For a while there, I was really starting to think that the era of great single-player games was coming to an end. I was probably overreacting, but there were a few years where the priority seemed to shift to an online multiplayer.
So many games would have a short, uneventful and uninspired campaign mode and then a ton of content for the online portion. And of course there’s nothing wrong with this, it happened because online gameplay became incredibly popular.
Maybe that happened because people misguidedly thought that a copy of Call of Duty 4 would make a good gift for some college student they knew, and didn’t think about the repercussions of that idea, but they became popular nonetheless. But single-player games have always been popular for good reason too.
The limits of single-player games are endless, and I think that’s been rediscovered lately. There’s more of them than ever being released and one of the greatest things about gaming these days is how far the complexity of the storytelling has come.
The earliest games didn’t have much of a story to speak of, but now some video game stories are as profound and innovative as the best films and novels. So let’s take a look at just a couple of the best single-player PS4 story games available right now.
Catherine: Full Body
In 2011, the Japanese developer Atlus, who were well-known for the critically lauded Persona series, released a puzzle-platform game called Catherine for the PS3. The game was remastered earlier this year for the PS4 with this new title.
Unique in both its complex gameplay and its fascinating plot, Catherine tells the tale of Vincent Brooks, whose passions are divided between a longtime girlfriend and a mysterious new beauty who has found her way into his life.
On top of this, he’s plagued by bizarre nightmares and much of the gameplay actually takes place in these dreams. While it has has been criticized by some for not always delivering on a gameplay level, the story is unquestionably terrific.
The subject matter is very mature and the choices you must make to determine how your story develops are tough and force you to ask difficult moral questions. There are numerous possible endings, some of which are more interesting than others, but the journey is always satisfying.
You will never have another experience like Catherine and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of complex video game storytelling.
The Invisible Hours
Nikolai Tesla has just been murdered and it’s up to you to figure out who’s responsible. The trouble is, you don’t actually exist. Seriously, you don’t play a character in this game, you’re essentially like a fly on the wall.
The story takes place in Tesla’s mansion and there are a number of different suspects wandering around which you have to follow to try and piece together the sequence of events that lead up to the murder.
There’s a number of ways in which this can play out depending on who you choose to shadow and when. It’s really a completely new way to tell a story and this concept of not actually being a present character gives you a wide and intriguing view of this tale.
All of the characters are well-developed and the mystery is complex in its plotting and meticulous in how it’s revealed. This is a nice, quick experience too and it will keep you guessing right up until the last second.
What Remains of Edith Finch
This walking simulator game follows the story of the only surviving member of the Finch family, as she tries to unlock the mysteries that have been surrounding her family for as long as she can remember.
What you play through is a series of what are effectively short stories, each of which focuses on a different member of the family and how they came to their untimely demise. Between these stories, you return to the family home and search for more clues there.
The house itself is expertly designed and full of personality and intrigue, while the sequences in which we explore the family’s deaths are incredibly moving. The story will maintain your interest well with each of the individual shorts having a distinct tone and mood.
The narration by Edith is heartbreaking and fascinating and paints an incredible picture of what this apparently cursed family has gone through for several generations. Walking simulators are becoming increasingly popular and this is definitely one of the better ones.
You might be put off by the idea of yet another post-apocalyptic zombie survival game, but Days Gone is far from generic. It’s narrative is wide in scope and it takes you on hell of a journey through the dangerous wasteland that was once Oregon.
Some of the supporting characters are lacking in-depth, but there are many, many different plot threads to explore and perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is the lore that you can uncover about what has happened to Oregon.
This is probably the game on this list that you can put the most hours into and it’s for sure the most action-packed one. Not many survival games can effectively blend intense, challenging gameplay with convincing storytelling as well as this effort from Blend Studio.
This one is sort of a mix of the last two games that appeared on this list. It’s similar to Edith Finch in the sense that our protagonist is a young woman trying to solve the mystery of her family by exploring her home.
And it’s similar to Days Gone in the sense that it’s set in Oregon . . . That appears to be where the similarities end. In Gone Home, you play as Katie Greenbriar who is returning to her family home, only to find it deserted.
The goal is to discover what exactly happened, where the family has disappeared to, and the game just gives you free reign to explore the house and put the pieces back together for yourself.
While you will probably play this at a leisurely pace, the story becomes more and more intense and shocking as you explore and it builds to an absolutely startling conclusion.
So there are five games that absolutely excel with their narratives and each of them is completely different experiences in their own right. The art of single-player gaming is back and better than ever before.