The Sega Saturn has always been a system that felt like unobtanium to me. It’s expensive, fiddly, has a very obscure and small library, most of the good games are Japanese imports, there are very few accessories and they are big and expensive, and on top of all that, the games are insanely priced. Saturn games are some of the highest-priced games of any system. These days there are things like optical disc emulators, RAM cart hacks, and things like the Satiator that allow you to run games through the video CD port. A lot of people are defensive and go to bat for their favorite way to emulator games on native hardware. I get it. There is no correct way to do it with each having strengths and weaknesses. I went with the TerraOnion MODE due to its high build quality and support as well as its multiple storage options.
I will run through an install of TerraOnion MODE, but unlike most install videos or articles I want to talk about snags and problems I ran into that other people might discover. I want this to be a comprehensive resource for beginners to just buy a Saturn second-hand and know what to get and how to set things up correctly. I will also talk about proper video setup, and again like various disc emulators, there are numerous ways to get good quality video out of the Saturn.
“When you have Sega Saturn, nothing else matters”
Do I want a Japanese, European, or US console? For disc-based gaming, this matters as the Saturn is region locked. There are also Saturns with a power supply mounted to the lid (VA0 model) but are not that common. Most disc emulators work on any console since it unlocks the region locking, but thankfully most hacks for the Saturn have every version in mind. Usually, you can rest easy without seeking out a specific model, unlike the Dreamcast.
So, even if your Saturn doesn’t read discs this is a great option for you. There are also other mods like the ReSaturn that replace the power supply completely if yours is failing. It’s a good idea to open up your Saturn and check the capacitors on the PSU for leakage.
There are also new shell mods you can swap your guts into if your Saturn is in bad shape cosmetically. Overall, these are some mods to consider and systems to look out for when shopping for a Saturn.
It Needs to Look Good
The first thing you probably want to invest in after getting a Saturn system is the video output. There are two main things you need to consider. Good S-Video or Component cables and a good upscaler. I went with the Retrotink 2X Pro and HD Retrovision component cables. Yes, these are expensive but worth their weight in gold. I have never seen a retro console look so crisp and nice as this setup. While that’s the high-end of things there are also cheaper ways to hook up your Saturn and that also includes the TV you’re playing on.
Of course, this is mostly if you’re gaming on a newer HD TV. Buying cheap composite or S-video upscalers on eBay isn’t going to get you good results. Even plugging the console into the back of your TV would be better than those awful upscalers. However, there are cheaper routes and that might be to just buy a CRT TV. They are going up in price due to retro collectors, but you can get many locally for free. While the tube itself might be aged it’s the most authentic experience.
With that said, there are other upscalers that do a good job like an OSSC, but these can be a little much for just casual players who want a good picture. Cables are a huge thing as well. Don’t get cheap S-video cables off of eBay. Most S-video cables actually don’t have the Chroma/Luma in the actual S-video part and are empty. Most are fake that just feed in composite. If you have a Retrotink you can find fake cables by plugging into the S-video and it will be in black and white or won’t display correctly under the S-video input. A correctly wired cable won’t do this. There are some better-known brands out there like KMD. I own one for my N64 and it displays S-video correctly. If you can find them, proper S-video cables won’t have a yellow plug.
Optical Disc Emulators – Pros and Woes
These range from carts to full-on boards, and while there are plenty of good choices I’m going to cover the TerraOnion MODE. It’s a very well-made board with both positives and negatives to it, but overall I am very please with it. I’ve had it for two weeks now and figured out some kinks and bugs using various hardware and software that I thought people might run into. A lot of these issues I had to figure out myself as there just isn’t enough info out there.
Installing the MODE is pretty straightforward, but new casual users may be a bit scared to dive into this. If you already did some other mods listed before like the ReSaturn or checked the PSU for leaking caps then you clearly shouldn’t have an issue up until this point. The Saturn is a very single device in the end. Just a disc drive, motherboard, and power supply. Literally only three components in this thing. One thing I do recommend when installing the MODE is StoneAge Gamer’s 3D printed bracket mount. I personally also don’t see the need to use an actual hard drive in this thing and I will get to that later, but they also make an adapter to allow easy access to the drive.
The Optional Power Cable
Now one snag I ran into when installing was for the “optional” power cable. It’s needed for running mechanical drives as the Saturn doesn’t have enough juice to power them, but I recommend installing the cable regardless just to relieve strain off of it. The installation shows pushing the leads into the power supply clip but doesn’t explain how. I watched a few videos and no one has covered this. When you push the power supply down into the motherboard the pins will push a metal “pincher” to the left of the pins. If you press the PSU down slowly you will see this in action. The leads need to get “pinched” by this. I tried sticking them in while the PSU is installed and it just won’t work. You need to fully lift the front side of the PSU and stick the leads into the correct spots. Hold them firmly down and then press the PSU down onto the pins and the “pincher” will firmly hold those wires in place. The other alternative is to just solder the wires directly on the pincher area.
Firmware Updates and Freezing on Boot
Other than that snag the installation went smoothly and I had no issues. Now comes the majority of issues with the software. When I botted up the MODE there wasn’t any explanation on how it actually works. My Saturn booted straight into the CD player mode and I didn’t understand why. Without changing settings you need to put the lid on! I then got into the MODE and it froze up and wouldn’t do anything. After several reboots, the MODE would just read games and freeze. I then updated the firmware and this worked. Remember, the MODE will only auto-detect firmware on SD cards and USB drives. I couldn’t get into the menu to access the update on my 2.5″ laptop drive so that was a major issue. I don’t know what caused the freezing but this fixed it.
Action Replay Flash Carts Not Working
This was one of the biggest headaches I had. The Action Replay 4M carts you can get everywhere are supposed to work with the MODE, but mine didn’t. I didn’t have one with the physical switch, but the auto-switching one. When you plug one of these in their menu takes priority over an ODE because it’s technically just a disc. While this is fine and it works it’s irritating to have to quit the menu of the flash cart to get into the ODE menu. You have to erase the boot menu from the flash cart and make it a standard “dummy” cart. With MODE this is fine as there are manual save backups. You can now easily just fill up your save RAM and then back it all up on the MODE for more games. I will walk you through the process of making an Action Replay an annoying free dummy cart.
The first thing you need to do is download a boot loader called Pseudo Saturn Kai. This is a “game” you can put on an SD Card and launch from the main menu of the MODE. It’s important to download and install the tools cue/iso so you can actually erase the entire menu. This is found in the full version of the download. The lite version for “other” ODEs just erases the firmware, but still boots to PSK every time. We also don’t want to boot into another menu. Remember, you can always restore the flash cart back to the way it was through this utility as well. Just remember what firmware version your flash cart had.
Load up the utilities and go to the save manager and press the R button and go to erase boot menu. This will now turn your cart into a standard RAM cart. Mine works flawlessly for 1MB and 4MB games. I tested nearly every game that uses one and didn’t have any issues.
My Flash Cart Isn’t Being Recognized
This is common and it probably isn’t the cart itself. When you insert the cart to erase the menu you might notice that the detection of the cart in yellow text flashes or it seems the cart is wiggly. This is usually a dirty RAM slot or one that’s too loose or too tight. There are two screws in the RAM slot and you can try tightening it first to see if that works, but if not you need to loosen it. Sega didn’t solder the RAM slot to the board so 6 to 7 turns with a screwdriver on each screw should help until they’re really loose. Mine had this issue as I would load up games and it would only see the cart sometimes despite the cart working fine. Loosening the screws fixed this and I no longer had to set the cart in softly, head-on and not at an angle, or pull it out a couple of millimeters. It’s not the best fix, but it’s better than sticking paper between the cart and the slot.
One of the most obscure gaming handhelds systems besides the Gizmondo is the Nokia N-Gage. I fondly remember this system yet never owned one until recently. I remember the giant cardboard stands in GameStop for it. The system even had its own game rack next to the GBA games. It was a massive deal back in the day because merging cell phones and video games weren’t even a thing yet. The iPhone wouldn’t be out for four more years. Sure, phones could play simple Java games, but just barely. The days where simple Snakes and Tetris were starting to sunset, and we finally were getting real 2D mobile games. But 3D games on a mobile device? It’s why the N-Gage was so expensive. At $299 ($462 adjusted for inflation) you were getting a mobile powerhouse. The graphics capabilities were about on par with the original PlayStation. However, it was the same price as the PS2 and Xbox and twice the price of the GBA.
So, what happened? Well, there are plenty of YouTube videos that dive into the history of the N-Gage extensively, but there isn’t a cohesive guide on how to use one in 2022. There are a lot of roadblocks to getting the game running. You can’t buy games at stores anymore, you can use the device like a cell phone, but it’s impractical today, and it doesn’t take standard removable media. The N-Gage is a pain in the ass to get working for just 65 measly games. However, these weren’t just shovelware. There were released by big AAA companies like Activision, THQ, and EA. This guide will help you choose your device and get you started.
The Nokia N-Gage was released on October 7, 2003, to mixed reception. The device looked fine, but it had a few flaws. Firstly the device had to be held like a taco to speak into it and the battery had to be removed to insert games. This was a problem as you could possibly miss a call during that swap time and you had to wait for the phone to restart. It also had middling battery life not just for gaming running at around 3 hours, but for talk and standby time as well. Talk time was around 5 hours. The system launched with 7 titles with all of them being ports. Tomb Raider, Pandemonium, Sonic Advance, Super Monkey Ball, Puzzle Bobble VS, Puyo Pop, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. All were solid titles for the platform, but the fact that these seemed like great to decent ports worried many early adopters. The exclusive and more anticipated releases weren’t set to be released for another 30 days or more. The original N-Gage model was quickly replaced by the QD just 7 months later. The price was reduced by $100 just two weeks after release and games retailed for $30 ($46 adjusted for inflation).
Should you get a taco model? No. Unless you’re a collector there’s no reason to get this version. The only advantage is the USB file transfer so you won’t need an MMC reader and you can use it as an MP3 player if you wanted. They are also more expensive than the QD and harder to find. The N-Gage also boasted its rival to Xbox LIVE which was N-Gage Arena. It’s dead these days but gave way to multiplayer options and game interactivity such as new levels, scoreboards, and more that were never seen before on mobile devices.
The QD model was released in May 2007 to quickly fix many of the original model’s problems. While game stores were thinking about booting the system, the QD put the speaker on the face of the phone and added a card slot at the bottom of the unit for MMC cards and games. The issue here is that you can only have one. Instead of adopting SD cards and having a third slot, Nokia cheaped out. They also removed the USB port, MP3 functionality (most likely a chip they decided to axe), and only a dual-band antenna. The design itself was also rounder and easier to hold. The QD is more available running at around $50-60 and is really cheap.
How Do I Get It Running?
So you just bought your shiny N-Gage and it won’t work! That’s normal. First off, make sure you have a new battery. There is old new stock on eBay as well as third-party batteries such as those from Polar Cell. The model number for the battery is BL-6C. You also need to have a SIM card in the system or it will not run. You will get a continuous “Insert SIM Card” error that you can’t back out of. You can either get one from a local phone store or buy a deactivated one on eBay for less than $10. It’s another cost on top of the system, but unless you already have a full-size SIM card you need to do it.
Second, the games are rather expensive. Some launch titles are under $20 including sports games, but the better exclusives like Ashen are $50+. The rarest game is The Elder Scrolls: Shadowkey which can run $600+. So, holy Christ I just bought this $50 to play some obscure mobile games and the games can cost more than the system?! Unless you’re a hardcore collector don’t bother. You will need to fork out even more cash by buying an MMC card which is hard to find and only really available in China.
