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.
Unless you want to physically collect PSP games there’s no reason to even bother using your UMD drive. In fact, not using it will preserve the drive from wear, but if you have a UMD, it’s good to pop one in here and there and make sure it still works and to prevent parts from sticking. Some UMD drives are starting to have horrible grinding or scraping noises due to the lubricant drying up. A simple application of lithium grease on the worm drive usually helps with this. The drives got cheaper as you moved up the line. The 1000 unit has the most solid drive with a full metal slot while the 3000 is just a door you smash onto the UMD and is mostly plastic.
The Best Mainstream Games
So, let’s open up with the games most people will recommend first or what most mainstream gaming sites like IGN’s top 25 or something will always recommend. When you Google “best PSP games” these are the ones that will most commonly pop up. Think of this as your starting list to get your appetite wet before diving into the “hidden gems”.
The 3rd Birthday (All Regions) – It’s okay. A spiritual successor to the Parasite Eve series on PS1. It’s a confusing and convoluted story with somewhat overcomplicated gameplay, but it was one of the last AAA budget PSP games and one of the last releases in general. It also looks damn good. Overall, it’s worth playing for its weirdness.
Ace Combat Series (All Regions) – A definitive mix of arcade and sim dogfighting. These were spin-offs from the PS2 series. Both look great and play exceptionally well.
After Burner: Black Falcon (All Regions) – I don’t care for this game, but it was really popular when it was released due to the many arcade game fans.
Ape Escape/Academy Series (All Regions) – Ape Escape: On the Loose was a launch title for the PSP and sold very well. The typical mini-games and charm are here that you loved from the PS1 games.
Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines (All Regions) – A very faithful spin-off of the first game. It really feels like a full-fledged mini Assassin’s Creed game with an entire small open area to explore and the same great gameplay we loved from the first game. It looks great too and is considered to have one of the better stories of the AC series.
BlazBlue Series (All Regions)– Some of the best-looking fighters on the PSP. These were faithful ports from the PS3 versions. They were packed with content and looked amazing and ran very well.
Burnout Series (All Regions) – Easily regarded as one of the best racing games on PSP due to the blistering framerate. Legends was a technical marvel back in the day and were one of the most anticipated post-launch titles for the system. Both games look great and feel like faithful ports of their console counterparts.
Call of Duty: Roads to Victory (All Regions) – While a very rudimentary WWII shooter in the same style as Finest Hour or Frontline, Roads to Victory isn’t a terrible shooter, but it’s incredibly basic. A quick play-through is satisfying as there aren’t many shooters on the PSP due to that pesky single analog nub.
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (All Regions) – A highly regarded remake of Rondo of Blood, this is some of the best 2D platforming you will get on PSP.
Coded Arms Series (All Regions) – This isn’t the most exciting series, but it’s heavily talked about as it was the first-ever first-person shooter on PSP, and I pre-ordered it. Despite how generic it is, and the procedurally generated levels, it plays well and has solid controls and visuals, it’s just basic.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (All Regions) – Oh man, Final Fantasy was at its peak hype was back in the mid-2000s. The Final Fantasy VII saga (that feels like it’s still going on today) was all about a Japanese mobile game, the movie, and this game. There’s a large divide with some people flat-out hating the game, but it’s worth a try even if you aren’t a Final Fantasy VII nut. It has some of the best visuals the system has to offer as well.
Crush (All Regions)- A puzzle game being talked about a lot? This is by far one of the most unique puzzle games released on PSP or ever to be quite honest. Use both 2D and 3D planes to solve puzzles by “crushing” the plane you are on to reach new platforms and pathways. It’s a must-play for any puzzle fan.
Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower (All Regions) – This is one of the best fighting games on the system and was a fantastic and surprise launch title. It’s a port of the Dreamcast game and does an amazing job as well. A must-have for any fighting fan.
Daxter (All Regions) – It’s no surprise that a new Jak and Daxter game popped up on the PSP as the series was still going strong around this time. In fitting irony, tiny Daxter has his own adventure on PSP. It’s a solid and charming platformer and will make any Jak and Daxter fan happy.
Dead Head Fred (All Regions)- A weird and bizarre platformer that fits the PSP ecology. While the camera is a bit of an issue, the game oozes charm, character, and fantastic voice acting. It’s a fun romp that looks great too.
Death Jr. Series (All Regions) – An incredibly unique platformer series that had charm and fun characters, but had camera issues that knocked it down a few pegs. It still has that “PSP DNA” that many games helped form in the early years of the system’s life and is worth a play.
Disgaea Series (All Regions)- There were two PS2 ports to the PSP and all to critical acclaim plus an original title. If you love Final Fantasy Tactics or turn-based strategy games then these are for you. Disgaea is well known for its humor, eccentric characters, and crazy story.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy Series (All Regions) – Of course, pretty much anything Final Fantasy is going to be talked about and recommended quite a bit. The Dissidia series is strange as it was almost a Super Smash Bros. clone but with Final Fantasy characters, and of course, it was over-complicated. It’s a weird game, and with this one, unless you like Final Fantasy, you probably won’t get into this. Tons of fan service.
DJ Max Series (All Regions) – Originally released in Korea and Japan this was a fantastic rhythm game with addicting gameplay and music videos playing in the background. It replicates the Japanese rhythm arcade experience in handheld form. It blew up with many people importing the games and it finally came to the US with DJ Max Portable 3 and Fever. There are many versions and collector’s editions released in Asia territories.
Dragon Ball Z Series (All Regions) – Yep, Dragon Ball Z fighting games were a huge hit on the PSP and most were damn good and looked great too. I remember my cousin being obsessed with these games on his PSP back in the day.
Echochrome (All Regions) – This debut made everyone go nuts at E3 2006. Essentially this is MC Escher: The Game. A very clever and unique puzzle game based on perspective kind of like Crush. The strikingly simple visual style helped push sales and is considered one of the best puzzle games ever made.
FIFA Series (All Regions) – This series is generally considered strong the PSP. The last few entries were mediocre, but 09 and 10 were the best.
Final Fantasy Series (All Regions) – I’m talking about the core Final Fantasy RPGs here and not the spin-offs. Some people regard the ports of Final Fantasy 1, 2, and 4 to be the best out there in terms of content and sprite work. These ports were fantastic and a lot of people’s first time experiences with these games. There was also an ambitious 3D game called Type-0 that was only released in Japan until it was upgraded to HD for home consoles. It looked stunning. There was even an amazing port of Tactics as well. The PSP was a fantastic home for Final Fantasy.
God(s) Eater Series (All Regions) – This Monster Hunter clone based on the anime was wildly popular on PSP. I couldn’t really get into it, but there is a solid game here, and the series went on the other consoles thanks to its popularity. One trivia fact is that the title was changed to Gods (plural) for the West as to not offend religious folks.
God of War Series (All Regions) – Well, you can’t have a Sony console without a God of War game showing you what it can do and then no one ever topping it and making you upset. Chains of Olympus was probably the single most anticipated PSP game ever next to Gran Turismo. I pre-ordered it the day it was announced and played through the entire game at work on launch day. It was gorgeous, it felt like the PS2 games, and it was the first game to overclock the PSP to 333MHz achieve what it did. Ghost of Sparta somehow topped all of this and is considered one of the best games in the series.
Gran Turismo (All Regions) – As stated above, Gran Turismo was a myth, a legend. The one PSP game to come out and somehow unlock hidden power no one would ever be able to achieve. To have the ultimate racing sim in the handheld form to never be topped again. While it took the entire life of the PSP for the game to come out, what we got was a solid racing sim that felt like the PS2 games we grew to love. The game upset people due to a lack of a career mode. It felt like Sony said, “Meh, just release it anyways the PSP is nearly dead”.
Grand Theft Auto Series (All Regions) – This is probably the most played PSP series by far. When Rockstar announced a “port” of GTA3 for PSP it drove sales up and people lost their minds, but how would it work with only one analog nub? Well, it kind of didn’t, but it was still faithful to the PS2 game. The later side story was well received and the DS port of Chinatown Wars was fantastic. There was a long rumor of a San Andreas Stories that never saw the light of day.
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Series (Japan) – The popular rhythm game saw the same treatment as DJ Max. Lots of people importing. The series has grown to become a fantastic and addictive game and has spread to many other consoles. The PSP versions had great visuals, catchy Japanese pop tunes, and overall addictive rhythm gameplay that only seemed possible o the PSP.
Hot Shots Golf/Everybody’s Golf Series (All Regions) – The Hot Shots series saw a lot of love on the PSP. Both entries are solid entries and tons of arcade golfing fun.
Jak & Daxter: The Lost Frontier (All Regions) – The last entry to the beloved Jak & Daxter series was on PSP and PS2 despite the PS3 being out for some time at this point. It wasn’t anywhere near as memorable as the original trilogy, but it was a fun game and well worth a playthrough.
Jeanne d’Arc (All Regions) – Considered by many to be the best turn-based strategy game on the PSP and one of the best ever made. This original game had a great story, deep strategy, and just overall tons of content.
