The PSP was the real deal. For a handheld released 15 years ago, it was packing graphics on par with some of its contemporary consoles, multimedia functionality that made it the place to store everything from music to movies, and of course a fantastic library of games that has cemented its spot in PlayStation’s storied history. While sometimes overlooked, but never forgotten, the PSP was home to some of handheld gaming’s greatest moments.
So, today we’re going to take a trip down memory lane looking at the 15 best games on the PlayStation Portable.
15. SYPHON FILTER: DARK MIRROR (2006)
A common theme on this list is the inclusion of high quality entries for some of Sony’s most beloved franchises, and Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror most certainly fits this bill. The engaging action-stealth antics of Gabriel Logan were translated effortlessly to a portable format, with smaller bite-sized missions condensing the excitement without sacrificing the fun. A cinematic story and impressive visuals only enrich this game and prove why Bend Studios was one of the most accomplished developers on the PSP (more on them later!).
14. KINGDOM HEARTS BIRTH BY SLEEP (2010)
Speaking of refusing to accept compromise, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep takes the unique concept and emotional core of the mainline entries and delivers a touching prequel story that is told between the three protagonists Terra, Aqua, and Vetus. The battle system was cleverly tweaked to work wonderfully within the PSP’s limited button layout, and the Disney worlds were recreated to gorgeous affect – capturing their magic and timelessness. There’s a case for Birth By Sleep being one of the tightest Kingdom Hearts games to date, and should be a given in anyone’s PSP collection.
13. GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY STORIES (2006)
Once you wrap your head around the slightly awkward control scheme, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories delights in all the brilliantly devious ways you would expect a GTA game to delight. Getting into shenanigans around Vice City is a spectacle to behold on PSP, and it stands as one of the best sandbox games on the system. There’s nothing like cruising around town in a hijacked sports car while meandering your way to your real life job on a dingy bus. These are the memories that stay with us.
12. PATAPON (2008)
PATA-PATA-PATA-PON! You only have to spend a short time with this charming little game from Japan Studios to be hooked on its unique blend of rhythm gameplay and RPG mechanics. Before long, you’ll be chanting along to each hit of the face button, as Patapon is just one of those games that occupies its own little space in the gaming industry and occupies it with style. Packed with personality and dozens of hours of addicting content, Patapon is one of the PSP’s most unique inventions and its earworm songs will be playing in my head for perpetuity.
11. GOD OF WAR: CHAINS OF OLYMPUS (2008)
Somehow, Ready at Dawn Studios did the impossible and managed to pack all the awe-inspiring, visceral qualities of Kratos’ adventures onto a single UMD. God of War: Chains of Olympus is the poster child of what the PSP was capable of when talented developers dared to explore the outer limits of the system’s hardware. The huge set pieces, soaring music, and gruesome kills were all brought over and tied together with a compelling prequel story showing Kratos’ life before he slayed the God of War. If you had a PSP, you had Chains of Olympus.
10. WIPEOUT PURE (2005)
This launch title for the PSP proved that racing games, even the futuristic anti-gravity ones, could be an incredibly gratifying experience on the system. Wipeout Pure featured fantastically designed tracks, buttery smooth gameplay, and driving techno beats that made it one of the most enduring games in the franchise. Pure speed. Pure adrenaline. Pure awesome.
09. MEGA MAN POWERED UP (2006)
If Mega Man Powered Up was in remake school, then it would be placed firmly in the overachievers’ class. This is so much more than a simple reskin of the original 1987 Mega Man, as Powered Up goes all out with a new chibi art style, 2 new robot masters, and a reverent conversion of the iconic levels. But wait, there’s more! Now you can play all of those levels as the robot masters – each with their own special abilities – as well as complete special challenges (emphasis on the challenge), and even create your very own Mega Man levels. How Capcom managed to fill out an NES game with this much new content and put it all onto a UMD is beyond me, but I’m so glad they did.
08. RESISTANCE: RETRIBUTION (2009)
Nice to see you again Bend Studios, and thanks for giving us an incredibly rich, atmospheric, and character-driven third-person shooter in the form of Resistance: Retribution. The story of James Grayson fighting against the chimera in Western Europe is filled with intense battles and emotional beats, all complemented by the series’ signature creative weaponry. Throw in some of the best online multiplayer on the PSP (when the servers were still live) and this game truly was the complete package, and still feels surprisingly modern to pick up and play today.
