I remember MK3 very fondly growing up as a kid. I remember seeing ads for it everywhere. Specifically a cardboard standee in a Walmart with the giant logo. My parents had a friend bring the Saturn version over once during a really bad storm. I remember seeing the arcades as well. I wound up renting it for Super Nintendo and had a blast. I mostly loved the much darker and more mature tone the series took. MKII felt more cartoony and stylish while MK3 felt like it pushed the first game’s realism even further.
Sadly does not transfer over to the Game Boy version. I don’t know why they bothered at this point. Probe dropped the ball after the pretty decent MKII and made MK3 just about as bad as the port of the first game. Back are the smaller sprites, sluggish animations, unresponsive controls, and weird speed issues with jumping animations. Animations seem to speed up and slow down making the game just slightly better than a Tiger Electronics version. The control scheme is mostly intact, which isn’t that bad, but we also get the running mode which is useless on such a tiny screen with a low frame rate. A new developer took the helm here and went with a 512K cart this time which still could be bigger. Sure, we get four stages, but they’re ugly and the music sucks too.
Once again, we get quite a few cut characters. Liu-Kang, Stryker, Nightwolf, Kung-Lao, Jax, and Shang Tsung are all missing. That’s nearly half the roster. Every character has their Babality intact, but only a single Fatality and Mercies were kept in. It honestly doesn’t matter with how insanely slow the game plays. It feels like everyone is wading through mud. It’s just so unacceptable at this point as many Game Boy games looked and played so much better.
There is nearly no redeeming value in playing this atrocity. It’s the worst version of the game and at this point, 8-bit versions should have already stopped. We’re almost into 1996. 32-bit systems have been here for a couple of years now. The Game Boy is already almost 7 years old. I can only say this is for people who are curious or are collectors of Mortal Kombat games. Otherwise, stay away.
These two portables were a huge part of my early teen years. I pre-ordered the PSP when I was 14 years old. I used my allowance saved up for 6 months to slap down that $250. I hadn’t been that excited about a piece of hardware in my life. I made a wallpaper (see below) for it, prepped files to transfer to the measly 32MB memory card, and even picked out a case ahead of time. The Nintendo DS was more of an afterthought. I never got excited about it due to the less powerful hardware and then heavily criticized touch screen. People thought it would be full of gimmicky games and lack the essence of what made the Game Boy so great. I’ve owned both of these systems for many years now and have played a good majority of their libraries. I want to break down the categories into hardware, revisions, software, and then various game genres. Most people just pick the best-selling games and compare those, but the systems go deeper than that. Some genres were stronger on one system over another due to their button layout and unique hardware. I am honestly tired of these comparisons: The DS had Zelda and the PSP had God of War. It’s so much more than that.
This is the first thing that you will notice before even picking up the system, so it makes sense right? What system had the more attractive box, better pack-ins, and overall looks? This matters more than people think, especially for the casual gamer who doesn’t do extensive research beforehand or the non-gamers who make a spontaneous purchase.
The PSP overall had a much larger box than the DS. It even showed right up front what it included. You got a hand strap, 32MB Memory Stick Pro Duo for game saves, a UMD demo sampler, wired earbuds with a remote, a soft case, a cleaning cloth, and the system itself. For $250 you saw right there that you got some value for all that money. Not only that but the PSP itself was plastered on the front for all to see. The XMB showed a music, video, game, and photo symbol so you knew this thing could do multimedia. This was the last of the Sony of the ’90s where everything they created had value and they showed right up front what you were getting to entice buyers and it worked.
Unboxing the system felt premium and holding that sleek handheld was an experience I will never forget. It was sleek, and slim, looked futuristic, had a great build quality, and was comfortable in the hand. It was one of the best gaming unboxings of all time and nothing has topped that since.
The Nintendo DS wasn’t super appealing at first glance. The touch screen and the prominent stylus made you think it was a PDA or some sort (PDAs were still a thing back then) so it was confusing. Was it a game system or a personal organizer? The casual observer would be confused. The dual screens didn’t help either further pushing the PDA look. There was no video game shown on the front and the drab gray box was lifeless. There were no pack-ins either with the DS. While it was $100 cheaper than the PSP that sure made it appealing, but you didn’t get anything with it.
When you actually unboxed the system it was bulky, kind of ugly, and the screens weren’t very bright. A far cry from Sony’s bright LCD on the PSP, however, there was no ghosting on the DS like there was with the PSP-1000 model. The speakers sounded good and it had wifi as well, but another appealing factor was the backward compatibility with GameBoy Advance titles. This also acted as a peripheral port too. Great for rumble packs, and anything else you could imagine going in there.
The PSP was the first handheld to be a full multimedia station. This was before smartphones took off, so it was a very popular option for people wanting an MP3, video, photo, and gaming machine all in their pocket. It was fiddly with the videos as they had to be encoded in MP4. The PSP could also play WMA and MP3 files, but not FLAC or WAV. While the PSP could also display photos it seemed pointless without having a camera. While one would come later it was of terrible quality and nothing close to even what the first iPhone had. All of this multimedia stuff was great, but it came at a cost. Memory Stick Pro Duos were very expensive in larger capacities. The one it came with was meant only for game saves and DLC. If you wanted to do anything else you need to get a 64MB one or higher. Forget sticks that were 1GB. These cost hundreds of dollars and took a couple of years before coming down to an affordable price. This was Sony’s future-proofing the system, but it wasn’t appealing to early adopters. I remember my first large memory card was a 512MB and that cost $70 just one year later.
This was essentially where the XMB was born. What we got on the PS3 and PS4 and even a little bit on the PS5. Many Sony Blu-Ray players also used this menu system. It was simple and easy to figure out. Sony would later add comic support, web browsing (which was awful and slow), RSS feeds, and digital TV in Japan. It tried to do it all, but it couldn’t do it all very well. It helped show off the power of the PSP.
What you see is what you get. This is all there was to the DS’s software. This single screen. You could go into the options and set your birthday for certain games to recognize, but that’s about it. There was a simple calendar and analog clock. Pictochat was your only app and you could choose which game slot to play and DS Download Play, but that’s it. The DS didn’t focus on anything else but the games, and for the price, you expected that. I was surprised the DS had a menu system at all of how simplistic the overall design was. There was no need for more expensive memory cards as all games were saved on the game card.
This was the early 2000s. Everything was online or needed to be. The PSP had this in mind right out of the gate with what Sony called “Infrastructure” play or online play. Many launch titles had it, but they also had “Ad-Hoc” play which was wireless local multiplayer. Some games had the ability to play online locally with one UMD which was awesome, but very few games support this. Playing online was as simple as connecting to an access point, but this became impossible when later routers would implement WPA2 wifi security which the PSP did not support. Being able to go on a web browser was neat. Does anyone remember the hidden one in Wipeout Pure? Downloading DLC on a handheld was also really cool. You could later download comics, and RSS feeds, which were ahead of their time. Only smartphones were doing this. However, in the end, it was up to the game to support online play. Sadly, neither system supported a friends list, clans, rankings, or anything like that.
Surprisingly, the DS was capable of the same online play as the PSP, but mostly local wireless was implemented. You could play with up to four players off of one cart if the developers allowed it and even beam demos to your friends. This was utilized more than the PSP, and very few games had online play. The DS suffered from the same security incompatibility as the PSP later on but also had a feature the PSP didn’t have: DS Download Play. You could go to game stores and download demos of games which was really cool. Sadly, due to the lack of a storage option, you could not download or obtain DLC in any way unless it was in the cart and became unlocked by connecting to a server. Overall, the online capabilities of the DS were barely there.
The PSP is technically superior in pretty much every way. A faster CPU and GPU, more RAM, a bigger screen, an external wifi switch, larger physical media capacity, and a few more options. However, the CPU was underclocked for a good year to 222Mhz to save battery life until God of War: Chains of Olympus came out to overclock it to the full 333Mhz. A firmware update was required to even do this which shipped with the game. While the media capacity was larger, a UMD was 1.8 GB compared to a DS cart’s 512MB max capacity. That’s three times larger. This allowed for richer worlds, more content, and better visuals overall. The downside to this was spinning media on a battery. The UMD sucked the battery’s life down and thus games later in the system’s life opted for data installs as the prices of memory cards came down.
The physical design of the PSP while beautiful and ergonomic was also fragile. The system got dust under the plastic lens easily, the LCD could easily crack (I cracked mine only a few months in from just being in my pocket), the UMD drive failed, and while the battery was removable it was a fairly low capacity only giving users around 3-4 hours. The LCD also had serious ghosting issues, but many didn’t notice this as LCD screens were still expensive. While the PSP did a noble job on its first outing it had some serious flaws that were later addressed in newer models.
