Essential PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 Games for the 2020 Holiday Season

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What gamer doesn't want to add some new games to their collection over the holidays? Especially so soon after a new console launches, as is the case with both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

Luckily, there's only one next-gen exclusive across both platforms: Bluepoint's Demon's Souls remaster for the PS5. Even Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition is available on both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. Other games, such as Sackboy: A Big Adventure and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales are available on both the PS4 and PS5.  

In this list, then, we'll be putting the spotlight on some of the best buys for the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 this 2020 holiday season.

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Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales

ESRB: T
Price: $49.99
Platforms: PS5, PS4
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Following in the footsteps of 2018's Marvel's Spider-Man on the PS4, Spider-Man: Miles Morales lets a fantastic new Spidey take the spotlight as New York's primary webslinger. Though the main campaign only comes in at around seven hours — a runtime similar to that of Uncharted: Lost Legacy — it's a gripping and action-packed adventure. 

Spider-Man: Miles Morales essentially improves upon everything from the 2018 title, which you can read more about in our review, where we said, "it's better than its predecessor in almost every way," and that "the combat, streamlined UI, story, and overall game length is damn near perfect."

Those who pick up the game's Ultimate Edition on PS5 (either physically or digitally) will also get Marvel's Spider-Man remastered. Those who pick up the standard edition of Miles Morales can upgrade to the Ultimate Edition in the game's main menu for $20. 

The PS4 version of Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales can be upgraded to the PS5 version for free. 

Demon's Souls

ESRB: M
Price: $69.99
Platforms: PS5
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The game that essentially started the Soulsborne RPG subgenre, Demon's Souls is a remaster (almost remake) of the first Souls title from the PlayStation 3.

It stays as true to the original as it can, making dramatic improvements to the game's visuals (as expected) and sound design. It also makes understanding some of the game's muddier elements — such as World and Character Tendency — a bit easier. 

Still, the Souls games aren't for the faint of heart, and Demon's Souls is no different, challenging players every step of the way in a fashion similar to its spiritual successors: Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Despite being a faithful remaster of a 2009 title, Demon's Souls continues to stand tall. Our 9/10 review has this soul-crushing masterpiece regaining its rightful position in the Soulseborne pantheon, saying, "Demon's Souls is an instant classic, one of those rare retellings that stands triumphantly alongside the original as an essential experience."

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Sackboy: A Big Adventure

ESRB: E
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS5, PS4
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Sackboy: A Big Adventure marks the return of one of Sony's most adorable mascots, this time in an incredibly fun and essential 3D platforming game (LittleBigPlanet is technically 2.5D). 

The charming narrative of SABA takes Sackboy to five worlds and a multitude of unique and varied stages full of secrets. A time-trial mode extends playtime, and all of Sackboy: A Big Adventure can be played in local co op (online co op is coming later in 2020, but was not available at launch). 

Our praise-filled review said that, "with an A-list cast, superb visuals, and some strong co-op gameplay, Sackboy: A Big Adventure successfully proves that Sackboy can thrive without LittleBigPlanet’s creation mechanics, all while still paying homage to his roots. It’s genuinely wonderful to see this PS3 icon return once more, and I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him."

The Last of Us 2

ESRB: M
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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Aside from CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 and, perhaps, Sucker Punch's Ghost of Tsushima, Naughty Dog's The Last of Us 2 was undeniably 2020's most anticipated game. As the follow up to one of Sony's most successful and enduring titles, TLoU2 had a lot to live up to. 

Coming in at around 30 hours, TLoU2's campaign is as much a tour de force as it is divisive. Talking about any portion of it here could likely spoil the whole experience for those that have yet to play it, but it's a story that sticks with players whether they like it or not. 

Combat is improved and more creative than the original, and aside from Ghost of Tsushima and Demon's Souls, it's the best looking game on either the PS4 or PS5. 

It's not perfect, as we said in our review: "The Last of Us 2 does so many things right, from its engaging story beats to its eye-catching level design. But at the same time, there are more than a few things that Naughty Dog could've, and possibly should've, handled differently." 

But it's an essential experience that no Sony fan should miss. 

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Ghost of Tsushima

ESRB: M
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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Developed by Sucker Punch Productions, the same studio behind the Infamous and Sly Cooper franchises, Ghost of Tsushima is a third-person action-adventure game set during the 1274 Mongol invasion of Tsushima Island. 

Playing as Jin Sakai, players work to repel the invaders across dozens of missions and a 20-hour campaign. Combat varies between patient stealth and ranged attacks as the Ghost or methodical yet powerful swordfights as the Samurai. 

