2014 may be the end of an era, an era in which the PlayStation 3 was well regarded for being at the top of the field. The first year of the PlayStation 4 was marked by transitioning factors as is always the case early on in a new generation's life, allowing the PlayStation 3 to seize the moment. And it did with a rich, diverse mixture of titles that has so often been the platforms strength. Debates raged over what would get the best, and in the end, a draw bore out here - but our third title will get a rare mention for it at the end for coming within one vote of making it a three-way split.
The end is coming for the PlayStation 3 as a leading console, but in 2014 it showed that it had the chops to play with still and get some excellent games out into the public. -- Don Parsons
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Somehow South Park: The Stick of Truth manages to pull off the ‘YOUR ORIGINAL CHARACTER’ storyline sincerely in a total fan service package. For all intents and purposes, this shouldn't work in the slightest. However, it succeeds in telling its story while also setting a new bar for comedic writing in video games.
The player character never speaks akin to the rookie in Ghostbusters: The Video Game from 2009. The player is engaged as if it were an interactive episode of South Park that, thankfully, doesn't suffer from gary stu self-insert character problems. It’s like an adult version of Earthbound thanks to the setting and most of the character equipment looking jumbled together with things found around the house.
This is the first time that the map of South Park itself is revealed too, out of necessity for character movement. The collector’s edition came with a physical copy of Cartman’s rendition of the city map in what could only be classified as a mockery of the maps included with games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The game is undoubtedly the longest South Park story ever at roughly twelve hours in length depending upon completion rate. Yes, Manbearpig is a boss. -- Matt M.
Currently Available on: Amazon (physical), and Gamestop (Digital)
Sega has had a rocky road when it comes to publishing games based on the Alien license seemingly due to effective outsourcing of the projects. Perhaps that is why they had The Creative Assembly, one of their direct subsidiaries, get the license back onto the horse in the wake of the PR nightmare of Colonial Marines.
Alien Isolation focuses on Amanda Ripley’s efforts to survive on the space station Sevastopol where a single Alien/Xenomorph is running amok. Paranoia brings out the worst in people and the survivors on the station aren’t sympathetic in the slightest. This is true survival horror with some action elements included instead of an action game pretending to be horror thanks to forced stealth sections.
The comparison to System Shock 2 is used quite often made based on the first person perspective in a survival horror based in a space station. There are other major similarities that will go unsaid to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t had a chance to play the title yet. It’s great to see Sega pull off a proper revival of the Alien franchise in video game form so quickly after the darkest hour in the series. -- Matt M.
Currently Available on: Amazon (Physical and Digital)
This collection marks the release of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep on something other than the PSP and Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix outside of Japan. There are many Kingdom Hearts fans prepared to say ‘shut up, and take my money’ for either of those games on their own. Including both of these games in one release was almost inevitable given the composition of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD from 2013.
Birth by Sleep is the more dramatic upscale of the two, in that it manages to hide its origins as a PSP game for the most part outside of the frequent loading between seemingly small rooms. What really sets this version apart from the PSP original is the assignment of camera control to the second analog stick of the Dualshock 3. Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix isn’t a slouch either although the differences between it and the original aren’t as readily apparent to casual observers of the series.
With the exception of Dream Drop Distance on the 3DS, it is now entirely possible to experience the entire Kingdom Hearts storyline so far on the PS3 thanks to the two Kingdom Hearts HD releases. Actually making sense of all the storyline has to offer is the perfect way to kill time until Kingdom Hearts 3 is actually released. -- Matt M.
Currently Available on: Amazon
Winner 1: Dark Souls II
Prepare to die over and over again with the sequel to 2011’s cult hit Dark Souls, Dark Souls II. The series trademark difficulty remains untouched while not feeling stagnant. Bosses are still as challenging as ever in spite of the series having countless veterans from the previous titles’ single player experience and PvP. Encounters with enemies such as the old knights, giant knights capable of inflicting major damage, feel almost like micro-boss fights given their scale. Heide’s Tower of Flame is crawling with these enemies as mere appetizers for the real boss.
It’s like being shoved into a meat grinder repeatedly until the perfect ‘run’ manages to happen by some miracle. The level of agony that is typically associated with beating a whole game, is merely the suffering for one boss fight in Dark Souls II. It goes without saying that this title is not for impatient gamers and those who are easily frustrated. Dark Souls II is more of the Dark Souls wild ride and that is for the best. -- Matt M.
Current Available on: Amazon physically and digitally
Winner 2: Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD
“HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA” This is the quote that defined a generation of roleplaying games on the Playstation 2. Now Final Fantasy X and X-2 have been remastered in proper HD for those who didn’t have a chance to play it before, or those who haven’t played it in a long time. The main feature beyond the technical changes to aspect ratio and resolution is that the title includes upscaled versions of the ‘International Editions’ of each title. There is over one hundred hours of content in this game thanks to the inclusion of two full RPGs making it one of the best deals of the year. -- Matt M.
Currently Available on: Amazon (physical) and Playstation Network
That was how we saw the PlayStation 3 last year. It was a year dominated by RPGs on the whole, sequels, updates, and new games. South Park: The Stick of Truth gets a rare honorable mention for finishing only a vote back of the two winners. The plans for this upcoming year foreshadow the end of the PlayStation 3 as a premiere console, with both Final Fantasy X/X-2 and Dark Souls 2 making their way to the PlayStation 4. Still, this was a solid year bringing some must plays to begin the winding down of the console's library.
Editor's Note: Corrected Heidi's Tower of Flame to Heide's Tower of Flame
What did you think of our picks for the PlayStation 3? Think we missed something? Tell us in the comments below!