With prices of games rising steadily over the years, Sony realised that gamers who purchased the PSP needed a cheap entry level route into the world of digital gaming. With memory cards offering a limited amount of storage at the time and costing far more than their rivals available for digital cameras and other devices, Sony needed to offer gamers an affordable option so the PlayStation Minis range was born.
The Minis range offered something new for PlayStation. Low cost gaming with a small physical footprint meaning that gamers could buy games using leftover credit from their PSN Wallet and not having to worry about how much storage space they needed. Initially available for the PSP, adding PlayStation 3 support through a system update only boosted their appeal. And more recently, with the Vita’s legacy support and capacity to run PSP titles (including its sister micro console the PSTV) the Minis have become the only range capable of running on four PlayStation systems.
With over 200 games released it’s hard to know which ones are worth buying from the PlayStation Store so we thought we’d bring you a run down of what we think are the 20 best ones out there…
Pinball Dreams (Cowboy Rodeo)
The classic Amiga pinball game stormed its way onto the Minis range and the incredibly small file duplicated the Amiga original perfectly in every way. While it revealed some of the flaws of the original, there’s no denying that it’s fantastic value for four full pinball tables and is still an essential addition to the collection for retro gaming lovers everywhere.
Pinball Fantasies (Cowboy Rodeo)
It was inevitable that the sequel was going to follow and this improved on the first game in almost every way. Better table design, better visuals, tighter ball physics. The only area where there wasn’t an improvement was the sound and that’s only because both tables featured a stunning soundtrack from Olof Gustaffson and it was hard to decide which of the two was better. Another great game and both – it has to be said – were superior to the later conversions to the SNES.
Sky Force (Infinite Dreams)
One of the most impressive games visually from the Minis range, Sky Force is a fast action bullet-hell arcade shooter that wouldn’t have looked out of place in any arcade in the late 80s / early 90s. Great graphics, thumping soundtrack and plenty of action. You couldn’t really ask for more from a shoot-em-up.
Fighting Fantasy – The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain (Laughing Jackal)
The one that started it all, Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s adventure game books were a must-have in the 80s and were a stepping stone for many into the world of RPGs. Loved to this day, this was a superb recreation of the first book keeping everything simple while handling all of the messy statistic management, inventory record keeping and dice rolling to make the game flow as smoothly as possible. Add a handy save function and it’s everything you could want from a handheld version of the game.
Trailblazer (Ideas Pad)
The 8-bit era brought us countless classic games including this platform/racer hybrid, originally released for the Commodore 64 by Gremlin Graphics (now Sumo Digital) and developed by Shaun Southern. Race down a track at breakneck speed jumping over gaps making use of different coloured floor tiles to jump or accelerate your futuristic cycle whilst avoiding the detrimental effects of some of the other tiles. Fast, addictive and a great update to the original.
Pac-Man Championship Edition (Namco Bandai)
Everyone loves Pac Man. There, I’ve said it. This Championship Edition takes the classic and adds a new twist to the gameplay. Visually it adds a generous splash of psychedelic colours bringing the maze to life, while turning the game on its head. Now played against a time limit with dots only appearing on part of the screen at a time until you collect fruit, it intensifies the pace of the game making it even more of a challenge.
Vector TD (Frima)
While we’ve seen a plethora of tower defense games appear on the PS Vita, this hi-tech release is arguably my favourite. With it’s bold neon visuals, thumping soundtrack and intense gameplay it’s the one that I’ve returned to more than all of the others I have purchased combined. It may only have three maps but it will take a long time before you beat those and even when you do, you’ll still be back for more.
Doodle Fit (Gamelion)
The real beauty of handheld gaming is the fact that there are countless titles out there designed specifically for quick pick-up-and-play sessions, ideal for gaming on the go or when you just want a ten minute fix to pass some time without worrying about whether you can fit it in to your daily schedule. Doodle Fit is one of those games and and is a fantastic little puzzle game that’s easy to pick up yet fiendishly addictive. The concept is simple – you’re presented with an empty geometric shape, and a set of pieces that you have to fit into it to fill it up. Do so and you move on to the next puzzle. Pieces can be moved and rotated and most puzzles have more than one possible solution giving the game extra long term appeal. With addictive gameplay, neat hand-drawn sketch-style visuals and great sound, this is one for puzzle fans everywhere.
Dracula Undead Awakening (Chillingo)
The PSP isn’t the first system that immediately springs to mind when you think about twin-stick shooters but it’s managed to deliver a few titles that have been accomplished shooters in their own right. As well as the PSP port of Super Stardust, Dracula Undead Awakening is one of the hidden gems on the platform. Using the action buttons to control the direction of fire and the analogue stick for movement, it’s you against wave after wave of the undead (with the occasional appearance from old Dracula himself). Armed with just a small pistol to start off with, you can collect coins from corpses as they fall to buy bigger and better weapons for your arsenal along with ammunition, boost your weapons and your own abilities as your character grows as you hope to survive each onslaught.
With several game modes to choose from, spread over different themed areas the solid gameplay is backed up with great graphics, a superb soundtrack and spine-chilling sound effects that really bring the game to life.
Fighting Fantasy – Talisman Of Death (Laughing Jackal)
The PSP was fortunate to receive not one but two Fighting Fantasy games as part of the Minis range. More of the same and yet another essential purchase for fans of the series. From a gaming point of view, these could really be thought of as the forerunners to visual novels and they won’t be to everyone’s tastes but if like me you grew up on these books in the 80s then they’re a must have.
Arcade giant Taito have a lot to answer for. Over the years they introduced us to some incredible franchises and names that became household names including the classic Space Invaders. One of my favourite that saw countless unofficial home clones over the years was the arcade action game Qix from 1981. Fast forward a few decades and Nordcurrent have brought the game up-to-date with modern 3D visuals, given it a contemporary setting an storyline a cute makeover. You might be in control of a tractor now instead of a pulsating spark of energy and you may have powerups at your disposal, but the original gameplay remains intact for what is a great remake.
Impossible Mission (System 3)
The 8-bit and 16-bit era have a lot to answer for. It was certainly a golden era when it comes to gaming and while being honest a lot of titles haven’t stood the test of time particularly well, as you have already seen from this list a number have not only thrived but have proven worth of remakes or modern adaptations and Impossible Mission is no exception. Regarded as being one of the finest platform games to grace the Commodore 64, System 3 took the Epyx classic and modernised it to bring the game to the Minis range. In fact, this release comprises of not one but three games. The original Commodore 64 recreated in all its glory, a re-skinned remastered version, and an updated version. Personally I always go for the original version of the platform puzzler but whichever you choose it’s a game you can’t go wrong with.
Let’s Golf! (Gameloft)
Golf is a strange sport – it’s one that people either love or hate but even people who find it monotonous in real life seem to love playing home versions of it. There has been a rich tradition of great golfing games on the market, whether it’s been the Leaderboard series from the 8-bit era, the PGA range from Electronic Arts or Sony’s own Everybody’s Golf series. Now this one isn’t quite up to the standards of the PlayStation stalwart but this certainly manages to deliver a great looking, playable game. With 4 characters and 63 holes to choose from, single and multiplayer modes, quick games and a tournament option, this is a fantastic arcade golf game and can easily hold its own against its full price rivals.
3, 2, 1… SuperCrash! (StormBasic)
Endless runners can be bland, repetitive (by their very nature) and somewhat non-descript and it takes a lot for any of them to stand out from the crowd. Even more for any of them to make it into a Top 20 list but this one has managed to do just that. The idea of the game is absurd and I think that’s just why it works so well… You’re a muscle-bound unicycle rider (yeah, you couldn’t make this up!) riding along a road. At random intervals you encounter solid walls with body-shaped figures cut out from them. Just position your arms into the same pattern using the square and circle buttons and you can ride safely through the gap. Collect stars along the way for bonus points, jump over the odd roadside obstacle for more bonus points and that’s pretty much it.
Absurd? Absolutely! Fun? Definitely and a game that works so well because it so different to other endless runners and makes you think while you play.
One Epic Game (Grip Games)
When I first heard about this I wondered if it could actually live up to the bold claims made by its name. Well, to be honest, it’s not far off. It’s a superb, seamless blend of two popular genres – endless runners and a side-scrolling run and gun shoot-em-up. It’s a curious amalgamation but the tongue-in-cheek humour in the storyline, great visuals and sound and the non-stop action add up to make for a fantastically addictive game.
The Mystery Of The Crystal Portal (G5 Entertainment)
Usually more at home in the casual market on the PC, it’s quite strange to see a hidden object game on any PlayStation Platform, let alone a portable format with a relatively low resolution screen like the PSP. In an unusual twist to the genre, this is a story driven game that requires you to find mystery key items in each location referred to in the story that will then reveal details of the rest of the items that you have to find. Achieve all of this and the story will progress. It makes quite a change from the usual list of objects and makes the game more interesting for it.
Young Thor (Frima)
We’re all familiar – thanks to Marvel – of the legend of Thor, but what about his life as a young boy? Well Young Thor brings his early adventures (or a glimpse into what they might have been) to the Minis in this action packed 2.5D hack and slash platformer. It’s a fun game with plenty of action, depth, great graphics and sound and delivers a game that certainly offers a lot more than the price point would have you expect. The only downside is that early levels can be repetitive when you need to replay them, just against different adversaries, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great hack-and-slash adventure.
Twin Blades (Sanuk Games)
Zombies, nuns, guns and blades… If that sounds to you like a perfect mix for a great action game then you’d be right. Twin Blades is a side-scrolling hack-and-slash zombie slaying arcade game with some simply stunning anime influenced visuals. You’re in control of a scythe-wielding, gun-toting nun with a penchant for slaying the undead and if you’re after something that has a familiar arcade feel but with an unusual twist then this will be right up your street.
1000 Tiny Claws (Mediatonic)
A pirate with a cursed sword, hordes of bug-like creatures everywhere… what on earth are you to do? Apart from keep fighting in this top-down arcade game! With a main story mode, extra game modes and enough grog to sink a pirate’s ship (okay, that last part was a big of an exaggeration), this is a great action game that will keep you entertained for hours on end.
Hotel Mogul (Alawar)
I haven’t really included any time management or sim games in this list although there are quite a few available as part of the Minis range. It was hard to choose which ones warranted inclusion as there were quite a few I felt that were worth taking a closer look at, but of all of them, the one I found myself playing more than any of the others in my collection was Hotel Mogul from Alawar. While it’s not the deepest of games, it’s challenging and fun and has plenty of options and variety in the gameplay and level design to keep you engaged. It’s not an open-ended sim as some larger games are so it’s not for you if you don’t like the objective-based format, but if you don’t mind that then this might be one for you.
Disagree with our choices? Got any favourites we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.