Before launching in late 2004, the PlayStation Portable — aka the PSP — was touted as the Second Coming of handheld gaming. The full-color, backlit, widescreen, 3D-rendering console was released to capitalize on the dominant success of the PlayStation 2. The PSP received boatloads of hype and, paired with an aggressive marketing campaign, was poised to surpass the Game Boy as the most popular mobile gaming brand, years before smartphones shifted the paradigm.
So… what happened? Though Sony continued shipping games until mid-2014, the PSP never caught on the way many had expected. Nintendo introduced the DS the same year, and published titles like Nintendogs and Animal Crossing, both of which had wider appeal than many of the PSP’s more action-based games. Despite strong initial sales — the PSP sold more than 500,000 units in North America during the two days following its release — its popularity flagged rather quickly.
It didn’t help that the PSP’s design — namely, it’s single analog stick — didn’t mesh well with the quick-twitch play style required for first-person shooters, which were rapidly becoming one of the industry’s most popular genres. Finally, the PSP’s unique Universal Media Disc (UMD) never caught on, and the system was subject to rampant game piracy.
That being said, the PSP still offers a slew of fun, unique games, as well as several handheld takes on already-popular franchises. If you’re a PSP owner, or if you’re thinking about picking one up — it’s never too late! — we’ve picked out some games that we think are still worth your time and money.
Burnout: Legends takes the high velocity racing of Burnout 3: Takedown and adds several tracks and gameplay modes from the first two Burnout titles to create a deep, extremely enjoyable package for racing fans. Legends brings back fan-favorite tracks and modes like Pursuit, where players can take control of a police car and try to take down illegal street racers before they escape.
All told, the game includes 95 unlockable cars, 18 distinct maps, and nine unique race types (including the ever popular Crash, where you simply fly into intersections and try to rack up huge property damage bills). It’s enough to keep your thumbs busy for days.
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Castlevania: Rondo of Blood released in Japan in 1993 to critical acclaim, but an English version of the game was never made — well, until 2007, when Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles made its way to the PSP. Chronicles included both Rondo and its celebrated sequel, Castlevania: Symphony of Terror, in one incredible vampire-slaying package.
In Chronicles, you play as protagonists Richter Belmont and Alucard, and try to navigate perilous 2D, side-scrolling castles and dungeons in an effort to take down Dracula. Old-school Castlevania fans and newcomers alike should enjoy the game’s excellent soundtrack and updated visuals.
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A mobile side-story set between Jak and Daxter and Jak II, of the most iconic gaming franchises of all time went mobile with this 2006 release, which brings the focus back to pure, unadulterated platforming. Daxter is a front-to-back romp full of personality and humor that perfectly complements the light, skill-based platforming that dominates the gameplay. The PSP’s visuals are a bit dates at this point, sure, but Daxter‘s vibrant colors and subtle details inject the game with a ton of flair. Add in some mini-games that lampoon popular movies, and you’ve got yourself a pretty nice game.
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Fans of the Final Fantasy series will feel right at home in this real-time action prequel to the original PlayStation classic, FFVII. As protagonist Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER and a minor character in FFVII, you’ll search for missing SOLDIERs Angeal and Genesis, and learn about the truth behind the Shinra corporation.
The game features real-time combat, creating a seamless experience, and emails Zack receives throughout the game provide additional context and a greater sense of immersion. Crisis Core is built exclusively for gaming on the go, too, as dozens of short side quests provide entertainment for the bus or the train ride home.
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Everyone’s favorite combo-droppin’, god-slayin’ combat machine returned for 2008’s God of War: Chains of Olympus and 2010’s God of War: Ghost of Sparta. Both games, made by developer Ready At Dawn, feature a clever adaptation of God of War‘s control scheme, and are among the most visually impressive titles made for the console.
In Chains, we get to see Kratos during his 10-year service to the gods of Olympus, as he attempts to rescue Helios — who, ironically, he would later kill — and save the Greek pantheon from Morpheus, the god of dreams, and Persephone, the queen of the underworld. Ghost of Sparta follows Kratos after the events of the original God of War, as he searches for his lost brother Deimos and confronts Thanatos in his domain of Death. Steeped in Greek lore, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta provide tons of insight into the life of Kratos before the events of God of War, making them must-plays for fans of the series.
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