This article was originally written in response the initial Sony announcement that they were shutting down the PSP, Vita and PS3 stores, so covered all of those platforms. Sony has thankfully seen sense and decided to keep the Vita and PS3 stores open, but the PSP one still vanishes on July 2nd.
Quick Update : It seems from what I’ve read that it should still be possible to buy PSP games post July 2nd on the Vita and PS3. While the PSP store itself on the console closed down in 2016, it’s still possible to buy DLC content through the PSP, that’s definitely going away. So these games may still be available, but I would still grab them if you can, I talk about some of the games that have already gone from the store near the end of this article.
So I’ve decided to put together a quick list of the games that I think are worth grabbing from PSN. I’m using my Vita to play all my PSP games and I’ve finally installed custom firmware so that I can use a Micro SD card and cram loads of gaming goodness on there. The great thing about the Vita is that it has the PSP chipset so the games run really well on the newer system. Some of these may be available as physical games, but the prices will surely be rocketing up. Some may also be available on other systems, but I’m looking at portability here.
So without any more waffle, It’s time to have a scroll through my Vita home screens and see what goodies I have installed! I have to stress that this is a personal list, these are the games I have played and love to death, others lists more suited to your taste are available.
Persona 3 Portable
Let’s start with the game that is the main reason for me owning multiple PSPs though the years and and now a Vita. I am a huge fan of the Persona series of games, and the first one I played was Persona 3 Portable (P3P). It was actually the first JRPG I played for more than an hour, and opened my eyes to a whole new genre of games. I know in general Persona 4 Golden (P4G) is held in higher regard, but P3P is up there with Mario 64 as one of my favourite games, maybe for the nostalgia hit as much as the gameplay, but I think it’s a masterpiece. The Persona games feature a mix of dungeon crawling and high school life, and both sides are rock solid. In the life side you create bonds with friends called social links by spending time with them, and these links improve your skills and abilities in the dungeons. How you spend your time is up to you, and balancing these relationships and building up your stats makes a difference as to how you approach your strategies.
At the start of the game you can pick either the original male character or a new female character. Picking the female character changes a lot of the social links, and also changes how the other main characters react to you. After playing the PS2 version, it really feels like a different game. The story is fantastic, as are the characters you spend your time with. It’s incredibly dark and all of the cast have some real issues to deal with without it feeling too angsty. As with other Persona games, the characters are not annoyingly whiney like in many JRPGs, but are dealing with their issues alone, it takes something big for them to face up to what’s happened in their past. And the ending just blew me away. Add in an amazing soundtrack, and it’s the perfect package. It’s brilliant, just play it. Now.
I’ll also give a shout out to Persona and Persona 2 Innocent Sin which are available as PSP versions. Sadly Persona 2 Eternal Punishment was never released in the UK, but it is available as a PS1 game on the US store. The original Persona game is a tough sell, but Persona 2 is still a great RPG. It doesn’t have the social links side of the later games, but you could see where the series was heading with this game.
This one is from Clap Hanz, the creators of Everybody’s Golf, and it’s an absolute blast. It plays like an RPG, where you control a young tennis player who sets out to teach people around the world the joy of tennis. In each area you visit you will help someone discover their lost love of the game, and they will join you as a playable character on your journey. Featuring the same style of cartoon character models as Everybody’s Golf, it’s a brilliant way to frame a sports game. All of that would be wasted if the tennis wasn’t great, but here it is spot on. Characters have varied skill sets, court surfaces each behave differently and the tennis mechanics are absolutely spot on.
Space Invaders Extreme
Also available on Steam, but made for portable play, this takes the Space Invader concept and hypes it up 1000%. Power-ups are available by shooting invaders of the same colour, there are boss fights, a thumping techno soundtrack and the whole game is simply an assault on the senses. A worthy update to a classic game, this should be snapped up by everyone.
God of War : Ghost of Sparta
When I first played this game on the PSP I was astonished at how they had squeezed this action title onto the PSP, and it’s still amazing today. It’s every bit as good as the games on the PS2, and what could be better than using Kratos to deal out some deadly blows while you are on the bus? Though I would watch out that no one is watching when you play a certain mini game. The combat is great as expected, the puzzles are simple but fun, but what stands out is the depth given to the character of Kratos, the story and voice acting are surprisingly good.
