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PlayStation Plus gave out $1,150 in free games in 2016. Were they any good?

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Looking back on the quantity, and the quality, of a key benefit to PlayStation subscribers.

PlayStation Plus Sony Interactive Entertainment

On Wednesday, PlayStation announced the last batch of free games to PlayStation Plus subscribers for December, bringing to 72 the number of titles it offered in 2016. Were they any good? What would they cost otherwise? In short, what do the numbers say about the value of this PlayStation Plus benefit?

We’ll try to answer that question this year as we have before. To that, however, we’ve added a few more questions: How old is the game? and Did Sony also publish it? Did these appear earlier on Xbox Live Games With Gold?

These questions may shed light on where these free games programs are headed are headed, particularly as the previous console generation ages.

What about Xbox Live Games With Gold?

That analysis is here.

Getting Started

In all, there were 72 games available for free to PlayStation Plus subscribers in 2016, with an average Metacritic score of 74.1 and a combined retail price (current price, through the PlayStation Store) of $1,150.79. This is $100 more than last year’s haul, but the Metacritic average is 1.5 points less than last year’s.

A few of these games launched on more than one PlayStation platform. For purposes of this analysis, we drew the Metacritic score from the lead platform.

medal of honor warfighter Danger Close Games/Electronic Arts

January

  • Dragon Age: Origins (PS3)
  • Grim Fandango Remastered (PS4, PS Vita)
  • Hardware: Rivals (PS4)
  • History: Legends of War: Patton (PS Vita)
  • Medal of Honor: Warfighter (PS3)
  • Nihilumbra (PS Vita)

Average Metacritic score: 70.2

Average age: 2.6 years

Total value: $114.94

Skinny: It’s rare when a title both drags down the overall Metacritic and inflates the overall price, but that’s Warfighter, helping PS Plus open 2016 with its worst month, critically.

Atlus

February

  • Grid Autosport (PS3)
  • Helldivers: Democracy Strikes Back Edition (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)
  • Lemmings Touch (PS Vita)
  • Nom Nom Galaxy (PS4)
  • Nova-111 (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)
  • Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (PS3)

Average Metacritic score: 74.3

Average age: 1.5 years

Total value: $124.94

Skinny: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the top draw, but if that isn’t your cup of tea, this is an eminently forgettable month.

Galak Z The Dimensional 17-Bit

March

  • Broforce (PS4)
  • Flame Over (PS Vita)
  • Galak-Z: The Dimensional (PS4)
  • Reality Fighters (PS Vita)
  • Super Stardust HD (PS3)
  • The Last Guy (PS3)

Average Metacritic score: 72.5

Average age: 3.8 years

Total value: $76.44

Skinny: Broforce and Galak-Z are great plays, but they’re also of a type — indie throwbacks to side-scrollers and run-n-gunners. The other four are nearly anonymous.

Ubisoft Montpellier/Ubisoft

April

  • A Virus Named Tom (PS Vita)
  • Dead Star (PS4)
  • I Am Alive (PS3)
  • Savage Moon (PS3)
  • Shutshimi (PS4, PS Vita)
  • Zombi (PS4)

Average Metacritic score: 74.8

Average age: 2.2 years

Total value: $64.95

Skinny: Dead Star isn’t available on PlayStation Store right now for some reason, so its price isn’t included in the final totals. Zombi marks the first appearance of a big-name third-party publisher since January. Four months in, PS Plus has set the tone that it will be even more of an indie boutique than it was in 2015.

tropico 5 Haemimont Games/Kalypso Media

May

  • Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 (PS3)
  • God of War: Ghost of Sparta (PS Vita, PSP)
  • LocoRoco Cocoreccho (PS3)
  • Switch Galaxy Ultra (PS4, PS Vita)
  • Table Top Racing (PS4)
  • Tropico 5 (PS4)

Average Metacritic score: 71.8

Average age: 3.8

Total value: $57.44

Skinny: Tropico 5 is an interesting choice, but without Sony reaching back for six- and eight-year-old games like BCR2 and God of War this would be the shakiest month of the year.