The DS had lower-powered hardware, but the battery lasted much longer. Getting nearly 8-10 hours on a single charge. There were no spinning media to worry about or a large power-hungry screen. The DS did have smaller screens and while they were clear, the backlight wasn’t that great on the first model. The touch screen was also prone to scratching. So in the screen department, it didn’t do so well. The DS didn’t have a sleep mode like the PSP did. The game had to support going to sleep so you could close the DS up. The DS was built better and felt sturdy however the hinge was a weak point. The stylus was also prone to get lost and when that’s gone you can’t play any games at all. A losable core piece of hardware is a downside.
In the end, they both have their strengths and weaknesses. The DS has lower-powered hardware, but the touchscreen forces gameplay innovation and creativity. The PSP looks sleek, but it is really fragile and the spinning media sucks the battery. You also need expensive proprietary memory cards. With the PSP’s largest strength being processing power, the DS just edges out on everything else.
Handhelds are notorious for hardware revisions. Some give better processing power they are, in the end, built to cost and are meant to be cheaper to produce. Both systems had many revisions with pros and cons. For starters, the PSP’s revision of the PSP-2000 or “Slim and Lite” reduced the screen ghosting by a lot, but made the PSP feel lighter and too cheap. It felt more plastic-like and had fewer metal parts inside. It came in many more colors and bundles but also didn’t come with anything like a value pack. This was just a core model. Sadly, the storage option wasn’t addressed and the battery was surprisingly shrunk down so you got less battery life. The only addition was video output which was nice but made no sense. However, Sony did double the RAM for faster loading times and better web browsing. The D-pad was also slightly improved. That was probably the second greatest addition next to the better screen. It was a modest revision, but nothing spectacular, and didn’t focus on the system’s biggest weaknesses.
Nintendo DS Lite
Nintendo released a strikingly slimmer Nintendo DS Lite. This thing was very sleek and gave off PSP vibes with how slim it was. Like the PSP-2000 not much was addressed. The biggest complaints were the size and chunkiness of the original model and that was taken care of. Brighter screens, a longer-lasting battery, and a longer stylus were added so nearly every issue of the original model was fixed. This is the perfect DS to get if you want GBA compatibility.
In the end, the PSP didn’t address enough of its bigger issues and added features that didn’t enhance the overall experience. While the DS Lite didn’t add anything new it focused on improvement.
The PSP-3000 was sony’s last full-size revision. It had even fewer improvements over the 2000 model only adding the best screen yet with half-reduced pixel response time, more brightness, and a better contrast ratio. However, the parts were cheapened even more and it almost feels like a toy at this point. The component video was added to the video output which is nice I guess. I never understood hooking a handheld up to a TV. It kind of defeats the purpose and it looks ugly. That was it. The lens on the screen reduced glare, but overall with was a severely cost-reduced model and that was clearly the goal. By now the PSP was at its peak and was quickly dropping in sales.
This is where Nintendo took a step back. They removed the GBA slot which rendered all DS accessories useless and had no backward compatibility. Instead, they added two cameras which were awful and pointless. I would have rather kept the GBA slot. We did get a more powerful CPU for the DSi shop and a new home screen. The doubled CPU power was nice and helped with DS games that suffered a slowdown on the previous models. We also got a four times RAM increase, and 256MB of internal storage for the DSiWare games, plus an SD card slot. While the GBA slot was taken away we did get an actual advancement in the software and hardware side of things, unlike the PSP. The last downside was shorter battery life due to the larger screens, increased CPU speed, and a better wifi card.
Sony PSP GO
This was Sony’s final outing and it was a drastic change. They wanted to really push the PlayStation Store by making a digital-only handheld. That’s great and all, but what about all that physical media out there? They promised a program that would allow you to download a digital game if you had the physical one, but there was no way to prove this and prevent piracy. In the end, you had to re-buy everything and this killed sales. They also introduced a new, more expensive, and harder-to-find propriety storage that came in smaller sizes than memory stick pro duos. The memory stick micro or M2 card maxed out at 32GB. Despite this serious downside the new compact slide-out design was reminiscent of phones in the day and was a huge hit with fans. Again, there’s a downside to this. The 4.3″ screen was reduced to 3.8″.
While Bluetooth was added to connect a PS3 controller to play on a TV Sony continued to alienate previous owners by now making the cable proprietary and removing USB support. This was to support the official dock as the PSP could act as an analog clock, MP3 player, and video player, however, this was too late. While it’s a super sleek handheld, and the 16GB of internal storage is a good start it’s not enough. There should have easily been 32GB of internal storage and SD card support. But Sony’s rampant frothing-at-the-mouth drive to deter piracy killed the sales of their system.
Nintendo DSi XL
This is probably the best version of the DS to get overall. It sadly doesn’t improve anything outside of larger screens and better battery life. If you want bigger screens get this. If you want smaller screens, get a DSi. I owned one at one point and loved the larger 3.25″ screens. The system feels heavier but still sleek and well-built. I can’t give this one to Nintendo this time due to how little they changed anything. At least Sony tried to re-design the entire PSP despite its many setbacks.
The power of the PSP was suited for action games. Lots of explosions, fun combat, and the analog nub helped with this. Sadly, the lack of a second stick meant camera control was left to the computer or other buttons. Action games were plenty on the PSP with a lot of bestsellers. Most of Sony’s AAA titles were in this category. While not all of them were knocked out of the park, many showed off the power of the PSP and it set it apart from the DS at least in that way.
Some notable games are the God of War, Syphon Filter, Pursuit Force, Grand Theft Auto, Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Ace Combat,Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Brothers in Arms, Coded Arms, Monster Hunter, God Eater, Killzone, Manhunt, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, Medal of Honor, Metal Gear Solid, Prince of Persia and the list goes on. These were massive franchises and most had the PSPs’ back. If you want to play action games there is no shortage on the PSP.
The DS did have some action games, but the lack of analog control and the stylus made it difficult to port games or stick known franchises on the system. There weren’t many 3D action games as the system was best with 2D platformers and RPGs. We did get a few noteworthy titles such as Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Dementium, Moon, Metroid Prime: Hunters, Call of Duty, Brothers in Arms, Ninja Gaiden, Contra, Okamiden, and LEGO, and that about sums up 3D action titles on the DS. It was slim pickings, and only a few of these titles were amazing.
Due to the PSP’s 3D capabilities racing games were huge on the system. If you were a racing fan this was the system for you. Nearly every major franchise landed on the system. ATV, MX, Burnout, Juiced, Need for Speed, Ridge Racer, Flatout, Split/Second, TOCA Race Driver, Gran Turismo, Wipeout, Outrun, Test Drive, Midnight Club, MotorStorm, Sega Rally, MotoGP, F1, WRC, NASCAR, Hot Wheels,Micro Machines, you name it. Not all of these were fantastic titles, but a lot of these games looked good and felt great on the handheld.
The DS didn’t lack any racing games, but due to the weaker 3D abilities of the system racing games weren’t the first stop for the system. Mario Kart probably dominated that genre single-handedly, but there were some third-party franchises as well. Burnout, Need for Speed, Asphalt, GRID, Sonic Racing, Trackmania, Racer Driver, Moto Racer, Dirt, Juiced, Ridge Racer, Diddy Kong, and a few others. While some of these franchises were also on PSP they were far superior. Some developers created all new experiences on DS over the PSP so they were their own unique games, but the ports weren’t very good and felt slow and boring. While there are a few solid titles on the DS it’s not the go-to genre for this system or its strength.
The PSP was a strong system full of JRPGs. Not many Western ones made it to the system with the biggest being The Elder Scrolls Travels: Oblivion having been canceled. Many franchises, nearly all of the popular ones, made it onto the system both 3D and 2D. Remakes remasters, and one-shots made it onto the system as well. Series like Star Ocean, Final Fantasy, Persona, Kingdom Hearts, Valkyrie Profile, Ys, Lunar, The Legend of Heroes, Crimson Gem Saga, Class of Heroes, Brave Story, Phantasy Star, Dungeon Siege, Untold Legends, Growlanser, Tales of the World, Blade Dancer, and many others. If you notice a lot of these are lesser-known series, and Final Fantasy most dominated the system. There were more RPGs released only in Japan that the West never got. Thankfully some have been translated by fans.
The DS was clearly the strong winter in the RPG department. While it didn’t see hardly any Wester RPGs, JRPGs dominated the system and were one of its strong suits. 2D RPGs and even 3D isometric ones were popular with pretty much every franchise backing the system. Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Mario & Luigi, Pokemon, Dragon Quest, Radiant Historia, Shin Megami Tensei, Lunar Knights, Nostalgia, Etrian Odyssey, Chrono Trigger, Lufia, Golden Sun, Rune Factory, Suikoden, Sonic, Luminous Arc, Phantasy Star, Avalon Code, Digimon, and the list goes on. As you can probably tell Pokemon alone would win this category. But you had Shin Megami Tensei games that weren’t Persona. Unique Final Fantasy games that weren’t remakes or ports. Quite a few one-shot exclusives. Dragon Quest never made it to the PSP, and neither did Suikoden. There’s so much variety here that any JRPG fan will love the DS in this category.
