A few weeks ago my Internet friend Seth wrote about some PSP games you should try. His selection was heavily weighted with Japanese RPGs (they were all Square Enix games), which is cool if you’re into that thing. But maybe you’re not, and maybe you want to use your PSP a couple more times before you retire it and move on to the PS Vita when it’s released this holiday season.
A lot of people poke fun at the PSP’s thin library. They say it doesn’t have any quality games, and that’s not true. It has quality games, there just aren’t a lot of them, especially when you consider how long the system’s been kicking around. Below are a few action-oriented games (of the non JRPG variety) worth dusting off your PlayStation Portable for. Most of them are from western developers, and unlike many PSP action games, none of them leave you dreaming of a second analog stick.
Release: March 2006 | Metacritic average: 85
If you bought a PSP when I did, this game came with it. If you haven’t played it yet, shame on you. It’s a fantastic platformer with excellent animation and solid gameplay. Some of the jokes might be a bit dated by now, but it’s still a solid and entertaining game. Familiarity with Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter series on the PS2 is not required.
Secret Agent Clank
Release: June 2007 | Metacritic Average: 72
Another PSP pack-in (for some) and another game that stars a sidekick from a popular PS2 action-platformer. Clumsy stealth missions aside, this game is a delight from start to finish with excellent level design, an engaging story with expressive characters, and strong platforming that lives up to its console cousins. If you like the platforming of the Ratchet & Clank games this game is full of it. If, however, you play the R&C games because you like to shoot crazy space weapons, you won’t find too much of that here.
God of War: Chains of Olympus & God of War: Ghost of Sparta
Release: March 2008; November 2010 | Metacritic Average: 91; 86
If you like God of War then you’ll like both entries on the PSP. These games approach perfection. Expect the same animations, solid fighting systems, epic scale and heroic orchestral scores from the console games. The second entry, Ghost of Sparta is my favorite God of War story, plus it features a unique combat component that adds an extra layer of strategy to the act of slashing up mythical creatures.
Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror
Release: March 2006 | Metacritic Average: 87
You can’t go wrong with any of the Syphon Filter games on PSP. They’ve got a variety of control schemes that make the lack of a second analog stick a non-issue. I have fond memories of the first Syphon Filter on the original PlayStation. It beat Metal Gear Solid to the stealth market by a couple of months. That game was great without a second analog stick, and these are too. Just make sure you come to these for the slick third person combat, not for the stories of international espionage. Seriously, the plots are dumb.
Release: October 2006 | Metacritic Average: 77
This was one of the free games you could get for your PSP during Sony’s “Welcome Back” program. Killzone gets around the whole second analog thing by putting the action in an isometric view. You get the controls of most shooters—rolling, taking cover, throwing grenades, issuing commands—with the view of something more akin to an action RPG. The difficulty spikes towards the end, so if you might want to start on easy.
Prince of Persia: Rival Swords
Release: April 2007 | Metacritic Average: 74
This is the one game in the list not made specifically for the PSP. I put it in here because it’s my favorite game series, and the translation to PSP is actually pretty good. If you played the console version, called Two Thrones, this is the same thing with lower res graphics and a couple of extra chariot sequences thrown in. The sound can be a bit buggy, but other than that, I had a great time replaying this game on the go.
Release: November 2009 | Metacritic Average: 87
Did you like LittleBigPlanet? Do you want to be able to play it on a plane or on a long car ride? Good news! LittleBigPlanet PSP somehow manages to capture the spirit and fundamental gameplay of the PS3 game. It’s kind of amazing when you think about the fact that the PSP is a wasteland of poor PS2 ports. If you liked the floaty, creative side scrolling action of the PS3 game, you’ll get more of the same here.
Mega Man Powered Up
Release: March 2006 | Metacritic Average: 82
This was one of my all time favorite Mega Man games. It’s got classic hard-as-nails gameplay and adorable polygonal art. You can create your own levels or download hundreds of challenges from other users (Capcom might have taken the server for this down though, not sure). I’ve played a lot of Mega Man over the years, and this is one of the purest, most challenging games he’s been in since the original 8-bit days.
You might have noticed that most of these games came out in 2006 or 2007, that’s when the PSP still had some momentum. The good news is that most of those games still hold up after five years. If you’re picking up the system for cheap, or you haven’t played it in a while, make sure to check out these titles. Between the games above and the ones suggested by Seth, you’ll have months of entertainment.