When PlayStation first went portable
Theres a famous bit of trivia that Sony, inventor of the popular Walkman portable music player, was annoyed that Nintendo successfully launched the first portable game machine that took the world by storm. When Sony finally launched the PSP in late 2004 in Japan, the portable had all the hallmarks of a Sony device: sexy design, powerful tech, and a high price to reflect that quality. It was a bold move that was a success out of the gate, though the less said about PSP Go the better.
And while the PSP experienced varying degrees of popularity around the world, some may forget just how many great games appeared on the system over the years. Major franchises like God of War and Ratchet & Clank had popular new entries, and they came with celebrated debuts from the likes of Lumines and Patapon. Where do they all rank in our top 50? See for yourself...
Don't get us wrong, we love ourself some ottsel. The beauty of Daxter, though, is Jak's little buddy is merely an ambassador for a game rich with eye-popping graphics, liquid-smooth platforming, and gameplay that never failed to throw something new into the mix. For one of the first platformers on the PSP, Ready at Dawn nailed it--faithfully transporting one of Sony's most respected franchises (well, again, at the time) into a handheld game that earns a place in Jak & Daxter history and our PSP.
49. Half-Minute Hero
Developed by Marvelous Entertainment, Half-Minute Hero turns standard RPG conventions on their head by holding players to a 30-second time limit in which they must battle fiends and build up their powers in order to save the world. Luckily, that timer can be reset, and the fun comes in using each groundhog day scenario to push forward towards greater enemies, acquire better gear, and become generally better at kicking ass in thirty seconds or less. Half-Minute Hero is a game that tries its damndest to defy categorization, but you won't have time to care what it is--hell, you already wasted time reading this!
48. DJ Max Portable 3
Featuring over 50 songs and some important tweaks to the note-tapping gameplay, DJ Max Portable 3 builds upon the track laid by DJ Max Fever. For one, its remix mode breaks up the action in a new and addictive way, and a mission mode gives hardcore spinners even more objectives to aim for. It's still DJ Max through-and-through, but it's the sum of its tweaks that make it play and sound fresher than ever.
47. Killzone: Liberation
Set months after the original Killzone, Liberation swaps the FPS vantage point for a top-down isometric shooter that rewards fast trigger fingers as much as it does tactical thinking. The game is also tough, training player's to think before they shoot and perfect their approach in every mission. Thankfully, Jan Templar is aided by a huge assortment of upgradable weapons and skills, which keeps the action from ever getting stale. With the addition of one of PSP's most robust ad-hoc multiplayer modes, Liberation is truly one of the PSP's killer apps.
46. Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters
Though Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters never matches the same level of blissful chaos, Size Matter distills the core ingredients of the franchise and serves up an equally good romp. High Impact Games' respect and love for the series is woven throughout, especially in the space combat and giant Clank missions which capture the eclectic and always-surprising vibe that has helped the series survive multiple gaming generations.
45. Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception
Where Ace Combat soars is its ability to capture the production value of its console squadmates. Both its solo and multiplayer modes offer the same tight and exciting gameplay the Ace Combat series is known for; and its adaptable missions will have you doubling back to try different approaches. Combined with a slick presentation, varied objectives, and a nice of balance of arcade and sim elements; Ace Combat X keeps the franchise on a steady path.
44. Jeanne d'Arc
Like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics (more on them later), Jeanne D'Arc sees players taking on battles throughout an overworld map, collecting new team members and levelling their teams along the way. Innovative choices like using skills stones over classes, or setting time limits for each battle, give Jeanne D'Arc a play style all its own, while the anime presentation and swift-yet-complex battles do their part to hoist it above others in the genre.
43. Secret Agent Clank
The name's XJ-0461. Clank XJ-0461. Remember it, because if you're in the mood for a cool and efficient Ratchet and Clank spin-off, you can call on Secret Agent Clank to handle the job.
