Gameplay may be the defining characteristic of a great game but it’s the story that keeps you coming back for more. Storytelling in gaming can be as subtle as a few tidbits in the item descriptions or as macro as button blasting QTEs during life or death struggles.
Every flavor has its charm though, and with that in mind we’ve compiled this list of the best PS4 story games. The ranking includes everything from small scale indies to the biggest and best of the AAA sphere, from walking simulators to open world action games.
Note: remakes and remasters have been omitted from this list, as have games from previous generations that have since been ported over.
The Best PS4 Story Games
Developer: Giant Squid Publisher: 505 Games
While ABZU might be sparse on storytelling, there’s something about the game’s particular brand of underseas exploration and gradually unfolding narrative path that makes it feel especially memorable, even with its short run time.
With strong influence from Journey’s art director, Matt Nava, ABZU also looks incredible. One hell of a compelling adventure, ABZU is often called “Journey but underwater”. Though that’s a bit simplistic if that synopsis even inspires a jot of your fancy, this one is well worth your time.
Scarecrow and the titular Arkham Knight fill in well enough for the Joker as key villains, while the stakes of the adventure have never been higher. Better still, side characters and outlier villains get more focus than ever since Mr. J isn’t there to steal the limelight.
Finally, the jaw-dropping finale still resonates strongly all these years later, leaving fans with a great desire to see a return to this version of the Batman mythos. Whether Rocksteady will oblige us remains to be seen.
23. Burly Men at Sea
Developer: Brain&Brain Publisher: Brain&Brain
And now for something completely different. Burly Men at Sea is a game positively brimming with character and personality. Though the game may be more about watching stories unfold than participating in them, the folk tale style of storytelling and the unique storybook style presentation are nothing if not compelling.
Further, each of the game’s many branching narratives can be satisfyingly completed in just 20-30 minutes, meaning this charmingly simple journey will fill up your trophies without taking much of a toll on your backlog.
22. Detroit: Become Human
Developer: Quantic Dream Publisher: SIE
David Cage’s fifth game is his strongest by a long shot. Set in a near future where androids have become commonplace, Detroit: Become Human examines the ways society has been altered in this new world.
Following three androids across a variety of dynamics, Detroit socially and morally allows players to become truly immersed in this future, and asks us whether we can empathize with robots or AI in a society where we have used them to make our lives easier.
Though some of the references to race are a little tone deaf, overall Detroit: Become Human asks some compelling questions about our possible future, while making us consider our world in a different light as well.
21. Resident Evil VII
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom
The Resident Evil series has been home to some of the campiest and corniest storytelling this side of a Jill sandwich for the vast majority of its franchise run. That’s why Resident Evil VII was such a nice surprise.
With a newly serious tone of not just terror, but outright despair of a disturbing nature, Resident Evil VII introduces us to a relatable new protagonist in Ethan Winters, new antagonists in the sinister Baker clan, and a whole new narrative flavor for the series.
With shades of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Devil’s Rejects, The Thing and other horror greats mixed in with its standard zombie mythos, Resident Evil VII is the most compelled fans have ever been by a story in this long running series.
20. Kingdom Hearts III
Developer: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix
While many gamers have lobbed complaints at the downright perplexing narrative of the Kingdom Hearts series, it’s hard to not be impressed by the final game of the original saga, Kingdom Hearts III.
Paying off 10 full games of plot in a single installment is no mean feat, especially when there are as many boxes to check as there are in this particular series. Still, somehow Square Enix managed to put an incredibly satisfying cap on this series with Kingdom Hearts III.
With alternate dimensions, multiple versions of the same character, and a story that crisscrosses dozens of franchises, Kingdom Hearts ought not to work at all but KHIII shows us that the mother of all crossovers can still pull off a grand slam even after nearly 20 years.
19. Life is Strange 2
Developer: DONTNOD Publisher: Square Enix
Life is Strange 2 had a serious pedigree to match after the first game emerged as a surprise cult hit back in 2015. Luckily, the sequel matches, and even doubles up on, much of the social reverence of the original.
Following the Diaz brothers as they attempt a cross country odyssey to the Mexican border, Life is Strange 2 sees you, as Sean, attempting to guide and teach your younger brother about the world as his sole caregiver.
With strong political allegories and a story that couldn’t be more culturally relevant to our times, Life is Strange 2 pulls you directly into the struggles of disenfranchised groups of people, albeit with a strong supernatural bent.
18. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Developer: Ninja Theory Publisher: Ninja Theory
The notion of exploring mental illness from a point of view where the term had yet to be invented is an intriguing one, and it’s the goal Ninja Theory set for themselves with the compelling Norse adventure, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
Afflicted with schizophrenia, Senua is seen as a seer by some and an accursed witch by others. Her own trauma only causes her more trouble as she seeks to mount a journey to Hel in hopes of finding redemption and purpose.
With an immersive audio and visual experience that really puts you in Senua’s fractured psyche, Hellblade is one of the most fascinating and troubling looks at mental illness to ever be constructed in the gaming world.
