The revamped PlayStation Plus subscription service is here, bringing with it a library of a few hundred games (for the Extra and Deluxe tiers, at any rate). The value is clear—it takes playing just a few games from the list for the subscription to work out cheaper than buying the games, albeit with the usual subscription service caveat that you don’t own any licenses and the library can change at any time. But that also means a lot to choose from, and if you’re anything like me, that much choice can be overwhelming.
To help give you somewhere to start, I’ve put together a list of what I think are some easy-to-miss must-plays from the collection. Or at least, must-tries—there’s a broad range of genres, and not everything will appeal to everyone, but one of the handy things of a subscription like this is being able to try games you wouldn’t otherwise.
On the same note, I’ve mostly stayed away from the big showcase games, like Assassins Creed and Marvel’s Spider-Man. It’s not because I don’t think they’re worthwhile, but they don’t exactly need any further introduction. If you’ve subbed to PlayStation Plus, chances are you’ve at least heard of these games, if not played them already, and they have a strong presence within the catalogue anyway. Instead, this list mostly focuses on the stuff that, while not necessarily niche, doesn’t quite get the same spotlight.
I’ll also plan to update this periodically, as stuff comes and goes from the PlayStation Plus Deluxe catalogue.
Enjoy the list!
Tactical stealth games don’t get as much attention as they deserve. The blend of squad tactics, real-time stealth, “pause to issue commands” style of strategy, and large, intricate Hitman-esque sandboxes make a mesmerising combination. It can take a little while for the pieces to click, admittedly, but there are few things quite like setting up the perfect chain reaction of misdirects, distractions, shadowy movements, and sneaky kills, and then watching your carefully-concocted plan fall into place. Mimimi Games proved itself master of this niche genre with 2016’s Shadow Tactics: Blade of the Shogun, before deservedly helming a reboot of the Desperados series in Desperados III. Tactical stealth and the wild west go together like Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood.
Wild Arms 3
It was a little underappreciated in its time, but Wild Arms 3 really is one of the great RPGs of the PlayStation 2 era. A spaghetti western JRPG with a sci-fi flourish is already an intriguing proposition, and one that only gets better layered over a game that’s both unashamedly “classic” in its design and overflowing with clever, innovative riffs on that foundation. A rollercoaster plot full of comical characters belies a tale that’s far more intimate and touching than first appearances might suggest, and it’s got one of the best game soundtracks of all time, hands down. Even within its own series, there really isn’t anything else quite like Wild Arms 3 (though the first Wild Arms is also on PlayStation Plus Deluxe, and worth a look, too).
Lawn Mowing Simulator
Powerwash Simulator isn’t on PlayStation just yet, but PS Plus Extra and Deluxe subscribers do get something else to scratch a similar itch: Lawn Mowing Simulator. Jumping on a ride-on and taming an unkempt lawn might sound mundane, but it can be a lot more satisfying than you might expect—especially as you get acquainted with the intricacies of the different mowers and the available fields. There’s a decent business sim in there, too, but the big appeal of Lawn Mowing Simulator lies in the meditative loop of just… cutting some grass, and watching an overgrown lawn turn into a crisp one.
Some horror games want to make you jump out of your skin, and others want to really burrow underneath it. When it comes to the latter, there are few that do it quite so effectively as SOMA. It starts as something intriguing, if familiar: an investigation into an abandoned undersea research facility that’s seemingly haunted by something. But as you go through those motions, it quietly, subtly builds into something far more sinister, slowly dialling up the existential dread and challenging your assumptions in the most unsettling ways. To say too much would be to dull its most powerful statements, but SOMA is the kind of horror that creeps into your soul and clings on long after the credits roll.
It’s easy to glance at a game like Toukiden and write it off as “just a Monster Hunter clone”. But in doing so, you’d miss one of the most intriguing takes on the hunting RPG genre that Capcom’s iconic series popularised. As Nioh riffed on Dark Souls, Toukiden draws from the same well as Monster Hunter but carves its own niche, with a particular fascination with Japanese history. The captivating loop of gathering parts from slain foes and using that to grow ever more powerful holds strong, but combat takes on its own unique flavour as you fight folkloric demons and master a layered assortment of systems. Both Toukiden games on PlayStation Plus Deluxe are worth checking out, but with its intriguing narrative journey through different periods of Japan’s tumultuous history, Toukiden 2 is the particular standout.