There are 13 pin MMC+ cards and 7 pin standard cards. Most plus cards or dual-voltage cards won’t work in the N-Gage. I haven’t been able to get any current 1GB cards you can buy right now to work reliably. I recommend sticking with 512MB cards as it’s plenty of space for games and usually works more reliably. You will also need an MMC USB card reader that you can get cheap on eBay as well for less than $5. The max size you can use in the N-Gage is 1GB. The 2GB cards will not work and are unnecessary anyway. The entire N-Gage library is just a bit over 1GB. You also need to remember to never transfer games via Bluetooth. If your system memory is full during the transfer you can get the “White Screen of Death” and will need a flash box to reflash the system. The system memory only holds 4MB. It seems laughable today, but ROM chips were incredibly expensive up until maybe 10 years ago and the same went for removable storage. In total that’s another $15-20 on top of the $10 SIM Card. So in all, you need to spend $70 or so just to get the system up and running.
There was not much in the way of customizing cell phones back in the early 2000s. The most you could do was ringtones bought off of stores and wallpapers. The N-Gage doesn’t have much either despite its high price point. I couldn’t even find an option to change the ringtone at all. Wallpapers are about it and I have made a folder of official N-Gage wallpapers resized to fit on the device here. Just place these on the root of your MMC and go into Tools>Settings>Display>Standby Mode and select your wallpaper.
So there are of course the retail released N-Gage games, but you can’t just get direct ROMs and copy them to the MCC card. You need to get cracked games as these did have DRM. I can’t link to where to get them, but they are available. All you need to do is copy the numbered folder example: 6R31 to the System>Apps folder and it will show up automatically under the main menu. If it doesn’t the game isn’t cracked properly. There are also Symbian games that work on the system as well. While certain Java J2ME games run on the system they must be MIDP-1.0 environment games and they run poorly. It seems the N-Gage just wasn’t designed to run these games. While Symbian 7.0s was released before the QD Nokia did not update the software to run these newer games. So sadly, you are limited in your game selection. The Symbian games run much better on here though. Let’s take a look at the entire N-Gage library. There aren’t enough for “hidden gems” or anything like that. You should honestly check out every single game since there aren’t that many.
Ashen – N-Gage exclusive and developed in-house by Nokia. This is as close to Quake or Doom that you will get. It’s a horror-themed FPS and was highly anticipated for the system.
Asphalt Urban GT – A fun arcade racer and one of the few games that got a sequel. This really showed off the graphics power of the system.
Asphalt Urban GT 2 – Back again already? While just as fun as the first game it literally doubles the amount of content. I recommend finishing the first and then playing the second. You’ll get a lot of racing game time on your N-Gage this way.
Atari Masterpieces Vol. I – N-Gage exclusive. An awesome collection of Atari 2600 games. Asteroid, Battlezone, Millipede, and Super Breakout just to name a few. There are also four unlockable games.
Atari Masterpieces Vol. II – N-Gage exclusive. More Atari 2600. More fun. A couple of repeats oddly enough, but mostly all new.
Barakel: The Fallen Angel – N-Gage exclusive. One of the few dungeon crawlers on the system and it looked good too. This was a lot of fun and didn’t push the system too hard controls-wise. This was an unreleased game, but a full working copy is floating around online.
Bomberman – A multiplayer classic. It’s 16-bit Bomberman and it plays really well here. Not much content, but still worth a quick playthrough.
Call of Duty – A refined port of the PC game. Using a special engine to accommodate the portrait mode. It was one of the few shooters on the system.
Catan – N-Gage exclusive. Released late in the console’s life Catan somehow managed to actually work on the tiny screen. What helped were objectives and a quest mode to also help with longevity.
Civilization – A port of the original PC game, but with the Civ II’s graphics. There’s even a full Civilopedia and tutorial here too! A pretty impressive game overall. There was no multiplayer released most likely because this came out just before Nokia officially axed the system.
Colin McRae Rally 2005 – Overall one of the best racing games on the system. Solid visuals, physics, and somehow managed to just play well on the tiny system.
Crash Nitro Kart – A visually dumbed-down version of the PS1 game. Instead of 3D models, the game uses 2D sprites but still plays fairly well. Sadly, it’s another straight port from an older console.
The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey – N-Gage exclusive. One of the most impressive and sought-after N-Gage games. Period. This isn’t just a fun RPG, but it’s a freaking Elder Scrolls game! It just makes me think more and more how much I wish Travels: Oblivion would have turned out on PSP.
FIFA Soccer 2004 – A port of the GBA version, but with 3D stadiums. A fairly impressive game and was a best seller as well.
FIFA Soccer 2005 – More FIFA! Basically the same as the GBA version as well and just new rosters and mostly the same. Try each version to see which you like best.
Flo-Boarding – N-Gage exclusive. A pack-in title for Europe systems only. The was one of the few region-exclusive games. It’s a decent snowboarding game and helped tide, early adopters, over.
Glimmerati – N-Gage exclusive. A weird arcade racing game with supermodels to attract the equally strange. Boasted N-Gage Arena features at launch that don’t matter today.
High Seize – N-Gage exclusive. A fun strategy game with a lot of content packed in. This is as close to Advance Wars as you will get on N-Gage. Thankfully this game supports hot-seat mode so you can play multiplayer on a single device.
The King of Fighters: Extreme – N-Gage exclusive. One of two traditional fighting games and the best on the system. While its controls are limiting it works, and there is Bluetooth multiplayer so that’s not completely cut-off today. It looks good and does surprisingly well on the portrait screen.
Marcel Desailly Pro Soccer – An interesting release from Gameloft. While not as graphically impressive as FIFA it’s an alternative.
Mile High Pinball – N-Gage exclusive. One of the few in-house developed games from Nokia and just one of the best for the system period. 85 tables? Yes, please! The portrait screen is perfect for this kind of game. Lots of content here.
MLB Slam! – N-Gage exclusive. The only baseball game on the system. It isn’t graphically impressive, but it is a lot of fun and has a lot of content.
MotoGP – Probably the worst racing game on the system. It’s worth playing just to check out for curiosity. The game was rushed and feels incomplete with missing sound effects and choppy visuals.
NCAA Football 2004 – The only football game available. Full 3D visuals and a lot of content.
N-Gage Freestyle – N-Gage exclusive. Another European exclusive game. A weird motocross game mixed with button timings.
One – N-Gage Exclusive. An impressive fighting game exclusive to the system. It’s one of the best-looking games on here too. Feels a bit generic, but you can tell effort was put into the game.
Operation Shadow – N-Gage Exclusive. A decent shot at a military-style third-person shooter. Nothing special, but still fun.
Pandemonium! – A port from the PS1 version. This was a good 3D platformer despite its weirdness.
Pathway to Glory – N-Gage Exclusive. Probably one of the most impressive and highlighted games on the system. This was a killer app on the N-Gage. A really fun WWII strategy game similar to Company of Heroes.
Pathway to Glory: Ikusa Islands – N-Gage Exclusive. A direct sequel to the first game due to its popularity. More WWII strategy goodness awaits and it has Bluetooth multiplayer.
Payload – N-Gage Exclusive. A 3D car combat game similar to Wipeout.
Pocket Kingdom: Own the World – N-Gage Exclusive. The only MMO on the game and it’s a 2D one at that. You can still play this offline and dungeon crawl and level up. The online features just let you text other players and trade items which isn’t much of a loss today.
Pool Friction – N-Gage Exclusive. Another European-only game. Decent 3D pool and the only one you’ll get.
Puyo Pop – I was fairly surprised a Japanese puzzle game would make it to the N-Gage. It’s standard fare and not much different from the Game Gear of GameBoy Color versions. It’s still a fun puzzle game on the go.
Puzzle Bobble VS – Another great puzzle game. Essentially just good ‘ol Bust-A-Move. It’s perfect for the portrait screen as well.
Rayman 3 – A fun port of the GBA version with clean visuals and bright colors. One of the better platformers on the system.
Red Faction – Another high-profile game. While being a port of a PS2 game it worked surprisingly well and is rock solid. It does have control issues, but you can get used to it.
Requiem of Hell – N-Gage Excluive. A pretty decent action RPG with awesome horror and gothic themes.
Rifts: Promise of Power – N-Gage Exclusive. Absolutely rock-solid RPG. Backbone Entertainment was behind the wheel here. They only did one game before this one (an Incredibles game) but would later go on to create Death Jr. for PSP and become a porting powerhouse. It looks good, has a decent story, and has tons of content.
The Roots: Gates of Chaos – N-Gage Exclusive. A simple colorful action RPG. Nothing special, but still really fun.
Sega Rally Championship – A port of the Dreamcast version. This is a great game…to see just how not to do a racing game on the N-Gage. Yeah, this was a pretty awful port, but fun to play just to see how things could really go wrong on the system. It was only released in Europe so US gamers didn’t miss anything.
The Sims: Bustin’ Out – A port of the GBA game, but has N-Gage exclusive mini-games. If you like the Sims you will like this as well.
Snakes – N-Gage Exclusive. What would a Nokia phone be without a Snake game? This is the sixth generation of the game and is now in 3D! It was available for free on the N-Gage website and could be transferred to any other N-Gage via Bluetooth or Nokia N95 phones. However, only the N-Gage got the full 42 levels.
SonicN – A middling and lazy port by Dimps. This is a straight port from the GBA Sonic Advance, but instead of tailoring the game to the portrait screen, it’s just filled in from the top and bottom with a large border. The play area is incredibly small and it doesn’t run at the best framerate.
Space Impact Evolution X – A port of the Symbian version. Just a simple arcade shooter and high-score game.
Spider-Man 2 – A short but sweet N-Gage exclusive version. This is a 2D platformer with 3D races against time. You can probably beat it before the battery even dies.
SSX: Out of Bounds – Being the first mobile SSX game it had a lot of attention. Even my 13-year-old self at the time was reading about this game for N-Gage up to its release. It works surprisingly well but sadly had no online multiplayer.
Super Monkey Ball – Being a port of the GBA game it actually is in full 3D and plays better than the GBA version. It’s a lot of fun with a ton of levels and works well with the portrait screen.
System Rush – N-Gage Exclusive. One of the best games on the system. A mix between F-Zero and Wipeout. The excellent-looking tracks and models show what the N-Gage can do graphically.
TechWars – N-Gage Exclusive. A simple mech game. Great visuals.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 – Not the best version of the game, and not having an analog stick makes swinging less accurate, but it’s still a solid title. A little more 2D than 3D graphics here.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm – A port of the PS2 exclusive. Ubisoft did a fantastic job here and it’s one of the best-looking N-Gage games. It also received a lot of press and attention. I remember fondly seeing ads for this in GameStop at the time.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – Another high profile game for the system and a true killer app. This is one of the few games that really showed how to do games right on the N-Gage.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Team Stealth Action – A weird choice despite how impressive Chaos Theory is. This is a more traditional phone-style game and is a 2D platformer. Still great, but not as good as Chaos Theory.
Tomb Raider – A port of the PS1 game. While technically impressive the controls take a lot of getting used it and it plays link a tank.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – A fantastic port from the PS1 version. It plays incredibly well and has a smooth framerate.
Virtua Tennis – Ideal for quick game sessions and a disappointing port of the Dreamcast version. The game is mostly 2D sprites, but it still plays decently enough.
Warhammer 40,000: Glory in Death – N-Gage Exclusive. A pretty good strategy game overall. It’s a shock that this genre is one of the strongest on the system despite the hardware and screen working against it.
Worms World Party – Again, another solid strategy game for the system. This is one of the best mobile Worms games you can play.
WWE Aftershock – N-Gage Exclusive. A surprising 3D wrestling game and the only one on the system. It’s mostly playable, but it’s not the best it could be.
X-Men Legends – A fantastic dungeon crawler hand-tailored for the N-Gage. This is one of the best games on the system.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse – Another fantastic dungeon crawler like its predecessor. While it plays it safe it’s basically more X-Men Legends goodness.
Xanadu Next – N-Gage Exclusive. An early release title, and while not the best RPG on the system, it’s still pretty decent.
