Unlike the Xbox Series X, which launched without any first-party games and continues to push Game Pass and studio acquisitions its biggest draw, Sony has a typically diverse little collection of them already, each utilising in some way the PlayStation 5’s huge power boost and innovative new controller.
And like the Xbox Series X, the latest PlayStation is capable of making last-gen games look and run better, so there’s plenty to get stuck into if you’re lucky enough to have one under your TV.
We’ve been putting the PS5 through its paces since day one, and have put together a list of the games we think you should be playing first.
1. Astro’s Playroom
For all of its graphics and CPU advancements, the most interesting thing about the PS5 is the new DualSense controller, and Astro’s Playroom is the perfect demonstration of its various innovations.
The game itself is a charming, if fairly basic 3D platformer, but add the DualSense’s functionality and it becomes something entirely unique. Through the haptics you can feel the titular robot’s footsteps in your hands, or the slap of impact when he plunges into water. The new adaptive triggers, meanwhile, tighten when Astro later discovers a bow and arrow, and lock up altogether when he runs out of coins to play the crane game in the main hub. There are loads of great ideas here, many of which will no doubt be pinched for future PS5 games.
And aside from all that, Astro’s Playroom is also absolutely jam-packed with Easter eggs and tributes to PlayStation’s 25-year history, all of which are well worth seeking out, and none of which we are going to spoil.
The five hours we spent with the game gave us some of our best gaming moments of the year, and given that it’s absolutely free and comes pre-loaded on every PS5 console, it’s the easiest recommendation we’ll ever make.
2. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
It’s Christmas in The Big Apple, but the city’s newest web-headed crimefighter has no time for ice skating and unsuccessful shopping trips. As you’d expect there’s some villainy afoot, and with original Spider-Man, Peter Parker, out of town, it’s up to his new partner Miles to suit up and put a stop to it.
If you played 2018’s excellent Spider-Man game you’ll feel right at home here; Miles Morales is more of a generous expansion than a whole new game, but its 10ish-hour campaign cuts off a lot of its predecessor’s fat, while adding more variety to missions and some excellent new characters. And the swinging still feels as fantastic as it did two years ago.
Miles Morales is also a technical showcase for your new console, with much improved draw distance, super sharp 4K visuals and impressive ray tracing reflections. Who needs Pete?
3. Demon’s Souls
Confession time: we’re yet to down the first boss in Demon’s Souls, a ground-up remake of the 2009 PS3 cult classic that set the blueprint for the Dark Souls series that followed.
While the visual performance of the game – entirely redone with modern technology, running in 4K at a buttery smooth 60fps on PS5 – is very different, the merciless difficulty that the Souls games are known for remains in tact, and some series veterans will tell you that Demon’s Souls is the most unforgiving of the lot.
Still, those who put in the work insist that no game has a loop as satisfying as that of this one and its contemporaries, and with the stunningly reimagined kingdom of Boletaria harnessing the PS5’s power in what is easily one of the best-looking games ever made, there’s no better time to get stuck in and show those unnecessarily large monsters who’s boss. Which we intend to do too.
4. Sackboy’s Big Adventure
Sackboy’s a bit too weird for Sony to have ever properly committed to making him PlayStation’s mascot, but that hasn’t stopped it from signing off his first ever 3D platformer.
Unlike in the LittleBigPlanet games in which our hessian hero made his name, you won’t be making the levels here. Sackboy’s Big Adventure is a very traditional platforming game, carefully crafted by developer Sumo Digital. The big bad here is the dastardly Vex (voiced brilliantly by Richard E.Grant), who’s wreaking havoc across Sackboy’s home of Craftworld and naturally must have his master plan foiled by an anthropomorphic sack.
While the early levels are extremely gentle and a bit basic, probably to encourage the younger target audience, things get a lot more interesting as the game progresses, with some of the best use of music since Rayman Legends and countless collectibles for completionists to hunt down. After Tearaway, Yoshi’s Crafted World and Sackboy’s own LittleBigPlanet series, we’re a tiny bit over seeing game worlds made entirely of miscellaneous junk, but none have looked prettier than the one here.
Well worth a playthrough, especially if you have youngsters asking for the pad.
Where to start with this one.
An instant internet sensation after its announcement in the summer, Bugsnax is a puzzle-focused first-person adventure game set on the mysterious Snaktooth Island, a place famed for its native half-bug, half-snack creatures. Go with it. You, a curious Grumpus (essentially furry humans. Again, go with it) journalist, head there to track down its self-styled leader for an interview.
The meat of the game lies in exploring the island and working out how to catch the myriad different species of Bugsnax, each requiring a different strategy if you’re to tempt them into your trap.
With hints of Pokemon, a surprisingly well-rounded cast of oddball characters and nice use of the DualSense, the first PS Plus game of the PS5 era shouldn’t be overlooked.
6. Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut
We were admittedly pretty lukewarm on the PlayStation 4’s final big exclusive game at launch, but Ghost of Tsushima has still found a huge audience ready to sing its praises, and if you’re not taken by the Viking simulator that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is offering up, perhaps Sony’s samurai epic could be your next open-world obsession.