Killzone: Liberation (All Regions) – While many expected a first-person shooter killer app we got a top-down shooter instead, but a damn fine one at that. The game feels like Killzone and looks great too. There is some strategy to the game, and while the story is lame, it’s all about the fun gameplay.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (All Regions) – Yeah, this was to be expected. The mid-2000s was the peak of Kingdom Hearts and this was easily one of the most anticipated games for the system. It look fantastic and was actually a lot of fun and felt like its PS2 counterparts.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Series (All Regions) – A much-beloved port of the two chapters and they are great on PSP. This is by far one of the best JRPGs on the system due to its wonderful story and great characters.
LEGO Series (All Regions) – The LEGO series was a huge hit on the PSP thanks to its portability. Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Wars all made it to the system and they looked nearly as good as the PS2 games. These are some of the finest platformers on the system even if you don’t care about the IPs.
LittleBigPlanet (All Regions)- One of the only PS3 series to make it onto PSP, this game had it all. Downloadable levels, a level editor, and a vast campaign and it looked fantastic. It’s one of the best 3D platformers on the system.
LocoRoco Series (All Regions) – The tiny yellow singing balls were a huge hit for the early days of the system. The quirky Japanese gameplay was bright and fun and the game looked great too. While the physics got a little weird, the series is part of what makes up the “PSP DNA”.
Lumines Series (All Regions) – The launch title that really helped set the standard for the “PSP DNA”. It was a much talked about game with its unique rhythm and puzzle gameplay mash and was also an instant hit. The series later went on to continue on other systems.
Madden NFL Series (All Regions) – Of course one of the most popular sports franchises of all time wouldn’t miss the opportunity to cash in on the PSP. This is one hit-or-miss series on this system. The quality is all over the place so the best thing to do is try them all.
Manhunt 2 (All Regions) – One of the most controversial games on the system due to Jack Thomspon’s violent video game crusade of the mid-2000s. The game was censored blurring out kill scenes that were later patched out for those with hacked PSPs. It’s a solid stealth horror game and one of the most violent on the system.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Series (All Regions) – Top-down dungeon-crawling superhero games were all the rage in the mid-2000s and Marvel was doing them the best.
Me & My Katamari (All Regions) – Riding off the success of the first two games on PS2 this was a solid entry to the franchise and worked surprisingly well despite the lack of a second analog stick. It’s one of the best “PSP DNA” games out there.
Medal of Honor: Heroes Series (All Regions) – The other WWII shooter. Surprisingly this series had the more solid foothold on PSP and the most solid entries. Quick and fun objective-based first-person shooting action. Both games back to back are a ton of fun.
Mega Man Series (All Regions) – Capcom hit the ball home twice in a row with two solid platformer entries. Both are considered some of the best entries in the franchise.
Metal Gear Ac!d Series (All Regions) – Hideo’s card-based strategy spin-off was received with mixed reception, but strategy fans loved it. The first game is really rough but improves with the second. The series shipped with weird 3D glasses too.
Metal Gear Solid Series (All Regions) – Probably one of the most popular games on the system and a huge seller. Peace Walker was an official entry while Portable Ops was more of a handheld tailored affair with a follow-up re-release. This is seriously one of the best series of games on the system and helped define the PSP for what it is today. Not to mention the stunning visuals.
MLB: The Show Series (All Regions) – Probably some of the best sports games on the system and the most consistent with quality. Sony’s exclusive licensed baseball game was a huge hit on the PSP and looked good doing it.
Monster Hunter Series (All Regions) – The Monster Hunter series blew up in the mid-2000s thanks to strong entries on the Wii. Portable 3rd is considered one of the best games in the series, but sadly never made it the West. These games are best played in Ad-Hoc co-op. I had many fun nights with a co-worker playing Portable 3rd.
Mortal Kombat: Unchained (All Regions) – Being a massive Mortal Kombat fan I was stoked to hear the announcement of Unchained. A port of Deception with all content intact? Sadly, there were to main factors that kept this game from achieving the greatness of Deception. No online play and horribly compressed sound. It is still one of the best fighters on the system.
MotorStorm: Arctic Edge (All Regions) – Considered by many to be one of the best-looking PSP games and one of the best racers on the system. The fast-paced arcade action was a ton of fun and sadly was the final entry in the franchise.
NBA Series (All Regons) – Now there’s a lot of different developers under the NBA license. There was EA’s NBA Live and Street, 2K’s NBA 2K series, Midway’s Ballers and Sony’s own series. The entire license was all over the court in terms of quality. I actually enjoyed Street quite a bit as I loved the console series, but there’s qualities to them all and you should give them all a shot.
Need for Speed Series (All Regions) – These were probably the most popular racing games on the system and sold a butt-ton because Need for Speed was the Call of Duty of racing back in the day. Neither entry is amazing, but they all have their qualities and are all worth checking out
Patapon Series (All Regions) – The Patapon series was part of the PSP’s DNA and was incredibly unique and there wasn’t anything else like it on other systems. A turn-based strategy game fused with rhythm-based gameplay was addictive and fun and was a huge hit. I personally got frustrated with the first game and never continued, but I do want to go back and try again. It has striking visuals and cute characters.
Phantasy Star Portable Series (All Regions) – Phantasy Star was a huge hit on the GameCube and continued on the PSP. While most popular in Japan, the series had an online co-op, but the single-player campaign was also there. It’s a fun pseudo-MMO and the closest we ever got to one on the PSP.
Prince of Persia Series (All Regions) – The Prince of Persia franchise was at its peak in the mid-2000s with The Two Thrones having just been released and the trilogy concluding. The PSP received a fantastic port of that game as Rival Swords, and a decent albeit buggy port of Warrior Within. There was also a port of Forgotten Sands that was completely unique for the PSP.
Pro Evolution Soccer Series (All Regions) – There were many entries on the PSP, and like all the other yearly sports titles, the quality varied. It’s best to play them all and find out which one suits your taste the best.
Pursuit Force Series (All Regions) – A surprisingly short-lived series, it was so popular the game got a fun sequel. Tons of popcorn Hollywood action scenes and great visuals. Nothing to really complain about.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords (All Regions) – One of the few mainstream puzzle games. Puzzle Quest kickstarted the match 3 RPG mash-up genre we know today on mobile phones. It was incredibly addictive as I remember clocking in 30 hours on the campaign before completion and I couldn’t put it down.
Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters (All Regions) – One of the biggest profile games for the system, Size Matters smashed down on the Earth with a bang. It was everything we loved in the series and somehow managed to make playing with one analog nub fine. It looked great and captured all the fun from the PS2 games.
Resistance: Retribution (All Regions) – Another high-profile Sony exclusive. With PS3 games doing well, the PSP version was a third-person shooter and controlled well and looked amazing. While the story was nothing special it was the great gameplay that made this stand out from the crowd and show the PSP could do shooters.
Ridge Racer Series (All Regions) – One of the most high-profile racing games of all time just due to the fact that it was one of the biggest launch titles for the system and a return to a dormant franchise. The game looked stunning, probably the best-looking game at launch, and I remember picking up my pre-order two days before the PSP launch and reading the entire manual over several times. It was exciting and played so well. Perfect controls and tons of content. A sequel was released everywhere but in the US and was mostly just an upgraded version of the first game with new content.
Rock Band Unplugged (All Regions) – This was one of the oddest games to release on the system. A game that is normally totally reliant on external peripherals, but somehow made the game work by switching instrument tracks and using the same button timing system as other rhythm games on the PSP. It was tons of fun and was a full Rock Band experience with DLC songs and all.
Secret Agent Clank (All Regions) – Two Ratchet features on a portable?! It was crazy talk. Like Daxter, Clank got a pint-sized adventure all on his own and actually was overall better than Size Matters. The charm was there, the more interesting gameplay, and it just felt tailor-made for the PSP.
Shin Megami Tensei Series (All Regions) – These were probably some of the biggest RPGs on the system. Person 3 Portable FES was a direct port of the PS2 game with added features and content. It was, and still is, the definitive Persona 3 experience. There were both PS1 ports and a Devil Summoner game exclusive to Japan.
Silent Hill Series (All Regions) – It was a huge surprise that the PSP would get two Silent Hill spin-offs. Shattered Memories was a reimagining of the first game with more action and less horror, and Origins was a traditional game and was fantastic and looked stunning. I enjoyed the crap out of Origins and plan to back to it again.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Series (All Regions) – SOCOM making a showing on the PSP was brave. No one thought it could work, but it was one of the most popular franchises on the system. With four entries, more than even the home consoles, the series was rock solid. Playing through all Fireteam Bravo games will give you a fantastic tactical shooter experience.
SoulCalibur: Broken Destiny (All Regions) – Nearly every high-profile fighting franchise made it onto the PSP. Broken Destiny was a full-fledged original entry and featured Kratos as a guest fighter. It looked great and played well, but sadly there was no online play.
