The PlayStation 5 has some pretty good games. We’ve been keeping track of ’em here at Paste since shortly after the system came out in 2020, and almost every month we have something new to add to our list. Some of those games can’t really be played on any other consoles, and that’s what we’re talking about today. Between its many first-party studios and second-party deals, Sony has long prioritized exclusives for its PlayStation systems, and that continues with the PlayStation 5. Of course, the whole concept of a “console generation” has gotten a little muddier in recent times. It used to be rare for an older system to get a lot of support after its follow-up was released. That’s no longer the case, and many games are still released on both the PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 4. For the purposes of this list, we’ll consider PlayStation 5 games that have PlayStation 4 versions to still be PS5 exclusives; they’re still only available on Sony systems, and if we didn’t allow them on this list there’d be maybe three games, total, that qualified. Secondly, it’s become common for console exclusives (well, outside of Nintendo) to also eventually be released for PCs. Since we’re talking specifically about console exclusivity, we’ll still include games that are also on PC, as long as they can’t be played on an Xbox or Nintendo system. You might ask what we’re even doing here at this point, but the answer should be obvious: we’re trying to get some traffic, buddy. So here, in alphabetical order, are the 10 best PlayStation 5 exclusives.
Is this a perfect game? I can’t find anything to criticize in Astro’s Playroom, the short but endlessly enjoyable platformer that comes installed on every PlayStation 5. Judged on both style and substance, Astro’s Playroom is an ideal pack-in game. It’s fun, beautiful, deeply entertaining, and also elegantly introduces the major new features of the PlayStation 5’s controller. And with its meta concept of playing entirely within the new system, while also tracking down art and items from the 26 year history of the PlayStation, it pays tribute to the company’s past and present without getting too schmaltzy or nostalgic. This should be the first game you play, as it might be the best of the best PlayStation 5 exclusives.—Garrett Martin
Death Stranding: Director’s Cut
Death Stranding is unforgiving, and rarely fun, but I love it.
With every step I can feel myself pushing against the game’s systems, wobbling slowly towards my objective with way too many kilograms on my back. At its worst, the game can feel uncomfortably isolating as you take to the mountains by yourself, trying to manage orders through a tiny, overcomplicated menu and please every NPC. But shortly into the game you realize you’re never really alone, and that makes the experience way less taxing.
NPCs who have been cut off from society will send you emails talking about their lives, what snacks they like, and thanking you profusely for your help. They give you a lot of likes if you deliver their orders quickly, and they exchange some banter whenever you drop off a load. These little things make you feel more connected to Death Stranding’s strange world and its inhabitants, and give you more incentive to do your job. Everything sucks, but you’re helping, and that’s a fantastic feeling. Empathy is what powers Death Stranding. And you can especially see that with the way players can interact with each other through the game’s subtle online features.—Funké Joseph
This 2020 remake reintroduced From’s Dark Souls precursor to a new generation of players who never experienced it on the PlayStation 3. As former Paste games editor Chris Dahlen wrote about the original in 2009:
Outside of a Jack London story or a trip across a tightwire between skyscrapers, you will never feel so acutely aware of your survival as in Demon’s Souls. It’s an action role-playing-game, but by modern standards it’s punishing and austere. Swing at the wrong time and your enemy will catch you off-balance; overlook the wonkish stats and upgrades and you’ll never stand a chance in the first place. In return for all this work, the game will never waste your time. Maps are concise and packed with new challenges, and the mechanics work in perfect harmony: boost the right stat and you’ll feel the difference when you need one less swing to win a fight. The echoey sound design and charred, damned environments try to daunt you, but when you beat each one, the victory tastes that much sweeter. Demon’s Souls asks a lot—and it deserves nothing less.—Chris Dahlen
Ghost of Tsushima: Director’s Cut
Sucker Punch’s homage to samurai films and Ubisoft open-world games might lean on cinematic language, but it’s perfectly content to be a videogame, and a thoroughly competent one at that. It probably sounds damning to say Tsushima is competent, and to an extent it is. It’s also legitimate praise, though—competence can be hard to come by in big budget videogames like this. At no point during Tsushima did I see something so ridiculous or insulting that I wanted to stop playing on the spot, and I can’t say that about most games from this segment of the market. Ghost of Tsushima is perpetually acceptable, providing enough of the necessary nuts and bolts of videogame business to keep me from turning it off. Sometimes it’s even more than simply acceptable. Its environments can be gorgeous, especially when bright splashes of color pop amid the green and grey; blossoming flowers and trees abound, bringing life to the scenery, and also occasionally factoring into quests. If timed right most battles can start with a showdown, where you and one enemy stare each other down before slashing your swords at each other. This moment remains tense even after I’ve done it a hundred times. The combat can feel a bit formulaic but the ability to change stances on the fly mid-fight adds another layer of depth on top of the typical striking, blocking and parrying; different stances offer advantages over different kinds of enemies, and during a mission I’d find myself changing stances several times per skirmish. Taking a breather to play my flute (a simple swipe on the controller’s touchpad) or contemplate my life in a hot spring never gets old. Also Tsushima takes a novel in-game approach to guiding the player to a waypoint; instead of an on-screen icon hovering off in the distance, or a giant colored line on the ground, the always-churning winds of Tsushima blow in the direction of my goal. All I have to do is hop on my horse—my favorite character in the game, of course—and see which way the wind blows. The original might also be playable on the PlayStation 4, but the Director’s Cut is still one of the best PlayStation 5 exclusives.—Garrett Martin
