We in the gaming community have faced more than a decade of whispers (and outright statements of "fact") about the death of the single-player game. This really took off with the launch of the Xbox 360, and the popularity of online multiplayer games like Halo 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The rise of award-winning indie single-players has done so much for the industry and to quell those angry pro-multiplayer fires.
Then the Video Game Awards gave the Game of the Year award to God of War in 2018. It’s too early to tell but, perhaps, this will encourage more developers to put their faith–and their resources–into single-player stories.
So, if you’re one of us who prefer our games to be single-player affairs that you can lose yourself in, and you have yourself a PS4, here are 10 unique games to get stuck into, all with something special to offer.
10 Yakuza 0
Oh Yakuza, we in the West discovered you far too late (although I myself discovered you whilst living in Tokyo). This series really came into popularity outside of Japan with the launch of Yakuza 0, and that’s okay because it’s the best one. Since its success, we’ve had a remake of the original (known as Kiwami), followed by a total engine upgrade, a finale to the series with Yakuza 6, and Kiwami 2.
Despite this sudden and wonderful Yakuza overload, 0 is still the best one. It gives us a real beginning to the series, a massive story cut into two origin stories: Kiryu and fan-favorite nutjob Majima, as well as a fantastic recreation of Osaka’s Sotenbori district, here referred to as Dotonbori. These games are campy, crazy, destructive fun that manages the impossible task of telling a moving tale with incredible dialogue, localization, and Japanese voice acting.
9 NieR: Automata
The smartest game on PS4 treads old philosophical ground covered by films like Bladerunner and novels like Flowers for Algernon but manages to use the unique interactive magic of video games to tell a story. Here’s a game with so much to offer, with an open-world that’s small enough to be manageable and big enough to be worth exploring.
Its post-apocalyptic story of robots vs. androids, hidden puppeteers, and questions about consciousness and an individual agency will ensure that you click start for a second time once the credits finish rolling. Oh, and that soundtrack. Wow, that soundtrack.
8 Alien Isolation
Isolation is in the name here and, like most of the best horror games, this one is single-player heaven (or Hell, I suppose). So much would be lost were this game to be played any other way.
Placing the player character on an abandoned space station with three distinct and scary enemy types, the game provides the player with one real goal: survive.
Using your wits, fight-or-flight instincts, and whatever you can find handy, you’ve got nobody but yourself. Can you get out alive? This game bleeds terror through its atmosphere, setting, and aesthetics, and it does not let up. Irresistible.
7 Dragon Quest XI
What a game! With this one, Square-Enix looked back at every success both Squaresoft and Enix ever had, took each of those games apart, looked at its best mechanics and attributes, removed them, and put all of these together to create one ultimate beast of a JRPG.
DQXI is the winning formula of the JRPG, with a cute cell-shaded aesthetic, art design by the legendary Akira Toriyama, a dynamic soundtrack, and a wondrous cast of eclectic characters who drive the plot forward with charm and grace.
The game’s combat mechanics are simple but engaging, playing on nostalgia just right; its story is one that will have '80s and '90s Japanophiles feeling right at home; it is by far the best JRPG of its generation.
6 Uncharted 4
The Uncharted series peaked with this 2016 beauty. To this day, a console game hasn’t come along to beat it in terms of graphical quality, animation, voice acting, and pacing.
Uncharted 4 is a 10-hour adrenaline rush of a game carved out just for you and nobody else. It exists as a perfect interactive linear experience for all of us who enjoy a tightly-crafted story with real agency and forward momentum. It doesn’t stop, and it is very much a lesson in how to craft a story with perfect pacing, keeping itself going without filler and without every burning out too soon. This game is also a testament to linearity. Developers, don’t be afraid of corridors and linear stories, please. Naughty Dog isn’t.
5 Persona 5
You know that feeling when you find a cast of characters in a book or a TV show that you want to journey with forever? The girls in A Place Further than the Universe or the crew of the Ketty Jay in Chris Wooding’s steampunk novel series (read it). You get the idea. Persona 5 is that feeling in one epic 100-hour, single-player gaming experience.
Telling the story of the Phantom Thieves, a gang of teenagers who right the wrongs of corrupt officials and powerful men by entering their hearts and fixing them, this JRPG is half dungeon-crawler, half life-simulator. If you ever wanted to live the life of a super-powered Japanese high school kid (of course you have, don’t lie), this game is the genie to grant your wish. Also, its jazzy soundtrack and pop-art style are fabulous.
A lesson in immersion, Insomniac pulled not a single punch with this game. Capturing the life and tone of both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, and ensuring that players have fun even in the game’s slower moments, this here is a love letter to Spider-Man, and a game that respects its players.
The greatest sin of modern open-world games is creating a big space to traverse and making traversal a chore. What is the point in that? Why patronize us, games industry? Well, Insomniac hasn’t. They know that the most fun a person with spider-powers could have is swinging around a concrete jungle. There’s a reason Peter Parker lives in New York, after all. Insomniac knows Spider-Man, and so their Spider-Man speaks to every aspect of his super-powered being.
3 Horizon: Zero Dawn
Another game that absolutely does open-world design right. Horizon is a very original and exciting take on the post-apocalyptic setting, with a female protagonist written so darn well and a setting that begs exploration and discovery. This game drip-feeds players enough quests, collectibles, and things to uncover that you’ll be telling yourself "Just five more minutes" over and over again until this 40+ hour game is over.
With voice acting from the always fabulous Ashly Burch and some really fantastic character, enemy, and world design, this game fails on not a single count. Craft is a word that comes to mind, with so much thought gone into how everything looks, feels, sounds, and functions together as a singular piece of interactive art.
The best of From Software’s Soulsborne franchise, Bloodborne is also a PS4 exclusive. This hard-as-nails game is impeccably designed to echo the aesthetics and style of gothic literature and Lovecraftian lore. Dress your voiceless protagonist in a top hat and tails, hand them a bloodied axe that extends into a scythe, and unleash them onto unsuspecting mad villagers, werewolves, monstrous crows, and giants.
This bleak world of tall towers, crumbling bridges, cobbled streets, and dead forests is a scary place to be, and yet one you won’t ever want to leave. Survival is tough but the game begs you to see it through, with enigmatic villains and a world unlike any other.
1 God Of War
The game that, as mentioned at the start of this article, took home the 2018 award for Game of the Year is an absolute victory for the world of AAA single-player experiences. Reinventing a franchise that was showing its age, reigniting a tired character, placing him in a new setting with a new weapon and a new sidekick, Sony Santa Monica made some bold moves and every single one of them paid off.
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This game does not miss a beat as it provides combat that has layers upon layers. The over-the-shoulder view keeps you close to the action and the spectacle, and the one single unbroken shot means that you won’t want to break the pace and try to get through this epic game in one epic sitting. There likely won’t be another single-player experience of this caliber this generation. Don’t you dare miss out!