Sony’s first handheld gaming system is retailing for the lowest price ever now. You — being a patient person — have taken advantage of this turn of events. Or maybe you got handed one by someone who needs a clean break before the Vita arrives. Now you need some games to cement your relationship.
These selections from the PSP back-catalog will highlight the handheld at its most ingenious.
The chattier, shorter partner of the Jak & Daxter games gets the spotlight on a platform that’s just his size. Daxter’s turn as a cosmic exterminator provides him the spotlight in a platformer game that’s as funny as it is well-tuned.
A Good Match for: Looney Tunes buffs. Jak’s sidekick shares the insecure bluster of Daffy Duck and is animated with such detail and charm that he could be related to Bugs or Pepe Lepew.
Not for Those Who Want: Bad-assery. It makes sense to focus Daxter on primarily platforming since Jak tends to handle all the action hero stuff in the J&D games, but fans expecting more high-octane action will be disappointed.
Every Extend Extra
This handheld game re-developed by Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi can only be called an un-shooter. You are the bullet — or bomb, more accurately — fired by a button press and your attacks are actually chained explosions of the game’s enemy swarms themselves. There’s no story here; EEE‘s focused on experience, pushing you to detonate ever bigger explosion sequences to get higher scores, ranks and levels.
A Good Match for: People who like to push themselves. Peppered with items to ramp up the speed and difficulty, this title’s levels are actually dynamic, ever-mutating puzzles that demand patience. If you do it right, self-detonation rewards you with increased playtime and increased lives. Underneath the feast of colour, design and sound that EEE offers, the rigid algorhtmic nature of the PSP action/puzzle hybrid is where it finds its true beauty.
Not for Those Who Want: Clear progression. The arcane mechanics of EEE will stymie even its most ardent fans and it’s all the more frustrating knowing that more levels — filled with awesome music and visuals — are waiting to be unlocked.
Don’t trust that name fully. Jonathan Mak’s idiosyncratic creation is a shooter but its experimental synaesthetic design melds sound and visuals in a way that’s anything but everyday. One minute, you’re shooting amoebic shapes in what looks like a neural network, the next you’re blasting back robot hordes in a trippy mech nightmare. But, the whole retina-sizzling experience is so tightly-tuned that you’ll be hypnotized and hungry for templates that come next.
A Good Match for: Abstract art enthusiasts. Everyday Shooter splashes hues and shapes across the screen and brings them to life in surprisingly creepy and breathtaking ways.
Not for Those Who Want: A relaxing ramble. Everyday‘s beauty gets married to a nerve-wracking difficulty that forces you back to the first stage when you run out of lives.
God of War: Chains of Olympus
When the antihero of Sony’s God of War games got shrunk down for a portable prequel, Kratos lost none of his formidable fury. Chains of Olympus translates the series’ signature combat flair and mythological scale to the handheld, raising the stakes of what was possible on the PSP.
A Good Match for: Riders of public transportation. Chances are, your daily commute offers plenty of opportunities to get good and pissed-off. Thankfully, this title lets you take out your anger on the monsters of Greco-Roman myth, not fellow passengers.
Not for Those Who Want: Comfortable hardware. A few crucial quicktime sequences require precision movement on the PSP’s nubby thumbstick and, yeah, it’s just not built for that. The sketchy input from this part of the hardware must be why Kratos is so angry.
Simultaneously a send-up and an homage to old-school RPGs that laid down the roots of the genre’s dogma, this commute-friendly title demands that you finish its quests in 30 seconds. Thankfully, there are ways to pad your time, but there’s still a huge amount of stress and fun packed into Half-Minute Hero‘s short bursts.
A Good Match for: Efficiency experts. Not only does this quirky Atlus title provide an extra-lean cut of RPG in the Hero 30 mode, it also riffs on other genres, too. You can get your concentrated side-scrolling shooter fix in Princess 30 or do eyeblink-quick RTS planning in Evil Lord 30.
Not for Those Who Want: Level Grind. While hilarious, the super-compressed hi-jinx of HMH will have no appeal for RPG fans who like to farm their way through a world and accrue XP at a more leisurely pace.
This puzzle game singlehandedly justified the existence of the PlayStation Portable when Sony dove into the handheld gaming scene in 2006. Crafted by the dev studio founded by Tetsuya Mizuguchi — the designer behind cult fave Rez — Lumines 2 adds glorious sound-and-color syncopation to Tetris’ falling-block formula against the backdrop of a killer soundtrack.
A Good Match for: Club kids. You’ll hear tunes linked to almost every sub-genre of electronic music, from sprightly techno-pop to ominous dub. If you ever waved glowsticks at a dance party, Lumines will make you happy.
