7 PSP Games Still Worth Playing today, tomorrow, and probably, forever

Despite being released decades ago, good games retain their value and are still worth playing today. The reason may be that the gameplay endured the test of time, or the genre is deemed dead. Here are seven of the best PSP games that continue to offer an enjoyable gaming experience.

PSP games still worth playing today

7. Phantom Brave

Nippon Ichi is renowned for its hardcore SRPGs with wacky tones and ridiculous gameplay mechanics. In Phantom Brave, the narrative revolves around Marona and the phantom Ash, who are undertaking missions, and eventually confronting a greater evil other than themselves, of course.  Despite story details being secondary, the game's appeal lies in its unique gameplay mechanics.

Deviating from the grid system of other Nippon Ichi games such as the Disgaea series, Phantom Brave adopts a movement arc, reminiscent of Arc the Lad: Twilight of Spirits. Turn-based battles unfold, with characters moving based on speed. The game introduces a distinctive approach, starting battles with the main character, Marona, who must summon other phantoms from objects on the field where confining characters grant innate properties of objects. The game's complexity includes titles affecting character stats, unlocking weapon skills through mana usage, and fusing items and phantoms for higher-level creations. Most importantly, battles are fast-paced, enjoyable, and challenging.

Phantom Brave maintains NIS's 2D isometric view, with bright colors depicting its Caribbean island setting. The game’s art direction aligns with NIS's signature style. With a level cap of 9,999, the game offers substantial replayability. Phantom Brave is still worth playing after all these years since there is no real strategy game that plays like it. There may be Disgaea games released in the past few years but that is an entirely different core gameplay.

6. Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters

The Ratchet and Clank series, known for its consistently enjoyable entries, ventures into the portable realm with Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters. Set on an island vacation, the plot kicks off when a girl requests action photos of our heroes, leading to her kidnapping and Ratchet and Clank embarking on a rescue mission. Despite the somewhat contrived narrative, the amusing twists and standout performances by characters like Quark elevate the storyline.

While not on par with its PlayStation 2 counterparts or even Daxter in the graphical department, Size Matters maintains a visually appealing design. Cutscenes are well-made, and levels, though linear, feature impressive designs. The Ratchet dream level stands out for its trippy and imaginative atmosphere. 

The core gameplay revolves around the series' signature explosive action, and the game caters to fans with familiar elements like giant Clank levels, tournaments, and hoverboarding. The mix of Clank level variations adds variety, incorporating space shooter segments, Lemmings-inspired stages, and Twisted Metal-esque levels. While the game features only eight worlds, the inclusion of classic weapons, new additions like the beehive, and challenging boss fights compensate for the straightforward-level designs.

The reason this game is still worth playing today is that Sony has given up on portable gaming. None of its franchises are going to be made specifically for portable action gaming, hence, Size Matters mattering due to its, well, size.

5. Need for Speed Carbon: Own the City

Need for Speed Carbon: Own the City marks the third installment of the franchise on the PSP, and it proves to be an improvement over its predecessor, Need for Speed Most Wanted 5-1-0. The storyline centers around a protagonist who, after a street racing accident that claimed his brother's life, embarks on a quest to uncover the truth behind the tragic incident.

Cars are designed to handle better, offering a more enjoyable experience. The introduction of crewmembers, known as "Wingmen," adds strategic elements to races, each providing unique assistance such as dropping spikes or creating slipstreams.  The cop AI has been enhanced from Most Wanted 5-1-0, offering a more engaging experience when being pursued. 

The cops in Own the City are a fun challenge, a departure from the annoyance they surprisingly posed in Carbon for the PlayStation 2. The graphics are amazing for a PSP title, with detailed cars and cityscapes. 

Realistic-looking arcade racers are a dying breed. This is one of the games that stood the test of time for as time passes by it is pretty clear that this genre will be made with this kind of budget.

4. Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower

Darkstalkers Chronicles: The Chaos Tower holds a special place in every fighting game fan. Its attractive and fluid sprite animation remains unequaled. And they do not need to put so much effort into the cut scenes, but Capcom did it anyway. As to controls, this is one of the most satisfying experiences due to responsiveness. 

While the narrative of Darkstalkers Chronicles revolves around preventing the birth of evil, the characters are quirky and not that serious. The game's sound design is as solid as everything else, featuring an enjoyable soundtrack that complements each stage. Despite the absence of English voice acting, the Japanese character's voice work is sublime. Sound effects are as good as the voice acting.

Game modes include Arcade, Tower, Training, and Chronicles. The Arcade mode allows players to choose from Darkstalkers, Night Warriors, or Darkstalkers 3 styles, unlocking character endings accordingly. Chronicles mode serves as a hub to view unlocked endings and an art gallery, showcasing character art and posters. Training mode facilitates skill development, while the Tower mode offers a unique challenge with 100 floors, providing a fresh and enjoyable gameplay experience.

Darkstalkers Chronicles stands out as one of the best launch titles for the PSP, particularly for fighting game enthusiasts. Its enduring appeal summoned a cult following among fighter fans. This game is still worth playing because the Darkstalkers series has not received any new entry for more than a decade. There are repackages here and there but apparently, Capcom can never be bothered for another title.

3. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is a miracle that it can run on the PSP’s hardware. The character models almost match their PS2 counterparts. The unique graphic novel style of the cutscenes is a great touch. 

The levels are designed in a way that is suitable for portable gaming. There is also the inclusion of a squad, with the ability to recruit and use team members. The story is considered integral to the Metal Gear Solid experience, and Portable Ops doesn't disappoint. Serving as a direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the plot includes familiar elements of murders, betrayals, sacrifices, and plot twists. 

The game's high replay value is one of its highlights with numerous secrets and alternate missions unlocking upon finishing the game. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is one of the best titles on the PSP, with brilliant gameplay and a top-notch overall package. The Metal Gear Solid series is effectively dead without Kojima at the helm, so this is the last portable Metal Gear Solid, for life.

2. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky 

Set in the kingdom of Liberl, Trails in the Sky plot follows the siblings on their journey to become something legendary, you know, the usual JRPG tropes. With all the tropes this game has, it is one of the best JRPGs out there in terms of narrative.  The emphasis on world-building and character growth is a distinctive strength of this franchise. 

The gameplay is the usual staple but there is a  fusion of classic and turn-based mechanics, integrating a movement grid reminiscent of strategy RPGs. Noteworthy features include visible monsters on the overworld. The absence of random encounters, with monsters roaming the overworld, is a breath of fresh air. The side quests are also fun to complete.

This is an old-school JRPG reminiscent of PlayStation era JRPGs including the art direction. Trails in the Sky is simply a JRPG perfected, and more importantly, playable on the PSP. 

1. Persona 3: Portable

Persona 3 Portable is an exceptional RPG experience that captivates everyone with its deep storytelling, unforgettable characters, and innovative battle system. The game's strengths lie in its mature narrative, pacing, and humorous elements. Set in the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona spinoff series, Persona 3 explores the Dark Hour, a unique concept where a high school transforms into a dungeon, and characters from SEES combat Shadows using their psychological manifestations called "Persona."

This game is available on modern platforms for a reason. Whether you choose to play the PSP version or the current release, it's still worth experiencing, as there are no significant differences between the two.

Persona games are known for the Social Link system, emphasizing relationship-building with classmates and quirky personalities which adds a dating-sim aspect to the game. The unique fusion of traditional RPG elements with a strategic advantage/disadvantage system in battles is praised, providing a suspenseful and tactical experience.  Persona 3 Portable introduces new features, including a female main character with different story arcs and characters, along with streamlined travel and quicker menu navigation.