Best PS5 games 2021 – Polygon

What are the very best video games on the PlayStation 5? If you’re amongst the fortunate couple of who’ve gotten Sony’s brand-new console (which is still struggling with supply and shipping concerns) you’ll be questioning what to play. This is a living list of the very best computer game readily available on the platform, to be upgraded as more video games come out.

Our suggestion lists here at Polygon generally include 22 video games, due to the fact that it’s a strong number that can include several sort of video games. This list doesn’t have 22 choices because, well, the PS5 is still young. Nevertheless, it does have backward-compatibility with PlayStation 4 video games, so our list of the 22 finest PS4 video games will likewise serve you well.


Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

a female Eivor swings a weapon while fighting a group of enemies in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Image: Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft

Valhalla is securely a role-playing game with a stealth influence, instead of the other way around. It allows the player to enact both large-scale battles and quick assassinations while hidden within a crowd. The Vikings, too, introduce their own expression of stealth in their raids, where narrow longships sneak up to encampments to attack without warning. Eivor has an assassin’s blade, a gift given to her from Sigurd. Hers, though, is not hidden — she wears it atop her cloak, because she wants her foes to see their fates in her weapon. […]

Valhalla’s most intriguing story is one about faith, honor, and family, but it’s buried inside this massive, massive world stuffed with combat and side quests. That balance is not always ideal, but I’m glad, at least, that it forces me to spend more time seeking out interesting things in the game’s world. — Nicole Carpenter

Read our full review

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Target | Walmart

Astro’s Playroom

Astro jumping in Cooling Springs in Astro’s Playroom

Image: Team Asobi/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Astro’s Playroom is themed around the idea that you’re running around inside your working PlayStation 5. The first area, Cooling Springs, is filled with waterslides and glaciers, implying that it’s keeping the heat down to a manageable level. This cute theming runs throughout the game, showing off different chunks of the hardware.

As in any great platformer, it’s a treat to just run around the environment in Astro’s Playroom. Astro doesn’t have as wide a range of talents as, say, Mario in Super Mario Odyssey, but he does have a handy jetpack, a fierce spin attack, and the ability to tug on ropes real hard. Each of these activates the new haptics in the DualSense controller, showing off the nuances of the enhanced vibration technology. As just a simple example, if you walk across a glass surface as Astro, you’ll feel the small tippy-taps of each step within the controller. Tugging on a rope to launch an underground enemy into the sky yields a far different experience, with a more intense vibration within the whole of the controller, followed by the ka-thunk of Astro falling back on his robutt.

Without playing it, it’s easy to write off Astro’s Playroom as a silly, ignorable pack-in game, something to fill up your system storage while you wait for the actual video games to download. But it turns out that this is one of the finest platformers Sony has ever made, matching the charm and fluidity of a Nintendo platformer while also demonstrating the power of this new console. It should be a major launch-day treat for those lucky few who managed to score a PlayStation 5 pre-order. — Russ Frushtick

Read our full review

Get it here: PlayStation Store

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

A player stands in front of burning wreckage in Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Image: Treyarch, Raven Software/Activision

Much of [Black Ops Cold War’s campaign] leans into this polished, if artificial, one-dimensional feel. Rather than taking place as naturalistic beats along a linear narrative, Cold War’s missions feel more modular, represented as stacks of photos, scribbled code sheets and newspaper clippings pasted up on a wall in your safe house. Hidden in most missions are collectible evidence items which you can bring back to the safe house and use to solve the small, escape-room style puzzles on the evidence board, which are necessary to complete a series of side missions (of which, sadly, there are only two).

The members of your clandestine team will pace around the safe house on pre-programmed routes, sometimes going up to each other and engaging in hushed conversations, like actors on an immersive set. One of them might answer a phone call and hold the receiver in place, saying nothing and staring out into space until you interact with him. Little distinguishes them from the cardboard figures of Amerika Town. Within missions, they’ll belt out sardonic quips and jingoistic inculcations, all with the same emotionless reserve–‘We don’t sit back and hope for the best, we make the best happen’ or ‘Some of us have crossed the line, to make sure the line’s still there in the morning’–each entreatment meant to draw the player into the game’s ideology and which belie the truth that the game doesn’t seem to believe in its own ideology. It’s all theater that knows it’s theater. —Yussef Cole

Read our full review of Black Ops Cold War’s campaign

The secret heart of Treyarch’s Call of Duty video games since 2008 has always been Zombies. The wave-based survival mode is equal parts silly, challenging, and endlessly repeatable… in Black Ops Cold War, Treyarch has brought the focus all the way back to zombies and how you kill them.

