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Top 20 PSP RPGs

Top 20 PSP RPGs Featured

Over the years, those of us who love RPGs have spent a lot of time with Sony’s consoles. The PlayStation 2, for example, was the undeniable king of home consoles for RPGFans of its time. However, when it comes to handhelds, the PlayStation Portable faced an uphill climb from the day it was released. In Japan, it came on the scene just 10 days after Nintendo’s DS, but the gap was three months longer in the US. And although both consoles had great features, the DS went on to outsell the PSP two to one.

But hey, sales, schmales. The PSP may not have seen quite as much love from gamers, but the fact that it was more similar to home consoles than the competition meant that it was a more familiar platform for developers. As a result, it saw not only some great ports of older games, but also great new games and portable versions of new games as they came out. Whether we spent more time during this handheld generation with Nintendo or not, there was plenty to love on the PSP. And it is with this in mind that we present our picks for RPGFan’s Top 20 PSP RPGs.


20) Star Ocean: Second Evolution

The PSP brought a lot of remakes from its home console siblings into the hands of players on the go. Some of them included a lot of rework, while others chose to not mess with the good thing that the original game was. Star Ocean: Second Evolution is one of the latter, although it did feature updates to the battle system to keep things fresh. It looks good, it sounds great, it’s fun, and that earns it a place in our list.

by John Tucker


19) Jeanne D’Arc

Level-5’s alternate history take on the legacy of Jeanne D’Arc (that’s Joan of Arc for all you heathens out there) was one of the PSP’s earliest RPG heavy-hitters, and many of us here at RPGFan fondly remember the game’s entertaining combination of customization and combat. While the story eventually took the fantasy road, it’s hard to deny that this strategy RPG had the right combination of Level-5 magic, strategy, and character-building. The charm of tactically triumphing over the foes of France as heroes like Jeanne and Gilles de Rais is pretty undeniable, and that’s why we knew this one had to make our top 20 for the PSP.

by Stephen Meyerink


18) Wild Arms XF

“Tradition with a twist” is the best way to describe the Wild Arms series. The games don’t reinvent the wheel regarding JRPG conventions, but they put unique spins on those conventions, such as the incorporation of wild west/ cowboy elements. In much the same way, Wild Arms XF does not reinvent the SRPG genre, but it offers a gameplay experience that requires a different line of thinking from SRPGs cut from the Final Fantasy Tactics cloth. The hex-based system, evolved from that of Wild Arms 4, offers more strategic options than typical square-based movement, and mission objectives vary greatly. Beyond the usual “kill all foes” and “kill the boss” objectives are other objectives such as stealth missions, escape missions, bodyguard missions, and more. Sometimes battles feel more like solving puzzles than waging wars, and that’s what makes XF stand out from the SRPG pack. 

The “tradition with a twist” maxim also holds true for the plot, in that it plays with RPG conventions in clever ways. In perhaps the best plot in the Wild Arms series, straight-shooting heroine Clarissa Arwin grapples with the dilemma of whether some lies are worth living if it helps the greater good. Identity is a common theme in JRPGs, but this is a different take than the usual amnesia device. Also unique is that while most JRPG protagonists are guys who are oblivious to a girl’s affections, here the protagonist is a girl who’s oblivious to a boy’s affections. The other main characters and many side characters are compelling as well, making for an engaging adventure. Couple all this with an absolutely rousing soundtrack and you have one of the best SRPGs for the PSP.

by Neal Chandran


17) X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse

Marvel’s action RPGs may have been a somewhat risky choice before the first X-Men Legends, but after its success, we got a second in that series plus two Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. They weren’t all masterpieces of gaming, but they were all fun. And on the PSP, X-Men Legends II was the peak of that fun. Players got to vanquish foes as nearly two dozen well-known characters, and any fan of Marvel comics was bound to find a team of four that they loved. And although it sounds strange to say so now, it provided at least as much fun as the home console version at a time when that was not generally a realistic expectation.

by John Tucker


16) Lunar: Silver Star Harmony

Lunar: Silver Star Harmony is a remake of the first Lunar game localized by XSEED. This remake offered beautifully upgraded graphics and freshly arranged music, making an already lovely looking and sounding game look and sound even better. The cast of voice actors is different from the PlayStation version, but they do an excellent job; akin to seeing a beloved Broadway play acted by two different casts. XSEED also did a great job on freshening up the localization. The Working Designs humor is still there, but anachronistic 1990s pop culture references are absent, making for a more timeless narrative. The controversial design choice of more streamlined dungeons and less punishing difficulty keep Silver Star Harmony from ranking higher, but it always and forever remains an exceedingly charming RPG classic that any genre fan will adore.