***My guide made it to the sidebar of r/PSP subreddit. Check it out!***
“Come Out And Play”
March 24, 2005, was a very important day to me. It was one of the most memorable as well. In 2004, when I saw an article for the reveal of the PSP, I lost my mind. It looked so futuristic. Sony created a handheld? No! It was mind-blowing and shook the entire game industry to its core. Sony daring to challenge the almighty GameBoy and DS line? Nintendo was no longer the dominant handheld maker now.
I saved up my allowance for 6 months to get the Value Pack launch unit which I still have to this day. I remember waiting in line at Game Crazy 30 minutes before they opened along with a few dozen other excited people. I remember the employees playing their system inside (I remember talks of Lumines) and I also remember putting down my final deposit and coming up a single cent short. I didn’t want to lose my place in line so I had my youngest sister run out to my mom for a penny when the guy behind me gave me one. I remember the joy and sheer contained excitement when I saw my box get scanned and handed to me. Thankfully we lived a few blocks away so when I got home I tore the box open (not literally) and I had Ridge Racer to play. I remember the sheer beauty of the LCD display and the widescreen picture blowing me away.
The look of the system is striking still to this day, but in retrospect, the PSP had a rough life and there were a few issues for each iteration as not a single one was perfect. This is a guide on info for each iteration, their strengths and weaknesses, custom firmware, hacking, settings, and various other things regarding the system in 2022. The PSP has a vast library of games and I honestly prefer it over the Vita. It held strong from 2005-2009 before sales and releases declined greatly. During those four years, the system saw some amazing things happen to it.
The PSP-1000 was the launch unit. This is my favorite unit out of any iteration. Not just because of my nostalgia for it, but it’s the only one that feels truly solid and well built. It has more aluminum parts, a stronger UMD door, and a bigger battery. Overall, the 1000 unit will feel the most solid in your hand. The biggest weakness is the ghosting on the original LCD. These screens were pretty new back in the day so no one really noticed the ghosting. What was there to compare it to? LCD TVs were insanely expensive as well as monitors for PCs. This stemmed from the panels having a low refresh rate. There were also issues with dead pixels. Sony had to send reps out to nearly every game store to explain to them that they won’t warranty out screens with dead pixels as this was expected with the technology at the time. My launch unit had a few, but some people had full lines out of the box.
If you find a launch unit they usually came with the value pack box. While this is meaningless today, it was a great deal back in the day. Most units are loose however and they used to have the most hackable motherboards, but that’s irrelevant today.
Best build quality of any unit
Best UMD door
Most compatible with every custom firmware
Terrible screen with ghosting, dead pixels, and dull colors
Lacks the larger RAM that newer systems have
No USB charging
No TV Out
How do I make it a better experience?
IPS Panel Mod
You can easily make this PSP the best out of any unit by just modding the IPS screen. Sadly, this isn’t exactly a drop-in mod. You need to solder a bridge between two points on the motherboard otherwise the screen will be shifted to the left and off-center. They are at least cheap being less than $25 and are a breeze to install. It takes all the ghosting and “screen door” effect away and makes it the best panel out of any unit. The below shot is my board variation, but there are two others I will also list.
The History of PSP Hacking
Out of respect for the community I wanted to put a little history behind the PSP hacking scene. I was there from day one. I remember the Japanese 1.0 firmware PSPs had already been easily hacked and Sony had fixed this between the US launch with the 1.50 firmware that the launch units shipped with. There was the MagicGate swap in which you had to swap your sticks in the middle of loading a specific file to exploit a loophole. Dark Alex was the father of PSP hacking and without him, we wouldn’t be here today.
He created the first ISO compressor called DAX ZISO due to the very small storage sizes for Memory Stick PRO DUOs back in the day. Remember, readily available MicroSD card converters from China weren’t a thing yet. You had to get either a genuine Sony card or a cheaper SanDisk or Lexar card. When the PSP launched it only had a 32MB card for saves. That was it. Eventually, 64/128/256MB cards became available and then after the first year, 1GB cards were around $70-$80. 2GB cards and even 4GB were available but they were $200+. It’s stupidly absurd to think about in 2022, but that was the state of removable storage media in the early 2000s. For a teenager with broke parents, I had to save all of my allowances to finally get a yellow 1GB SanDisk card and I remember ordering it from Newegg and it came in a giant box. I was stoked. I could finally put a single compressed PSP game on my memory stick. Yeah, laugh it up, but without insane compression methods, we couldn’t even play a single full-size game.
The Pandora battery was something I never explored as I didn’t have the knowledge or know-how and was too scared to destroy my precious PSP that I had saved up for 6 months to attempt. This allowed you to restore a hard brick no matter what firmware you had used the battery’s PCB. Dark Alex teamed up with the incredible Prometheus Team to create this magic.
From the PSPDev Wiki about JigKick batteries:
JigKick (also widely named Pandora) Battery is a PSP battery with its serial number changed to 0xFFFFFFFF.
You can either Hardmod a battery or Softmod it.
Hardmod is when you make a JigKick Battery by opening it up and removing a pin, this can be done to ANY battery.
Softmod is when you make a JigKick Battery by using a program. But it has to be suitable. New Batteries cannot be softmodded.
He also created the PSAR dumper used to unpack and decrypt Sony’s firmware. The creation of the TA-082 motherboard was a headache for the scene and was used in PSP-2000 models for 2.71. The great HEN CFW was created for these boards. Owners of this board could breathe a sigh of relief. He also created an Update Flasher that users could easily jump between 1.50 and 3.11 firmwares.
Dark Alex was involved in legal issues with Sony and he left the scene right around its peak but emerged with team M33 to create the M33 firmwares most of us all remember and used the most.
6.61 PRO Infinity 2.0 Custom Firmware
Installing custom firmware to play ROMs, emulators, and homebrew, as well as the quality of life hacks, is a breeze these days. I remember when the first hack was available with firmware 1.50 at launch so we could play videos on our 32MB memory cards.
Tech James has a super easy tutorial video you can follow. You just simply download a few files and drag and drop them onto the memory card. It’s super simple.
Essential Custom Firmware Plugins
Once you install the custom firmware above, you will want some plugins to help with the quality of life for everyday PSP use. This won’t cover niche things like RemoteJoy or oddball hacks. These plugins are quick and easy and just make using the PSP a nicer experience.
Here is a link to a Google Drive folder with all the below plugins. For a great source of almost every CTF theme available, you can visit PSPunk
This is essentially the biggest and most popular plugin for the PSP. CXMB allows you to use custom themes and is a good way to figure out how to install every other plugin. I will post Tech James video below as it’s a great tutorial.
Game Categories Lite
This is one of the most useful plugins ever made, and it only became useful after removable storage expanded and got larger. I don’t recommend an SD card over 64GB as the read speed of the PSP is very slow.
CW Cheat is basically a Game Shark or Game Genie for hacked PSPs. It also works on PS1 games. Here is a link to a video tutorial (embedding is disabled on this video) for a more in-depth guide. CW Cheat has always been troublesome to work with as it’s different for each firmware.
Want to take screenshots of your games? Well, look no further.
Always wanted more than just the three standard (or four on hacked PSPs) brightness options? This gives you fine-tuning from 0-100 and allows you to set stages and even a default brightness upon boot in a config file.
This allows you to use Sony built-in software emulator to play PSX games. It’s an incredibly finicky plugin and needs exact versions for each firmware. When you load your game you will be presented with pretty much every version of POPs from previous firmware. There’s no reason to select anything but 6.61 unless there’s a compatibility issue.
This simple plugin expands the clock on the XMB to show the day of the week, extended time, and various other clock-related things via a text edit.
PSP CustomHome + PSPStates
This mod simply is a combo mod. One allows you to change various things when you press the home button and the other allows save states when pressing the home button. The two work in tandem and can be incredibly useful.
MicroSD to Memory Stick Pro DUO Adapter
One of the first things you need to do is get a MicroSD adapter. They’re cheap on eBay or Amazon for less than $10 and it allows higher capacities than the MSPD came in. These aren’t made anymore and can be quite expensive due to camera collector’s so the adapter is needed. A 64GB one should be sufficient and allow you to put 50-60 games on it. More than enough. Higher capacities aren’t recommended as it slows down the XMB UI by having to read all the games when you open the games folder. It can sometimes take a couple of minutes if you have any more than this just to open the folder. Also, avoid dual-slot adapters as they are awful and of low quality. It also doesn’t matter what speed the SD card is. Even the slowest SD card is 10x faster than the read/write speed of the PSP these days. What will matter is using a USB 3.0 or lightning adapter to transfer stuff to the SD card, so you want a fast card for that purpose.
There’s an issue with PSPs having swelling batteries that started a couple of years ago. If you have an original battery do not throw it away! You can mod the battery using the good Sony board inside and swap out the cell. Aftermarket batteries today are pretty terrible and barely work, but if you have an original it’s like finding gold. Here’s a guide on how to do the cell swap yourself.
If you don’t have an original battery there are a few Chinese brands floating around such as Ostent, Cameron Sino, Tomee, and Insten are the big names you will see. The best one to get is the Cameron Sino battery for any unit with my own testing and some other research by the community, however, there isn’t enough info to designate a definitive battery brand. Mileage has varied wildly and this is still a weird and challenging issue the community is tackling. There’s a PSP battery guide on the subreddit with people actively doing testing. The general consensus is that they are all pretty much garbage with charges lasting less than an hour, to dead on arrival, to leaking, to just not charging at all, and reporting stupidly inaccurate battery life. But, some people claim great results.
There were a ton of accessories for the PSP. The most noteworthy ones are listed below, but you also had the same stuff that the Gameboys had. Magnifying lenses, various cases both hard and soft, rubber grips, screen protectors, various charging cables, AV out cables (2000 and up), grips, stands, cleaning cloths, car adapters, UMD holders, you name it. The list goes on, and most of these are still easy to find today thanks to Chinese sellers.
Official Sony Soft Case
The case that came with the 1000 Value Pack is the one I use on my unit. These held up well over the use due to not using cheap vinyl or plastic. It won’t survive a big fall, but it helps keep dust and scratches off the unit.
The official white wrist strap came with the launch Value Pack and many people said it made the PSP look like a “woman’s purse”. While their insecurities within themselves clearly reflect the look of their handheld console, it’s a striking accessory with well-made leather. These also held up well over the years.
Logitech PlayGear Pocket Case
I had this case for quite a while and it was popular because you could print out inserts for the inside of the case. I printed up tons of these and made my parents mad because I used up the ink a lot. Fun Times.
Camera Go!/Chotto Shot
The PSP was the first handheld system to do AR with the Chotto Shot from Japan. Only a few games support this, but it was cool to take photos on your PSP back in the day. It turned it into a cheap point-and-shoot.
There were two camera models released. The better camera was released in Japan as the Chotto Shot and was 1.3 megapixels while later on the Camera Go! was released in Europe and the US with a measly 0.3 megapixels for Invizimals. The Japanese camera is more sought after and can fetch higher prices.
One of the strangest accessories for the PSP was an unofficial GPS receiver I believe it came with a UMD for the software and required a subscription, but this was the kind of potential the PSP had and no one really carried it. It was truly a swiss army knife of potential thanks to the accessory port, disc drive, expandable storage, wifi, and power. It’s a shame no one took advantage of this.
External Battery Chargers
External battery chargers were big back in the day as people would buy multiple batteries. After a while, third-party batteries started cropping up. They were bigger and offered “battery cover extensions” as well as various snap-in grips or backpack packs so you would game for 10 hours I guess. I never understood the extended battery thing. It’s not meant to be played for hours on end by design. The PSP got four hours of life on the most demanding games (I remember getting four hours playing God of War: Chains of Olympus and nearly beat the game before my battery died), but they were there if you needed them. I personally just swapped out a second third-party battery at my job and got 6-8 hours on two standard-size batteries.
In 2022 your best bet would be to buy a regular battery bank with some sort of barrel jack or USB mini-B adapter as all the accessories back in the day have long gone bad. I also wouldn’t use the official Sony wall charger unless you’ve re-celled an official Sony battery.
