After the massive success of the first two PlayStation consoles, the PS3 initially put Sony in a position it had never been before: second place. Launching in 2006 at a hefty $599 for the deluxe model thanks to then-unheard of features like a Blu-ray drive and built-in Wi-Fi simply made the console too expensive for the average gamer.
But in time, costs came down, the PS3 built up an impressive library and it’s now remembered just as fondly as its predecessors. In fact, there are so many great games for it that you might have missed some of these gems:
2014 | Black Tower and Aksys Games
Not really enjoyable in any traditional sense, Magus is one of those “so bad it’s good” games in the vein of Deadly Premonition or Goat Simulator. You play as a mage who can quickly mow down enemies while going through a series of levels straight out of a budget PS2 game. The challenge is pretty much nonexistent and gameplay boils down to pressing R2 several thousand times, yet because it’s not really frustrating, it’s also kind of cathartic.
But the real star here is the abysmal and unintentionally hilarious script. Characters speak generic fantasy lines. As Magus, you’re often given (meaningless) dialogue choices filled with profanity that would better fit a game like Grand Theft Auto. So much went wrong with this game, that it must be experienced if only to witness the disaster. Plus, the trophies are super easy to get.
2007 | Factor 5
Pro tip: having to send professional reviewers a guide explaining how to play your game is never a good sign, yet that’s exactly what Sony did when Lair released in 2007. The main issue stemmed from forcing gamers to play with the Sixaxis controller, requiring all sorts of odd contortions that didn’t really work in-game.
A year later, a patch allowing for a more traditional control scheme was finally released, but the damage to Lair’s reputation had already been done. That’s a real shame because, with decent controls, Lair is a fun little game about crushing your enemies with a giant, imposing dragon.
2010 | Zipper Interactive
It’s always interesting to see when developers are just on the verge of something special but it never quite clicks. MAG was Sony’s attempt at throwing as many players as possible into a map and seeing what happened, but it played more like Call of Duty or Battlefield‘s team-based match types than the battle royale games that now dominate the shooter landscape.
In MAG’s largest mode, the 256-player Acquisition, platoons essentially played one giant game of capture-the-flag. It was cool taking part in games of that size, but MAG never really found a way to carve out a niche in the crowded genre. Sticking too close to first-person shooter conventions and waning player interest led to the servers shutting down in just four years. But with a few tweaks to the gameplay, we might have seen the battle royale genre take off years earlier.
22. PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale
2012 | SuperBot Entertainment & Sony Santa Monica Studio
It took a while, but eventually, Sony amassed enough of its own franchises to make its own competitor to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series. Gameplay is largely the same as in Smash Bros. except the goal is to build up a super meter that immediately eliminates an opponent rather than knock them off of the stage.
That key difference in gameplay is either the game’s biggest draw or its biggest downside depending on how you feel about it. Still, with a sizable roster, including Nathan Drake from Uncharted, Kratos from God of War, and third party-characters like Isaac Clarke from Dead Space and a Big Daddy from BioShock, PlayStation All-Stars has all the potential in the world if Sony ever decides to develop a sequel.
21. Tokyo Jungle
2012 | Crispy’s
Rare is the game that seems to defy all genre classifications, but no one really knows what to call Tokyo Jungle. It’s been described as a survival game, an RPG, an homage to retro classics, and even Grand Theft Auto with animals. Whatever you want to call it, it’s worth tracking down for its ridiculous open-ended gameplay, setting animals from dogs to dinosaurs against each other on the streets of Tokyo after the mysterious disappearance of the human race.
While Tokyo Jungle was well-received in Europe and Japan, North America didn’t quite know what to make of it. It’s only available on the PlayStation Network here, so download a copy and experience this curiosity.
20. The Eye of Judgment
2007 | Sony
There was never a console game like The Eye of Judgment before its release, and there likely never will be another one like it. A decade later, it’s still hard to believe Sony ever gave it the green light.
At its core, a collectible card game, the selling point of The Eye of Judgment was that cards could be read and “come alive” by using the PlayStation Eye camera. It was sort of like Skylanders or Disney Infinity, but years ahead of its time, and with cards instead of toys. But as with most games that require peripherals, The Eye of Judgment never really found an audience outside of a hardcore fanbase that continues to play it to this day, albeit without online support.
19. The Saboteur
2009 | Pandemic Studios
The Saboteur is proof that any genre can innovate no matter how well-worn the basic concepts are. In the early 2000s, World War II games were a dime a dozen, while pretty much every idea was being shoehorned into open-world GTA clones. Pandemic took two very tired concepts and put them together to create a sometimes campy, but always entertaining story about an Irish racecar driver fighting Nazis in occupied France.
While the gameplay may not win any awards for originality, The Saboteur has style for days. The real highlight is watching as the areas you liberate slowly go from drab black and white to full color. It’s a cheap gimmick, but effective here.
2010 | PlatinumGames
Vanquish is one of the titles that helped establish PlatinumGames as one of the greatest action developers of the modern era. In many ways, a throwback to classic games with a fresh coat of paint, Vanquish features a ridiculous story with huge set pieces and nonstop action full of sliding boosts and slow-motion shooting.
