Welcome to a new series that I’m calling Press Start to Collect. In this series I’ll use a starting budget of $100 for games to help new collectors get a good start collecting for a given console. As a standard caveat I’m using prices from pricecharting.com to guesstimate what it would cost for this collection but with some searching you are likely to find cheaper prices. To kick this series off I’m going after my favorite handheld of all time, the PSP.

The Console Itself

At the time of release the PSP was by far the most powerful handheld system ever made. It could natively emulate Playstation 1 games, then only a generation previous, as well as receive faithful ports of PS2 games. The sheer amount of great games makes this an excellent console to collect for and the majority of games are rather cheap. There are essentially four revisions of the hardware you might come across, with two major families.

The first edition of the PSP and its two successors was the 1000 model, which is the landscape orientation console most think of when you think of a PSP. It was followed fairly quickly by the 2000 and 3000 which both double the ram as well as allow for bluetooth and TV out capability. There is a fourth model of this type, the PSP Street, but it was Europe only and lacks Wi-Fi so I do not recommend it.

Behold, the PSP in all its glory. If you run across one and want to know the model, just look on the bottom. It will be on a white bar code sticker.

The PSP Go was the next model of PSP. It sports a smaller, slide open body with no physical drive as well as using a different type of memory card. I find that with my larger hands it gets cramped, but if you have smaller hands or prefer an easier to carry unit, by all means go for a PSP Go, though they are more expensive than the other models.

The PSP Go. Cool if you can find it, and don’t have large hands.

My recommendation for a console is a PSP 2000 or 3000 which at this time goes for about $60-$75. We’ll just assume the worst because I’m lazy and go with $75.

Essential Accessories

The most obvious is a memory card. The PSP supports Memory Stick Pro Duo, the beginnings of Sony’s hard-on for expensive, proprietary memory formats nobody else gives half a turd about. You could certainly buy a Memory Stick and pay out the butt for it, but there is a FAR better option. Go buy one of these adapters and just use a Micro SD card which you likely have hanging around. Other adapters even have two slots so you can really have enough space to contain any game you’d ever want to play.

I’m going to assume you got the adapter and a fairly sized micro SD card. Let’s say $25, just to make the math simpler. In case you were wondering, yes you can technically access the PSN store still on a PSP. Open the store application like normal, and it will say an error has occurred. Press O to continue and you will see the storefront. You can’t purchase through this app any more but you can access downloads of games you have already bought. By simply going onto the online store in your favorite browser you can still buy and download digital games on your PSP.

Another useful, but I wouldn’t say essential accessory is the TV out cable for 2000 or 3000 model PSPs. This outputs to component video so you can play it on your TV and is only $15. The PSP Go has a cradle that connects to a TV and offers Bluetooth so you can use PS3 controllers, but it’s getting quite expensive. Not essential, but nice to have.

Essential Games

So many amazing games, so little time.

This is actually one of the best parts about the PSP. Collecting games for it is great because most of them are dirt cheap. Again, these are the full prices as I got from Price Charting in early December, 2017 which I rounded to the nearest dollar because screw decimals. You may very well find these cheaper out in the wild.

 

 

This is FFT as it was meant to be played. Sure, the PS1 version is more than sufficient but this fixes most of the Engrish as well as adding new stuff. If you have a modded PSP, make sure to install the slowdown patch. In any case, you are getting the finest strategy RPG there is, the second best FF game, and one of the finest games ever made that will take dozens of hours of your time. Best part? You should be able to find it CIB for less than $15. I’m going with the $10 that Price Charting had.

 

 

While MGS3 will always be the best of the series, this is a solid – no pun intended – entry that has the excellent gameplay of the previous game as well as a good story that’s not so bad on the Kojima-isms. I actually prefer the card game based Metal Gear Acid, but either entry is worth your time. Peace Walker goes for about $15 CIB, while Acid is cheaper at $8.

 

 

I make no argument that I have a serious weak sport for arcade sports titles, but this one is just fantastic. There are two entries on the PSP, as well as a tennis version I haven’t played, but either one will give you hours of incredibly fun golf goodness. Not only are they fun, full of customization and charm but both are super cheap. Either one can be found for $5 CIB, and either one is worth the time.