Yep, these were a thing and they were everywhere. There were so many different types, and I’m not sure if Sony even released an official sound system. I personally had the Logitech one as it was the sturdiest and had pass-through charging. These were made because of the PSP’s UMD video and MP3 player capabilities, but most of us at that point had an iPod or another MP3 player. The PSP was a pretty basic and crude MP3 player even after all of its updates. The UMD video format quickly died and I never could understand this even back in the day. I watched two DVDs rips on this thing and gave up. The visible screen matrix made watching movies at sub-480p really annoying and it was eye-straining. However, you now see more UMD videos on retro game stores than games. In 2022, these are nothing more than cool weird thrones to sit your PSP atop of.
Variant: A PSP console that has a different shell color or a unique design Bundle: Standard color PSP systems with pack-in games and content Note: Every video game-specific system usually came in a bundle with the game. These bundles won’t be listed to reduce redundancy
Photos for variants are thanks to consolevariations.com
“Dude Get Your Own”
This unit was the first iteration of the system. It was also dubbed the Slim & Lite as it was 30% smaller and fixed the screen ghosting issue as well as having a brighter screen and video output. There were more colors and pack-in bundles with this version, probably more than any other. This was the peak of the PSP life cycle so Sony really pushed it hard. There were over a dozen colors combined from all regions as well as super rare and more interesting special versions in Japan. If you don’t want to mod your 1000 screen then this is the next best option as it doesn’t feel as cheap as the 3000. It’s a good middle ground if you really want a large variety of colors.
Smaller and lighter
Brighter screen with no ghosting
Extra RAM for faster load times from UMDs
Larger variety of versions and colors
Build isn’t as high quality as the 1000 model
“Everywhere Just Got Better”
I wound up skipping the 2000 when they came out and got a 3000 unit shortly after release. The 3000 unit was the last regular PSP to be released and had a lot of cost-cutting measures. It was an extremely cheap feeling, but had the best screen and offered USB charging. The 3000 is the most readily available unit on the second-hand market and the one you will find like new more frequently on eBay from Japanese sellers. However, there were still awesome special editions mostly released in Japan that were available. Like my Monster Hunter Portable 3rd one.
Even smaller and lighter
Best and brightest screen of the three and better contrast
Incredibly cheap and light feeling
Terribly flimsy UMD door
Some can see scan lines on the screen
Smaller battery than the 1000 unit
How do I make it a better experience?
Same as the above minus the screen mod. The 3000 unit is pretty much ready to go without any issues. Horray!
Most of the same accessories worked from the 1000 unit minus some batteries and very specific grips and battery pack snap-ons.
Also known as the PSP Street, the E1000 unit was released in PAL regions only and is the least liked system of them all. Sony stripped a lot of features, including wifi, which isn’t a big deal today, but back then you couldn’t play multiplayer games at all with this thing among other cut features. These are only sought after by collectors mostly. It’s also the most expensive to buy because of the limited quantities that were produced. Unless you collect, don’t bother with this unit.
Same screen as the 2000
Smaller and slimmer than the 1000 unit
Cheap build quality
Lacks color variants
No USB charging
No brightness setting
No shell swaps
How do I make it a better experience?
Same as the above minus the screen mod. The E1000 is pretty much ready to go without any issues. Horray!
Also known as the N100 model, the PSP GO cut a lot of features in favor of a sleeker and more radical form factor, but it was too little too late. Sony claimed there would be some sort of program for UMD owners to get a digital version of their games, but they couldn’t figure it out and it failed. The GO is incredibly expensive these days due to its unique form factor and is usually mostly in pretty rough condition. It also requires different settings when hacking with custom firmware due to the internal storage. There was also the change in removable media format to the Memory Stick Micro which are pretty much insanely priced these days. Sadly, there’s no alternative to the external storage option and no adapters have ever been made. You’re stuck with just the 16GB.
To help stave off angry fans, Sony launched the PSP Mini program that were small download only games. A couple of months later support was added for PS3 and then at launch for the Vita. There were quite a few Mini games released, but most were pretty terrible.
Solid build quality
Extremely fun and unique form factor
Docking station available
16GB internal storage
Double internal RAM for faster UMD load times
Smaller screen size
No UMD drive
Uses a new proprietary charging port
New external removable storage format is incredibly expensive and only went up to 32GB
No current simple way to adapt external storage
Only two colors
No shell swaps
How do I make it a better experience?
Replace Scratched Up Lens
These units usually come with really scratched-up lenses, but the problem is that they are glued to the LCD underneath. Thankfully, LCD replacements are cheap on AliExpress and cost around $15. You can also easily get the backside of the shell replaced as well, but currently, there are no front faceplate replacements.
Everything else is the same as above minus most of the accessories. The PSP had an official cradle/base (which I have myself) to turn the system into a desk clock and grips, but that was about it. The cradle goes for a ton of money these days and is probably the most expensive and sought-after accessory for the PSP. There are two variants floating around. A seemingly genuine one with a barrel jack plug and TV-Out and a possible Chinese knock-off that feels light and plasticky with a USB mini-B port.
If you didn’t already guess the PSP launched with proprietary optical disc media. This was a flaw in the PSP design as it used up more battery life and more moving parts=more failures, and it also created longer load times, but there was no other cheap way to gain gigabytes of storage. The Nintendo DS cards maxed out at 512MB and this wouldn’t do for Sony. They needed something that prevented them from charging $50+ for games and making manufacturing an expensive nightmare for publishers. To also prevent pirating, Sony was future-proofing their system in that regard as well along with the proprietary removable storage. The PSP UMD or Universal Media Discs (universal they were not) were small GameCube size CDs inside of plastic housing. Sony claimed this helped protect the disc from scratches, but others were saying this was to prevent disc copying as they couldn’t be inserted in any disc drive. And it worked. There were no issues with pirating PSP games…physically anyway.
Not long after custom firmware came around people started ripping discs straight to their hard drives via USB. In the pirate community, there’s no if, but when, and it didn’t take long. Within months ISO files of PSP games were floating around the internet forums and various torrent sites. Was this an oversight on Sony’s part? Probably.
Unless you want to physically collect PSP games there’s no reason to even bother using your UMD drive. In fact, not using it will preserve the drive from wear, but if you have a UMD, it’s good to pop one in here and there and make sure it still works and to prevent parts from sticking. Some UMD drives are starting to have horrible grinding or scraping noises due to the lubricant drying up. A simple application of lithium grease on the worm drive usually helps with this. The drives got cheaper as you moved up the line. The 1000 unit has the most solid drive with a full metal slot while the 3000 is just a door you smash onto the UMD and is mostly plastic.
The Best Mainstream Games
So, let’s open up with the games most people will recommend first or what most mainstream gaming sites like IGN’s top 25 or something will always recommend. When you Google “best PSP games” these are the ones that will most commonly pop up. Think of this as your starting list to get your appetite wet before diving into the “hidden gems”.
The 3rd Birthday (All Regions) – It’s okay. A spiritual successor to the Parasite Eve series on PS1. It’s a confusing and convoluted story with somewhat overcomplicated gameplay, but it was one of the last AAA budget PSP games and one of the last releases in general. It also looks damn good. Overall, it’s worth playing for its weirdness.
Ace Combat Series (All Regions) – A definitive mix of arcade and sim dogfighting. These were spin-offs from the PS2 series. Both look great and play exceptionally well.
After Burner: Black Falcon (All Regions) – I don’t care for this game, but it was really popular when it was released due to the many arcade game fans.
Ape Escape/Academy Series (All Regions) – Ape Escape: On the Loose was a launch title for the PSP and sold very well. The typical mini-games and charm are here that you loved from the PS1 games.
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines (All Regions) – A very faithful spin-off of the first game. It really feels like a full-fledged mini Assassin’s Creed game with an entire small open area to explore and the same great gameplay we loved from the first game. It looks great too and is considered to have one of the better stories of the AC series.
BlazBlue Series (All Regions)– Some of the best-looking fighters on the PSP. These were faithful ports from the PS3 versions. They were packed with content and looked amazing and ran very well.
Burnout Series (All Regions) – Easily regarded as one of the best racing games on PSP due to the blistering framerate. Legends was a technical marvel back in the day and were one of the most anticipated post-launch titles for the system. Both games look great and feel like faithful ports of their console counterparts.
Call of Duty: Roads to Victory (All Regions) – While a very rudimentary WWII shooter in the same style as Finest Hour or Frontline, Roads to Victory isn’t a terrible shooter, but it’s incredibly basic. A quick play-through is satisfying as there aren’t many shooters on the PSP due to that pesky single analog nub.
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (All Regions) – A highly regarded remake of Rondo of Blood, this is some of the best 2D platforming you will get on PSP.
Coded Arms Series (All Regions) – This isn’t the most exciting series, but it’s heavily talked about as it was the first-ever first-person shooter on PSP, and I pre-ordered it. Despite how generic it is, and the procedurally generated levels, it plays well and has solid controls and visuals, it’s just basic.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (All Regions) – Oh man, Final Fantasy was at its peak hype was back in the mid-2000s. The Final Fantasy VII saga (that feels like it’s still going on today) was all about a Japanese mobile game, the movie, and this game. There’s a large divide with some people flat-out hating the game, but it’s worth a try even if you aren’t a Final Fantasy VII nut. It has some of the best visuals the system has to offer as well.
Crush (All Regions)- A puzzle game being talked about a lot? This is by far one of the most unique puzzle games released on PSP or ever to be quite honest. Use both 2D and 3D planes to solve puzzles by “crushing” the plane you are on to reach new platforms and pathways. It’s a must-play for any puzzle fan.
Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower (All Regions) – This is one of the best fighting games on the system and was a fantastic and surprise launch title. It’s a port of the Dreamcast game and does an amazing job as well. A must-have for any fighting fan.
Daxter (All Regions) – It’s no surprise that a new Jak and Daxter game popped up on the PSP as the series was still going strong around this time. In fitting irony, tiny Daxter has his own adventure on PSP. It’s a solid and charming platformer and will make any Jak and Daxter fan happy.
Dead Head Fred (All Regions)- A weird and bizarre platformer that fits the PSP ecology. While the camera is a bit of an issue, the game oozes charm, character, and fantastic voice acting. It’s a fun romp that looks great too.
Death Jr. Series (All Regions) – An incredibly unique platformer series that had charm and fun characters, but had camera issues that knocked it down a few pegs. It still has that “PSP DNA” that many games helped form in the early years of the system’s life and is worth a play.
Disgaea Series (All Regions)- There were two PS2 ports to the PSP and all to critical acclaim plus an original title. If you love Final Fantasy Tactics or turn-based strategy games then these are for you. Disgaea is well known for its humor, eccentric characters, and crazy story.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy Series (All Regions) – Of course, pretty much anything Final Fantasy is going to be talked about and recommended quite a bit. The Dissidia series is strange as it was almost a Super Smash Bros. clone but with Final Fantasy characters, and of course, it was over-complicated. It’s a weird game, and with this one, unless you like Final Fantasy, you probably won’t get into this. Tons of fan service.
DJ Max Series (All Regions) – Originally released in Korea and Japan this was a fantastic rhythm game with addicting gameplay and music videos playing in the background. It replicates the Japanese rhythm arcade experience in handheld form. It blew up with many people importing the games and it finally came to the US with DJ Max Portable 3 and Fever. There are many versions and collector’s editions released in Asia territories.
Dragon Ball Z Series (All Regions) – Yep, Dragon Ball Z fighting games were a huge hit on the PSP and most were damn good and looked great too. I remember my cousin being obsessed with these games on his PSP back in the day.
Echochrome (All Regions) – This debut made everyone go nuts at E3 2006. Essentially this is MC Escher: The Game. A very clever and unique puzzle game based on perspective kind of like Crush. The strikingly simple visual style helped push sales and is considered one of the best puzzle games ever made.
FIFA Series (All Regions) – This series is generally considered strong the PSP. The last few entries were mediocre, but 09 and 10 were the best.
