Sony has been killing it with exclusives this console generation, and today—undoubtedly in an attempt to compete—Microsoft announced that they’ve acquired Bethesda Softworks’ parent company, Zenimax. That means PlayStation owners might not get to play successors to games like Skyrim and Fallout on their platform of choice, which is a real bummer.
While Bethesda Softworks is mostly known for their open-world titles—developed by Besthesda Game Studios—they also own a number of other studios, including id Software, Arkane Studios, and more. That means there are a whole lot of great games that could become Xbox (and PC) exclusives over the coming years.
For the time being, current Bethesda games (and a few upcoming titles, like Deathloop and GhostWire: Tokyo) will still be available on Sony’s platform. But if you haven’t delved into all that Bethesda has to offer—or have a less-than-positive view of them thanks to recent fiascos (*cough* Fallout 76)—here I’ve listed a few franchises, in no particular order, well worth visiting. It might even affect your decision to grab an Xbox or PC in the near future.
Dishonored is one of those games that surprised me: I expected to find it “pretty good” at best, but it ended up being one of my favorite games of the decade, and despite being released in 2012, it still holds up incredibly well. Using a mix of stealth, weapons, gadgets, and superpowers, you play through a series of assassination missions in an attempt to clear your name in a murder you didn’t commit. Never mind all the murders you do commit—or don’t, as the game gives you a ton of choices in how you complete each mission.
Between this open-ended gameplay, its fascinating industrial setting, and a few really clever levels, I found myself kicking myself for not having played it sooner. If you still haven’t given it a shot, now’s a great time, as it’s only $10 on the PlayStation Store (with its sequel on sale for $30, to say nothing of all the DLC). Just be sure to play the sequel as Emily to keep things fresh.
If you’re a fan of first-person shooters, you owe a lot to Wolfenstein 3D, a 1992 PC game that basically invented the entire genre. 2014's Wolfenstein: The New Order is a pseudo-reboot of id’s classic game. It takes place in an alternate post-World War II universe in which the Nazis won, providing a bit of a twist on the classic war game genre (though the giant mechs and Nazi super-soldiers help with that, too.) Plus, there’s enough strategy, stealth, and exploration to keep it feeling like just another first person shooter, with a compelling story to boot. Wolfenstein: The New Order is around $20 on PS4, bundled with the prequel Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. If it scratches that story-driven FPS itch, you might also want to check out the sequels Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and the co-op-oriented Wolfenstein: Youngblood.
If you’re at all interested in video games, you probably know the name DOOM. 27 years ago, id Software’s follow-up to Wolfenstein 3D shook up the video game industry like few other games have, and the 2016 DOOM reboot (currently on sale for a measly $6) stays true to its predecessor in so many ways. Not only does it have a fascinating development history and one of my favorite game soundtracks of all time, but the frantic, demon-slaying energy got my heart pounding in a way no other video game ever has, making it one of my all-time favorites.
Even if you aren’t a fan of ultra-violent blood and gore—I’m not—it’s worth giving a shot. And when you’re done, this year’s DOOM Eternal continues the legacy, amping up the original with the addition of some extra story (to some players’ chagrin), improved platforming, and even more new demons and weapons to keep things interesting. Even after playing the first game twice, Eternal gave me that heart-pounding feeling all over again, as if I was experiencing DOOM for the first time. Speaking of which: If you’re curious about the its roots, DOOM and DOOM II are included as part of the Doom Slayers Collection, now on sale at Best Buy for $27.
Unlike the other franchises on this list, the Fallout games don’t require you to play them in any specific order—instead, they each have their own self-contained stories, each letting you explore their own portion of Fallout’s iconic open post-apocalyptic world. Fallout is all about the ambiance of its alternate-future setting, giving you so many side quests and areas to explore you might not play other games for the rest of the year.
Fallout 3, the first Bethesda-developed title in the series, takes place in Washington DC, while Fallout: New Vegas takes place in (duh) Las Vegas and Fallout 4 sets you down in Boston. But although Fallout 3 and New Vegas are considered the pinnacles of the series by most fans, they aren’t available on the PS4—so by technicality, we’re going with the newer Fallout 4 on this list. Though if you have a PC handy, both Fallout 3 and New Vegas are available cheaply on Steam, and will probably play on even underpowered machines.
After acquiring the rights to Prey, a 2006 first-person shooter, Bethesda scrapped a sequel to the game choosing instead rebooting the franchise for a modern audience (hmm, I’m seeing a pattern here). Similar in gameplay to Dishonored—perhaps with a bit less stealth—Prey puts you in the middle of a space station that’s been taken over by hostile aliens, lending itself to just a dash of space-age horror alongside its shooting and exploration. (But it’s not truly a horror game—for that, you might try Bethesda’s The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2).
While Prey may not be one of Bethesda’s best-known games, it still creates a memorable atmosphere—something Bethesda’s studios have always done well—and is well worth a playthrough if you want to see what else Bethesda and Arkane are all about.
It may seem like everyone and their grandma has already played Skyrim and its older siblings, but you’d be surprised—I spoke to a friend who was playing through the game for the first time literally just this morning. And if you haven’t experienced Bethesda’s famous open-world RPGs, it’s well worth exploring, even nine years (or more) later. There’s so much to do you can completely ignore the main quests and go on your own explorative adventure, crafting armor from dragon bones or following a talking dog to his demonic master, all while aligning yourself with different factions and fighting a civil war raging across the tundra—not to mention modding the crap out of it.
Skyrim’s HD remaster is $29 on PS4, though if you have a PS3, you can also check out Oblivion (which has a slightly more traditional fantasy setting). On PC, take your pick: There’s also Morrowind, often cited as the best in the series, as well as Arena and Daggerfall, the ‘90s RPGs that started it all.