Puzzle games are great in any portable form and every handheld has had a good amount of them. The PSP was no exception with the puzzle rhythm hybrid Lumines being the first on the system. The PSP got a ton of original puzzle games and ports. Some of them are wholly fantastic. Games like echochrome, Lumines, Crush, Exit, Practical Intelligence Quotient, Downstream Panic, Mercury, and others were great games that fit the widescreen of the PSP. There were also a lot of bad puzzle games on PSP, and sadly more than good ones.
The touch screen was just screaming for puzzle games. You can physically manipulate them outside of buttons and it gave the genre a chance to add another dimension. There were so many puzzle games on the DS that it drowned the PSP in comparison. Brain Age, Big Brain Academy, Picross, Meteos, Tetris, Planet Puzzle League, Professor Layton, Henry Hatsworth, Scribblenauts, Peggle, Touchmaster, Polarium, Crosswords, Clubhouse Games, and the list goes on. There weren’t just traditional puzzle games, but word games as well. Sudoku, Crosswords, and many others allowed you to write answers. That’s more than the PSP could. This is a situation where the genre fits the system better here.
The PSP has a hardware advantage here. The system isn’t just stuck with 2D platformers. 3D ones were common on the system, but then another hardware fault bites it in the ass. The lack of a second analog nub means no camera control. This became a widespread problem in the system. 3D platformers were frustrated endeavors and the DS’ lower-powered hardware suddenly could shine because of this. Games like Death Jr., Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, Pac-Man World, Jak & Daxter, Crash Bandicoot, Toy Story, and many others were decent to middling. 3D platformers would have been a huge leg up for the PSP if it just had another analog nub. That’s not to say 2D platformers never made it to the system. Games like LittleBigPlanet, Mega Man, Prinny, Ghost & Goblins, N+, Castlevania, and many others made it to the system and performed better, but there just wasn’t a lot of them. The PSP isn’t anything to sniff at when it comes to platformers, but nothing truly stood out.
With the power of Nintendo’s already strong platformer games and a lot of third-party series the DS really did shine. It didn’t have to worry about clumsy 3D controls either. Games like New Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, Super Princess Peach, Sonic, Kirby, Mega Man, Spider-Man, Castlevania, Wario, The Legendary Starfy, Yoshi, Contra, Aliens, and many others. Super Mario 64 was one of the rare 3D platformers, but it worked well thanks to being tailored for the system. It might kind of feel like there’s cheating here because Nintendo has such a strong presence in the platformer genre, but what’s here is here. While the PSP may have had a larger variety of platformers, the DS had a much stronger sense of quality.
With the advantage of 3D and not needing to really use a camera the sports genre had an advantage here. Sony had their own sports series, plus third-party companies like EA and 2K could throw there’s on here as well. Games like NBA 2K, NBA Street, NFL Street, Tiger Woods, Pangya, Madden, FIFA, Fight Night, Hot Shots, Tony Hawk, WWE, NHL, Virtua Tennis, NBA Live, Pro Evolution Soccer, Football Manager, The Bigs, and the list goes on. There was a massive pouring of sports games on the system of nearly every genre. While a lot of them aren’t very good there is at least one decent title in every series on the system.
Now the DS was interesting when it came to sports titles. Developers had to be creative to put their series on this system due to the lack of 3D horsepower. Series like Tony Hawk were better on the DS (outside of Underground 2 Remix) because of this creativity needed. You also had series like Tiger Woods use the touch screen in unique ways. There were many series on the DS as well like FIFA and Madden, but they weren’t really any good. Nintendo had its own sports series like Mario Hoops, Mario & Sonic, and True Swing Golf, but again, nothing special. Many series were a one-and-done on here like WWE, Skate, Real Soccer, and some others that just didn’t perform well. The DS was a real mixed bag in the sports arena with only a few standout titles. This is where the lack of 3D power hurt despite the unique controls.
Rhythm games during this era weren’t very popular on handhelds in the West. They exploded in the East and you usually had to import them if you wanted the best the systems had to offer. This was mostly the case with the PSP. There was Rock Band Unplugged and Lumines in the West, but Japan, China, and Korea got the likes of Hatsune Miku: Project Diva, DJ Max Portable, K-On, and Pop’n Music. The PSP’s widescreen format was great for rhythm games as it allowed a wide playfield and the number of buttons worked out great. The power of the system also allowed for music videos to play in the background which most rhythm games did.
The DS may not have had the powerful hardware or widescreen format, but the touch screen was a more physical and unique interaction for rhythm games that matched the arcade. Games like Elite Beat Agents, Ontomarama, Rhythm Heaven, Lego Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and many more. There was a much larger Western following thanks to the touch screen, but many of the rhythm games lacked content due to the cartridge’s small size and no way to download DLC. A lot of the DS rhythm games were more experimental and thus many didn’t review them as well as PSP rhythm games. Guitar Hero was fine, but the grip controller cramped your hands. There were also more consistent franchises on PSP with yearly releases, but the downside was needing to import.
The power of the PSP allowed for great 3D fighters and many jumped ship from their console cousins. Franchises like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken, Dragon Ball Z, BlazBlue, SouCalibur, and many more made it onto the PSP. At least one entry in every major fighting franchise made it over and most were original titles. That’s not to say a majority reviewed well. Most of the 3D fighters reviewed with middling scores, and this was mainly due to the PSP’s not-so-ideal D-pad for fighting games. Despite the less-than-desirable score average, they made it onto the system nonetheless and many gamers ate them up.
The DS had some major franchises make it over like Mortal Kombat, Guilty Gear, Dragon Ball Z, Bleach, and Naruto, but it wasn’t as vast as the PSP. The DS was even less ideal for fighting games due to a lack of analog input, and the DS’ D-pad wasn’t much better. Some games added a touchscreen swipe system, but these just never felt the same. Sadly, the lack of power meant 3D fighters suffered, and 2D fighters looked squished on the small screen.
Well, despite this seeming like a competition each system has its strengths and weaknesses and some might play better to what you want over others. Some may only play RPGs on handheld so the DS would be the best system for you. Some may want more multimedia features so the PSP would be the way to go. While in the comparisons the PSP seems to have a stronger library it only seems that way at first. A lot of PSP games didn’t review as well as DS games on average. The lack of first-party support with Sony not releasing as many games as Nintendo did on the DS and the DS’ lack of power and unique controls forced developers to make games from the ground up. The PSP received a lot worse PS2 ports and movie tie-ins than the DS did. The PSP’s power was also a crutch that many developers leaned heavily on and it didn’t pay off most of the time. Each system is worthy in your collection, but this contrast and comparison may help those who are on the fence in one area or another.
Many people use video game reviews to determine how to spend their hard-earned dollars. While as an adult I don’t take this as seriously and I now make my own money I am more forgiving of games that aren’t perfect. As kids or teens, we have limited money and are usually picked through gaming magazines to determine if that one game was worth the money because we only got a few a year. For me, it was only during Christmas time that my parents bought games. I mostly rented mine throughout my childhood and teen years. Even for rentals, I was picky as I didn’t want to be stuck on my weekend with a dud of a game. Even a 7/10 or 3.5/5 would be considered a waste of time. This was the last generation in which AAA title after AAA title would be considered fantastic and with so many exclusives it was hard to keep up with. The HD era of gaming would see budgets balloon to insane heights and game releases slowed down as a result.
In my eyes, 7/10 or 3.5/5 games are mostly ignored. These aren’t always considered hidden gems either. Some are, but some are just considered forgettable. Not awful or good, but just passes under everyone’s radar. These aren’t the “so bad it’s good” games either. A few of these games have cult followings; a few I had only heard of while compiling this list and some I played myself growing up. I compiled this list from Metacritic with games between 74-70. I feel that’s the true blue 7 range. 79 and 78-rated games usually only have about 25% of the critics giving it a 7 to bring an otherwise 8 score down some. These games are at least rated by half the critics as 7/10. While I know many people don’t listen to critics and some might feel this game should be rated higher or lower is subjective. Like it or not, critic reviews drive sales and it may be the reason why you might find a few games on this list you’ve never heard of, thought was talked about worse than you remember, or something along those lines
Chili Con Carnage – 2007
While not as good as the PS2 entry, playing this frantic shooter was marred by clumsy controls and camera, but it isn’t horrible. It does feel dated and formulaic even at the time of release, however. This would be the final game in the series.
Every Extend Extra – 2006
While visually pretty and fun at first, the game doesn’t have enough content or gameplay elements to throw at your to keep you busy for very long. If you like Geometry Wars or other bite-sized shooters that don’t do much other than throw challenging enemies at you then this is for you.
