Modern-day consoles like the PS4 have outstanding capabilities that support even the largest and most demanding games with graphics you almost cannot tell are computer-generated. The beauty of owning such gaming equipment is in the fact that you are not restricted in any way.
If you are a fan of the newest, shiniest titles – you can run them. If you are a retro gamer and do not mind the choppy graphics of some of the older games, you can, without a doubt, run them on your console. If you happen to be a fan of both, then having a PlayStation 4 is the absolute sweet spot.
For all retro fans out there, the PS Store has quite the selection of games. Keep in mind that the following games are currently for sale on the PS Store – not the PlayStation Now service. For most of these titles, you do need to be connected to the Internet. They are marked with the “PSN” caption in the store. The “Full game” caption means you can play offline.
Further, some games on this list are part of a series, so – to avoid overcrowding with the same titles – I am only going to talk about my favorite episode.
Last but not least: only single games allowed. I am not going to rank retro compilations, at least not today.
With the above said, it is time to get right into the 15 best retro games for the PS4.
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15. Blazing Star (developed by Yumekobo, published by SNK; arcade, Neo Geo 1998)
If you remember my recent review of the Neo Geo Mini International, then you know that this shoot’em up really surprised me. Blazing star does have some similarity to the 1995 Pulstar. It is about a group of cyborgs that suddenly realize that they have forgotten they are human, and decide to turn against artificial intelligence systems.
As the player, you can choose to play as one of the cyborgs and pilot a ship with certain characteristics and weapons. You can also collect power-ups to improve your weapons.
Critics claimed Blazing Star was keeping the wonderful genre of shoot ‘em ups alive.
The game was well-received and was developed for other platforms as well.
14. PaRappa the Rapper (developed by NanaOn-Sha, published by Sony; PlayStation, Japan 1996, Europe and NA 1997)
PaRappa the Rapper was redone for the PlayStation 4 in 2017, for its twentieth anniversary
PaRappa is a talking dog trying to impress a girl – Sunny Funny (she is a sunflower, actually). He has to go through a whole lot, before he finally gets to express his feelings for her in a rap solo, on the stage of a club they went to.
This is a rhythm, single-player game with six stages. PaRappa has to keep up with his teacher, who is rapping by jumping in at just the right time. Staying up to beat is the single most important part of the game. The U Rappin’ meter shows whether you are doing a good job or not.
PTR was a huge success in Japan, selling over a million copies and receiving many prizes. The game influenced pop culture and even inspired a short anime TV series in Japan.
13. Flashback: The Quest for Identity (developed by Delhpine Software International, published by U.S. Gold; Amiga 1992)
Flashback was re-released for the PlayStation 4 in 2018.
The year is 2140 – Conrad B. Heart is captured by aliens and ends up on Titan – a place he has to explore and eventually escape, by solving puzzles and bypassing dangerous enemies.
Conrad is very human-like in his abilities. He can jump, run, climb, but he can also fall. He is just a regular human, so if he falls from a great height, he will most certainly die.
Flashback: The Quest for Identity has solid graphics that are incredibly pleasant, very smooth and fluid movement and great audio effects. It received high scores from the reviewers at many influential gaming and tech magazines. Flashback also won numerous awards, including Game of the Year, Best Action Adventure of the Year and so on.
12. Metal Slug 3 (developed and published by SNK; arcade, Neo Geo 2000)
After the initial 2000 release, Metal Slug 3 was ported to several other platforms, including the PlayStation 4. I ranked it sixth on my list of the 10 best cooperative games.
The player has to shoot at incoming enemies to fight his/her way to the end of the level. At the end awaits the boss – much larger and more difficult to defeat than regular enemies.
Weapons can be upgraded. You can also fight using a knife, or you can just kick your enemies. Throughout the game, you will find power-ups and other bonuses that help immensely.
Metal Slug 3 received positive reviews. It is said to be a fun game, that is easy to play and works even better when played with a friend. The gameplay is smooth, and the graphics and sound are excellent.