Star Wars Series (All Regions) – There were quite a few Star Wars games on the system from LEGO to three whole Battlefront games!. There were also mediocre ports of The Force Unleashed and a Clone Wars game. Overall, the quality was all over the place, but you should check them all out.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX (All Regions) – Considered by many as the definitive version of the game, the PS1 port is a fantastic entry and looks great to boot. It was the only Street Fighter game we got and thankfully it was a good one. Japan got Zero 3 which was a favorite for importers.
Syphon Filter Series (All Regions) – Syphon Filter is one of my favorite video game series of all time. I played the hell out of the first two games as a kid. My dad and I would rent it every weekend until we eventually just bought them and memorized every enemy placement, weapon, and could eventually get through each game without ever getting hit. The level design was just so fantastic, and when the series got revived for PSP I was so stocked. It was a pre-order for me and I even wrote my own walkthrough guide for them both. That’s how much I love this series. It showed how to do shooters right on the PSP despite its limitations. These are considered the best shooters on the system bar none.
Tactics Ogre: Lets Us Cling Together (All Regions) – Despite the strange name, Tactics Ogre is considered by many to be superior to Final Fantasy Tactics in both story and gameplay. While this game didn’t sell very well it is one of the most beloved PSP exclusives mainly because it’s a remake of the SNES game. If you want to sink into a deep game with a lot of story this is one of the best on the system to do it.
Tekken Series (All Regions) – Tekken 6 and Dark Resurrection are one of the best fighters on the PSP. The visuals are stunning, the controls are great, and it’s just an overall solid 3D fighter which there weren’t many good ones on the system.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour Series (All Regions) – Just like any sports franchise on the PSP the quality was all over the place. While Tiger Woods 07 would be considered the best overall, you need to try them all to really find out what you like. They’re still solid titles on the system with some great graphics and packed campaigns.
Tomb Raider Series (All Regions) – Both Tomb Raider ports are some of the best on the system. These are nearly identical to their PS2 counterparts with fantastic controls and excellent visuals.
Tony Hawk Series (All Regions) – Underground 2 Remix was an amazing game on the system. It ran well, looked good, controlled perfectly, and was packed full of content. I played this game religiously when I was able to pick it up for cheap. It’s just one of the best games on the system. Period. Project 8 was decent, but not the kind of quality that Remix was.
Twisted Metal: Head-On (All Regions) – An ambitious launch title for the PSP. Just one more franchise to come out of the woodwork for the little system that took the world by storm. It was one of the only online infrastructure games back in the day as well.
Valkyria Chronicles II (All Regions) – Sadly, the sequel to the popular strategy game was a PSP exclusive and has remained so. An odd choice for sure, but it’s one of the best strategy games on the system and is rock solid all the way around.
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth (All Regions) – A port of the PS1 game, Lenneth is one of the best RPGs on the system. It has beautiful art, fun characters, and stellar gameplay. The PSP was truly an RPG lover’s dream machine and has some of the highest quality ports of any system to date.
Wipeout Series (All Regions) – Wipeout Pure was one of the best launch titles for the PSP and featured a hidden web browser for DLC. I remember leeching off of a neighbor’s Wifi (we didn’t have any wifi devices in 2005 yet) and just thought it was so school despite how terrible the experience was. The series was colorful, had a great framerate, and just looked good.
WWE Smackdown vs RAW Series (All Regions) – I’m not a wrestling fan by any stretch of the measure, but this was a very popular series on PSP. 2006 suffered from insanely long load times on the UMD and every entry has varying levels of quality in different areas like any other sports series. Play them all to find your favorite.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse (All Regions) – Seriously, this is one of the best dungeon crawlers on PSP and there aren’t many. Tons of characters, content, and the graphics were great.
Ys Series (All Regions) – 2D 16-bit RPGs were a staple for the PSP thanks to many ports from the SNES. Ys had a few solid entries on the system.
The Best “Hidden Gems” or Underrated Games
I want the term “hidden gems” to go away. This term just isn’t relevant anymore as every single retro game from niche and obscure to the mainstream has been documented and probably reviewed numerous times on YouTube. Even the Phillips CD-i and Nokia N-Gage aren’t obscure or hidden anymore. If they were then they wouldn’t be $400 on eBay because they would be “hidden”. This term was more relevant 15 years ago when you walked into a retro game store and someone suggested said game to you. You then took it home and realized how fun it was and why you overlooked it. That’s a hidden gem.
Thanks to the internet that term lost all meaning and the same goes for “underrated”. I prefer the term underappreciated. Underrated in terms of critical reception maybe, but most gamers cherish the underdog so nothing is really underrated anymore, but can still be underappreciated because a casual onlooker may not like the screenshots or understand it from a first glance. Games like Gunpey or Beaterator for PSP may be new to you but just Google those games. Tons of YouTube videos, and top-something lists with them in it. Because of the internet, nothing can truly be hidden anymore. Once something is dug up everyone rushes to go buy it to stick it in their collection.
The following games are underappreciated due to one factor or another. Not enough marketing, low budget, low print run, bad release timing, too hard to understand at first glance, not a big hit with critics, a niche genre, or many other reasons.
7th Dragon Series (Japan) – A fun Japanese-only RPG with great graphics and fun gameplay. There is a fan translation patch available.
Activision Hits Remixed (All Regions) – Fans of 8-bit consoles will have a blast here. Well emulated classics for Atari 2600. Includes 44 games.
Adventures to Go! (All Regions) – A really good dungeon crawler that wasn’t American made.
ATV Offroad Fury Pro (All Regions) – Probably the best in the MX/ATV lineup on PSP in terms of visuals, physics, and content. It was a rock-solid well-balanced racing game, but other entries are worth taking a look at too.
Beatorator (Europe) – A well-made music creator from Rockstar Games and producer Timbaland
The Bigs Series (US) – Usually left in the dust by EA’s MLB series, The Bigs was a better baseball game on PSP, but sadly just couldn’t find the sales to keep it up.
Bleach: Heat the Soul Series (Japan) – While incredibly redundant this was a smash hit on PSP in Japan and attracted many importers. There are subtle differences between all seven games so playing them all is the only way to find out what you prefer.
Bomberman (EU/JP) – While it didn’t have any online replay it was the most faithful in the series for consoles up to that point and was a solid entry.
Brandish: The Dark Revenant (US) – Released very late and long after the death of the PSP (2015!) Brandish gave us one last dungeon crawler that was surprisingly fun and well made.
Brave Story: New Traveler (All Regions) – This was actually quite a high-profile RPG since it was released early in the PSP’s life, but no one paid attention. It had great visuals, fun combat, and an entertaining story.
Brothers in Arms: D-Day (All Regions) – While the game was a big clunky it had fantastic visuals and played quite well. All three major WWII shooter players made it onto the PSP, which is quite a surprise in hindsight.
Bust-A-Move Deluxe (All Regions) – This is one of the coziest puzzle games on PSP. While it doesn’t do anything new or exciting it delivers the same great Bust-A-Move gameplay we all love with bright colorful visuals.
Buzz! Series (Europe) – No, it’s not a game about Kevin McAlister’s brother. A Europe exclusive franchise, Buzz! is a fun trivia game series for people who love that kind of thing. No crazy button peripherals here, but multiplayer is a blast.
Cake Mania: Baker’s Challenge (US) – If you love time management games like Diner Dash then this game is up your alley. It was released as part of the “PSP Minis” library.
Capcom Classics Collection Series (All Regions) – A good amount of classic Capcom games were released on two different UMDs. Games like 19xx, Street Fighter II, Ghosts and Goblins, Mercs, Exed Exes, and many others were well put together and run great here.
Disney/Pixar Cars Series (All Regions) – Yep, I’m dead serious. The Cars series was pretty solid on PSP and offered a fun arcade racing experience. It looked good and played surprisingly well. Because of the kids-only relationship with Cars, no one really gave it the time of day.
Chili Con Carnage (All Regions) – A crazy over-the-top third-person shooter with lots of humor injected in. It had an unfair checkpoint system, but other than that, it was a solid action title.
Class of Heroes Series (All Regions) – A “labyrinth crawler” with surprising depth and a fun cast of characters. You’ll definitely sink dozens of hours into the entire series.
Crash Series (All Regions) – Crash Bandicoot didn’t do too well after his PS1 outings. The Crash games that came after were mediocre to just okay at best. The PSP Crash games are decent fun, but nothing amazing. They scratch that itch for a platformer and a kart racing game on the PSP, but nothing more.
Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars (All Regions) – A fun and faithful port of both Dreamcast games. While the graphics haven’t improved much it will satisfy the arcade racing craving you might have. There was even online multiplayer at the time.
Crimson Gem Saga (All Regions) – A sequel to Astonisha Story, and a much better game overall, and it offers some wonderful characters and turn-based strategy gameplay. If you finished up Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics then this could be your next time sink.
Dante’s Inferno (All Regions) – A cut-down version of the console game content-wise, but the gameplay is rock solid and feels similar to God of War. The console version was short enough as it was, but some boss fights are stripped down to cut-scenes instead. Despite that, the gameplay itself holds up for a few hours of fun.
Dead to Rights: Reckoning (All Regions) – Released alongside the console game Dead to Rights II, the series had one last go before finally disappearing into the ether. It’s a decent third-person shooter all around.
