While Sony platforms — particularly the Vita — used to be the spiritual home of RPGs, in more recent years the Nintendo Switch has become the place to go if you want hot stat-crunching action.
That doesn’t mean there are no great PS4 RPGs, however — quite the opposite, in fact. And with the platform gradually phasing itself out in favour of its shiny new successor, now’s a great time to look back over its lifetime and perhaps check out some games you might have missed. You might even be able to grab a bargain or two!
So let’s take a look at ten of the best Sony-exclusive* console RPGs — and why you should give ’em a shot. In no particular order, then:
One of the earliest RPGs to hit the PS4, Omega Quintet is one of many games that demonstrates how consistently Compile Heart has improved and refined its craft since its janky but charming PS3 output.
Casting players in the role of a young man who finds himself managing a group of idols in a post-apocalyptic setting, in Omega Quintet it’s up to you to train the girls to battle the ever-present threat of the “Blare”, uncover the various mysteries of this dying world — and, of course, put on a great show for the people who are slowly losing hope.
Featuring a wonderful combat system that emphasises performance and showmanship as much as it does some absolutely astronomical damage numbers, Omega Quintet remains one of Compile Heart’s lesser known but most enjoyable games — and is a fantastic PS4 game for those who enjoy minmaxing.
The Witch and the Hundred Knight
Nippon Ichi’s action RPG had a middling-to-poor critical reception when it was originally released on PS3, primarily because its protagonist — the titular “Witch”, known as Metallia — is not a very nice person. But that’s the entire point of this game from a narrative perspective; it’s a classical-style tragedy in which an inherently flawed character has to confront their flaws to either grow and change, or perish as a result of those flaws.
The game’s commitment to exploring the idea of tragedy in the traditional sense makes it fascinating to explore, as Metallia’s development is complex and interesting — and the selection of different endings all provide a markedly different outlook on what you have watched transpire. Interestingly, the conclusion the game regards as the “bad” ending takes the most effort to unlock, and is by far the most satisfying.
Gameplay-wise, The Witch and the Hundred Knight features a lot of exploration, tons of loot to acquire and Nippon Ichi’s trademark depth of character customisation and progression. The PS4 release of the game features additional content over the PS3 original, and was even followed by a full-on sequel if you enjoyed what you experienced in this one.
Death end re;Quest
You’ll notice there’s a fair few Compile Heart titles on this list, and that’s because the company did some of its best work on PS4. While many of these titles have since been ported to Nintendo Switch, at the time of writing Death end re;Quest and its sequel remain Sony-exclusive — and are eminently worth your time.
The original Death end re;Quest for PS4 sees you attempting to rescue a young programmer who has found herself stuck inside an immersive virtual reality game that she helped develop. Unfolding in both the game world and out in “reality”, Death end re;Quest features a delightful blend of urban horror, isekai portal fantasy and a compelling mystery to solve.
It also features one of Compile Heart’s most enjoyably creative combat systems, allowing you to temporarily “switch genre” as a special move and unleash attacks as if you were playing a third-person shooter, billiards game, 2D fighter or puzzle game. Alternatively, a strong emphasis on knockback attacks allows you to ping enemies around the battlefield and take “Field Bugs” with them for various effects.
Demon Gaze II
Experience’s Demon Gaze was an excellent dungeon-crawling RPG for PlayStation Vita, and the sequel — available for both PS4 and Vita — is exactly what you’d want from a follow up. More dungeons, more beautiful artwork… and, of course, more Vocaloid goodness on the soundtrack. Oh yes, did we not mention that? Demon Gaze distinguished itself for, among other things, featuring Vocaloid IA rather prominently in a variety of its musical tracks, giving it a very distinctive sound.
Demon Gaze features a stronger emphasis on developing bonds with your demon companions than in its predecessor. By playing a “Maintenance” minigame with them, you’ll be able to deepen your affection with them, and perhaps even take them out on dates. Because as we all know, dungeon crawlers are always way better if you can get unreasonably attached to your party members.
Naturally, there’s a mechanical benefit too — demons you have a closer bond with are more effective in battle, and can make better use of special abilities in collaboration with the protagonist. There’s a lot to explore, both inside the dungeons and out — so if you’re in the mood for some dungeon delving, get this one into your PS4.
Megadimension Neptunia VIIR
This PS4-exclusive rebuild of one of the best Neptunia games shifts the whole thing to the Unreal Engine for enhanced visuals and performance. It also incorporates some optional VR content for those with a PlayStation VR headset — you’ll get the chance to hang out virtually with your favourite goddesses. The VR stuff isn’t mandatory to enjoy the game, though; it’s just a nice bonus for those with the hardware.