Ghost's realized world deserves special mention, showcasing the power still left in the PlayStation 4. On PS5, the game can take advantage of boost mode, running at a steady 4K 60fps. 

In our review of Ghost of Tsushima, we said, "does a lot of things right. Its got fun combat, a wonderfully designed world, and top-notch sound design. Neither the story nor the characters moved me in any real way, even though I could tell both were trying."

Dreams

ESRB: E
Price: $39.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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Dreams takes the creative nature of LittleBigPlanet and amplifies it to extreme levels. Essentially a video game/experience creation app, Dreams allows players to make nearly anything they could imagine, from full racing games to short films. 

By now, there are thousands of different dreams to check out in the game (and we've collected a few of the best early ones here). Half of the fun is seeing what others in the community have created, experiencing their creations, and sharing those creations with other players. The other half is crafting experiences yourself, which Dreams makes a breeze. 

For those looking to learn how to make video games or animated shorts, there's no substitute for Dreams, at least on the PlayStation platform.

We called Dreams a "Pandora's toybox" in our review, praising it for understanding its strengths and playing directly into them: "Dreams knows exactly where its sweet spot is. It's a place where creators and users can explore and experience one another's unbridled creativity. It's where ideas can be quickly and intuitively drafted and communicated in real-time, and where unfinished creations can live on and continue to grow as others come along and 'remix' them."

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Assassin's Creed Valhalla

ESRB: M
Price: $59.99 (PS5), $49.99 (PS4)
Platforms: PS5, PS4
Get it on: Amazon (physical), PS Store (digital)

Assassin's Creed Valhalla is the 12th mainline entry in Ubisoft's long-running action-adventure series.

After 2017's Origins took players to ancient Egypt and 2018's Odessey visited ancient Greece, Valhalla puts players closer to the medieval time period of the very first game — about 300 years before the Third Crusade — setting the narrative during the Viking expansion into Anglo-Saxon England.

Valhalla is may be the most varied of the titles in the series yet, offering loads of content, including flyts (what amount to Viking rap battles), as well as the return of systems such as settlements. And the writing is the best it's ever been. 

We gave Assassin's Creed Valhalla an 8 in our review, saying, "Assassin's Creed Valhalla builds its world around a familiar formula, but with a compelling story and plenty of things to do, it's a game series fans will find inviting."

Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time

ESRB: E
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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While 2017's very good Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy brought the first three adventures of Sony's mascot to the PlayStation 4, fans understandably wanted more. Enter 2020's Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, the first mainline title in the storied series since 2008's Mind Over Mutant

In a nutshell, Crash 4 is mostly more Crash. The platformer stays mostly true to its roots, featuring well-designed levels and challenging but fun platforming. The game's graphical improvements and world deserve special attention, as do the additions on different "playstyles" and a time trial mode, among other things. 

There's lots to do in Crash Bandicoot 4, and it marks a triumphant return to form for the legendary marsupial. Our review said that it can be "frustrating" at times, but overall, it "is a big step in the right direction" for the series. 

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Doom Eternal

ESRB: M
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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The Doom series has been around the block a few times, but much like Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition, Doom Eternal may very well be the best recent entry in the classic and beloved series. 

Doom Eternal is a smooth, ultra-violent romp through Hell on Earth, taking some of the best parts of 2016's Doom and making them better. The Ancient Gods single-player expansion adds even more locales and demons to shoot your way through while thickening the game's narrative in substantial ways.

Our 9/10 review of Doom Eternal praised the game for its "gory and satisfying guns, fantastic progression systems, well-designed battle scenarios, amazing visuals, and satisfying world-building." 

The PlayStation 4 version of the first-person shooter will receive a free upgrade to a more graphically-intense iteration early next year, meaning there's no reason not to pick up the last-gen version now for your PS4 (or PS5) on the cheap. 

Resident Evil 3

ESRB: M
Price: $39.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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One of the more notable PS4 games on this list, Resident Evil 3 remake is a well-crafted reimagining of the original PlayStation game of the same name. And of course, it's backwards compatible with the PS5, making it a must-play for those that haven't already taken the plunge into this version of Raccoon City.

Resident Evil 3 is fast-paced, albeit a little short, and developed with multiple runs in mind, which is perfect for the horror fan with an optimization itch to scratch.

Our Resident Evil 3 review granted this remake a well-deserved 8, saying that while it "falls short of the Resident Evil 2 standard," it makes "shooting and dodging both feel good," and it has "some truly memorable and scary scenes." 

Team Sonic Racing

ESRB: E
Price: $29.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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There aren't a ton of kart racing titles available these days, but Team Sonic Racing does more than enough to scratch the itch on PS4 and PS5. Plus, you know: Gotta go fast!

