PlayStation games for pocket-money prices
Sony's PSP is one of the most unsuccessful successful consoles of all time. While many saw the PS2's little cousin as a failure, due to a lack of genuine killer games and apps, it was actually an enduring success. What do we mean by that? Well, long after the hardcore had abandoned it in favour of the (similarly maligned PS Vita), many regular players stuck with their PSP on the basis that it was a) cheap, b) had loads of games, and c) remained a decent piece of tech.
Regardless of its reputation, PSP has a bunch of great games many of which still hold up a decade after the handheld launched. We've boiled it down to the best 50 here, and we'd welcome most of these as classic downloads our shiny new PS4s. Whether you're checking this list for nostalgia, or you're looking for a real bargain, there's plenty to love in the following pages.
Daxter had the benefit of starring one of Sony's most beloved sidekicks when it released in 2006, but the real celebrity turned out to be Ready At Dawn, a team that turned what could've been a half-baked spin-off into one of the tightest and most expansive platformers on the (then) new PSP.
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
Got a minute? How about half? Good, because you'll want to spend as many free seconds as you can plumbing the depths of this innovative hybrid title.
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
Dreaming of becoming a nightclub god but can't find the time? There's a game for that. And while DJ Max Portable 3 won't win you record deals or surround you with groupies, it will have you bobbing your head in public and rising through the virtual DJ ranks.
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
For a game that deals in death and destruction, Killzone: Liberation remains one of the most polished and prettiest games on the PSP.
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
Ridiculous weapons? Got em. Open-ended platforming? Got em. A Pixar-esque presentation and story that will make you fall in love with Ratchet and Clank all over again? Sure, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters has that too.
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
Namco's high-flying series is the only flight combat game you'll find on this list. That's largely because the genre isn't exactly packed to begin with, and capturing the essence of high-flying combat on a portable system is tricky.
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
Why Level-5 felt obliged to rewrite Joan of Arc's history instead of creating a French heroine of their own is beyond us. 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 (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
Resistance Retribution is more than a bridge between Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2. It's a blockbuster title all its own that brings the monolithic scope and ambition of Sony's exclusive shooter to the PSP in a way that never feels cheap.
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
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.
40. Burnout Legends
Criterion packed a ton of content and performance into Burnout Legends. Representing the series' first time on a portable system, it makes an impactful entrance, bringing Burnout's trademark speed and over-the-top action to mobile racers without spinning off and becoming a broken wreck.
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
Lara Croft's birthday compilation is a gift for raiders on the move. It's nearly as good looking as the PS2 edition and it's enhanced with gameplay tweaks that help Lara slip gracefully into the portable without ripping the system's seams.
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
Rock Band seems like the last series that would work on a portable system, but somehow Backbone Entertainment pulls it off. Rock Band Unplugged delivers the core Rock Band experience without requiring players to clog their living rooms with plastic instruments. Yes, that means the game is a button-tapping rhythm game, but like any good cover song, it keeps the heart and soul of the original in play.
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
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.
36. Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror
SCE Bend Studio's Syphon Filter never reached the same heights as Splinter Cell and its ilk, but Dark Mirror is proof the series had (and maybe still has?) massive potential. Following Gabe Logan on his globe-trotting quest to bring down Red Section, Dark Mirror offers a polished mix of stealth and action, as well as a surprisingly deep multiplayer mode. In fact, every aspect of Logan's portable ops is crafted to beautifully, from the cinematic gun fights to the tense stealth sequences, and even the pitch-perfect soundtrack from X-File's composer Mark Snow.
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
Tekken: Dark Resurrection may stumble in its online approach, but bounces back with more than enough content to keep solo players and their ad-hoc friends in its corner.
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
You'll find the Blue Bomber more than once in this list. That's because Mega Man's sectioned-off sidescrollers are easy pickings for handheld experiences. Mega Man Powered Up earns its place by drawing from the series' humble beginnings and bringing the first Mega Man back in a masterful way.
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.
What's not to love about this crafty platformer? From Persia to Tinsel Town, Hong Kong and beyond, LittleBigPlanet for the PSP is a fresh adventure that lets players re-team with Sackboy for 23 fresh levels of platforming, costume-collecting, bubble-popping bliss. It also packs a level editor, letting PSP players use in-game assets to create worlds to share with the game's community. The options are endless, if not adorable.
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
FlatOut: Head-On is messy. It's over-the-top, it's unrealistic, and it's hard to wrap your hands around. Fortunately, it's also one of the best arcade racers for the PSP, trading realistic physics for a smashing good time.
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
Tekken 6 is another fighting game that made the PSP conversion remarkably well. In addition to bottling the original's tight controls and performance, it ups the ante with more fighters (41 in all) and a handful of new attacks for each. A new bound system also gives Tekken pros a new way to bring on additional pain.
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
With countless Ape Escape games running amok in the gaming world, it's easy to want to hang up the net and give up the chase. Ape Escape: On the Loose, however, offers a return to simpler times, while keeping the next generation of simian snatchers interested.
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
The Disgaea series has always skewed to RPG purists and this rerelease for the PSP is no exception. Throughout the course of its jam-packed story you'll be forced to grind your way into an unstoppable team of Overlord-murdering heroes, and woe be to the player who thinks it'll be a cake walk.
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 (or, as it was known in 2000, Vampire Chronicle: The Chaos Tower) is another former Dreamcast game that found a new home on the PSP. Here again, Capcom makes the move with little sacrifice, gifting the portable system with a 2D, sprite-based fighting game that looks and fights in the same league as its 3D contenders.