NBA 2K16 - Stephen Curry screencap 1280 Visual Concepts/2K Sports

June

  • Echochrome (PS3)
  • God of War: Chains of Olympus (PS Vita, PSP)
  • Gone Home: Console Edition (PS4)
  • Little Deviants (PS Vita)
  • NBA 2K16 (PS4)
  • Siren: Blood Curse (PS3)

Average Metacritic score: 79.8

Average age: 4.8 years

Total value: $118.44

Skinny: Again, any time you can get a full-featured licensed sports video game, that’s value, and 2K Sports made a smart move by rolling out NBA 2K16 during a memorable league playoffs. Sony went back to the God of War well again to keep the rest of the month from being a shrug.

gat out of hell review hero Volition/Deep Silver

July

  • Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood (PS3)
  • Fat Princess (PS3)
  • Furi (PS4)
  • Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines (PS Vita)
  • Prince of Persia: Revelations (PS Vita, PSP)
  • Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell (PS4)

Average Metacritic score: 73.7

Average age: 4.5 years

Total value: $104.94

Skinny: There’s still nothing in here that looks like a classic AAA October/November launch, which would be the cashew among seven months of party peanuts. There’s a Prince of Persia title but it’s for handhelds, and Call of Juarez is to Ubisoft what Kane & Lynch is for Square Enix.

Yakuza 5 Sega

August

  • Patapon 3 (PS Vita, PSP)
  • Rebel Galaxy (PS4)
  • Retro/Grade (PS3)
  • Tricky Towers (PS4)
  • Ultratron (PS4)
  • Yakuza 5 (PS3)

Average Metacritic score: 73.3

Average age: 3 years

Total value: $82.94

Skinny: Yakuza 5 is a good look. Barely any name recognition for the others beyond Patapon 3.

Journey thatgamecompany/Sony Computer Entertainment

September

  • Amnesia: Memories (PS Vita)
  • Badland: Game of the Year Edition (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)
  • Datura (PS3)
  • Journey (PS4, PS3)
  • Lords of the Fallen (PS4)
  • Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands (PS3)

Average Metacritic score: 73.3

Average age: 3 years

Total value: $82.94

Skinny: Journey is a must-play but, to be candid, very little about its experience on PS4 is different from its PS3 edition in 2012. Lords of the Fallen shows up here after going on Xbox Live Games with Gold in March. Again, Sony has a month of titles where players have to go to a Wikipedia page before they decide if they want to make the download or not.

Transformers: Devastation screenshots PlatinumGames/Activsion

October

  • Actual Sunlight (PS Vita)
  • Code: Realize—Guardian of Rebirth (PS Vita)
  • From Dust (PS3)
  • Mad Riders (PS3)
  • Resident Evil (PS4)
  • Transformers: Devastation (PS4)

Average Metacritic score: 78.7

Average age: 2.2 years

Total value: $129.94

Skinny: Transformers: Devastation is a fun fighter done in the style of the old Sunbow Entertainment cartoons of the 1980s. Paired with the Resident Evil remaster on PS4 this is the highest value month — in dollars — out of the year.

everybody's gone to the rapture preview The Chinese Room/Sony Computer Entertainment

November

  • Costume Quest 2 (PS3)
  • Dirt 3 (PS3)
  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture (PS4)
  • Letter Quest Remastered (PS4 PS Vita)
  • Pumped BMX+ (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)
  • The Deadly Tower of Monsters (PS4)

Average Metacritic score: 73.3

Average age: 1.5 years

Total value: $89.94

Skinny: Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture was an ambitious narrative that launched around the time everyone had gotten tired of “walking simulators.” Dirt 3 is another great racer from Codemasters, admittedly with niche appeal. Only with NBA 2K16 in June did we see anything close to a month where one title, much less two, pays for the now-$60 PlayStation Plus subscription.

