7 Best PSP RPGs that serve out-of-this-world gaming experiences

The PlayStation Portable (PSP) has a considerable amount of power that it can play PlayStation One games. From that fact alone, RPGs are already covered for the rest of one's life. Still, a good amount of RPGs were developed for and released on the platform that stood the test of time. Here are seven of the best RPGs on the iconic gaming handheld.


7. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII is probably the most exhausted video game IP. Aside from the very JRPG that was first released on the original PlayStation, it spawned several spinoff games of different genres, an actual movie, and a modern remake. The most curious and property out of all these is Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. True, its core gameplay is not life-changing, in fact, it is somehow inferior compared to PSP RPGs that it managed to bump off for the coveted last place of this best-of list, but it is not solely about mechanics, mostly.  

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII is a great RPG because it's fun. It is campy, it does not take itself too seriously, and it has a compelling narrative angle from the original game that somehow reflects the silliness of it all. Final Fantasy VII is an apocalyptic tale swath with devastating twists, but it's also a game with the Honey Bee Inn moments.

As to gameplay, this is an action role-playing game, where the player controls Zack in real-time combat against various enemies. The player can use physical attacks, magic spells, items, and special abilities called Materia. The game also features a unique system called the Digital Mind Wave (DMW), which is a slot machine-like device that randomly activates during battles. The DMW can trigger various effects, such as healing, status buffs, limit breaks, and summons. The DMW also influences the game’s story, as it shows flashbacks and memories of Zack and his friends.

6. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep offers a captivating blend of Disney characters and Kingdom Hearts original characters Ventus, Terra, and Aqua. Ventus' storyline explores his resemblance to Roxas, adding depth, though some plot points feel contrived, just as every other Kingdom Hearts game past the first. Terra has this complex journey, grappling with ambition and darkness. Aqua’s may be somewhat boring as compared to the other two, but its being grounded balances the convoluted narrative endemic to this franchise. Nevertheless, Birth by Sleep’s gameplay is its killer feature.

This PSP RPG employs real-time battles and the innovative "Command Deck" system, offering extensive customization. The game's visuals rival PS2 titles, with superb facial animations and cinematic quality. The music is also fantastic, Disney and Final Fantasy money affords them that.

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep offers substantial length and replayability, spanning 10-15 hours per character and over 75 hours for completionists. While replaying may lack incentives, the journey the first time around is hefty. This game successfully combines the best elements of the series at this point in time, offering an engaging gaming experience that blends Disney's charm with enduring themes.

5. Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Edition

Yet, another Square Enix title, but fret not this is the last of its kind on this list. Final Fantasy IV has received many ports, re-releases, and remakes. However, this particular version of the game is not available elsewhere more modern. Some will say that the Pixel Remaster of this game is the better version of the game as it is more faithful to the original release. The Complete Edition, is still, in terms of raw content, more complete than any of the re-releases, remasters, or possibly future remakes.

This collection includes the original game, its sequel "The After Years," and another game that connects the aforementioned called "Interlude." The package also offers artwork and a music player with original and orchestrated soundtracks.  

The original game follows the hero Cecil as he fights to protect crystals from a dark force, with memorable characters and a compelling narrative. "The After Years" continues the story, with new gameplay elements such as moon phases and a Band system for powerful attacks. The graphics are remastered in high definition, and players can choose between the original and rearranged soundtracks. Bonus content includes extra dungeons and challenging bosses.

4. Persona 3 Portable

Despite its dated presentation due to various visual compromises to run on a portable platform, Persona 3 Portable remains a captivating and innovative RPG that defies JRPG conventions. The game's narrative explores dark themes within a unique concept—the Dark Hour—where students combat Shadows using Personas.

The storytelling is in Persona and basically, all other Shin Megami Tensei properties are exceptional, with well-developed characters, emotional depth, and a mix of humor and seriousness. The Social Link system also adds a new layer by allowing players to build relationships outside the main plot through dating-sim.

The PSP version introduces a female protagonist with new story arcs, enhancing replayability. The game streamlines navigation and menu interactions, improving convenience. Many pegs this version of the game inferior to Persona 3 FES, but that game cannot be played on the PSP, so the point is certainly moot.

3. Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure

Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure is a delightful and cheery game that harks back to the retro era of gaming, prioritizing fun and gameplay. Players control Parin, an adorable young girl armed with a giant drill, on a quest to battle evil phantoms and assist friendly monsters. The game's bright and jolly art direction and whimsical atmosphere are certainly refreshing after all these end-of-the-world themes usual in RPGs.

The narrative introduces a cast of memorable characters, with charming and humorous dialogue delivered by talented voice actors. Despite its cute appearance, Gurumin features a deep combat system with charge attacks, combos, dashes, launchers, and aerial moves. The air dash mechanic, allows players to continuously jump off enemies.

Gurumin incorporates JRPG elements such as a world map and equipment system without becoming overly complex. Navigating the game world is straightforward, with no need for excessive grinding. Gear customization focuses on the head slot, enhancing the action-oriented gameplay.

With a substantial 15-to-30-hour campaign and replay value through multiple difficulty modes, sidequests, alternative endings, and item collection, Gurumin provides ample content to keep players engaged. The additional difficulty levels offer varied enemy placements and tactics, encouraging multiple playthroughs.

2. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky is a standout JRPG that distinguishes itself from its predecessors due to its exceptional localization, faithful adaptation, and having the release order making sense.

The series' primary focus is its rich storytelling, presented with mountains of text without voice acting, but reading can be fun, and in Trails in the Sky, it is. The NPCs are distinct with personalities unique to themselves due to the heft of the text in this game. Of course, the main characters are also well-developed, and the story of the game itself is worth all that reading.

While Trails in the Sky includes some JRPG cliches, they are not overwhelming, and the character interactions are humorous and enjoyable. This game is the first part of a trilogy, which further extends into several titles. This game alone is massive, now, imagine it being a franchise.

In terms of gameplay, the world is presented in a 3rd person overhead view, and exploration is encouraged, with many opportunities to discover hidden loot. Combat is turn-based but with no random encounters. Players can see enemies on the field, just like Chrono Trigger before it, and engage them at your discretion. Combat involves strategic movement, and while it shares similarities with SRPGs, it maintains a distinct identity. The turn order system with various bonuses adds depth without overwhelming players.

1. Ys: Oath of Felgana

The action RPG Ys titles are the very definition of perfection. Admittedly, Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim on the PSP is a flawed port of an excellent game, but that does not change the fact that this franchise remains one of the best RPG franchises out there and can be considered better than Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy without sounding like a contrarian edge-lord.

While the story follows a somewhat clichéd plotline of a knight saving a damsel in distress, it is a refreshing change from overly complex and convoluted narratives seen in some JRPGs most notably the Kingdom Hearts franchise. The story takes off quickly and includes unexpected twists and turns that keep players engaged. The character interactions are humorous and enjoyable, and the game manages to avoid the annoying emo characters often found in JRPGs.

Ys: The Oath in Felghana boasts exceptional gameplay that combines streamlined RPG mechanics, fast-paced combat, and platforming elements. Combat is quick to learn but becomes more engaging during intense boss fights, which require skill and strategy. The game also features well-designed platforming sections that challenge players' reflexes and abilities. The use of spells and accessories adds depth to the gameplay.

The game offers multiple difficulty levels, including a challenging Nightmare mode, providing players with varied replay options. New Game+ allows for continued progress, and the Time Attack mode adds to the game's replayability. Exploring the game world and completing side quests provide additional content.