You’ve preordered your PS4 by now and you probably are considering what to do with your PS3. Give it to a friend? Trade it in? Use it as a doorstop? All good options but you have some assignments before then. Over the course of this generation, there are numerous games that, for various reasons, never found the audience they deserved. In some cases, they came out in seasons that were too crowded with better alternatives. In others, it was the opposite, games released in those bizarre dead times of the year (the first couple months, for example), in which it just seems impossible for new IPs to build traction. Whatever the reason, there are at least ten games (most running under $20 new at most outlets) that you should play before you take your PS3 behind the shed and put it out of its misery. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
Ridiculous. Stupid. Ridiculously, gloriously stupid. 2011’s “Bulletstorm” is an action game in which you get extra points for being as over-the-top violent as you can possibly be. Kick that guy into something spiked, bash this one’s head in, throw another enemy off a cliff, and do it all in quick enough succession to keep your combo meter rising. In an era in which we seem to be more sensitive to violence in all forms – film and video games, especially – this title was largely ignored. It takes smarts to be this stupid. It’s clever, well-designed, and addictive action gameplay, the kind of B-movie experience we wanted from “Duke Nukem Forever” but got in “Bulletstorm” instead.
This is the title on the list most likely to produce cries of “That game wasn’t underrated!,” and, to be fair, the 2010 game did make enough waves to get a 2014 sequel (most titles in this feature were one-shot IPs). But the attention garnered by “Lords of Shadow” did not equal what it deserved. It should have been on more top ten lists and in more GOTY conversations with its stunning reimagination of one of the most important game franchises of all time. Striking visuals, deep gameplay, great voice work, and tons of game time, “Lords of Shadow” is one of the most must-play titles of this generation. So, maybe more people have actually played it than any game on this list. Just play it again.
Like the entry above, this is an arguably popular game but one that didn’t get the attention it deserved overall, something even more tragically true for its sequel, a game that’s perceived failure contributed to the end of THQ. You can get both “Darksiders” game right now for a combine $30 on a number of major outlets and get ‘em both out of the way at the same time. Because if you play “Darksiders,” with its beautiful combination of “God of War”-esque combat, mythology, and puzzle-solving, you’ll simply have to play the even-better sequel.
One of the most visually striking games of this generation is also one of its most underrated. “Enslaved” hit at a time when the “Call of Duty” juggernaut was really picking up steam, making everything that wasn’t a shooter look quaint. “Oh, your game has a lot of foliage and gorgeously rendered settings instead of metal, steel, and firepower? How cute.” “Enslaved” contains so much of what we ask for from original IPs but never get – original characters in a fully-realized world. Let’s face it, gamers. We are increasingly dire times when it comes to original properties (one hopes that the PS4 inspires some developers to take more risks), as sequels dominate the sales charts. We need to embrace more games like “Enslaved.” It’s not too late.
One of the most explosive games of this generation felt overly familiar to some gamers used to blowing things up in the worlds of “Grand Theft Auto” and “Saints Row” but this incredibly addictive game was too easily written off by comparison. Yes, it’s familiar. But it’s also stunningly well done, particularly in the way it embraces vehicular mayhem. You’re not just encouraged to steal an incredible variety of vehicles (over 100) but you’re encouraged to go crazy with them. Helicopters, planes, skydiving, base jumping, “Just Cause 2” opened up a world vertically in ways that most other developers ignore. And it’s truly explosive, allowing you to dominate its world by blowing most of it up.
The most recent game on this list hasn’t really had enough time in the market to be considered a failure but it definitely has not yet garnered the attention it deserved as most gamers spent their time this Summer with Joel and Ellie in “The Last of Us,” to the detriment of all other games. Now that you’re done with that “Last,” go back and play the other one, an accomplished blend of stealth and assault action in a post-apocalyptic world. This game is a propulsion that’s missing from most other action games, pushing you forward in its engrossing story in ways that other developers ignore. It creates a terrifying world, much of it underground and populated by creatures that want to eat you, and hurtles you through it. You’ll be up late just to see where it goes next.
Hardcore loyalists to the franchise didn’t just dismiss the 2008 reboot of “Prince of Persia,” its debut on the PS3 generation, they greeted it with anger. It wasn’t difficult enough. It was too stylized. It was too repetitive. Whatever. “Prince of Persia” is a beautiful, mesmerizing game with some of the most fluid, consistent gameplay of the last five years. It looks and feels like nothing that has come out since its release. When you’re considering the must-play games of a generation, don’t you want to play the ones that stand alone?
What the heck happened here? Was it an overload of open-world, “GTA”-inspired games? An awful release date of December ’09 (most major games come out in October or November, to give more time to be put on holiday wish lists)? “The Saboteur” is one of the most disappointing ambition-to-reception ratios in the PS3 generation. Yes, it was an open world crime game but it was one set in WWII Paris, bringing with it a unique sense of style, combat, and open-world exploration. As you worked to sabotage the Nazi occupation of Paris, the story built in fascinating ways that included bringing color back to your environment. We need more games that take risks with setting. Yes, some of the mechanics were imperfect, but I wish the game had done well enough for the developers to iron out those kinks in a sequel.
It feels like when gamers can compare one title to another massively successful one, they write it off without a look. “That reminds me of “Bioshock,” I won’t play it.” A lot of games on this list were clearly inspired by other titles but just because you can see the influences doesn’t make it worthless. This was an adrenalin-packed action-adventure that merged sci-fi and action elements. The gameplay was consistently entertaining throughout, perfect for fans of “Killzone” or the “Bioshock” series. Is it groundbreaking? No. But, like every game on this list, it’s several days of fun while you watch the countdown clock for your PS4 to arrive.