The biggest downside of Vanquish is its length. It’s just a few hours long, and there aren’t a ton of reasons to go back once the credits roll, but even if you just play it once, the experience is unforgettable.
17. No More Heroes: Heroes’ Paradise
2011 | Grasshopper Manufacture
Suda51’s games, with their exaggerated characters and plots verging on the edge of insanity, aren’t for everyone, but the story of nerdy Travis Touchdown’s climb up the ranks of assassins after receiving an energy katana remains his most accessible.
No More Heroes was already one of the best games on the Wii and the PS3 port shines as well. The biggest draw is, of course, the improved HD graphics, making the world of Santa Destroy look better than ever. Controls no longer require the trademark Wii-mote waggle, unless you choose to use the PlayStation Move controllers. A few bosses from the Wii exclusive sequel have been thrown into the mix as well.
16. Yakuza 5
2015 | Sega
The final Yakuza game of the last generation is easily the best, featuring five cities, five main characters, and a ridiculous number of minigames in a recreation of Japan. Combat is a little rough, especially if you compare it to the recent PS4 sequels that have found more popularity in the West, but it’s still not enough to drag this game down.
The main issue with Yakuza 5 is that it requires familiarity with the previous games, so you might want to check those out first. But more Yakuza is never a bad thing.
15. Disgaea D2: A Bright Darkness
2013 | Nippon Ichi Software
Despite the confusing title, this is actually the fourth sequel to the beloved Disgaea: Hour of Darkness released a decade earlier. While those other games kept the same strategy RPG gameplay, they ditched the story of Laharl, prince of the underworld.
In terms of gameplay, Disgaea D2 isn’t a huge departure from the series. It just adds a few features, like the ability to ride monsters and a “cheat shop” to tweak stats more than ever, but catching up with Laharl and the rest of the cast from the first game easily puts it above the other sequels in the series.
14. Katamari Forever
2009 | Genki
OK, so Katamari Forever isn’t the most original game in the series (it only has three new levels) and its only big new feature, jumping with the Dualshock 3, is kind of wonky. Still, it’s more Katamari in beautiful high definition and that’s never a bad thing. The story is still King of all Cosmos insanity. You’re still rolling up as much stuff as you can. The soundtrack is still weird and amazing. There’s nothing to dislike here.
It’s also the only Katamari game on the PS3 unless you want to download the original from the PSN. If you want the ultimate Katamari experience, this is the way to go.
2007 | Game Republic
It’s hard to say why Folklore never really clicked with gamers. Development was led by Yoshiki Okamoto, a respected veteran of both Capcom and Konami. The story focused on aspects of Celtic mythology, rarely seen in games. The gameplay, exploring two different worlds with two very different characters, was expertly crafted.
But for whatever reason, gamers pretty much ignored Folklore. Sony considered a sequel but refused to officially greenlight it. Game Republic went on to develop the similarly underrated Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom but was forced to shut down soon after.
2010 | Cavia
Nier was originally maligned for its poor graphics and sometimes confusing gameplay, but it’s now praised for its esoteric storytelling and slow, somber soundtrack. The combination of multiple gameplay styles, from action and RPG to 2D platforming and shoot ‘em up, have aged quite well.
This is also one of the few games of the last generation to have a substantial difference between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. In Nier for PS3, you play as a teenage version of the protagonist, while he’s a middle-aged man in the Xbox 360 version. Other than that, the games play identically.
2013 | Sony Computer Entertainment
Puppeteer is a classic example of an underrated game released at the tail end of a console’s lifecycle. The gameplay is classic 2D platforming, but you play as a puppet who has his head cut off at the beginning of the game, so you go around collecting different heads (you can hold up to three at a time) to gain new abilities and make your way through stages, each of which is presented as a play.
It’s charming and original, but it was also released just two months before the PS4 arrived in stores. With its quirky gameplay, Puppeteer never stood a chance of getting mainstream attention, and even Sony seems to have completely forgotten about the title.
10. Motorstorm Apocalypse
2011 | Sony
The Motorstorm series served Sony well during the PS3 era, but Apocalypse might have changed the tried and true formula a bit too much. Apocalypse changed the setting from deserts and forests to a beautifully dilapidated urban area and added tons of new vehicles, including supercars and choppers.
Despite its impressive graphics and a simple but fun story mode, Apocalypse was true to its name and signaled the end of the franchise (so far at least). But it would be hard to complain about a new game in 4K or even a remaster.
9. Heavenly Sword
2007 | Ninja Theory
Heavenly Sword could have become an all-time classic but was held back by a few hiccups. The voice acting, featuring the inimitable Andy Serkis, is a high point and the combat is an absolute pleasure. Ten years on, the game still looks fantastic. But some annoying boss fights, poor puzzles, and a short runtime keep Heavenly Sword from being too fondly remembered.
While developer Ninja Theory went on to make the excellent Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and is now owned by Microsoft, Sony retains the rights to Heavenly Sword. At one point, a trilogy of games was planned, but that never came to fruition, and even if the series were to continue, it would probably be with a new developer at the helm.
