Has it really been six years since the PlayStation 4 launched? It seems like yesterday that we were all complaining about the overlong PS3 generation and craving next-gen console experiences. The good news is that the PS4 absolutely delivered, especially on the RPG front. Sony has hosted so many high-quality RPGs — first party, third party, AAA and indie — that squeezing our favorites onto this list proved to be a challenge. While you speculate on what a PS5 might offer one day, here are some role-playing highlights you might have missed from the past half-decade.
Many RPGs boast moral-choice systems that dramatically alter your game world, but few pull it off like Dontnod's Vampyr. This horror game follows a newly turned vampire as he struggles with a desire to save (and feed on) the people of London. The story takes place against the backdrop of World War I and the Spanish Flu. Vampyr's twist is that leveling mechanics are tied to draining fully characterized NPCs. Feeding on them makes you more powerful, but deprives the city of life. Earning a "good" ending means you must genuinely struggle against overpowered enemies, unless you believe nobody would miss an NPC or two. In which case, congratulations: You've become the real monster.
Credit: Focus Home Interactive
There's a reason why Skyrim has been re-released for almost every gaming device since 2011. Few open-world games can quite match its epic scope, sense of adventure and sheer volume of engaging quest lines. And, even once you've leveled up to a point where few monsters can challenge you, a dragon's arrival can send a thrilling shiver down your spine. Sure, there are bugs, and individual game elements haven't aged well. But the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Long live Skyrim.
NieR: Automata is a deceptively short and simple RPG at first glance that follows the adventures of combat androids in a battle against monstrous enemies. In reality, Automata is designed for multiple playthroughs, which slowly expose you to nuances of the game's world. While I won't spoil the details here, the end result is a meditative experience on the nature of video game storytelling itself — where you also get to fight giant robots. If that isn't close to gaming perfection, I'm not sure what is.
Credit: Square Enix
The Souls franchise — including Demon's Souls and Bloodborne — inspired a massive resurgence in challenging-yet-satisfying video games. While each series entry has its joys, Dark Souls III refined the classic formula to near perfection. Monsters are wonderfully designed but deadly. Combat is brutal, but it rewards players who watch for patterns. The environment is somber, beautiful and practically a character in and of itself. While the Souls formula was already well-established when the game came out in 2016, Dark Souls III remains the ideal title for players to die in, repeatedly.
Diablo III didn't make the splash Blizzard intended during its PC launch, thanks to a poorly implemented Auction House and always-online design. Yet the console version managed to take everything that did work, fix the flaws and offer a few unique twists of its own. Along with offline play, Diablo III for console supported four-player couch co-op: the perfect format for fighting demons and looting the ruins of Sanctuary. While the PC version has since been refined, the PS4 Ultimate Evil Edition with all DLC included is an impressive dungeon crawler, which fans of the genre should look into.
How could The Witcher 3 not be on this list? The concluding entry to CD Projekt Red's reimagining of the fantasy novel series delivered everything fans were hoping for and much more. Its open world is larger and more varied than Skyrim. But, miraculously, the developers managed to present a rich, character-driven narrative that engages you with every sword fight and side quest. Those side quests range from monster bounties to Gwent tables in every tavern across the game map. Whether you pick up Wild Hunt or the complete Game of the Year edition, The Witcher 3 is an essential RPG title for any platform.
Credit: CD Projekt
While Persona is a challenging series to describe to new players, Persona 5 is one game that absolutely proved its appeal. This entry is a combined RPG and social simulator title, where players guide protagonist Joker through a single year at a Tokyo high school. When you aren't taking part in after-school activities or part-time jobs, Joker descends into the Metaverse: a dungeon-crawling environment populated by manifestations of suppressed emotions. This interplay between worlds helps Persona 5 emerge as a wholly unique, character-driven RPG, to which nothing else quite compares.