Final Fantasy Series (All Regions) – I’m talking about the core Final Fantasy RPGs here and not the spin-offs. Some people regard the ports of Final Fantasy 1, 2, and 4 to be the best out there in terms of content and sprite work. These ports were fantastic and a lot of people’s first time experiences with these games. There was also an ambitious 3D game called Type-0 that was only released in Japan until it was upgraded to HD for home consoles. It looked stunning. There was even an amazing port of Tactics as well. The PSP was a fantastic home for Final Fantasy.
God(s) Eater Series (All Regions) – This Monster Hunter clone based on the anime was wildly popular on PSP. I couldn’t really get into it, but there is a solid game here, and the series went on the other consoles thanks to its popularity. One trivia fact is that the title was changed to Gods (plural) for the West as to not offend religious folks.
God of War Series (All Regions) – Well, you can’t have a Sony console without a God of War game showing you what it can do and then no one ever topping it and making you upset. Chains of Olympus was probably the single most anticipated PSP game ever next to Gran Turismo. I pre-ordered it the day it was announced and played through the entire game at work on launch day. It was gorgeous, it felt like the PS2 games, and it was the first game to overclock the PSP to 333MHz achieve what it did. Ghost of Sparta somehow topped all of this and is considered one of the best games in the series.
Gran Turismo (All Regions) – As stated above, Gran Turismo was a myth, a legend. The one PSP game to come out and somehow unlock hidden power no one would ever be able to achieve. To have the ultimate racing sim in the handheld form to never be topped again. While it took the entire life of the PSP for the game to come out, what we got was a solid racing sim that felt like the PS2 games we grew to love. The game upset people due to a lack of a career mode. It felt like Sony said, “Meh, just release it anyways the PSP is nearly dead”.
Grand Theft Auto Series (All Regions) – This is probably the most played PSP series by far. When Rockstar announced a “port” of GTA3 for PSP it drove sales up and people lost their minds, but how would it work with only one analog nub? Well, it kind of didn’t, but it was still faithful to the PS2 game. The later side story was well received and the DS port of Chinatown Wars was fantastic. There was a long rumor of a San Andreas Stories that never saw the light of day.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Series (Japan) – The popular rhythm game saw the same treatment as DJ Max. Lots of people importing. The series has grown to become a fantastic and addictive game and has spread to many other consoles. The PSP versions had great visuals, catchy Japanese pop tunes, and overall addictive rhythm gameplay that only seemed possible o the PSP.
Hot Shots Golf/Everybody’s Golf Series (All Regions) – The Hot Shots series saw a lot of love on the PSP. Both entries are solid entries and tons of arcade golfing fun.
Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier (All Regions) – The last entry to the beloved Jak & Daxter series was on PSP and PS2 despite the PS3 being out for some time at this point. It wasn’t anywhere near as memorable as the original trilogy, but it was a fun game and well worth a playthrough.
Jeanne d’Arc (All Regions) – Considered by many to be the best turn-based strategy game on the PSP and one of the best ever made. This original game had a great story, deep strategy, and just overall tons of content.
Killzone: Liberation (All Regions) – While many expected a first-person shooter killer app we got a top-down shooter instead, but a damn fine one at that. The game feels like Killzone and looks great too. There is some strategy to the game, and while the story is lame, it’s all about the fun gameplay.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (All Regions) – Yeah, this was to be expected. The mid-2000s was the peak of Kingdom Hearts and this was easily one of the most anticipated games for the system. It look fantastic and was actually a lot of fun and felt like its PS2 counterparts.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Series (All Regions) – A much-beloved port of the two chapters and they are great on PSP. This is by far one of the best JRPGs on the system due to its wonderful story and great characters.
LEGO Series (All Regions) – The LEGO series was a huge hit on the PSP thanks to its portability. Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars all made it to the system and they looked nearly as good as the PS2 games. These are some of the finest platformers on the system even if you don’t care about the IPs.
LittleBigPlanet (All Regions)- One of the only PS3 series to make it onto PSP, this game had it all. Downloadable levels, a level editor, and a vast campaign and it looked fantastic. It’s one of the best 3D platformers on the system.
LocoRoco Series (All Regions) – The tiny yellow singing balls were a huge hit for the early days of the system. The quirky Japanese gameplay was bright and fun and the game looked great too. While the physics got a little weird, the series is part of what makes up the “PSP DNA”.
Lumines Series (All Regions) – The launch title that really helped set the standard for the “PSP DNA”. It was a much talked about game with its unique rhythm and puzzle gameplay mash and was also an instant hit. The series later went on to continue on other systems.
Madden NFL Series (All Regions) – Of course one of the most popular sports franchises of all time wouldn’t miss the opportunity to cash in on the PSP. This is one hit-or-miss series on this system. The quality is all over the place so the best thing to do is try them all.
Manhunt 2 (All Regions) – One of the most controversial games on the system due to Jack Thomspon’s violent video game crusade of the mid-2000s. The game was censored blurring out kill scenes that were later patched out for those with hacked PSPs. It’s a solid stealth horror game and one of the most violent on the system.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Series (All Regions) – Top-down dungeon-crawling superhero games were all the rage in the mid-2000s and Marvel was doing them the best.
Me & My Katamari (All Regions) – Riding off the success of the first two games on PS2 this was a solid entry to the franchise and worked surprisingly well despite the lack of a second analog stick. It’s one of the best “PSP DNA” games out there.
Medal of Honor: Heroes Series (All Regions) – The other WWII shooter. Surprisingly this series had the more solid foothold on PSP and the most solid entries. Quick and fun objective-based first-person shooting action. Both games back to back are a ton of fun.
Mega Man Series (All Regions) – Capcom hit the ball home twice in a row with two solid platformer entries. Both are considered some of the best entries in the franchise.
Metal Gear Ac!d Series (All Regions) – Hideo’s card-based strategy spin-off was received with mixed reception, but strategy fans loved it. The first game is really rough but improves with the second. The series shipped with weird 3D glasses too.
Metal Gear Solid Series (All Regions) – Probably one of the most popular games on the system and a huge seller. Peace Walker was an official entry while Portable Ops was more of a handheld tailored affair with a follow-up re-release. This is seriously one of the best series of games on the system and helped define the PSP for what it is today. Not to mention the stunning visuals.
MLB: The Show Series (All Regions) – Probably some of the best sports games on the system and the most consistent with quality. Sony’s exclusive licensed baseball game was a huge hit on the PSP and looked good doing it.
Monster Hunter Series (All Regions) – The Monster Hunter series blew up in the mid-2000s thanks to strong entries on the Wii. Portable 3rd is considered one of the best games in the series, but sadly never made it the West. These games are best played in Ad-Hoc co-op. I had many fun nights with a co-worker playing Portable 3rd.
Mortal Kombat: Unchained (All Regions) – Being a massive Mortal Kombat fan I was stoked to hear the announcement of Unchained. A port of Deception with all content intact? Sadly, there were to main factors that kept this game from achieving the greatness of Deception. No online play and horribly compressed sound. It is still one of the best fighters on the system.
MotorStorm: Arctic Edge (All Regions) – Considered by many to be one of the best-looking PSP games and one of the best racers on the system. The fast-paced arcade action was a ton of fun and sadly was the final entry in the franchise.
NBA Series (All Regons) – Now there’s a lot of different developers under the NBA license. There was EA’s NBA Live and Street, 2K’s NBA 2K series, Midway’s Ballers and Sony’s own series. The entire license was all over the court in terms of quality. I actually enjoyed Street quite a bit as I loved the console series, but there’s qualities to them all and you should give them all a shot.
Need for Speed Series (All Regions) – These were probably the most popular racing games on the system and sold a butt-ton because Need for Speed was the Call of Duty of racing back in the day. Neither entry is amazing, but they all have their qualities and are all worth checking out
Patapon Series (All Regions) – The Patapon series was part of the PSP’s DNA and was incredibly unique and there wasn’t anything else like it on other systems. A turn-based strategy game fused with rhythm-based gameplay was addictive and fun and was a huge hit. I personally got frustrated with the first game and never continued, but I do want to go back and try again. It has striking visuals and cute characters.
Phantasy Star Portable Series (All Regions) – Phantasy Star was a huge hit on the GameCube and continued on the PSP. While most popular in Japan, the series had an online co-op, but the single-player campaign was also there. It’s a fun pseudo-MMO and the closest we ever got to one on the PSP.
Prince of Persia Series (All Regions) – The Prince of Persia franchise was at its peak in the mid-2000s with The Two Thrones having just been released and the trilogy concluding. The PSP received a fantastic port of that game as Rival Swords, and a decent albeit buggy port of Warrior Within. There was also a port of Forgotten Sands that was completely unique for the PSP.
Pro Evolution Soccer Series (All Regions) – There were many entries on the PSP, and like all the other yearly sports titles, the quality varied. It’s best to play them all and find out which one suits your taste the best.
Pursuit Force Series (All Regions) – A surprisingly short-lived series, it was so popular the game got a fun sequel. Tons of popcorn Hollywood action scenes and great visuals. Nothing to really complain about.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (All Regions) – One of the few mainstream puzzle games. Puzzle Quest kickstarted the match 3 RPG mash-up genre we know today on mobile phones. It was incredibly addictive as I remember clocking in 30 hours on the campaign before completion and I couldn’t put it down.
Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters (All Regions) – One of the biggest profile games for the system, Size Matters smashed down on the Earth with a bang. It was everything we loved in the series and somehow managed to make playing with one analog nub fine. It looked great and captured all the fun from the PS2 games.
Resistance: Retribution (All Regions) – Another high-profile Sony exclusive. With PS3 games doing well, the PSP version was a third-person shooter and controlled well and looked amazing. While the story was nothing special it was the great gameplay that made this stand out from the crowd and show the PSP could do shooters.
Ridge Racer Series (All Regions) – One of the most high-profile racing games of all time just due to the fact that it was one of the biggest launch titles for the system and a return to a dormant franchise. The game looked stunning, probably the best-looking game at launch, and I remember picking up my pre-order two days before the PSP launch and reading the entire manual over several times. It was exciting and played so well. Perfect controls and tons of content. A sequel was released everywhere but in the US and was mostly just an upgraded version of the first game with new content.
Rock Band Unplugged (All Regions) – This was one of the oddest games to release on the system. A game that is normally totally reliant on external peripherals, but somehow made the game work by switching instrument tracks and using the same button timing system as other rhythm games on the PSP. It was tons of fun and was a full Rock Band experience with DLC songs and all.
Secret Agent Clank (All Regions) – Two Ratchet features on a portable?! It was crazy talk. Like Daxter, Clank got a pint-sized adventure all on his own and actually was overall better than Size Matters. The charm was there, the more interesting gameplay, and it just felt tailor-made for the PSP.
Shin Megami Tensei Series (All Regions) – These were probably some of the biggest RPGs on the system. Person 3 Portable FES was a direct port of the PS2 game with added features and content. It was, and still is, the definitive Persona 3 experience. There were both PS1 ports and a Devil Summoner game exclusive to Japan.
Silent Hill Series (All Regions) – It was a huge surprise that the PSP would get two Silent Hill spin-offs. Shattered Memories was a reimagining of the first game with more action and less horror, and Origins was a traditional game and was fantastic and looked stunning. I enjoyed the crap out of Origins and plan to back to it again.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Series (All Regions) – SOCOM making a showing on the PSP was brave. No one thought it could work, but it was one of the most popular franchises on the system. With four entries, more than even the home consoles, the series was rock solid. Playing through all Fireteam Bravo games will give you a fantastic tactical shooter experience.
SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny (All Regions) – Nearly every high-profile fighting franchise made it onto the PSP. Broken Destiny was a full-fledged original entry and featured Kratos as a guest fighter. It looked great and played well, but sadly there was no online play.