Def Jam: Fight for NY – The Takeover (All Regions) – Def Jam: Fight for NY is one of the best fighting games ever made. Hate the hip hop part of it all you want, all though it features tons of “golden era” hip hop artists from the 90s-mid 2000s, The Takeover was released a year after the console versions with great visuals, solid controls, and tons of content. Easily one of the best fighters on PSP.
Diner Dash: Sizzle & Serve (All Regions) – A port of the DS version, this is Diner Dash greatness through and through. While the DS version is superior thanks to its touch screen controls, it works fine here.
Downstream Panic! (All Regions) – A mix between LocoRoco and Worms. This is truly one of the most unique puzzle games on the system and was criminally overlooked.
Driver ’76 (All Regions) – A prequel to Driver: Parallel Lines for PS2, this is a fun and action-packed driving game. Lots to really like here.
Dungeon Siege: Throne of Agony (All Regions) – a big boy dungeon crawler on a handheld? Many were skeptical, but it really shined and is one of the better dungeon crawlers on the system albeit very rudimentary and basic.
Every Extend Extra (All Regions) – Tetsuya Mitzuguchi was at his peak in the mid-2000s. Riding off the success of Lumines his next music-based game didn’t make as large of a splash but was still excellent. This is a bigger version of a freeware game he released for PC back in 2004. He also went on to create the excellent Meteos for DS.
Exit Series (All Regions) – A very unique puzzle-platformer that had that “PSP DNA”. The game was colorful and tons of fun and had downloadable levels. One of the better puzzle games for the system for sure.
Fat Princess: Fistful of Cake (All Regions) – While this was better played with other people, Fat Princess is a cartoony and whimsical tower defense-like game that fits well on the PSP.
FlatOut: Head On (All Regions) – This is what all FlatOut fans wanted. A good portable experience. Spectacular crashes, a great sense of speed, and awesome graphics. It’s one of the better racing games and was sadly completely overlooked by most.
Football Manager Handheld Series (Europe) – If you love spreadsheets you will love this game. Jokes aside, there are many fans of the Football Manager series and it’s pretty decent on the PSP despite the control limitations. If you want some deep strategy involving your favorite sport there’s nothing quite like it on the system.
G-Force (All Regions) – A surprisingly good movie tie-in. No joke. While the game is easy it has charm and will keep you interested until the end.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (All Regions) – Like the anime or not, this was only the second FPS game to be released on PSP right after Coded Arms and before Metroid Prime: Hunters on DS came out. This one kind of did it better. It had a less generic feel to it and did well for the hardware’s limitations.
Gitaroo Man Lives! (All Regions) – A faithful port of the PS2 game. This quirky Japanese rhythm game is in the same lane as Parappa the Rapper. Great tunes and a fun game all around.
Gladiator Begins (All Regions) – A sequel to the PS2 game Colosseum: Road to Freedom this really took me by surprise. I didn’t even see this one come out until years after. It’s a solid Gladiator sim and has solid controls and great visuals.
Gradius Collection (All Regions) – There weren’t many shmups for the PSP, but Gradius Collection is probably the best. Five Gradius games on one UMD and all run great. What more could you want?
Grand Knights History (Japan) – Sadly, this never saw a western release just like Princess Crown, but there is a complete fan translation. Vanillaware has a unique art style and fantastic 2D gameplay. This turn-based strategy game oozes color and personality and is one of the best on the system.
GripShift (All Regions) – One of the best arcade racers on the PSP. Fast-paced action, crazy tracks, and the level editor was a huge hit.
Guilty Gear Series (All Regions) – Three solid fighters on PSP and were all upgrades to previous entries in the series, but that’s okay. Great visuals, excellent controls, and overall just added on to the solid lineup of great 2D fighters.
Gun: Showdown (All Regions) – A stripped-down version of the console games, but not in a negative way. They took the best parts of the console games and stuck them on the PSP. There isn’t an open-world here, but it’s best you will get to Red Dead Redemption in portable form.
Gunpey (All Regions) – Another of Tetsuya’s weirdness, but more on the Rez end of bizarre. It doesn’t meld the magic of music and puzzles like Lumines did, but you should play this more for its oddball magic than the gameplay.
Gurumin: A Monsterous Adventure (All Regions) – This is seriously one of the best action games on the PSP hands down. It received raving reviews, but no one paid attention because of its quirky Japanese exterior and cutesy visuals. I think we’ve all learned that cute visuals don’t make a bad or easy game. Incredibly charming and addictive throughout.
Half-Minute Hero (All Regions) – Probably the most unique and original JRPG on the system. You literally have to beat the game in 30 seconds. Level-up, battle, buy equipment, and more all within a 30 second time limit. It’s hard to explain, but it’s something that must be experienced. It’s also pretty funny.
Hammerin’ Hero (All Regions) – It may be simple, but its charm is what will get you. This is one solid platformer with that fun Japanese flair from the early 2000s.
Harvest Moon Series (All Regions) – Three games came to the PSP, and while not critical successes they are decent sim life fun. A PS1 port also made it over. If you already love the series or want something similar to Animal Crossing this is the closest you will get.
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law (All Regions) – A hilarious FMV game based on the Adult Swim show. There’s tons of humor and video game cameos thrown in. It’s really short but super entertaining.
Hexyz Force (All Regions) – The story won’t blow you away or have you weeping tears, but the gameplay and item management here is stupendous. A really fun tactical RPG that was sadly missed by most.
Hot Pixel (All Regions) – Yep, you guessed it. This is the PSP’s answer to WarioWare. Lots of fun and silly microgames and just as much of a blast as the WarioWare series. It’s too bad no one bought it.
The Idolmaster Series (Japan) – These were huge hits in Japan ending up in the second spot in the sales charts upon release. There are three different versions with different lead idols, but what’s inside are super addictive and charming rhythm games in the same spirit as the Hatsune Miku series. Thankfully there are fan translations now.
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (All Regions) – This original Indiana Jones title is a stripped-down version of the PS2 game, but it’s rock-solid action with great visuals.
Infected (All Regions) – This was one of the first post-launch releases and was highly anticipated. This third-person shooter had a unique gameplay loop and online feature. Shooting a hole in a zombie would allow you to use your blood and infect others and start a chain reaction to rack up points.
Jackass: The Game (All Regions) – This was based on the movie at the time and featured acting from the original cast. The mini-games are fun, the action is dumb, and it’s pretty hilarious and was done surprisingly well.
James Bond 007: From Russia with Love (All Regions) – The only James Bond game that made it to PSP. Various developers have been able to perform amazing feats of programming for handheld Bond games and the PSP looks fantastic and plays well.
Juiced Series (All Regions) – Another really fun arcade racing series. Looks good too.
Justice League Heroes (All Regions) – One of the few good dungeon crawlers on PSP. Marvel had one of the best and DC’s take isn’t too bad. Great graphics help too.
Kenka Bancho: Badass Rumble (All Regions) – A Japanese game that made a surprising debut in the West. Kenka Bancho is a fantastic beat ’em up with lots of boss fights and plenty of action.
The King of Fighters Collection: The Orochi Saga (All Regions) – For a system that didn’t have the best D-pad for fighters it sure did get a lot of them. This is a fantastic collection of Kind of Fighters games from the past and they run well and look great. It had a bunch of extra content to unlock too.
Kingdom of Paradise (All Regions) – This game is reminiscent of PS2 action games of yesteryear such as Genji, Onimusha, and others of its ilk. It’s a bit clunky, but still fun and captures that moment of nostalgia.
Knights in the Nightmare (All Regions) – A really high-profile SRPG on DS ported to PSP and was well done. Be warned that the game has a steep learning curve and can be hard as balls. There are multiple endings and should be great for people wanting a deep strategy game to sink into.
Lemmings (All Regions) – A fantastic port of the original game with 36 new levels and the ability to download user-made levels. While that isn’t possible anymore what’s here is awesome. If you love deep puzzles this is a game for you.
The Lord of the Rings: Tactics (All Regions) – Another good strategy game on PSP. It’s crazy how many good strategy games this system got. The game looks good and is a strange one-off game for the system that you can’t get anywhere else.
Lunar Series (US/JP) – The Lunar series was ported with care and quality. The first game was released only in the US while the second game was Japan exclusive. It’s a real shame there was no Western release, but they are both excellent games still.
M.A.C.H.: Modified Air Combat (Europe) – This air combat sim was exclusive to Europe and played well and looked great. There were a surprising number of combat sim games on PSP and this was among the best.
MediEvil: Resurrection (All Regions) – A remake of the original game. This was very well done minus the camera issues, but it looked good and is one of the “PlayStation DNA” games that got ported to the system.
Mercury Series (All Regions) – This is one of the best puzzle games on PSP. The physics are awesome and the clever puzzle designs are addictive. Color coding to open gates and switches, tilting the world to move the mercury and split it apart. It’s a unique game that really needs another entry.
Metal Slug Series (All Regions) – While XX was its own game, the Anthology has all six games and are fantastic ports and play well. The D-pad isn’t the most ideal, but the fact that all six games exist on one UMD is unreal.