God of War Ragnarök
God of War Ragnarök is a fast-paced, exciting game. Combat is brisk and beautiful. There are boss fights that will absolutely blow your mind. The story goes places you’d never expect and places you’ll see from miles away, and both often end up being amazing. You’ll fight gigantic, towering enemies, team up with unlikely allies, and see awesome vistas from across the Nine Realms. And every step of the way you’ll think about the ungodly sums of money pumped into its development. God of War Ragnarök looks like an expensive game, and that expense pays off. It might not live up to God of War that came before it, but it’s a fantastic game with tremendous heights.—Joseph Stanichar
Horizon Forbidden West
Horizon Forbidden West proves the open world genre doesn’t have to be as creatively bankrupt as it currently is, even while sticking close to the genre’s conventions. With the right focus, the right setting, and the right storytelling, a game can remain in thrall to a familiar format and still feel inspired. It isn’t a game that will surprise you or make you rethink the possibilities of what games can do, but it’s proof that games can still be really fun even if they don’t try anything new, and that’s something we don’t often see from big budget corporate games like this one.—Garrett Martin
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Sony’s excellent Spider-Man game gets a follow-up starring everybody’s new favorite Spider-Man. Miles Morales is a timelier and more human take on the webslinger than the 2018 original, and although it disappointingly doesn’t fully commit to its politics, it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable action game with a conscience. It’s also just about the perfect length for this type of game—you can probably 100% in half the time it takes to do that with the first one. If, y’know, you care about things like 100%-ing a game. Swinging through Christmastime Manhattan never gets old, especially when you have Spider-Man the Cat poking out of your backpack.—Garrett Martin
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 feels like the best of the three games Insomniac has managed to put out in this series, and this especially helped me explore the game’s nook and crannies to the extent I managed. Web-swinging feels as seamless and kinetic as ever and, to sell a completely different fantasy, Insomniac has given players wings to sort of fly with. It’s more like a glide, but frequent wind tunnels and rooftop vents make it so that you can essentially fly through the city and even into other boroughs with relative ease. In spots like Astoria, which are mostly residential suburbs and thus close to the ground, it feels nice to have the alternative option, which pairs well with a super jump either Spider-Man can now use. Miles has a slight edge in that his Venom lightning powers include a jump and dash forward that especially give him momentum. These powers also help Miles stand out in combat, emerging as the lither of the two protagonists, whereas Peter and his Spider-Arm tech and Symbiote powers clearly hold more of the brute force. While they stand apart, people will gravitate towards their favorite and will largely find they play them very similarly, especially since they share half their abilities and all their gadgets. It’s a largely commendable sequel, building on what’s come before it in smarter ways than I’d expect from most AAA titles.— Moises Taveras
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
The first real reason to own a PlayStation 5, Rift Apart is an embellishment on a formula that’s worked for 19 years. It’s splashy and charming. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it absolutely will dive into talking about trauma and disability, and tackle questions of belonging and imposter syndrome in ways that are simple enough to speak to children, but honest enough to resonate with adults. And at times, it manages to be surprisingly funny despite being entirely predictable, knitting trope to trope in a tapestry wrapped in more tropes. It’s a simple but surprisingly earnest and compassionate game. What carries this big flashy sci-fi romp along and helps elevate it from a simple farce is this charm and humanity. Rift Apart has the heart that Guardians of the Galaxy could never find.—Dia Lacina
As an action shooter, Returnal is a competent enough game. The weapons are interesting if a bit underwhelming at times, though some of the alt-fire moves are truly fantastic and show off the much vaunted power of the PS5—watch as those teraflops go to work orchestrating the particle effects and physics of a dozen balls of deadly blue light bounding and ricocheting like the Mega Millions Lottery Machine bringing death to an entire arena. And the various random powers you’ll accrue can be neat; remember bunnyhopping in Quake? Returnal lets you turn every landed jump into a kinetic blast of death—the ultimate in forward momentum. I don’t like having to retrain my fingers and brain to make sense of the alt fire on the haptic feedback L2 (there’s bumpers, just let me use those), or the impossibly slow recharge time between alt-volleys. It’s the best use of the haptic triggers I’ve experienced on the PS5, but also pulling back like you would in literally every other game since the invention of controller triggers is a muscle memory that gets you killed in Returnal. The alternate fire options are sick as hell, though, and one of the few areas the Housemarque I remember peeks through.—Dia Lacina