Most Recent Entry: E4: Every Extend Extra Extreme – 2007 (X360)
ClaDun x2 – 2011
You have to really love old-school 16-bit JRPGs to like this game. The story is mostly not there, but the game offers fun RPG elements with cute pixel art. Pretty simple. It also doesn’t do anything new over its predecessor.
Most Recent Entry: ClaDun Returns: This is Sengoku! – 2017 (PS4, VITA, PC)
FlatOut: Head On – 2008
Compared to being too close to Burnout, FlatOut does offer a smattering of content and a great sense of speed. It may be simple and might get boring for some, but it’s one of the better racers on the system.
Most Recent Entry: Fl4tOut: Total Insanity – 2017 (PC, PS4, XONE)
Patapon 3 – 2011
The third and final game in the series was met with less fanfare than before. The game focused less on what made Patapon special and more on new features. It was starting to stray from what people liked so much. It’s still not a bad game, and if you never played the series you will be in for tons of charm and beautiful graphics.
Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower – 2004
A fantastic launch title marred by the PSP D-Pad. Many felt the classic game was hindered by this and required third-party solutions to go over the D-Pad. If you play this on the Vita it’s a bit better. It’s still a good-looking and solid fighter on the system. Especially for being the first-ever PSP fighter available.
Most Recent Entry: Darkstalkers: Resurrection – 2013 (PS3, X360)
Need for Speed Underground Rivals – 2005 Need for Speed: Most Wanted 5-1-0 – 2005
If you’re okay with uneven framerate, awkward controls, and rubberband AI then Rivals is for you. Bringing the franchise to the PSP was expected, but it was only the first outing on the system. Most Wanted looked great and had a good sense of speed but lacked variety in race types and overall content.
Most Recent Entry: Need for Speed Unbound – 2022 (PC, PS5, XSX)
Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake – 2010
A great addition to the PS3 version with great multiplayer. Sadly, the levels weren’t as big and single-player AI wasn’t that fun. I remember playing this and losing a lot because of how bad the AI was. It’s still a fun title on the system.
Most Recent Entry: Fat Princess Adventures – 2015 (PS4)
Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony – 2006
The best dungeon crawler on the system at the time, and sadly none of them ever achieved greatness. This one was fun and did everything you’d like albeit in the simplest form. Dungeon-crawling fans would still find over a dozen hours of fun content here.
Most Recent Entry: Dungeon Siege III – 2011 (PC, PS3, X360)
Power Stone Collection – 2006
A serviceable port of the Dreamcast games. Sadly, there was no online play which really irked gamers, and it was a straight-up port. No extras, no new visuals, nothing. If you loved the originals this is all you got. Sadly, it was the last entry to be seen in the series.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3 – 2010
The best in the PSP trilogy, and if you only play one game play this one. While the series didn’t evolve much from the PS2 games, it still was the best online shooter for the system. Improved controls, visuals, and overall design. It’s one of the best shooters on the system period.
Most Recent Entry: SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs – 2011 (PS3)
One of the most anticipated games on the system, and many gave up after a few years. This was one of the most exciting games I could imagine on the system. It was rumored to be a launch title and then kept getting pushed back more and more due to the focus of Gran Turismo 5. It was finally released…but it felt like, “Here, take what we have so far. That’s all you’re getting” and gave up. The game looks phenomenal and runs well, but it lacks a career mode. The biggest disappointment to the game was a huge blow. Many didn’t even bother picking it up because of that. It was arcade-style modes with a racing sim.
Most Recent Entry: Gran Turismo 7 – 2022 (PS4, PS5)
Star Ocean: First Departure – 2008
Westerners didn’t get the first SNES outing so it was brought back on the PSP. Sadly, it feels dated and may only appeal to diehard fans or those who love 16-bit JRPGs. There weren’t any extras or improvements outside of some 3D-generated backdrops.
Most Recent Entry: Star Ocean: The Divine Force – 2022 (PC, NS, PS4, PS5, XONE, XSX)
Infected – 2005
Despite the interesting concept of infecting other players online, it was incredibly repetitive and not worth the $40 asking price. This was among the first generation of PSP titles to release so it also didn’t look that good either. It’s fast-paced arcade fun for a couple of hours and that’s about it.
PQ2: Practical Intelligence Quotient – 2007
Part of the Intelligent Cube line of games by Professor Koyasu, and the final game in the series, test your IQ with hundreds of puzzles. The game feels nostalgic, especially to those that are fans of his games, but the presentation is really lacking and of no excuse for a more modern system.
Summon Night 5 – 2015
This was released for the PSP in 2015 if you can believe it. It’s one of the last games to ever be released in the West on the system. The story is great, so that’s good for those who want that in their SRPGs, but the combat is tedious and there’s no exploration. It’s just one battle after another with the story in between.
Most Recent Entry: Summon Night 6: Lost Borders – 2016 (PS4, VITA)
Bomberman – 2006
Despite playing like your typical Bomberman there’s not much here. It’s a port of an older arcade game with no extras and only local wireless play. Online functionality could have gone a long way and maybe some updated visuals. If you like classic Bomberman than look no further.
Most Recent Entry: Amazing Bomberman – 2022 (MAC, iOS)
What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord?! 2 – 2010
A great sequel with a fun sense of dark humor, but the steep learning curve wasn’t dialed back from the first game. If you love 16-bit-looking arcade titles that require a lot of dedication to master than this is for you.
Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice – 2008
A bombastic scripted arcade title full of high-speed chases and explosions. This is a solid series on the PSP, but it never got a lot of love and this would be it. There’s improvement here, the visuals are better, and the story is entertaining if simple, but it’s over before you know it with no real replay value.
Namco Museum Battle Collection – 2005
A great collection of games for a decent price. Taking these on the go without being dumbed down was a first and the PSP was a great handheld to have these on. There weren’t many extras and the staying power would depend on how much you love 8-bit games.
Most Recent Entry: Namco Museum Archives Vol. 2 – 2020 (PC, NS, PS4, XONE)
Yggdra Union: We’ll Never Fight Alone – 2008
A port of the GBA game and part of the loosely connected Dept. Heaven series from Atlus. This was sadly just a straight-up port. There were no enhancements or features added. While it is the best way to play thanks to the voice acting that was added, the strategy is simple so this isn’t for hardcore SRPG fans.
Hammerin’ Hero – 2009
A fun rhythm-style platformer that wasn’t too difficult. Sadly, control issues marred the game, and it would be the last one in the series. It’s still really cute and has a lot of charm.
Gun: Showdown – 2006
A surprising reworking of the game specifically for PSP. The open world is cut for large areas and bite-sized missions plus fun multiplayer offerings. It’s not perfect as it looks rather ugly and has some control issues, but overall it’s the closest to a portable Red Dead Redemption we’ll ever get.
LocoRoco: Midnight Carnival – 2009
Being the third outing on the PSP everyone was kind of done with this series. It was still charming, but that fully wore off on most people by now. It was also a download-only title so it went under a lot of people’s radar.
Most Recent Entry: LocoRoco: Remastered – 2017 (PS4)
Being the last and final game in the series it’s surprising how little has changed. It has the classic sense of speed and gameplay, but the boring missions and plain visuals don’t help. This is mostly for diehard fans.
Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron – 2007
It’s awesome that this series came to PSP at all. Sadly, the game looks pretty ugly and has a short single-player campaign. These games are best played online and the servers are long dead. If you can get some friends together it’s a blast.
Most Recent Entry: Star Wars Battlefront II – 2017 (PC, PS4, XONE)
Capcom Classic Collection Remixed – 2006
Many complained about the D-Pad not working well for this game and the screen blue (the original PSP-1000 model had it pretty bad) made the game unenjoyable for some. If you can play it on a newer PSP model or even the Vita then you will have a better time.
Mostly an irrelevant entry today, the game had repetitive missions and hadn’t advanced the series at all. It was great for diehard fans, but the barrier to entry was still really high. Still, the multiplayer was where it was at. The game did suffer from long load times as well.
A fun and charming puzzle game if void of any personality. The puzzles are really challenging and the game is easy to learn, but some puzzles may cause you to throw your PSP. This was an early puzzle offering that sadly only got one sequel.
Most Recent Entry: Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri – 2006 (PS2)
Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero? – 2009
You couldn’t be a PSP owner without hearing about this game. This was considered one of the hardest platformers ever made at the time. Everyone also ate up the humor which is still great today. While the series has improved and still lives on today, this first entry was either loved or hated just like Dark Souls. You loved masochist games or just didn’t.
Most Recent Entry: Prinny 2: Dawn of the Operation Panties, Dood! – 2020 (NS)
Kingdom of Paradise – 2005
Don’t come for the story. The game also looks pretty generic, but the combat is fun and it was an early title for the system. One of the only RPGs at the time. It’s not the best on the system, but it’s unique and sadly never got a sequel.
Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins – 2006
Fans of the series will love to know that this is still hard as balls, but there were difficulty settings added for newcomers as well. It’s great to go through this on easier difficulties to learn the levels and then ramp it up. It didn’t advance the series at all, but it’s still a lot of fun.
Most Recent Entry: Ghosts ‘n Goblins: Resurrection – 2021 (PC, NS, PS4, XONE)
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Tactical Strike – 2007
The black sheep of the series. A slower more strategic approach makes sense in handheld form with limited controls. This plays kind of like Full Spectrum Warrior. Strategy fans had another series to get into while long-term fans loathed the slower approach and lack of direct control. It’s a great game that could have been better with refinement in further sequels. It sadly didn’t sell very well.
Most Recent Entry: SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs – 2011 (PS3)
Medal of Honor Heroes – 2006
At this point in time, everyone was tired of the WWII FPS craze. Heroes didn’t advance the series at all, and in fact, dialed it back by giving us linear and short missions to complete. It was a very short game but had awesome online multiplayer which was quite popular at the time. It also looked really good. Just don’t expect anything ground breaking for the genre or series.
Most Recent Entry: Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond – 2020 (PC)
Ace Combat: Joint Assault – 2010
It’s Ace Combat all right, and it’s mostly safe and sometimes boring for the wrong type of person. If you want your plane sim on the go then look no further. Just don’t expect it to innovate or excite.
Believe it or not, the entire series started here. This Monster Hunter clone is best played with others, but it doesn’t offer much new in the genre. If the anime or manga appeal to you then go for it. Fans of Monster Hunter might not find enough freshness here.
Most Recent Entry: God Eater 3 – 2018 (PC, PS4, NS)
One of the most anticipated games on the system and the last big AAA title ever released for it. It was also one of the biggest disappointments. Long-time Parasite Eve fans were expecting an atmospheric horror title but what we got was the frantic, repetitive, and chaotic shooter. It’s pretty to look at, but the story is confusing and the gameplay requires patience. It’s not for everyone.
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble – 2009
This weird and zany Japanese beat ’em up had lots of humor and looked decent, but the combat was slow and it was really short. If you liked God Hand you will like this game. Just expect some clunkiness in all its systems.
Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground – 2007
Don’t come into this expecting excitement. You create your own loot dungeon, pick your mobs, and go in and smash everything down. It’s plain, dry, and might be dull for anyone who isn’t heavily into JRPGs. Also, don’t expect any kind of interesting story. It’s a unique game, but it won’t be for everyone.
Most Recent Entry: Master of the Monster Lair – 2008 (DS)
GripShift – 2005
A unique twist of Super Monkey Ball meets stunt cars. The insane trial and error needed is a love-or-hate-it situation. If you hate those kinds of puzzles you will detest this game. It’s fast-paced and looks good and has been ported to newer systems over time.
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes – 2007
A fun fighter on the PSP without needing to be a Naruto fan. You also only need one copy of the game to play with others. It’s not very deep, and it may not hold your attention for long, but it’s fine.
Most Recent Entry: Naruto X Boruto Ninja Tribes – 2020 (AND, iOS)
Dragon Ball Z: Shin Budokai – 2006
Not very deep or as flashy but with a large roster and a friend you were sure to have a good time. Non-DBZ fans may not find much here, but it at least got the feeling right.
Most Recent Entry: Dragon Ball: The Breakers – 2022 (PC, NS, PS4, XONE)
Mortal Kombat: Unchained – 2006
The port of Deception had a lot of hype around it. It included all of the content and nothing was cut except a single fight style for every character. What we did get was a lazy port. Compressed audio, muddy visuals, and no online play. Yeah, the biggest blow to this game was the lack of online play that the PS2 version had. It’s still a solid 3D fighter, but if you didn’t like this era of MK games it won’t change your mind.
Wild West games blew up in the mid-2000s. Games like Read Dead Revolver and Call of Juarez really pushed the genre forward. Gun was a highly anticipated open-world game that was being watched by Grand Theft Auto fans. I remember reading about this game in magazines leading up to its release and being disappointed with how linear and simple it was. You play Colt White who is just living day-to-day life with his father, Ned White when he dies and you get sent on a mission to avenge him which leads to a road of greed and death. The story is really simple and short. It’s honestly very one-dimensional, but the voice acting is solid with major actors like Tom Skerret and Ron Perlman.
The majority of the game is made up of shooting. As the title implies, guns are the main focus of the game. You have an array of weapon types such as six-shooters, lever-action rifles, sniper rifles (bolt-action), melee, throwables, and bows. You slowly unlock these weapons as you play the story and you can also upgrade them at the shopkeep. You can acquire more gold by finding it out in the wild or completing side missions. Side missions are the second bulk of the game ranging from bounties, poker games, and overall just shooting up more bad guys. There’s no variation in mission type outside of the names. In the end, you’re killing someone or rescuing a horse.
Horseback riding is a major gameplay element here and it’s done surprisingly well for the time. They’re treated kind of like cars in GTA. They have health meters which are also tied to stamina. Overwork your horse and it will die. You can trample enemies with the horse which is great for clearing out large groups, and they are needed to travel between the two towns. This is one disappointment I have with the game. It’s surprisingly linear and the open-endedness is an illusion. This is just one large map full of brown dust, canyons, a couple of rivers, and a meadow. The game is very dull and void of any life, unlike GTA which feels vibrant and constantly moving. There’s just the wind and twanging background music playing. The towns maybe have three or four people walking around and there are no interiors to speak of. It’s a very empty world indeed.
I highly recommend just blowing through the story mode in the 4-5 hours it takes and forgoing most upgrades. Despite having this shop system they are pretty much pointless. Sure, it helps to have more damage or quicker reloads, but the quickdraw allows you to kind of cheat and constantly use it as long as you’re killing enemies to refill it. Empty the meter. Shoot about five enemies, and empty it again. I never really saw the need for most of the upgrades. This will alleviate the pain of completing these dull side missions.
The shooting in Gun is mostly stiff and awkward. It’s not amazing. There is a sticky auto-aim and you can aim down your sights with rifles, but the camera zooms too far in and you can’t follow anyone up close. Stealth is pretty much pointless outside of a single-story mission because enemies can somehow see and hear you a mile away. The explosives were surprisingly useless as well. Enemies can stand just in front or behind an explosion and they aren’t affected. This is really terrible. There are some missions that have you mounting a cannon and you have to hit everything dead on. There is no splash damage for explosions in this game. It makes no sense.
Overall, the game is very linear, ugly, and pretty repetitive. The side missions don’t add any variation, the upgrade system can be skipped entirely, and the open world is void of life. The only redeeming value of this game is the great voice acting, many cut-scenes, and short length. The story isn’t even anything noteworthy either and the same goes for the characters. With the short length, they have no time to expand or grow on us. We get no backstory. Just the here-and-now and that means nothing when characters die. I would only recommend this game if you’re itching for a Western game and need to go back in time, but this game really did not live up to the hype upon release.
Many people use video game reviews to determine how to spend their hard-earned dollars. While as an adult I don’t take this as seriously and I now make my own money I am more forgiving of games that aren’t perfect. As kids or teens, we have limited money and are usually picked through gaming magazines to determine if that one game was worth the money because we only got a few a year. For me, it was only during Christmas time that my parents bought games. I mostly rented mine throughout my childhood and teen years. Even for rentals, I was picky as I didn’t want to be stuck on my weekend with a dud of a game. Even a 7/10 or 3.5/5 would be considered a waste of time. Throughout the early 2000s, I had a PS2 exclusively and I was stuck with that system. This was the last generation in which AAA title after AAA title would be considered fantastic and with so many exclusives it was hard to keep up with. The HD era of gaming would see budgets balloon to insane heights and game releases slowed down as a result.
In my eyes, 7/10 or 3.5/5 games are mostly ignored. These aren’t always considered hidden gems either. Some are, but some are just considered forgettable. Not awful or good, but just passes under everyone’s radar. These aren’t the “so bad it’s good” type of games either. A few of these games have cult followings while a few I had only heard of while compiling this list and some I played myself growing up. I compiled this list from Metacritic with games between 74-70. I feel that’s the true blue 7 range. 79 and 78-rated games usually only have about 25% of the critics giving it a 7 to bring an otherwise 8 score down some. These games are at least rated by half the critics as 7/10. While I know a lot of people don’t listen to critics and some might feel this game should be rated higher or lower is subjective. Like it or not, critic reviews drive sales and it may be the reason why you might find a few games on this list you’ve never heard of, thought was talked about worse than you remember, or something along those lines.
Radiata Stories – 2005
This game was liked for its sense of humor and almost parody of the genre, but the weak story and repetitive side quests brought the game down some. The series would see a spiritual successor on the DS.
Most Recent Entry: Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology – 2017 (3DS)
Smash Court Tennis: Pro Tournament – 2002 Smash Court Tennis: Pro Tournament 2 – 2004
The game was liked for its realism and decent visuals but was let down by a lack of content. It had a lot of different shot types and a fun career mode, but that’s about it. It wasn’t as good as Virtua Tennis or Mario Tennis. After three entries Namco scrapped the series.