Developer: The Game Bakers Publisher: The Game Bakers
Furi, from The Game Bakers, is one of the most viscerally thrilling and challenging genre mash-ups in gaming history, and it’s also home to a surprisingly compelling narrative.
As the imprisoned Stranger, you must journey across a massive galactic prison and battle the wardens along the way, each there with the express purpose of never letting you escape.
As the reasons for your imprisonment gradually unfold, and the wardens themselves reveal their purposes for volunteering to do such a thankless job, Furi takes on compelling shades of grey, asking us if we’re more than our purpose.
16. Final Fantasy XV
Developer: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix
After almost a decade in development, Final Fantasy XV emerged from the Square Enix collective as something of a mixed bag. The new battle system, vast open world, and all male cast each split the fanbase in a different way.
Still, the plot, which sees Prince Noctis attempting to grow into the purpose for which he is predestined, that of savior and king to his people, is one of the best yarns to ever be woven in this long-running series.
With strong writing, a close-knit cast, and stakes that rise with increasing fervor over the course of the adventure, Final Fantasy XV turned out the best story the franchise had seen in years.
15. The Walking Dead: The Final Season
Developer: Telltale Games/Still Not Bitten Publisher: Telltale Games/Skybound
Telltale’s The Walking Dead series was one of the great surprises of the gaming world back in 2012. Giving us compelling characters and stories that match the quality of the comic series that inspired it, The Walking Dead emerged as one of the strongest narrative experiences in gaming over the course of its five seasons.
The ultimate culmination of this long running tale, The Walking Dead: The Final Season, sees Clementine, in her late teenage years, taking on the role of caregiver and guide to her young charge A.J. in an increasingly fractured and troubling world.
With a unique new setting, surprise returns from past series characters, and some of the toughest moral questions of the franchise, The Walking Dead: The Final Season is a fantastic send-off for the series and its protagonist.
Developer: Supergiant Games Publisher: Supergiant Games
Supergiant Games have made their pedigree over the years by weaving surprisingly compelling narratives into their meticulously crafted gameplay experiences. Still, none of them match the depth and scope of Pyre.
Set in a world where the prosperous live above, and criminals are sent to a lower world, Pyre saddles you with many of the lower world denizens as they seek to regain entry to the upper world through a competition that allows the winners to return.
Basically a trumped up NBA Jam, Pyre didn’t need to craft such an intricate world with so many colorful characters in order to succeed, but it’s so much more to its credit, and success, that it did.
13. The Last of Us Part II
Developer: Naughty Dog Publisher: SIE
The Last of Us didn’t just pack in one of the best, and most memorable, tales of its generation — it also offered one of the most compelling stories of any game ever. Naturally that meant that The Last of Us Part II had its work cut out for it.
While the fanbase was markedly split in both the perception and reception of The Last of Us Part II, no one can argue that the sequel took big risks and went in directions that few might have guessed at.
Regardless of which end of the spectrum you find yourself in with regard to this follow-up, The Last of Us Part II has emerged as a significant sales and critical success, cementing developer Naughty Dog’s important place in both the beginning and end of the PS4 era.
As a member of a primitive tribe, Aloy does battle with robotic versions of animals and dinosaurs in her journey to unravel the past of her world, and save the human race from languishing into extinction.
With fantastic motion capture and voice work to pull you into its world, Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the most thrilling, immersive and original stories you can find on the PS4.
11. Marvel’s Spider-Man
Developer: Insomniac Publisher: SIE
Gamers and viewers alike could easily, and understandably, be jaded by superhero content in a time where the latest movie, game, animated series or comic is always being trumped up as the next big thing, but Marvel’s Spider-Man really was.
Focusing on Peter Parker, Mary-Jane Watson and Miles Morales, Marvel’s Spider-Man uses all of these characters to their maximum potential, telling not just one of the best Spider-Man stories ever but maybe the best Spider-Man tales of all time.
Filled with high stakes, well-rounded characters and a story that weaves many disparate threads into a cohesive whole, Marvel’s Spider-Man is a better game, and a better story, than fans might’ve ever dreamed it would be.
Developer: Remedy Entertainment Publisher: 505 Games
One of last year’s best new franchises, Control puts players in the shoes of Jesse Faden as she assumes management of the Bureau of Control, a secret, interdimensional government organization.
With in-depth world building and tons of lore, Control establishes a secret sub-section of society where aliens, monstrosities and extra dimensional creatures threaten the safety of our world at every turn.
Connected with the world of Alan Wake (also from developer Remedy Entertainment), Control has built a realm that might be home to two cool franchises instead of just one. With shades of X-Files and Twin Peaks to boot, Control is one of the most exciting new stories to come along in a good, long while.
9. Death Stranding
Developer: Kojima Productions Publisher: SIE
Another of last year’s coolest new franchises, Death Stranding manages to weave a fascinating original story out of the mostly desolate post-apocalyptic open world genre.
Playing as Sam Bridges, players battle ghosts and terrorists alike while they work to transport packages, reconnect a fractured country, and unravel the mystery behind why the worlds of the dead and the living have suddenly crossed paths.
While the complex narrative and challenging gameplay left some players scratching their heads, the emotional core of the story remains one of its strongest features, and the final trump card in its vast bag of tricks.
