For years, PlayStation Plus was the service every PlayStation owner had to have in order to play most of their games online. It didn’t cost much and had the bonus of offering up two or three “free” games each month. Whatever your thoughts were, it was a decent service – even when PlayStation decided that giving its subscribers Tennis World Tour 2 was a good idea.
Last year saw the service change (almost) entirely. In an effort to try and match Xbox’s wildly successful GamePass, PlayStation split its PS Plus service into three tiers. The first – Essential – was essentially just the old service at the cheapest price available. Step up one, and you’ve got PS Plus Extra – the most value-for-money subscription PlayStation offers. That nets you access to an entire catalogue of games, along with the two free games added each month. Deluxe is the most expensive tier, which includes all previous tier benefits and throws in a separate catalogue of ‘classic games’ and trials for certain titles. It’s fine, but that extra R200 is better spent elsewhere.
But we’re focusing on the ‘Extra’ tier, which costs R180 for a single month, R520 for three, and R1,240 for a full year. If you’re a subscriber and haven’t started playing these freely-available titles, it’s time for you to start.
Out of the thousands of games to choose from on PlayStation’s numerous tiers, Ghostrunner is our absolute favourite (yes, even over Bloodborne – the second-best game on the service). At its heart, Ghostrunner is simple (but difficult to master). It’s got a fairly run-of-the-mill story, tied in with some of the best parkour mechanics we’ve ever seen. Think Mirror’s Edge, but with 120fps (on current-gen consoles, that is). As you wade through meticulously built levels, you’ll often forget to listen to the story (we did) and instead spend your brain power on thinking up faster ways of surmounting the hundreds of enemies that await.
Who’d have thought that taking Black Ops 3’s (arguably) best feature (parkour) and turning it into a half-puzzle, half-slasher game with a Cyberpunk façade would work out so well? Well, clearly the guys over at One More Level, 3D Realms, and Slipgate Ironworks thought so. And we thank them for it. Every damn day.
The first of two FromSoft games to make the list, Bloodborne is the game that got us personally involved in the worlds that FromSoftware beautifully crafts. We won’t pretend that we got it at first. We played it once all the way back in 2015 and left it rotting on the shelf until it was March’s “free” PS Plus game in 2018. Unfortunately, we again left Bloodborne to fester until that pandemic rolled around.
Once it clicked, we were into it. Nothing could touch Bloodborne’s sense of wonder and exploration Until Elden Ring rolled around, that is. But Bloodborne was our (and probably many others’) first foray into the world of Soulsborne games. The story hidden under the mounds of lore buried in Yharnam is astonishing. The fighting mechanics are a thing of beauty. And the feeling of discovering how a certain part of the map works? Brilliant. The lack of a PS5 update is disheartening, but don’t let that dissuade you. You’ll get used to the last-gen graphics soon enough. Yes, the 30fps is a bother, but it’s no reason not to play this one.
Spider-Man: Miles Morales (2020)
If you’ve owned a PlayStation in the last five years, you’ve probably already played Insomniac’s first Spider-Man game. If you haven’t, we commend you on your ability not to succumb to any peer pressure. Your parents must be really proud. We’re not though, because you still haven’t played Spider-Man. That changes now. And when you’re done, you can come back and finish reading this before moving on Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a sequel of sorts that isn’t officially Spider-Man 2. That’s coming later this year.
Miles Morales, while shorter than its predecessor, improves upon every single aspect that made the first game such a success. Except maybe for the story. That title still belongs to the first title. But all the parts that matter – fighting and web-slinging – are better in every single way. That’s partly due to the 60fps option (which has since been added to the remastered edition of the first game). Swinging around New York and beating up every henchman that looks at you funny is a beautifully cathartic experience that isn’t matched anywhere else. Oh, and you’re Miles the whole way through. No more Mary Jane.
Due to the shortness of Miles Morales, we’d never recommend paying full price. But, seeing as it’s on the PS Plus catalogue, there’s no reason not to try it out. Besides data, of course. It’s rough out here in South Africa.
God of War (2018)
We’d be remiss if we didn’t add the 2018 GOTY to this list, especially since its highly rated (but still not GOTY) sequel released just two months ago (which we then reviewed). Anyone looking to find out what all the hype was about can do so pretty easily. The only problem is that you can’t play the entirety of the God of War saga, at least on current-gen. The furthest back you’ll get is God of War 3, which isn’t nearly enough to cover the bases you need. Fortunately, there’s a 7-minute video that’ll help with this very issue.
Once you’re all caught up, you can get going on Kratos’ latest journey. It steps away from the world of Greek mythology (we won’t tell you why – watch the recap) and instead lets Kratos run wild in the realm of Norse mythology. This time, Kratos battles his enemies with the help of his son (yes, his son), which brings a whole new dynamic to the storyline unexplored in earlier games. It’s worth the effort, and with an entirely new sequel to follow it up with, there’s no good reason why you shouldn’t have already played this one.
