With more than 53 million systems in homes after just three years, Sony's PlayStation 4 has proven that consoles aren't being killed by free mobile games -- and thanks in large part to smaller downloadable games, especially from indie creators, the game selection is absolutely immense.
But with all that choice, sometimes great games get lost in the shuffle. So if you're looking for something fresh to play, check out these eight picks, all of which are $20-or-less downloads.
Race the Sun ($10)
Race the Sun is something of an endless runner, only it's super-fast, seriously tough, and also wickedly fun to boot. You'll guide a solar-powered craft into a simple, low-polygon wasteland, and attempt to survive by avoiding collisions, collecting power-ups, and staying in the sunlight. Lasting for more than a couple minutes feels like a mean feat, and as new abilities and modes unlock, Race the Sun becomes fiercely satisfying. And with a brand-new environment to zip through each and every day, you'll have plenty of reason to keep attempting this futile sprint.
We want consistency in games, and want the controller to feel like an extension of our hands and instincts... but Metrico+ doesn't care about that. This mind-bending puzzler is inspired by infographics -- wait, keep reading! -- and finds your little hero navigating across environmental puzzles comprised of graph bars and other obstacles. Here's the thing, though: every new puzzle you face alters the game's logic, and your interactions may do very different things to the world. It's tricky, and Metrico+ will definitely throw you for a loop, but that kind of unfamiliar curveball keeps you on your toes throughout.
Leaping from one moving semi truck to another sounds like the pivotal moment in a pumped-up action movie, right? But what if you just had to keep doing it again and again as dozens of trucks filled the frame and smashed into each other?
Well, you can find out in ClusterTruck, a hilariously frantic first-person survival game. You'll start atop a truck destined for an explosive demise, and then have to leap like a madman from truck to truck to make it to each stage's finish line. It's ridiculously fun, and as the scenarios get wilder and more obstacles emerge, it just becomes plain ridiculous.
Shadow Complex Remastered ($15)
Here's a different pick for this list. The original Shadow Complex was well-reviewed when it hit Xbox 360 years back, but the recent Remastered release didn't seem to get much attention. That's a shame: This is still one of the best modern examples of the classic Metroid/Castlevania adventure framework, in which your hero gains abilities that open up more secrets and pathways through the world. As you unearth more skills, both the environment and excitement swell, and Shadow Complex Remastered finds a great balance between the old-school design and more modern tweaks.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch ($15)
Octodad: Dadliest Catch actually sold rather well, moving more than a million copies as of last summer, but the game was knocked by critics for being awkward and clumsy. Well, yeah, you're playing as an octopus who's hiding in suburbia as a human, and you have to wrangle his tentacles to try and keep him incognito. Dadliest Catch's lack of precision inputs might have made it a tough game to review, but this delightful game is absolutely hilarious to both play and watch, and certainly deserves ample admiration for its premise and absurd scenarios.
SteamWorld Heist ($15)
Built like a side-scrolling take on the XCOM series, SteamWorld Heist drops your ragtag group of robot bandits into turn-based battles, and you'll need both tactical skill and a sharp aim to emerge victorious from these skirmishes. Each 'bot has its own abilities and can be outfitted with various weapons, and you'll have to use your squad smartly to team up on foes and thrive amidst intense challenges. Of course, SteamWorld Heist doesn't have the same kind of mainstream success of XCOM, but this endearing indie game deserves similarly wide reverence.
If you're looking for something serene and mesmerizing in tone, then perhaps Bound will do the trick. Be warned: Bound screams "art game," and in the opening minutes, you'll go from walking down a realistic beach as a pregnant woman to commanding a masked dancer in a surreal world. The heroine lightly prances and twirls as she crosses platforms in an abstract environment that never stops jiggling and writhing, and she must use dance maneuvers to overcome obstacles. It's curious, for sure, but also stunning and totally captivating.
2064: Read Only Memories ($20)
Just recently released on PS4, 2064: Read Only Memories is a cyberpunk adventure that looks like the 1980s version of a grim future -- very Akira and Bubblegum Crisis-esque in aesthetic. This ultra-intriguing universe is one in which the first self-aware robot has been secretly completed, and as a fledgling journalist, you'll work alongside the 'bot to try and find its missing creator. Ignore the reader reviews: Read Only Memories has been dinged by random internet idiots for its inclusive tone and LGBTQ characters, but anyone into cyberpunk, cool retro-future worlds, or sassy dialogue should really dig it.
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