by Neal Chandran


15) Half-Minute Hero

There is only one game in RPGFan’s review annals classified as a “??? RPG,” and that game is Half-Minute Hero. Its originality won it PSP Game of the Year honors in 2009, where it was aptly described as “blowing a raspberry in the face of convention.” Half-Minute Hero is one of those rare RPGs that genuinely took everything we thought we knew about Japanese-style RPGs and flipped it upside down. Instead of an epic quest spanning tens of hours, Half-Minute Hero offers quests that cram every RPG convention from talking to NPCs in town to battling nasty bosses into bite size chunks never longer than a couple of minutes. Along with the RPG mode, there are other gameplay modes that include bite-size RTS missions, action missions, even “king of the hill/ protect the VIP” missions. 

This satirically funny game was not afraid to march to the beat of its own drummer and the end result was a uniquely fun, refreshing, and memorable experience that cannot be effectively described. Half-Minute Hero is truly a game that’s more than the sum of its parts, and its wacky originality handily earns it a spot as one of the PSP’s top 20 RPGs.

by Neal Chandran


14) Ys I & II Chronicles

Believe it or not, Ys I & II have been ported to more systems than Final Fantasy III. Since these two games were originally released on the PC-88 in the late 1980s, they have been re-released over and over; each new version utilizing a different art style and soundtrack. Because these two games each represent half of a single story, they tend to be packaged together, and this latest release (dubbed Ys I & II Chronicles) is easily the best one yet. The unusual “bump combat” system may not be the most compelling way to fight enemies, but in terms of story, music, and atmosphere, there’s something relentlessly fascinating about the early days of Ys. We would recommend later games in the series before giving these classics a try, but they’re still very playable. Besides, with the Vita’s Ys: Memories of Celceta on the horizon, Ys I & II Chronicles makes for a great history lesson.

by Derek Heemsbergen


13) Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection

Final Fantasy IV is one of the most prolific RPGs of all time, having seen many remakes, updates and rereleases. Fans will argue over which release is the best, but having updated sprites, the entire sequel and a brand new interquel ensures that Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection is the most comprehensive. Once you start playing The Complete Collection, it doesn’t take long to remember all of FFIV‘s best qualities. The sequels, The After Years and Interlude, take what you know about FFIV and flip it around, delivering a unique take on the world, characters and systems. While none of the games available have the deepest story or gameplay in the genre, the quests of Cecil and his son Ceodore are epic, endearing, and goofy in equal measure. Final Fantasy IV was a masterpiece when it was released in 1991, and it continues to be fun and relevant thanks to the ability to revisit it in collections like this one.

by Joshua Bateman


12) Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman

Perhaps the only game that has ever started and ended with the same battle, Zettai Hero Project: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman came out of nowhere to be one of the truly great games on PSP. Its storyline is both mature and humorous, with characters who go through true story arcs to become people who you really want to root for. Its unusual form of turn-based strategy kept things fresh even for veterans of the genre, and with great music, voice acting, and visuals, what is there not to love?

by John Tucker


11) Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days

The Disgaea series, with its over-the-over-the top leveling and damage-dealing possibilities, can be a divisive series among RPG players. But you don’t have to shoot for level 9999 to enjoy Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t spend your time that way, because you could miss out on the second plotline written specifically for this PSP port, in which Axel, the self-styled “Dark Hero,” is fleshed out as a much more interesting character than he was shown to be in the original PlayStation 2 game. But no matter how you play, it’s easy to find at least one of Disgaea 2’s many gameplay options that you’ll enjoy for as long as you choose to play.

by John Tucker


10) Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth

tri-Ace games are a little strange — they tend to be more than a little complicated, and Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth is no exception. The atmosphere is arresting — a combination of visuals and music that creates an almost mythic feeling. On top of that, the gameplay is inviting, fast-paced and flashy. As you keep playing though, you’ll find things get a little strange. The progression of chapters is odd, combat has a steep learning curve, and hard mode is easier than normal mode. Then again, these things create depth in Valkyrie Profile while establishing identity. Case in point: the game incentivises following orders when ignoring those orders is integral to the story. 

