The PlayStation Portable went on borrowed time the moment Sony unveiled its replacement handheld, the NGP — later known as the PlayStation Vita. But with Gamestop removing PSP software from nearly 25% of its locations, and the Vita now on store shelves, it's time to call the time of death on Sony’s first handheld.
So while we pour out a Monster energy drink in rememberance of the single analog stick and Monster Hunter claw hand, maybe it's premature to pen a eulogy for the UMD. Think of it more as hunting season…a prime time to start raiding your local store’s PSP bargin bin to round out your library. And these ten titles should be at the top of your cheap games list. Grab 'em now before they command outrageous prices on eBay!
10. Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Despite countless protestations to the contrary, the JRPG is not dead — mostly, it just moved from consoles to handhelds. Between the GameBoy Advance, the Nintendo DS (and now the 3DS), and the PSP, role players have plenty of fantastical worlds to explore while quaffing potions and casting spells. And one of the best of that handheld crop is Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky.
Featuring an combat system that’s an interesting cross between turn-based and tactical strategy, a decent story, and over 40 hours of on-the-go RPG goodness, Trails in the Sky proves that games on handhelds don’t have to make sacrifices when compared to their console brethren. If you love a good quest to save the world, make owning a copy of this game a major priority.
Similar titles to look out for: Final Fantasy IV Complete, Persona 3 Portable, Brave Story: New Traveler
9. Killzone: Liberation
Mention Killzone to the average gamer, and they invariably think of Guerilla Games’ series of first-person shooters (and the misguided phrase, “Halo-killer”). But one of the best titles in the entire franchise wasn’t a first person shooter…and it wasn’t on any of Sony’s home consoles.
In 2006, Guerilla released Killzone: Liberation and took the series in a radically different direction, eschewing run-and-gun mechanics for a third person isometric view that felt more like Diablo with rifles than a straight-up shooter. Better still, it featured a pretty robust multiplayer mode that showed that the PSP could be a viable online option.
Similar titles to look out for: Resistance: Retribution, Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow, Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror
8. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
As someone who spent an insane amount of time playing Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast and GameCube, Monster Hunter sits squarely in my wheelhouse. Exploring a world where you fight giant monsters and collect phat loot appeals to me on a very personal level. Doing it with three other friends is just an added bonus.
Capcom’s Monster Hunter Freedom Unite essentially updates Monster Hunter Freedom 2 — and like all good updates, it brings many new things to the table, including more missions, better gear, and expanded storage for all those newfound goodies. You still get the Monster Hunter clawhand, but sometimes you’ve just gotta tough it out. Besides, who’s gonna let a little thing like potential arthritis get in the way of taking down giant monsters?
Similar titles to look out for: Monster Hunter Freedom 2, Phantasy Star Portable, Phantasy Star Portable 2
7. Jeanne d’Arc
Traditional JRPGs got plenty of love on the PSP, but let's not forget the tactical RPG. Like one of the PSP’s most pleasant surprises: Jeanne d’Arc.
Level-5’s strategy game offers up all the grid-based combat fans of that subgenre adore while spinning a tale that merges real world history with fantastical elements. Jeanne fights to save France from the oppressive tyranny of the English, but apparently the history books glossed over the bit about demons controlling the British army. In short, do feel free to dig into Jeanne d’Arc's deep strategy-based gameplay, lovely sprite-based graphics, and entertaining story-based story, but don't use it as the basis for a history report on the 100 Years War.
Similar titles to look out for: Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness
6. Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
Nintendo’s handhelds may get all the spiffy new Metroidvania titles, but Konami shared the love with Sony when they released Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles in 2007. Some might even say PSP owners got the better end of the deal, seeing how they not only got an updated version of the previously unavailable (and much-loved) Castlevania title Rondo of Blood, but also a second complete game, too. Konami included the critically revered Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as an unlockable. Double win.
