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Welcome to our first update to cafe-madrid’s best games list for PlayStation 5. As always, we have looked for games that generally offer meaningful improvements over their last-gen counterparts when played on PS5, or are exclusive to the system. Our 2022 update sees two third-party titles – Deathloop and Final Fantasy VII Remake – join the overwhelmingly Sony fray. We’ll be updating this periodically, so, if a game’s just been released and you don’t see it, chances are that the reason for its absence is that we haven’t played through it yet. Either that or we hate it.
It’s odd to start a best games list with a title that comes free with the console, but if you’re anything like my son, who swiftly deleted Astro’s Playroom to make space for various Call of Duty titles, I’m here to tell you to give the pack-in title another shot. Astro’s Playroom is a love letter to both 3D platformers and the PlayStation itself. It’s also, to date, the title that makes the best use of Sony’s DualSense controller, with incredible haptic feedback and clever usage of the pad’s adaptive triggers. (Although, eight years on, I’m still not convinced anyone has found a compelling reason for that touch pad.) It’s a game that even completionists can finish within six hours or so, but those six hours were among the most fun I’ve had with the PS5 so far.
Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade
We thought it would never happen. Final Fantasy VII was an iconic JRPG that’s credited with opening up the genre to the west. It peppered the Top 10 lists of the best games of all-time and introduced the long-running Japanese RPG series to polygons, 3D maps, and countless other innovations of 32-bit consoles. 23 years later, and three PlayStation iterations later, Square Enix dared to remake, not remaster, the game. It would be, contentiously, episodic, expanding out the story of Midgar and the opening part of the game into a single game.
It’s all very different. It’s also gorgeous, with a modern battle system that no longer focuses on static characters and menu choices. Somehow, and we were ready to be underwhelmed, the battle system works. FF7R’s fights are slicker and more enjoyable than those in Final Fantasy XV, the latest entry in the series. Each character, from iconic mercenary Cloud through to eco-terrorist Barret and flower girl Aerith, play in entirely different ways, using the space between themselves and enemies in very different ways. Some sub-missions and distractions feel like they’re there solely to eke some more hours out of your playthrough, but the world of the original has been thoughtfully reimagined, so it’s a minor complaint.
For anyone that bought the PS4 iteration, the upgrade to PS5 is free. However, it costs money to gain access to the PS5-exclusive DLC chapter featuring ninja Yuffie. Offering another battle style to experiment with and master, two new extra chapters run alongside the events of the first installment of this remake. Moments of the game feel like they were built to tease how capable the newest PlayStation is, with Yuffie zipping down poles through vertiginous levels, wall-running and mixing up long-range and short-range attacks in a completely different way to Cloud, Aerith and the rest. It suffers a little from trying to tie in FF7 lore from old spin-off titles, but it’s a satisfying distraction as we wait for the second part – Final Fantasy VII Rebirth – to arrive in 2023.
Bluepoint’s Demon’s Souls remake won’t be for everyone — no Souls game is. The original Demon’s Souls was a sleeper hit in 2009 on the PS3, establishing the basic formula that would later be cemented with Dark Souls, and then aped by an entire industry to the point where we now essentially have a “Soulslike” genre. Today, that means challenging difficulty, grinding enemies for souls to level up, the retrieval of your corpse to collect said souls, a labyrinthine map to explore and, if you’re doing Soulslike right, some show-stopping boss fights to contend with. As a progenitor to the genre, Demon’s Souls has most of those in abundance. But rather than a huge sprawling map, it uses a portal system, with mini labyrinths to work through. Its bosses are also not quite on the level of impressiveness or difficulty of a more modern Dark Souls game.
Bluepoint has been faithful to the original, then, but graphically Demon’s Souls is a true showcase of what the PS5 can do, with gorgeous high-resolution visuals, smooth frame rates and swift loading. While the graphics certainly catch your eye, it’s the smoothness and loading times that are the most impactful. The original ran at 720p, and… depending on what you were doing 25 to 30 fps, while the remake lets you pick between a locked 30 or 60 fps at 4K or 1440p. And in a game that will likely kill you hundreds of times, waiting two seconds to respawn instead of thirty is transformative.
God of War
Sony’s God of War series had laid dormant for half a decade when its latest incarnation hit stores in early 2018, and for good reason. Antiquated gameplay and troubling themes had made it an ill-fit for the modern gaming landscape. No more. SIE Santa Monica Studio’s God of War manages to successfully reboot the series while turning the previous games’ narrative weaknesses into its strengths. Kratos is now a dad, the camera is now essentially strapped to his shoulder and Sony has what is sure to become a new series on its hands.
The first outright PS4 game on this collection, God of War has at least been patched for better performance on PS5, allowing it to output at 4K/60. For those subscribed to PS Plus, this one’s available for free as part of the PlayStation Plus Collection on PS5.
Ghost of Tsushima: The Director’s Cut
This tale of samurai vengeance is like Japanese cinema come to life. There are multiple betrayals, the sad deaths of several close allies, tense sword fights, villages and castles under siege, and even a ‘Kurosawa mode’ black-and-white filter you employ for the entire game. The world of feudal Japan, with some creative liberties, is gorgeous, with fields of grass and bullrushes to race through on your faithful steed, temple ‘puzzles’ to navigate around and fortresses to assess and attack.