Black Ops Cold War doesn’t reinvent the Zombie-mode wheel. It keeps most of the basic ideas that Treyarch has added to the mode over the last 12 years, but simplifies them down to their most fun elements.

The best example of this comes from Black Ops Cold War’s map, which takes the original Nazi research lab from the first World at War Zombie map and expands it into a modern, much larger, Zombies experience. […] Everything I do in the map now feels like it’s in service of my survival. — Austen Goslin

Read our full review of Black Ops Cold War’s Zombies mode

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Target | Walmart

Demon’s Souls

confronting a giant glowing enemy in Demon’s Souls (remake)

Image: Bluepoint Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Demon’s Souls has good bones. It was true in 2009, when developer FromSoftware released the mechanically groundbreaking role-playing game on PlayStation 3, and remains true for Bluepoint Games’ remake, released alongside Sony’s PlayStation 5 this week.

Over those bones is a gorgeous remodeling. Every texture in Demon’s Souls has been painstakingly repainted, sometimes to the point of questionable reinterpretation. Every stilted animation appears to have been replaced by three or four new ones, all of them remixed with more lifelike flourishes. Many of the original game’s points of aggravation, like long load times and frequent backtracking, have been softened or nearly eliminated. But rarely does Bluepoint muck with the foundation of Demon’s Souls, because to do so would be sacrilege. — Michael McWhertor

Read our full review

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Target | Walmart

Destiny 2: Beyond Light

Destiny 2 Europa Beyond Light

Image: Bungie

Destiny 2: Beyond Light’s most impressive feat is how it takes Destiny’s first step into a new era — the Era of Darkness — without being a full sequel.

Beyond Light isn’t a new golden age for the franchise like Destiny: The Taken King and Destiny 2: Forsaken were. Beyond Light is something different. It’s more Destiny, but it’s actively stepping into a new generation of powers, performance, and design.

The game loads faster. The menus are snappier. The Director is cleaner. And the new tutorial experience is actually useful for new and returning players. So is this Destiny 3? Not exactly.

Beyond Light avoids the pitfall of a fully rebooted sequel by making strategic, targeted improvements rather than sweeping ones. — Ryan Gilliam

Destiny 2 will get a next-gen upgrade on Dec. 8. Owners of the PS4 version will receive the PS5 upgrade for free.

Read our full review

Get it here: PlayStation Store

Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition

Vergil using Mirror’s Edge in Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition

Image: Capcom

Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition isn’t a new game like the others on the list, but it is one of the first examples out the gate that put the promises of next-generation hardware on full display. The world of Devil May Cry always seems to be slick with something — water, demonic ooze, slimy roots of a world-sized tree filled with blood. All of that dazzles with easily accessible ray tracing, even if it’s a little stomach churning. Some of the most memorable set piece battles look better than before, and having a higher frame rate makes the constant action much easier to follow.

Capcom stuffed the game with characters on the first go-round, switching the campaign between three heroes with their own distinct, over-the-top fighting styles. (And the special edition adds big bad Vergil as a playable option, letting you replay the entire campaign from a new perspective.) All these options offer variety that makes the campaign — which embraces demonic camp as well as any great CW show — worth experiencing all over again. This was an excellent game when it came out in 2019, but hopefully its special edition treatment means more people will appreciate its campiness and stellar action. — Chelsea Stark

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Target

Dirt 5

A car in Dirt 5 speeds through a snow and lightning storm

Image: Codemasters

Dirt 5, by Codemasters, steps into the time-honored role of offering the racing showcase to a new console generation. The series and Codemasters are both known for a demanding brand of simulation racing, but Dirt 5 moves strongly for mass audience appeal and accessibility, staying true to visual fidelity and physics.

Dirt 5 is a racer more in the MotorStorm mold, which fits considering how many Evolution Studios alumni now work for Codemasters. It’s pack racing at heart, with lots of contact and not much technical know-how necessary to win. Experienced drivers will probably need the very hard difficulty setting to get much of a challenge, particularly in the early goings of the Career mode.