Every element of Valkyrie Profile has its own enjoyable quirks and required level of mastery. Valkyrie Profile isn’t safe; it is a strange game that gives you freedom and requires you to use it, but when you put the time in to unveil the inner workings of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, what you get is one of the genre’s most rewarding experiences.

by Joshua Bateman


9) Ys SEVEN

The series laid dormant for five years following 2005’s The Ark of Napishtim, but XSEED finally brought Ys back to North America with the release of Ys SEVEN in 2010. Featuring a world several times larger than that of any previous Ys title, as well a new three-member party system, SEVEN is proof that Falcom can successfully teach an old Dogi — er, dog — new tricks. A sharp localization brings the inhabitants of Altago to life, and the trademark Ys dodge-and-slash gameplay is fully intact, with several difficulty levels catering to players of any skill. Notable for being accessible to newcomers and series veterans alike, Ys SEVEN is an easy recommendation for anyone seeking a quality action RPG.

by Derek Heemsbergen


8) Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is easily the best of the ever-growing library of handheld KH games, and a fantastic action RPG besides. Each of the three main characters, despite traversing the same worlds, has their own boss battles, special abilities, and cutscenes — and playing through as each unveils a different piece of a fascinating story that fills in gaps and finally gets some emotional weight behind the conflict with the series’ biggest antagonist. While it’s still got its fair share of silly dialogue, the overarching plot is almost entirely self-contained and makes for an excellent entry point to potential new players. That it features an utterly addictive character-building system in which new abilities are acquired like cards and fused like Shin Megami Tensei demons is an added bonus on top of the combat. Flashy without being out-of-control, Birth by Sleep‘s battles are dramatic and easily some of the most exciting to be had on the PSP. Top it off with outstanding graphics and one of the tightest soundtracks around, and this one would be worth picking up right now, if it weren’t likely to be featured in HD as part of the inevitable Kingdom Hearts 2.5

Editor’s Note 10/16/2013: Surprising no one, BBSHD was confirmed just recently as one of the games packaged with Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMix!

by Stephen Meyerink


7) Riviera: The Promised Land

Subject to much debate prior to this event, Riviera: The Promised Land found its way into our selection for best RPGs on the PSP. The story of amnesiac angel Ein and his colour-coded friends is an epic one, as he traverses the realm of Riviera to stop fallen angel Ledah and other evils yet to show their faces. Originally a WonderSwan game, Riviera made its way to the GBA before finally arriving in its greatest iteration on PSP. 

Like all of Sting’s games, Riviera takes traditional JRPG mechanics and turns them on their head. You never directly control Ein’s movement; rather you move him via directional choices on each map. Battles are turn-based, but you can only hold a modest selection of weapons that nearly all have limited durability. Hanging onto your best weapons for later or using them to clear space is always a tough choice. Exploration is vital, as it often leads to secret treasures or other bonuses, and each decision has a big impact on play. Replay value is found in abundance. 

With such a unique approach to an RPG, Riviera rightly deserves its place among the other epic titles on this list.

by Andrew Barker


6) Ys: The Oath in Felghana

While Ys SEVEN took the series in a welcome new direction, Ys: The Oath in Felghana represents Falcom at the height of classic game design. True to the series’ roots, this game features Adol Christin as the lone playable character, but outfits him with a repertoire of ability-bestowing magic rings. (Imagine A Link to the Past, but with all of the fat trimmed and the speed kicked up several notches.) Featuring incredibly tight pacing, arguably the best soundtrack in Ys history, and lightning-fast gameplay where skill is paramount, The Oath in Felghana is the action RPG distilled to near-perfection.

by Derek Heemsbergen


5) Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

Final Fantasy Tactics showed a lot of promise on the original PlayStation. Its myriad of classes required thoughtful players who would take their party of squires and chemists and turn them into an army. An army of Ninjas, Wizards, Lancers, and… Calculators. But it also required players who were willing to look past a terrible translation and a foreign control scheme (literally — it used Japanese-style controls), among other things. And even for many players who would have loved the gameplay, that was too much to ask. 10 years later, those players finally got their chance to see what everyone else had been talking about, when Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions was released on PSP. Yes, it had some unfortunate framerate issues during spell animations. But more importantly, it had an amazing new translation, a revamped control scheme, and gorgeous new anime-style cutscenes. These new additions allowed the outstanding gameplay to shine forth without obstacle and produced a game good enough to earn an Editor’s Choice award from not one, but three RPGFan reviewers.