As you make your way through the main story quest, and more than enough side quests and challenges, you unlock more powerful sword techniques and stances, as well as new weapons and forbidden techniques that are neatly woven in the story of a samurai pushed to the edge. It still suffers from one too many fetch quests, artifacts scattered across Japan’s prefectures, but the sheer beauty of Ghost of Tsushima tricks you into believing this is the greatest open-world game on PlayStation. Don’t get me wrong — it’s up there.
With the new Director’s Cut edition on the PS5, you also get dynamic frame-rates up to 60 FPS, ensuring the game looks and feels even more like a tribute to Japanese cinematic auteurs of the past. There are also DualSense tricks, like a bow that tangibly tightens as you pull on trigger buttons, and subtle rumble as you ride across the lands of Tsushima, Director’s Cut adds a new, surprisingly compelling DLC chapter. As you explore the Iki isle, the game adds a few more tricks to Jin’s arsenal, and deepens the relationship and history between the game’s hero and his father.
Without spoiling what happens, the game smartly threads the original story into the DLC, ensuring it feels solidly connected to the main game, despite DLC status.
Deathloop, from the studio that brought you the Dishonored series, is easy enough to explain: You’re trapped in a day that repeats itself. If you die, then you go back to the morning, to repeat the day again. If you last until the end of the day, you still repeat it again. Colt must “break the loop” by efficiently murdering seven main characters, who are inconveniently are never in the same place at the same time. It’s also stylish, accessible and fun.
While you try to figure out your escape from this time anomaly, you’ll also be hunted down by Julianna, another island resident who, like you, is able to remember everything that happens in each loop. She’ll also lock you out of escaping an area, and generally interfere with your plans to escape the time loop. (The online multiplayer is also addictive, flipping the roles around. You play as Julianna, hunting down Colt and foiling his plans for murder. )
As you play through the areas again (and again) you’ll equip yourself with slabs that add supernatural powers, as well as more potent weapons and trinkets to embed into both guns and yourself. It’s through this that you’re able to customize your playstyle or equip yourself in the best way to survive Julianna and nail that assassination. Each time period and area rewards repeat exploration, with secret guns, hidden conversations with NPCs and lots of world-building lore to discover for yourself.
Marvel’s Spider-Man Ultimate Edition
Finally, you don’t have to pick up Spider-Man 2 on the GameCube to get your web-slinging fix anymore. For almost 15 years, that game was held as the gold standard for a Spider-Man game, and I’ll let you into a secret: It wasn’t actually that good. Marvel’s Spider-Man, on the other hand, is a tour de force. Featuring the best representation of what it’s like to swing through New York City, well, ever, Insomniac’s PlayStation exclusive also borrows liberally from the Batman: Arkham series’ combat and throws in a story that, although it takes a while to get going, ends up in a jaw-dropping place.
With the launch of the PS5, Insomniac released a Miles Morales spin-off game, which follows the eponymous character as he attempts to protect NYC in Peter Parker’s absence. Both parts are available packaged together as Spider-Man Ultimate Edition— it has a longer name than that but let’s not — and benefit from improved framerates, resolution and ray tracing (although not necessarily all at the same time!) With the full graphical package enabled, you’ll be playing at 30 frames per second in 4K, or you can pick between a pair of performance options: 4K/60 with no ray tracing, or 1080p/60 with ray-tracing. Whatever mode you pick, you’ll benefit from loading times that finally make the game’s fast travel system… fast.
Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village is delightful. It’s a gothic fairy tale masquerading as a survival-horror game, and while this represents a fresh vibe for the franchise, it’s not an unwelcome evolution. The characters and enemies in Village are full of life — even when they’re decidedly undead — and Capcom has put a delicious twist on the idea of vampires, werewolves, sea creatures, giants and creepy dolls. The game retains its horror, puzzle and action roots, and it has Umbrella Corporation’s fingerprints all over it. On PS5, the game is gorgeous and it plays nicely with the DualSense controller, adding haptic feedback to weapons and terrifying situations alike. It simply feels like developers had fun with this one, and so will you.
Returnal is a third-person action game, a roguelite, a bullet-hell shooter and very hard, perhaps not in that order. The setup is basically that you’re stuck in a death loop, but you’re aware of it, and must learn the patterns and weaknesses of enemies — and master your own — in order to progress. As Devindra Hardwar explains, it leans heavily on the dark sci-fi of Alien, Edge of Tomorrow and Event Horizon but makes something new and unique in the process.
It’s made by the team behind Resogun, Nex Machina and Super Stardust HD, and you can tell, for better or worse. As you’d expect from a team that’s spent the past decades making shooters, the movement, gunplay and enemy attack patterns are incredibly well tuned. But on the flipside, from a studio used to smaller productions, the complexity and ambition of Returnal leads to a lack of polish that some may find unacceptable in a $70 game. If you can look past that, there’s a hell of a game waiting for you here.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice isn’t just another Dark Souls game. FromSoftware’s samurai adventure is a departure from that well-established formula, replacing slow, weighty combat and gothic despair for stealth, grappling hooks and swift swordplay. Oh, and while it’s still a difficult game, it’s a lot more accessible than Souls games — you can even pause it! The result of all these changes is something that’s still instantly recognizable as a FromSoftware title, but it’s its own thing, and it’s very good. While the game has yet to receive a proper PS5 upgrade, the extra grunt of Sony’s next-gen console does allow the game to finally run at a locked 60fps — something the PS4 Pro couldn’t handle.