Miami Vice: The Game (All Regions) – What. A good movie tie-in game?! Yeah, it’s a surprisingly solid third-person shooter that was heavily overlooked due to the terrible movie and the whole tie-in stereotype. It’s not a super interesting game, but there are very few shooters on PSP to begin with.
Michael Jackson: The Experience (All Regions) – This is an interesting take on the game. While the console versions were motion-based, the PSP one had chibi Michael and button presses similar to Hatsune Miku. It’s not the best version, but it has all the same tracks and is a lot of fun if you are a Michael Jackson fan.
Midnight Club Series (All Regions) – Two console racing games ported with grace on the PSP. While LA Remix has some slowdown unless you overclock your system they both play well. The PSP had tons of great arcade racers and these are no exception.
ModNation Racers (All Regions) – An ambitious if generic kart racer that has a good amount of content and colorful visuals. It’s safe and fun.
MX vs ATV Series (All Regions) – The PSP was not short of racing games and the long-running motocross series made it over in two releases. Both are good for a different reason so I suggest trying them all out.
Myst (EU/JP) – Never released in the US. Myst is one of the few adventure games on the system and this is a fine port of the PC classic.
N+ (All Regions) – If you like Super Meat Boy you will love N+. A sadistic platformer with over 200 levels mixed from other versions as well as a level editor with sharable maps.
Namco Museum Series (All Regions) – This was a popular series that came back from PS1. Five volumes and a Battle Anthology. A lot of classic Namco titles if that’s your thing.
NCAA Football Series (US) – Probably the best football series on PSP. Even though it’s college football, the NCAA series has long been regarded as superior to Madden.
NFL Street Series (US) – Ports of the arcade NFL games. This whole Street series has been highly regarded among fans and should really come back. EA’s strongest time in sports was with their EA BIG lineups such as SSX, NBA Street, FIFA Street, Freekstyle, and Def Jam.
NHL 07 (All Regions) – Easily the best hockey game on the system, and sadly there weren’t many options. EA didn’t release another version despite their other sports titles getting yearly releases.
Obscure: The Aftermath (All Regions) – This horror title doesn’t do anything new. Solve puzzles and kill monsters with multiple characters while you unravel a story. Fairly dated gameplay-wise, but it fits right in on the PSP.
Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast (All Regions) – Probably one of the very top arcade racers on PSP. It looks amazing and clearly given time and care to feel right on the system.
Pac-Man World 3 (All Regions) – The Pac-Man World series has always been fairly decent, and World 3 on PSP is just as strong as the console versions. What sets World 3 apart from the first two games is its hilariously serious tone in its story.
Pangya: Fantasy Golf (All Regions) – A spin-off of the Korean MMO game, this right here is the single best golf game on PSP. Colorful visuals, a quirky story, lots of content, and great ball physics. It feels like a complete package and less like a port.
Parappa the Rapper (All Regions) – This is probably one of the highest regarded PSP games, but despite raving reviews it just didn’t sell. It’s a fantastic port of the PS1 classic and looks great too.
Pinball Hall of Fame Series (All Regions) – The best pinball games on PSP. Two collections allow you to play them in Tate mode. What more could you ask for?
Pipe Mania (Europe) – This puzzle game is really colorful and addictive. Its simple approach is what makes it so accessible and fun.
Power Stone Collection (All Regions) – Ports of the Dreamcast games and well done too. Power Stone is a great fighting game, but better over multiplayer Ad-Hoc.
PQ: Practical Intelligence Quotient Series (All Regions) – A really fun and weird puzzle game similar to Brain Age, but more 3D and interactive. It really has that weird “PlayStation DNA” attached to it.
Prinny Series (All Regions) – A spin-off of the Disgaea series, and surprisingly a platformer. This is highly considered one of the best platform games on the system, but it’s really hard and has terrible voice acting.
Puyo Pop Series (Japan) – You can’t go wrong with portable Puyo Pop. The Fever series was a fantastic way to play this one the go.
R-Type Command (All Regions) – Another weird IP to go tactical. One of the best tactical games on PSP, and it’s surprising as R-Type is not a slow methodical game.
Race Driver 2006 (All Regions) – An absolute blast of a racing sim. One of the best on the system, and one of the best looking games on the system period.
Shrek Smash N’ Crash Racing (All Regions) – Yep. It’s a Shrek game. Yes, it’s actually decent. While no Mario Kart competitor it looks decent and has some fun tracks and fun Shrek characters. You could do a lot worse with the license…and boy did they.
The Sims Series (All Regions) – Fantastic spin-offs of the main PC version. These games hold up surprisingly well and are hand-tailored for mobile play. If you already love The Sims or want some sort of relaxing game on PSP these are it.
Smash Court Tennis 3 (All Regions) – Probably the single best tennis game on PSP and there were a few. Great visuals, controls, and overall content.
Sonic Rivals Series (All Regions) – The only Sonic games to come to PSP. These are considered some of the better games in the series according to Sonic fans. While not perfect they are miles better than most of the 3D turds Sega was pumping out in the mid-2000s.
Space Invaders Extreme (All Regions) – A freaking amazing remix of the Space Invaders game. Like Pac-Man Championship Edition it keeps the addictive formula but turns the volume up to 11.
Split/Second (All Regions) – While it tries hard to capture the magic of the console games, the PSP does a decent job. Not the best racer on the system, but it’s still fun and looks great.
SSX On Tour (All Regions) – A rock-solid entry in the SSX series and looks and feels great on PSP. It’s also the only snowboarding game on the system. Thankfully it’s good.
Star Ocean Series (All Regions) – Great ports of the PS1 games. Safe ports though without many new enhancements, but they’re solid 2D RPGs.
Star Trek: Tactical Assault (All Regions) – Another odd strategy license. While not the best tactical game on the system it does a decent job. I just wish it used the license more.
Tales of Series (All Regions) – While the West only got Radiant Mythology there were a bunch of ports in Japan. A solid RPG and the sequel is great too.
Test Drive Unlimited (All Regions) – Quite a risk of a release due to Unlimited’s reliance on constant internet connection. The game is still a solid single-player experience and looks awesome.
Thrillville Series (All Regions) – The only amusement park sim on PSP and both games are great. They look good and have a smattering of content to keep you coming back.
TOCA Race Driver Series (Europe) – One of the best racing sims on PSP and was only released in Europe. They look amazing and have great physics.
Tokobot (All Regions) – A criminally underlooked game and one of the best looking too. Lots of fun puzzles here and hours of fun.
Tom Clancy’s EndWar (All Regions) – A genic but fun hex tactical game. The series isn’t the real-time strategy graphical powerhouse that the consoles got. This is more about the strategy than the visuals.
Toy Story 3 (All Regions) – The console version was a surprisingly solid platformer with charm and great visuals. The PSP version is no different. Don’t let the Pixar name fool you either. This is a solid movie tie-in game.
UFC Undisputed 2010 (All Regions) – A surprisingly solid entry for PSP. Great visuals, controls, animations, and content. Sadly it was the one and only.
Ultimate Ghosts’N Goblins (All Regions) – One of the best platformers on PSP, but also the hardest. The difficulty that the series is well known for is here too.
Untold Legends Series (All Regions) – Originally a launch title for the PSP it’s a decent dungeon crawler albeit generic. Nothing amazing but it will scratch that dungeon crawler itch.
Valhalla Knights Series (All Regions) – An interesting and unique RPG, but has some flaws and issues. If you can look past all of that you will enjoy the series quite a bit.
Virtua Tennis Series (All Regions) – A great tennis series all around and there really isn’t a bad one. It’s just a matter of what your preferences and tastes are. You know you have a good library when you get a choice between good tennis games.
Warhammer Series (All Regions) – Both games are surprisingly good. Just another great tactics game to add to the PSP’s lineup. If you love the Warhammer license you will really love these games.
The Warriors (All Regions) – A fantastic port of the Rockstar action game. Even if you don’t know anything about the movie its based on you will really enjoy this game.
What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord?! Series (All Regions) – A humorous and unique game where you play the bad guy and have to create dungeons to stop the hero. It looks simple but has a lot of spirit.
Wild Arms XF (All Regions) – A fun hex-based SRPG with a lot of dialogue, cut scenes, and story.
World Championship Poker 2 Featuring Howard Lederer (All Regions) – Not sure who Howard is, but this is probably the only good poker game on PSP. The graphics are rough, but it has fun poker gameplay.
Worms: Open Warfare Series (All Regions) – Worms was just another awesome strategy game on PSP. It’s insane how many awesome ones there were. Both games are worth playing and have fun levels and great humor.
Xyanide: Resurrection (EU/JP) – A direct sequel to the Xbox shmup. It has great visuals and just overall plays well. There weren’t many shmups on the PSP.
Yggdra Union: We’ll Never Fight Alone (All Regions) – Overall a solid port of the GBA game with upgrades. This is just another solid SRPG with great visuals.
Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman (All Regions) – A fun roguelike SRPG with great humor and colorful visuals. Heavily overlooked.