The revamped Rondo of Blood feels tougher than a two-dollar steak, filled with challenging bosses and brutal platforming, but it’s well worth experiencing. The updated graphics can’t completely hide the game’s age, but Richter Belmont’s adventure has a certain timeless quality that works really well on a handheld. And the inclusion of Symphony of the Night makes picking this collection up a no-brainer.
Similar titles to look out for: Ultimate Ghosts n’ Goblins, Prinny: Can I Really be the Hero?
One of the must-play experiences from the PSP's early days. But if you’re late to the party, it’s still worth picking up. Designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi created an interesting concoction that starts as a simple block puzzle, then builds out its repertoire to form an aesthetically pleasing whole.
Lumines is tough to pigeonhole. Yes, it's a puzzle game, but that element only covers a part of what makes the experience work. Music, color, and other design elements flow together to give it an almost Rez-like vibe that elevates Lumines into something far greater than the sum of its parts. Plus, it’s fun. You never go wrong with that.
Similar titles to look out for: Every Extend Extra, LocoRoco, Patapon
4. Ys Seven
The seventh installment in Falcom’s popular action-RPG series has the distinction of being the first one built for the PSP, and the results are fantastic. Seven dared to tweak the core Ys formula, but made it even stronger in the process.
Adventurer Adol Christin returns for a lengthy campaign that both proves he's one of the great unsung characters in gaming and signals a bold new direction for the franchise….without forgetting to deliver the puzzles and hack-n-slash carnage. Ys Seven feels a lot like the Zelda game Sony fans never got (for obvious reasons), with a story that doesn't amount to much and gameplay that feels rock-solid. Those who love action in their RPGs do nott want to miss out on this one.
Similar titles to look out for: Ys: The Ark of Napishtim, Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
3. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Gamers who couldn’t get enough of the ‘80s vibe of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City will be pleased to know that more Thompson Twins and pastel colors await them in GTA's handheld spin-off.
Featuring new missions, a new story, and all the core GTA gameplay mechanics gamers have come to love, Vice City Stories proves that putting a big name console title on a handheld doesn’t automatically mean a smaller experience. In fact, Vice City Stories looked right at home when this game ported to the PlayStation 2 in 2007. Other GTA games turned up on the PSP, but you never forget the first time you jacked a 3D-rendered car.
Similar titles to look out for:Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
2. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
I'm not the world’s biggest Metal Gear fan, but I can appreciate the action/steath epic's history of gameplay innovations and absolutely absurd stories. And Peace Walker makes for a really impressive experience…one that brings the real essence of Metal Gear to a handheld system with absolutely no compromises.
Set after Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Peace Walker's story can still be a little hard to follow for folks who haven’t lived and breathed this franchise, but it’s worth investing the time to become engrossed in Peace Walker’s narrative. If that’s not enough, the gameplay is deep and challenging…maybe too challenging at times. As a co-op, multiplayer-focused game, some of the bosses are nightmarish when faced alone. But you'll find so much to do it’s not inconceivable to spend 50 hours or more into this adventure. That’s a lot of bang for the buck.
Similar titles to look out for: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, Metal Gear Acid
1. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
The God of War franchise appeared on the PSP a few years ago with the excellent Chains of Olympus. That title took everything that made God of War such a hit and shrunk it down for the PSP without losing anything in the translation. Ghost of Sparta takes things even further, trumping Chains in nearly every way.
The latested adventure for short-tempered Greek Kratos’ rewinds to before God of War II, with the raging Spartan seeking out his long-lost brother. The quest takes him through a pantheon of Gods and monsters, mixing compelling combo-heavy gameplay with strategic boss encounters, lush visuals, and silky smooth controls. Ghost of Sparta even manages to add new wrinkles to the mix, like a magic bar sets your Blades of Chaos on fire. Perfect for thrashing enemies. And solving puzzles.
Ghost of Sparta remains one of the finest games on Sony’s dear, departed handheld…one that belongs in any PSP owner’s library.
Similar titles to look out for: God of War: Chains of Olympus, Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines
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