PSP survived the year selling small pockets of quiet releases. Now that the beefed up Vita is hogging the handheld spotlight (the PSP settles for whatever it can get and the 3DS receives more hate mail than Paul Christoforo) and soon your wallet, the afterthought that was the PSP has become old news entirely. But if you do own a PSP, even if you keep it at the bottom of a drawer, you might want to say your goodbyes with five games from this past year that actually managed to carve a nook in the PSP's library.
5. Corpse Party (PSN download only)
A harmless night of fun and ghost stories turns into a nightmare from hell. When fellow students create a charm to remember their friend's last day, an earthquake bores through the school and separates the group. They soon discover that they're walking the halls of Heavenly Host Elementary School, a demolished building that once stood in place of the school they attend now. Corpse Party is a horror-themed visual novel, a largely unknown genre here in the West, with glossy anime scenes, an emphasis on exploration, and more possible endings than you can shake a bone at. While gamers might groan in frustration over the minefield of unexpected dead ends, the chilling experience outweighs any wasted efforts and unskippable scenes.
4. Dissidia 012: Duodecim Final Fantasy
Duodecim Final Fantasy marks the second game in the Dissidia series despite the number twelve in the title. The game takes the fighting genre and embeds it with rich RPG elements, resulting in a unique blend of action and customization. Dissidia leans more toward a gravity-defying style than the traditional type of combat you'd find in most fighting games. Characters can, for example, ostensibly fly through the air. You can level and armor up characters, unlock bonuses, and tough it out in dungeons. It's one of the more creative experiments in the Final Fantasy line and certainly one of the best titles under the name to come out in years.
3. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Recently, handhelds (especially the PSP) have served as a good platform for dropping RPGs. Considering our previous two picks originate in some manner from the genre, it shouldn't be a surprise that the number three title on this list is a true-to-form role-playing game. The Legend of Heroes is already an established franchise, but Trails in the Sky represents the first of a new trilogy. Strong in story and gameplay, Trials in the Sky landed with barely a thud to catch gamers' attention, but its generous length, endearing characters, and strategic combat make it a sure buy for RPG lovers.
2. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
A big hit this year for the PSP was the new Tactics Ogre game, associated with brands like Ogre March and Ogre Battle. Let Us Cling Together is—surprise, surprise—a tactical RPG (notice a recurring theme here?) and a remake of the Super Famicom original. Existing gameplay has survived dutifully enough for fans, as the PSP version was received with reams of praise. Any changes made after port to port (to the Sega Saturn and then the PlayStation and now Sony's aging handheld) have benefited the title, as well. Let Us Cling Together is an easy favorite for 2011.
What, you thought I was going to choose an RPG? Guess again. This PSP Mini (free for PlayStation Plus subscribers) gets extra points for rejuvenating the overworked and frequently uninspired zombie genre. From television to games to movies, zombies aren't just the same shambling monstrosities they used to be, and most of us are more eager about reloading our shotguns and competing for headshots than we are afraid of a good bite in the neck. Whatever novelty surrounded zombies has long wore off, and they've become sheep—common, ugly, mindless sheep.
OMG-Z lets us have the best of old and new: It gives us a reason to be excited about zombies without sacrificing the contemporary appetite for blowing their brains out without losing a friend or loved one first. Killing zombies is now the pastime equivalent of baseball. If picking off one zombie at a time sounds fun to you, then setting off combustible chains of the undead is going to blow your mind—err, brains. Not all zombies react the same way to a bullet in the face, so strategy is just as important to your arsenal. Whatever your plan for survival, one thing's guaranteed: You're going to make a great, big, bloody mess.