This article is periodically updated to reflect recent availability.
The Playstation Network, officially abbreviated the PSN, has had its fair share of trials and tribulations over the years. Whether it be the initial network outage in 2011 that affect 77 million registered accounts or the later-dismissed fines that followed, it’s faced stark criticism when it comes to security and reliability issues. On the other hand, the digital media service has also earned developer praise for the swarm of nuanced indie hits and multi-platform blockbusters available for download on the Playstation 3, Playstation Portable, and the Playstation Vita. It’s been around for nearly eight years, and like its Microsoft counterpart, the Xbox Live Arcade, the PSN is doused with award-winning titles and cheap alternatives with ambitions and features far greater than many found on $60 titles. It appears the days of physical discs may be numbered.
The PSN now boasts a healthy selection of titles, from role-playing adventures courtesy of Studio Ghibli to revamped renditions of some of the most beloved fighters of all time, and everything in between. Unfortunately, the service is littered with a myriad of tragically-terrible games like Jeopardy, Go! Sports Ski, and a host of other titles nowhere near worth mentioning in our roundup. Standouts, like the gorgeously-crafted Journey and music-centric Sound Shapes, can still be found buried within the nether regions of the PSN, but knowing exactly which titles are worth the premium download can present a bit of quandary when you want to make the most of your spending.
Here are our top picks for the best PSN games available for the PS3 so you can bypass the legion of anti-hits and genuinely-awful titles. They may not pack a punch on par with the latest Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed games, but they’ll never cost you more than $20 at most. Also, check out our expansive selection of the best Google Chrome games, the best free PC games, and the best Xbox 360 Live Arcade games if Microsoft’s offerings are more your thing.
Editor’s note: Listing prices, though correct at the time of publication, are subject to change.
Choose a game genre:
- Role Playing
- Action & Adventure
- Sports & Recreation
- Shoot ’em up
- Puzzle & Platformer
- Strategy & Simulation
Costume Quest — $15
Halloween is one of the most sacred and imaginative holiday traditions of all time (at least in the States). Double Fine Productions’ cartoonish RPG revels in that childhood nostalgia and candy-mongering, crafting a game cleverly focused on magical costumes, monsters, trick-or-treating and all the beloved hallmarks of the holiday. With Costume Quest, player don the role of a child as he or she sets about regaining his or her kidnapped sibling, engaging in countless battles and slew of mini-games along the way. The writing is humorous, and while the combat may seem rudimentary at first glance, it naturally becomes more strategic as you learn to utilize the strengths of each costume, whether it be that of a ninja, unicorn, or robot. It totes plenty of personality, with a horde of hidden treasure to discover amid the three distinct areas, but it could move a little quicker. Still, like Halloween, it’s over before you know it.
Ni No Kuni— $20
Ni No Kuni has all the makings of a great Japanese RPG, albeit with a twist. It’s centered on a young boy who must journey through a sprawling, parallel world to bring his mother back from the grave and conquer an ancient evil, but it’s exceedingly more charming than the premise makes it out be. It’s visually lush and imaginative, sporting cell-shaded graphics, and the kind of engrossing gameplay mechanics only Level-5 and Studio Ghibli could provide, while rooted in one of the most well-written storylines of any PS3 title to date. Its crux lies in the borderline-routine combat and leveling system, one intertwined with Pokemon-esque gait, but its uniqueness and 80 hours of gameplay are enticing enough to warrant a visit to the superbly-scored realm of Another World any day. Read our in-depth Ni No Kuni review for more details.
Dragon Age II — $20
It’s becoming more apparent that the best games are the ones that dabble with the power of individual choice — and BioWare’s expansive second installment in the Dragon Age franchise is nothing short of intriguing in that respect. The politically-driven, framed narrative engulfs the player from the start, thrusting them into a decade-long journey in which they must follow the rise in power of destitute refugee known as Hawke. The combat is frantic and fun, whether you choose a mage, rogue, or warrior, and the visuals are admirable though repetitive given the lack of changing environments. Consequences, however big or small, ripple outward, providing a dynamic element to an otherwise modular main plot and party system. And like a good steak, it’s bloody beyond belief.
Final Fantasy VII — $10
Square-Enix may have promised there will be no Final Fantasy VII HD remake until the company creates a game with quality exceeding that of the VII, but that doesn’t mean you can’t relive what many have coined the greatest RPG of all time. The beloved Playstation classic is virtually the same on the PS3, carried by Cloud Strife’s gripping entanglement with Shinra and his nemesis Sephiroth, and ripe with polygonal gameplay and impressive CGI cutscenes that have held up remarkably well despite the 15 years since the game’s launch. The active-time combat system and character customization have aged well, along with Nobuo Uematsu’s remarkable soundtrack, and its bolstered by a solid 40-to-50 hours of gameplay that once spanned three discs. The world of Gaia is just as sweeping and captivating as ever, even if the classic typos sometimes pull you away.
DeathSpank — $15
The first two Monkey Island games and Maniac Mansion were standouts given their satirical nuances, amusing humor and clever puzzle design. Game designer Ron Gilbert’s DeathSpank basks in many of the same hallmarks, yet the narrative is more of a hack ‘n’ slash than a brainteaser. It follows the game’s protagonist DeathSpank as he traverses a vibrant and loot-laden world as part of his diligent quest for an ancient artifact (aptly known as “The Artifact”). Like all of Gilbert’s work, the animation is quirky and the voice acting well-executed, doused in a familiar backdrop of 2D-3D animation and a catchy sleeper soundtrack. Questing can be a tad formulaic, especially considering the general lack of questing variety, but variation among spells, potions and other gameplay elements tweaks the mechanics before they ever become stale. And what other game on our roundup features rabid bearalopes?