 

 

 

Old school, vampire whippin’ awesomeness. You get essentially three games in this package – one of which is only seeing North America for the first time – and all are great. The main game is a remake of Rondo of Blood, which got retitled Dracula X here when it got a weak version for SNES. You can also unlock the original TurboCD version of the game, as well as the PS1 classic Symphony of the Night. I may not care for metroidvanias much but that one is a gem. Best part is all of them are in one UMD for just $17 CIB.

 

 

 

I fear I couldn’t include this one without getting yelled at, as I’m already skipping Kingdom Hearts. Another action JRPG, this time serving as a prequel to the most overrated friggin’ game ever most beloved entry in the FF canon. The story is a bit cliche, but the action is fast and fun with a good amount of levels. It’s also surprisingly affordable, with a CIB copy being in the $7-$10 range.

 

 

There is not a game like this one. An affectionate parody of classic JRPGs, each level lasts only 60 seconds although you can extend time for a bit. All of the JRPG style – starting weak, leveling up and fighting a final boss – all in 60 seconds. There’s dozens of missions and each one is more fun than the last. Beyond that, there’s a mode of tower defense in 60 seconds that you play as a villain and a run and gun section as the princess. All for just $12 CIB makes for one hell of a package.

 

 

For some reason or another Killzone has always produced fun handheld games, and this one started it. Eschewing the FPS gameplay of its console counterparts, this entry is an isometric third person shooter that is solid as hell. You’ll not miss looking down the sights playing this, and it’s only $6 CIB.

 

 

This honestly comes down to your personal preference on the Mega Man series. The initial entries for both Mega Man Classic and Mega Man X got remakes for the PSP, and both of them are fantastic. I personally lean towards Maverick Hunter X but Powered Up has a super deformed charm to it. I will state that Maverick Hunter X moves around some of the secrets in the games, while Powered Up adds a new Robot Master and lets you unlock playing as the defeated Robot Masters. Maverick Hunter X is only $12 CIB, while Powered Up is slightly higher at $15.

 

 

Every good handheld needs a killer puzzle game. The Gameboy had Tetris, the Game Gear had Columns, and the PSP has Lumines. A fast, frenetic puzzler with a great soundtrack that has the simple yet addicting gameplay. It’s a simple act of matching colors but it gets going and you’ll be lost in it for hours. Best of all, you can get it CIB for $5. There’s also a sequel that just’s as solid if you find that in the wild instead.

Extras

It’s hard to talk PSP without talking homebrew. In all honesty, it’s one of the easiest consoles to hack and it’s still got a great homebrew scene, even if they’ve mostly moved to Vita. The fantastic Wololo has an excellent guide to get you started. With the discussion of homebrew of course comes piracy, which is stupid simple for the PSP. You can Google how to do that.

Homebrew software discussion also tends towards emulators and unless you have a Vita that can take the HENKaku hack there is simply not a better portable emulation system. Anything up to and including SNES is great, and of course ports of stuff like DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D are present and accounted for. Some SNES games have trouble, usually something with one of the special chips but a lot of the games run flawlessly. Interestingly, GBA runs very well and it’s a 32 bit system. If you like PS1 games, the PSP actually runs them natively, although with only one analog nub it gets a bit confusing.

Conclusion

The PSP is an excellent system for beginner collectors as it’s not only cheap to collect for but it has a fantastic library that covers all genres. Beyond that, it’s a great system for homebrew as well as emulation.  It’s still very affordable to collect for, with even the most expensive standard edition game being no more than the price of a system. Nintendo rightfully dominates the handheld scene, but there’s always space for more and the PSP shows what can be done with that niche. I hope you enjoyed this, and I’d love to hear your picks for must have PSP games. Comment below or catch me on twitter @ithinkibrokeit. See you next entry.

  • Denis Franco

    Correction: you don’t need to run a patched ISO file to run FF Tactics without the slowdown, the original hack is actually a plugin called “livepatch” which fixes the game on runtime, just like gameshark, you can do that to run the game without slowdown, straight from the UMD, no need to take up 400 MB of space on your card just to play a game you already have on UMD.

  • Derik Moore

    I realize its unclear now, but I didn’t intend for it to read like you had to have the ISO to run the livepatch. Good catch.