While Nintendo has dominated the handheld gaming market for years, that doesn’t mean their crusade was beyond competition. Among a few companies, Sony stood out as the runner-up for the biggest market share in the industry. Their foray into handheld gaming began with the PlayStation Portable, otherwise known as the PSP.
Unlike the Nintendo DS (the Big N’s rival console at the time), the PSP was focused on more traditional gaming, just in the palm of the consumer’s hand. Having classic button inputs with a singular screen in the middle, Sony wanted to have the benefit of portable gaming, but have more power involved than their competitors.
The PSP gave rise to a few exclusive franchises that would become cult classics in many people’s eyes. It was also the home of several spin-off titles to beloved franchises like Ratchet and Clank and Jak. Sony had a good idea of what to do with the system, and it performed well commercially.
However, Sony could never gain a complete hold over the handheld gaming market, and that was partially due to the games on the PSP. There were quite a bit that were just awful, not having the good design of games people could find on Sony’s home consoles. On the other hand, there were other good titles that simply didn’t catch enough attention to fly off store shelves. As such, they faded into obscurity.
With that in mind, let’s look at 15 of the worst PSP games and 15 that deserve a second chance.
30 Worst: Invizimals
While the novelty of a PSP camera was nice, the attached Invizimals left a lot to be desired. Being little more than a knock-off AR version of Pokemon, this game failed to bring the attention of gamers the same way that Game Freak did all those years ago. A lot of the mechanics seemed half-baked as well, foregoing the exploration elements of the game that inspired it. It still managed to get a sequel, but that was even less understood than the first.
29 Underrated: Patapon 3
The Patapon franchise was one of the best on the PSP, with the first two games in the series garnering a lot of attention. However, the finale to the series, Patapon 3, was released in a time where it was easily out shadowed by bigger games. As such, it failed to garner as much interest as its predecessors, despite further going into the heavy customization options that were established earlier in the series. It also managed to be a satisfying finale to a charming and well-designed trilogy.
28 Worst: Work Time Fun
Work Time Fun is game that took inspiration from WarioWare. Players would be sent to complete a series of mini-games. Instead of being attached to party modes, this game would reward players with currency that could be spent on arbitrary additions to the experience. It could add some neat functions to the PSP itself, but those were more novel than clever ideas. The mini-games were all bland and weren’t executed with the same level of detail that went into Nintendo’s weirder franchise.
27 Underrated: Lemmings
Who knew that managing a team of creatures moving on their own would be so much fun? The novel idea behind Lemmings was that players had to prevent a group of little critters from meeting their end in harmful ways. Whether it be adding new things to a stage or telling them to perform certain actions, this game stretched the mind as well as player’s reaction time. It was also jam-packed with content, having over one hundred levels to enjoy.
26 Worst: Infection
Infection is a game plagued by its own ambition. The idea of infecting other players’ PSPs with a zombified version of yourself (the cure to which only coming by performing certain actions) is cool on paper, but the actual game leaves a lot to desire. It’s mostly hurt by the fact that it isn’t very fun. Shooting is wonky, and the mechanics themselves don’t work as well as they should. The idea could’ve been much more popular among PSP owners if it wasn’t so boring to play.
25 Underrated: Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron
Where Star Wars Battlefront II marked the end of the franchise on home consoles for a while, it continued on handheld devices after that point. The last one in the series before EA took over was Star Wars: Battlefront: Elite Squadron. While the story was an unfinished mess that tried to make sense of the unreleased details of Battlefront III, the gameplay improved a lot. The controls were more concise, and battles could take place simultaneously on ground and in space.
24 Worst: Prince Of Persia: Revelations
A hack and slash game at its worst, Prince of Persia: Revelations is a bad port of one of the worst games in the entire franchise. Not only was the life and heart of Sands of Time removed from the equation, but it was replaced with a drab adventure that was trying too much to appeal to angsty teenagers. That’s all without mentioning how simplistic the combat was, making every encounter feel the same. Then there were the numerous glitches and loading screens that players could never shake.
23 Underrated: Ultimate Ghosts N Goblins
Ghosts N Goblins became one of the most renowned games on the NES for its clever design and brutal difficulty. In Ultimate Ghosts N Goblins on the PSP, the vision of the original is kept intact. Not only are the character animations identical to the NES counterpart, but so is the difficulty. The PSP version has updated graphics and a new sound design to go along with it that give it a more timeless feel. It hearkens back to 16-bit graphics while adding a few new modern touches of its own.
22 Worst: Ape Escape Academy
All of the love behind the Ape Escape franchise has everything to do with players controlling Spike and catching all sorts of mischievous monkeys throughout various settings. Ape Escape Academy on the PSP threw that formula out the window in favor of a mini-game compilation where the apes were just doing all sorts of crazy things for no apparent reason. The result is a watered-down game that never fully lives up to its premise. It’s also hard not to miss the original games when playing it.
21 Underrated: Lumines: Puzzle Fusion
Lumines: Puzzle Fusion is the kind of game that doesn’t look like much on first viewing. Most often, it resembles a silly Tetris game with unique colors thrown in for good measure. However, Lumines is much more than meets the eye. Its beautiful music and visuals, combined with its innovative graphical style make it a contender for one of the best puzzle games after made, even when compared to Tetris. It has since been ported to other consoles solely due to it being that good.
20 Worst: Bloons Tower Defense
Bloons Tower Defense is easily one of the best franchises in tower defense games. When it was ported to the PSP, though, it was only a shell of what those games were. While Bloons Tower Defense 4 was hot on the market, the PSP version was based on the third entry in the series. Perhaps the biggest mistake was that levels could only be completed to round 50, then the game was over. There was no endless mode, which made the game feel a lot less interesting (free play was a highlight on PC versions).
19 Underrated: Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero?
NIS America’s Disgaea series is already a fairly unsung franchise in competition with larger AAA titles. Imagine how much less familiar people are with its PSP spin-off, Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?. This game stars the sword-wielding penguins as they are tasked tom retrieve the Ultra Dessert. The game is an action platformer that works better than it has any right to. It makes great use of its premise and characters as well to deliver an experience that has its place among the franchise.
18 Worst: Transformers: The Game
A game about giant robots fighting in each other in crowded cities seems like an experience that would make itself. Unfortunately, Transformers: The Game is every bit as dull and lifeless as the movie it adapts. Everything about the game feels wrong. The models, environments, and animations all look like they belong on a bad N64 game. Furthermore, the robots themselves don’t control well, making each “intense” fight feel like a laggy slap fest where the only way to win is by mashing buttons.
17 Underrated: Half-Minute Hero
Save the world in just 30 seconds. That’s the premise behind Half-Minute Hero. Unlike some of the bad games on the list, this game makes great use of its premise to deliver an RPG unlike any other. Instead of forcing players to hopelessly grind through levels to become strong, Half-Minute Hero makes every second count, which makes every task feel as engaging and important as battling a monster. It’s a unique idea that is fully delivered in its execution. RPG fans should take a look.
16 Worst: TalkMan
TalkMan is a weird little game. This is mostly because it’s not a game at all, rather a translator that works across a handful of different languages. Players simply talk into a microphone and let the awkwardly-modeled bird do the rest. Unfortunately, for this sort of program to be useful, it has to properly recognize phrases.
To put it simply, the game doesn’t understand what people say most of the time.
It was a program limited by the hardware it was placed on, which makes it difficult to recommend even for academic purposes.
15 Underrated: Ys Seven
Where many RPG games involve players standing around through battle sequences and boringly rummaging through treasures only to take hours customizing their party, Ys Seven is the antithesis of it all while still holding onto the core elements of the genre. The main difference is that the game is fast and action-heavy, constantly encouraging movement. It’s a smooth and enjoyable adventure that’s backed by a respectable story and graphics that would make the DS turn away in shame. It’s that good.
14 Worst: Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game Of the Movie
If Peter Jackson’s King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie seems like a ridiculous title, that’s because there’s a ridiculous game hiding beneath it. As most movie tie-in games go, Peter Jackson’s King Kong is little more than an attempt to cash in on the franchise, and it’s a particularly bad one at that. Players are forced to slog through a barebones fps that doesn’t control well. Perhaps the worst part of the game is that it can easily be completed in one sitting. Seriously, the credits almost seem to take up the majority of its length.
13 Underrated: Jeanne D’Arc
Level 5 has created some of the most renowned games in history. Unfortunately, many of them don’t get a lot of attention, and Jeanne D’Arc is no exception. A twist on the classic tale of Joan of Arc, this game takes all the elements of an RPG and strategy game and throws them together to create one of the most magical adventures on the PSP. Complete with animated cutscenes, gorgeous visuals, and airtight gameplay, there is almost nothing about this game that could’ve been done better.
12 Worst: Marvel Nemesis: Rise Of The Imperfects
Despite having access to a diverse roster of characters, Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects never delivers on its premise, creating a game that feels just as soulless as a poorly-made Spider-Man movie.
Being an action game, the mechanics never stray far from the core concepts, making every level and character blend together.
There isn’t a lot of content to keep players invested, and the opponents never put up enough of a fight to keep things interesting. Just play Spider-Man on the PS4.