This one may be an acquired taste, but it was the first visual novel style game I played, and like Persona 3, it opened my eyes to a new genre of game. This is a horror game where a group of school friends get transported to the remains of an elementary school where they need to explore and find their way out, while avoiding a nasty end. The graphics are pretty basic, but the games strength is it’s reliance on your imagination rather than full on bloody visuals. There are certainly some gory section, but the use of sound is incredibly unsettling. The music adapts as you discover some gruesome remains, you can hear voices whispering around you and I would recommend playing with headphones for some real immersion. A genuinely creepy game, but may not be for everyone.
I only picked this one up recently when it was recommended to me, and I’m glad I did. You live in world that looks like it ‘s made from scrap metal, and your town is constantly under attack from huge flying warships. It’s your job to take them down as they approach the town, which you do by cutting up the warships. The main character is dropped onto the hull of one of these warships which you view from a top down perspective. There then follows a frantic race against time to cut the ship to pieces, rescue your squad and evade enemies. You have a handy saw with you while rescued squad mates can deploy bobs for more damage, and there are tons of power ups to collect as well. It’s brilliantly silly and has a great story mode, which you will want to go back to chasing that perfect score.
LocoRoco 1, 2 & Midnight Carnival
LocoRoco was very obviously designed for the PSP. It’s the perfect game for the system and cannot fail to put a smile on your face. You control a cheerful blob called a LocRoco, and need to get them from one end of the stage to the other. This is done not by controlling the character, but the landscape around them. You tilt the whole world to keep them on the move and it works beautifully on a portable console. On your route you need to avoid enemies and eat fruit, which grows your LocoRoco. In some sections you need to split your big blob into small blobs and them reassemble them afterwards. Eat enough of the fruit on the way and your little blobs sing a victory song as you get to the end. The visuals are bright and mad, the sound if super cheerful and the whole experience is just a slice of uplifting fun.
Patapon 1, 2 & 3
A little like LocoRoco, this is a joyous set of games that just ooze charm, but they are a little more complex in terms of gameplay. You are cast in the role of a God, where the Patapons, a group of diminutive warriors, want you to guide them in survival and expansion. You do this by guiding groups of Paptapons through the levels killing animals for food and resources and fending off enemies. The Patapons are controlled using a magic drum, you give commands by tapping out button combinations in time to a musical beat. Patapon is effectively a rhythm action game with strategy elements, and it becomes very addictive. You’ll eventually gather 6 classes of Patapons that you match for each mission, along with items to strengthen them. The original game is great, but the third one is the pinnacle of the series.
I was never a huge Playstation user when the original console was released, so the chance to pick up some of the classics when I got my PSP was welcome, and they are still available now. A lot of them look pretty dated now, but there are a few that still stand up today. Sadly, these have started vanishing from the store already, only 2 of my games are still available.
Final Fantasy IX – I’m not a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series but FF IX stands out for me as having fun, interesting characters that don’t grate on me, which is what puts me off most of the games in the series. The graphical style is timeless and the gameplay is proper old school JRPG fare, which really clicked with me. It seems like a bit of a throwback to me and I believe it was created as a retrospective of the roots of Final Fantasy with some more modern mechanics. It’s a classic.
Castlevania : Symphony of the Night – For someone who had only played Castlevania II Belmonts Revenge on the Gameboy and Super Castlevania on the SNES, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about with SOTN until I played it. I probably don’t need to say anything else, I love being able to play this on the go.
Quick Mentions & Notable Vanishings….
I’ve not completed a huge amount of these games, but I would also recommend them based on what I have played so far. Valkyria Chronicles II is an extremely polished Tactical RPG, while Final Fantasy Tactics : War of the Lions is a Strategy RPG thats held in very high regard. I’m also a huge fan of Sid Meier’s Pirates & Lemmings, though are available on multiple platforms.
What does disappoint me is the fact that there are a number of games that used to be available, that I own and can still download, but can no longer be bought. Games like Ridge Racer, Half-Minute Hero, Puzzle Quest and Tactics Ogre are great games that have vanished from the store. Other games such as N+, Gitaroo Man and Outrun 2006 also never got a digital release.
I loved my PSP and it lives on through my Vita, I hope maybe you might try some of the games I’ve mentioned before official means of obtaining them go away.