The 15 Best PSN Games
We nominated, we debated, we yelled and argued. But after much deliberation, the GamePro staff has created the definitive list of downloadable PS3 games on the Sony Playstation Network. In this guide to the best of PSN, we discuss everything from addictive beat-em-ups to shooters to some absolutely fantastic platformers. This list will constantly evolve based on new releases, so be sure to check back for the latest updates as new games knock old favorites down the list.
15 | The Last Guy
If video games have taught us anything, it's that mankind's chances for survival in a monster-apocalypse are slim to none. Hilariously, The Last Guy lives and breathes on this idea, as you play the titular character, whose sole responsibility is to guide hundreds of survivors safety across large urban cities. As you collect more survivors, your group will invariably be harder to guide, and therein lies half the fun of the game.
None of this is a serious as it sounds, though. The Last Guy gives you the ultimate version of a "top-down" view, as the game looks like you're directing ants through Google Map versions of famous cities. This is how you'll eventually start to manage survival groups numbering in the hundreds, represented by a frantic, screaming mob that steadfastly follows your "Last Guy" in line formation. It's quirky, a great mix of "Snake" and "Lemmings," and even when you lose, it's downright hilarious to see your helpless mob of dependents get eaten by roaming 5-mile-long centipedes.
14 | Trash Panic
By now, you'd think that the Tetris formula has been improved on so many times that developers would stop trying to modify it. Luckily, that's not the case with Trash Panic -- a weird little game from Sony's Japanese branch that takes an everyday house chore and turns it into an addictive puzzler.
We've all had the same problem before: sometimes when taking out the trash, there's an oblong object taking up too much space at a weird angle. When that happens, we have to do an irritating amount of shuffling to find enough space for all the garbage at once. Strangely enough, Trash Panic took this idea and actually built a game around the concept.
Starting with an empty garbage tank, you sort trash into it from a conveyor belt, dropping in one piece at a time. Where Tetris has you lining blocks to clear space, Trash Panic tasks you with crushing certain breakable items with other objects -- like smashing an old guitar with a microwave. While it sounds simple, Trash Panic's gameplay throws enough curves at you that you'll feel the pressure to keep your garbage from overflowing. But unlike trash duties in real life, it's actually fun to go digging through these waste bins (especially when you start dropping matches onto the special, flammable items).
13 | Dead Nation
It's not hard to make a zombie-shooter video game. From amateur Flash-based browser games to random iPhone apps, the concept of giving players a wheelbarrow full of guns and letting them those on escalating waves of enemies is nothing new. But what sets Dead Nation apart from the pack is the atmosphere, polish, and refined gameplay. Although you're chopping away at an unending stream of enemies, doing it skillfully and efficiently working in your favor, and you'll rack up points as you get better at the game. To say the least, it's a bit addictive.
Not only are you constantly mowing down tons of undead, but the game also rewards your tenacity with gun upgrades, armor, money, and score multipliers. Even the multiplayer aspect of the game is better than it was at launch, as it currently supports voice chat. Knowing how to distract the zombies comes in handy, too, as they're "realistically" attracted to noise and bright lights. Setting traps, chokepoints, and strategic plans on the fly requires a good deal of thought, and coordinating with a buddy will require some solid co-op teamwork. Graphically, the game holds its own against the best PSN games in the network as well, with bloody dismemberments and great lighting effects complimenting the explosive gunplay.
12 | The PixelJunk series
It seems that PixelJunk games all follow a simple trinity: memorable artwork, entrancing music, and simple gameplay. We're cheating here by including three PixelJunk games in one spot, but we couldn't agree on which one was most worthy.
PixelJunk Eden is all about growth and gravity. Each level in this game is a literal garden, with stalks, leaves, and stems sprouting from odd angles all over the screen. All you control in these gardens is the "Grimp," a little avatar that can use a single line of webbing to swing, grip, and jump through each level. While you may be tempted to just mess with the physics, there is a task at hand. Within a time limit, you must collect a "Spectra" by influencing the growth of the garden, which can be done by gathering and releasing clumps of pollen into the air. Do this enough and plenty of seeds will sprout into plants that will allow your Grimp to reach its targets.