8. Spec Ops: The Line
2012 | Yager Development
It’s almost impossible to make gamers happy. We complain about dumb shooters with cliche stories like Call of Duty, but that series continues to sell millions. Meanwhile, a smaller developer like Yager makes an intense shooter inspired by Joseph Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness that uses its gameplay to explore the morality of war and it’s ignored.
Admittedly, Spec Ops’ third-person shooting is derivative, but the storyline’s exploration of the trauma left behind by war makes it worth playing. This is the type of game that will likely always remain underrated and underplayed while those who track it down will be well rewarded with an emotional, unforgettable experience.
7. ModNation Racers
2010 | United Front Games
It’s actually kind of surprising that Nintendo hasn’t done more to explore customization in Mario Kart, but that was the idea behind ModNation Racers: insert players into a karting game and then let them customize their racers and tracks to their heart’s content. The racing was solid and there was a ton of online content before Sony pulled the plug on the servers. Unfortunately, ModNation Racers never seemed to find an audience.
Sony published a follow-up, LittleBigPlanet Karting, a couple years later that wasn’t quite as well received. Sadly, neither Sony nor Nintendo have explored the customizable karting concept any further since then.
6. Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut
2013 | Access Games
Depending on who you talk to, Deadly Premonition is one of the worst games ever made or one of the best. Even after playing it, it’s hard to say for sure. The storyline, starring an eccentric FBI agent who’s hunting a killer, is incredibly weird yet memorable but also features some truly terrible voice acting. The characters are great, though. Gameplay is a mix of poorly designed open-world exploration, but also decent survival horror action. Even if the graphics aren’t great, much of the imagery is very cool.
Deadly Premonition was made on a budget, and it shows, but it shouldn’t be written off due to low production values either. It’s so incredibly bizarre and wonderful and terrible all at once that it really needs to be experienced by every gamer at least once.
5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
2012 | 38 Studios
The story of Kingdoms of Amalur’s development is both inspiring and tragic. The game sprung from a studio started by MLB pitcher Curt Schilling that quickly attracted top talent and a $75 million loan from the state of Rhode Island. When Amalur, the developer’s first and only title, was released in February 2012, it debuted to strong reviews and comparisons to beloved RPG series like Mass Effect and The Elder Scrolls. Plans were in place for an MMO follow-up, but by May of 2012, 38 Studios had defaulted on its loan repayments and filed for bankruptcy.
Years later, it’s still not entirely clear why 38 Studios failed so spectacularly so suddenly, though much of the blame has been put on Schilling and his lack of business experience. While a sequel to Amalur long looked unlikely, THQ Nordic purchased the IP in September 2018, so a revival could be on the horizon.
4. 3D Dot Game Heroes
2010 | Silicon Studio
What if Nintendo never took The Legend of Zelda into 3D with the Ocarina of Time engine and instead kept building on the original 2D gameplay in new and interesting ways? That’s basically the idea behind 3D Dot Game Heroes. While the environments feature unique 3D voxel graphics, this is old school 2D Zelda through and through, right down to the massive sword your player-created character swings when at full health.
There’s never been a hint of a sequel to 3D Dot Game Heroes, but there doesn’t need to be either. The game is pretty much perfect as it is. It’s surprising that more games haven’t copied its style.
3. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
2010 | Ninja Theory
If Enslaved were to be released now, it would be hyped to hell and back based solely on its pedigree. Developed by Ninja Theory, written by Ex Machina director Alex Garland, and starring the supremely talented Andy Serkis, everything about the game screams quality. Nearly a decade on, it still holds up as an amazing game.
Set in a futuristic Earth taken over by machines after a great war, Enslaved features smooth combat and platforming, colorful graphics, and a Garland-esque twist ending on par with the rest of his work. If you haven’t played through Enslaved yet, now is definitely the time to track down a copy.
2. Dragon’s Crown
2013 | Vanillaware
Vanillaware has been cranking out some of the best 2D games on the market for almost two decades now, yet has received little attention for its efforts. Like most of the studio’s titles, Dragon’s Crown features beautiful hand-drawn artwork, this time set in a fully realized medieval fantasy world. This is a modernized take on Capcom’s old Dungeons & Dragons beat ‘em ups and Guardian Heroes, with six playable characters and fully customizable skill trees.
While all of Vanillaware’s games are excellent, Dragon’s Crown might be it’s very best. If you missed it on PS3 or Vita, it was recently released on PS4 as well, making it easier than ever to play this excellent title.
1. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
2015 | Nihon Falcom
The PS3 is home to many quality JRPGs, but in this case, the best was certainly saved for last. The Legend of Heroes series has been around since 1989, but it’s only recently started to get any buzz (and localizations) in the West. Trail of Cold Steel is actually the beginning of a new subseries combining the classroom settings of Persona with wider political intrigue.
Unfortunately, due to a lengthy localization process. Trail of Cold Steel didn’t make it overseas until the PS4 had already been out for two years, and the excellent sequel came out a year after that, so there’s a good chance you might not have heard of it before. The good news is that the first two games in the Cold Steel series are finally getting remastered for the PS4 in North America in early 2019. If those do well, two more sequels in the epic saga could come stateside as well.
Chris Freiberg is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.