What are the ten best PSP games to own forever?

June 18, 2012

The Best to Own Forever series isn’t about what’s great right now. It’s about what will be great in 10 years, even though there will be better-looking games and later sequels, and what will keep you pulling that dusty old console out of the closet every once in a while. In this installment, we look at the PlayStation Portable.

Patapon 2 combines all of the basics from the original with a new layer of complexity that is deep enough for veterans of the series, but is still very welcoming to new players as well. The combination of a simple strategy game and the catchy rhythmic beats of the Patapon as they charge through enemies feels absolutely perfect on a handheld. There isn’t anything else like it on the system and the chances of seeing another game in the series (despite how much I would love a fourth game for the Vita) is unlikely. – Andrew Passafiume

This really is one of those games everyone should play at least once, if you have any interest in tactical RPGs. The PSP version of this game was a remake of the original PS1 version, which in turn was a remake of the Japan-only SNES version. The PS1 version recieved a relatively limited release in North America, and was largely overshadowed by Final Fantasy Tactics (which had the same director, and was largely Tactics Ogre with the Final Fantasy label on it.)   Tactics Ogre has sprite-based graphics, which really work well, and make the game look great. The plot also branches and offers several different endings and paths, and the job system alleviates much of the grinding usually found in tactical RPGs.  This game doesn’t hold your hand, and you may find battles difficult if you don’t think before you act.  The PSP may get some flak for being filled with remakes, but in this case, the remake adds to and improves the original game in almost every way. – Jeff DeSolla

Today the Harmonix name is synonymous with Rock Band, but they released two music games on the PlayStation2 before their guitar-game breakthrough, Frequency and Amplitude. When EA wanted to put out a Rock Band entry on the PSP, the team looked back and put a Rock Band coat of paint on the Frequency gameplay. Rock Band Unplugged has you juggling four tracks, which sounds overly difficult until you sit down to play and see that Harmonix’s smart design choices are present here, too. Do well enough on a single instrument, and it will play itself for a bit while you get the others up to par. Rock Band Unplugged is a great transition of the Rock Band formula from peripheral-based play to the PSP’s controls, and the number of songs available means that you won’t be tired of the soundtrack when it’s time to raise the difficulty and go again. – Justin Last

Fans of JRPGs often bemoan the fact that the heyday of their favored genre is in the distant past. These people obviously haven’t played Trails in the Sky yet. Everything about it seems geared toward evoking a sense of nostalgia for great games past. Unlike most games that do this, however, Trails in the Sky is able to do this as well as be a great game in its own right. The characters, while fitting into many stereotypes, feel fresh and interesting. The story is a fascinating take on the coming-of-age tale, with much political intrigue included. Add in an interesting battle system, and you have an RPG for the ages. – Shawn Vermette

Almost as much of a puzzle game as it is an RPG, Half-Minute Hero boils down basic RPG concepts into “thirty second” chunks of gameplay. You have thirty seconds to attempt to stop a villain from destroying the world, so you must grind to the appropriate level, buy new equipment, and get ready for the final battle in less than thirty seconds. You can refill your time, but it still moves at a breakneck speed regardless. The game is surprisingly addictive and finishing each level gives you a nice feeling of satisfaction, especially if you finish it just before the timer runs out. This is a unique game that is perfect for a portable system. – Andrew Passafiume

On a system largely known for borrowing a few game concepts and exploiting the heck out of them, Dead Head Fred is an anomaly. The Vicious Cycle-developed puzzle-action-adventure has offbeat humor, great voice acting from the likes of John C. McGinley and Kari Wahlgren and… well, there’s just nothing like this game. You’re a brain in a jar with a body. Yeah.  – Graham Russell

Final Fantasy IV is my favorite game in the entire series. Everybody has their own personal favorite, and IV is mine. I played it for the first time when I was given a hand-me-down PS1 and picked up Final Fantasy Origins and Final Fantasy Tactics. FFIV got thrown in first, and while I like Tactics, I think that I made the right choice. FFIV transitions to the PSP wonderfully. The 16-bit graphics look beautiful on the PSP screen, and Square was right to port them as-is instead of wasting money making the game 3D (Final Fantasy III DS, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions). What really makes this UMD shine though is its completeness. On one disc you’ve got Final Fantasy IV along with Final Fantasy IV: The After Years and Final Fantasy IV: Interlude. The After Years tells the story of Cecil’s son and was previously only available on Wii in the US, and Interlude bridges the two stories together and is only available as a part of Complete Collection. If you want to experience everything Final Fantasy IV, then Complete Collection is the only edition that makes sense to own. – Justin Last

This game has a very interesting premise, and an equally interesting past. For one, it began as an RPG Maker project, which was eventually released for Windows in Japan. Eventually, it made its way to release on the PSP in Japan, which was subsequently translated by XSEED and released here. The game is an interesting, because despite the RPG Maker beginnings, it isn’t an RPG at all, but a survival-horror adventure. Without plot spoilers, it does share several similarities with a traditional RPG, like sprite-based top-down graphics. However, with no random battles or towns to visit, the similarities end there.  The game is about exploration and puzzle solving, and it flows very well, with few cases of aimless wandering.  Also, it is a horror game, and I must say I was impressed at how well they managed to convey the atmosphere of the game on a portable system. Definitely one worth checking out. – Jeff DeSolla

There is a good reason why this game is still cherished by many, even if it was outclassed in a few ways by Persona 4. It stands out enough in terms of its design and story, and has plenty of content to keep you busy for a long time. The cast of characters is lively well-written, and the gameplay’s mix of social sim and traditional RPG is timeless. And thanks to full-party control, this is probably the best version of Persona 3 around and a game that is easily worth cherishing forever. – Andrew Passafiume

While it doesn’t quite live up to its PS3 predecessor, Valkyria Chronicles II manages to fit a lot of the first game’s charm and mechanics into the PSP, and it compensates for the technical limitations of battle scope by using a piecemeal map system that gets shuffled around to create lots of challenges. The first game ends, but this one really doesn’t. If you can get over the let’s-copy-Persona nature of the school setting, it’ll be one of your favorites. – Graham Russell