Not long ago, Sony announced that it would revamp its PlayStation Plus Service and offer PlayStation fans something closer to an Xbox Game Pass alternative. While the service may not be ready to properly challenge Microsoft’s juggernaut subscription program quite yet, the revamped PlayStation Plus library is still filled with worthwhile games that include quite a few titles that don’t carry the weight they used to.
Recently, Sony gave PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 owners a taste of things to come by confirming the initial lineup of games coming to the reworked PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium plans. The article promises a sizable roster of beloved first-party titles such as Ghost of Tsushima, Bloodborne, and Horizon Zero Dawn, as well as notable third-party games like Dead Cells and Red Dead Redemption 2. PlayStation Plus will also deliver remastered classics like Tekken 2 and Borderlands: The Handsome Collection and streamed PlayStation 3 games such as Demon’s Souls.
While this is only a sample of things to come, that list includes quite a few games that modern audiences might not recognize. However, rest assured that many of those games are still worth playing. Here are some of the service’s most noteworthy diamonds in the rough.
While Metal Gear Solid was the PlayStation’s premier stealth action title, it wasn’t the console’s only offering in that genre. Syphon Filter is another spy thriller that offers a compelling story revolving around a bioterrorist threat, complete with plot twists and backstabs. The story feels pulled right out of a spy film in the best way possible.
Gameplay in Syphon Filter switches seamlessly between stealth, gunplay, and puzzle-solving. One minute players are sneaking through corridors, stealthily sniping enemies. The next moment, they are lighting opposing NPCs on fire with a taser. Each level offers a variety of locations and missions, some of which are drip-fed to players as they explore, but the game rarely tells players how to complete their objectives. It’s often up to you to figure out how to get from point A to point B.
You never know what you will find in the game, but the process of discovering its many twists and turns is consistently engaging.
The original Dual Analog and DualShock controllers were real game-changers for PlayStation, and Ape Escape was designed to demonstrate those peripherals’ potential. The game is a fun and comedy-filled puzzle title that tasks players with capturing a veritable army of chimps. The story is funny, but it isn’t half as engaging as the gameplay.
The various apes in Ape Escape essentially serve as collectibles, and the process of capturing each one functions like a puzzle. Players need to adopt different strategies in order to capture different enemies, and sometimes even reaching them is part of the challenge. Plus, the game features a science lab’s worth of gadgets that fit in with the overall aesthetic and also provide new means of level exploration.
At its core, Ape Escape is essentially a tech demo for the original dual analog stick controller, but that doesn’t take away from the game’s charm and fun factor.
I.Q. Intelligent Qube
When it comes to puzzle games, I.Q. Intelligent Qube is in a league of its own. The game is built around a deceivingly simple premise: destroy encroaching blocks. At first, players can only destroy one at a time, but once they demolish a green block, they can eradicate everything in a larger space. The more green blocks they destroy without activating the special ability, the larger the blast radius. The more blocks caught in that blast radius, the higher your score.
The beauty of I.Q. Intelligent Qube lies in the challenge. Players can destroy any block they wish, but if they target the wrong cube, they lose some footing. Destroy too many blocks and it’s game over. The game dares players to maximize their scores while avoiding the dangerous blocks. It’s an addictive loop that keeps gamers coming back for more.
While some action RPGs hook audiences with grand, gripping adventures, Rogue Galaxy does the same with sheer fun. The game stars a young man stranded on a desert planet yearning for adventure (sound familiar), but instead of roping him into a fight against a galaxy-spanning empire, he joins a crew of space pirates, complete with a spacefaring wooden galleon. Nobody knows how a wooden ship can survive the rigors of space, but nobody cares.
Rogue Galaxy shines thanks to a sense of planet-hopping adventure. Each location feels different and fulfills a different sci-fi trope, and battles are as fast-paced as they are flashy. The game doesn’t add any new mechanics or ideas to the action RPG genre, but it doesn’t need to since it is otherwise a polished experience. The only major problem with Rogue Galaxy is its lack of a sequel.
Different survival horror games try to scare gamers in different ways, and Siren tries several unique tactics at once. The game is a primarily stealth-oriented game that forces players to control different characters as they complete various missions in a foggy, dilapidated village. The game’s main hook is its “sightjacking” mechanic, which lets players see through an enemy’s eyes. This system is crucial for navigating through the town, as well as solving the game’s many puzzles. Plus, seeing an enemy staring at your hiding spot is just plain terrifying.
Siren also sets itself apart with a unique artstyle. Instead of relying on polygons and textures, each character’s face is created by superimposing a real actor’s face over the model, which gives everyone an uncanny appearance and adds to the game’s atmosphere and unsettling charm.
Admittedly, Siren isn’t beginner-friendly, but it is still worth your time. Well, at least it is if you’re not afraid of grotesque, near-human creatures. And strategy guides.
Shadow of the Colossus is a beloved PlayStation classic, but before that game burst onto the scene, its developers sharpened their skills with Ico. Like its spiritual sequel, Ico is a puzzle-based adventure that is all about isolation and immersion. Players are joined only by a mysterious NPC named Yorda who they must protect and work with to traverse the game’s world.
Ico breathes a tangible sense of realism. The in-game architecture is a wonder to behold (PS2-era graphics notwithstanding), and the atmospheric soundscape and music help draw players in. Ico is also full of countless other small touches, such as fully-realized fictional languages, that build on the world and make it feel more realistic without any exposition.
Ico is the rare puzzle game that emphasizes the design philosophy of “show, don’t tell.”
Plenty of video games feature an anime artstyle or adapt an existing anime into playable form, but Asura’s Wrath is one of the only games out there that feels like an anime come to life.
In Asura’s Wrath, players control the titular Asura as he goes on a one-man war against fellow demigods who betrayed him. The game is an adrenaline-fueled beat ‘em up full of escalating action, setpieces, and quicktime events. One of the first boss battles culminates in a fight against a planet-sized enemy’s thumb, and yet the game still somehow gets more bombastic from there.
Even though the action is at the heart of Asura’s Wrath, the game knows when to give audiences a breather and relax in a hot tub. As a result, Asura’s Wrath sports the pacing of an action-based anime. The game even features fake commercial stingers, just for the fun of it.
Asura’s Wrath is a pure spectacle in the best way possible.
Since Sony has only provided a small sample of the gamers players can expect from PlayStation Plus, this list is likewise only a taste of the hidden gems the service will offer. What games are you looking forward to? Which ones do you hope Sony adds later down the line? Let us know in the comments below.