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
It'd be easy to dismiss this PSP exclusive as a Kingdom Hearts cash-in, but to do so would be to pass on one of the most important games in the series. Birth by Sleep fills in a ton of narrative gaps, and it does so with the same level of care and ambition as others in the series.
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?
Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? could have easily been a disaster, as is common for D-list character spin-offs. Instead, Nippon Ichi Software's Disgaea spin-off is a work of art all its own, elevating Prinny (or his prinnies) as a hero in his (their) own right.
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
Gran Turismo PSP is another title that had no business looking and playing as good as it did on the PSP. But it did. 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. Overall, it's not the real deal, but damned if it doesn't come a close second.
23. PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe
PixelJunk Monsters for the PS3 may be a prince among tower defense games, but PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe for PSP is still the king. True to its deluxe name, the portable version features the Encore expansion pack, new monsters, new towers, and a brand-new island. It also packs scores of unlockable goodies like concept art and new songs.
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
After a disappointing portable entry for PES5, and a better (yet-still-lacking) port of PES6, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 renewed fans' faith in Konami's ability to translate its popular footy franchise to the portable market.
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
The first Dissidia Final Fantasy may have turned the fan service up, but this sequel cranks its love for FF to 11... er ... 012.
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
Grand Theft Auto on a handheld system?! Impossible. At least, that's what Rockstar loyalists were saying before this sandbox prodigy blew away expectations on the PSP. True, Liberty City Stories isn't as grandiose in scope as its console inspiration, but it goes great lengths to welcome you to an open world ripe for traditional GTA anarchy.
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
The Persona games rarely fail to deliver, and this PSP adaptation of the PS2's Persona 3 is no exception. In addition to optimizing the overworld bits for quick-and-easy exploration, it shifts the perspective from male to female, altering the overall tone of the story and giving fans something new to latch on to.
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
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. 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
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 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
Fighting games are a mixed bag on portable systems, but Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max got it right and then some. Its not so much that the PSP's Max version offered a virtually flawless port of the PS3 original, but that Capcom took the move as an opportunity to pack Max to the rafters with tons of new content. Featuring 40 characters, new online modes, a world tour time sink, fresh presentation elements, and arguably superior performance, the title earned its Max tag fairly.
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
There are always reservations when a developer polishes up a classic for resale on a new system. Thankfully, Capcom handled its Mega Man X upgrade with restraint, bringing many of its elements into the (then) modern age while retaining the nostalgic vibe of the original.
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
Square Enix packs a ton of game into its UMD. 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.
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
How much cartoony golf can you cram into one game? Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 sets out to answer that question in a Hot Shots Golf sequel that swings for the fences (same sport, right?).
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
Konami's vampire-hunting series can be hit or miss, but this 2.5D remake of 1993's Castlevania: Rondo of Blood is a chapter that does the Belmont clan proud.
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
Can't remember much of 2011? This game may be the reason. A port of the 1995 SNES original, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together captures the brilliance of the original and doles out just enough tweaks and edits to polish off an RPG gem.
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
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 whack of playable arena combatants, all of whom light up the arenas with slick, explosive action.
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
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was made for the Nintendo DS, but thrives on the PSP. Taking the series back to its top-down roots, Chinatown Wars sees Huang Lee arriving at Liberty City with a score to settle and an empire to raise. What follows is a game that blends conventional GTA gameplay with a slew of diversions that are tailor made for portable gaming.
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
Monster Hunter Freedom demands the best from you. It requires cunning, patience, and the ability to take a beating and 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 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
When Square Enix asked PSP owners if they were ready to go back to the world of Final Fantasy VII, fans responded with a resounding Now! When the studio followed up with, Ok, but it's going to be action role-playing chopped into missions and featuring an oddball slot machine mechanic, fans took a step back and answered, Uh ok?
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
God of War: Chains of Olympus could have been a disaster. After all, while no one was doubting the PSP's muscle at the time of its release, the idea that Santa Monica Studio's super-sized console series could not only be handled by a different developer, but perform anywhere near as well on a portable system was hard to swallow. Thankfully, Ready at Dawn proved it was more than prepared to take the reigns and that the PSP had the strength to do Kratos justice.
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
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 few thought possible outside of consoles.
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
The legendary Snake wins us over on any platform he deigns worthy of his time, but there's something special about this portable entry. Maybe it's the way Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker manages to capture the blockbuster feel of its console comrades, or maybe it's the game's ability to make us wonder if Hideo Kojima secretly upgraded our PSPs. Then again, it could be the traditionally (and predictably insane) plot, or the mounds of bonus content (which includes monster hunting) that keeps us locked and loaded throughout the entire 30-hour runtime.
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
The Patapon series is hard to describe without using the word Patapon. It's a game that marches to the beat of its own drum, borrowing elements 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 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
Ready at Dawn and SCE Santa Monica Studio captured Zeus' lightning in a bottle again when they crammed the God of War series into Sony's handheld for an encore. Forged on a path cut by God of War: Chains of Olympus, Ghost of Sparta sacrifices little in its quest to bring Kratos to the small screen, delivering a God of War adventure that is slick, epic, and gorgeous.
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.
Lumines is timeless. Even after all these years, Tetsuya Mizuguchi's psychedelic puzzler scratches our gaming itch by using light and sound in ways that make every round feel as fresh and exciting as the last. 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's totally... like... whoa. Can you give us a moment? We need to sit down.
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.