PlayStation Now is kind of an odd duck in the world of cloud gaming. The service lets you either stream or download anything you’d like from a catalog of over 800 games, including many older titles along with the expected newer releases.
It’s a great way to inexpensively take a tour through the history and present of the entire PlayStation platform, and it’s absolutely worth the $10 monthly fee for the subscription (or $60 if you pay by the year).
That also means that creating a list of 15 games to try is a huge challenge, because there’s so much to go through, and they’re all so different. We tried to select a variety of games in a variety of genres to get you started right, to remind you of some games you might have forgotten, and to introduce you to some new games you might not have known much about.
That’s the joy of this kind of all-you-can-eat cloud gaming subscription service: Unlike with Stadia, you can play anything and everything without any additional fees, aside from the cost of the system itself and the subscription. It’s easy to browse and to give new games a shot. It’s a buffet, compared to Google’s approach of not requiring specific hardware but still charging on a per-game basis for most games.
Just be aware that most older (i.e., pre-PlayStation 4) games are playable only via streaming, since the PS4 isn’t backward-compatible with PlayStation, PlayStation 2, or PlayStation 3 games. (Some older games have been re-released on PS4.)
So let’s get started! Here are some great picks — available at the time of publish in the PlayStation Now library, which changes every month — if you’re frozen with indecision, looking at that huge list of games in front of you.
Prey is a game about identity, wrapped in the clothing of a first-person shooter.
Developed by Arkane Studios, the creators of Dishonored, Prey shares a similar heritage, even if the genes it expresses are different. Where Dishonored went back to the Thief series for inspiration, Prey takes its cues from the legendary development house Looking Glass’ other child — System Shock.
The result is a systems-driven adventure, one where levels are marginalized, supplanted instead by a believable, interconnected space station beset by an otherworldly force. When Prey seems the most at the whim of “modern” first-person game ideas, it struggles to make the best case for itself. But when Prey opens up enough to ask questions without easy answers, and to let you unravel its mysteries, it’s something much less common — and much more successful. —Arthur Gies
Bloodborne is frequently opaque, but the game’s bewildering design is appealing for a reason: It’s is the antitheses of the excessive tutorials and restrictive gating that are so commonplace in other games. When you do manage to decipher its lore and its cryptic rules, or manage to overcome some hard-fought challenge, it comes with the increased satisfaction that you’ve earned it. Longtime Souls players may blanch at its whittled-down customization options and highly focused scope. Newcomers will likely be shocked by its difficulty. But Bloodborne is some of the best work From Software’s ever done, a remarkable achievement and a shrewd turn from its Souls lineage. —Michael McWhertor
Critics and players have raved about Remedy Entertainment’s Control, a third-person action game unlike any other. Here at Polygon, we called it both an artistic and a technical achievement. While it’s available on modern consoles, the game looks and runs best on a high-end PC, especially if you have an Nvidia RTX video card to enable real-time ray tracing.
As Jesse Faden, players enter a brutalist skyscraper in New York City only to uncover a mystery that would make the writers of The X-Files blush. The gunplay is exceptional, matched by sound design and animation flourishes that earned six nominations and one trophy at The Game Awards in 2019. But what ties it all together is a wild sense of humor and a relentlessly unnerving story that rewards exploration and mastery in equal measure.
The game can be a bit intimidating, especially its skill trees and somewhat cumbersome map. Check out our detailed guides section to get started. —Charlie Hall
Arguably more fascinating than the impact Spelunky has had on game design is the mark it has made on the lives of its players. See, you don’t beat Spelunky, as its final boss isn’t really its final boss. Nor is its last stage the end of the game. Completing Spelunky is more like finally learning how to swim or ride a bike — you’ve completed the initial hurdle, but the real fun is how you apply your skill next.
Speedrunners have treated it like a gymnasium, concocting a variety of challenging obstacle courses, then accomplishing them at eye-melting speed. Modders have filled it with beloved characters and new stages. And streamers have mined it for secrets that I’m not entirely sure its creator ever expected people to find.
In 2013, game designer Douglas Wilson unpacked what he called the “most fascinating video game moment” of the year: the solo Eggplant run. “At its core,” wrote Wilson, “the solo Eggplant run is a thrilling story about how livestreaming is changing video games in radical and exciting ways; how the internet has finally triumphed over Spelunky’s creators, Derek Yu and Andy Hull; how mastery can lead to a beautiful kind of performance, showcasing the value of gaming as human culture. And it hinges on a mysterious eggplant.” —Chris Plante
Dead Cells is often going to be called a combination of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Dark Souls. That description is not as accurate as it may initially seem, especially since every round starts you off in the same place. If Dead Cells is a Metroidvania, it’s one that has been filtered through Spelunky.