Ghost was already one of the best examples of a last-gen title that’s instantly improved by the PS5, and the Director’s Cut is now the definitive version. As well as benefiting from the shorter loading times, the game runs at a perfect 4K/60fps, making one-on-one duels – already one of the game’s strong points – even more epic to behold. And it looks mindblowingly beautiful. Japanese lip syncing – one of the most asked-for features from fans – has been added to the PS5 game, as well as some generous DualSense trickery and 3D audio support.
And we should probably mention the entirely new Iki Island, which adds a huge chunk of additional story content, a massive new environment, new characters, and most importantly of all, new animals to befriend.
7. Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
It’s very hard to keep up with the Call of Duty series. After last year’s entry saw Infinity Ward soft reboot its now legendary Modern Warfare subseries, the first next-gen CoD hands the reins back to Treyarch for a direct sequel to 2010’s Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Set during the early ‘80s period of the Cold War, the seventeenth Call of Duty game delivers a short but sharp globetrotting campaign – mostly enjoyably daft, occasionally troubling – in which you, a typically enigmatic agent codenamed “Bell”, join up with a special unit of soldiers to track down a suspected Soviet spy known as Perseus.
The PS5 version looks incredible with its hardware-accelerated ray tracing feature enabled, while the weapon-to-weapon variation in the DualSense’s trigger sensitivity really does add a extra layer of immersion.
The back-to-basics multiplayer and return of the popular (but far too silly for the very stern Modern Warfare games) Zombies should please CoD purists looking for a new shooter, even if the overall package feels a bit safe.
8. Dirt 5
Dirt 5 gets a two thumbs up recommendation on the PS5 from us.
The racing is always brilliantly tense, and with a wide range of locations and dynamically shifting weather system, it’s perfect for putting your TV’s HDR capabilities to work. There’s also a 120Hz mode for TVs that support it.
The PS5 version might be the pick of the pair, with the game making full use of the DualSense’s haptics and adaptive triggers. You race on lots of different terrain in the game, each changing up the vibrations you feel in your hands. Like a lot of the first wave of games that have embraced the new PlayStation pad, the difference is subtle until you go back to regular rumble.
With Gran Turismo 7 not arriving until next year, Codemasters’ off-road world tour is the place to go for fun on four wheels.
Returnal definitely won’t be for everyone.
Arguably the first triple-A “roguelike”, this sci-fi shooter pits you against waves of unforgiving enemies as you explore a series of biomes on a hostile alien planet, and when you die (and you will die, a lot) you’re sent right back to the start, losing the majority of your weapons and often hours of hard-earned progress. To make things worse, the map is randomly generated so it’s not like you can memorise the most forgiving route.
But it’s also this uncompromising difficulty and nail-biting tension that makes Returnal one of the most thrilling and memorable games on the PS5. And sure, the constant dying can be frustrating, but when a game looks and feels as good in the hands as this one, the suffering feels worthwhile.
Arguably no PS5 game to date better shows off the potential of 3D audio, while the DualSense controller’s haptic feedback is brilliantly utilised. Returnal may well break you, but triumph, when it does come, has never been sweeter.
10. Disco Elysium – The Final Cut
Disco Elysium is an RPG in which gameplay revolves almost entirely around dialogue, so it’s a good thing that it’s easily one of the best-written games of all time, and features full voice acting on PS5, making a surreal and frequently laugh-out-loud funny adventure even better.
You play a detective charged with solving a murder, but there’s a small problem: you’re also an an alcoholic and an amnesiac, so while you’re putting together the puzzle pieces of the aforementioned mystery, you’re doing the same for your whole life. This gives you total freedom to mould the character you want to play as, which can range from vaguely competent charmer to a chaotic disaster of a human being, and every dialogue choice you make can have consequences.
Navigating the disgraced city of Revachol is admittedly best done on PC with a mouse and keyboard, but if that isn’t an option for you, the PS5 alternative is still a must-play.
11. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
It’d be easy to call the latest entry in PlayStation’s long-running Ratchet & Clank series a playable blockbuster animated movie, but in truth, it looks even better in motion than a lot of those. Ratchet & Clank games have always been technically impressive beasts, and Rift Apart certainly doesn’t buck that trend.
Never less than stunning to behold, it gives the PS5 a serious workout, while the typically bonkers weapons you acquire throughout the game usually have a primary and secondary mode of fire that activate depending on how hard you squeeze the DualSense’s adaptive triggers. A Rift Apart is a PS5 exclusive and all the better for it.
It’s also just very fun to play. If you’ve played a Ratchet & Clank game before you already know what to expect: visit planets (as both Ratchet and a new female Lombax named Rivet), shoot aliens, collect bolts and buy even better weapons to do the same thing all over again. Mix in some rock solid platforming and dazzling dimension-hopping set pieces and you’ve got a first-party game worth bragging about.
12. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
We adored the remake of two of the best sports games ever committed to code when it kickflipped onto last-gen hardware last year. Unsurprisingly, the PS5 upgrade makes a 5-star game even better.
As before, you get the two classic games rebuilt from the ground up in high definition, but now they run natively in 4K at 60fps, and can go up to 120fps if you’re willing to take a bit of a resolution hit. Haptic feedback courtesy of the DualSense makes landing big tricks feel even better in your hands, and there’s now support for spatial audio too.
While none of the enhancements radically change the experience, they do mean THPS 1 + 2 is one of the most impressive next-gen games to date, and to be honest, did you really need an excuse to drop into the Warehouse again?