Star Wars Series (All Regions) – There were quite a few Star Wars games on the system from LEGO to three whole Battlefront games!. There were also mediocre ports of The Force Unleashed and a Clone Wars game. Overall, the quality was all over the place, but you should check them all out.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX (All Regions) – Considered by many as the definitive version of the game, the PS1 port is a fantastic entry and looks great to boot. It was the only Street Fighter game we got and thankfully it was a good one. Japan got Zero 3 which was a favorite for importers.
Syphon Filter Series (All Regions) – Syphon Filter is one of my favorite video game series of all time. I played the hell out of the first two games as a kid. My dad and I would rent it every weekend until we eventually just bought them and memorized every enemy placement, weapon, and could eventually get through each game without ever getting hit. The level design was just so fantastic, and when the series got revived for PSP I was so stocked. It was a pre-order for me and I even wrote my own walkthrough guide for them both. That’s how much I love this series. It showed how to do shooters right on the PSP despite its limitations. These are considered the best shooters on the system bar none.
Tactics Ogre: Lets Us Cling Together (All Regions) – Despite the strange name, Tactics Ogre is considered by many to be superior to Final Fantasy Tactics in both story and gameplay. While this game didn’t sell very well it is one of the most beloved PSP exclusives mainly because it’s a remake of the SNES game. If you want to sink into a deep game with a lot of story this is one of the best on the system to do it.
Tekken Series (All Regions) – Tekken 6 and Dark Resurrection are one of the best fighters on the PSP. The visuals are stunning, the controls are great, and it’s just an overall solid 3D fighter which there weren’t many good ones on the system.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour Series (All Regions) – Just like any sports franchise on the PSP the quality was all over the place. While Tiger Woods 07 would be considered the best overall, you need to try them all to really find out what you like. They’re still solid titles on the system with some great graphics and packed campaigns.
Tomb Raider Series (All Regions) – Both Tomb Raider ports are some of the best on the system. These are nearly identical to their PS2 counterparts with fantastic controls and excellent visuals.
Tony Hawk Series (All Regions) – Underground 2 Remix was an amazing game on the system. It ran well, looked good, controlled perfectly, and was packed full of content. I played this game religiously when I was able to pick it up for cheap. It’s just one of the best games on the system. Period. Project 8 was decent, but not the kind of quality that Remix was.
Twisted Metal: Head-On (All Regions) – An ambitious launch title for the PSP. Just one more franchise to come out of the woodwork for the little system that took the world by storm. It was one of the only online infrastructure games back in the day as well.
Valkyria Chronicles II (All Regions) – Sadly, the sequel to the popular strategy game was a PSP exclusive and has remained so. An odd choice for sure, but it’s one of the best strategy games on the system and is rock solid all the way around.
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth (All Regions) – A port of the PS1 game, Lenneth is one of the best RPGs on the system. It has beautiful art, fun characters, and stellar gameplay. The PSP was truly an RPG lover’s dream machine and has some of the highest quality ports of any system to date.
Wipeout Series (All Regions) – Wipeout Pure was one of the best launch titles for the PSP and featured a hidden web browser for DLC. I remember leeching off of a neighbor’s Wifi (we didn’t have any wifi devices in 2005 yet) and just thought it was so school despite how terrible the experience was. The series was colorful, had a great framerate, and just looked good.
WWE Smackdown vs RAW Series (All Regions) – I’m not a wrestling fan by any stretch of the measure, but this was a very popular series on PSP. 2006 suffered from insanely long load times on the UMD and every entry has varying levels of quality in different areas like any other sports series. Play them all to find your favorite.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (All Regions) – Seriously, this is one of the best dungeon crawlers on PSP and there aren’t many. Tons of characters, content, and the graphics were great.
Ys Series (All Regions) – 2D 16-bit RPGs were a staple for the PSP thanks to many ports from the SNES. Ys had a few solid entries on the system.
The Best “Hidden Gems” or Underrated Games
I want the term “hidden gems” to go away. This term just isn’t relevant anymore as every single retro game from niche and obscure to the mainstream has been documented and probably reviewed numerous times on YouTube. Even the Phillips CD-i and Nokia N-Gage aren’t obscure or hidden anymore. If they were then they wouldn’t be $400 on eBay because they would be “hidden”. This term was more relevant 15 years ago when you walked into a retro game store and someone suggested said game to you. You then took it home and realized how fun it was and why you overlooked it. That’s a hidden gem.
Thanks to the internet that term lost all meaning and the same goes for “underrated”. I prefer the term underappreciated. Underrated in terms of critical reception maybe, but most gamers cherish the underdog so nothing is really underrated anymore, but can still be underappreciated because a casual onlooker may not like the screenshots or understand it from a first glance. Games like Gunpey or Beaterator for PSP may be new to you but just Google those games. Tons of YouTube videos, and top-something lists with them in it. Because of the internet, nothing can truly be hidden anymore. Once something is dug up everyone rushes to go buy it to stick it in their collection.
The following games are underappreciated due to one factor or another. Not enough marketing, low budget, low print run, bad release timing, too hard to understand at first glance, not a big hit with critics, a niche genre, or many other reasons.
7th Dragon Series (Japan) – A fun Japanese-only RPG with great graphics and fun gameplay. There is a fan translation patch available.
Activision Hits Remixed (All Regions) – Fans of 8-bit consoles will have a blast here. Well emulated classics for Atari 2600. Includes 44 games.
Adventures to Go! (All Regions) – A really good dungeon crawler that wasn’t American made.
ATV Offroad Fury Pro (All Regions) – Probably the best in the MX/ATV lineup on PSP in terms of visuals, physics, and content. It was a rock-solid well-balanced racing game, but other entries are worth taking a look at too.
Beatorator (Europe) – A well-made music creator from Rockstar Games and producer Timbaland
The Bigs Series (US) – Usually left in the dust by EA’s MLB series, The Bigs was a better baseball game on PSP, but sadly just couldn’t find the sales to keep it up.
Bleach: Heat the Soul Series (Japan) – While incredibly redundant this was a smash hit on PSP in Japan and attracted many importers. There are subtle differences between all seven games so playing them all is the only way to find out what you prefer.
Bomberman (EU/JP) – While it didn’t have any online replay it was the most faithful in the series for consoles up to that point and was a solid entry.
Brandish: The Dark Revenant (US) – Released very late and long after the death of the PSP (2015!) Brandish gave us one last dungeon crawler that was surprisingly fun and well made.
Brave Story: New Traveler (All Regions) – This was actually quite a high-profile RPG since it was released early in the PSP’s life, but no one paid attention. It had great visuals, fun combat, and an entertaining story.
Brothers in Arms: D-Day (All Regions) – While the game was a big clunky it had fantastic visuals and played quite well. All three major WWII shooter players made it onto the PSP, which is quite a surprise in hindsight.
Bust-A-Move Deluxe (All Regions) – This is one of the coziest puzzle games on PSP. While it doesn’t do anything new or exciting it delivers the same great Bust-A-Move gameplay we all love with bright colorful visuals.
Buzz! Series (Europe) – No, it’s not a game about Kevin McAlister’s brother. A Europe exclusive franchise, Buzz! is a fun trivia game series for people who love that kind of thing. No crazy button peripherals here, but multiplayer is a blast.
Cake Mania: Baker’s Challenge (US) – If you love time management games like Diner Dash then this game is up your alley. It was released as part of the “PSP Minis” library.
Capcom Classics Collection Series (All Regions) – A good amount of classic Capcom games were released on two different UMDs. Games like 19xx, Street Fighter II, Ghosts and Goblins, Mercs, Exed Exes, and many others were well put together and run great here.
Disney/Pixar Cars Series (All Regions) – Yep, I’m dead serious. The Cars series was pretty solid on PSP and offered a fun arcade racing experience. It looked good and played surprisingly well. Because of the kids-only relationship with Cars, no one really gave it the time of day.
Chili Con Carnage (All Regions) – A crazy over-the-top third-person shooter with lots of humor injected in. It had an unfair checkpoint system, but other than that, it was a solid action title.
Class of Heroes Series (All Regions) – A “labyrinth crawler” with surprising depth and a fun cast of characters. You’ll definitely sink dozens of hours into the entire series.
Crash Series (All Regions) – Crash Bandicoot didn’t do too well after his PS1 outings. The Crash games that came after were mediocre to just okay at best. The PSP Crash games are decent fun, but nothing amazing. They scratch that itch for a platformer and a kart racing game on the PSP, but nothing more.
Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars (All Regions) – A fun and faithful port of both Dreamcast games. While the graphics haven’t improved much it will satisfy the arcade racing craving you might have. There was even online multiplayer at the time.
Crimson Gem Saga (All Regions) – A sequel to Astonisha Story, and a much better game overall, and it offers some wonderful characters and turn-based strategy gameplay. If you finished up Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics then this could be your next time sink.
Dante’s Inferno (All Regions) – A cut-down version of the console game content-wise, but the gameplay is rock solid and feels similar to God of War. The console version was short enough as it was, but some boss fights are stripped down to cut-scenes instead. Despite that, the gameplay itself holds up for a few hours of fun.
Dead to Rights: Reckoning (All Regions) – Released alongside the console game Dead to Rights II, the series had one last go before finally disappearing into the ether. It’s a decent third-person shooter all around.
Def Jam: Fight for NY – The Takeover (All Regions) – Def Jam: Fight for NY is one of the best fighting games ever made. Hate the hip hop part of it all you want, all though it features tons of “golden era” hip hop artists from the 90s-mid 2000s, The Takeover was released a year after the console versions with great visuals, solid controls, and tons of content. Easily one of the best fighters on PSP.
Diner Dash: Sizzle & Serve (All Regions) – A port of the DS version, this is Diner Dash greatness through and through. While the DS version is superior thanks to its touch screen controls, it works fine here.
Downstream Panic! (All Regions) – A mix between LocoRoco and Worms. This is truly one of the most unique puzzle games on the system and was criminally overlooked.
Driver ’76 (All Regions) – A prequel to Driver: Parallel Lines for PS2, this is a fun and action-packed driving game. Lots to really like here.
Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony (All Regions) – a big boy dungeon crawler on a handheld? Many were skeptical, but it really shined and is one of the better dungeon crawlers on the system albeit very rudimentary and basic.
Every Extend Extra (All Regions) – Tetsuya Mitzuguchi was at his peak in the mid-2000s. Riding off the success of Lumines his next music-based game didn’t make as large of a splash but was still excellent. This is a bigger version of a freeware game he released for PC back in 2004. He also went on to create the excellent Meteos for DS.
Exit Series (All Regions) – A very unique puzzle-platformer that had that “PSP DNA”. The game was colorful and tons of fun and had downloadable levels. One of the better puzzle games for the system for sure.
Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake (All Regions) – While this was better played with other people, Fat Princess is a cartoony and whimsical tower defense-like game that fits well on the PSP.
FlatOut: Head On (All Regions) – This is what all FlatOut fans wanted. A good portable experience. Spectacular crashes, a great sense of speed, and awesome graphics. It’s one of the better racing games and was sadly completely overlooked by most.
Football Manager Handheld Series (Europe) – If you love spreadsheets you will love this game. Jokes aside, there are many fans of the Football Manager series and it’s pretty decent on the PSP despite the control limitations. If you want some deep strategy involving your favorite sport there’s nothing quite like it on the system.
G-Force (All Regions) – A surprisingly good movie tie-in. No joke. While the game is easy it has charm and will keep you interested until the end.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (All Regions) – Like the anime or not, this was only the second FPS game to be released on PSP right after Coded Arms and before Metroid Prime: Hunters on DS came out. This one kind of did it better. It had a less generic feel to it and did well for the hardware’s limitations.
Gitaroo Man Lives! (All Regions) – A faithful port of the PS2 game. This quirky Japanese rhythm game is in the same lane as Parappa the Rapper. Great tunes and a fun game all around.
Gladiator Begins (All Regions) – A sequel to the PS2 game Colosseum: Road to Freedom this really took me by surprise. I didn’t even see this one come out until years after. It’s a solid Gladiator sim and has solid controls and great visuals.