PixelJunk Eden's surprisingly challenging, and offers a lot for $10. You'll want to go back though gardens, trying to beat your best score and compete with the best of the leaderboards. Like its other PixelJunk brethren, there's also an "Encore" package of Eden available if you manage to blast through this masterpiece in record time.
PixelJunk Monsters - another quirky offering from developer Q-Games - is tower defense at its best. As the title indicates, the main goal involves protecting your home base from every type of monster the game can throw at you: bats, giants, spiders and whatnot. Thankfully, every level in the game is a fortress in the making, as you can turn the natural scenery itself into a weapon. Provided you have the resources, it's a simple matter of turning an ordinary tree into a cannon ball-launching defense tower with the press of a button.
Most of the meat in PixelJunk Monsters is found around the different types of defenses you can unlock, and there are quite a lot of them -- arrow turrets, fire-spewing towers, and even Tesla coil-style armaments. Customizing your ideal defensive formation is a satisfying experience to say the least, and it's got that trademark PixelJunk atmosphere to tie everything together. It may borrow from several other games just like it, but this one's got enough charm to stand above the best PSN games around.
And even if you've already played the original PixelJunk Monsters to death, there's the Encore expansion, which adds another 15 levels, as well as the "Deluxe" PSP version, which includes every single feature from the previous game, plus a little extra content exclusive to the handheld system.
A lot of shooters are content to just throw wave after wave of enemies at you until you die, so it's no surprise that the genre is overloaded with too many titles that look and play alike. It's an understatement to say that PixelJunk Shooter is not one of those games. In fact, it's so wildly inventive, it's more puzzle game than shooter.
Set in the far future where mankind has taken to the stars to collect living resources, PixelJunk Shooter kicks off with one heck of a crisis. On planet Apoxus Prime, a crew of scientists face imminent death from a combination of dangerous environments and pissed off natives. Luckily, the crew of the Ers Piñita Colada and their tiny scout ships are here to save the day. It's not just about shooting holes through the planet and rescuing the hapless scientists, either -- the real star of PixelJunk Shooter is the level design. Numerous areas can be uncovered with the right mix of elements: lava can melt a path through ice, water rushes everywhere to fill empty gaps, and black ooze can be magnetized out of harm's way.
Aside from deducing the best ways to save the scientists and protect your ship, PixelJunk Shooter also achieves the right mix of catchy music, animation, and addictive gameplay -- and the overall package is worth the price of admission.
11 | Siren: Blood Curse
Taking place in an abandoned Japanese village with a history of ritual human sacrifices, Siren: Blood Curse weaves a story around an American TV crew that's descended upon the place to shoot a documentary. Predictably, everything goes awry as living corpses start running amok through the village. The game has over 12 episodes packed with enough pulse-pounding gameplay to give Resident Evil a run for its money. But the real attraction here is the story, which is interwoven among a huge cast of characters, with each person's actions directly affecting someone else's chances of survival.
Siren: Blood Curse also has content available on a PlayStation Home Game Space for the diehard Japanese horror gamer, with unlockable rewards for players who compete in the available mini-game. At first look, $30 for a downloadable game might seem steep, but Siren: Blood Curse is a deep horror game that does its damnedest to scare you to death every step of the way.
10 | Zen Pinball
Pinball might not pack the groundbreaking experience you'll find in games like PixelJunk Eden or Braid, but Zen Pinball, however, is one of the best video game iterations of the classic game that's worth $10 for the downloadable content alone. For starters, you're unlikely to ever see a pinball machine modeled after Street Fighter II or Ninja Gaiden Sigma, and Zen Studios has the only title around that puts some effort into creating that feeling of lifelike pinball physics and borderline unrealistic special effects.