The game was praised for its imaginative design and graphics, but it felt like a bit of a chore to play sometimes. All around rough around the edges, but charming enough to keep you engaged.
EverQuest Online Adventures – 2003
This era of console MMOs had growing pains. Consoles finally had broadband access but lacked storage space to store large open worlds and stream them. While Final Fantasy XI saw major success others wanted to cash in on that. EverQuest was a valiant attempt, but felt dumbed down and streamlined with repetitive quests. The servers shut down in 2012, but you can still play with fan servers.
Genji: Dawn of the Samurai – 2005
Being released late in the console’s life meant people expected great things out of the system. Genji looked good but felt rough around the edges and slightly clunky. It didn’t do any one thing particularly well, but it wasn’t bad either. The series would see one final entry to show the power of the PS3 and that would be lights out for the series due to poor sales.
Most Recent Entry: Genji: Days of the Blade – 2006 (PS3)
Steambot Chronicles – 2006
A very late release on the PS2, Steambot was praised for its customization, but it was brought down by the molasses pace of the game and everything is rolled out at a snail’s pace. The sequel would be canceled and only a smaller portable version would be released later.
Most Recent Entry: Steambot Chronicles: Battle Tournament – 2008 (PSP)
Tourist Trophy – 2006
Being released so late on the PS2, Polyphony Digital had mastered the hardware. This was the Gran Turismo of superbikes and was a one-shot project for the team. It was praised for its visuals and insanely good physics but had a really steep learning curve even Gran Turismo enthusiasts scoffed at.
Armored Core 3 – 2002 Armored Core: Nexus – 2004
Armored Core‘s home was on PlayStation. The series would see stumbles along the way. The game was praised for its hardcore mech mechanics, but had a steep learning curve and didn’t have a good sense of scale compared to games like MechWarrior. This continued throughout the series alienating new comers and not adding much outside of customization. It would see its final entry in 2013 and hasn’t been seen in the last decade.
Most Recent Entry: Armored Core: Verdict Day – 2013 (PS3, X360)
Way of the Samurai – 2002
Way of the Samurai was well-liked for its story, but had a very low budget and felt clunky and rough through every release. It would get three more sequels before being shelved for the last decade.
Most Recent Entry: Way of the Samurai 4 – 2012 (PS3, PC)
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner – Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army – 2006
The Devil Summoner sub-series of SMT is considered the most hardcore. This game was praised for its world-building and atmosphere, but of course, the barrier to entry was high thanks to its incredible difficulty. It also had a boring combat system and overall mediocre game mechanics.
The Atelier series has a huge fan base. There have been over a dozen games in the series and are continuing to be released to this day. Eternal Mana was praised for its alchemical mixing gameplay but had repetitive missions and too much backtracking for most people’s liking.
Most Recent Entry: Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream – 2022 (PS4, PC)
Kessen II – 2001 Kessen III – 2005
The Kessen series was the thinker’s Dynasty Warriors. The third and final entry in the series gave you direct control of your troops in battle, but it was criticized for being reduced to silly button-mashing. The second game was praised for its story, but just felt clunky and had too many mistakes. It’s an interesting series to go back to, however, be warned that the game gets repetitive quick and requires some patience.
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2 – 2007
IN 2007 there were few people still holding on to their PS2s and Ultimate Ninja 2 was late to the party. It felt last-gen, it had a generic feeling of combat, and despite its huge roster, gamers were ready for the next-gen Naruto fighting game. The series would continue for years until its final entry in 2016.
Most Recent Entry: Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 – 2016 (PS4, XONE, PC, NS)
Pride FC: Fighting Championships – 2003
THQ was kind of cannibalizing its own sales for the UFC series. Pride FC was the only game and was praised for its gritty realism, but lacked content.
Sled Storm – 2002
When you saw that EA Sports BIG logo it meant quality. These were some of the best sports games to ever be released. Sadly, Sled Storm was constantly compared to SSX and felt dated due to kind of being a remaster of the PS1 game. It’s still a lot of fun but feels like an early PS2 title.
Formula One 2001 – 2001
Sony’s hat into the F1 arena was a successful one. It was constantly praised as having the best physics engine out of the genre, but the series took a long time to gain its footing. This was an early PS2 title so the visuals weren’t very impressive since it was a cross-gen title with the PS1. The series would go on for some time and die on the PS3.
Most Recent Entry: Formula 1: Championship Edition – 2007 (PS3)
Lumines Plus – 2007
While no game in the series has been bad, releasing a PSP game two years late on a system that already received a next-gen release is a bad move. Lumines Plus didn’t add any new content and was already two years old at this point. If you had a PSP or Xbox 360 then this wasn’t worth picking up.
Most Recent Entry: Lumines Remastered- 2018 (NS, PS4, PC, XONE)
Super Bust-A-Move 2 – 2002
While not an inherently bad game, the series was growing stale at this point. It didn’t add anything new to the mix as the formula is already perfect. If you owned any previous version you had no reason to buy another unless you wanted more levels.
Most Recent Entry: Bust-A-Move: Journey – 2017 (AND, iOS)
Cold Winter – 2005
This was one of those cult classic types of games. PS2-exclusive shooters were never really amazing due to the limited hardware needed to top the Xbox and PC, but they really tried. At this point, the game felt dated visually and gameplay-wise. It was praised for its spy theme and great voice acting, but the corridor shooter felt dated compared to Halo 2.
Wild Arms Alter Code: F – 2005 Wild Arms 5 – 2007
Remakes aren’t a new phenomenon. Alter Code: F was a remake of the PS1 classic, but didn’t bring anything new, especially for how late it was released in the console’s life. RPGs were evolving fast and this was left in the dust. Wild Arms 5 felt repetitive and tiresome at this point despite the fun characters and story. The series would get one final entry on the PSP in 2007.
Most Recent Entry: Wild Arms XF – 2007 (PSP)
Xenosaga II: Episode II – Jenseits von Gut und Bose – 2005
Xenosaga is considered one of the best RPG series on the system, but the second game was radically different. It was half the length of the first game but felt like an anime movie rather than a game. The combat system was dumbed down and overall felt like a weird experiment that turned a lot of people away and many didn’t pick up the third game because of this.
Most Recent Entry: Xenosaga: Episode III – Also Sprach Zarathrusta – 2006 (PS2)
The rhythm game plague of the mid-2000s was a nightmare. We had some solid entries, but a lot of cashing in. The DDR franchise was no exception as it found its home on the PS2 for many years until finally dying on the Wii in 2011. SuperNOVA was criticized for focusing on party play over single-player gameplay and fell flat due to this. If you played one game in the series you’ve played them all.
Most Recent Entry: Dance Dance Revolution II – 2011 (Wii)
ESPN Winter X-Games Snowboarding – 2000
A very early title for the system means it didn’t look too impressive. It was praised for its realistic physics, but it lacked content overall. The Xtreme Sports era of the late 90s to early 2000s was beaten to death and peaking at this point. It would go on to receive one more game in the series before being axed.
SingStar 90s – 2007 SingStar Pop – 2007 SingStar Pop Vol. 2 – 2008 SingStar Queen – 2009
Oh man, I remember this series during the rhythm game plague. I had a girlfriend at the time seriously into these games and I just didn’t get it. I was a shy kid who never sang. A lot of games ranged from great to average. None of them were ever bad, but what else can you do with just a mic? These four games were probably the most mediocre of the bunch and seeing as they came out long after the PS2’s life those who were still hanging on were the type to buy these games on a yearly basis. These games were critiqued for not capturing the era/genre they were inspired by and fell flat in that regard. The series finally died off about five years ago.
Most Recent Entry: SingStar Celebration – 2017 (PS4)
Lethal Skies II – 2003
Not quite up to the quality that was Ace Combat,Lethal Skies switched developers with every entry and fell flat in a lot of aspects. It was liked for its content and visuals but felt just average with basic mission types and nothing very exciting. It also had a slow sense of speed compared to Ace Combat. Due to poor sales, this would be the final game in the series.
Gungriffon Blaze – 2000
Always compared to MechWarrior, Gungriffon saw a small spattering of fans, but this early PS2 title didn’t look too hot. It only had five missions so it was over in a couple of hours. This really hurt the game outside of the overall solid gameplay. It would see one final entry exclusive to the Xbox.
Most Recent Entry: Gungriffon: Allied Strike – 2004 (Xbox)
Shadow Hearts – 2001
A much-beloved series that was home on the PS2. The first game had some interesting gameplay with its Judgement Ring system, but it had a shallow story and uninteresting characters. This would later be improved in the sequels. It received two sequels and hasn’t been seen since.