With massive new sections that help to flesh out the world of Final Fantasy VII and a pile of new characters to fill out the cast, Final Fantasy VII Remake makes the journey of Cloud Strife and his friends into one of the most epic tales of this generation.
Further, with at least two more installments in this exceptional new series, the thrills of Final Fantasy VII Remake are far from over. Let’s just hope that Square Enix can keep firing on all cylinders for as many shots of FFVII they continue to serve up.
Developer: FromSoftware Publisher: SIE
The realms of H.P. Lovecraft have provided inspiration to dozens of great horror games since the inception of the medium, but few can match Bloodborne for sheer scope and understanding of Lovecraft’s mad mythos.
Set in a Victorian style city called Yharnam, Bloodborne sees you as a Hunter. Tasked with slaying the vampires, werewolves and other monstrosities that have emerged from the abyss, you must survive the terrors of the night while seeking a cure for your own infected blood.
Though the lore of the game may be hard to decipher, for those who put in the time to unravel this horrifying, mysterious tale, Bloodborne is one of the greatest horror stories ever told.
6. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Developer: Naughty Dog Publisher: SIE
The adventures of Nathan Drake have offered some of the highest quality, and best-acted storytelling of the last two console generations. Uncharted 4, as the culmination of the series, takes this franchise to new narrative heights, while wrapping up the story of its central protagonist.
As Nate settles into a dull (but happy) retirement with Elena Fisher, he can’t help but feel the pull toward the adventure that defined his younger years. When his brother suddenly comes back into his life with a tantalizing new proposition, Nate decides to saddle up for one last globe-trotting quest — but his final adventure might cost him everything he’s worked so har to build.
With some of the most convincing voice acting and a subtlety for storytelling that the rest of the series lacks, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is undoubtedly the crown jewel in Naughty Dog’s long-treasured franchise.
Developer: Playdead Publisher: Playdead
From the makers of Limbo, one of last generation’s standout indies, comes Inside: the story of a young boy navigating a dangerous government/corporate complex with mysterious means as his sole motivation.
Told with no dialogue whatsoever, the narrative of Inside speaks for itself through the actions your character takes, and the things you observe in the increasingly disturbing facility that you make your way through over the course of the game.
With some really jarring narrative left turns over the breadth of its story, few games pack as much surprise in from their humble beginnings as Inside does.
4. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Developer: Kojima Productions Publisher: Konami
Hideo Kojima’s greatest storytelling strength has been his marrying of big time action movie conventions with a stirring cast of characters and real world socio-political events.
Metal Gear Solid V is Kojima’s greatest triumph yet in this regard, concocting a story that fills in many of the gaps of his 60 year odyssey while offering fantastic new characters and shocking plot revelations over the course of its vast adventure.
A stirring, often troubling, tale of the last years of the Cold War, Metal Gear Solid V is Kojima’s darkest game by a long shot, and while the twists it offers on the mythology might not be for everyone, for those who vibe with its particular brand of insanity, Metal Gear Solid V is a one of a kind narrative experience.
3. God of War
Developer: SIE Santa Monica Publisher: SIE
A next generation adventure that breathes new life into a franchise that had long gone stagnant, God of War came out of 2018 as the nearly undisputed pick for the game of the year — and much of that is down to its thrilling story of Norse gods and monsters.
While the realm in which it takes place offers plenty of fresh flavor, it is ultimately the touching tale of a damaged man trying to connect with his son and build a better life for him that makes God of War such a compelling bit of storytelling. It’s a tale of redemption and trauma unfolding gradually over a vast and intricate world.
With a raw, real emotional core, and plenty of grand adventure along the way, God of War is Sony’s Santa Monica studio at the absolute height of their abilities.
2. Dark Souls III
Developer: FromSoftware Publisher: Bandai Namco
This choice may be divisive, but stay with me here. Like Bloodborne, for those who put in the time and effort to explore the mythology of Dark Souls, few games offer as well-established lore and the depth of history that Dark Souls does.
Dark Souls III faces the unenviable task of putting a bow on this gigantic world of undying warriors and long forgotten kingdoms. Luckily, the story, weaving together elements of every recent FromSoftware game, offers an extremely satisfying, even darkly tragic, take on this world while tying up the narrative loose ends of the series.
With a scope and poise characteristic of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, Dark Souls III tells the ultimate story of the end of the world, while crossing over characters, settings and history from the storied past of the series.
Few games are able to pack in the emotional punch and narrative oomph that What Remains of Edith Finch does, and almost none can do so over such a short run time as this.
Coming in at only 2-3 hours long, What Remains of Edith Finch manages to weave together the troubling fates of nearly every member of the Finch clan through touching, emotional vignettes.
While one sees you soaring with the birds, another sees you simply playing on a swing set. These journeys take you from the mundane drudgery of factory work to a faraway kingdom, from the simplicity of a daily bath to exploring a magical underwater playground.
As the stories of the Finch family are retold with stirring imagination and often troubling revelations, What Remains of Edith Finch emerges as a narrative adventure unlike anything else on the PS4 — or anywhere else for that matter.
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