You used to play video games for hours, sometimes days. Friends would come to you as the one reference to know what was good or not, what games were coming soon, and if they were worth the money. Your headshot ratio at LAN parties was possibly the best in your group of friends. You could not imagine life without video games.
Then life actually caught up: today you have a job, a family, maybe kids, each of these keeping you busier than ever. You still buy games, but you’re lucky if you can spend more than 1 hour a week playing them, and you have several unopened video games on your shelves. You are, like me, what I call a retired hardcore gamer.
It’s not that you don’t like games anymore, you just don’t have time to play any of them. So when you finally get to turn your PS3 on, it better be a good one.
Below is a selection of 5 games that share the following features:
They are high quality games: If you’ve played video games for the past 20 years like myself, you’re not easily impressed, and since you don’t have much time, you’d rather play the “best game of the year” rather than “it’s that same FPS again, but with better graphics”.
The games can be completed in a reasonable amount of time: in other words, this means no crazy RPG or open world game that will take you 150h to complete, you don’t have that amount of time. Also I chose games where the multiplayer experience is not what matters. I’ve chosen games that can all be completed within 20h or less
The story/experience is compelling: in my opinion this goes with the “high quality” argument above, but I’ll state it again: none of these games will have you throw chickens at pigs in an endless uninteresting fashion. We are not talking of casual games here, you are, after all, still a hardcore gamer, the birds are not for you.
1. Uncharted 2 & 3
The Uncharted series feature an Indiana Jones-like character (Nathan Drake) in a game style that is extremely similar to the Tomb Raider series. It’s a mix of action (gun fights), platform-like sequences, and riddles (how to access the trigger that will open this heavy door?). The 3 games all have lots of impressive cut scenes which are smoothly blended with the game in a movie-like atmosphere, but in all honesty you can skip the first one.
The game has 3 levels of difficulty which will impact the gunfights, and makes it easy to go through the action sequences (despite the fact that a PS3 controller is probably as adapted to play a FPS as a spoon is to slice meat). The riddles are usually reasonably easy if you’ve played similar video games before. The platform sequences are extremely simple, and usually just an excuse to give you a great scary view from the top of a cliff or a falling train. Did I mention the game is breathtakingly beautiful?
The Uncharted series have a great scenario, awesome graphics, simple and smooth gameplay, and difficulty levels adapted for those who want to go through the game without being killed constantly. Each one of them takes less than 10h to complete, although you can make that last longer if you’re into “collecting items”. The multiplayer mode also got great reviews but I haven’t tried it.
2. Heavy Rain
There is a love and hate relationship in the gaming world with Heavy Rain, and I myself have mixed feelings about it, but it is still a game I’d definitely recommend. It’s probably one of the most impressive experiences I’ve lived in a video game recently, but it also has lots of flaws.
Heavy Rain, rather than a game, is an interactive movie where the player gets to take decisions that will influence the scenario. There are a few action scenes and it is much more enjoyable than its philosophical ancestors such as Dragon’s Lair. In heavy Rain, you play as 4 distinct characters trying to catch a Serial Killer before he strikes again. The paths of the 4 characters cross regularly in the story, and there are dozens of endings in the game. The 3D is really good, although the artistic choice of using the 3D engine to render cutscenes is sometimes awkward, and the game enters the uncanny valley more than once.
Playing Heavy Rain is like watching a very immersive movie with which you interact. In the end, it’s still one of those “Quicktime event” games, but done in such a good way that it’s difficult to let go of the controller. Completing the game once will take somewhere between 5h and 10h.
People have criticized the plot holes in the game, which is a problem in a game that is 100% about the atmosphere and 0% about the gameplay, but if you are ok with letting such a few things slip, and understand that it’s difficult to write a perfect scenario when you have to think of dozens of outcomes for each scene, then it’s still great.