Most Recent Entry: Shadow Hearts: From the New World – 2005 (PS2)
EyeToy: Groove – 2003 EyeToy: AntiGrav – 2004
The birth of motion control craze was born on the PS2. Sony released the EyeToy which was an average device that required bright lights to work. I had only AntiGrav and was most impressed when it did work. Some games were fun and some weren’t. Groove felt really slow and AntiGrav lacked a combo system. Very average, but playable. The whole series died off long after the PS3 came out.
Most Recent Entry: EyeToy Play: PomPom Party – 2008 (PS2)
God Hand – 2005
This is another cult classic. There are many fans of this game due to the studio behind it. Clover Studio is known for Okami and all of their games oozed charm and originality. God Hand was just clunky and rough around the edges, but the over-the-top action and humor reeled some players in.
Soul Nomad & The World Eaters – 2007
A very late release from NIS, Soul Nomad was considered Disgaea for babies. It also emphasized room strategy over combat and many didn’t like that. It at least had a lot of charm and has a small dedicated following. It was later released in 2021 with an HD upgrade.
Primal – 2003
Primal has a huge following and had a lot of hype behind it. It was a AAA story-driven game that was praised for its characters and story but was a confusing mess of lock and key puzzles and gameplay that was mostly uninteresting. It’s not a bad game but didn’t live up to the hype.
Star Wars: Racer Revenge – 2002
Racer Revenge was a highly anticipated sequel to the above-average pod racer. Sadly, the game felt, sounded, and look dated from the start. It felt fast and controlled well, but that was about it. It was later released for PS4 in 2016.
Tribes: Aerial Assault – 2002
Tribes have a large fan base. The open map FPS multiplayer shooter was a huge success. It tried to achieve the same thing on consoles and Aerial Assault got the job done. It looked great and felt like Tribes, but the lack of online play and voice chat meant couch competitions were needed. The series would see its final entry a decade ago.
Most Recent Entry: Tribes: Ascend – 2012 (PC)
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs: Combined Assault – 2006
At this point in time, the PS3 was around the corner and the SOCOM series was exhausted. The first three games were great, and it was still a fun multiplayer shooter. In fact, it was the only shooter that was popular online on PS2 that could match Halo numbers. Combined Assault felt like an expansion to the third game and only included 10 maps. It didn’t do anything really new. The series would finally come to an end in 2011.
Most Recent Entry: SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs – 2011 (PS3)
Bujingai: The Forsaken City – 2004
A one-shot action adventure that star the Japanese musician Gakt. I actually played this one myself and while it oozed style it didn’t match the smooth controls of Devil May Cry. It was a clunky game with poor-level design. It looked good but fell flat everywhere including a nearly non-existent story.
Siren – 2004
I personally love any horror game from the 90s and mid-2000s. There’s a certain charm that lets the clunky gameplay work with the scares. Siren had the scares and interesting story, but the course the clunkfest it was and its slow pace scared gamers away. It would later get a better-received episodic sequel.
Most Recent Entry: Siren: Blood Curse – 2008 (PS3)
The Getaway – 2003
The Getaway was a AAA-hyped-up blockbuster with a cinematic story. While the story wasn’t anything special, the acting was praised and the gameplay was ambitious. It just wasn’t much fun to play. It felt stiff and overly serious in places. It also pushed the PS2 way too hard. It belonged on the Xbox. Surprisingly, the sequel faired a bit better, but the series died after that.
Most Recent Entry: The Getaway: Black Monday – 2004 (PS2)
Ys: The Ark of Napishtim– 2003
Ys is an RPG that needs no introduction. It’s one of the most beloved series out there. The Ark of Napishtim was a highly anticipated sequel but fell flat due to its short length and formulaic gameplay. It’s not bad, but nothing groundbreaking, and didn’t push the series forward. It later got a remaster on PSP.
This was an expansion of the original game and it was never released on Xbox. Asking full price for a game that came out 6 months prior made people turn away. However, the series lives on to this day and is an incredibly popular Musou game.
Having released late into the PS2’s life, the Tales Of series trucked on. Many games in the series are all over the place, but by this point the series was growing formulaic and stale and fans wanted a refresh of the series. It still lives on to this day.
Most Recent Entry: Tales of Arise – 2021 (PS4, PC, PS5, XONE, XSX)
Silpheed: The Lost Planet – 2000
Silpheed didn’t get too many games, but the PS2 entry was praised for its stunning visuals, but lacked exciting gameplay to follow. Many kept saying it felt better in the arcades than at home. The series got one final entry as a paltry mobile game in 2011.
Most Recent Entry: Silpheed Alternative AM – 2011 (AND)
Super Dragon Ball Z – 2005 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi – 2005
The Dragon Ball Z series was a yearly mega-hit and still is. These two games were PS2 exclusives and offered a great cast and the feeling of the show, but lacked gameplay, variety, and depth.
Most Recent Entry: Dragon Ball: The Breakers – 2022 (PC, NS, XONE, XSX, PS4)
Legend of Kay – 2005
Legend of Kay has a cult following. It was a light-hearted mascot platformer of the day but felt like it was geared toward kids too much and had an awful performance and camera. The Anniversary release is a bit better.
Most Recent Entry: Legend of Kay Anniversary – 2015 (MAC, NS, PS4, PS3, WIIU, PC, X360)
Yes, it was released very late in the PS2’s life and it might be why it was reviewed so poorly. However, I absolutely loved this game’s soundtrack. The Japanese operas were amazing. I have the limited edition hanging on my wall to this day. Despite the amazing soundtrack and interesting characters, the game dragged on too long and there wasn’t enough exploration. The first game was welcomed thanks to its simple combat and fun item farming but also suffered from a lackluster story. It felt very linear. The series would come to an abrupt end in 2014.
Most Recent Entry: Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star – 2014 (PS3, Vita)
The King of Fighters 2000/2001 – 2003
A lack of overall content is what hurt this compilation. It also didn’t have an online play which was expected on the console at this point. It’s still a solid port of the arcade game just not up to snuff for a console game.
Most Recent Entry: The King of Fighters XV – 2022 (PC, PS5, PS4, XSX)
G1 Jokey 3 – 2003
For some reason, horse racing games had a following. My own sister was one of them and loved Gallop Racer. While I never got into the games they did look interesting. G1 Jokey was the rival to Gallop Racer. This game was much harder to get into and had a steeper learning curve. It looked great, but many kept comparing the two. The series came to an end in 2011.
As an early PS2 game the particle effects were impressive but all we had was a fireworks sandbox with little gameplay or variety. It looked pretty, but that was about it.
The Red Star – 2007
The Red Star was a sleeper hit that was released late in the PS2’s life. It wasn’t anything special. Just a decent beat ’em-up with multiplayer that was released for only $20. It was later released for PSP, PS3, and iOS.
Dynasty Warriors is a game of spotting the difference. An incredibly popular Musou series. In fact, it’s considered the best in the genre. However, these two games came out in the same year. Come on Koei. Despite the sheer amount of content in each game if you’ve played one you have played them all. The series lives on today albeit with much lower quality.
While praised for its unique take on dice rolling and math. The game was rather one note and lacking in the visuals department. It’s one of those unique PlayStation games that you can only get on these systems.
Sega SuperStars – 2004 Sega SuperStars Tennis – 2008
Yep, you know the drill. A gimmicky set of mini-games for a motion device that’s fun for a couple of hours and gets old quickly. Sadly, this one didn’t even offer multiplayer. The series died off a few years later as a tennis game. It’s fun for kids but that’s about it. It would later spawn a sequel that was cross-gen and fell flat compared to other mascot tennis games.
Arc the Lad; Twilight Spirits – 2003
Arc the Lad is a cult favorite PS1 RPG. The PS2 entry was highly anticipated and while it excels in storytelling it doesn’t offer anything but average gameplay and a lack of memorable dungeons. Overall, it’s still a solid entry but there are better RPGs on the system. Sadly, the series would come to an abrupt end and hasn’t been seen since.
Most Recent Entry: Arc the Lad: End of Darkness – 2004 (PS2)
Disney Golf – 2002
If you like Disney and golf this is your game. While it looked colorful and even sounded the part, the game was very arcade-like and too easy for adult gamers. It’s still charming and relaxing enough to play for adults.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeonic Front – 2002
The Gundam license has been used for games since the 8-bit era and continues on to this day. This particular PS2 exclusive just so happened to be almost great. Its strategy elements were praised, but the action was clumsy with terrible AI. It’s worth a look for hardcore fans.
The game had shallow combat and gameplay, but creating your own creatures and watching them come to life had a lot of charm. If you can look past the average combat then you have one of the most unique games on the system. This game oozes that signature PlayStation charm.
CMT Presents: Karaoke Revolution – Country – 2006
Well, take it or leave it with the title. This was Konami’s challenge to Sony’s SingStar and it was quite popular for a while. It relied on the gimmicky motion controls of the time but died out eventually in 2011.
