The PSP never lived up to its lofty goal of being a PS2 in your pocket, but by god it was still remarkable in its own goofy, floundering way. You could watch full-length movies, listen to your music library (which you definitely didn't download off LimeWire), and most importantly, you could play a plethora of weird, creative, quality games.
If you could forgive the heft of the system and clunkiness of a single analog nub, the PSP was a wonderland of rich games that felt perfectly nestled between the short experiences found on, say, a GameBoy, and the lengthier games found on PS2. So let's take a moment to celebrate and recognize 25 of the best PSP games of all time.
25. Half-Minute Hero
Got a minute? How about half? Good, because that's all the time you get to save the whole dang world.
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.
24. Killzone: Liberation
For a game that deals in death and destruction, Killzone: Liberation remains not only one of the most polished and prettiest games on the PSP, but it's arguably the best Killzone game ever made.
Liberation swaps the FPS vantage point for a top-down isometric view that rewards fast trigger fingers as much as tactical thinking. The game is also tough, training players to think before they shoot and perfect their approach in every mission. Rather than a glut of weapons and upgrades with no perceivable benefits, a huge assortment of tech and skills will keep you constantly reconsidering what the best way to play is. With the addition of one of PSP's most robust ad-hoc multiplayer modes, Liberation is truly one of the PSP's killer apps.
23. Jeanne d'Arc
Why Level-5 felt obliged to rewrite Joan of Arc's history instead of creating a French heroine of their own is beyond us. But no matter, because this magical, demon-fighting version of the historical figure does a fine job of leading one of the deepest and most creative tactical role-playing game on the system.
Like Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics, Jeanne D'Arc sees players taking on battles throughout an overworld map, collecting new team members and leveling 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.
22. 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 this 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.
21. Every Extend Extra
Screenshots don't do Every Extend Extra justice, as it's easy to dismiss Q Entertainment's shoot-'em-up as a colorful mess. Spend time learning the ropes and wrapping your head (and eyes) around the explosive gameplay, however, and Every Extend Extra will leave you star-struck.
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.
20. Ys Seven
Seven was indeed a lucky number for Nihon Falcom's action RPG franchise. Ys Seven represents an evolution of the series, evolving Ys' 2D sprites and environments into a full 3D adventure with new party members to discover, new systems to fine tune, and fresh new ways in which to dispatch justice in Altago.
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.
19. Mega Man Powered Up
Mega Man Powered Up is not just a remake of the original NES game. It earns its place here by drawing from the series' humble beginnings and reimagining them with cutesy new graphics, two new levels, and modes of play that let you swap Mega Man for one of his robotic bosses. Think of it like The Muppet Babies if the Muppet Babies were constantly blowing each other up to snatch their abilities from each other. 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.
18. Ape Escape: On the Loose
Ape Escape: On the Loose is a pristine, thoughtful remake of the PS1 original with upgraded graphics and a smattering of new monkey-themed minigames. The translation isn't perfect, and the controls miss something without the second analog stick, but the game's mix 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.
17. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep would have been easy to turn into a quick cash-in; a portable Kingdom Hearts to milk fans perpetually waiting for a proper sequel. Instead Square made one of the most important games in the series, filling out the strange world's lore with the same level of care and ambition as other titles in the series such as the epic Kingdom Hearts 2. Long before Kingdom Hearts 3 was announced for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, this was the closest thing everyone thought we would get to a third full game.
Heroes Terra, Aqua, and Ventus make for a disorienting shift from Sora, but the game's Command Deck and D-Link combat mechanics help to keep the adventure moving with fast, fluid, and surprisingly deep enemy encounters. It only takes a few visits to familiar Disney locales to ease back into the Kingdom Hearts vibe.
16. Gran Turismo PSP
Gran Turismo PSP is a title that had no business looking and playing as good as it did on the PSP. Polyphony Digital barely took its foot off the pedal when creating an exclusive GT experience for Sony's portable, and the result is a standalone title that purrs.
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.
15. Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
The first Dissidia Final Fantasy may have turned the fan service up, but this sequel cranks its love for FF to 11... er ... 012... um... it cranks it up to Duodecim.
Designed as a prequel to the first Dissidia, Dissidia 012 mixes standard JRPG mechanics with flashy, high-octane one-on-one fighting game mechanics. It also tweaks a few balance issues from the first game and brings nine new FF characters into the fold. This is explicitly an FF fan's delight but there's plenty for newcomers to cling to in Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy thanks to its theatrical antics.
14. Persona 3 Portable
What's amazing about this PSP adaptation of the PS2's Persona 3 is how fresh and different it feels in the transition to handheld. In optimizing the overworld for quick-and-easy exploration and shifting the main character's perspective from male to female, the overall tone of the story is changed, giving even old fans something new to latch on to.
Impactful tweaks like these make the PSP version of this JRPG worthy of attention, but its biggest strength is the unchanged dungeon crawling that's peerless in the RPG canon. The only thing that matches it is Persona 4 Golden on PS Vita.