Career offers the most depth, showing the player all of the events (point-to-point rallies; circuit races; hill climbs against a clock; and even ice racing) in all of the exotic, no-way-you-could-actually-race-there locales. There’s a fleet of 64 vehicles, some fictional, among 13 classes. Those looking for a serious, you-against-the-timer rally simulation should look to KT Racing’s WRC 9, likewise on Xbox Series X and PS5. For every other racing itch on the new console generation of consoles, Dirt 5 can scratch it. — Owen Good

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store

NBA 2K21

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers shouting in NBA 2K21 on PS5/Xbox Series X

Image: Visual Concepts/2K Sports

If you’re only a sometimes-fan of professional basketball, NBA 2K21’s offerings verge on overkill. But there’s no denying that this series offers the most complete immersion of the NBA, as a video game, a business, and a lifestyle, in ways rival FIFA doesn’t.

The staple modes of a team sports title are all here, but MyCareer is where most should spend their time. In NBA 2K21 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, MyCareer’s hub world of pickup basketball, socializing, and even shoe shopping gets a robust expansion into ‘The City.’ Players are now transported to a larger environment where their co-operative competitive play supports one of the four factions they join, somewhat like an MMO. Don’t worry, there’s still a ton of basketball to be played here, whether that’s with others or as you practice for and play the next game on your single-player career schedule.

Visual Concepts brought NBA 2K21 to launch determined to show what they can do with all this new power. Visually, the game is sharper than ever, with even more detail in the arenas to help it mimic a real-life broadcast. There are gameplay upgrades taking advantage of beefier processing, like players’ contextual awareness of the three-point line, taking a step back if necessary to attempt the shot. There’s even a dedicated career mode for the WNBA, though it’s not that much to crow about. Still, everything in NBA 2K21 on PS5 and Xbox Series X makes what launched in September for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One already seem stone age. — Owen Good

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Target | Walmart

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Spider-Man swinging through the streets in Spider-Man: Miles Morales

Image: Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Miles Morales is smaller than the previous title: There are fewer missions, fewer objectives, fewer activities. This plays out in the story too, with Miles’ central focus being Harlem, as compared to almost the entirety of Manhattan in the first game. (Harlem is also a focal point for African American history, a place with a community that, in the words of Langston Hughes, fostered the “expression of our individual dark-skinned selves.”)

In other large open-world games, you can have many self-contained but ultimately limp subplots. Here, there are no side missions that just sit there in isolation. Due to the smaller size of the game, everyone touches everyone else. Stories intertwine, themes mingle; they are all, as it were, part of a web of relationships. And it is Miles who sits in the center of it all. His juvenile and naïve attempts to rectify one part of the web send tremors somewhere else. This net of responsibility is pulled taut, and Miles always feels like he’s failing.

And, well, don’t we all feel that? In this chaotic year, I found inspiration in Miles’ ability to rise above challenges, to meet the face of catastrophe, to look darkness in the eyes. And not because he succeeds — indeed, he often fails. But it is his willingness to try, and also how other characters recognize his resilience and, despite his failures, remain by his side. — Tauriq Moosa

Read our full review

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Target | Walmart

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion Recruitment Talker

Image: Ubisoft Toronto/Ubisoft

I’d worried that Legion’s be-anyone approach might turn its characters into the game’s loot — valued only for the skill or perk they bring to the team, and robbing us of anyone worth caring about. You might be left with that feeling if you play without the game’s permadeath option, which has to be activated at the start of a campaign (it can be later turned off, but not reactivated). I recommend users turn the permadeath option on. It feels like the ‘right way’ to play.

I’m glad I restarted Watch Dogs: Legion’s campaign very early in my playthrough, after finding the guards’ and thugs’ oblivious AI triflingly easy to exploit at standard difficulty. Only permadeath and hard difficulty forced me to plan out and solve each level as a puzzle — which should be the enjoyment of a game built around hacking, after all — rather than blunder through an impromptu shooting gallery out of impatience or a bad decision. Experienced gamers, or anyone familiar with how Ubisoft handles the stealth business, should play on these settings.