It’s a rare treat to play something as unique and enchanting as Gravity Rush: an action adventure of sorts, but where everything revolves around your ability to manipulate gravity. Getting around mostly involves “flying”, but not as you normally would; rather, with gravitational pull at your fingertips, you can fall in any direction you choose. It’s an exhilarating way of getting around, and lends itself to a fresh spin on exploration, puzzle-solving, and combat. Gorgeous, atmospheric art direction, an engrossing story and some of Japan Studio’s most memorable characters round out a brilliant concept. You’ll find both Gravity Rush Remastered and Gravity Rush 2 on PlayStation Plus Deluxe, and both deserve your attention.
Once upon a time, Ape Escape was noteworthy for being the first game on PlayStation to require a DualShock, back when dual analog sticks were still catching on. That little detail is far from novel these days, yet Ape Escape’s legacy lives on: a vibrant, funny, inventive spin on the 3D platformer that sees you travelling through time to catch mischievous monkeys using a net and assorted other tools. It’s the sort of thing that could only have come out of that rather experimental period at the end of the first PlayStation’s life cycle, yet it holds up brilliantly to this day. The lack of any new Ape Escape in almost 20 years is still disappointing, but having the first game readily available once again (alongside Ape Escape 2, which got a PS4 release a few years ago and is also included in PS Plus Deluxe) is a great way to revisit—or experience for the first time—a particularly unique series.
The Caligula Effect: Overdose
If you want a JRPG that’s really willing to go places, you could do a lot worse than The Caligula Effect: Overdose. It takes influence from a lot of places—virtual idols, high school RPGs, psychology, theology—and combines them into a smart, thought-provoking reflection on humanity and morality. Where a lot of games turn to classic tales of good and evil, the central conflict in The Caligula Effect is whether it’s better to live a life of complete bliss at the cost of freedom or to live free even if that’s a painful existence, and most importantly, who gets to make that decision. It’s a game where the protagonists aren’t archetypal anti-heroes, but the righteousness of their quest is constantly in question. A strong sense of style and a deep (if a little convoluted) combat system that feels like directing tool-assisted fighting game combo videos don’t hurt, either.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
If “Reverie Under the Moonlight” makes you think of Castlevania, you’re not alone. The fourth game in the Momodora series (don’t worry, you don’t need to play the others first) wears its Symphony of the Night influence on its sleeve, as another metroidvanian delve into a gothic castle. But rather than a simple pastiche, Reverie Under the Moonlight is both a thoughtful reflection of Alucard’s iconic adventure and in the way it quietly subverts expectations and carves its own niche. It makes a strong case for a shorter-form metroidvania, too, but one that’s no less filled with stunning sights, intriguing labyrinths, nifty tools, and charming characters.
Minigolf videogames are a rather crowded field, but few have as much personality as Infinite Minigolf. The five different themes—from a Micro Machines-style play over and around the furniture of a giant home to a minigolf staple pirate theme—are a delight to visit and golf in, full of playful little details and exactly the kind of vibrant atmosphere that the putt putt courses create. With hundreds of courses, there’s plenty of golfing fun to be found, but the biggest draw here is an easy-to-use yet robust creation tool that lets you build and share courses with the world. Minigolf is always a good time, and Infinite Minigolf captures that wonderfully.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page
Games that traverse grief in creative, poignant ways aren’t exactly a rarity, especially in the indie sphere. Lost Words: Beyond the Page is a particularly evocative one, though: unfolding through the pages of an 8-year-old’s diary and the imaginary fantasy world she escapes to, it manages to tread a line between raw, unfiltered emotion and her colourful, playful imagination. Those threads start out separate, but gradually weaves together to potent, moving results, with clever use of words and doodles as pieces of the game helping to drive the point home. Lost Words will only ask a few hours of your time, but it’ll stick with you long after the credits roll.
No Heroes Allowed!
“Reverse dungeon crawler” is a fitting description of No Heroes Allowed!, a creative little strategy game from Acquire that first arrived on PSP in 2010. You play a god-like being summoned by an evil overlord to help with world domination… only, evil overlords tend to attract the attention of heroes, and this Badman (yes, that’s his name) isn’t particularly fond of directly handling conflict himself, so it’s up to you to hide him deep inside each dungeon, safe from those do-gooders. A combination of labyrinth-designing skills, tower defence, resource management, and light RPG touches (like levelling up the available monsters) are the key to protecting Badman, and No Heroes Allowed! gets surprisingly complex and deep in its strategic elements. That’s balanced out by an irreverent, Disgaea-like sense of humour and the eccentric charm of Badman himself. There’s nothing else quite like it.