Sometimes, it feels like the media can’t make its mind up whether gaming is for children or not. Many people unfairly dismiss the hobby as infantile (although the number of people doing so is dropping significantly as gaming becomes more mainstream), but occasionally, an overly violent or disturbing game will catch the attention of moral guardians who claim the game is proof that the hobby is too adult.
While it can be difficult to chart public opinion when it comes to gaming, the slightly shameful truth is that sometimes, there’s nothing quite like an M for Mature-rated game to get stuck into. Whether it’s the complex politics of an open-world fantasy RPG or the old-fashioned monster-slaying of a shooter, here are the 15 best PS4 games rated M right now. This is the US rating system, by the way; in the UK, these games are usually either rated 16 or 18 according to the PEGI system. Let’s get started!
1. Elden Ring
Elden Ring is, quite simply, From Software’s masterpiece. It takes the classic Soulslike gameplay with which we’ve become familiar over the last ten years and transposes it to an open-world setting, losing none of the series’ majesty or grandeur as it goes. Everywhere you look in the Lands Between, there’s something new and exciting to find, even if that thing is a massive screeching bird that plucks your head clean off its shoulders. If you haven’t played this yet, you need to.
The entire Yakuza series is well worth a look, but this latest instalment (at time of writing) shifts the focus to a new protagonist in the form of the extremely likeable Ichiban Kasuga. Framed for a crime he didn’t commit and left to die on the streets of Yokohama, Kasuga must unravel the truth behind a typical Yakuza-style intrigue, all the while engaging in the new turn-based combat system that was an unlikely smash hit for the series.
Maybe we’re cheating a little by including all three games in one entry, but Mass Effect really must be experienced as a trilogy, so technically, they’re all one story. Forget the disappointing Andromeda; this is BioWare’s masterpiece, full of complex storytelling, great character work, and solid cover shooting. Some of Mass Effect’s moral dilemmas still keep us up at night (Legion’s loyalty quest in Mass Effect 2, anyone?), and although the third instalment is a little wobbly, the trilogy as a whole is superb.
This latest instalment in Dante and company’s adventures completely ignores the 2013 reboot, choosing instead to return to the continuity we last saw in Devil May Cry 4 (as the name suggests). It’s lost none of the series’ high-octane combat charm, either; juggling enemies with Dante, Nero, or edgy newcomer V is just as fun as it’s always been. The story is a little nonsensical and you won’t find much substance here, but Devil May Cry 5 is reliably flashy fun.
With a 60fps PC or PS5 port sadly still apparently AWOL, the shonky PS4 version of Bloodborne is all we have right now, so enjoy it for what it is. This From Software Soulslike starts out on the Hammer horror track, all werewolves and Gothic architecture, but it’s not long before something more sinister and maddening begins to tug at the edges of the game’s fabric. Combining high-octane action with genuinely unsettling horror, Bloodborne is a must-play.
2020’s Doom Eternal is a solid game, but it lacks the straightforward simplicity of the 2016 reboot. After years in the wilderness, id Software stepped up to the plate and created one of the genre’s best entries, heritage be damned; whatever Doom had been called in the end, it would have been a superb game. The shooting is fast, fluid, and focused, and your arsenal of weapons feels amazing to use. The enemy and level design are both great, so give this a try if you need a cathartic shooter to let loose.
The Persona series gets better with each successive instalment, so if you’re new to the series, it’s best to start with 5 and then decide whether you want to revisit older games or not. This one revolves around the Phantom Thieves, a group of hard-done-by teenagers who decide to visit justice upon the adults that are ruining their lives. It’s a stylish, sleek JRPG with great turn-based combat and a surprisingly addictive and involving life sim element in which you must befriend your classmates.
The jury is out on whether Red Dead Redemption 2 truly is one of the best open-world games around in terms of gameplay, but it’s certainly one of the most absorbing. Arthur Morgan’s journey through the dying embers of the Old West carries a poignancy to it, aided to no end by the quality of the voice acting, the animation, and the stunning visuals. The missions here are a little rote, but Red Dead Redemption 2 manages to compel for its entire running time anyway.
The newer Hitman games were becoming a confusing mess, so Io Interactive took the most logical step and consolidated all three games into a single experience. Now, if you buy Hitman: World of Assassination, you’re getting a huge amount of content; plenty of exciting levels to explore, lots of targets to take down, and a somewhat decent story to experience, although the narrative isn’t why we’re all here. No, we’re here to watch the dour Agent 47 dress up like a mascot and blow someone up with an exploding golf ball.
10. Nier: Automata
Nier: Automata is a curious case. The game was developed by Bayonetta studio Platinum Games, but headed up by longtime Nier and Drakengard lead Yoko Taro, who brings his offbeat sensibilities to the project. This is a very odd game indeed, but it’s one that’s well worth experiencing thanks to its fluid combat, excellent soundtrack, and surprisingly deep and affecting narrative. It’s also worth experiencing for the plethora of hidden endings you can unlock, some of which are hilarious.
After years of increasingly idiotic and nonsensical plots about global conspiracies and terrorism, Resident Evil did what it should have done years ago: its next instalment took the action far away from any Redfields or Kennedys, focusing instead on a new protagonist and his search for his missing wife. What follows is a genuinely harrowing first-person survival horror odyssey, one that owes a debt to games like Outlast without ever feeling the need to outright rip them off.
Don’t worry: this is the last From Software Soulslike we’ll be including on this list. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a masterclass in how to make players feel like a resourceful samurai. Though the basic Soulslike trappings are here – bonfire-like checkpoints, major event bosses, an emphasis on environmental storytelling – new elements like stealth and a focus on swordplay make Sekiro feel like an exercise in gaining skill and using it rather than just out-building enemies.
The Last of Us Part II proved to be a surprisingly divisive sequel. While it was praised for its epic scope and high-quality writing, others criticised it for an apparent hyperfixation on ultra-violence without backing that theme up in its execution. Regardless of your take on Part II, the original The Last of Us is a fairly uncontroversial game in terms of its quality, so pick up this remastered version and enjoy it with superior visuals and performance when compared to the PS3 edition.
There’s a lot about Ghost of Tsushima that arguably doesn’t really work. While the idea of the gust of wind that guides you to your next objective is an intriguing one, in practice it’s basically just a minimap, since you’re still being led by the nose to your goal. Despite some rote open-world design, there’s something truly magical about the historical world Ghost of Tsushima presents that makes it hard to ignore. The story is great, and it’s backed up by the game’s mechanics, too, so give this a try if you don’t mind overlooking some of the usual Ubisoft-style open-world bloat.
What more is there to be said about Skyrim that hasn’t already been said? It’s Bethesda’s masterpiece, augmenting the more open-ended exploration of Oblivion and Morrowind with a more easy-to-understand levelling system and better visuals. The AI might be hilariously broken at times, and Skyrim is still a pretty buggy experience even with all of the post-launch patches applied, but like Ghost of Tsushima, you’ll still get lost in it despite its flaws. The DLC adds lots of extra content, too, so there’s never been a better time to get into Skyrim if you’ve somehow missed it until now.