I didn’t find any nasty difficulty spikes waiting for me as the story advanced through the Ubisoft formula of taking down a series of bad actors and discovering how they’re linked, before the big reveal and concluding showdown. Watch Dogs: Legion’s story may be templatized, but it benefits considerably from a richly illustrated, believably near-future London, and plot lines that are unafraid to tackle troubling subjects or put a subtle opinion on them. — Owen Good

Read our full review

Get it here: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | PlayStation Store | Target | Walmart

Returnal

Selene looks downcast in Returnal

Image: Housemarque via Polygon

Returnal was the first PS5 game, outside of the free Astro’s Playroom, that really took advantage of what the new DualSense controller could do. To test the limits of the controller’s feedback, Housemarque took its refined arcade shooter craft and planted it in a third-person roguelite. The result is a game that demands precision — precision that your fancy new controller helps afford with its haptic triggers and immersive rumble.

Returnal’s controller feedback is, outside of some stunning visuals, its most iconic feature. And because of some of the game’s downfalls, like its uneven repetition and imbalanced Parasite system, it’s perhaps doomed to be remembered mainly as a great showcase game for the PlayStation 5. But Returnal is still a game every PlayStation 5 owner should pick up and play, if only to feel every bit of that $500 rumble in your fingers. — Ryan Gilliam

Read our full review

Returnal

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Ratch & Clank: Rift Apart

The new Lombax character from Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Image: Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is that next-gen title that awes you the entire way through. It looks stunning, the controller plays a big role in the gameplay, and the amount of bolts and particles on screen at any given time can be jaw-dropping.

But as expensive as Rift Apart looks, it’s also just a great Ratchet & Clank game. Rift Apart takes classic Ratchet & Clank ideas and modernizes them. The series’ famous wacky weapons have unique alternate fire modes, activated by how hard you pull down the trigger. And the typical collect-a-thon aspects get a refresh thanks to the exciting Rift system and a detailed map.

But the latest Ratchet also tells a story that changes its world forever, adding Rivet and Kit as another powerful duo in its ever-expanding cast of characters. If you’ve spent years playing Ratchet games, Rift Apart likely won’t surprise you outside of its visuals. But if you’ve missed the series, or haven’t played them in years, Rift Apart is a great reminder of why the Lombax and his robot pal have stuck around for 19 years. — Ryan Gilliam

Read our full review

Death Stranding: Director’s Cut

A man in a golden skull mask prepares to conjure a monster in Kojima Production’s Death Stranding

Image: Kojima Productions/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Death Stranding: Director’s Cut is the definitive way to play one of the strangest games of the past few years. Where 2019’s Death Stranding welcomed a dedicated audience — and a good chunk of players that quickly bounced off — Director’s Cut makes Hideo Kojima’s independent debut more accessible without sacrificing its unique identity.

Death Stranding: Director’s Cut still asks Sam Porter Bridges to walk across a condensed version of the United States, precariously stacking packages on his back. But this time, Sam has more tools in the initial leg of his cross-country journey. Instead of spending the first 15 hours walking around with a rope as your only weapon, you can quickly get a gun that stuns enemies with lightning. And rather of winging it in your first combat scenario with a new piece of gear, the re-release of Death Stranding offers a substantial firing range for you to test your loadout.

But for all of its fancy new toys, Death Stranding is still a game about doing the grunt work necessary to connect with others. Its script can be metaphorically clumsy, but it never stumbles in expressing those metaphors through the gameplay itself.

Nobody has ever accused Hideo Kojima of subtlety, but it’s Death Stranding: Director’s Cut’s smallest changes that make it so much easier to recommend. — Ryan Gilliam

Read our full review

Deathloop

Colt kicks an enemy in Deathloop

Image: Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks

By the time I went through my final run of Deathloop, I thought I would’ve walked away from the game feeling like a superpowered, time-bending assassin. Instead, the game made me feel like a masterful speedrunner.

That’s because there’s only one method to succeed in this time-looping video game: To win, I must memorize the routines of all my assassination targets throughout four unique times of the day. Not only that, I have to set up specific scenarios so I can put them all at the right place at the right time to get eliminated. Mastering everything I needed to know took around 20 hours of living the same day over and over again. The payoff for all that hard work had me at the edge of my seat.

The endgame scenario for Deathloop requires me to take out each of my targets in a single run. It felt like setting up dominos that would then smoothly fall down in the most stylish way possible. The excitement of executing a well-made plan armed with knowledge — and a powerful arsenal of weapons and superpowers — made the hours of investigation and prep work feel worthwhile.

Deathloop still has a handful of mysteries left for me to unravel, and I can’t wait to uncover all of Blackreef’s secrets. — Jeff Ramos

Read our complete evaluation

Deathloop

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.