As we say hello to the PlayStation 4 this Friday, it is time to look back on the generation that was and remember all that the PlayStation 3 had to offer. From new franchises to timeless heroes, Sony’s platform gave us a window into a world of superheroes, far off locations, and futures that will (hopefully) never be.
10. Infamous 2
Sony’s push to establish first-party dominance saw a mixed bag of titles arise to prominence on the PlayStation 3. There was the mediocre efforts like the Killzone series, but there were also unanimous successes like Infamous. The original Infamous set a tone for a gritty setting, emotional decisions, and unique characters, something that was improved upon with the 2011 sequel. Motion capture allowed for more powerful performances, still mixed with the signature comic book cutscenes the original used so effectively. Infamous 2 tells a non-traditional superhero story and established a franchise that looks to continue strong into the PS4.
9. The Walking Dead
Games have never lacked a zombie presence, from Resident Evil to Dead Rising, zombies have been a staple of the medium. What was lacking in these undead games was any sort of decent narrative to compel the players forward. The Walking Dead was able to deliver a zombie tale that not only taxed players’ nerves, but also their hearts. With decisions that were not decisively right or wrong, players were forced to make tough choices that often led to even worse situations. The Walking Dead had numerous technical issues, but the title boasts the best writing in modern video games, bar none. This is a game that speaks to people from any background with any experience, which is part of what makes it special.
8. Batman Arkham City
Superhero games were hardly anything new when Rocksteady decided to make a game featuring the Caped Crusader. However, prior to the much beloved Arkham Asylum, superhero video games were more akin to greasy fast food promotional toys, rather than inventive interactive experiences. Arkham City continued to build off what Asylum had already accomplished, but on a larger scale. Leaping off rooftops, moving through the shadows, Arkham City captured the dark magic of Batman that many have but few ever accomplished. Even better, Rockstead gave that shadowy magic to the player.
7. Mass Effect 2
BioWare had been perfecting their sci-fiction/fantasy role playing games for decades, basing combat systems off of tabletop rules and writing some of the best other-worldly narrative to date. While the original Mass Effect was absent from the PlayStation library, EA’s purchase of BioWare ensured that Sony fans would get their share of the decision-making and relationship-building that made the Mass Effect games so unique. Mass Effect 2 was the best of series, taking Commander Shepard et al and turning them against the law, as a rogue force trying to save humanity. Scraping the annoying Mako from the original, and trading it for a series of enthralling side missions that fleshed out your crew, Mass Effect 2 was a game that begged to be played to completion. While you’re finishing the game, make sure you pick up the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, which was some of the best post-game content of the generation.
6. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
The technical prowess of the PlayStation 3 allowed for video games to dive head-first into the most cinematic experiences to date. While games have toyed with this formula, none have done it better than the Uncharted series, which gave rise to one of the PlayStation’s most beloved icons. Guiding Nathan Drake through his exotic adventures has provided some of the most memorable experiences this generation. Uncharted was not the first to have inventive platforming/puzzling or heart-stopping set-piece moments, but used this gameplay combination to rewrite what it meant to create cinematic games. The Uncharted series is some of the best blockbuster gaming you will find, and Nathan Drake is one of the best characters gaming has known.
An independent movement in the middle of this generation inspired developers to begin thinking in ways that they never had before. Journey stands as the pinnacle of this movement, creating a game that rested solely on the laurels of creativity, expression, and art. Not all games need to be as high concept as Journey, but in between bro-tastic first-person fist bumps, it is nice to have Journey making games for a different crowd. As Sony moves forward into the PS4 era, they have made an obvious attempt to cultivate a culture that inspires creators of all kinds. The beneficiaries of this movement owe a lot to thatgamecompany and to Journey.
4. Red Dead Redemption
While Grand Theft Auto stands as the money-making tentpole game for 2k Games and Rockstar, Red Dead Redemption was the true experience that blew everyone away. John Marston represents the best protagonist the Hauser brothers have ever been able to cook up, and his journey through a world trying to escape the expanding American government is an absolute treasure of Americana. Rockstar has often commented on the American dream and the culture surrounding its modern-day state, but Red Dead Redemption offered a refined and unassuming look at the subject.
3. The Last of Us
No one can argue the mastery of the Uncharted PS3 trilogy, but The Last of Us is the game that will define Naughty Dog’s future. Following the story of a father that has never forgiven the world for what it took from him and a spirited girl who is ready to save the world at any cost, The Last of Us is a work of fiction that stands apart. Tory Baker and Ashley Johnson deliver two of the best motion capture performance in all of games which lends a weight to the story, allowing investment in the characters. The Last of Us will linger in the back of your mind, and raise the hair on the back of your neck, long after you turn it off.
2. Fallout 3
Bethesda is famous for creating immersive first-person worlds that invite players to explore every nook and cranny. The finest of these adventures was their post-apocalyptic story of the Lone Wanderer. Escaping Vault 101, players journeyed through a wasteland filled dangers and treasures of a world gone-by. While The Elder Scrolls series has always felt inviting and warm, Fallout 3 felt colder, more cynical. Fallout 3’s world leaves a feeling in the pit of your stomach, with its charred world and ruined landscape, it is one of the most haunting experiences in video games.
1. Portal 2
It is rare that gameplay and narrative blend as wonderfully together as they do in Valve’s Portal 2. Not only does Portal 2 tell the unique story of robots left to tend shop after a catastrophe has removed their human masters, but it does so with such comedic nimbleness it is simply a marvel. Puzzling through the lowest levels of Aperture Science is a twisted, inventive grind that challenges players, rewarding them with jokes after each room is unlocked. Characters like GlaDos, Wheatley, and Chell have become iconic staples in video games culture, through they are non-traditional heroes. Portal 2 is not a game for puzzle gamers or hardcore gamers, it speaks to anyone and everyone with the same lovingly sarcastic tone.