by John Tucker


4) Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

When you play Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, you set foot into another world. Yasumi Matsuno, the mastermind behind the Ogre series, is able to do something that is nearly impossible; through the music, visuals, gameplay and story, Matsuno has given Tactics Ogre an unparalleled sense of history and gravitas. The world might be populated by 2D sprites, and the stages are nothing more than a series of disconnected chessboards, and yet the sense of place is so well established that it beckons you deeper into the world. On the island of Valeria, you experience and guide the lives of the heroes in a morally ambiguous setting where doing your duty and being honorable is not always the same as doing what is right. All of this from a game originally released on the Super Nintendo. 

Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together stands out from many of the remakes on the PSP by being the best version of itself. Everything new has its roots in the Tactics Ogre identity by simultaneously maintaining the original’s aesthetic and gameplay sensibilities while elevating and modernizing the elements that would undermine the experience. The redrawn art by Akihiko Yoshida and rearranged music by Basiscape are absolutely entrancing. New systems allow players to re-evaluate choices and consequences by redoing actions in combat as well as in the story. These not only enhance player convenience, they fit the world thematically and work as a metaphor for creating remakes — all at the same time. Did I mention that it has of one of the smartest tactical combat and progression systems ever released? Simply put, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is one of the PSP’s greatest RPGs.

by Joshua Bateman


3) Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

I’ve often said that the best stories are the ones so well-told that even when you know the inevitable conclusion, you’re still hoping against hope that somehow things will turn out differently. Crisis Core is one of those stories. Anyone with experience playing Final Fantasy VII knows that Zack Fair meets an untimely and unjust fate, and yet it is his journey that players embarked upon in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Thanks to what is arguably the best character development in the spate of FFVII-related games, Aerith, Zack, and Sephiroth all take on new dimensions and become far more interesting and — more importantly — relatable than they’ve ever been. 

And that’s not mentioning the game, which is lengthy, action-packed, and highly customizable. It is also one of the best-looking games on the system, and features some outstanding original and remixed (from FFVII and the film Last Order) music. There are a bevy of side missions, special abilities, and other such hidden goodies to sink your teeth into aside from the main story. Along with a unique and entertaining combat system (and one of the greatest fusions of story and gameplay systems I’ve ever seen in the climax), you’ve got a game that is undoubtedly one of the PSP’s best RPGs, and a worthy successor to the venerable adventures and Cloud & Co.

by Stephen Meyerink


2) The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

This unassuming adventure surpassed our wildest expectations when it landed on North American shores in 2011. A basic description of the game does it absolutely no justice; sure, it’s a turn-based JRPG with a save-the-realm plot, but the delight is in the details. Trails in the Sky features one of the most vividly realized worlds in any RPG series — one that has been the setting for six games as of this writing — and well-written, endearing characters whose interactions are unfailingly entertaining. The sheer scope of the series is impressive as well, since this 40-hour game represents only the first entry in a critically-acclaimed trilogy, all of which share recurring characters, subplots, and musical motifs. With XSEED and Carpe Fulgur hard at work on Second Chapter, our hunger for more Trails has been reawakened. Earnest, approachable, and dripping with charm, Trails in the Sky is simply one of the best games on the PSP.

by Derek Heemsbergen


1) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable

It wasn’t enough to dive into Tartarus’ 160+ floors the first time back in 2007 on the PlayStation 2, nor was it enough to return a year later for more plus an Aigis-centered epilogue. Naturally, it was impossible to resist Persona 3 the third time when Atlus offered a female protagonist option and several fresh social links along with gameplay tweaks introduced by Persona 4 — all giving the player a chance at a new experience. Much like its successor and its Vita port, Persona 3 Portable lost none of its lustre nor charm on Sony’s other handheld, even if that charm came wrapped in a nice, cheery death theme.

by Liz Maas


Thank you for reading our Top 20 PSP RPGs feature! RPGFan would like to thank Creative Uncut for the use of several pieces of artwork used in this feature. Creative Uncut hosts tens of thousands of high quality video game artworks covering hundreds of games, so definitely check out their collection if you’re a fan of artwork.

John Tucker

John Tucker

John officially retired from RPGFan as Managing Editor in 2017, but he still pops in from time to time with new reviews. He finds just about everything interesting and spends most of his free time these days reading fiction, listening to podcasts, and coming up with new things to 3D print.