[Note: Polygon originally reviewed the early access version of Dead Cells in May 2018. This review was written with the author having never played any of the early access releases, nor having read the original review.]
But it is a pastiche, and has few new ideas of its own. Which isn’t a criticism; new ideas are often overrated as a measure of new releases. What’s important is that Dead Cells steals good ideas from beloved games and executes them well, mixing well-worn concepts together in a way that feels familiar in tone and content, yet still provides the thrill of exploration and progress. Describing a game by listing other games or genres it resembles can sometimes be lazy, but in this case it feels appropriate. —Ben Kuchera
Dishonored 2 is a first-person stealth-ish game set in the Empire of the Isles, a Dickensian steampunk fiction full of wonders and nightmares alike, where technology and science are powered by oil harvested from a whale population being driven to extinction. Sitting next to a miraculous era of industrial revolution is a shadow world of dark, ritual magic and mysterious, godlike powers.
Amid this unstable collision of progress and the past sits the Empress of the Isles, Emily Kaldwin, daughter of the murdered Jessamine Kaldwin and the disgraced-then-redeemed Royal Protector, Corvo Attano. As whispers and rumors seek to undermine the throne, the empire is thrown into chaos as the Duke of the island of Serkonos and a powerful witch named Delilah stage a violent coup.
This all happens almost immediately, and at this point, Dishonored 2 gives you a choice — to play as Dishonored’s protagonist, the Royal Protector Corvo, or as his daughter, the Empress Emily. Once you make your call, things happen quickly, and your chosen character must escape Dunwall, unravel the conspiracy at hand, retake the throne and save their only remaining family. —Arthur Gies
In 1972, NASA scientists stuck a plaque on the Pioneer 10 space probe with information about human body structure, our sun’s relative location in the galaxy and a graphic depiction of hydrogen.
A crash course on human civilization for an alien race to discover. If NASA asked me today what they should send into deep space for a crash course on video games, I would suggest Journey.
Journey is a third-person adventure game. You command a red-robed being who wakes up in the middle of a desert, with no knowledge of how they got there. Buffeted by harsh winds on all sides, you have no choice but to push forward, up a massive sand dune. The summit reveals a sea of headstones scattered in the distance, leading toward a mountain with a powerful light shining from the top of it. Without a word uttered, your goal is clear.
That goal should be within reach to anyone who can hold a controller, courtesy of Journey’s design. Controls are limited to moving, jumping and shouting. Shouting emits a long or short pulse from your body, collecting energy needed to navigate the desert’s many obstacles. Control is explained with subtle diagrams at the beginning of Journey, so even controller-confused newcomers should have no trouble navigating its sandy expanses. —Russ Frushtick
Listen, I’m not saying Fantavision is very good, because it’s not. It’s a fireworks-themed puzzle game that was one of the few titles released alongside the PlayStation 2 when the system launched in 2000. It’s a bit of an oddity, remembered mostly for being one of the console’s more random launch titles. Now’s your chance to get some firsthand knowledge of what the game was actually like when people bring up that fireworks game from 20 years ago.
It’s PlayStation history! —Ben Kuchera
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Building upon its experience developing Chains of Olympus, Ready at Dawn managed to make a more expansive portable follow-up. While it featured tweaks to combat (including a new “fire meter” that allowed Kratos to multiply damage), God of War: Ghost of Sparta’s proudest achievement came from its narrative, which gripped players with an emotionally charged tale of Kratos’ search for his long-lost brother. This simpler, more intimate story managed to surprise at times, and resolved with some genuine character growth for Kratos. While the game was released after God of War 3’s hollow everything-and-the-kitchen-sink adventure, Ghost of Sparta showed that there was still an emotional depth worth exploring in the red-and-white Spartan. —Joseph Knoop
OlliOlli is unique in how doggedly it pursues a single idea; a single feeling that only a few games have ever managed to conjure up. With almost unparalleled focus, OlliOlli explores the concept of flow — the kind of combo-driven rhythm that, at times, can become a thing of trancelike, involuntary reflex.