The PlayStation 2 is not just the best selling video game console of all time, but has some of the most iconic and memorable games of all time. While the PS2 had massive third-party support is had many great exclusives and first party games. While most multiplatform games played and looked best on the Xbox I won’t cover the game I covered over on that article. You can basically check that one out and play the PS2 versions if you want and/or don’t have an Xbox. Check out that article here.
The PS2 was a major part of my childhood. It’s the system that made me a hardcore gamer. I read the Official PlayStation Magazine religiously and I owned three different systems thanks to the disc read error on the early phat models. I got the network adapter when the price dropped with SOCOM being my first ever online console game. This system is amazing and has so many fantastic games, but also has some expensive games. Most survival horror games won’t be on this list or obscure Japanese made titles. The survival horror genre is highly coveted by the niche fans it garners and I am actually one of them.
The PS2 may be the least powerful system of the three consoles but some developers really made miracles on this console. Some games just look downright amazing on here, and while no where near what the Xbox could do, it still managed some lookers. These are games that are in my personal collection, as per the usual, and you can get for under $20.
Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War – Namco – 2004
The Ace Combat series was a PlayStation exclusive for over a decade and this was the last in the series and went out with a bang. Every game was fantastic, but this one looked the best and played the best. There is a whopping 32 missions and a ton of jets and weapons to unlock. If you love air combat games this is the best it got in this generation.
Call of Duty: Legacy Bundle – Spark Unlimited/Treyarch/Activision – 2007
This was a VERY late release for the system, but it contains both Finest Hour and Big Red One. Both were console exclusive Call of Duty games. I played a ton of Finest Hour as it was a present I received for Christmas the year it came out. I also played the online mode a ton. It’s not very good today, but Big Red One is much better. If you hate WWII shooters then skip this as these were at the steep descent of the genre.
This is a Cold War spy FPS, and one of the few exclusives to PS2, and it plays surprisingly well. It was a flop, but it had fun online multiplayer at the time and was released towards the end of the system’s life. All of the FPS games that were multiplatform were better on Xbox, but we at least got something decent.
Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore – Tecmo – 2000
This was a launch title for the system and while the Xbox got a better upgraded version, this one plays very well even if you don’t have an Xbox. The game has a better tag mode and added stages and characters. It’s an early fighter so it feels a bit dated, but it’s still a lot of fun for the low price.
Devil May Cry – Capcom – 2001
This was an early entry and one of the first smash hits for the system. This game was created by the Resident Evil and Platinum Games superstars Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami. It was to prove that fast paced 2D action can be done in 3D and it worked. It’s one of the biggest gaming franchises ever created. While the HD versions are the best way to play now, this version still holds up today.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening – Special Edition – Capcom – 2006
This was released at the end of the PS2’s life, but it went out with a bang, and the Special Edition is superior as it adds a lot of content. You can play as Virgil and Nelo, there’s harder difficulties, a new style and weapon, and a lot more. This game also released for $20 under the Greatest Hits banner and that’s when I picked this up. Sure, the next-generation of consoles were almost here, but DMC3 was still fantastic.
Downhill Domination – Incog Inc./SCEA – 2003
This was a sleeper hit. A downhill bicycle riding game was a weird niche at the time, but the game is a ton of fun and has a great sense of speed. The fun is in the physics and the course design. Jumps, bumps, steep hills, and of course you can knock opponents off their bikes. It’s cheap and a blast to play.
Final Fantasy X – Square – 2001
This was one of the first major hits for the system and even I rented this from Blockbuster when I got my PS2. The game had amazing graphics and was the first ever JRPG I finished. The characters are memorable, it has a great battle system, and the story is actually quite good. I just hated the math game known as Blitz Ball and getting the weapons can be a real chore, but this was re-released in HD on newer systems, so unless you want to play on those this version is pointless.
Final Fantasy X-2 – Square/Square Enix – 2003
This was the first time a Final Fantasy game ever got a direct sequel and it was a huge deal. Some even say this game is superior to X. I do prefer the combat here as it feels faster paced and the game is a bit easier. It features two new characters along with Yuna who become series icons and looks even better this time around. Again, this was also released in HD so those versions are better. My copy is actually the one I gave to my sister for her 14th birthday, but as an adult she grew out of gaming and gave the copy back to me. It’s nice to have it in my collection.
Final Fantasy XII – Square Enix – 2006
This was released just around when the PS3 and Wii launched and despite the late release, and one of the last exclusives for the system, it was a big hit. It featured the same world and art of Final Fantasy XI Online and featured a more real-time combat system, but had great characters and story. The game has been remastered for newer systems so this version is mostly irrelevant now. The copy I have was given to my youngest sister for Christmas in 2007 and she gave it back to me due to her not being interested in retro games anymore. It’s also nice to have that in my collection too.
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec – Polyphony Digital/SCEA – 2001
This didn’t quite make the launch of the PS2, but boy did I put dozens of hours into this game. It’s still the best game in the series and holds up amazingly well today. One day I plan to play this again and finish every event. This game also showed what the PS2 could do visually and was ahead of its time for the longest time. Racing sims on PC couldn’t even match this game at the time.
Gran Turismo 4 – Polyphony Digital/SCEA – 2004
This game seemed to have taken forever to release, and while not as good as GT3, it still holds up very well today. This issues were with the physics model and quality being all over the place. It’s still a lot of fun with a racing wheel if you can find one. This game pushed the PS2 to its limits and was surpassed by the superior Forza Motorsport a year later.
Headhunter – Amuze AB/Acclaim – 2002
This is a port from the Dreamcast with upgraded visuals. You play as a cop who is head hunting criminals have a variety of moves and weapons at your disposal. It didn’t sell all that well, and feels dated, but a lot of fun as it was kind of unique for its time.
Hot Shots Golf 3 – Clap Hanz/SCEA – 2002
This is one of the best golf games on the system. While it’s not a realistic simulator, it has cartoon visuals and the ball physics are quite good. The game isn’t restrained by licenses or real world courses and equipment. You can level up and buy new equipment and items for your characters. It’s really fun and if you love golf games this is a must have.
This is one of the most unique games of this generation. Despite the terrible cover art the West got this is a treat to behold on the system. It used to command high prices before the HD version was released as well. While that version is better you have to experience this on the hardware it was designed for. It pushes the PS2 to its limits, but also isn’t much more than a concept or tech demo. It’s very short and most people didn’t get the game at all thus the low sales. It was originally developed on PS1, but the hardware couldn’t do what the team wanted.
I played the hell out of this game from Blockbuster when it was released. It was like a cartoony GTA. Well, the game isn’t as good as I remembered and it’s been released in HD since, but this was a huge deal on PS2 and was good for its time.
This game didn’t do as well as Jak II despite improving on it in every way. It had a lot of ‘tude compared to the original’s light heartedness. The game ditches the open area levels for more straight forward platforming and shooting combat. I never really cared too much for the Jak series, but it’s still good nonetheless.
Jak X: Combat Racing – Naughty Dog/SCEA – 2005
This was released late in the system’s life, but was a damn good car combat game. I actually only own all of these Jak games because my youngest sister gave them to me a while ago after realizing she just isn’t into retro gaming. She treasures the memories but doesn’t have the tech or knowledge to get the systems running on modern TVs correctly. They have a special place in my collection. I also don’t own the original game as it was one of the few Sony games that just didn’t appeal to me. I still don’t care much for this series, but I don’t hate them.
I remember following this game in magazines as it was dubbed the “Halo Killer” and of course that never happened. It was panned by critics as pushing the system too hard and being slow and cumbersome. I got this for Christmas of 2004 and loved it to death. I replayed the campaign a few times and thought the weight and slow reloading of the weapons felt good for once. It did have a lot of slowdown, but also looked good despite being very gray and brown. The game is better played on PS3 on the Killzone Trilogy which puts the game in HD.
Kim Possible: What’s the Switch? – Artificial Mind & Movement/Buena Vista Games – 2006
This was released at the end of the system’s life, but it’s a hidden gem through and through. Even if you don’t like Kim Possible this is a fantastic platformer that’s incredibly underrated and overlooked.
Kinetica – SCE Studio Santa Monica/SCEA – 2001
This is an awesome cycle racing game that is often overlooked. You drive humanoid cycle at a great sense of speed and can do some insane stunts. The tracks are crazy, the game looks great for being an early title, and the animations are awesome. If you like Wipeout you will like this game.
The King of Fighters 2006 – SNK Playmore – 2006
A late release for the system The King of Fighters went full 3D with a whopping 38 character cast and dozens of costumes to unlock. It doesn’t feel as fast as the 2D game, but it looks halfway decent and plays well. It’s a fun PS2 exclusive fighter especially with an arcade stick.
The King of Fighters XI – SNK Playmore – 2007
Released long after the next generation of consoles had arrived almost no one talked about this game. This game stuck to the traditional 2D sprites and is a great fighting game. An arcade stick is recommended here as well. If you’re short on PS2 fighters this is one of the best.
