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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 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.

How to find the best games for picture and sound

Video games, like movies or music, are works of art, and like all art, the beauty therein can be a large part relative. However, video games, even more than movies or music, are coded and engineered: They are an even split between art and science.

Accordingly, there are many different ways games can sound or look worse than one another on a technical level, outside of the appreciation you can have for a particular art design, kind of worldbuilding, or gameplay loop.

What games look or sound best to you will depend on both your personal setup and preferences. Your particular TV may not support 4K/60FPS or HDR, so you may prefer higher-resolution games at lower framerates known for their punchy contrast in SDR. You might prefer sharper image quality over a higher framerate, or vice-versa.

Our advice is to start with your TV. What resolutions, framerates, and technologies can it support? Then, look at a game's performance on your console. Ideally, you'll want to play at the native resolution of your display, but you can often exchange resolution for framerate.

Last, you'll want to think about display tech like HDR or audio tech like Dolby Atmos. If you can take advantage of support for these technologies in games, you'll likely want to do so, but if your TV doesn't support HDR and you use the virtual surround of a gaming headset, for example, this kind of support may not matter to you.

And before you buy any game to look and sound great, look up some gameplay (in the highest resolution and framerate you can find) and see how it actually looks and sounds. No, it won't be the same as playing the game on your own setup yourself, but it can give you a good basic idea of a game's AV experience.

Below is a round-up of the best games on PS4 and PS4 Pro for picture and sound...

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

The thrilling conclusion to the Uncharted saga

Specifications

Genre: Third-person shooter
Release date: 10th May 2016
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/30FPS campaign and 900p/60FPS multiplayer
Pro performance: 1440p/30FPS campaign and 1080p/60FPS multiplayer

Reasons to buy

+
Gorgeous environments with tons of detail
+
Much bigger, more ambitious levels
+
Stunning lighting, effects, and animation work

Reasons to avoid

-
Story pacing
-
No 60FPS campaign mode

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

2. God of War

A beautiful reboot of the longrunning God of War franchise

Specifications

Genre: Action-adventure
Release date: 20th April 2018
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/30FPS
Pro performance: Checkerboarded 4K/30FPS or 1080p/60FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Stylish, cinematic presentation
+
Tons of colorful, detailed effects and a vibrant fantasy world
+
Awesome voice acting and a great story

Reasons to avoid

-
Some balance issues
-
PS4 Pro can't maintain 60FPS

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Horizon: Zero Dawn

A gorgeous, ambitious open-world sci-fi RPG from the Killzone creators

Specifications

Genre: Action-adventure
Release date: 20th April 2018
Developer: Santa Monica Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/30FPS
Pro performance: Checkerboarded 4K/30FPS or 1080p/30FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Beautiful, colorful sci-fi world
+
Tons of great effects and animation work on machine monsters
+
Haunting, emotional main story

Reasons to avoid

-
Not as massive as other open-world RPGs
-
30FPS can feel slow and clunky

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.

 

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

4. The Last Guardian

A gorgeous, ambitious open-world sci-fi RPG from the Killzone creators

Specifications

Genre: Action-adventure
Release date: 6th December 2016
Developer: Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Sound: 3D Audio
Performance: 1080p/30FPS
Pro performance: Upscaled 4K/30FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Trico is richly detailed, textured, and animated
+
Unique post-apocalyptic fantasy world bursting with contrast and vibrance
+
Moving story

Reasons to avoid

-
Framerate issues
-
Pacing problems

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

A sprawling open-world RPG set in Ancient Greece

Specifications

Genre: Action-adventure
Release date: 5th October 2018
Developer: Ubisoft Quebec
Publisher: Ubisoft
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/30FPS
Pro performance: Dynamic 4K/30FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Huge, colorful open-world to explore
+
Beautiful environments 
+
Lots and lots of content

Reasons to avoid

-
Repetitive open-world content
-
Lackluster main campaign

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Gran Turismo Sport

A Gran Turismo game with a focus on competitive online racing

Specifications

Genre: Sim racer
Release date: 17th November 2017
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/60FPS
Pro performance: Checkerboarded 1800p/30FPS or 1080p/60FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Superb photorealistic aesthetic
+
Gorgeous, highly-detailed car models and textures
+
Engaging emphasis on competition

