We’ve all got them: games we want to play, games we know we should play, games that a friend keeps telling us we absolutely must play. And yet there’s so little time, right?
Well, now’s your chance. This weekend (a long one, if you’re in the UK) you can salve your conscience and scratch one of those ‘I really should play that’ games from your backlog once and for all.
If you love games, you owe it to yourself to pick up one of these incredible must-play indie darlings. What’s better? They’re all on a deep discount this weekend on PlayStation Store along with many more games as part of the Totally Digital sale.
The second title from Danish developer Playdead is a true masterwork of lurid, skin-crawling atmosphere, physics-based puzzles and disturbing dystopian themes.
On the surface a fairly straight-forward, side-scrolling adventure game, it quickly sets itself apart with deft visual storytelling and surreal encounters that leave a lingering sense of dread you’ll not soon shake.
Must-play factor: The ending – you’ll be thinking about it for a while.
2. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
If you think working on a smaller budget means ditching high-end production values, think again. Ninja Theory’s 2017 release holds its own amongst the best-looking games of this generation, despite being developed by a small team.
A thought-provoking exploration of Norse mythology, psychological trauma and grief, the game won high plaudits at launch for its visceral combat and thoughtful treatment of complex themes.
Must-play factor: The sound design – if you’re not playing with headphones, you’re missing out
The third outing from Bastion developer Supergiant games, Pyre is a clever combination of three-on-three competitive sports and narrative-driven RPG exploration.
It stuns from the very outset with impressive visual design and a distinctive soundtrack pitched somewhere between southern-gothic grotesquery and Latin-American dirge – a feast, then, for both the eyes and ears.
Must-play factor: The art direction – in terms of pure aesthetic, Pyre is pitch-perfect.
4. Nex Machina
Those looking for something a little less completive this weekend need look no further. Nex Machina is a living, breathing slice of ’80s arcade action dragged kicking and shooting into the 21st century.
Co-developed with Robotron legend Eugene Jarvis, this slick shooter delivers some of the fastest-paced shoot ’em up action of recent years, bought to life with more pyrotechnics than a Michael Bay movie.
Must-play factor: The couch co-op – we’re talking pure arcade magic here.
5. The Witness
Five years in the making, The Witness was a true labour of love for creator Jonathan Blow. A vast, beautifully-realised puzzle box, the island at the centre of The Witness is teeming with hundreds of thoughtful brain-teasers which constantly iterate on their own internal logic.
Not just for the aspiring Mensa candidates among us, this first-person puzzler has an uncanny ability to bring out your inner genius and make you feel way smarter than you ever likely suspected.
Must-play factor: The mystery – that island’s got some secrets, trust us.
6. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Explore the lush climes of rural Wisconsin at your leisure and uncover a deeply unsettling story concerning the disappearance of the titular 12-year-old.
A stunning showcase of Unreal Engine’s vast graphical feature set, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter presents a richly-detailed world filled with clues that you, as investigator Paul Prospero, will need to uncover using am unusual set of supernatural abilities.
Must-play factor: The breathtaking environments – try it on PS4 Pro for a real treat.
7. Stardew Valley
It’s always the games you’re least expecting that sweep in under the radar and steal away tens of hours of your precious time. Stardew Valley is just that sort of unexpected timesink.
While the premise of taking over your grandfather’s dilapidated farm as an escape from the hubbub of city life might seem rather mundane at first, it won’t be long before you’re tending vast fields of crops and livestock, stressing over in-game economies and embarking on romantic trysts with neighbouring townsfolk.
Must-play factor: The escapism – few games can draw you in so quickly or effortlessly.
8. Salt and Sanctuary
It’s no secret that the Dark Souls formula is a widely imitated one, and perhaps even less of a secret that few such imitations ever live up to the brilliance of their progenitor.
Salt and Sanctuary then is one of those rare exceptions to that trend, managing not only to create a fresh, dynamic experience as brutally satisfying as the pioneering FromSoft formula, but also managing to do it a 2D side-scrolling format.
Must-play factor: The combat – it’s weighty, it’s varied and it’s very satisfying.
9. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Originally released in the twilight years of the last generation, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons combines emotive story-telling and a novel take on adventure-puzzle gameplay to deliver a short but incredibly compelling experience.
Placing you in control of both lead characters – brothers Naiee and Naia – simultaneously, it will take considerable command of your motor control skills to guide the two on their journey to save their sickly father.
Must-play factor: The ingenuity – the control scheme is brave, unique and very clever.
10. Day of the Tentacle Remastered
A mad-cap tale of science gone awry, Day of the Tentacle Remastered maintains every bit of its ’90s authenticity as it makes the leap to the current generation of consoles.
With its distinctive art-style, sharp dialogue and slide-whistle sense of humour it remains as charming today as it was at its 1993 release. If you’re looking for slice of classic Tim Schaefer wit, then look no further.
Must-play factor: The nostaligia – they don’t make them like this anymore.
11. What Remains of Edith Finch
Giant Sparrow’s follow up to its award-winning debut The Unfinished Swan demonstrates a vast leap in ambition for the team, both in terms of visual design and in game narrative.
Told through the format of exploratory adventure, the gradual unveiling of past events – the dark secrets brooding within the labyrinthine Finch family home – cast light on a carefully woven tale of loss that will linger long after the credits have rolled.
Must-play factor: The story – the surreal history of the Finch family is a rare and deeply moving example of magic-realism in the gaming medium.
The debut title from Supergiant Games secured them an almost immediate reputation for artistic panache, smart design and innovative writing.
The simple tale of collapsed world in need of restoration is elevated by the ongoing off-screen narration which places you, the player, at the centre of an unfolding storybook adventure.
Combine this with tight, challenging combat and some excellent art direction and you’ve got the recipe for a break-out hit.
Must-play factor: The world – enchanting, unusual and totally unique, it’s a joy to explore.
13. Rocket League
If football meets rocket-powered super cars seems like an inspired idea, you’d be right, but don’t rush to fire up that crowdfunding campaign just yet – you might have been beaten to the punch.
Rocket League exploded onto PS4 in 2015, giving online multiplayer giants an unexpected run for their money and rightly so. Its simple combination of over-the-top stunts and break-neck speeds with classic field sports proved insanely addictive.
Must-play factor: The competition – either local or online, you’ll be trash-talking your opponents in no time.