The 11 best PS5 games to play in 2021

Our list of best PS5 games, from Astro's Playroom to Ratchet and Clank.

The PlayStation 5 is still young as far as consoles go - and still very hard to get hold of. But it already has a burgeoning list of terrific games to try. Of course, it will also play almost the entire PS4 back catalogue via backwards compatibility, so even at this early stage you are overwhelmed with choice. To help you narrow that particular choice down, head over to our best PS4 games list, which has some cracking recommendations, from the classic to the unsung.

For this list, we're focusing purely on actual PS5 games, which means games that are exclusive to the console (of which there are only a couple at present, like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart), cross-generational releases that launch on PS4 at the same time (like Hitman 3), and earlier PS4 games that have been updated with significant PS5-only patches (like Control: Ultimate Edition). As the machine is so young, we've restricted ourselves to just 11 picks, but you can expect this list to grow quickly as the library for Sony's latest machine is fleshed out.

A State of Play looking at the year ahead in PlayStation

Demon's Souls

The debate about From Software's best will rage on until the last embers have died out, but there's no arguing which game started it all. 2009's Demon's Souls not only birthed a genre but raised the bar on murky video game adventures, gifting us with deep lore scratched into the stonework, exquisite combat that has you clanking iron against armour and atmosphere that's to die for.

To see all that resurrected and refined on PlayStation 5 is quite the thing, and in so many ways it's the ideal launch game - and ideal accompaniment when you first pick up your PS5. Here's a classic whose heritage and excellence is undoubted, delivered with searing fidelity thanks to Bluepoint's exhaustive makeover. Is the original FromSoft game the best one? The debate will never be settled, but for now this is the most impressive one you can currently play.

A quiet moment in a church in Demon's Souls

Want to read more? See our full Demon's Souls review and buy it now from Amazon.

Astro's Playroom

Bundled-in software feels like a thing of the glorious past, as does Team Asobi's Astro's Playroom - a brilliantly imaginative old-school platformer, pre-installed on every PS5, that runs wild and free through PlayStation's past, from the original demo disc bundled in with Sony's very first video game console through to cherished classics like Ape Escape, Gravity Rush, Bloodborne and beyond.

By the time Astro's Playroom's short six-hour runtime has finished, it's more than earned its place alongside those PlayStation classics. More than a nostalgia trip, it's an inventive and uniquely tactile platformer that puts the PlayStation 5 through its paces, and underlines the point that Team Asobi is one of Sony's very best assets when it comes to video game development.

Astro makes a sandy escape in Astro's playroom

Want to read more? See our full Astro's Playroom review.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

What's better than a big triple-A blockbuster? A not-so-big triple-A blockbuster, it turns out. Like Uncharted spin-off The Lost Legacy, Insomniac's Spider-Man: Miles Morales is an improvement on the original as it trims down so much of the fat found in modern big-budget games, delivering an open world adventure that's as tight and trim as a superhero's suit.

It helps that Miles Morales has been elevated to a starring role, and - sorry dear Peter Parker - he lifts the whole thing, his gangly nerviness as he learns those silken ropes the perfect foil as you clumsily bound around Harlem and Manhattan. Oh, and we should probably mention this thing is absolutely gorgeous on PlayStation 5 - a blockbuster spectacle for a blockbuster machine.

Want to read more? See our full Spider-Man: Miles Morales review and buy it now from Amazon.

Control: Ultimate Edition

Cor, what's that font? And where do you get those up-lighters? And is that a monstera, skulking in a sweet concrete flower bed? Control is special. It's a smart and fast-paced action game from the people behind Max Payne, but it's also a whole world stuffed into a beautiful, terrifying, mid-century modern office building. The lighting's by Kubrick, the floors are by Harry Gesner. You get to chuck trash cans around with your mind, blast zombies with a gun that transforms into a different kind of gun, and even uncover a room filled with Post-it notes.

The best thing about Control is that it knows when to take itself seriously, such as with the perfect animation for a projectile hitting a filing cabinet, and when to enjoy the campy nonsense, which is generally where the plot and world-building come in. With a sweet upgrade for the PS5, this game has never looked better.

Jesse Faden explores the Federal Bureau of Control in Control

Want to read more? See our full Control review and buy it now from Amazon.

God of War

Sony sometimes seems so in love with Oscar-bait misery that you can forget how much fun even its more sombre games can be. Is God of War sombre? It has a protagonist grappling with fatherhood and a bit of a mid-life crisis, certainly, but he also makes friends with giant snakes and at one point gets to punch Faraday from Lost through a small mountain.

It's beautiful stuff - which now, thanks to an update, runs at a silky 60 frames per second on PS5 - a Metroidvania wrapped in luxurious mythical detailing, and powered by a wonderfully brutal bit of theatre whenever you lob your axe into someone and then god-brain it back into your hand, as everybody around you erupts into fountains of hot Lucozade. Not bad, Sony, but can we have another Sly Cooper soon?

Want to read more? See our full God of War review and buy it now from Amazon.

WRC 9

The quality of the WRC series might come as a surprise to more casual racing game fans, and understandably so - having coasted along under the watch of the ever-industrious bunch at Milestone, not much was expected when the officially licensed rally series shifted over to upstarts Kylotonn with WRC 5. What's happened since then, though, has been nothing short of remarkable.

