Pick up a console towards the end of its lifespan and you're not acquiring some outdated hardware - it's more likely that you're investing in a piece of kit with an extensive and somewhat overwhelming back catalogue waiting to be explored.
When the console in question's already celebrated its sixth birthday, that back catalogue can be a daunting place to pick your way through, and that's what this guide is here for. It's not, by any stretch, a definitive top 10 list - rather it's a handful of recommendations for those looking for a little guidance in getting the best out of the PSP.
Top 10 PSP Games
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (Kojima Productions/Konami)
By the time that Peace Walker was released on the PSP, the Metal Gear Solid series had already had several bites at the PSP - first off in the curious card battling Acid games and then in the brace of more straight-laced Portable Ops titles. Peace Walker benefitted from Kojima's A-team, fresh from Guns of the Patriots and clearly relishing the chance to work with Snake again as well as an opportunity to explore the limits and possibilities of Sony's handheld. The results were, for better and worse, typical of the series, showing excess and innovation in equally generous measure.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (Rockstar Leeds/Rockstar)
Vice City has long been regarded as a highlight of Rockstar's all-conquering open world series, if not mechanically then at least in its brilliantly measured retro tone, so any excuse to returns there is more than welcome. An incredible appropriation of the 3D formula laid out by GTA 3, Vice City Stories captures the spirit of its predecessor well. It's a little over-reliant on the fetch quests that began to blight this particular brand of GTA games, and the subsequent Chinatown Wars showed how rewarding a more traditional 2D approach could be, but as an achievement and experience Vice City Stories stands alone.
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (TOSE/Square Enix)
If there's one genre that's propped up the PSP more than any other, it's the strategy RPG. Picking between the myriad examples on offer is a tough task - do you go for the breezy Jeanne D'Arc, the impossibly deep Disgaea games or the influential Tactics Ogre? - but there's one indisputable classic among the throng.
Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the genre's masterpieces; rich and involving, it also bears one of the more coherent storylines to have been told under the Final Fantasy banner. Originally a PSone release, the PSP's War of the Lions adds animated cutscenes as well as portability, allowing you to make a dent into its hundreds of hours of strategic play on the move.
Lumines (Q Entertainment/Ubisoft)
There are many, many puzzle games that follow in the footsteps of Tetris, but very few of them are inventive enough to walk side by side with Alexey Pajitnov's influential original. Drop 7's a latter example, and the PSP's Lumines is another. A puzzle game with a rhythmic heart, it's in many ways a logical extension of the work of its creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who with Space Channel 5 and Child of Eden has long explored the area where music and games meet. Lumines is perhaps the best example of his work, a perfectly judged puzzle game that's seen countless installments but has never better its PSP debut.
Lumines review (8/10)
Ridge Racer (Namco)
It's now customary for a Ridge Racer to launch PlayStation hardware, and this PSP opener did its very best to explore and exploit Sony's then new handheld. The clean neon and concrete world proved that 3D gaming could work on the go, while the long and clinical drifts were well-served by the PSP's analogue nub. What's best, though, is how Ridge Racer carefully curates the series' past, compiling highlights from the previous 12 years and even going as far as to resurrect the unsung Rave Racers's brilliant brace of courses.
Ridge Racer review (8/10)
Valkyria Chronicles 2 (Sega WOW/Sega)
Another SRPG, yes, but Sega's Valkryia Chronicles 2 does things a little differently. A sequel to a well-received PlayStation 3 original, what's initially striking is how the pastel world has been faithfully ported, the washed-out watercolour effect translating well to the handheld. Likewise, the action heavy turn-based strategy is also intact, the only giveaway for Vakyria Chronicles 2's more diminutive status being the brilliantly camp school yarn that wraps the whole thing up. A third installment made it to the handheld, though sadly it's unlikely to ever make it out of Japan.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 review (8/10)
LocoRoco 2 (Japan Studio/SCE)
LocoRoco, with its picture book artwork and its generous slabs of candy colour, is a wonderfully breezy slice of gaming. This sequel mines deep into the appeal of the original, creating a world that's dense with collectibles and that's scored with secret areas to explore. As a platformer, LocoRoco 2 has an inventiveness of which Nintendo would be proud - and it's a unique and alluring proposition on the PSP.
LocoRoco 2 review (8/10)
WipEout Pulse (Sony Studio Liverpool/SCE)
The second outing for Sony's iconic future racing series on the PSP, and it's easily the best. With Studio Liverpool having clearly found its feet on they system, WipEout Pulse gets to explore the further reaches of the hardware, creating a visually striking experience matched by typically brilliant art design. Underneath it's still the same compelling formula, albeit with a few aggressive tweaks - Zone returns, a feature that's manages to distil the appeal of WipEout into one easily digestible session, and it's joined by Elimination, a deathmatch mode that's stayed with the series since. The PSP's must-have racer.
WipEout Pulse review (8/10)
God of War: Chains of Olympus (Ready at Dawn/SCE)
God of War's always been about full-blooded, blood-spilling spectacle, so it's a small revelation to see Ready at Dawn preserve that spectacle in Chains of Olympus, the PSP's far from compromised take on the action series steeped in Greek mythology. It's a familiar blend of light puzzles and QTEs sewn together with over-the-top hack and slashing, but it's lost little of its trademark wow factor in the journey to the smaller screen. A follow-up, Ghosts of Sparta, offers much of the same, making it equally worthy of consideration.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (Capcom)
No other series has defined the PSP like Monster Hunter, and Capcom's multi-layered, time-consuming adventure game has arguably single-handedly kept the handheld alive, responsible for its dominance in Japan. It's never quite caught on in the West, though, but Freedom Unite's as good a place as any to start. As a series of gentle improvements, Freedom Unite presents the most up-to-date iteration available on the handheld, it's stat-heavy roleplaying and questing by this point honed to a fine and utterly compelling art.
Martin Robinson, Features Editor, Dissidia: Final Fantasy
"Dissidia's biggest achievement isn't necessarily how it shoehorned an arena-based fighter onto Sony's handheld, nor how it came up with a perfectly competent excuse for bringing together the cast of its disparate and far-reaching Final Fantasy series. It's not, for me, in how its real-time combat manages to be at once solid and satisfying while at the same time managing to stay faithful to the series RPG roots (although I'll admit that's quite impressive). For me, this one's worth picking up for one reason and one reason alone; the return of Kefka, FF 6's deranged genius and one of gaming's greatest villains."
Tom Bramwell, Editor at Large - Metal Gear Acid
"Early in the PSP's life, Konami noticed that Metal Gear had a lot of ludicrous characters and an inventory bulging with outlandish weaponry and disposable gadgets, not to mention more competing and overlapping gameplay systems than a year's worth of Humble Indie Bundles. This somehow led to Metal Gear Acid, a slow-paced stealth-action strategy game where each gadget or technique was embodied by one of the cards in your deck of turn-based actions. Both Acid games were complex and occasionally very frustrating, but quite wonderful."
Metal Gear Acid review (7/10)
Oli Welsh, Reviews Editor - Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness
"Strategy RPGs somehow work best on portables and the PSP has an incredible line-up of originals and enhanced ports; we haven't even mentioned Tactics Ogre... Disgaea's my favourite though, a game that's as unhinged in its design and stat extravagance as in its flippant humour and art. One of the best games ever for disappearing down an abstract rabbit-hole of escalating numbers, but it's all founded on tight positional tactics too."
Sony's recently released a revised budget model of its PSP, which gave us the perfect excuse to revisit the handheld's hardware. Today Digital Foundry has given the PSP E-1000 the once over and delivered its verdict.