Best PS4 games

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Arguably no other game has created a free-roaming world as evocative of a particular place in a particular era as Red Dead Redemption. The beautiful realisation of a rugged wilderness gradually falling under the influence of the first vestiges of civilisation becomes as important a character as Arthur and his merry band of outlaws.

The soundtrack, too, features not just some of the best voice acting ever, but all manner of perfectly placed, immaculately rendered sound effects that bring both the game’s wild and civilised locations to equally vivid life.

Oddly, the game’s HDR implementation didn’t function properly at launch, and colours are still richer in SDR mode despite a mostly helpful HDR patch. Even if you prefer to play in SDR, though, RDR2 is still eye candy of the highest order.

The Last Of Us: Part II

Best PS4 games

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It’s no surprise to find developer Naughty Dog bagging a second slot on our pick of the most technically accomplished PS4 titles. But while Uncharted 4 blows you away with its scale and sense of adventure, The Last Of Us Part II excels for its intimacy, using its intensely detailed and moody HDR environments to not just tell Ellie’s intensely personal story, but build a truly poignant sense of a civilisation lost.

Every camera angle, lighting decision, animation and facial expression feels perfectly judged, while Mac Quayle’s cinematic score completes the feeling that this is as much an interactive film as a game.

Doom Eternal

Best PS4 games

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Hurtling about single-player or online deathmatch environments at absurd speeds has always been at the heart of what makes Doom fun. Being able to experience that ‘rush’ at a remarkably solid 60fps on the PS4, even with swarms of enemies closing in from every angle, takes things to a whole new level. Especially as the smoother refresh rate makes it easier to take in the game’s surprising amount of (literally) visceral detail and exceptionally vibrant colours. The soundtrack is as explosive and busy as the visuals, too.

Cuphead

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

While there are plenty of other fantastic-looking first person shooters (FPS) and ‘open world’ games that came close to making this list, we had to make space for something a little different. And things don’t get more different than Cuphead.

This 2D sideways scrolling shooter combines a gorgeous 1930s cartoon style of hand-drawn animation with bold characterisation and levels of slickness, HDR vibrancy, and visual effects that could only be achieved on a powerful modern games console.

As if this wasn’t exciting enough, Cuphead’s soundtrack is packed with the type of immaculately and imaginatively rendered sound effects you’d associate with early Disney animations. This all adds up to one of the most unforgettable – and enjoyable – experiences the PS4 has to offer.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

There can be few greater technical challenges in the videogame world than trying to capture the excitement of being Spider-Man as he swings his way between New York’s skyscrapers. Insomniac Games nails it, though, with Marvel’s Spider-Man. The open-world map is big enough to ensure your swinging and jumping never feels boxed in, animations are stunningly fluid and convincing, and the speed with which an entire city moves around you without glitching or dropping resolution is a joy to behold.

The game’s sound enhances the illusion of movement, too, as immaculately positioned and dynamic sounds appear against a wider audio backdrop that almost uncannily captures a sense of New York’s epic scale.

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