9 | Stacking
If you're a long-time follower of Schafer and co., you'll know what to expect from Stacking-- an extremely stylized and humorous game with a unique gameplay premise that might be a little rough around the edges. And that's exactly what you'll get with this new game of brain-benders.
The stylistic mixture of Russian matryoshka dolls with U.S. depression-era characters, music, settings, and cinematics is not something you'd expect to mesh together seamlessly, but the game is all the better for it. And the humor is the exact right mixture of Double Fine's subversive tone with a hint of adult themes. Put it this way -- if Costume Quest was a show like Phineas and Ferb or Spongebob, Stacking would be a show you'd find on Adult Swim. Both can be enjoyed by adults, but one is a bit more aesthetically geared towards older fans.
8 | Echochrome
If you've ever been confused by an M. C. Escher painting, Echochrome is a game that will really screw with your head. Echochrome presents very basic-looking puzzles with one goal: manipulate the angles of various three-dimensional platforms so that the in-game avatars can safely walk to a predetermined finish line. Seems simple enough, but then the rules start to get a little weird. If there's a gap on a particular walkway, you have to tilt the level so that gap "appears" to vanish. If two paths aren't connected, you can simulate the connection by simply angling the camera so that one path overlaps another. Really, it sounds complicated, but once you get into it the game becomes immensely addicting.
Over 56 levels are packed into Echochrome, each with an increasingly difficult tree of paths to navigate. But if you're some kind of genius, the game also gives you a canvas for creating your own levels. Want to try out the "disappearing gap" trick for yourself? Build a level, test it out on a friend and see if your take on perspectives can produce a brilliant puzzle.
7 | Everyday Shooter
Even if you're not a huge fan of shoot 'em up games, Everyday Shooter is probably one of the best PSN games around based on music alone. What differentiates it from shooters like Geometry Wars and Super Stardust HD are the levels, which look very much like the rainbow colored equalizers you can find in most MP3 player programs. As you progress though each "track," the music changes to introduce a new swarm of enemies and a new style of gameplay.
For example, in one track, you'll be listening to an angry metallic beat as enemies explode in bright reds and oranges, setting off large chains of points. In the next minute, the game's music can just as quickly shift gears, offering a slower paced level accompanied by a subtle, yet catchy guitar solo. Each track has a unique feel to it, but the fundamental gameplay is the same throughout. Come for the shooting, but stay for the music and graphics.
6 | Flower
As one of the most unique titles a gamer can find, Flower is something that defies classification. It's more of an experience than a clear-cut video game, and you "feel" it more than actually "play" it. In Flower, you control nature itself, while your motions with the Sixaxis conduct the ebb and flow of the wind. Through this action, you guide a single flower petal around a lifeless, grayscale world, bringing color and light to everything you touch. As you take that single petal and send it throughout a level, a path of bright, colorful greenery will sprout wherever you go, adding more petals to your strong, but small, wisp of wind.
More than anything else, Flower feels surprisingly natural. There isn't any tutorial or explanation needed, and you can pretty much just pick up the controller and explore levels at your leisure.
Flower should be recognized for breaking a lot of video games boundaries; in fact, it might seem odd that there isn't any way to "lose" or "die" in this game. Even if you happen to get stuck trying to find a path between sterile buildings and lonely stretches of abandoned scenery, a few shakes and turns of the controller is all it takes to renew motion and find new directions to grow. Everything from the graphics to the musical score is extremely well crafted, and despite being more artwork than a traditional video game, Flower more than warrants the distinction as one of the best PSN games available on the PlayStation 3.
5 | LIMBO
There are a lot of words I can use to describe PlayDead Studios’ LIMBO– genius, eerie, and haunting, for instance—but the more I think about this incredibly crafted game, the more I realize that all those words simply don’t do enough to describe the essence and feel of this Independent Games Festival standout. More than anything else, LIMBO struck me as being wonderfully macabre. It seems almost obsessed with the idea of death, not as a punishment for failure, but as a necessary and inevitable tool I needed to inch forward through each difficult task. In one weekend, I’ve seen the nameless child hero of the game electrocuted, dismembered, ripped to shreds, drowned, and beaten to death, which would almost be funny if it weren’t so unsettling.