11. Resident Evil (developed and published by Capcom; PlayStation 1996)
In this survival horror game, two members of the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad – S.T.A.R.S. elite task force (Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine) begin to explore the outskirts of Raccoon City, after two of their colleagues mysteriously disappear. During their quest to retrieve the two missing people, Chris and Jill become trapped in a zombie-ridden mansion. Their mission is to explore the mansion and get out alive.
The game is extremely interactive and, depending on which of the two characters you choose to play, and whether they rescue the remaining part of the task force of not, there are four different outcomes for each character.
Resident Evil was a remarkable success, receiving positive reviews and many awards. The game became a best-seller in the US and UK. Its graphics and sound effects are incredibly realistic and make this title a thrilling experience.
10. Rogue Galaxy (developed by Level-5, published by Sony JP 2005, NA, AU and EU 2007)
Rogue Galaxy was redone for the PS4 in 2015. Jaster Rogue is the game’s protagonist – a 17 year-old agricultural worker, dreaming of a future of space exploration. He becomes part of a conflict, and realizes he is the only one responsible for the fate of the entire galaxy.
This JRPG employs the so-called hack and slash combat system. The player has the ability to control one of three characters in a fight. During the fight, you can switch between the three, leaving the other two to fight based on the instructions you have given (e.g. aggressive, defensive). Besides the main storyline, there are a lot of side quests to check out.
Rogue Galaxy was praised for its graphics and gameplay and received generally positive reviews. It did not, however, reach Sony’s initial target of 1 million sold copies.
9. Doom (developed and published by Id Software; Ms-Dos 1993)
This first-person shooter game was re-released on the PS4 earlier this year.
In 2019 (in the game, lol), an unnamed space marine assaults a superior officer, and, as a result of the insubordination, he is being shipped to Mars. In the meanwhile, the government is performing secret teleportation experiments with gateways, between Mars’ two moons.
In 2022, one of them suddenly disappears, and something evil starts escaping the gateways. The Martian marines are sent to check it out, and the player is left outside with only a pistol. The rest of the crew is killed, and the unnamed space marine has to fight off the incoming enemies and stop them from attacking planet Earth.
Hours after Doom’s release there were already thousands of servers, filled with enthusiastic players. The game received critical acclaim and is considered by many to be the best video game of all time, receiving numerous awards throughout the years, including Game of the Year, Best Breakthrough Game for PC, etc.
8. Double Dragon (developed and published by Technōs Japan; arcade 1987)
After its initial 1987 release, Double Dragon was later adapted for other platforms, including the PS4, in 2017. I ranked it fourth on the previously mentioned list of the 10 best cooperative games
Billy and Jimmy Lee are two martial artists that fight different adversaries – gang members and rivals. The Black Warriors are a criminal organization in New York, ruthlessly dominating the now lawless city after a nuclear war. This beat ‘em up game has a brilliant and at the same time basic mechanics and gameplay.
The idea behind it is interesting and the execution is great. Usually, the player assumes the role of Billy, with Jimmy being his sidekick. Double Dragon is part of a franchise that influenced pop culture and led to the creation of an animated series and even a live-action film in 1994!
7. Secret of Mana (developed and published by Squaresoft, SNES 1993)
A full remake of this action RPG was released in 2018 for the PS4 and a few other platforms.
This title earned a high spot on my list of the best cooperative games. I ranked it 3rd, to be exact.
A boy and his friends stumble onto a rusty sword that is stuck in a stone. One of them decides to pull it free, guided by a strange voice, which releases evil monsters. When the villagers find out what happened, they banish the boy from Potos – their village.
The boy, a girl, and the sprite child attempt to stop an empire from conquering the entire world with an ancient flying fortress – the Mana Fortress. It is powered by an energy source, referred to as Mana. This source was exhausted in a previous epic battle, but the empire manages to get their hands on eight mana seeds that, when unsealed, restore the world’s mana and they can regain control over the Mana Fortress.
According to Square, Secret of Mana had record-high sales; it sold out in Japan within days of its release. The game is said to have one of the best designs, combat systems, and music. Esteemed reviewers consistently gave SoF high scores, and it also received many awards, like Best Action/RPG, Game of the Month and so on.
6. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy (developed by Naughty Dog, published by Sony; PlayStation 2 2001)
The first installment of the Jak and Daxter franchise was brought from the PS2 to the PS4 in 2017.
J and D are best friends, and when the latter is transformed into a weird hybrid between an otter and a weasel (namely an “ottsel”), the former attempts to help him. The fictional world they live in has a type of energy called Eco, and the two boys live with Samos – the Sage of green eco. They must save their world from the evil Gol Acheron and his sister, who plan to flood the world with dark eco.
The game is lots of fun and is filled with various puzzles, side quests, and minigames. Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy sold over two million copies, earning its creators close to $50 million. It received critical acclaim, and won the Original Game Character of the Year award at the 2002 Game Developer’s Choice Awards.
5. Bubble Bobble (developed by Taito, published by Taito for JP and Romstar for NA; arcade 1986)
Bubble Bobble topped my list of the best cooperative games hands down.
The game is about twins Bub and Bob, who need to bubble their way through 100 levels. In addition to shooting and bursting bubbles to trap and kill their enemies, the twin dragons can collect add-ons and power-ups which greatly help them in their journey.
Their goal is saving their girlfriends, who are trapped in the Cave of Monsters. Depending on the player’s performance, the game has multiple outcomes.
This title was highly rated and well-received, and was re-released on several occasions for different platforms.
4. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (developed by Rockstar North, published by Rockstar Games; PlayStation 2 2004)
This legendary action video game was ported from the * PlayStation 2 to the PlayStation 3 in 2015.
GTA: SA is set in a made-up part of the United States, influenced by California and Nevada. The player has the ability to interact with the world and move about freely, if they decide they do not wish to follow the main missions.
There are a total of three cities to explore. This title offers incredible details and a stunning environment, filled with different people who interact with each other. There are 250 vehicles in the game, with different characteristics.
The story is about Carl Johnson, an ex-gang member who returns to his hometown following his mother’s murder. He attempts to bring his old friends back together and has to face many challenges like corrupt cops, traitors, etc.
GTA: San Andreas is considered to be one of the best games ever made. Its beautiful
graphics and incredible controls and gameplay make it a great title. Critics and consumers agree that GTA: SA was a huge success. Songs from the time the game is set are used as a soundtrack, which makes the story much more believable. It is as if you are in the game, basically.
After its release, it quickly became a best-seller, and as of 2011, it had sold almost 28 million copies worldwide and continued to occupy the top positions of the best-selling video games of all time.
3. Final Fantasy IX (developed and published by Squaresoft; PlayStation 2000)
FFIX was ported to the PlayStation 4 in 2017.
It is the story of thief Zidane Tribal who ends up on a quest to save the world. Final Fantasy IX is my absolute favorite installment of the series. I ranked it fourth on my list of the 10 best PlayStation 1 games and third on my list of the 5 best retro games on Steam, where I talk about it extensively.
Like I said in the introduction, one game per series, but please note that FFVII and FFVIII are also for sale on the PS Store. They are a must-have for every Rpg fan.
2. Dark Cloud 2 (developed by Level-5, published by Sony 2003)
Dark Cloud 2 – known as Dark Chronicle in Europe – was made available for the PS4 in 2016.
This action RPG with elements of city-building features two protagonists – Max and Monica. They must unite their efforts in an attempt to stop Emperor Griffon – the villain, who will try to destroy the present. DC 2 received positive reviews by Game Spot, IGN, Game Spy and other notable gaming sites and reviewers.
It was named Best PlayStation 2 Game by GameSpot and Best Console Role Playing Game by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, both in 2003.
Last but not least, I ranked it first on my list of the 10 best PlayStation 2 RPGs.
Crazy Climber (developed and published by Nichibutsu; arcade 1980)
Crazy Climber is considered to be a precursor to the platformer genre. It has a special place in my heart, because it was the very first video game I ever played. You can read more about it my retro story about an 80s arcade machine.