Gradius Collection (All Regions) – There weren’t many shmups for the PSP, but Gradius Collection is probably the best. Five Gradius games on one UMD and all run great. What more could you want?
Grand Knights History (Japan) – Sadly, this never saw a western release just like Princess Crown, but there is a complete fan translation. Vanillaware has a unique art style and fantastic 2D gameplay. This turn-based strategy game oozes color and personality and is one of the best on the system.
GripShift (All Regions) – One of the best arcade racers on the PSP. Fast-paced action, crazy tracks, and the level editor was a huge hit.
Guilty Gear Series (All Regions) – Three solid fighters on PSP and were all upgrades to previous entries in the series, but that’s okay. Great visuals, excellent controls, and overall just added on to the solid lineup of great 2D fighters.
Gun: Showdown (All Regions) – A stripped-down version of the console games, but not in a negative way. They took the best parts of the console games and stuck them on the PSP. There isn’t an open-world here, but it’s best you will get to Red Dead Redemption in portable form.
Gunpey (All Regions) – Another of Tetsuya’s weirdness, but more on the Rez end of bizarre. It doesn’t meld the magic of music and puzzles like Lumines did, but you should play this more for its oddball magic than the gameplay.
Gurumin: A Monsterous Adventure (All Regions) – This is seriously one of the best action games on the PSP hands down. It received raving reviews, but no one paid attention because of its quirky Japanese exterior and cutesy visuals. I think we’ve all learned that cute visuals don’t make a bad or easy game. Incredibly charming and addictive throughout.
Half-Minute Hero (All Regions) – Probably the most unique and original JRPG on the system. You literally have to beat the game in 30 seconds. Level-up, battle, buy equipment, and more all within a 30 second time limit. It’s hard to explain, but it’s something that must be experienced. It’s also pretty funny.
Hammerin’ Hero (All Regions) – It may be simple, but its charm is what will get you. This is one solid platformer with that fun Japanese flair from the early 2000s.
Harvest Moon Series (All Regions) – Three games came to the PSP, and while not critical successes they are decent sim life fun. A PS1 port also made it over. If you already love the series or want something similar to Animal Crossing this is the closest you will get.
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law (All Regions) – A hilarious FMV game based on the Adult Swim show. There’s tons of humor and video game cameos thrown in. It’s really short but super entertaining.
Hexyz Force (All Regions) – The story won’t blow you away or have you weeping tears, but the gameplay and item management here is stupendous. A really fun tactical RPG that was sadly missed by most.
Hot Pixel (All Regions) – Yep, you guessed it. This is the PSP’s answer to WarioWare. Lots of fun and silly microgames and just as much of a blast as the WarioWare series. It’s too bad no one bought it.
The Idolmaster Series (Japan) – These were huge hits in Japan ending up in the second spot in the sales charts upon release. There are three different versions with different lead idols, but what’s inside are super addictive and charming rhythm games in the same spirit as the Hatsune Miku series. Thankfully there are fan translations now.
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (All Regions) – This original Indiana Jones title is a stripped-down version of the PS2 game, but it’s rock-solid action with great visuals.
Infected (All Regions) – This was one of the first post-launch releases and was highly anticipated. This third-person shooter had a unique gameplay loop and online feature. Shooting a hole in a zombie would allow you to use your blood and infect others and start a chain reaction to rack up points.
Jackass: The Game (All Regions) – This was based on the movie at the time and featured acting from the original cast. The mini-games are fun, the action is dumb, and it’s pretty hilarious and was done surprisingly well.
James Bond 007: From Russia with Love (All Regions) – The only James Bond game that made it to PSP. Various developers have been able to perform amazing feats of programming for handheld Bond games and the PSP looks fantastic and plays well.
Juiced Series (All Regions) – Another really fun arcade racing series. Looks good too.
Justice League Heroes (All Regions) – One of the few good dungeon crawlers on PSP. Marvel had one of the best and DC’s take isn’t too bad. Great graphics help too.
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (All Regions) – A Japanese game that made a surprising debut in the West. Kenka Bancho is a fantastic beat ’em up with lots of boss fights and plenty of action.
The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga (All Regions) – For a system that didn’t have the best D-pad for fighters it sure did get a lot of them. This is a fantastic collection of Kind of Fighters games from the past and they run well and look great. It had a bunch of extra content to unlock too.
Kingdom of Paradise (All Regions) – This game is reminiscent of PS2 action games of yesteryear such as Genji, Onimusha, and others of its ilk. It’s a bit clunky, but still fun and captures that moment of nostalgia.
Knights in the Nightmare (All Regions) – A really high-profile SRPG on DS ported to PSP and was well done. Be warned that the game has a steep learning curve and can be hard as balls. There are multiple endings and should be great for people wanting a deep strategy game to sink into.
Lemmings (All Regions) – A fantastic port of the original game with 36 new levels and the ability to download user-made levels. While that isn’t possible anymore what’s here is awesome. If you love deep puzzles this is a game for you.
The Lord of the Rings: Tactics (All Regions) – Another good strategy game on PSP. It’s crazy how many good strategy games this system got. The game looks good and is a strange one-off game for the system that you can’t get anywhere else.
Lunar Series (US/JP) – The Lunar series was ported with care and quality. The first game was released only in the US while the second game was Japan exclusive. It’s a real shame there was no Western release, but they are both excellent games still.
M.A.C.H.: Modified Air Combat (Europe) – This air combat sim was exclusive to Europe and played well and looked great. There were a surprising number of combat sim games on PSP and this was among the best.
MediEvil: Resurrection (All Regions) – A remake of the original game. This was very well done minus the camera issues, but it looked good and is one of the “PlayStation DNA” games that got ported to the system.
Mercury Series (All Regions) – This is one of the best puzzle games on PSP. The physics are awesome and the clever puzzle designs are addictive. Color coding to open gates and switches, tilting the world to move the mercury and split it apart. It’s a unique game that really needs another entry.
Metal Slug Series (All Regions) – While XX was its own game, the Anthology has all six games and are fantastic ports and play well. The D-pad isn’t the most ideal, but the fact that all six games exist on one UMD is unreal.
Miami Vice: The Game (All Regions) – What. A good movie tie-in game?! Yeah, it’s a surprisingly solid third-person shooter that was heavily overlooked due to the terrible movie and the whole tie-in stereotype. It’s not a super interesting game, but there are very few shooters on PSP to begin with.
Michael Jackson: The Experience (All Regions) – This is an interesting take on the game. While the console versions were motion-based, the PSP one had chibi Michael and button presses similar to Hatsune Miku. It’s not the best version, but it has all the same tracks and is a lot of fun if you are a Michael Jackson fan.
Midnight Club Series (All Regions) – Two console racing games ported with grace on the PSP. While LA Remix has some slowdown unless you overclock your system they both play well. The PSP had tons of great arcade racers and these are no exception.
ModNation Racers (All Regions) – An ambitious if generic kart racer that has a good amount of content and colorful visuals. It’s safe and fun.
MX vs ATV Series (All Regions) – The PSP was not short of racing games and the long-running motocross series made it over in two releases. Both are good for a different reason so I suggest trying them all out.
Myst (EU/JP) – Never released in the US. Myst is one of the few adventure games on the system and this is a fine port of the PC classic.
N+ (All Regions) – If you like Super Meat Boy you will love N+. A sadistic platformer with over 200 levels mixed from other versions as well as a level editor with sharable maps.
Namco Museum Series (All Regions) – This was a popular series that came back from PS1. Five volumes and a Battle Anthology. A lot of classic Namco titles if that’s your thing.
NCAA Football Series (US) – Probably the best football series on PSP. Even though it’s college football, the NCAA series has long been regarded as superior to Madden.
NFL Street Series (US) – Ports of the arcade NFL games. This whole Street series has been highly regarded among fans and should really come back. EA’s strongest time in sports was with their EA BIG lineups such as SSX, NBA Street, FIFA Street, Freekstyle, and Def Jam.
NHL 07 (All Regions) – Easily the best hockey game on the system, and sadly there weren’t many options. EA didn’t release another version despite their other sports titles getting yearly releases.
Obscure: The Aftermath (All Regions) – This horror title doesn’t do anything new. Solve puzzles and kill monsters with multiple characters while you unravel a story. Fairly dated gameplay-wise, but it fits right in on the PSP.
Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast (All Regions) – Probably one of the very top arcade racers on PSP. It looks amazing and clearly given time and care to feel right on the system.
Pac-Man World 3 (All Regions) – The Pac-Man World series has always been fairly decent, and World 3 on PSP is just as strong as the console versions. What sets World 3 apart from the first two games is its hilariously serious tone in its story.
Pangya: Fantasy Golf (All Regions) – A spin-off of the Korean MMO game, this right here is the single best golf game on PSP. Colorful visuals, a quirky story, lots of content, and great ball physics. It feels like a complete package and less like a port.
Parappa the Rapper (All Regions) – This is probably one of the highest regarded PSP games, but despite raving reviews it just didn’t sell. It’s a fantastic port of the PS1 classic and looks great too.
Pinball Hall of Fame Series (All Regions) – The best pinball games on PSP. Two collections allow you to play them in Tate mode. What more could you ask for?
Pipe Mania (Europe) – This puzzle game is really colorful and addictive. Its simple approach is what makes it so accessible and fun.
Power Stone Collection (All Regions) – Ports of the Dreamcast games and well done too. Power Stone is a great fighting game, but better over multiplayer Ad-Hoc.
PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient Series (All Regions) – A really fun and weird puzzle game similar to Brain Age, but more 3D and interactive. It really has that weird “PlayStation DNA” attached to it.
Prinny Series (All Regions) – A spin-off of the Disgaea series, and surprisingly a platformer. This is highly considered one of the best platform games on the system, but it’s really hard and has terrible voice acting.
Puyo Pop Series (Japan) – You can’t go wrong with portable Puyo Pop. The Fever series was a fantastic way to play this one the go.
R-Type Command (All Regions) – Another weird IP to go tactical. One of the best tactical games on PSP, and it’s surprising as R-Type is not a slow methodical game.
Race Driver 2006 (All Regions) – An absolute blast of a racing sim. One of the best on the system, and one of the best looking games on the system period.
Shrek Smash N’ Crash Racing (All Regions) – Yep. It’s a Shrek game. Yes, it’s actually decent. While no Mario Kart competitor it looks decent and has some fun tracks and fun Shrek characters. You could do a lot worse with the license…and boy did they.
The Sims Series (All Regions) – Fantastic spin-offs of the main PC version. These games hold up surprisingly well and are hand-tailored for mobile play. If you already love The Sims or want some sort of relaxing game on PSP these are it.
Smash Court Tennis 3 (All Regions) – Probably the single best tennis game on PSP and there were a few. Great visuals, controls, and overall content.
Sonic Rivals Series (All Regions) – The only Sonic games to come to PSP. These are considered some of the better games in the series according to Sonic fans. While not perfect they are miles better than most of the 3D turds Sega was pumping out in the mid-2000s.
Space Invaders Extreme (All Regions) – A freaking amazing remix of the Space Invaders game. Like Pac-Man Championship Edition it keeps the addictive formula but turns the volume up to 11.
Split/Second (All Regions) – While it tries hard to capture the magic of the console games, the PSP does a decent job. Not the best racer on the system, but it’s still fun and looks great.
SSX On Tour (All Regions) – A rock-solid entry in the SSX series and looks and feels great on PSP. It’s also the only snowboarding game on the system. Thankfully it’s good.
Star Ocean Series (All Regions) – Great ports of the PS1 games. Safe ports though without many new enhancements, but they’re solid 2D RPGs.
Star Trek: Tactical Assault (All Regions) – Another odd strategy license. While not the best tactical game on the system it does a decent job. I just wish it used the license more.
Tales of Series (All Regions) – While the West only got Radiant Mythology there were a bunch of ports in Japan. A solid RPG and the sequel is great too.