Returnal (2021) (PS5 only)
Returnal is developer Housemarque’s first attempt at a classical ‘AAA’ game, though you’ve probably played at least one of its other more indie-rooted games Alienation and Resogun (which are also included in the service). Despite being a first attempt, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Returnal delves (though not too deeply) into the horror genre, with the look and feel of a third-person shooter underneath it all.
Follow Selene, a pilot that’s been left stranded on a pilot after crashing her ship. As you continue, you’ll realise that there are certain time-ploys at play, but we’ll let you discover all that for yourself. All you need to know is that Selene is stuck and needs to depart. Now. Or soon. Whenever. And with the haptic feedback limited to the DualSense (since this is a PS5 exclusive), it’s almost worth picking up a subscription just for this. A month should be more than enough for Returnal. We hope.
Mortal Kombat 11 (2020)
Mortal Kombat 11, despite being one of the better area-based fighting games out on the PlayStation, bugs us. Not because of the graphics, mechanics, or even the story. No, it bothers us (immensely) that someone over at NetherRealm Studios decided not to continue with the Roman numerals system that MKX introduced. We know Mortal Kombat has never followed a conventional numbering system. Heck, Mortal Kombat 9 was just known as ‘Mortal Kombat’. All we’re saying is, get your act together, NetherRealm.
Otherwise, Mortal Kombat 11 (ugh) is one of the better games in the series’ recent history. It’s got all the staples; fatalities and brutalities – alongside new features like Fatal Blows and Krushing Blows. It’s just as gory as you’d like, all with a story setting that’s got all the silly Mortal Kombat tropes you’ve come to expect. Grab a friend for some classic couch co-op and get over there.
Demon’s Souls (2020) (PS5 only)
The second FromSoft entry on this list is Demon’s Souls. It doesn’t match the feeling we experienced when we first played Bloodborne, though we think that would differ from any person’s first FromSoft experience. If this is your first title, have fun getting lost in the endless amounts of lore and gameplay mechanics. If this isn’t your first foray into the Souls universe, then you’ll still have fun getting lost in the endless lore and gameplay mechanics. Just, with a different outlook on things. You know what we mean, right?
Oh, and it looks stunning on the PS5. That’s more than enough reason to give it a shot.
When we first heard of the Guardians of the Galaxy game, we weren’t thoroughly impressed. See, the reveal was rather soon after the flop (and eyesore) that was Marvel’s Avengers. So, you can’t really blame us for letting this one go under our radar for as long as it did. Once we tried it, however, we realised how different it was from its Marvel counterpart, and how unfairly this game was treated at launch.
That slower start definitely helped the audience in the long run. Lower sales helped bring the game to the PS Plus catalogue as early as it did and gave us a chance to try this game (almost for free). The game is a single-player third-person shooter that lets you take control of a Chris Pratt-less Star-Lord. Peter Quill is joined by the whole crew of Rocket, Drax, Gamora, and Groot as they try to stop the galactic shenanigans taking place in the background. Team-based combat and wisecracks between the group are a welcome addition to this great Marvel title.
As we sat down to write this entry for the list, we learned something that shocked us to our core; the first South Park game – The Stick of Truth – turns nine this March. Besides making us feel old, it brought back a flood of nostalgia from when we used to watch the series as far younger people. And that’s what these two games (yes, there’s a sequel and both are on the PS Plus catalogue) are best at – recapturing the humour and style from those earlier seasons of South Park, with simple, yet awesome mechanics to go with it.
The first game is still our favourite of the two. The story is simple. You are a new kid, that’s just moved to South Park, and is looking to make friends (no, literally, that’s a core mechanic of the game). You join up with Cartman, who’s in the midst of a raging battle between wizards and warriors, each trying to gain control of the Stick of Truth. That’s… the very basic plot. It increasingly becomes more and more like one of South Park’s three-part episodes as it goes on, with a new flight of lunacy at every turn. Throughout, your character is given the chance to explore South Park and partake in the battles happening around the town. Battles are turn- and team-based in nature, with plenty of famous settings to fight in throughout.
Horizon Zero Dawn (2017)
Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the best games to ever release on the last generation and would have won a Game of the Year award were it not for Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild shortly after and obliterating its chances entirely at winning the top spot. Second place doesn’t mean the game is bad, which is why it’s earned itself an entry on this list.
When thinking up Horizon Zero Dawn, it’s hard to imagine that the developers didn’t just think “what if we took Far Cry and Tomb Raider and mashed them together?”. And the rest was history. Well, it’s not in the history books, but you get our point. The story follows Aloy, a hunter in a world overrun by metal monsters, where you must use her skills to take those very (large) monsters down. The story is interesting enough that it garnered a sequel that, again, lost out on the GOTY award because it launched in the same year as Elden Ring and God of War: Ragnarök. You can also give the sequel a go with PlayStation Plus’s trial subscription, though you need the Deluxe tier to get that far.