Kingdom Hearts II – Square Enix – 2006
Released towards the end of the PS2’s life it went out with a bang with the juggernaut that was KH2. I rented this game from Gameplay the week it came out and it was the only game I ever cried at the end for. Not to mention the theme song by Utada Hikaru is still on my playlist to this day. It’s a fantastic action RPG and yes it has been released in HD on newer consoles, but the PS2 version plays just fine even today.
This was a stylish action adventure game with some stealth elements and it wasn’t half bad. It’s full of cheap deaths and can be really hard, but it looks and plays great even to this day. Sadly, there was no sequel, but I hope Sony digs this up again at some point.
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory – Capcom – 2002
This is essentially a 3D Ghosts ‘N Ghouls. It has a fun art style, challenging gameplay, and is just a lot of fun all around. You can collect coins to continue the game and his armor is reduced as you take each hit. It’s a pretty unique game in its own right and deserves to be revisited.
This is a fantastic top down racer with a great sense of speed and control. You can get power-ups, race through houses and other areas that make you look very small. You can even design your own tracks and it was one of the few PS2 games that interacted with the PSP.
Midway Arcade Treasures 2 – Digital Eclipse Software/Midway – 2004
This is one of the best classic compilations of this generation. This game sold so well because MK2 and 3 were included. You also get Smash TV, Rampage, Narc, and many other Midway classics here.
Outlaw Golf 2 – Hypnotix/Global Star Software – 2004
This does play and look better on Xbox, but I have it on PS2. It’s another raunchy sex infused sports game from the Outlaw series, but it’s actually quite good. The humor is dated, but I still got a few laughs from it.
Outlaw Tennis – Hypnotix/Global Star Software – 2005
Again, I own it on PS2, but it’s better on Xbox. Another crazy sports game with boobs and fart jokes. You can play in volcanos, beaches, and even space. This game features all the characters from previous Outlaw games so it has a lot of content.
Primal – SCE Studio Cambridge/SCEA – 2003
This is essentially a Tomb Raider clone but more fantastical. You solve puzzles, jump around, attack things, and it feels a bit clunky, but has a long run time and a somewhat interesting story and characters. It wasn’t a big seller though.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within – Ubisoft – 2004
It plays and looks better on Xbox, but I don’t have it on that system. This is my favorite PoP game because of the dark and gory tone and the heavy metal music. A lot of people got mad due to the shift in tone, but I think it was brave and needs to be done more. It’s a huge improvement over the first game and even has a scantily clad antagonist that was plastered all over magazines in the day.
Project Eden – Core Design/Eidos – 2001
An early game for the PS2, Project Eden was created by the Tomb Raider team and was a third person shooter with puzzle solving. It didn’t sell well and I always confused this game with Deus Ex. It’s a lot of fun despite feeling a bit dated and you will be entertained for quite awhile.
R: Racing Evolution – Namco – 2003
This plays and looks better on Xbox, but I have it on PS2. This is a racing sim featuring a surprisingly entertaining story of a busty Japanese girl trying to make it in the racing scene. The busty girl was supposed to be a huge selling point, but the game didn’t do to well. It’s still a great racing game.
Ratchet & Clank – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2002
This was a game my youngest sister was obsessed with growing up. I liked it to and it was Sony’s more popular mascot platformer over Jak & Daxter. The series was praised for it’s clever humor, memorable characters, and signature guns with awesome alt fire modes. This game was remade for PS4 and is probably the best version to get as well as released in HD a few years back. The first game always feels dated and clunky, but it’s still a good game.
This game was a huge improvement over the first game and was praised by critics from all corners. More levels, bigger weapons, better graphics, more gadgets. The game also retains the great humor and adds new characters. The HD version is probably the way to go but it holds up on the PS2 well.
Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2004
Yes, by the third game it was starting to get a little old, but series wouldn’t stop evolving and adding quality content in form of weapons, levels, characters, and advancing the story. This was a rare case in which each sequel was better than the last and not worse. It was released in HD as well so you should play that, but the PS2 version is outstanding. Probably the best game in the trilogy.
Ratchet: Deadlocked – Insomniac Games/SCEA – 2005
Released towards the end of the PS2 life Deadlocked was the only game never released in HD and this is where things started heading downhill. The game isn’t bad at all, but it focuses more on the shooting and less platforming. The game has a lot of combat arenas and is more serious and darker in tone. Clank is also not in this game outside of voice overs which irked many gamers.
Resident Evil 4 – Capcom – 2005
Released a year after the GameCube version, and pissing many GameCube owners off, the PS2 got more content. While you can play better versions of this today, the PS2 version is still solid and well worth a play through if you don’t care about visual upgrades (they’re pretty minor). Or you can hold off for the official remake. My sister pre-ordered this in excitement and after getting scared during the first level before entering the village she turned it off and gave it to me straight up. She actually got the Premium Edition that included some extras and commands a much higher price than the standard version.
Resident Evil: Code: Veronica X – Capcom – 2001
This was a port of the Dreamcast game and was released to much acclaim. The enhanced visuals and new cut-scenes are a nice tough, but it’s just a great classic Resident Evil game. Some even say this is their favorite over Resident Evil 2. This is by far the best version of the game and should actually get a remake too.
Rogue Galaxy – Level-5/SCEA – 2005
An underrated JRPG Level-5 would later go on to make Dragon Quest VIII and Ni no Kuni. This is a fun JRPG with a sci-fi background and allows synthesizing maxed out weapons to help break up the traditional JRPG formula. It’s got a nice story and if you love classic JRPGs from this era you will love this one.
Rygar: The Legendary Adventure – Tecmo – 2002
This is a sword and sandal adventure game with platforming and puzzle solving. It’s not super memorable, but it’s fun and has a decent story and worth checking out for the low price.
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2002
This was one of the first major first party shooters Sony was able to get right. This game was a huge phenomenon and one of the first major shooters that went online. In fact, this was the first console game I ever played online and I put dozens and dozens of hours into this game. It was an absolute blast, and while it feels dated, it’s worth going back and playing through the campaign.
SOCOM II: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2003
This one had a much improved online component, but issues form the first game’s campaign remained, however it’s still a great tactical shooter despite it’s age.
SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs – Zipper Interactive/SCEA – 2005
The sad thing about these games is their online component were its strong suite and the servers are long gone. The campaigns just warmed you up for what to expect, but SOCOM 3 added vehicles to the game with improved visuals, controls, and overhaul of systems. It’s the best in the series, but if you have to pick one just jump into this one if you don’t care to see how the series evolved.
Shadow of the Colossus – Team Ico/SCEA – 2005
This was a great game to send the PS2 off. It pushed the system beyond its limits and had clunky controls, but man was it an experience. There was nothing like it. I got this for my 16th birthday and I played through it in one night. Now, there’s no reason to get this version as the HD one for PS3 is superior and even the PS4 remake is even better with improved controls and visuals, but only get this to experience the game as it was on the system it was built for. It’s really something to see, and it’s one of the cheapest complete games on the system.
Shinobi – Overworks/Sega – 2002
This was a reboot of the 2D series and it worked well here. The game has fast paced combat and platforming and is hard as nails too. The game is rather short, but most people won’t see the end. It’s not really a looker, but it just plays really well and if you are a fan of the 2D classics you will enjoy this.
This was another cartoony action platformer smash hit for Sony. It spawned four sequels and they just kept getting better as time went on. This game holds up very well even today, but a better HD release of the trilogy was released on PS3 so go for that unless you want it specifically on PS2. The game has clever writing, fantastic controls, great animations, and addictive gameplay. The third game is also great, but I don’t have it in my collection.
Sly 2: Band of Thieves – Sucker Punch Productions/SCEA – 2004
This game improved upon the first in so many ways. More characters, better controls, larger levels, more things to do, mini-games, and just a perfect culmination of action platforming. I actually have these two Sly games because my youngest sister gave them up as she no longer has a desire to play retro games. She loved the Sony mascot platformers as a kid and they have a special place in my collection.
SoulCalibur III – Project Soul/Namco – 2005
A PS2 exclusive, SC3 was a massive game. 24 fighters, two huge game modes with one including a strategy type game, and robust custom fighter mode which stayed in the series here after. There wasn’t any online play, which sucked, but the game was still a blast and is one of the best fighting games on the system. It’s even better with an arcade stick.
Spider-Man 2 – Treyarch/Activision – 2004
This game looks much better on Xbox, so get it on that if you can. The PS2 version still plays great though. This game was a huge part of my teen years. I bought this game when it came out and played through it more than once. It was amazing swinging through the city with such ease. Open world games outside of GTA weren’t a thing back then like this especially with this quality. The combat was repetitive, but it’s the best Spider-Man game outside of the newest Sony ones.
This game was a huge deal back in the day. Jet ski games weren’t really a thing and when something as crazy and fun as this game came along people talked. The courses were insane, the tricks were fun, and the sense of speed was unreal. It holds up really well even today.
Tekken Tag Tournament – Namco – 2000
This was a launch title for the PS2, and yes it had two fighting games at launch, and this game featured the ability to choose two characters and tag them out. It was a massive hit and was the talk of every playground. It looked good too.
Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven – K2/Activision – 2003
Tenchu returned with much praise. This was more ninja stealth action that played well, felt good, and holds up even today. You need some patience so unless you have that don’t bother with this one. Running around and swinging your sword will just get you killed.
The Getaway – Team SOHO/SCEA – 2003
This was a huge deal when it was released. It pushed the PS2 to its limits, and the game had no HUD. When you drove you only knew where to go based on the car’s blinker and where to turn. This was cool and unheard of back in the day, but also led to many cheap deaths. The controls are clunky, but you have to admire the London style GTA clone that it was and tried to be hyper realistic.
Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution – Sega AM2/Sega – 2003
This is one of the best fighters on the system. Probably the top three. Virtua Fighter 4 is just so fast, fluid, and responsive and feels like its evolved. There’s a quest mode, unlockable fighters, costumes, wallpaper and more. The game is packed with content and plays best with an arcade stick.
Game collecting has skyrocketed due to the lockdown of COVID and the general boredom of a new generation of gamers stuck inside. With the easy access of information from YouTube, Wikipedia, and various streams and let’s-plays, retro gaming is seeing a renaissance. To collectors this is usually a bad time to buy up games. A game that was once maybe $30 can easily shoot upwards above $100 because of it’s obscurity, rarity, or going viral on a popular YouTube channel. You may think you want to pick up Tekken for $5, but you might look on eBay and see $60 price tags and go, “HUH?!” Your favorite childhood PS1 game like maybe Symphony of the Night isn’t a quick $20 steal and the different versions matter. Original black label releases always cost more than the Greatest Hits versions. This is because the black labels were a smaller print run because the games weren’t popular yet. Don’t fret though. Your favorite game may not be cheap but there are so many fantastic games you and others have never heard of that are worth playing. You won’t see any survival horror here as that genre is highly coveted because of its niche. The PS1/PS2 era of survival horrors are considered mostly cult classics. You won’t see a lot of Mega Man games, JRPGs, or a lot of obscure and rare titles either.
The PlayStation is one of the most diverse 32-bit systems when it comes to genres and overall games available. The system saw numerous entries for any genre imaginable and it can be intimidating to start collecting today. I’m going to cover games that you can pick up complete in box for under $20 to help start your collection. These may not be rare, or even popular, but they’re interesting and fun for sure. These are actually all games in my personal collection so I’m going to stick with that rather than research every single PS1 game and find prices on eBay…that would take months.
Akuji is a game I have played all the way through and it’s from the creators of Tomb Raider. It looks good and has a great atmosphere, but it does feel a bit clunky in spots, but not to the point you can’t finish the game. There are a few frustrating mechanics at play, but if you want a good looking action game then pick this up.
Ten Pin Alley is one of the best bowling games on the system and who doesn’t love Animaniacs? It isn’t stuffy like most pro bowling games and has great animations and one-liners from the triplets. It has great sound effects and just feels like the show in general.
Army Men: Air Attack – The 3DO Company – 1999
This is a fun Choplifter clone starring the green toys. It has tight controls, fun objectives, and just plays well overall. It can get a little repetitive, but the miniaturization of everything is great and is one of the best Army Men games made in this era.
Asteroids – Syrox Developments/Activision – 1998
It’s Asteroids but in THREE DEE. This was a common thing to bring back 8-bit games into 3D and some succeeded while most didn’t. Asteroids is fun and fast paced and looks modern, for the time, and it’s one of the cheapest games you can pick up on the system complete.
It’s a Zuma clone before Zuma. It’s the best way to explain this. A lot of people compared it to Puyo Puyo at the time, but it’s obviously nothing like it in reality. It’s a fun match three puzzle game that’s dirt cheap and will provide tons of fun.
Black Dawn – Black Ops Entertainment/Virgin Interactive – 1996
Black Dawn is a great looking helicopter sim with great controls and a lot of fun missions. These types of games were clunky in the 32-bit era, but Black Ops managed to make a helicopter sim on a home console playable. PC was where all of the flight sims were home to back in the day, but a few managed to make it on consoles.
Bust-A-Move 99 – Taito Corporation/Acclaim Entertainment – 1999
Bust-A-Move is one of my favorite puzzle games of all time. I still remember beating the grim reaper boss on the SNES version and getting past that 100th level. The music is great, the graphics are colorful, and the puzzles are addictive and the difficulty slowly ramps up. The PlayStation version is a great puzzle game just like the classic and you can’t really go wrong here.
C-12: Final Resistance – SCE Studio Cambridge/SCEA – 2001
C-12 was released late in the PS1’s life cycle, in fact, just after the PS2 launched. The game looks fantastic and pushes the system to its limits, and it’s a very entertaining action game. It didn’t sell well due to the hype of the PS2 and a lot of consumers were over the 32-bit era by now. It plays similar to Syphon Filter and has a great sci-fi atmosphere. It’s very underrated and overlooked by most. I believe this was the last first party title developed on the system.
Another late releasing PS1 game, Motocross 2001 is a solid circuit style dirt bike racing game. It had great physics and looked good with some excellent sound in there as well. This was one of the best dirt bike games before the MX series came along. The game also feels fast paced despite slightly slippery physics. The system couldn’t do too much and Gran Turismo was about as realistic as you could get on the system, but that was years spent studying the hardware.
Codename: Tenka – Psygnosis – 1997
Most FPS games are coveted on 32-bit systems because it was the era just before they became mainstream on 128-bit systems. Tenka is an odd Doom clone set in a sci-fi universe with over 20 missions. It’s hard and sometimes frustrating due to poor checkpoint placement, but it requires patience and slower movement than Doom. It’s a great alternative with full 3D graphics, while not the best FPS on the system, it is still a lot of fun for the low price of entry.
Colony Wars: Vengeance – Psygnosis – 1998
Psygnosis were masters at their craft during the 32-bit era both on consoles and PCs. Colony Wars: Vengeance is considered one of the best games on the system and it’s surprising it’s so cheap despite this claim. While it didn’t sell too well space combat lovers will get a lot of fun out of this. The game looks fantastic, has a lot of variety in missions, and just feels good to control. This was actually one of the first PS1 games I ever bought that kick started the collector in me. I didn’t own a single PS1 game outside of Mortal Kombat: Trilogy and this was a must have.
Darkstone – Delphine Software/Take-Two – 2001
Another game released late into the system’s life, and a Diablo clone of all things. Now this game is something that you either love or hate. It’s still one of the best Diablo clones on any console system as these just didn’t really exist back in the day. It has a decent story, lots of loot, and looks pretty good. It may feel clunky compared to later games like Champions of Norrath, but it’s well worth the time it takes to get into it.
Descent Maximum – Parallax Software/Interplay Productions – 1997
Descent is considered one of the best PC games of the 90’s and this is probably one of the best PC ports to home consoles at the time. This is essentially Descent 2, but was put in a new engine and had 36 levels retooled for the PS1, so essentially this is a PS1 exclusive Descent game. You play in a first person view and can rotate 360 degrees and you shoot down things in mines and tunnels. It’s fast paced and a lot of fun. You can’t go wrong here.
Probably a little better than Maximum, Descent has players trying to find a reactor core in each level and you get 45 seconds to find the escape hatch afterwards. It’s a lot of fast paced fun and was one of the best PC-to-console ports of the time. It takes advantage of the DualShock controller and looks great in the process. Even the longbox version of the game is cheap right now.
This is one of the best games on the system and is so cheap because of how well it sold. There’s a lot of copies out there. The game looks great for being an early title on the system and is more of the same but just tweaked and improved upon. Pit stops are a thing now and there are more tracks with more cars. More is always good, right?
Brought to you by the creators of Destruction Derby, Reflections were some of the best out there when it came to fast paced arcade racers. Driver went the more realistic route with one of the best looking games of the entire era and had an open world with excellent driving mechanics. Some may find it boring, but some may love just how modern it feels. It’s not for everyone, but if you want something that was really genre defining for the system then this is it.
Duke Nukem: Time to Kill – n-Space/GT Interactive – 1999
Duke Nukem made a strong presence on PS1 and was the only console ever to have this much mainstay. Duke Nukem had a series of games set in the third person and Time to Kill was probably the best of them. It had the same fun humor, multiplayer, and great controls and level design. If you want a great third person shooter, this is one of the best on the system.
Final Fantasy Origins – Square Enix – 2002
So this is a weird one. You can still find sealed copies of this game, the Greatest Hits version, because it was one of the last PS1 games ever released. I picked up a sealed copy a few years ago for $20 and was shocked. It contains great ports of Final Fantasy I and II for a low price. While these aren’t the best games in the series, this is great for those who want to play the older NES/SNES titles in a higher resolution with slightly upgraded visuals.
Final Fantasy VIII – Square – 1999
This is an instant classic, but also a lot of people’s least favorite in the series. It did a lot of things different like the stupid magic system for one, which I can’t stand, as it’s based on cards instead of mana. However, the story, characters, setting, and overall atmosphere are memorable. Just be prepared to sink nearly 40 hours into this game as it’s long and only for diehard JRPG fans. The pre-rendered cut scenes look fantastic and overall it’s a great looking game.