This racer features a wealth of tracks on top of a vehicle customization system and a heavy emphasis on teamplay, something the genre needs more of. It's the perfect game for those looking for some fun co op play, especially if they can't get their hands on Mario Kart. 

Our review said that Team Sonic Racing "is different from its predecessors, but this is a fresh evolution of the series that surprises and exhilarates in a brand new way."

Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition

ESRB: M
Price: $39.99
Platforms: PS5
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The Devil May Cry series came into its own on the PlayStation 2 and thrived with Devil May Cry 4 on the PS4 and Xbox 360, but its return with Devil May Cry 5 ended up producing perhaps the best game in the series despite the gap between it and its predecessor.

More stylish and faster-paced than ever, DMC5:SE is nothing but an improvement over the regular ol' PS4 version. Making use of the now-current-gen tech, the game can be cranked up to 120fps on the PS5, and it features a new Turbo Mode, which increases the overall game speed by 20%.

That's not to mention fan-favorite Vergil is now playable in this version. DMC5:SE isn't just style, it's a whole lot of substance, too.

Our review said that "Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition makes a great game even better with a new character, new modes, and overhauled visuals for next-gen consoles."

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

ESRB: T
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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Final Fantasy 7 has held a place in the heart of the industry at large since its release in the late '90s, and no one knew how 2020's remake of the classic would turn out. Luckily, Final Fantasy 7 Remake turned out pretty darn good, though it's only one part of a multi-chapter release.

Whether you played the original PlayStation version or are totally new to it and its story, FF7 Remake is a worthwhile play. Our review rated it a full 10 out of 10, saying it "faithfully updates Midgar and the original’s enigmatic cast of antiheroes for a new generation, masterfully weaving its own grand tale in the process."

Yakuza: Like a Dragon*

ESRB: M
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat; *PS5 version releases 3/2/2021), PS4
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A new Yakuza title leading into the new generation of consoles, Yakuza: Like a Dragon finally shelves the series' main character Kazuma Kiryu for some new blood and a much-bigger setting  there's more to do in this game than you might expect.

Though the PlayStation 5 version of this game doesn't launch until March of next year, those who have the PlayStation 4 version of the game and Sony's new console will be able to upgrade to the PS5 version for free, whether they have the physical or digital version of the game. However, PS4 saves will not transfer over to the PS5. 

Our 10/10 review of Yakuza: Like a Dragon praised the game for its "new turn-based combat system," job system, and world. In short, Yakuza: Like a Dragon is "legitimately one of the best modern role-playing games there is."

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

ESRB: T
Price: $59.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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A tactical RPG with its roots in classic Japanese sci-fi, mech, and kaiju tropes, there's not much else like 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. It's in part because of the game's adventure-game-style storytelling, but mostly pushed along by its gorgeous visuals that are a signature of developer Vanillaware.

This is a great buy for mech and kaiju fans, in particular, or fans of Vanillaware's Odin Sphere or Dragon's Crown. Our review said 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim "mixes smart design with superb storytelling, then slathers the whole package in gorgeous style."

Persona 5 Royal*

ESRB: M
Price: $29.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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Many once claimed that Persona 5 was the best JRPG offering on the PlayStation 4, then Persona 5 Royal came by and blew the original version out of the water with loads of new content.

Persona 5 Royal improves on the original game in almost every way, with new characters and locations, an entirely new grappling hook ability, and an extended story. This is the perfect addition to any JRPG fan's collection, on PS5 or otherwise.

Our review of the game lathered it in praise, saying "even if you've played Persona 5 countless times already, there's still enough difference in how things play out and how you can control your experience that it's definitely worth playing at least once."

*Note that Persona 5 is one of the complimentary games in the PS Plus Collection on PlayStation 5, meaning you can give the original a go before making an investment here. 

The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners

ESRB: M
Price: $39.99
Platforms: PS5 (backwards compat), PS4
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The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners brings surviving the zombie apocalypse to PSVR, letting you chop, bash, and shoot your way through the backdrop of the familiar universe of The Walking Dead like nothing else.

This one's a bit of a bonus, as it does require PSVR to play on either the PS4 or PS5 (where the PS5 even requires an extra PSVR adapter to get up and running). But the hoops you may have to jump through are worth it. Saints and Sinners is flexible, fast-paced, and packed with content. You can read more about Saints & Sinners in our review, where we said, "The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners is a can't-miss addition to the wild west of VR."

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*Jonathan Moore and Ashley Shankle contributed to this list. 

Published Dec. 4th 2020

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