Test Drive Unlimited (All Regions) – Quite a risk of a release due to Unlimited’s reliance on constant internet connection. The game is still a solid single-player experience and looks awesome.
Thrillville Series (All Regions) – The only amusement park sim on PSP and both games are great. They look good and have a smattering of content to keep you coming back.
TOCA Race Driver Series (Europe) – One of the best racing sims on PSP and was only released in Europe. They look amazing and have great physics.
Tokobot (All Regions) – A criminally underlooked game and one of the best looking too. Lots of fun puzzles here and hours of fun.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar (All Regions) – A genic but fun hex tactical game. The series isn’t the real-time strategy graphical powerhouse that the consoles got. This is more about the strategy than the visuals.
Toy Story 3 (All Regions) – The console version was a surprisingly solid platformer with charm and great visuals. The PSP version is no different. Don’t let the Pixar name fool you either. This is a solid movie tie-in game.
UFC Undisputed 2010 (All Regions) – A surprisingly solid entry for PSP. Great visuals, controls, animations, and content. Sadly it was the one and only.
Ultimate Ghosts’N Goblins (All Regions) – One of the best platformers on PSP, but also the hardest. The difficulty that the series is well known for is here too.
Untold Legends Series (All Regions) – Originally a launch title for the PSP it’s a decent dungeon crawler albeit generic. Nothing amazing but it will scratch that dungeon crawler itch.
Valhalla Knights Series (All Regions) – An interesting and unique RPG, but has some flaws and issues. If you can look past all of that you will enjoy the series quite a bit.
Virtua Tennis Series (All Regions) – A great tennis series all around and there really isn’t a bad one. It’s just a matter of what your preferences and tastes are. You know you have a good library when you get a choice between good tennis games.
Warhammer Series (All Regions) – Both games are surprisingly good. Just another great tactics game to add to the PSP’s lineup. If you love the Warhammer license you will really love these games.
The Warriors (All Regions) – A fantastic port of the Rockstar action game. Even if you don’t know anything about the movie its based on you will really enjoy this game.
What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord?! Series (All Regions) – A humorous and unique game where you play the bad guy and have to create dungeons to stop the hero. It looks simple but has a lot of spirit.
Wild Arms XF (All Regions) – A fun hex-based SRPG with a lot of dialogue, cut scenes, and story.
World Championship Poker 2 Featuring Howard Lederer (All Regions) – Not sure who Howard is, but this is probably the only good poker game on PSP. The graphics are rough, but it has fun poker gameplay.
Worms: Open Warfare Series (All Regions) – Worms was just another awesome strategy game on PSP. It’s insane how many awesome ones there were. Both games are worth playing and have fun levels and great humor.
Xyanide: Resurrection (EU/JP) – A direct sequel to the Xbox shmup. It has great visuals and just overall plays well. There weren’t many shmups on the PSP.
Yggdra Union: We’ll Never Fight Alone (All Regions) – Overall a solid port of the GBA game with upgrades. This is just another solid SRPG with great visuals.
Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman (All Regions) – A fun roguelike SRPG with great humor and colorful visuals. Heavily overlooked.
Game collecting is intimidating and you have to usually wade through a sea or crap before you get what you want. Sure, you’ve got that shiny new game, but wait, what’s that? It’s the wrong kind, it’s missing something, it’s full of stickers, and the case is smashed up? Don’t fret! Not only will I help you on finding the exact variant or kind of game you want, but also tips on how to restore a game to look new, where to find this stuff, and even how to get pesky stickers off of plastic and cardboard.
Most guides talk about how to get the rarest games, how to do garage sales, and all that stuff that most people either don’t care about or don’t need guides for. There are some things to look out for like reproduction carts, reproduction artwork and manuals, but online you really don’t have to worry about that on these sites as long as you aren’t paying $5 for Pokemon Green Version you should be fine. Just be smart about all of this. Another tip is do not buy any games from China as most of these are reproductions/fake. If you’re buying Japanese games the Japanese sellers are usually fairly honest and I have never had issues outside of blurry and awful photos. I’ve bought near mint consoles from Japan and the sellers are friendly and more than happy to offer more photos and info, again, in my own experience.
Where do I shop and how?
Well, outside of local retro game shops my go to places are eBay, Mercari, and OfferUp. I avoid Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace because for one, they usually don’t have obscure or rare titles, most people on there don’t know what they have and they charge way too much, and they’re usually in awful condition, or most of the games are bundled with consoles and accessories and they won’t let just the games go.
My only big tip when buying anywhere online is never buy from listings with stock or generic images! These are usually disc only copies or something is missing. Try to find listings with the actual game you are buying and preferably showing the disc, manual, any other items it includes, and even the underside of the disc or label side of the cart. Unless the item is marked sealed and brand new don’t look at stock images.
Filtering is key to getting the games you want for specific platforms. Let’s start with eBay.
First, make sure you are in the video games category or you will get everything from Sonic mugs to Final Fantasy knock off posters.
I always filter to Buy It Now. Why? Bidding sucks and you usually won’t get a game cheaper than Buy It Now anyways and it just ends up wasting time. You can try it though, but in my experience, I’ve wound up paying more in the end. The filtering works the same on the app so this applies for both.
Next I will filter by Lowest Price+Shipping. Yes, you usually see the crap at the top first, however, this allows you to spot the first complete game on the list with the cheapest asking price.
I then filter by console. With these three filters I’ve usually found exactly what I want in just a couple of minutes. If a game doesn’t exist, let’s say it’s particularly rare, just save the search and eBay will also save the filters you set.
For Mercari there are more steps that are required to filter down to exactly what you want.
The first thing, like eBay, is sort by lowest price first
Next you want to select the video games category
Then make sure to select items for sale otherwise you will see more things that are sold
After this select the platform and not the brand. This is important as most items are sorted by brand correctly and you will miss a lot.
One extra thing you can do on Mercari that you really can’t on eBay is haggle. Always try to get the lowest price you can. Usually this only works for items over $20. Ask for the 20% off and see what the seller comes back with. Mercari is more of a garage sale site and they’re usually more desperate to let things go than on eBay. Seven times out of ten the sellers accept the offer or come back just a bit higher. Just be aware that once the seller accepts the offer your card is charged right away. So don’t go around asking for five different offers because you may wind up with multiple copies and backing out of a sale is much tougher than on eBay in my experience.
You’re probably going to have less luck here as it’s more like Craigslist with local pickups preferred. I have found some great stuff on here, but it requires more scrolling and specific searches. For one, you can’t filter down by platform like on the other two sites.
First, you need to select the category. OfferUp isn’t as smart as the other two sites and will usually search exactly what you typed in.
Then you need to sort by price.
This is where things get janky and weird. Depending on the title of the game you may need to search by platform as well. For example, “motogp 1 playstation” otherwise you will get every single MotoGP game for every system. The more generic the title the more specific you need to be in your search.
Things don’t move as fast on OfferUp so always click the Ask button and ask if the item is still available. I’ve had a few items never ship because the item has been on the site for over a year and the seller probably forgot about it. Also make sure you look at the posting date. The older it is, the less likely the seller will respond.
Why do variants and versions of games matter?
For most of the popular consoles from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft there are usually two separate versions of games and one is worth more than the other. Let’s start with the PlayStation as this where it basically started. This will also mostly apply to NTSC or North American releases. I’m pretty sure these all applied to all regions, but I’m to 100% certain.
PlayStation games also had longbox versions during the first 18 months or so of the system’s life. These are usually worth more as they were a shorter print run or were later released in regular jewel cases. Not all long box PS1 games are expensive, but most are. The majority of these games are made of cardboard kind of like a gift box. There are some that are like Saturn games with the plastic jewel case, then there are the really crappy ones with the long jewel case style but made of cardboard where there is a bit of plastic where the case can close. The top labels are usually peeling off as these are just glued to the plastic doors and look terrible.
PlayStation had a “Greatest Hits” line with a bright green label on the manual. These games are always worth less than the “black label” variant. These Greatest Hits versions sometimes have benefits like fixed bugs, but it’s hard to tell which have these fixed and which don’t unless it was stated by the developer. The black label versions are worth more as these are lower print runs as the game hadn’t garnered the sales it did to become a Greatest Hits title. Here’s the great thing about this. If you don’t care about have a rarer version of a game then the Greatest Hits versions are the way to go. You can usually save a lot of money. Usually these versions were always released at $20 and that still continues today.
Later the next generation had it on all three consoles. GameCube had “Player’s Choice” Xbox had “Platinum Hits” and PlayStation 2 had “Greatest Hits” but in red this time.
The GBA also had “Player’s Choice” but it seemed to only be on first party titles.
The DS completely skipped this and didn’t appear again until the 3DS released with “Nintendo Selects” on later print runs for first party titles only, and the PSP had the same red “Greatest Hits” banner like the PS2 games. The Vita skipped this as well due to the system’s lesser sales.
The next generation of consoles retained this as well. The Wii and Wii U had the same “Nintendo Selects” as the 3DS and was only on first party titles as well. These were also on later print runs that were sold in batches. These are still recent and can be bought new if you can find them.
The Xbox 360 kept the “Platinum Hits” line and the PS3 also had “Greatest Hits”. This was the last time Microsoft would do this. The Platinum Hits banner changes over time as Microsoft was always tweaking the Xbox 360 cover art template, but the PS3 mostly remained the same.
Sony remains the last company to still do these budget title boxes. With physical game sales dwindling there’s no need to lure shoppers to shelves of budget titles anymore. Sony changed there’s to “PlayStation Hits” with the same red banner.
The stickers…my God the stickers
These tend to be collector’s worse nightmares. With jewel case CDs you can just buy new jewel cases in bulk on Amazon. I buy packs of 50 for about $30. But for other cases you can sometimes buy new PS2 or GameCube cases, but these can be expensive as they aren’t manufactured anymore. Some people will buy cheap sports games and reuse the cases and toss the discs. Personally, there’s a special solvent you can use that I have never in my life seen a collector talk about on YouTube or otherwise and that’s Bestine. This is a solvent that stamp collectors use to remove stamps from paper. This stuff dries incredibly fast, but doesn’t stain, have an oil, doesn’t soak through or take off paint or ink. You can buy it on Amazon, Blick, or most art stores and it works wonders.
A lot of people suggest alcohol, WD4D, Goo Gone, and various other things, but it’s always oily, nasty, and requires further cleaning. Bestine doesn’t need any further cleaning after using, and best of all, it doesn’t need hot air on cardboard or anything like that.
Just pour some on a napkin or paper towel and get the sticker nice and saturated and it will start to come away. For thicker stickers or even metal ones you can wait for the soaking process longer. I even took rental labels off of the tops of discs with this stuff. It’s a miracle in a bottle. For plastic stickers you can get an edge up and with a cotton swab just rub along the edge while you pull up to dissolve the adhesive. I trust this stuff on my copy of Clock Tower II that’s worth $450. I took the rental label off the disc and a sticker on the manual, the front cover even, and it looks like nothing happened.
For long box games for Sega CD, Saturn, PlayStation, and 3DO you can buy newly printed cases off Amazon for $60 for about ten. These are really expensive and your best bet is to buy old sports games and reuse the cases. Sadly, these types of cases just aren’t really made anymore and can command a high price.
For jewel cases you can rebuy these, most of the early CD games came in these such as Philips CD-i, Dreamcast, PlayStation, Japanese Saturn games, PC Engine, and almost every other system until the PlayStation 2. but what about the black quad disc PlayStation games or games with two CDs inside? Thankfully you can make a Frankenstein quad disc CD with regular jewel cases and the black quad-CD cases you can find on eBay and Amazon. These cases don’t have the clear inside area for the art and are usually just opaque black. What a lot of people don’t know is that the outside parts of these cases are just the same jewel case bodies, minus the door. You can pop the doors off of two jewel cases and sandwich the black piece in between. Two CD jewel case are still made these days and are easy to buy. Either with the fold-out center piece or a hinged center to get to the second CD.