Clank pulls off his solo-adventure with class, blending traditional Ratchet and Clank gameplay with a nice variety of 3D platforming diversions. You'll speed through vehicle levels, lord over Gadgebot objectives, play out Quark's exaggerated memories, and even blast away foes with Ratchet. With numerous gadgets and outlandish weapons at his disposal, and familiar friends to fill in the gaps, Clank's spin-off comes fully-loaded with the series' trademark creativity and polish.
42. Resistance Retribution
As marine James Grayson, players will experience the Chimera war from the new perspective, and enjoy the same super-slick controls and combat variety featured in SCE Bend Studio's popular Syphon Filter franchise. One of the most inspired perks--besides the deep multiplayer modes--is the option to link the PSP to the PS3 and infect Grayson or unlock DualShock controls. It's this level of ingenuity and care that keeps Resistance Retribution chugging throughout its 10-hour adventure.
41. Every Extend Extra
The mission is straightforward: detonate a ship to set off chain reactions and keep doing so until each main boss is destroyed. It's learning how to detonate strategically and when to risk it all for power-ups that make each level a hybrid of twitch gaming and puzzle solving. What's more, each stage features new enemies, backgrounds, and music composed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Rez, Lumines), making Every Extend Extra a game that always has something new coming up in its playlist.
40. Burnout Legends
Crash mode and Burnout World Tour are still the main attractions in Burnout Legend, with the latter sporting 175 events that put one's road-racing, car-wrecking, cop-chasing skills to the test. Thankfully, the PSP's controls make Burnout Legends a joy to handle, and the system's technical prowess make the on-screen destruction a thing of beauty. And, thanks to the wi-fi multiplayer, Burnout Legends comes ready to share its love for vehicular carnage with friends.
39. Tomb Raider Anniversary
Tomb Raider Anniversary was released on Lara Croft's 10th anniversary to honor her gaming debut with a release that builds a whole new adventure on the bones of the 1996 original. This PSP version does its part well to replicate the scale and awe of Lara's anniversary title on PS2 and PC, expertly making up for the PSP's less-than-memorable port of Tomb Raider: Legend.
38. Rock Band Unplugged
As a bit of trivia, Rock Band Unplugged features the first PSP music store. We're not sure having the first way to buy musical microtransactions on the PSP is a plus (and the lack of multiplayer makes this feature seem like a tease), but it's worth a liner note.
37. Ys Seven
You'd think a 30+ hour RPG would wear out its welcome on a portable system, but Ys Seven's satisfying combat, rich world, and fascinating storyline keeps the quest feeling lively and fresh.
36. Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror
Given how all of Dark Mirror's components fuse to create one of the best action games on the system, it's surprising Gabe Logan hasnt been seen in a while. With hits like this (and the sequel, Logan's Shadow), however, fans can at least rest easy with memories of this PSP title.
35. Tekken: Dark Resurrection
Having 34 fighters from the start is one way this Tekken 5 spin-off pulls you in. Other highlights include ample training modes, challenges, ghost-fighting dojo sessions, and loads of customization options--all of which are bound together with slick, responsive combat and a stellar presentation. There are plenty of fighting games to choose from on the PSP, but Tekken: Dark Resurrection's wealth of content and solid gameplay makes it a top competitor.
34. Mega Man Powered Up
Mega Man Powered Up is just what the title says. It's the debut Mega Man from the NES, powered up with cutesy new graphics, two new levels, and modes of play that let you swap Mega Man for one of his robotic bosses. If that weren't enough to keep old school fans busy, it comes with a level editor and the ability to share player-created Mega Man stages with the world.
SCE Cambridge Studio and Media Molecule could have copied and pasted LittleBigPlanet's award-winning PS3 version and called it a day. Instead, the teams deliver a full-on sequel that captures everything Sackboy and his pals are loved for.
32. FlatOut: Head-On
Did we mention FlatOut: Head-On looks great? Because it does; and that counts when you've got multiple vehicles jumping through fire and bashing their rivals to smithereens. More importantly, FlatOut: Head-On keeps its framerate chugging even when the action reaches ridiculous heights. Throw in upgradable vehicles and plenty of challenges and FlatOut-Head-On is a shiny, wham-bam-thank-you-driver addition to the PSP's garage.
31. Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny
Nevermind the Broken tag, because this Soulcalibur IV port has very little that needs fixing. Developer Project Soul does an admirable job replicating Soulcalibur IV's quick and brutal gameplay while keeping its flourishes and finishing moves untouched.
The fact Broken Destiny skews to newer fighters may keep pros on the sidelines, but those who snub this tightly crafted (and extremely good looking) title are missing out. Is it deep? No. Is it satisfying and perfect for defending one's honor on a morning commute? Absolutely. Plus, it introduces God of War's Kratos to the Soulcalibur roster ... and everything goes better with Kratos (except children's birthday parties and maybe weddings).
30. Tekken 6
The multiplayer aspect may have left us wanting, and the diminished campaign leaves solo players in a lurch, but Tekken 6 more than makes up for its sacrifices by bringing a high-fidelity version of Namco Bandai's 2009 heavyweight hit to the small screen.
29. Ape Escape: On the Loose
A remake of the PS2 original, On the Loose provides another opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the series, this time with upgraded graphics and a smattering of new monkey-themed minigames. The translation isn't perfect, and the controls are lacking, but the game's mixed bag of platforming challenges, gadgetry, and charm overshadows these few complains. Ape wrangling is messy work, after all, but in the end it's worth it.
28. Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days
Thankfully, Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days packs more than enough variety to keep you interested in the grind. From finding new allies to mastering new classes, kicking around the Dark Assembly, or simply sending your team members on day trips to the Dark World, improving your game never feels stale or artificial. At nearly 80 hours to complete, Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days is long, but it earns its runtime.
27. Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower
Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower stands out on the PSP. It's controls could have used a tiny bit of fine tuning, sure, but the wealth of characters, unlockable Darkstalkers art, Wi-Fi multiplayer capabilities, and the option to tinker with the core rules of Darkstalkers combat make this remake a worthy time killer.
26. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
At first, following newcomers Terra, Aqua, and Ventus is disorienting. However, it only takes a few visits to familiar Disney locales to ease back into the Kingdom Hearts vibe. That, and the game's Command Deck and D-Link combat mechanics help to keep the adventure moving with fast, fluid, and surprisingly deep enemy encounters.
25. Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?
Don't let the cutesy facade fool you, Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? pushes your platforming skills to the limits as you burn through 1000 prinnies in their attempt to collect the ingredients for Etna's Ultra Dessert. Thankfully, the prinny (that is, whichever one is wearing the scarf) is up to the task, and the inclusion of a day and night cycle that altars each stage depending on when they're being played means you'll be OK with repeating its trouble spots. Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? answers its own question in record speed, delivering a true challenge and a rewarding, portable romp.
24. Gran Turismo PSP
No doubt, GT is great to look at, but it also packs a lot under its hood. With over 800 cars, 35 tracks, and 60fps of raw racing performance, it makes up for its lack of a traditional career mode or some of the deeper customization you'll find elsewhere in the series. Plus, GT PSP's ad-hoc vehicle sharing and one-off multiplayer races are a nice touch. Overall, it's not the real deal, but damned if it doesn't come a close second.
23. PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe
More importantly, the game is fun. Like its PS3 version, PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe is a tower game that brings it own style and rules to a saturated genre. Yes, all the tower defense tropes are there, but PixelJunk Monsters brings just enough new battle mechanics, weapons, and personality to make it feel new.
22. Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
For one, the game looks stunning and almost on par with its PS2 teammate. It also comes equipped to share data between it and the PS2 version, making it easy to keep one's legacy alive and consistent between the two platforms. These perks, combined with a world tour mode, make Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 one of the finest and most technically gifted iterations of the sport on the PSP.
21. Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
Designed as a prequel to the first Dissidia, Dissidia 012 takes the FF formula for another spin, mixing standard JRPG mechanics with flashy, high-octane face-offs. It also tweaks a few balance issues from the first and brings nine new FF characters into the fold. No doubt, there's plenty for FF fans to cling to in Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, but even newcomers to the franchise will find something to love in its high-energy antics.
20. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Taking place before GTA3, Liberty City Stories returns the series' focus to Toni Cipriani in a story that sees the up-and-coming mobster pulling jobs for all sides of a mob war, and even his own mother (who would later order him dead, but whose mom hasn't?). Packing a hefty story and a massive sandbox, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories proved the doubters wrong and is responsible for paving the way for a string of portable GTA titles in the years following its release.
19. Persona 3 Portable
Its small yet impactful changes like these that make the PSP's interpretation worth a look. For the most part, however, Persona 3 Portable's biggest strength is that it stays true to one of the series' most entertaining chapters in a format that makes it quick and painless to get in a little Dark Hour visiting on our time off from our real lives.
18. LocoRoco 2
Everything that made LocoRoco an innovative hit returns in this sequel, including the game's trademark tilt-a-world mechanic that takes a moment to learn and multiple playthroughs to master. And you'll want to become an expert at rolling, bumping, and squishing LocoRocos through their environments too if you hope to collect all of the game's secrets and bonus missions. In all, don't let the Saturday morning cartoon vibe turn you off. LocoRoco 2 is as charming as it is challenging, and as cute as it is devious.
17. Valkyria Chronicles II
Valkyria Chronicles II picks up Avan Hardins story without missing a step, setting you on a path through the Lanseal Royal Military Academy that will see you navigating conflicts both on and off the battlefield that feel just as complex and satisfying as before. After spending countless hours managing troops, customizing vehicles, and perfecting your strategy in the war for Gallia, it'll become clear that this handheld Valkyria Chronicles entry can hold its own.
16. Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max
The Street Fighter franchise has seen its fair (fair) share of spin-offs, expansions, and remixes, but this is one title that delivered a memorable bow.
15. Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
At first glance, its clear Capcom has done some aesthetic upgrades. But though the backgrounds have been beefed up and the assets look cleaner, Mega Man X's core gameplay was rightly left alone. At least in the beginning. Make it to the end and you'll be treated to a chance to test your skills in a whole new Vile mode starring the evil robot himself.
14. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
Final Fantasy Tactics was a modern classic to begin with. On the PSP it shines even brighter. If you don't get lost in the labyrinthine plot, you'll spend days tinkering with your army and perfecting your strategy in the field. As in the original, the game isn't kind to beginners; but those who spend time learning its inner workings will no doubt find themselves dedicated to the cause.
13. Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2
Sporting 24 characters, a dozen courses, an enhanced Loyalty system, and a clubhouse full of clothing and extras; Open Tee 2 will take more than a few rounds to master. The biggest highlight, however, is its Wi-Fi multiplayer mode that matches players for one-on-one games or enlists them in highly customizable tournaments. Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 carries the franchise forward and gives PSP duffers a chance to join the team.
12. Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is a blood-stamped love letter to fans. It comes loaded with a completely remastered version of Rondo of Blood, complete with multiple characters and a shiny new Boss Mode. That's worth the price tag alone, and yet Konami found it within its undead heart to toss in the original Rondo of Blood and a complete port of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to pad out the UMD. That, friends, is fan service done right.
11. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
From a revised levelling system to streamlined team-building mechanics, nuanced graphical tweaks and musical overhauls, the PSP's Let Us Cling Together feels faster, cleaner, and livelier than ever. Plus, with the ability to replay key missions and travel down new paths in the post-game World system, it's easy to double (or even triple) the game's 50-hour runtime. Purists may deride the PSP's version of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together for trimming the fat and reducing the grind, but for many it's a rare improvement over an already excellent game.
10. Power Stone Collection
The decision to bring the Power Stone series to Sony's PSP was an inspired choice, not just because the handheld was an ideal venue for quick, pick-up-and-play arcade action, but because it attracted former Dreamcast loyalists who might not have given the system a second glance. It was the first arena-based brawler game of its kind for the portable system, and despite being outclassed by later fighting games, it proved the PSP was capable of putting up a fight.
9. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Truly, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a breath of fresh air on the PSP, and an inspired departure for the series as a whole. Gone are the Nintendo DS's cel-shaded graphics and touch-screen controls; in their place are a more classic look and fun QTE sequences. New missions and radio tunes also do their part to make the PSP version stand out. Rockstar's port takes great effort to make Lee feel comfortable and revitalized in his new home while giving you a different taste of a portable hit.
8. Monster Hunter Freedom
Taking its lead from Monster Hunter G, Freedom is a massive monster-hunting game full of prey who will put your warrior through hell and back. You can try mashing your way through early-game bounties, but bigger enemies require experimentation and expert planning. That said, the genius of Monster Hunter Freedom is you'll want to keep trying, not just to reap the in-game rewards, but to soak in that rare sense of accomplishment you only get from looking genuinely tough foes in the face and living to tell the tale. This sense of gratification extends to the game's multiplayer mode, where you can meet in the Online Gathering Hall and find glory and treasure as a group. Still, whether you decide to go it alone or drag along friends, Monster Hunter Freedom is a tale you'll be telling your virtual kids for years.
7. Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core
Thankfully, there was nothing to worry about. Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core returns fans to one of the most iconic gaming realms in a way that feels right on a handheld platform. There's still plenty of opportunities to kick around with Zack and other FF7 familiars, but the short-burst missions do away with time-consuming RPG tropes and let you hack away at the meaty adventure at your own pace. Even the aforementioned slot-machine feature (memorably dubbed Digital Mind Wave) keeps the action humming and injects a sense of luck and surprise into every encounter. It may operate differently than what we were used to, but Crisis Core keeps the FF7 components intact while delivering a fresh spin on a classic tale.
6. God of War: Chains of Olympus
This God of War prequel is one of the most impressive-looking games on the PSP. More importantly, Ready at Dawn's design prowess means that the PSPs lack of an extra nub never slows Kratos down, as the Spartan moves from killing Persians to chopping down Titans with the same unstoppable fury and brutal grace as before. What could have easily been a misstep for the series is instead a can't-miss chapter, and one of the most satisfying (if hair-pullingly difficult on higher modes) action adventure games on the PSP.
5. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Roaming Vice City as US Corporal Vic Vance is a dream. Not because VCS gives you the chance to live out your crime-lord fantasies without the fuss of going to jail, but because it faithfully recreates the GTA experience in a format that makes it easy and addictive to sneak in a life of crime throughout our normal lives. Even better, it sports a new game engine, resulting in a cleaner, more visually arresting experience. Granted, it doesn't so much break the GTA mold as much as it plays with its toys, but VCS nonetheless stands as a technical and creative achievement.
4. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
And then there's the gameplay, an innovative mix of classic Snake asskickery and squad management that sees you managing the ins and outs of Mother Base while training Militaires Sans Frontires for deployment in missions. Combined with the multiplayer co-ops and versus ops modes, these elements make Peace Walker feel like its about to burst out of its UMD at any moment. But then, Snake is never one for staying within bounds to begin with.
3. Patapon 3
With Patapon 3, developer Pyramid perfects its formula. Once again, the game tasks you with leading an army of Patapons to victory against the Seven Evil Archfiends by tapping out drum beats to control their actions. The controls are more intuitive, the visuals are more varied, and the multiplayer adds a whole new dimension to the Patapons' quest. It's a sequel that layers improvements on top of nearly every aspect of the game without missing a beat.
2. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
God of War: Ghost of Sparta could have been forgettable, but it's anything but. Following Kratos' search for his brother Deimos, Ghost of Sparta is essential to the series' canon. And while it doesn't rise to the same scale as its console siblings, it comes pretty damn close while showing off a few new moves (spear chucking, Hyperion Charge) along the way. By the time you plumb the depths of Atlantis, swim the River of Lament, and tear a swath through the Domain of Death, you'll feel as if you've survived an authentic Greek myth.
It says a lot that a PSP launch title remains at the top of the virtual heap after the handheld's seven-year lifespan. And then, it only takes a few rounds with this musical prodigy to understand why. Lumines is a puzzle game that's drenched in style and endlessly addicting. In short: It's a game you can turn on for two minutes, but one you'll have on repeat for decades to come.