It’s a lofty and pretty abstract idea; and one that’s not necessarily bound to skateboarding games, either. Combos can be subconscious routines across countless genres, from games like Killer Instinct to Guitar Hero — but OlliOlli tackles the subject head-on, with a comparatively limited scope.
OlliOlli achieves that laser-like focus with a control scheme that’s extremely limited, but no less difficult to master. As your skater hurtles downhill, you can execute tricks with the left stick, which can be rotated in any direction to perform different grabs or flips. By holding a trigger, you can augment those tricks with spins — though you can’t land a trick while you’re rotating. The left stick also latches you onto appropriate surfaces for grinds, and the cross button lets you land your stunts as you hit the ground. —Griffin McElroy
It’s a dark but beautiful adventure with plenty of puzzles, surprises, and grisly deaths that nonetheless always feels fresh and exciting, and also one of those games I feel that everyone should at least try. Limbo is likely one of gaming’s greatest haunted houses, and I envy anyone who gets to try it for the first time in 2020. —Ben Kuchera
Fighting games usually offer the simple objective of killing (or at least severely injuring) your opponent. In Nidhogg, the death of your foe is the beginning, kicking off an intense game of tug-of-war that more closely resembles the NFL than it does Street Fighter. It’s a remarkably inventive game that may not be very welcoming at first. But once embraced, Nidhogg reveals its creativity and depth.
To understand Nidhogg, you must wrap your head around its unusual rules. Each match starts with two players facing each other in a small, 2D arena, each armed with a fencing sword known as an épée. This standoff ends when one player kills the other, whether through an unblocked stab or by knocking their foe to the ground and ripping out their heart.
The killer is then on offense. A large arrow points in the direction of the killer’s endzone while the initial victim continually respawns in their way. If the opponent manages to score a kill, they go on offense and the arrow flips to the other direction. If someone’s able to reach their own endzone, they are declared the winner. Then a large sky worm eats them.
Seriously. —Russ Frushtick
The Last of Us
The Last of Us mines the same post-apocalyptic scenario as dozens of other games, but its approach is starkly its own. It paints a vision of a near-future that is cold, heartless and, in many cases, downright evil. It’s not a fun place to be, and likewise, the game isn’t really a fun thing to play.
Developer Naughty Dog’s commitment to this dark, depressing tone is alternately impressive and frustrating. The Last of Us actively fought any enjoyment I might have gained from it — from its oppressive world to its inconsistent mechanics. Being anything but fun might be the point, but The Last of Us doesn’t always make that point gracefully.
The Last of Us stars Joel, a grizzled, middle-aged survivor of a fungal plague which turns its victims into homicidal monsters. Joel is living out his life in a military-protected quarantine zone on the east coast. In the midst of a smuggling operation, he meets Ellie, a 14-year-old girl trying to make her way west for mysterious reasons. Circumstance brings them together, and they set off on a dangerous cross-country journey. —Phil Kollar
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
The New Colossus will show you amazing, surreal sights during its single-player campaign. That campaign is the game, for better or worse, and developer MachineGames wasn’t nervous about creating something that would make people talk. There is horrific violence, but there is also a Nazi soldier quizzing members of the Ku Klux Klan about their German lessons.
The Klan, you see, was pretty happy to work with the Nazis in the Southern states in this alternate history. As B.J.’s dad said, you can make a pretty good life for yourself if you play by their rules. So why not go along to get along? Inform on your neighbors. Give up family members. Make a good name for yourself.
It’s a white man’s world, after all. And it turns out that a lot of white men in America are happy to take it back, even if it means working with the Reich.
If its beginning is oppressive and brutal, Wolfenstein 2 often feels strangely unforgiving in its embrace of violence and joyous in its embrace of humanity — even if that humanity is forced to exist in the cracks of the new world order. —Ben Kuchera
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
We’ve often heard the idiom “they’re sharing a brain” applied to siblings who are exceptionally close, each seeming to know what the other is thinking or feeling without exchanging a word. But developer Starbreeze (of The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Darkness) asks a difficult question: What happens when that bond is tested?
Two unnamed siblings, referred to only as Little Brother and Big Brother, are united by a common quest: to find a cure for their father’s mysterious ailment. Thrust out of their village and into a gorgeous storybook-reality, their only weapons are their minds, and their only resource is each other.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it sounds like a cooperative game, but Brothers is actually something much more. The player controls both brothers simultaneously, each mapped to a thumbstick. As that makes pressing any face buttons impossible, every action from “grab the ledge above” to “play the harp” is performed with the triggers. —Justin McElroy