The series made a radical reboot on the PS2 and was loved quite well. It looked good, played fast, and had some crazy combos, but the game was insanely hard. I remember renting this as a kid and turning it in the next day. It was brutal after the second stage. A cult classic and well-loved among fans.
Most Recent Entry: Shinobi – 2011 (3DS)
Bloody Roar 3 – 2001
The Bloody Roar series has never been considered great. A fun series for newbie fighters. The third game looked amazing at launch but was too simple compared to other 3D fighters at the time. The series lived on for a couple more years and we haven’t seen it since.
Most Recent Entry: Bloody Roar Extreme – 2003 (Xbox)
MotoGP 4 – 2006
The game came out too late and was overshadowed by the previous game’s impressive Xbox outing. While the Xbox was long dead by 2006, the weaker system tried its best and the physics were great, but the super bike scene was hyper-competitive around this time. Thankfully, the series still lives on with lots of ups and downs.
This game was a surprise when it was released. Being an obvious Mario Kart clone the Star Wars IP was the last anyone would think that could create a good kart racer. The game had a great sense of speed, felt and looked like a Star Wars game, and was a lot of fun. There just isn’t a lot of content.
State of Emergency – 2002
The game was praised for it’s frantic and chaotic action, but had repetitive missions and was very one-note. It has a cult following because of Rockstar’s name attached to it. It saw a late sequel that fell under everyone’s radar.
Most Recent Entry: State of Emergency 2 – 2006 (PS2)
P.T.O. IV: Pacific Theater of Operations – 2003
This marine strategy game is quite bland, but the tactics themselves work well. It’s not an exciting game, and there’s a very small niche group of gamers who like these types of games. This was an attempt at a reboot for the series that failed pretty hard. It should have been on PC or Xbox.
Resident Evil Outbreak – 2004
The Outbreak series was an interesting concept. While it’s better received today as back in 2004 we had just been blessed with Resident Evil 4 so any game that went backward was looked down on. The online component, visuals, and improved controls were appreciated but the story was uninteresting.
Suzuki TT was considered a low-budget effort at the superbike craze of the mid-2000s. While you had the end of Tourist Trophy and MotoGP, this was at the lower end. Its authenticity was appreciated, but it had twitchy handling and only a single track. The series went on for a few more years though.
Most Recent Entry: Suzuki TT Superbikes: Real Road Racing Championship – 2009 (PS2, PS3)
Sub Rebellion – 2002
This weird exclusive was well-liked for its challenging gameplay, but low production values plagued the game and it felt quite generic. It’s still a fun shooter and unique to the system.
Gallop Racer 2001 – 2001 Gallop Racer 2004 – 2004
Gallop Racer was the gold standard for horse racing games. Yeah…well…if that’s your thing. My sister was really into this series, and while it was very niche, the series continued on for a few years and was praised for fun betting systems and being able to breed your own horses.
.hack//Outbreak: Part 3 – 2002 .hack//Quarantine: Part 4 – 2003
At the halfway mark people were tired of the padded-out nature of the .hack series. While it’s a beloved series today the game was split up into four parts that would take around 20 hours per game to finish. You really had to love the anime or the gameplay here to truck on.
Most Recent Entry: .hack//G.U. Last Recode – 2017 (PS4, PC)
Wizardry: Tales of the Forsaken Land – 2001
An early PS2 game that took the PC games and brought them to consoles. It’s buried under an awful UI and dated gameplay, but fans of the old dungeon crawler will get lost in the world here. Just push past the ugliness and there might be a gem in there somewhere.
Most Recent Entry: Wizardry: The Five Ordeals – 2021 (PC)
Dual Hearts – 2002
This is an Atlus game so you know there’s a cult following. This one-shot PS2 RPG was unique and quirky but was marred by technical problems such as heavy slowdown and other issues. It’s still charming and has that unique PS2 feel to it.
Enthusia: Professional Racing – 2005
This was Konami’s attempt at a Gran Turismo killer. If the game were put on Xbox it might have done better. Everyone praised the game for the effort put into it, and I clearly remember seeing this game hyped up in magazines, but falling flat due to a lack of content. The career mode was over fairly quickly compared to other racing sims at the time.
Hot Shots Tennis – 2007
Releasing very late in the system’s life no one really paid attention to this series anymore. The game was light-hearted and fun, but too easy. The series would get one final game on the PSP a few years later.
Most Recent Entry: Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip – 2010 (PSP)
Killzone – 2004
Oh boy, this game needs no introduction really. This was the infamous Halo killer. One of the most hyped-up games in video game history. I remember getting this game for Christmas of 2004 and was ready for it. Sadly, the game fell flat quite a bit, however not all was lost. The game did look good for the underpowered system despite the low framerate. The weapons were unique, and the Nazi-Esque dystopian world was praised, but the story and character fell flat. The game suffered from long reload animations that were impressive, but unnecessary. It was far from the fast-paced and tight gunplay that was Halo 2. Online play was decent and fun, but this game was very slow. The weapons had weight which was good, but the gray color pallete was also not very appealing. It was also very short on top of all of this. In the end, it was an impressive effort and Guerrilla went on to be one of Sony’s flagship developers and the series did improve.
Most Recent Entry: Killzone: Shadow Fall – 2013 (PS4)
AirBlade – 2002
Namco made an attempt to throw their hat into the Xtreme Sports ring. Everyone wanted that Tony Hawk fame. While the game looked good and had its own style, it just didn’t have the same flawless gameplay as the Tony Hawk series.
Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 2 – 2008
The better of the two volumes, and the final game in the series. Sadly, SNK hasn’t returned to the full Fatal Fury game formula and has focused on The King of Fighters ever since.
Okage: Shadow King – 2001
Considered a dumbed down RPG for kids, Okage oozed charm and had pleasant visuals, but also had a clunky menu system and was seen as too easy. It’s still an early PS2 with that unique PlayStation feeling.
Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy – 2008
This was NIS’ answer to the Atelier series. While better than the first game, it’s a game that’s better than the sum of its parts. Not a single thing is done very well, but if you love your anime JRPGs then this is something that might be worth your time. This would end up being the final game in the series after a port to the PSP.
Growing up, I wasn’t into Star Trek, and I also didn’t have a gaming PC. The computer we had for the family was for website development and it didn’t run any type of 3D applications well. PC gaming was pretty much out of my mind until the mid-2000s, but I also passed this up on PS2. I just felt Star Trek was a boring grown-up show and didn’t care at all. I now love the series and have caught up to halfway through the Voyager series so the characters and flow of the story actually made sense to me.
You play as a brand new Hazard Team thrown together by Tuvok to surgically strike enemy ships. The Voyager gets stuck in space and can’t repair itself or warp out due to something dampening its engines. It’s your job to find out what this is. It plays out just like a Star Trek episode. There is great voice acting from the show’s cast which is really nice. There are a fair amount of cut scenes, but of course, this isn’t anything stellar or memorable. It’s interesting enough to get you through the five hours it takes to finish the campaign and that’s all.
What is nice is the Star Trek experience is here. Weapons that feel like they fit in the universe, you get to explore parts of the ship, and it’s nice to see a 3D interactive world of something you see on TV a lot. Missions are varied thanks to the environments that change up. Sadly, there are no worlds you are plopped down in. Just lots of different types of ships and a few different enemy types. These range from Klingons that we all know to new original species just for this game. This is a typical id Tech 3 shooter with nothing special to it. Enemy AI is pretty dumb and the game is extremely linear. There are no puzzles or thrills. Just blast your way past wave after wave to get to the next cut scene.
There are two different types of ammo types. You pick up ammo crystals for one and regular blue energy for the other. There are nine different weapons in the game including your phaser which has unlimited ammo and does the least amount of damage. The weapons, while original and cool looking, aren’t anything special and their alt-fire modes are pretty bland. I understand this was the early days of shooters, but Half-Life proved you can have a small arsenal and make them have weight and feel unique. It got to the point that I just stuck to two different weapons at all times because the enemies are just bullet sponges. They swarm you head-on and don’t take cover or dodge or strafe. I could stand in one corner and just knock them all out and advance to the next room. The game is fairly easy because of this.
There are only two boss fights in this game and they are both pushovers because you can exploit their dumb AI. Throughout most of the game you have AI companions that do a decent job killing everything, but they usually just stand around and can’t die anyway. There is a single stealth section that felt completely pointless as the AI is so dumb you can walk right behind them and they won’t notice you. Gameplay-wise there’s literally nothing else. Just lots of elevator switches and control panels to press.
Visually the game looks the part artistically. You won’t mistake this for another game, but the graphics themselves are obviously really dated and didn’t look the best even when it was released. However, you know what you’re getting into with a two-decade-old game. It still looks clean and there is a lot of detail in making this look and feel like Star Trek. It’s worth a short play-through on a late-night gaming session, but it’s mostly forgettable.
***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.