Invisible, Inc. Klei Entertainment

December

  • Color Guardians (PS4, PS Vita)
  • Hyper Void (PS3)
  • Invisible, Inc. (PS4)
  • Stories: The Path of Destinies (PS4)
  • Tiny Troopers Joint Ops (PS4, PS3, PS Vita)
  • VVVVVV (PS Vita)

Average Metacritic score: 72.2

Average age: <1 year

Total value: $75.94

Skinny: And then we close out with this, two indie hits braced by four games no one has ever heard of.

Wrapping it up

The aggregate Metacritic score of PlayStation Plus’ free games offerings in 2016 is nearly two whole numbers lower than that of Games With Gold. It’s significant that no month broke 80 on average; last year, there were two (and Xbox Games With Gold had two this year). The closest PlayStation Plus came in 2016 was June, which leaned heavily on NBA 2K16’s sports-game-of-the-year excellence and an eight-year-old PSP title. The obligation to supply free games for the PlayStation Vita, now completely forsaken by its maker, helps drag down the overall Metacritic of PlayStation Plus’ free games.

Last year, PlayStation staked itself out as a showcase for indie games. That approach works if you have a breakout hit like Rocket League to offer. In 2016, however, there were simply too many months where even the recognizable names had a narrow appeal. There are multiple months here that can be completely skipped. With three platforms involved, that’s bad.

a 1984 print advertisement in which a video game fan is ashamed of the obscurity of his game collection. one friend is making for the door and saying “later, baby.” Image: Atari

By the Numbers

Average score: 74.1

Average price: $16.20

Published by Sony: 20 titles (Datura, Echochrome, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Fat Princess, God of War: Chains of Olympus, God of War: Ghost of Sparta, Hardware: Rivals, Helldivers: Democracy Strikes Back Edition, Journey, Lemmings Touch, Little Deviants, LocoRoco Cocoreccho!, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, Patapon 3, Reality Fighters, Savage Moon, Siren: Blood Curse, Super Stardust HD, The Last Guy.)

Appeared on Xbox Live Games With Gold earlier in 2015 or 2016: 3 titles (Costume Quest 2, Dirt 3, Lords of the Fallen)

Total value: $1,150.79

Platform Averages

PlayStation 3: 75.6 Metacritic average, 5.17 years old, $16.73.

PlayStation 4: 73.5 Metacritic average, <1 year old, $16.72.

PS Vita: 73.14, Metacritic average, 3.1 years old, $14.43.

Highest rated PS3 game: Dragon Age: Origins and Dirt 3 (87)

Highest rated PS4 game: Journey (92)

Highest rated PS Vita game: God of War: Chains of Olympus (91)

Highest price PS3 game: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and Yakuza 5 ($39.99)

Highest price PS4 game: NBA 2K16 ($39.99)

Highest price Vita game: History: Legends of War: Patton ($29.99)

Lowest rated PS3 game: Medal of Honor: Warfighter (55)

Lowest rated PS4 game: Table Top Racing (55)

Lowest rated PS Vita game: Reality Fighters (54)

Lowest price PS3 game: LocoRoco Cocoreccho! ($6.99)

Lowest price PS4 game: Table Top Racing ($5.99)

Lowest price PS Vita game: Actual Sunlight ($4.99)

dirt 3 screenshot Codemasters

Metacritic Ranges

90 and up: 2 titles

80 to 89: 18

70 to 79: 33

60 to 69: 10

59 and below: 7

Note: Metacritic had no score listed for two titles, A Virus Named Tom and History: Legends of War: Patton, both for PS Vita. Neither were included in any average score.

Price Ranges:

$25 and up: 7 titles

$20 to $24.99: 1

$15 to $19.99: 17

$10 to $14.99: 20

$5 to $9.99: 25

$4.99 and under: 1

Note: The PlayStation Store had no listing for Dead Star and therefore no price for it was included in the analysis.