The 12 Best Games on PSP

Sony's first handheld gaming system has been replaced by a younger, shinier model. Maybe you've waited this whole time to get a PSP, or maybe you've inherited one from a friend who bought a new Vita. Either way, now you need some games to cement your relationship.

Below, find our list of the 12 best games on the PSP. We've bumped it up in honor of the fact that the handheld came out in North America nine years ago today.

Vita owners get a special bonus: All of the games on this list can be downloaded and played on the Vita, with the exception of Lumines 2 and Every Extend Extra. Note, however, that Vita owners can't buy the physical copies from the links in this post; you'll have to download digital copies from the PlayStation store.

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The 12 Best Games on PSP

The chattier, shorter partner of the Jak & Daxter games gets the spotlight on a platform that's just his size. Daxter's turn as a cosmic exterminator provides him the spotlight in a platformer game that's as funny as it is well-tuned.

A Good Match for: Looney Tunes buffs. Jak's sidekick shares the insecure bluster of Daffy Duck and is animated with such detail and charm that he could be related to Bugs or Pepe Lepew.

Not for Those Who Want: Bad-assery. It makes sense to focus Daxter on primarily platforming since Jak tends to handle all the action hero stuff in the J&D games, but fans expecting more high-octane action will be disappointed.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Wal-Mart | GameStop

The 12 Best Games on PSP

This handheld game re-developed by Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi can only be called an un-shooter. You are the bullet—or bomb, more accurately—fired by a button press and your attacks are actually chained explosions of the game's enemy swarms themselves. There's no story here; EEE's focused on experience, pushing you to detonate ever bigger explosion sequences to get higher scores, ranks and levels.

A Good Match for: People who like to push themselves. Peppered with items to ramp up the speed and difficulty, this title's levels are actually dynamic, ever-mutating puzzles that demand patience. If you do it right, self-detonation rewards you with increased playtime and increased lives. Underneath the feast of color, design and sound that EEE offers, the rigid algorithmic nature of the PSP action/puzzle hybrid is where it finds its true beauty.

Not for Those Who Want: Clear progression. The arcane mechanics of EEE will stymie even its most ardent fans and it's all the more frustrating knowing that more levels—filled with awesome music and visuals—are waiting to be unlocked.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | GameStop

The 12 Best Games on PSP

There's a grand war on—you've got an army to lead, battles to win, and new magic spells to learn. Final Fantasy Tactics is widely held to be the greatest tactics RPG ever made, blending demanding battles with a lovely art style and a terrific story.

A Good Match For: Those who like fighting from a bird's eye view, anyone who's ever wanted to defeat their enemies with the power of mathematics.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for a fast-paced action game, or a forgiving one. FFT is a game for careful planners, and it can be punishing to newcomers.

Read our article looking back at why Final Fantasy Tactics is so beloved.

Purchase from: Available digitally from The PlayStation Store.

The 12 Best Games on PSP

Don't trust that name fully. Jonathan Mak's idiosyncratic creation is a shooter but its experimental synaesthetic design melds sound and visuals in a way that's anything but everyday. One minute, you're shooting amoebic shapes in what looks like a neural network, the next you're blasting back robot hordes in a trippy mech nightmare. But, the whole retina-sizzling experience is so tightly-tuned that you'll be hypnotized and hungry for templates that come next.

A Good Match for: Abstract art enthusiasts. Everyday Shooter splashes hues and shapes across the screen and brings them to life in surprisingly creepy and breathtaking ways.

Not for Those Who Want: A relaxing ramble. Everyday's beauty gets married to a nerve-wracking difficulty that forces you back to the first stage when you run out of lives.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from the PlayStation Store.

The 12 Best Games on PSP

When the antihero of Sony's God of War games got shrunk down for a portable prequel, Kratos lost none of his formidable fury. Chains of Olympus translates the series' signature combat flair and mythological scale to the handheld, raising the stakes of what was possible on the PSP.

A Good Match for: Riders of public transportation. Chances are, your daily commute offers plenty of opportunities to get good and pissed-off. Thankfully, this title lets you take out your anger on the monsters of Greco-Roman myth, not fellow passengers.

Not for Those Who Want: Comfortable hardware. A few crucial quicktime sequences require precision movement on the PSP's nubby thumbstick and, yeah, it's just not built for that. The sketchy input from this part of the hardware must be why Kratos is so angry.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games on PSP

Simultaneously a send-up and an homage to old-school RPGs that laid down the roots of the genre's dogma, this commute-friendly title demands that you finish its quests in 30 seconds. Thankfully, there are ways to pad your time, but there's still a huge amount of stress and fun packed into Half-Minute Hero's short bursts.

A Good Match for: Efficiency experts. Not only does this quirky Atlus title provide an extra-lean cut of RPG in the Hero 30 mode, it also riffs on other genres, too. You can get your concentrated side-scrolling shooter fix in Princess 30 or do eyeblink-quick RTS planning in Evil Lord 30.

