Up until very recently, Nintendo had been the unquestionable top dog in the handheld market throughout the decades but I believe there was one single portable device that actually manage to put up a decent fight, that being the Sony PlayStation Portable. The PSP was superior hardware-wise and had a vast games library, especially in Japan. What follows is a compiled list of either exclusives or titles that had the definitive experience on the little black brick.
NOTE: Certain known titles were left out on purpose as superior ports are either already available or in development as of writing this. These will be listed at the end of the article.
This PSone remake of the original entry suffered from a short development period, which may have left some sharp edges but the overall game is still enjoyable. It’s worth giving a go, especially if you’ve never played any of the previous titles.
The only 3rd person entry in the Resistance series. This is a grossly underrated game that is blessed with superb graphics, interesting plot and above-average voice-acting, which is especially rare on a handheld. It ties directly in to the main canon of the PS3 titles but regardless, you won’t miss out too much if you haven’t played those.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter which one you start with because there’s no real coherent plot. The third one is obviously the most polished but considering how addictive these rhythm-games are, you’ll be craving more PATA-PATA once you’ve finished any one of them.
Persona 3 Portable
An enhanced port of the PS2 game with an extra campaign featuring a female protagonist, this school-occult themed anime JRPG is filled with a ton of content. The graphics obviously suffered with the porting to a handheld device but overall the cheesy dialog and intuitive combat is still intact. Also, the PS Vita port of Persona 4 is an extremely great title, if you’re interested in portable Megami Tensei titles overall.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
It’s almost impossible to pick one from the vast library of Monster Hunter games but for the PSP, the best choices is most likely Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, which is again, an enhanced port of a PS2 game. This is an extremely popular genre in Japan, so there’s a hefty amount of similar titles ported to the West, like: Bounty Hounds, Phantasy Star Portable, Warriors of the Lost Empire, White Knight Chronicles: Origins, Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology and Lord of Arcana, to name a few.
Final Fantasy: Dissidia 012
Probably one of the best and most unique fighting games of all time and I’m astounded that it has never gotten a proper home-console release. It is considered a prequel and a remake of the original Dissidia game, with all the spruced up content from that and then some.
Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops
A direct sequel to MGS3 that for some reason is completely forgotten. When people talk about handheld Metal Gear games, they usually point to Peace Walker, which is also superb and has a remastered version available for the PS3 but Portable Ops was also a really great entry in the series. Its got a great team-building mechanic and some critical plot pieces that are vital if you want a true chronological Metal Gear experience.
Mega Man Powered Up | Mega Man Maverick Hunter X
These two were released with around a month apart and play quite similarly, both to each other and to the originals that were released way back. While Powered Up is more in the vein of the NES-era Mega Man with its Chibi theme and classic bosses, Maverick Hunter X is more similar to the 90’s SNES era titles with a more edgier look but overall still retaining the overall same feel. If You’ve never ever played a Mega Man game, either of these is a good one to start.
Black Rock Shooter
This action JRPG puts you in the role of a petite girl who’s actually a super weapon whose objective is to destroy the alien invaders. The game ties into a franchise which centers entirely around this blue-eyed girl and is apparently quite popular in its native land. The game looks good and plays nice, although some might find it a bit too repetitive.
This is like if Tetris had a baby with Dance Dance Revolution… or something. The first one was great but the second one perfected the formula. It doesn’t look like much and these days similar looking games are cluttering up every iTunes and App Store but back before smart phones, these kinds of puzzle games were treated as treasured gems and were often the highlight of their adoptive handhelds.
Developed by the company best known for their Dynasty Warriors series, this title is also in the same vein. There’s three different playable undead warriors, each with unique abilities, which help to plow through hordes of enemies. It’s no masterpiece but if you’ve enjoyed previous titles from Koei and are looking for a similar type of game, then this will do just fine.
Loco Roco 2
Another one of those sickeningly satisfying puzzle games. This game mostly has you use the shoulder buttons of the PSP to navigate a yellow blob around a colorful cartoon-world. It’s quirky and addictive and is a great fit for all ages.
A handheld port of the LittleBigPlanet series, which so far was exclusive to the PS3. It plays almost identical to that of its home-console brethren, with just being squeezed into a smaller size, so with less stuff all together and almost no online functions to speak of but it’s surprising how much time one can sink into this little bugger.
The first truly good Killzone game that came out before the series was redeemed with Killzone 2. Also the only non-FPS title in the series. The gameplay is reminiscent of 90’s isometric console shooters and plays pretty much as such, which makes it quite an enjoyable game, though it definitely hasn’t aged all that well.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Originally a DS exclusive, it has now been ported to a wide array of devices, with the PSP version being arguably the best but some would say that the iOS/Android version with a controller is superior. So while visually the latter might seem better, especially on a more powerful tablet, it’s mostly down to the individuals preference.
This is not a remake of the PSone original but a completely separate title that was in development hell for some time and all together from its announcement took 5 years to be release. Undoubtedly the premier racing experience on the PSP, so if you enjoy simulation-based racing with a large vehicle roster for a handheld, then look no further.
Ultimate Ghost ‘n Goblins
Another remake of an oldie but a goldie that is just as hard as it ever was. Well, it does have an option to dumb it down but even on the easiest setting I found myself failing the first level again and again. A classically frustrating title but rewarding for those who stick with it. It takes a certain type of gamer to appreciate these kinds of games.
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core
Superb visuals, wonderful gameplay, pretty horrible plot but I suppose the last part is determined by who you ask. If you’re a fan of the original FF7 and what to delve into Zack’s backstory and find out what really happened at Nibelheim and how Cloud became the Buster-sword wielder, then you will want to pick this one up… but first you gotta sit through 3/4 of pretty lousy narrative.
Final Fantasy IV: Complete Collection
While there are 3D versions of this title available for multiple systems, this is the only all-in-one collection where you get the original game plus the After Years sequel that was released not too long ago. This is an especially sweet gift to those old-school FF fans that love the sprite-based 2D graphics.
Known in its land of origin as Gen-san, this side-scrolling beat’em up hails from the arcades back in the 80’s and was for a long time basically a character featured in pachinko titles and is largely unknown in the Western market. This game however is a straight-up side-scrolling platformer with cute Chibi style graphics. It takes place in contemporary Japan, with some segments featured in outer space.
This is a spin-off from a franchise that saw its debut as a PC-only eroge and is widely unknown in the western world. A dungeon-crawler at heart, its got all the typical JRPG tropes: busty girls in skimpy outfits, occult themed monsters and a typical Japanese high-school backdrop. It is definitely one of the weirdest titles I’ve played and is probably not something that most people will get into. Still, the gameplay is solid and it is an overall good-looking title.
One of the earlier releases in the handhelds lifespan that to this day can be considered the best of platformers, period. It actually ties directly in to the main PS2 series, placed between Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy and Jak II, with Daxter working with different individuals and playing bug exterminator to save his buddy. A fantastic title in every way.
Chili Con Carnage
This is a remake of Total Overdose and a true underrated hidden gem that is over the top hilarious. One of the few PSP titles with bullet time and score-based combat. The boss battles feel like something out of No More Heroes. It also sports a ton of extra content and challenges. Truly a game with great value!
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
One of the last and more successful Castlevania games to use the classic side-scroll platforming. It really feels like the developers sat down and took the time to create the original experience for the modern gaming era, all the while adding a new coat of paint to the formula overall.
A more-than-decent arcade racer with spectacular graphics for the system, this one has nicely flowing, almost seamless gameplay with a bunch of different modes and a decent vehicle roster. Also, over-the-top stunts and car tricks are plentiful.
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines
A title that got some bad rep for a bunch of things but in the end the gameplay is not half-bad and it directly continues the narrative of the original, plus there just aren’t enough AC titles that feature Altair as a playable character.
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception
This is one of the two Ace Combat games released for the PSP. The other being Ace Combat: Joint Assault, which is a newer title but really not as good as Skies of Deception. It will probably only appeal to those interested in jet-fighter games but for them, it’s a fantastic treat: hypothetical super-jets, large battlefields, beautiful graphics. On the downside however, the plot isn’t all that great but that probably won’t be an issue. I suppose the developers did the best they could without referencing any real-life events.
Valkyria Chronicles series
The second and third entries are only available for the PSP, while the original was originally a PS3 exclusive with a PC release following some year later. Such as is, it doesn’t really matter as gameplay is king and the story being no more than a backdrop, going quickly from European-inspired history to generic anime plot. The third one is Japanese-only with English patches floating the web.
The 3rd Birthday
Part of the Parasite Eve series and a title that for some strange reason got panned on its initial release, it’s actually one of the more better looking games on the system, with an above-average anime plot, lots of customizing options and really good gameplay. Also, the main characters clothing deteriorates over the course of the endless battles, so that’s a plus for all you pervs out there.
Soulcalibur: Broken Destiny
While there’s a ton of fighters on the system, Broken Destiny seemed to be one of the few that is an original title and not a remake or a port of a home-console entry. It takes most of its ques from Soulcalibur III, which many consider to be the best in the series, with its gorgeous graphics and super-tight handling. This is similar to that title, with its own spin on things.
HONORABLE MENTION(JAPANESE ONLY): Frontier Gate Boost+, Last Ranker, Lord of Apocalypse
Here’s a quick recap of PSP releases that have been ported/remade:
God Eater Resurrection(PC), Mercury Meltdown Remix(PS2), Final Fantasy TYPE-0 HD(PC), Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters(PS2), Secret Agent Clank(PS2), MotorStorm: Arctic Edge(PS2), Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep FINAL MIX(PS3), Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier(PS2), Half Minute Hero: The Second Coming(PC), Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories(PS2), Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories(PS2), God of War: Chains of Olympus(PS3), God of War: Ghost of Sparta(PS3), Silent Hill: Origins(PS2), Wipeout: Pulse(PS2), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker(PS3)