The Essential PlayStation Network Game List
This week we return to the essential downloadable games of this generation, shining light on the newest titles that no gamer should miss.
Last year we outlined some of the best games across the life of the major console download services, with an eye towards including the important early games on the service as well as the latest and greatest hits. This week we're taking an updated look at each platform, adding in all the great titles that came out since last year. We'll start with PlayStation Network.
Launching almost two years after Microsoft rolled out its XBLA service, the PlayStation Network has had a lot of ground to cover in order catch up to its main rival. Thanks to developers like Jenova Chen and Hello Games, who have openly praised Sony's support for smaller studios, the company has earned the reputation of being an ally to independent developers interested in riskier and more artistic projects. Sony's lack of a maximum file size for DLGs helped bring some impressive titles to the platform in its infancy, and cemented the notion that developers face fewer restrictions on the PS3.
While the PSN library still might not be as robust as Xbox Live Arcade's, there are plenty of innovative and entertaining titles worth playing. If you checked out this list last year, jump to the last page to see what's new, and don't forget to share your favorites in the comments below. Come back tomorrow for the next group of downloadable games.
Super Stardust HD
Release Date: June 2007
One of the early PSN games, this twin stick shooter quickly became Sony's answer to Geometry Wars. However, Super Stardust HD's roots run considerably deeper than Bizarre Creations' shoot 'em up: The Stardust series started with its titular debut on the Amiga in 1993. This HD sequel wowed PS3 owners with 1080p graphics that ran at a rock steady 60 frames per second, regardless of the screen-filling chaos that could erupt at any second. Super Stardust HD featured several different gameplay modes and two-player local co-op, all at a more than affordable price tag, causing this under-promoted title to sell more than 25,000 copies in its first week of sale.
Developer: Backbone Entertainment
Release Date: October 2007 (Also on PC)
Developed solely by its designer Jonathon Mak, Everyday Shooter is one of the first titles that helped establish PlayStation Network as a platform for artistic indie games. Sony snagged the rights to publishing Everyday Shooter after seeing the game at the 2007 Independent Games Festival. Everyday Shooter took home the prize for Design Innovation, thanks to shooter-based levels that play out like interactive songs: Every enemy you destroy creates musical notes that harmonize with the instrumental background music. Each level has its own visual style to match that stage's song, creating wildly different gameplay experiences that shouldn't be missed.
Developer: Japan Studio
Release Date: May 2008
Another title that became popular with the art crowd, Echochrome is a puzzle game inspired by the optical illusions of M.C. Escher. Players must guide a wooden mannequin to its goal by shifting the camera perspective to manipulate the environment. For example, rotate the camera until a foreground object obstructs the view of a hole in ground, and the mannequin will pass over it as if the obstacle no longer exists. Echochrome's mind-bending gameplay is complemented by its stark white art style and classically-inspired soundtrack created by composer Hideki Sakamoto.
Developer: 8bit Games
Release Date: July 2008
If you're a fan of puzzle games that are as challenging as they are eccentric, Elefunk is right up your alley. The goal of Elefunk is to build bridges across a variety of gorges and chasms, and test their durability by having elephants stomp across them. Despite the light-hearted presentation, Elefunk has been criticized for its steep learning curve (not to mention its distinct lack of funk). However, if you enjoy the simple thrill of creating structures and watching them fall down, you'll be more than pleased with this charming puzzler.
Release: July 2008
Q-Games is a developer that has consistently delivered great downloadable games for PSN under its PixelJunk moniker. While its first two titles, PixelJunk Racer and PixelJunk Monsters, were solid offerings, PixelJunk Eden entranced players with its intriguing control scheme, arresting visuals, and addictive gameplay. The PixelJunk Eden Encore expansion packed gave gamers an equally compelling reason to return to the quirky platformer, with new levels and gameplay mechanics.
Developer: SCE Liverpool
Release Date: September 2008
Since the release of the original Wipeout in 1995, most racing game developers have completely changed their approach to the genre and never looked back. But the newest installment of the Wipeout series proves that there's still plenty of love for its old-school formula. This downloadable throwback marries the blistering arcade-style racing Wipeout is known for with colorful, high definition graphics. Wipeout HD offers over 80 challenges in the single-player mode, as well as eight-player online racing. The 2009 Fury expansion pack added even more tracks, vehicles, and game modes.
Developer: Q Entertainment
Release Date: December 2008
There's no shortage of block-dropping puzzle games on the market, but few of them are as entertaining as Lumines Supernova. Lumines combines an addictive color-matching puzzle mechanic with vibrant audio and visuals. The game's different skins not only change Lumine's graphics, background music, and sound effects, but the tempo the game is played at also changes, blurring the line between gameplay and presentation. This PSN-exclusive version of Lumines compiles the best features from all the previous incarnations (except online play), and adds a new gameplay mode into the mix.
Release Date: February 2009
More of an emotional experience than a game, Jenova Chen and Nicholas Clark's indie title Flower is one of the go-to examples that proponents invoke whenever the "are video games art" debate rears its ugly head. Players guide a flower petal through six dream levels by controlling the gentle breeze it's floating on. If that doesn't sound exciting to you, Flower probably isn't your game. If you're interested in trying an interactive experience unlike anything else you've ever played, check it out now.