My own personal “doubts” about the game come from the first hour of so, which is here to guide you through the mechanics of the game, and is extremely boring. If you can go through the first hour of the game, then the rest is like watching a pretty good thriller.
Despite its scenario flaws, Heavy Rain was probably the best game I played on my PS3 so far, is a really original concept, and I truly wish the company behind it, Quantic Dreams, have more similar things up their sleeves (well, there’s “Beyond: Two souls” coming soon).
3. Little Big Planet 1 & 2
Platform games are always relatively easy to understand and get into. Mario or Donkey Kong Country were instant fun when I was a kid, and games like this are always good fun alone or with a group of friends. Little Big Planet is revolutionary in the way it brings lots of new concepts to a genre that is in general a bit repetitive.
In both Little big Planet and Little Big Planet 2, the first few levels are a funny and really well made tutorial, that will get you used to the basics of jumping and grabbing stuff. Every level can be finished reasonably fast, and it’s easy to come back to it even without having touched it for several days or weeks (unlike, for example, racing simulations or fighting games).
I’ve had friends and family come to visit and become instantly hooked to Little big Planet minutes after playing. Playing even the intro with a friend who’s never tried the game doesn’t get old, and for those who don’t care for the main story, there are lots of mini games than guarantee a good time, especially in Little Big Planet 2.
The main scenario can be completed in about 10h, and the game has lots of replay value. For those who want to push it further, there are millions of community created levels available.
If you can’t play both, go with Little Big Planet 2.
The fact that I don’t like angry birds doesn’t mean I don’t like indie games. Journey was one of the biggest hits on the PS3 last year, and for a good reason.
In Journey, you play as a character trying to reach a beacon far on the horizon. The travel takes you through deserts and mountains. The controls are incredibly simple, and more than a game, Journey is compelling for its atmosphere and awesome graphics (which are simple yet gorgeous).
Journey is a no brainer: the game can be completed in a couple hours, and this is a recommended experience, showing that simplicity and originality can make a terrific game. Interestingly enough, when I got my wife to try and play the game, she got easily confused and never knew where to go. This is were I realized that the game uses very “gamer specific” hints that non gamers might have a hard time to follow (as an example: if you’re in a very dark place, you’ll want to go to that one spot that seems to emit a very bright light. apparently that’s natural if you’ve been playing video games for a while, but not to others)
5. The Last of US
Probably the best game I’ve played in my life… and I’ve been a gamer for 22 years now. It’s easy to be over-cheerful about Naughty Dog’s latest game, one of the best selling games ever on the PS3.
The Last Of Us is the journey of a man and a girl through the United States, in a world where a huge part of the population has turned into zombies. Although the plot sounds completely over-used, the interactions between the main characters, the great music, story, gameplay, cutscenes, and cliffhangers make this game an impressive experience. I’ve stated before that if you need one good reason to buy a PS3 in 2013, the Last of Us is that reason. Try to forget about the “Zombies are overrated” prejudice for a few minutes, and get that game.
The Last Of Us can be completed in 15 to 20h. I haven’t tried the multiplayer mode, but it is said to be very good too.
The games that did not make it to this list
I have played many games on the PS3 over the past years. Many great games did not make it to this list for various reasons, including:
Open world games (such as Red Dead redemption): It’s easy to spend dozens of hours without completing the main quests. Finishing “only” the main quest feels like a waste.
Giant RPGs (e.g: mass effect series). Let’s be serious, you don’t have 150h to play one single games, or you wouldn’t be reading this article
Games with a strong learning curve. These include fighting games with a strong online component (e.g. Street Fighter 4), racing simulations (e.g. Dirt and its sequels), or FPS games in which the solo mode is a joke (e.g. the Call of Duty franchise)
Games so old the graphics turned me off (e.g. Resistance 1… which I tried to play just after the Last Of Us… ugh)
Share your favorite games!
How about you? How much time can you spend playing video games every week? Are there games you would recommend to fellow retired gamers?
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