Reasons to avoid

-
Unstable framerate on PS4
-
Less traditional singleplayer Gran Turismo content

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

7. Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar's expansive, beautifully-animated sequel to its western classic

Specifications

Genre: Action-adventure
Release date: 26th October 2018
Developer: Rockstar Studios
Publisher: Rockstar Gamesㅤㅤㅤㅤ
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/30FPS
Pro performance: Upscaled 4K/30FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Best-in-class animation
+
A gorgeous rendition of the American West
+
One of the best stories in games

Reasons to avoid

-
Gameplay can be clunky
-
Slow and dense

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

8. The Last Of Us: Part II

Naughty Dog's dark post-apocalyptic follow-up to The Last of Us

Specifications

Genre: Action-adventure
Release date: 19th June 2020
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/30FPS
Pro performance: 1440p/30FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Best-in-class animation
+
Amazing facial animation and character modeling
+
Powerful, dark narrative

Reasons to avoid

-
Controversial story elements not for everyone

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

9. Doom Eternal

A sequel to the massively successful Doom (2016) reboot

Specifications

Genre: First-person shooter
Release date: 20th March 2020
Developer: id Software
Publisher: Bethesda Softworksㅤㅤㅤㅤ
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/60FPS
Pro performance: Dynamic 1440p/60FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth, responsive gameplay
+
Dark, twisted fantasy world with lots of colors and effects
+
Feels like Doom

Reasons to avoid

-
Forgettable story
-
Some additions to Doom (2016) formula unecessary

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

10. Cuphead

A gorgeously animated, brutally difficult platformer with the aesthetic of a classic Disney movie

Specifications

Genre: Platformer
Release date: 29th September 2017
Developer: Studio MDHR
Publisher: Studio MDHR
Price: £20 ($20)
HDR: No
Performance: 1080p/60FPS
Pro performance: 1080p/60FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Looks and feels like a classic Disney animation
+
Challenging, rewarding gameplay
+
Excellent jazz soundtrack

Reasons to avoid

-
Learning curve

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.

Best PS4 games

(Image credit: Sony)

11. Marvel’s Spider-Man

An excellent, action-packed open-world Spider-Man game with an original narrative

Specifications

Genre: Action-adventure
Release date: 7th September 2018
Developer: Insomniac Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Price: £60 ($60)
HDR: HDR10
Performance: 1080p/30FPS
Pro performance: Checkerboarded 4K/30FPS

Reasons to buy

+
Swinging through the city is stunning
+
Gorgeous lighting and vibrant open-world
+
Fun story and action-packed gameplay

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing new for an open-world action-adventure

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.

How we choose the best games for picture and sound and how we test

What Hi-Fi? doesn't review games, but we do regularly use games in our testing of TVs and projectors as well as headphones and speakers, particularly in the context of surround sound or spatial audio. And some on the What Hi-Fi? team have even worked in the past as video game reviewers.

In our video game buying guides, we select games based on their AV features. Does a game run in 4K? Can it run at a stable, smooth 60FPS? How about spatial audio, HDR, or VRR support? Then beyond whether or not a game supports a certain feature, we pick games that offer up impressive AV experiences, even if a particular game doesn't support every state-of-the-art technology.

Gaming at What HiFi? is usually done at our state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading, or Bath where our team of reviewers tests the vast majority of hi-fi and AV kit we review. Here, we'll compare all kinds of AV tech against not just one other but the best-in-class versions of each product.

Reviews at What Hi-Fi? are always impartial, and we only review products as a team to eliminate any individual bias; plus, it's an efficient way to double-check our work, be thorough, and avoid mistakes. As the tech landscape evolves, so too will our testing procedures.

Buying guides at What Hi-Fi? are also often products of collaboration, especially with games, to make sure we cover a healthy variety of the beautiful looking and sounding games out there spread across different prices, genres, and even gaming platforms.

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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