07. CRISIS CORE: FINAL FANTASY VII (2008)
They say the best stories start in the middle, but Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII shows the value in rewinding back to where it all began. This prequel to one of the most iconic JRPGs of all time focuses on Zack Fair and his involvement with setting up the story of Cloud and Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII. Often exhilarating, occasionally tragic, this game captures the raw emotions that the series is well known for, while delivering a tight story that fleshes out some of gaming’s most recognisable characters.
06. TEKKEN: DARK RESURRECTION (2006)
Do yourself a favour and look up the soundtrack to Tekken: Dark Resurrection on YouTube. It’s a candidate for being one of the most adrenaline-fuelled soundtracks in a fighting game, but that isn’t the only great quality about this features-packed PSP port of Tekken 5. A fantastic character roster, brilliant hand-to-hand combat, and some really comprehensive modes meant this UMD was in my PSP longer than just about all the others.
05. DAXTER (2006)
The genius of Daxter is that is doesn’t try to be a smaller scale Jak game. Instead, Ready at Dawn Studios made the orange Ottsel’s solo outing its own unique entity, with a diverse platforming moveset that made the charming levels a joy to explore. Bug exterminating has never been more satisfying thanks to the creative toolset at Daxter’s disposal, which are used in inventive ways for both combat and platforming. Humorous, energetic, and memorable, Daxter is one of the most polished games on the PSP.
04. PERSONA 3 PORTABLE (2010)
Persona 3 Portable is a masterclass in scaling down. Taking the massive PS2 JRPG and making it work on the PSP was never going to be an easy task, and yet Atlus showed faith in the system by adjusting how they told the story of the Dark Hour at Gekkoukan High School to work just as well on a 4.3-inch screen. The scenarios play out more as a visual novel, which actually streamlines the creative writing and endearing characters while trimming some of the fat. The surreal atmosphere while exploring the unnerving corridors of Tartarus is as palpable as ever, while the high school simulation side of things is equal parts addicting and rewarding. Truly a great version of one of the most influential JRPGs of its generation.
03. METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER (2010)
Kojima, you crafty genius. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker shouldn’t be seen as just another handheld spinoff to a popular series. This game goes above and beyond with its production value, feature set, and narrative to produce a gripping experience worthy of the MGS name. The story of Big Boss trying to destroy the nuclear project known as “Peace Walker” is filled with mesmerising drama and powerful character moments, but the gameplay innovates the series’ tactical espionage action formula in smart ways that would later be expanded upon in the critically acclaimed Metal Gear Solid V. Kojima could have made a cookie-cutter instalment for a quick cash-in, but instead Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker stands as one of the apex points in the whole saga.
02. GOD OF WAR: GHOST OF SPARTA (2010)
As mentioned in my Ranking the God of War Games article, God of War: Ghost of Sparta is where the Greek-based games peaked. We are taken on a deeply personal journey into the tragic and twisted events of Kratos’ past; in particular, how the loss of his brother Deimos set him on the path of vengeance from an early age. But this game is also the PSP’s showpiece instalment, with visuals and epic encounters scarcely believable for the hardware. Much like with the Nintendo Switch today, the promise of the PSP was always to place the excitement of large scale console gaming into the palm of your hands. More than any other game, God of War: Ghost of Sparta delivered on that promise.
01. THE LEGEND OF HEROES: TRAILS IN THE SKY (2011)
Few worlds in gaming are as rich in lore and history and immersion as the one that’s started in The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. And while the series has since grown into a narrative behemoth branching out to other countries and casts of characters, there’s something so beautiful about this original tale of Estelle and Joshua looking to prove themselves as Bracers.
The delight is absolutely in the details with this idiosyncratic JRPG, from the intricately-written NPCs who are given genuine human depth to the engrossing worldbuilding that is built out organically through the compelling story. The PSP may not have been the most powerful system of its time, but it still had the ability to transport the player to a places thoughtful and bold. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is the work of imaginative people syncing up with every corner of their creative reach and delivering an adventure on a scale both intimate and expansive. It’s one of the best JRPGs of the last decade and my favourite game on the PSP.
Well, there you have it. 15 years of great memories, and 15 games that made the PSP the great handheld that it was. For more PlayStation related content, check out our Ranking the PlayStation Systems from Worst to Best list to see where the PSP landed. Leave you favourite games for the system down in the comments and keep those UMDs spinning!