It takes a powerful game to cling to your emotions long after you’ve turned the console off and gone about your day-to-day life, and in that respect, LIMBO is indeed mighty. As I played through the game this weekend, I eventually realized that the dark, dreary monochrome world in which LIMBO takes place was actually depressing me. The entire world of LIMBO, and the darkness, violence, and silence it contains, helped make LIMBO a downright chilling experience.
4 | Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Traditional fans of the Lara Croft series may be initially put off by her latest downloadable title, but don't let appearances deceive you, this version of the catacomb exploring heroine is one of her strongest yet. Instead of exploring a third-person, Uncharted-like world, the Guardian of Light takes place from an isometric perspective. You're still solving the same puzzles as always (move this block here, light that thing on fire over there), but this time you're doing it with a partner.
Online and local co-op ensures that you'll always have a tomb exploring buddy to explore the game with. And the puzzles are just as good single-player, since the game adjusts its difficulty (and puzzles) based on how many people are playing. Thing are a lot more arcadey in Guardian of Light as well -- not only is their a bigger focus on gunplay (you'll find an assortment of high-powered weaponry and tons of enemies to mow down), but the game tracks your score as well. It's a mash-up we wouldn't have thought would work, but this arcade-sytle action game is just as much fun as Lara Croft's previous best adventures.
3 | Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
This retro-inspired brawler is a spectacular love letter to beat-‘em-ups of generations long past. Based on Brian Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series of the same name, and released to coincide with Edgar Wright’s outstanding feature film adaptation, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World harkens back to the golden age of side-scrolling action games in all their pixelated splendor. Playing as eponymous slacker Scott Pilgrim, grumpy band-mate Kim Pine, “The Talent” Stephen Stills, or manic-pixie-dream-girlfriend Ramona Flowers, you’ll beat and bash legions of baddies native to the mystical lands of Toronto, Canada across seven varied levels. A must-download, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World also features a stellar soundtrack by 8-bit rock band Anamanaguchi, and some surprisingly in-depth RPG elements.
2 | Braid
While lots of conjecture has been made about the story behind Braid, it all boils down to a common plot often told in video games: you're a man against the world, trying to rescue a princess in a far away land.
However, Braid's special twist comes in the form of time manipulation. As you guide leading man "Tim" through world after world, you'll need to "rewind" time to solve puzzles embedded in every level. Sometimes, you'll need to correct an ill-timed jump off an enemy's head, and other times you'll die by falling into a trap. Luckily, even Tim's death can be fixed by simply turning back the clock a few crucial seconds, and the game quickly becomes more puzzle than platformer.
However, as you play through this wonderfully crafted game -- in several cases, literally turning back time to advance past various obstacles -- it eventually comes clear that the simple story isn't what it seems to be. Is Tim really the hero? What exactly is his relationship with the princess? And why can't Tim remember why he has to rescue her?
1 | Castle Crashers
Castle Crashers is wonderful not just because it's a great multiplayer game to play either on the couch with your friends or online, but because it does everything else pretty damn skillfully too. The basic premise is your standard beat-em-up formula -- a tried and true arcade style that's seen plenty of use over the years. The game deftly mixes in RPG elements (not only can you find stronger weapons, but your characters abilities grow the more you play as well), and you can use those beefed up characters to help you level up your friends as well.
Like a Looney Tunes cartoon, the graphics highlight random, scatalogical, and a little over-the-top violence, but the adorable drawings and helpful woodland creatures who assist your titular knights balance out the gore. And the music, an assortment of chiptunes and high-energy tracks, is good enough to listen to on its own.
Castle Crashers brings the beat-em-up into modern times with style, and if you like the work the developers did here, you should check out their first game, Alien Hominid, and be on the lookout for the upcoming BattleBlock Theatre.