From a knowingly arcade initial offering, the series has evolved into a hard-edged take on what's a somewhat underappreciated golden age for the sport, with cars as powerful and awe-inspiring as those seen in the Group B heyday. WRC 9 is the culmination of all that, and is the measure of - perhaps even superior to - Dirt Rally 2.0 when it comes to off-road kicks. The PS5 version, with its brilliant use of the DualSense controller's haptics and adaptive triggers combined with a 60fps frame-rate, simply seals the deal.

A Hyundai i20 drifts round a bend in WRC 9

Want to read more? Find out why WRC 9's PS5 update shows the DualSense is a revelation for racing games and buy it now from Amazon.

Destiny 2

Destiny 2 isn't the easiest game to get your head around. If you've been lured in by its free-to-play version, the first thing that probably strikes you is: where do I start? Playing through the game's quick introductory mission is liable to leave you with a bunch of choices of where to go next, and no clear idea of which is the best option to pick.

For those already invested, however, Destiny is probably the best it's been for years, thanks to an excellent expansion in Beyond Light and a revolutionary next-gen update that gives everything a boost, from faster loading times to vastly improved performance that showcase the game's stunning environments and combat at their best.

It's enough to heartily recommend giving Bungie's shooter another chance (if you are, we recommend getting refreshed with the New Light tutorial, then playing each story campaign in sequence before taking on some dungeons and raids with friends) - and thanks to cross-save support across all platforms, doing so is easier than ever.

Digital Foundry looks at Destiny 2 PS5 vs Xbox Series X|S - A True Next-Gen Advantage

Want to read more? See our full Destiny 2 review and buy it now from PlayStation Store.

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

Personality is the order of the day with Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, as it always is when Insomniac's the team behind things. Digital Foundry will rightly point to the technical marvels of its portals - which are themselves ray-traced to perfection - but what matters as much as the method is the effect.

Rift Apart is a breezy game, a light game. It has verve and snap and panache and all that but it's just such a joy to be in, above all. It's actually quite a humble PS2 game at its core, wrapped in an extraordinarily expensive jacket, and in many ways that's all you could possibly want from a Ratchet and Clank game coming out on a PS5. Shoot things, smash things, collect things, scoot about and get whipped around corners and along rollercoasters at warp speed. And the story, by the way, which introduces the all-new, all-empowered Rivet and Kit, is as kindhearted as any. What a treat.

Rivet poses heroically in Ratchet and Clank Rift Apart

Want to read more? See our full Ratchet and Clank review and buy it now from Amazon.

Hitman 3

Less about sneaking your way through enemy-filled bases and more about planning the perfect assassination in a Groundhog Day-style framework, the modern Hitman games have built up a well-deserved and devoted audience over the years.

Even if you're late to the party, the third game is the best place to start. Hitman 3 features some of the most varied and inventive levels in the series - one moment pushing through crowds in a warehouse-sized nightclub, solving a murder mystery in an English mansion the next - and the ability to import levels from previous games you've purchased (chances are you already own the original through PS Plus) makes it feel less of a sequel and more of a best of package.

On next-gen consoles is where Hitman 3 shines thanks to those all-important load times. It's a rare series where experimentation through save scumming - the act of reloading after you attempt something risky, like 'subtly' dropping a chandelier on your target and seeing if you can get away with it - is actively encouraged, and knowing you can do so in a matter of seconds feels like just the task SSDs were made for.

Agent 47 surveys Hitman 3's Dubai level

Want to read more? See our full Hitman 3 review and buy it now from Amazon.

Fortnite

Recently, Fortnite hosted a short film festival, in which you could pull up and lob tomatoes at a screen showing Creature Comforts while the Predator mimed giving and receiving pizza just out of shot. This is a weird game, but it increasingly seems to be a classic: a perfect hangout space with a very nippy Battle Royale stuck in the middle of it.

And with its next-gen upgrade, it's genuinely beautiful too, great lighting effects and a lovely draw distance blending with an art style that turned out to be the secret weapon. This is a game where anything goes, and nothing looks out of place. Just ask the Predator.

Want to read more? See Fortnite's entry in our games of the decade series.

Returnal

Playing through Returnal you will wonder, at some point, whether Returnal wants you to keep playing it at all. The best word for it is hostile: a hostile planet, a hostile (or at least inscrutable) UI, a hostile core to its mechanical design. This is a rock-hard bullet-hell rougelite - you die a lot, and when you do you have to start it all over again.

The upside of that, though, is how good it feels to progress, to triumph over a game that just seems to absolutely hate you. Successfully releasing yourself from a parasite, or cleansing a nightmarish malfunction, or vanquishing that one boss, is heavenly. Some of the combat is euphoric. Some of the guns are magic. Some of the "biomes" you visit - the muggy, mecha-foggy third is an all-timer - are just sensational. It's an unholy marriage, ultimately, of old-school arcade hardcore and new-school sci-fi action. Happy marriage or not, it's something you have to experience.

Here's Aoife playing through Returnal's wonderful first hour

Want to read more? Here's our Returnal review and you can buy it now from Amazon.

For more curated best-of lists like this, meanwhile, feel free to argue in the comments section of the following, too:

We've also got the latest updates on PS5 stock and where to buy it, if you're still hunting down a next-gen upgrade!

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About the author

Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson

Deputy Editor

Martin is Eurogamer's features and reviews editor. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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