Not for Those Who Want: Level Grind. While hilarious, the super-compressed hi-jinx of HMH will have no appeal for RPG fans who like to farm their way through a world and accrue XP at a more leisurely pace.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games on PSP

This puzzle game's predecessor singlehandedly justified the existence of the PlayStation Portable when Sony dove into the handheld gaming scene in 2006. Crafted by the dev studio founded by Tetsuya Mizuguchi—the designer behind cult fave RezLumines 2 adds glorious sound-and-color syncopation to Tetris' falling-block formula against the backdrop of a killer soundtrack.

A Good Match for: Club kids. You'll hear tunes linked to almost every sub-genre of electronic music, from sprightly techno-pop to ominous dub. If you ever waved glowsticks at a dance party, Lumines will make you happy.

Not for Those Who Want: Predictability. The mechanics of playing a Lumines game never change but they will speed up or slow down from level to level. So, sometimes the timeline that wipes matched cubes away will be extra speedy and sometimes it'll be an agonizingly slow sweep across the screen.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games on PSP

When Metal Gear Solid 4—the last major console outing for Hideo Kojima's beloved franchise—met a mixed reaction, many wondered when and how the next unequivocally great entry in the storied stealth series would arrive. Almost everyone was taken by surprise when it arrived on the PSP, especially as the system was entering its twilight. But Peace Walker hit great emotional highs and evolved the gameplay around co-operative play and with strategy elements.

A Good Match for: Triplets. This Metal Gear lets players team up through its campaign and delivers new weapons and mechanics so that multiple Snakes can effectively sneak and shoot through the Costa Rican jungle.

Not for Those Who Want: To play solo. It's possible to complete Peace Walker—which was built with multplayer in mind—by yourself but the grueling boss battles will make you wish friends were playing alongside you.

Watch it in action.

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The 12 Best Games on PSP

Developed under the auspices of the Sony Japan dev collective, the game merges real-time strategy elements—creating different types of soldier units, managing attack, defense and retreat tactics—with the rhythm-based controls of games like Dance Dance Revolution. The result's a singularly unique experience with insanely catchy mechanics.

A Good Match for: Ant farm owners. There's an entire sub-genre of video games built around amassing and deploying little virtual creatures—Overlord and Pikmin are recent examples—but Patapon ranks amongst the most unique. Pressing certain button combos in time with the beat will prod your little minions into charging enemy factions, throwing spears or taking cover under their shields. So it's funky and think-y at the same time.

Not for Those Who Want: To skip memorizing things. The button-mashing in Patapon's not the kind of mindless combat found in so many other games. You need to pay attention to what you're hearing and pressing, and will wind up with some "pon-pon-pata-pon" earworms before you're done.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Wal-Mart | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games on PSP

Not much was wrong Persona 3 the first two times publisher Atlus released it. But the general consensus is that the PSP version of the RPG originally made for the PS2 surpasses its forebears. Combat's improved and it's got a bit more content than the first two iterations, impressive for a portable title.

A Good Match for: People who want more video game heroines. The biggest addition to P3P is the all-new option to play as a female protagonist, which tweaks several plot elements in the game. For a game set in a high school that lets you call on friends as support characters, it's a welcome addition.

Not for Those Who Want: An entirely different Persona 3. Good as it is, there's no getting around the fact that a lot of this game still feels like something made for the PS2. Worse yet, the superbly executed cutscenes get cut from Portable due to the PSP's technical limitations.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games on PSP

Futuristic combat racing. Peerless techno soundtracks. Sleekly dangerous design. These elements piloted almost every Wipeout to the winner's circle of gamers' hearts and the portable Pulse was no different. New tweaks like an customizable progression system and

A Good Match for: Recycling advocates. This handheld Wipeout lets you race on its tracks backwards and forwards, with subtle differences in each orientation to make it more than just going the wrong way.

Not for Those Who Want: A Sunday drive. Some of the speed classes go as fast as 793 km/h or 492.74 mph, making the memorization necessary to learn where the blind turns are and when to break really, really hard.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

The 12 Best Games on PSP

Kotaku news editor Jason Schreier ripped away the mic from the rest of the staff and refused to stop babbling about Trails in the Sky, so we'll let him write this one.

If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to sum up the quintessential JRPG in one sentence, it would be this: "My ideal JRPG is a grandiose, flavorful adventure with a killer soundtrack, characters you care about, and a world you want to take your time and explore. Also, please put down the gun." That's Trails in the Sky—this is a game not to rush through but to savor, talking to every NPC and enjoying the sights and sounds of Liberl as you take the surprisingly lovable Estelle on a twisty, world-changing adventure. It can be a bit slow at times, but if you've got the patience, Trails is really something special.

A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a standard—but very well made—JRPG with a good story and a whole lot of heart.

Not a Good Match For: People who don't like JRPGs.

Read one of our readers' take on why Trails is one of the best JRPGs of all time.

Purchase From: Available digitally from the PlayStation Store.

The 12 Best Games on PSP

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 3/25/2015: We've made a quick change to this list. Tekken Dark Resurrection and Ultimate Ghosts 'n Goblins have been cleared off to make room for Final Fantasy Tactics and The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky.

The 12 Best Games on PSP

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods