When I turned 21, one of my uncles gave me an iPod in celebration. It was a great gift, but I didn’t have a computer with the internet, so I wasn’t going to be able to get much use out of it. There was, however, Sony’s handheld console called the PlayStation Portable. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. Sleek, black, and with a gigantic screen, its games were almost console quality and it could even play music and movies. I exchanged the iPod for the PSP and officially was the owner of my first Sony system.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the system. Sure, the battery life wasn’t great, and it didn’t have as many good games available as my DS, but what it did have was more than enough to tide over most players. I quickly built up my collection and found myself spending hours playing games like Hammerin’ Hero, Final Fantasy Tactics, and many more. PSP remains one of my favorite birthday gifts of all time!
The PSP was, for all intents and purposes, supposed to be a Nintendo DS killer. It was more powerful and could do a host of things that the DS (at the time) was incapable of. Sadly, Nintendo’s handheld was just so innovative and fun that the PSP never stood a chance even with all its extra bells and whistles, but for those in the know, it was a competent handheld that delivered more than a few wonderful gaming experiences. Like the Game Gear before it, PSP might not have set the industry ablaze, but its legacy is impressive and won’t soon be forgotten. So don’t just shake your head in sadness at the pitiful selection of PSP titles collecting dust in GameStops across the country; here are five great PSP games to track down and play, instead:
5) Jeanne d’Arc (2007)
Who’d have thought that Joan of Arc would make for a compelling video game? A strategy RPG, Jeanne d’Arc was a great game, with tight controls, interesting play mechanics that encouraged exploiting enemy weak points, and wonderful cutscenes. Level-5 really hit this one out of the park and it will keep you entertained for hours.
4) Mega Man Maverick Hunter X (2006)
SNES’s Mega Man X remains a fan favorite to this day, so imagine how happy fans were when PSP got an augmented version of the game. While the gameplay is largely the same, Maverick Hunter X features 3D rendered graphics and a remixed soundtrack. Nothing beats the original, but this is still a strong re-imagining that looks and plays great on PSP. Keep your eyes peeled for Mega Man Powered Up, too; it’s a remake of the first Mega Man game and is equally engaging.
3) Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (2008)
Fans are still waiting for a proper remake of Final Fantasy VII, but for those wanting a return trip to Midgar, look no further than this excellent prequel to that legendary game. Crisis Core tells the tale of Cloud’s friend Zach and his exploits with SOLDIER and Shinra. Gameplay is more akin to the combat in Kingdom Hearts, which is a good fit for the action-packed story. Stunning graphics abound in this exploration of Zach and Sepharoth’s pasts and is worth a playthrough simply to learn more about the two characters.
2) Lumines (2005)
Not all launch titles age so gracefully, but Lumines is as addictive today as it was eight years ago. It’s easy to label Lumines as a falling block puzzle game, but it’s so much more than that. With a thumping, varied soundtrack, Lumines tasks players with rotating two-by-two cubes of colored blocks to form sets of four matching colors. Make massive score chains and listen as every movement you make adds chimes and tones to the music in the background. The only puzzle game I’ve ever enjoyed as much as Tetris, Lumines is a must-have game for any PSP owner.
1) Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010)
It’s hard to believe that Peace Walker is a portable game, given its incredible wealth of content and impeccable production values. Originally envisioned as Metal Gear Solid 5, Peace Walker might have been stripped of the title, but it’s every bit as ambitious as any of the numbered installments in the series. Centered around Big Boss, the game follows the events of Metal Gear Solid 3 and chronicles the rise of Outer Heaven. The wonderful gameplay, beautiful graphics, hand drawn cinema scenes, and spot-on voice acting (especially David Hayter) make this the pinnacle experience on PSP.