When Steve Race stepped up to the podium at E3 in 1995 and revealed the original PlayStation’s price point, Sony instantly became a dominant force in the video game industry. 25-plus years later, PlayStation’s first-party exclusives have inspired joy, sorrow, elation, rage, and more. So we took a look at every first-party game that Sony ever released, and trimmed away all but the 10 best.
Keep in mind that we’ve based this list on particular criteria in order to keep it manageable. These are all games from Sony’s first-party studios, or studios it later acquired after that particular game’s release, so some foundational PlayStation games made by third parties – like FF7, Metal Gear Solid, and soulsbornes like Bloodborne (which for the purposes of this list is a FromSoftware-developed game, despite Sony Japan's involvement) and Demon’s Souls – are not included, even if PlayStation published them. We’ve also limited these selections to one per franchise so we didn’t end up with multiple sequels in the same list. With those criteria in mind, here are our selections for the Top 10 PlayStation First-Party Exclusives.
10. Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
With more than 85 million copies sold, no first-party PlayStation franchise has nudged the needle higher than Polyphony Digital’s acclaimed Gran Turismo series, and Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec might just be the most magical of the bunch. It’s a little hard to appreciate how astonishing GT3 looked back in 2001 through a modern lens but, at the time, its never-before-seen level of fidelity truly stopped players in their tracks, completely resetting the bar for racing games. While the generation hop from PlayStation to PS2 left GT3 with a slimmer selection of cars than the incredibly juicy GT2 – something Sony rectified with the magnificent GT4 – Gran Turismo 3 is the definition of a system-seller. After all, the most successful first-party game ever on the best-selling video game console of all time is not an accolade you earn by accident.
9. Infamous 2
Infamous 2 took the great setup of the original and improved on it in almost every possible way, with a satisfying story and elevated gameplay mechanics and visual designs. The faux New Orleans city of New Marais is a colorful playground for series hero Cole McGrath to climb, jump, and grind across – or explode and wreak havoc in, depending on how you choose to use your powers – and his arsenal of new and enhanced abilities are still massively satisfying. Our kingdom for a remaster!
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8. Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal
The original Ratchet & Clank proved to be a great blueprint for a now iconic PlayStation series. So when did the formula get perfected? Up Your Arsenal. More guns. More planets. Crazier enemies. Giant Clank sections that let you topple enemies with ease. Up Your Arsenal isn’t as pretty as Rift Apart or other more recent Ratchet games, but it remains the apex of a series filled with fun and, most importantly, potty humor title puns. Get it? Up Your Arsenal? Poetry.
7. Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus has a bold concept; there are no rank and file enemies, or deep progression mechanics, or skill trees, or level-ups. Instead, there are boss battles against 16 giant colossi, and each one is unforgettable. One moment you’re desperately trying to get out of the way of a gigantic sword attack so you can run up it and start your climb towards the colossal creature’s neck; the next you’re desperately trying to hold on to an aquatic monstrosity that shakes you off by diving deep underwater; and the next you’re on horseback trying to catch up with a flying beast so you can put arrows in its air-filled sacs that keep it afloat. On top of that, its story packs an incredible punch. Shadow of the Colossus is one of the most memorable experiences you can have on a PlayStation 2 or PlayStation 4.
6. Horizon Zero Dawn
It was something of a surprise when developer Guerrilla Games' first new IP after ten years of Killzone was a third-person open-world adventure featuring robot dinosaurs, but Horizon Zero Dawn quickly proved any concerns we may have had were unfounded when it launched on PlayStation 4. A clever take on post-apocalyptic stories – or post-post-apocalypse in this case – Horizon's world is both absolutely gorgeous and filled with opportunities for adventure. Whether you're hunting for treasure in the ruins of the old world or duking it out with one of the massive dinosaur-esque machines that roam the land, you'll be hard-pressed to find yourself bored over the course of the dozens of hours it takes to reach the end – even more if you tack on the excellent Frozen Wilds expansion.
5. Ghost of Tsushima
Even though it’s only a year old, Ghost of Tsushima is a milestone within the open-world action/adventure genre. Sucker Punch raised the bar with Tsushima’s immaculate combat, which beautifully mimics the Kurosawa movies that inspired it and remains fresh and fun throughout the entirety of its 25 to 40-hour adventure. And if that’s not enough its free multiplayer add-on, Ghost of Tsushima Legends, adds thoughtful and fun cooperative multiplayer missions, and a deep, mechanics heavy-raid for the most hardcore of players.
4. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves took the endearing characters, razor-sharp writing, and beautiful adventure-filled world from the original and doubled down on it. With its unforgettable moments (the collapsing building, the caravan, THE TRAIN), gripping will-they won’t-they love story, and whip-smart dialogue, Among Thieves is a globetrotting adventure that rivals classic adventure films. Uncharted would go on to get bigger and more beautiful, but Among Thieves is still its pinnacle.
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3. Marvel's Spider-Man
Insomniac's Spider-Man is one of the best open-world games ever made. Sure, it’s got your typical open world offerings: tons of side quests, collectibles, and unlockables. But most importantly, the minute to minute thwipping around NYC, swinging and wall running to the tops of its tallest skyscrapers, and dive bombing into the streets to take down a group of thugs without ever touching the ground is an absolute blast. It’s a stunning and frenetic ode to the character and the city that brought him to life that still manages to tell an endearing, heartfelt story in between its giant action sequences and explosive boss fights. And if you’re still looking for more after the credits roll, 2020’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an excellent, albeit smaller follow-up game that manages to simultaneously continue the feel of the 2019 game while also bringing tons of great new characters and gameplay to the format.
2. The Last of Us
The Last of Us remains one of the best action-adventure games of the last decade. It gave us one of the most touching, unexpected friendships in the medium to date between Ellie and Joel, genuinely tense survival-horror-esque gameplay and an ending that is still remembered to this day. It’s truly a masterpiece, so it took everyone by surprise that the team behind Uncharted had another franchise of this caliber up its sleeve with its sequel.
Combined with its memorable supporting cast, beautiful art design and an interesting take on team-based multiplayer, the original Last of Us is hands-down one of Naughty Dog's best games – if not it's finest overall work to date.
1. God of War
Santa Monica Studio’s God of War is a masterpiece that is emblematic of PlayStation’s pursuit of first-party quality. It tells a beautiful story, anchored by the fragile, ever-evolving relationship between Kratos and his son Atreus. It weaves that story through a layered world dense with captivating characters and locales, ensuring every step of the journey holds new wonders. The many realms the duo travel to also serve as incredible battle stages that allow God of War’s deep combat systems to shine. Kratos’ Leviathan Axe is one of the most satisfying weapons to wield in any video game, and it’s coupled with branching skill trees, armor sets, and smartly integrated Atreus AI to ensure every fight is unforgettable. The newest God of War works so well not just because of all of these things, but because instead of disregarding its past, it honors it, then refines and modernizes it. God of War is an all-timer.
And those are our Top 10 PlayStation First-Party Exclusives! Let us know which of your favorites made the list, and which exclusives you would have liked to see included!