Burn Zombie Burn
Release Date: March 2009 (Also on PC)
Forget art games: Sometimes you just want to turn your brain off and shoot stuff. Burn Zombie Burn is an action-packed shooter that has you gunning down, blowing up, and burning never-ending hordes of the undead. Lighting zombies on fire with your trusty torch increases your score multiplier, but also increases your enemies' speed and power, making the gameplay mechanic a dangerous temptation. Ultimately it's like Robotron, but with zombies – what's not to like?
Developer: Titan Studios
Release Date: July 2009
Capture The Flag has always been a popular game mode in video games – but what if the flag was a fairy tale princess with an insatiable appetite for cake? Fat Princess offers a unique take on the CTF genre (as the princess eats more cake, she becomes fatter and slower to carry), along with a boatload of charming humor. Fat Princess also features three other game types, 32-player online play, and five distinct character classes, making the gameplay as robust as the titular damsel.
Developer: Frozenbyte, Inc.
Release Date: October 2009 (Also on PC)
Trine is one of the prettiest downloadable titles we've seen, but thanks to its physics-based puzzles and platforming, it's also one of the smartest. Players control a trio of heroes – a wizard, a thief, and a warrior – each sporting unique abilities. Switching between these characters on the fly is integral to solving the game's clever puzzles, and an XP system that unlocks new skills keeps you engaged to the end. The upcoming sequel to Trine is slated to release in late summer, and will feature online co-op. Unlike the first game, Trine 2 will be released on XBLA as well, given 360 owners a chance to see what the fuss is about.
Developer: Q Games
Release Date: December 2009
Another hit from Q Games, PixelJunk Shooter breathes new life into the twin stick shooter genre with intelligent gameplay mechanics, impressive fluid physics, and the kind of artistic visuals the developer has become known for. Q Games also did a great job with PixelJunk Shooter's pacing, dolling out plenty of new abilities and gameplay twists along the adventure. Exploring the game's environments and seeing how the different materials in the world interact with each other is half the fun. The action – including a couple of exciting boss fights – isn't too shabby either.
Developer: Supermassive Games
Release Date: September 2010
This easily-overlooked downloadable game sports the simplest of concepts: Use a variety of differently shaped blocks to build towers and solve challenges. However, thanks to exceptionally accurate Move controls, Tumble remains one of the best examples of what the PlayStation 3's motion controller is capable of. Rotating and moving pieces in three dimensional space is effortless to the point that you'll forget you're using a controller to manipulate the digital building blocks, and the single-player and co-op challenges offer enough variety to keep the gameplay from getting stale.
Tales From Space:
About A Blob
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Release Date February 2011
Like the main power of the game's amorphous protagonist, About A Blob absorbs elements from a variety of classic games to create a unique blend of puzzle-solving, platforming, and combat. Smart level design showcases your alien blob's myriad abilities, which include sucking up objects and expelling them as deadly projectiles like Kirby, or absorbing them to snowball in size, like the junkball in Katamari. You'll also gain electricity and magnetism powers, which allow you to attract and repel to different surfaces, two mechanics that are brilliantly utilized in the game's cleverest puzzles and platforming sequences. The co-op mode is hit or miss, but for all its innovative mechanics and polished gameplay, About A Blob is easily worth the price of admission.
PixelJunk Shooter 2
Developer: Q Games
Release Date: March 2011
A sequel to Q Games' most popular title, PixelJunk Shooter 2 introduces more ship upgrades and a new multiplayer mode to the series' classic twin stick shooter gameplay. The first level takes place inside of the monster that swallowed you at the end of the first game, and each subsequent level does a much better job of changing up the gameplay and aesthetics than the original did. PixelJunk Shooter 2 isn't exactly revolutionary, but fans of the series won't be disappointed.
Developer: Recoil Games
Release Date: September 2011 (Also on PC)
This 2D platformer puts players in the boots of John Rochard, an astro-miner who stumbles on a mystery involving Native American myths. The plot is light-hearted, but physics-based puzzles will give your brain a workout. The puzzles ramp up in step with the upgraded abilities of your gravity gun, which will have you manipulating crates, enemies, and even you own body as you make your way through Rochard's humorous adventure.
Release Date: March 2012
Thatgamecompany is known for creating provocative, one-of-a-kind video games exclusively for the PlayStation 3. Its latest title, Journey, is no different. This dreamlike adventure pairs you with an anonymous player, giving the two of you very little in the way of communication. Despite this restriction, the game does a remarkable job of creating a bond between you and your new partner, as you make your way on an unforgettable adventure together.
Developer: Eyebrow Interactive
Release Date: March 2012 (Also on PC)
Closure won this year's grand prize at the Indie Game Challenge, and it's easy to see why. The black and white aesthetic sets it apart from other sidescrolling platformers, but it's more than just an artsy façade. Objects in Closure only exist when they're illuminated, giving players the ability to pass right through walls, obstacles, and even the ground when they are shrouded in darkness. This mechanic, along with Closure's challenging puzzles, provide a unique gameplay experience you won't find anywhere else.