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If ever a console needed some love, it's PSP. While everyone's getting excited about the next big PS3 or Xbox 360 games, Sony's sleek little black portable just sits there, quietly outselling PS3 in hardware sales (according to US NPD figures), yet failing to light up the internet with the kind of excitement it evoked at its launch.
"It's got no games" we hear people cry. They are wrong. We're playing great games on PSP - here are ten of our absolute favourites.
Tekken: Dark Resurrection
When we first got our PSPs, we really wanted to love the conversion of Street Fighter Alpha 3 on it. But we couldn't. The console's four face buttons and separate D-Pad arrows make the usual quarter-circle fighting movements not only difficult, but physically painful after even moderate play time. So what a wonderful surprise it was to discover Tekken fits it beautifully.
Above: If we had that much gold, we wouldn't let people fight all over it
Looking at it logically, it makes sense. The first Tekken games were around before PSone got analog sticks, and the PlayStation controller has always had separate D-pad arrows and four face buttons. So when you don't need to hook your fingers around PSP's broad shoulders and instead have to tap in memorised sequences on the face layout, everything suddenly falls into place.
Of course it helps that this is a superb version of Tekken, with a few graphical optimisations which ensure it looks even better than its PS2 equivalent, Tekken 5. Seeing doubloons fly up in the piratey stage or the stained glass windows in the church on PSP's beautiful screen is enough eye-candy for any gamer to appreciate. Some games just do what they do, perfectly. This is one of those games.
OutRun 2006: Coast 2 Coast
Seeing as the first port of OutRun 2 was on the original Xbox, it was impressive enough to see the game running on PS2 when this extended version came out a year later, let alone PSP. And yet here it is with every feature intact, complete with a USB data link between the two Sony machines. You can spend your train journey racking up OutRun miles in the addictive Heart Attack mode or simply try to reach as many of the ten ending scenes as you can, before hooking back up to your big screen when you get home.
Above: See the road past the bridge? 20 seconds and you'll be there
The atmosphere of OutRun has always been a joy and the remixed music tracks here, coupled with the original 1986 tunes, are still as hum-worthy as ever. It's a good-looking game, too, with long winding roads disappearing into the distance and the buzz of that choice at the end of every stage is still as simple and rewarding a pleasure as it was the first time we played OutRun in the 1980s. Seeing as we haven't saved up enough for our real Ferrari yet (we're about 0.0001% of the way there), we're happy to settle for this little pocket rocket for the time being.
SNK Arcade Classics: Volume 1
A lot of people will tell you that the SNES was about as good as 2D graphics ever got, but they're wrong. SNK's Neo Geo and its games may have been way too expensive when they were available in the mid-'90s, but they were also arcade perfect translations of titles which represented the pinnacle of 2D gaming. So in effect, this compilation is giving you an armful of games that once represented that magic, just-out-of-reach strain of wondergame that used to be reserved purely for the pocket money thrill of the arcade.
Above: What this screen can't show you is the superb scaling effects
Nowadays, what used to leave us wide-eyed (and regularly lighter of pocket) has now evened out as a deliciously crisp 2D experience. The hand-drawn art has more character than 99% of 3D games and the emphasis on pick-up-and-play immediacy is perfect for the PSP. That's not to say there's no depth – there's plenty to learn and secrets to uncover, and the challenge of beating levels in Metal Slug without dying is still one of the most hardcore challenges in gaming.
Of this collection, Metal Slug is a clear favourite, though we've also lost hours to Super Sidekicks 3 (pictured) – an arcadey footie game which captures the 'Roy of the Rovers' feel of childhood soccer dreams brilliantly.