The player controls a guy who is trying to climb to the top of a skyscraper. While doing so, you need to skilfully avoid different obstacles like opening and closing windows, falling items (flower pots anyone?), peculiar creatures, etc.
It is a classic that was re-released for the PS4 in 2014.
Ikaruga (developed by Treasure, published by Sega; arcade 2001)
I first talked about Ikaruga on my post about the 10 best Dreamcast games. Though the very first version was released in 2001 for Japanese arcades.
Shinra, who is a rebellious pilot, fights an enemy nation with the Ikaruga – a specially designed craft that can flip polarities – black or white. Bullets of the same color as the fighter are absorbed, while those of the opposite color deal damage and kill the player.
Elevator Action (developed and published by Taito; arcade 1983)
Elevator Action features a spy – Agent 17, codename ‘Otto“ trying to infiltrate a 30-story building, starting from the roof, with elevators and enemies, scattered everywhere behind closed doors.
The objective is to collect all secret documents, hidden behind the red doors. After Otto has them all, he can escape to the lowest level and drive away in a waiting car.
Innovative but repetitive, it is nonetheless considered a true arcade classic.
The game was ported to several systems, and an arcade sequel – called Elevator Action II – was released in 1994 (looks like a whole different game, to be honest).
Bomb Jack (developed and published by Tehkan; arcade 1984)
Bomb Jack has to collect all red bombs. He has the ability to jump high in the air and float.
His enemies – mummies and birds – can morph into different orbs and flying saucers, once
they drop to the lowest level of the screen. When they touch Bomb Jack, he loses a life. Collecting the bombs will give Jack different bonuses.
The game was rated well and was re-released several times (2014 for the PS4). It also had a few sequels later on.
Pac-Man (developed by Namco for JP and Midway Games for NA; arcade 1980)
The player is in control of Pac-Man (originally known as Puck Man), a yellow, circular character with a voracious appetite.
The objective is to eat every dot from the maze-like levels. In the meantime, you have to carefully avoid the four colored ghosts that are chasing you. The large flashing dots, when eaten, allow you to eat the ghosts. When Pac-man eats them, you receive extra points.
Pac-Man is worldwide popular and is listed as one of the greatest video games of all time. It was a huge success, bringing billions of dollars in revenue and leading to the making of two TV series and all sorts of merchandise.
The title was remade and adapted for numerous platforms and has many sequels and spin-offs, only one of which was created by the original designer of the game.
Throughout the globe, championships are held with players competing against each other. The game was turned into a Google doodle – basically embedded in Google’s homepage, amplifying its success and fame.
Pac-man is a fun game that is incredibly simple and awfully addictive. I can safely call it the ultimate retro game.
It has been a very long ride down memory lane, but please bear with me: one stop left, but it is worth it…
1. Shadow of the Colossus (developed by SCE Japan Studio and Team Ico, published by Sony; PlayStation 2, JP and NA 2005, AU and Europe 2006)
Shadow of the Colossus – a.k.a. Wander and the Colossus in Japan – was remade for the PlayStation 4 in 2018 and developed by Bluepoint Games.
A young man named Wander enters a forbidden land, where he must defeat sixteen colossi (huge beings) to save the life of a girl, Mono. The colossi are the only enemies the player encounters in the game.
This action-packed adventure game contains elements of the puzzle genre. While the colossi are mighty, each has an Achilles’ heel, a weak spot, that makes him vulnerable and this is the only way to bring him down. It is up to the player to figure out what that weak spot is and defeat them all.
Shadow of the Colossus received critical acclaim and high scores from critics. It won various
awards like Best Character Design, Best Game Design, Game of the Year… The list goes on.
We are in front of a true masterpiece, that deserves to be on every player’s PS4. It
is an enchanting game that sometimes feels like a movie, with epic battles and world exploration.
So retro folks, this concludes this very long retro list. It is over to you, now: do you agree with me or is there anything that you would change? What do you think about the PS Store? Have you ever bought a game in digital format?
I cannot wait to hear from you down in the comments!