11 Underrated: Valkyria Chronicles 2
One of the most unique strategy games of its time, Valkyria Chronicles 2 made a seamless jump to the PSP and brought with it a fantastic sequel to a fantastic game. Taking control of several characters with different classes on a war-torn battlefield, there are a lot of components to the game. However, it does away with tile-based gameplay, instead opting for a movement-based system that feels more active, making each decision count. It’s all set behind a charming story complete with well-written characters.
10 Worst: KAZooK
Party games, at their best, can be fun distractions from the monotony of daily life. At their worst, you end up with something like KAZooK. Perhaps one of the worst party games ever made, there is almost nothing to enjoy with this title. Players will be thrown through a few imprecise, clunky, and visually unappealing mini-games that never do much more than try to hold their interest for at least a few seconds. One look at this game is enough to know not to give it a second thought.
9 Underrated: Loco Roco 2
Where the PSP was home to many graphically impressive games, the Loco Roco series was completely different. They were created with an artistic vision, complete with unique music and visuals that came together to create one of the best games on the platform. With the new formula, Sony perfected it with the first game’s sequel, Loco Roco 2. As every good sequel should, the game properly expanded the mechanics of the first, added new levels, and gave players plenty of reason to come back for more.
8 Worst: Pocket Racers
Despite the attempt to whisk away a child’s imagination to create a charming experience, Pocket Racers doesn’t succeed at anything it tries to do, crafting something that’s better left in obscurity. The game is about as generic as it comes, never fully delivering on the creativity of its premise. Despite that players are turned into mini cars that race around locations in a house, the tracks are hopelessly generic, and the mechanics are ripped from other better games. The graphics also leave a lot to be desired, which is a shame for a game that’s supposed to capture imagination.
7 Underrated: Pixel Junk Monsters
Pixel Junk Monsters manages to be one of the most innovative tower defense games in quite some time, and that’s largely due to having players control a character on the map to create buildings rather than being some sort of omnipotent entity.
Every level becomes a race to build towers while enemies hunt players down.
The PSP version also brought an entirely new island for players to enjoy, providing a crazy amount of new content. It was fun, intense, and difficult: everything a tower defense game should be.
6 Worst: The Golden Compass
Most movie tie-ins make for bad games, but that’s even more the case when the movie itself is already not very good. Such was the case with The Golden Compass on PSP. Based on the live-action film of the same name, there wasn’t much fascination going into this release. Furthermore, it happens to be an awful game, not having enough time in development to even be playable at times. The game is littered with glitches and loading times in the middle of the bland action. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too.
5 Underrated: Retro City Rampage DX
If Grand Theft Auto were released on the NES, it might look a lot like Retro City Rampage DX. This game throws players in an open world where they can steal cars, take on the police, and use a variety of crazy weapons along the way. Within the open world are several missions that lovingly parody classic ’80s video games, movies, and TV shows. It becomes a love letter to the era itself, which makes it one of the most fun games on the PSP. Since then, the game has been ported to just about every other platform.
4 Worst: Pac-Man World Rally
With the Mario Kart franchise, Nintendo managed to create their own sub-genre that has yet to be touched by any other developer. However, many have tried to dethrone the Big N at their own game, including Bandai Namco. Creating Pac-Man World Rally, this game is as bland and forgettable as you might expect. It doesn’t try to shy away from its similarities to Mario Kart, practically ripping off several of the power-ups. Furthermore, the game doesn’t bring anything new to the table and ends up being just a bad kart racer overall.
3 Underrated: Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII excels at everything it tries to do, crafting an experience that properly gives a backstory to Final Fantasy VII while fleshing out its characters, giving an excellent combat system that breaks away from the traditions of the series, and pulling together a compelling story that ranks among some of the series’ best.
There are a lot of people who aren’t as familiar with this game, and that’s a shame.
Square innovated on their own ideas while still providing plenty of familiarity for fans of the franchise.
2 Worst: Dynasty Warriors
In bringing Dynasty Warriors to the PSP, it was clear that the developers had more work to do before releasing it. It essentially tries to bring the experience on a portable console and fails at almost every turn. The levels aren’t engaging, the combat needs a lot of work, and the graphics themselves are pitiful for what can be done with the console. The series would later see better releases on Sony’s handheld, but the first instance of it on the console proved to be a major letdown.
1 Underrated: Echochrome
Echochrome is one of the most memorable puzzle games ever created, playing around with a striking visual design and artistic elements inspired by the great M.C. Esher. The game is split into levels where the environments are absurd and abstract. The player’s job is to manipulate the camera to help guide a little guy to the goal. While it’s a concept that isn’t taken to its very limits, it is an experience that shouldn’t be missed by PSP owners. It’s one of the most unique games on the system.