Besides the enhanced engine, Megadimension Neptunia VIIR also features completely revamped combat mechanics as well as greater depth to the equipment system, with equippable items now having variable “levels” to tweak their base stats.
The game is made a bit more friendly to newcomers, too, as some of the “hidden” and missable story events from the original are much easier to find now, making it much more straightforward to achieve the best endings. If you’re yet to experience Megadimension Neptunia in some form, this is a great way to do so — particularly if you have a PS4 VR headset available to enjoy that bonus content.
Dragon Quest Heroes
Often dismissed as nothing more than Warriors-style hack-and-slash games — not that there’s anything wrong with Warriors-style hack-and-slash games, mind — the two Dragon Quest Heroes games for PS4 are actually pretty substantial action RPGs in their own right, with some solid character progression and monster-collecting components to explore.
These games are especially good for longstanding fans of the Dragon Quest series, as they provide the opportunity for classic characters from a variety of different games to come together for the first time ever in some cases. And the excellent quality English voice acting really brings those regional accents from the series’ iconic localisations to the forefront! (Of course, you can always keep the voices in Japanese if you prefer, but if you’re deliberately depriving yourself of West Country Bianca, you’re seriously missing out.)
Be warned, though; Omega Force’s games can all keep you busy for a very long time indeed if you want to see everything they have to offer — and these games are no exception!
Dragon Star Varnir
Dragon Star Varnir is another Compile Heart title for PS4 that came out around a similar time to Death end re;Quest, and also features a fairly dark tone. You play the role of a young knight saved from death by “witches” — individuals who are cursed to give birth to dragons. Unfortunately, in being saved by those witches, our hero has become a witch also.
The game features rich storytelling, some interesting characters and some tough moral decisions to make along the way. But for many people the highlight of Dragon Star Varnir is the excellent aerial combat system that places a strong focus on managing enemy morale — as well as dealing with your foes at three different altitude levels.
Dragon Star Varnir, along with its PS4 stablemate Death end re;Quest, stands as a great example of what Compile Heart’s Galapagos RPG project is all about: experimental, creative games that often eschew the candy-coloured moe comedy the company is often associated with in favour of darker and more challenging themes — but without sacrificing the things that make Compile Heart games distinctly “Compile Heart”.
One of Atelier developer Gust’s finest games, Blue Reflection is a PS4 RPG that casts you in the role of a teenage girl who, after suffering an injury, has her promising career in ballet brought to a premature end. It’s not all bad news, though; turns out she’s also a Reflector, a magical girl who is able to dive into the world’s collective unconscious — known as The Common — and help the people around her resolve various emotional crises.
Oh, right, and there are a bunch of giant tree monsters trying to obliterate the world. She should probably do something about that, too — but as it happens, developing bonds with her peers and helping them to deal with their own personal struggles helps her grow in strength as a Reflector, too.
Featuring a fascinating blend of rather mundane “teenage girl simulator” action combined with some solid RPG combat, crafting and one of the most unusual, memorable soundtracks you’ll ever hear in a video game, Blue Reflection is an artistic masterpiece that hasn’t had nearly enough recognition in its lifetime.
Developed by Gemdrops and published by FuRyu, Crystar is an unusual action RPG that sees you exploring the world of Purgatory in an attempt to revive your deceased younger sister.
The game features a scenario written by ex-Key writer Naoki Hisaya, who previously wrote the classic visual novel Kanon. As the game progresses, you’ll need to purify equipment and the floating, lost thoughts of the dead by crying; in doing so, protagonist Rei Hatada will develop her own skills and grow stronger, bringing her ever closer to her goal.
As you might expect, this one can be fairly heavy going from an emotional perspective, but it’s definitely a worthwhile experience if you’re not averse to shedding a tear or two — both inside and outside the game.
Nights of Azure
Finally, we come to one of the best yuri games of all time, featuring a lesbian vampire demon protagonist and her rather demure girlfriend who is incapable of cooking a good cupcake even if her life depends on it.
In Nights of Azure, you take on control of the rather badass Arnice, a young woman who was inadvertently bathed in the blood of the Nightlord, giving her superhuman powers — and perhaps even the power to hold back the Night once and for all. Unfortunately, her aforementioned girlfriends is scheduled to be ritually sacrificed in order to appease said Nightlord, so naturally Arnice has a whole bunch of hacking and slashing to do in order to sort the whole situation out to a satisfactory degree.
Featuring an enjoyable monster collecting aspect, some great boss battles, an amazing soundtrack and a genuinely thought-provoking story on the subject of religion’s role in controlling the people, Nights of Azure is another title that proves there’s a lot more to Gust than just Atelier.
* Yes, some of these have Steam releases, too, I know. We’re talking console exclusives here!
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