Not for Those Who Want: Predictability. The mechanics of playing Lumines never change but they will speed up or slow down from level to level. So, sometimes the timeline that wipes matched cubes away will be extra speedy and sometimes it’ll be an agonizingly slow sweep across the screen.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
When Metal Gear Solid 4 — the last major console outing for Hideo Kojima’s beloved franchise — met a mixed reaction, many wondered when and how the next unequivocally great entry in the storied stealth series would arrive. Almost everyone was taken by surprise when it arrived on the PSP, especially as the system was entering its twilight. But Peace Walker hit great emotional highs and evolved the gameplay around co-operative play and with strategy elements.
A Good Match for: Triplets. This Metal Gear lets players team up through its campaign and delivers new weapons and mechanics so that multiple Snakes can effectively sneak and shoot through the Costa Rican jungle.
Not for Those Who Want: To play solo. It’s possible to complete Peace Walker — which was built with multplayer in mind — by yourself but the gruelling boss battles will make you wish friends were playing alongside you.
Developed under the auspices of the Sony Japan dev collective, the game merges real-time strategy elements — creating different types of soldier units, managing attack, defence and retreat tactics — with the rhythm-based controls of games like Dance Dance Revolution. The result’s a singularly unique experience with insanely catchy mechanics.
A Good Match for: Ant farm owners. There’s an entire sub-genre of video games built around amassing and deploying little virtual creatures — Overlord and Pikmin are recent examples — but Patapon ranks amongst the most unique. Pressing certain button combos in time with the beat will prod your little minions into charging enemy factions, throwing spears or taking cover under their shields. So it’s funky and think-y at the same time.
Not for Those Who Want: To skip memorizing things. The button-mashing in Patapon‘s not the kind of mindless combat found in so many other games. You need to pay attention to what you’re hearing and pressing, and will wind up with some “pon-pon-pata-pon” earworms before you’re done.
Persona 3 Portable
Not much was wrong Persona 3 the first two times publisher Atlus released it. But the general consensus is that the PSP version of the RPG originally made for the PS2 surpasses its forebears. Combat’s improved and it’s got a bit more content than the first two iterations, impressive for a portable title.
A Good Match for: People who want more video game heroines. The biggest addition to P3P is the all-new option to play as a female protagonist, which tweaks several plot elements in the game. For a game set in a high school that lets you call on friends as support characters, it’s a welcome addition.
Not for Those Who Want: An entirely different Persona 3. Good as it is, there’s no getting around the fact that a lot of this game still feels like something made for the PS2. Worse yet, the superbly executed cutscenes get cut from Portable due to the PSP’s technical limitations.
Tekken Dark Resurrection
Namco’s martial arts series was synonymous with PlayStation platforms ever since the PS1, driving sales and loyalty with its intricate movesets. Dark Resurrection continued the trend on the PSP and provided an almost perfect duplicate of its console counterpart.
A Good Match for: Roommates. Friends in close proximity could compete wirelessly with surprisingly little lag, giving co-habitants an enticing way to procrastinate from cleaning up.
Not for Those Who Want: Wifi multiplayer. Unlike the big-boy PS3 version, you can’t play online with players all over the world. If your archenemy’s not in your living room, you’re out of luck.
Ultimate Ghosts N’ Goblins
In 2006, the return of the lance-throwing Arthur in a new PSP game took folks by surprise in two ways. Few expected any kind of reappearance from the B-list Capcom franchise and, in the age where most video games get rendered in 3D, fewer expected a 2D experience to be as entertaining as Ultimate Ghosts N’ Goblins was.
A Good Match for: Side-scroller fanatics. UGnG follows the length-x-width lineage of games like Rygar and the original Ninja Gaiden. And like those predecessors, it’s an attack/jump adventure with a bruising difficulty that will test all comers.
Not for Those Who Want: Ease. This game gets tough. Plus, Arthur can only hold one weapon at a time, and one of the hoariest game mechanics from the old school lives another day to frustrate players everywhere.
Futuristic combat racing. Peerless techno soundtracks. Sleekly dangerous design. These elements piloted almost every Wipeout to the winner’s circle of gamers’ hearts and the portable Pulse was no different. New tweaks like an customisable progression system and
A Good Match for: Recycling advocates. This handheld Wipeout lets you race on its tracks backwards and forwards, with subtle differences in each orientation to make it more than just going the wrong way.
Not for Those Who Want: A Sunday drive. Some of the speed classes go as fast as 793 km/h or 492.74 mph, making the memorization necessary to learn where the blind turns are and when to break really, really hard.
NOTE: This list will be updated if and when we discover better games. We will only ever list 12 games, at the most.