The PlayStation Portable is one of those systems that managed to bridge the gap between regions, while still primarily finding success in Japan. For you, that means it’s easy to get a PSP, and it also means there are a ton of great imports to discover! Here are the best of the bunch.
Before you get too far, here are a few helpful things to know about PSP importing:
The system’s region-free, but not without restrictions. You can play any UMD on any system, and that’s fantastic. Still, with one account per system, you’ll need to juggle all your files or get a second PSP to access digital titles and DLC. Also, there’s this pesky thing: Japanese systems switch the functions of the cross and circle buttons. You can get used to it, but it’s a pain to keep track, and also some games and in-game menus have hard-coded button inputs while others use the system defaults. So… maybe that’s a good reason to get a Japanese PSP, maybe in a cool color?
Your credit cards won’t work on Japanese PSN. Thankfully, some sites have easily-purchasable PSN credit codes, but… yeah, you’ll have to go through that process, and it’ll cost a bit more than the exchange rate. (That said, the exchange rate’s fairly favorable these days, so it’s not that painful.)
There are a lot of Japan-only PSP games, but you probably can’t play most of them. Much like the Vita, the PSP has carved out a place for itself in the world of visual novels and dating sims. They’re always text-heavy and inscrutable to navigate without Japanese knowledge. There are many more accessible genres with some great options, though!
Now, to the games!
Valkyria Chronicles 3
Fan translation available (Extra Edition only)
Arguably the best import-only gem on a platform full of them, Valkyria Chronicles 3 is (unlike its predecessor) highly regarded by series fans, and even packs some ideas that didn’t make it into its excellent, long-awaited sequel. You can take a good look at the translation with us, too! Even without it, though, it’s easy enough to play if you’re familiar with the series’ menus.
Taiko no Tatsujin Portable DX
The PSP was home to tons of great rhythm games, a reputation its successor would bolster even further. This final Taiko no Tatsujin game on the platform sports a huge song list, refined features and a simplicity that really suits it. But really, you can’t go wrong with any of the PSP Taiko releases. (Though… don’t you want the one with Yakuza characters in it?)
Initial D: Street Stage
There’s a particular flavor of Japanese street racing game that has fallen out of fashion as of late, but it’s worth returning to it to scratch that driving itch. Initial D: Street Stage brings the boxy vehicles and sharp urban turns of the arcade game to a handheld platform that plays well to its short-session strengths. Based on version 3 of its big brother, it packs dozens of cars and a bunch of progression elements to keep you going.
7th Dragon 2020
Fan translation available
We didn’t get any of the 7th Dragon games until the final one, but all are excellently-crafted RPGs worthy of your time and attention. Each main release is on a different platform, but this PSP entry offers, in addition to a guest appearance from Hatsune Miku, a fun setting and some well-balanced attack options and difficulty curves. Plus it looks cool!
Monster Hunter Diary: Poka Poka Airou Village G
The PSP was dominated by Monster Hunter and its imitators, so it’s not surprising that the platform saw spinoff titles. This one is particularly suited to those looking to revisit the PSP, as it is a side-scrolling game in which you indirectly control a group of the franchise’s Felynes in a method similar to Patapon! No rhythm needed, really, but with enough trial and error, the language barrier can be easily cleared. The G version adds some extra content to the original release, but the base game can be fun enough and also phenomenally cheap.
Okay, so this one is a bit of a reach. It’s a text-heavy JRPG that doesn’t have any defining gameplay features. What it does have, though? Nendoroids! We know it’s enjoyable for many to just look at the cute little figures, and the menus here are simple enough to learn to keep the adorable action going. It doesn’t hurt that this simplified art style ages better than most!
Grand Knights History
Fan translation available
Again, a weird one: the West received spiritual successor Grand Kingdom, but it’s this first game that is more highly regarded. It’s often described as having the addictive RPG grinding and unit crafting of Pokemon, but with a more mature, painterly aesthetic crafted by the team at Vanillaware.
Tales of VS.
Combining the multiplayer side-scrolling battle action of games like Super Smash Bros. and Jump! Ultimate Stars with the combat of the Tales series, this battler offers a lot of appeal to both franchise fans and those without the patience to get through the dozens of hours of JRPGs. It’s fitting, given how combat-focused Tales has always been, and the menus are simple enough to get you into the fight with little issue. (And Tales fans may find a lot more to love in the platform’s import catalog, from weird remakes and Musou-like spinoffs to untranslated sequels and competent ports.)
Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga
If Tales isn’t an underappreciated enough franchise for your tastes, perhaps you’d be interested in a crossover fighter featuring Nihon Falcom’s Ys and Trails games? Rather than Tales of VS.‘s side-view play, Alternative Saga offers combat arenas with a top-down camera, better replicating the environments of the two series. It offers a very different feel and a focus on maneuvering over constant close-quarters play.
For more helpful advice for budding importers, check out our Guides section.