13. LocoRoco 2
LocoRoco 2 is impossible to hate. Go on, try. After just a few minutes with Japan Studio's painfully cute platform puzzler, you too will be singing along with the titular blobs and spending every extra second digging into their rich, colorful world.
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. Don't let the Saturday morning cartoon vibe turn you off. LocoRoco 2 is as challenging as it is charming, and as devious as it is cute.
12. Valkyria Chronicles II
There was fear this portable sequel to PS3's Valkyria Chronicles would rob the series of its breadth and depth, but Sega handles the transition like a champ. Valkyria Chronicles II picks up Avan Hardin's 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.
11. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
As an updated remake of Final Fantasy Tactics from the first PlayStation console, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions extends the tactical role-playing goodness with new characters, jobs, and cutscenes which give even veterans of the original motivation to head back into the fray.
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.
10. Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
For years, Dracula X: Rondo of Blood was considered a lost holy grail in the Castlevania series trapped as a rare, Japan-only exclusive for the Turbo-Grafx 16 CD. Then came Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles, packaging not just this 2.5D remake of Rondo, but the original and an updated version of PlayStation 1's legendary Symphony of the Night. The whole package is a blood-stamped love letter to fans, loaded with weird characters and a shiny new Boss Mode. To this day, it remains one of the best games in the series.
9. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Can't remember much of 2011? This game may be the reason. A complete remake of the 1995 SNES game, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together captures the brilliance of the original Tactics Ogre while tweaking its legendary difficulty. This is the strategy RPG that started them all and the PSP version is the very best.
From a revised leveling system to streamlined team-building mechanics, nuanced graphical tweaks and musical overhauls, the PSP's Let Us Cling Together feels faster, cleaner, and livelier. 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.
8. Power Stone Collection
Forgetting the fact this compilation offers two games in one (Power Stone and Power Stone 2), Power Stone made 3D multiplayer brawling cool long before those fancy PlayStation All-Stars came onto the scene. The game delivers a whole stack of playable combatants, all of whom light up the arenas with slick, explosive action.
The decision to bring the formerly Dreamcast-exclusive 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 demonstrated how the PSP could give lesser known series a second chance. In many ways, the PSP is the Dreamcast of portables - a misunderstood venue for brilliant, off-beat game making.
7. Monster Hunter Freedom
Monster Hunter Freedom demands the best from you. It requires cunning, patience, the ability to take a beating, and the willingness to return for more. For those willing to tackle its challenge, however, it's also one of the most rewarding experiences on the PSP.
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 game made MonHun an international treasure.
6. Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core
Final Fantasy 7: 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 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. This was one of the first big projects by Hajime Tabata, who went on to direct the big series with Final Fantasy 15.
5. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (VCS) isn't the first portable GTA spin-off, but it's the most polished of its kind in the PSP roster. A prequel to PS2's Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, VCS pushes the PSP in all the right places to bring the Grand Theft Auto world to life in ways that seem impossible for the technologically limited PSP. This was thanks in part to a new game engine, resulting in a cleaner, more visually arresting handheld Grand Theft Auto. Even in the post GTA Online world, it stands as a technical and creative achievement.
4. Patapon 3
What you do in this bizarre, PSP-exclusive series is hard to describe without using the word Patapon itself. It's a game that marches to the beat of its own drum, borrowing notes of the rhythm game genre to compose a unique tune all its own. It's like Lemmings meets Elite Beat Agents. Or LocoRoco meets Donkey Konga. See? Hard.
With Patapon 3, developer Pyramid perfects its formula. Once again, the game challenges you to lead 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.
3. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Ready at Dawn and SCE Santa Monica Studio captured Zeus' lightning in a bottle when they crammed the God of War series into Sony's handheld. God of War: Chains of Olympus was an impressive achievement, but Ghost of Sparta surpassed it with an adventure that is slick and gorgeous.
Following Kratos' search for his brother Deimos, Ghost of Sparta is essential for followers of the series' canon. And while it doesn't rise to the same scale as its console siblings, it comes damn close while showing off a few new moves 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.
2. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker captures the blockbuster feel of its console comrades in way that make us wonder if Hideo Kojima secretly upgraded our PSPs. The insane plot, mounds of bonus content, and the obsessive army building later used in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain keeps you rapt the entire 30-hour runtime. Yes, thirty.
The action mixes classic Snake asskickery with deep squad management that sees you tweaking 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.
Lumines is timeless. Tetsuya Mizuguchi's psychedelic puzzler scratches our synesthesia itch by using light and sound in ways that make every round feel as fresh and exciting as the last even more than a decade after its release. Lumines turns block-matching into an art, changing the landscape with every skin and evolving a well-worn concept into a trippy, tub-thumping, zen-like vacation for the senses.
It says a lot that a PSP launch title remains its crowning achievement, but it only takes a few rounds with this musical prodigy to understand why. While it's had sequels on PS3, PS Vita, even iOS and Android, the PSP original is still the best.