Which Handheld Gaming System Should You Go For This Christmas?

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Many of you regular readers may know that I love my handheld games, even if I quickly lose interest when there isn’t a steady stream of must-own games. After checking out the Vita during a preview event last January, I was keen to drop some cash on the machine after it impressed me a lot with its console quality graphics and twin analogue sticks. Sadly, after finishing Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Wipeout 2048 there wasn’t too much to sustain my interest and I swiftly traded in my system.

I am certainly interested in getting hold of another Vita at some point, although currently the high price point, cost of memory cards and lack of AAA games is delaying that decision. In six months time, once titles like Killzone: Mercenaries have been released, and (hopefully) some new titles have been announced at E3 then I will jump back on board with Sony’s premium handheld system. In the meantime though, how can I scratch my portable gaming itch?

Great game – but finished it months ago…

I have also owned and traded a 3DS and for the most part I really enjoyed it. Titles like Super Mario Land 3D, Mario Kart 7 and Starfox 64 3D were all played to completion and I loved every moment of them, yes – including the 3D effect which is nothing more than a gimmick in some games and genuinely impressive in others. Again though, in the last few months new titles have dried up, with those that are on the way like Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Paper Mario: Sticker Star just not really appealing to me. As always with Nintendo, the quality is there but there isn’t enough of it. Why not announce and release games like Metroid Prime or F-Zero in 3D on the system? I guess just like with the Wii U, they just aren’t that interested in taking people’s money any more.

OK then, so what about the new kid on the block – iOS and/or Android? I admit I am joining the Apple Club next month when I intend a shiny new iPhone 5 to be sitting nestled under my tree. I already own an Android phone and whilst the games that are on it are very good, Google Play still trails behind the App Store for a lot of new titles. I am certainly looking forward to playing titles like Crazy Taxi, GTA: Vice City, Phoenix Wright HD and Need for Speed: Most Wanted on the device, but realistically I know that the controls will be restrictive on some of those games, and also that the majority are designed for quick blast gameplay when you have a spare few minutes and your phone with you.

That leaves one option for some real console style portable gaming with buttons and a library full of great games. That option is PSP Go. Yes, that handheld that was lambasted upon its release and swiftly ignored by the Sony faithful. I recently got hold of one, and honestly I am spending just as much time with it as I did with my 3DS and Vita, only with 14 games currently stored on the device waiting for their turn to be played.

Still looks good doesnt it? And as a bonus it looks nicer on the Go’s screen than on the OLED of the Vita which shows off every pixel in too much detail.

If you are currently calling me every name under the sun for even suggesting the PSP Go as a serious option for handheld gaming fans, let’s address the concerns everyone had on its release. Firstly the price. When it was first launched the PSP Go cost more than the standard PSP model, in fact roughly the same as the Vita goes for nowadays, clearly way too expensive. As they are now yesterdays technology however (despite being less than a year older than the slim PS3 under my TV) you can pick them up for dirt cheap in second-hand stores and online auction sites. Mine cost me £65 ($100) in a store, but if I wanted to wait I could have got one on Ebay for even less.

Then there is the cost of the games. Again when launched this was a severe issue for the Go, as it couldn’t play UMD based games and the digital alternatives were much more expensive. Fast forward to 2012 however and you will struggle to find many PSP titles on the PSN store for more than £7.99/$12. Sure, some of the newer RPG titles from Japanese developers cost more, but at the time of this article the vast majority of the top titles are only £6.99. Sales reduce the cost of games even more, with Pursuit Force: Extreme Justice currently half-price on the EU store, which is pretty much iOS pricing for a game much better than the majority of what you can play on any Apple device. Sure it’s a shame that one or two UMD games are not available digitally (Kingdom Hearts take a bow), but there is enough that is available for it not to matter.


So that is the issue of cost of the machine and games dealt with, but what about the games themselves? We will bring you a rundown of the top 10 games for the PSP very shortly but for now, just remember that the PSP has versions of series like Killzone, Resistance, Little Big Planet and God of War, some of which are just as good as, if not better than, their PS3 equivalent. Likewise the original games like Pursuit Force mentioned above, Vice City Stories and Everybody’s Golf are also fantastic time-wasters. Suffice to say, quality is not an issue. Oh, and if you do get bored, don’t forget that all PSone classics are also playable on the machine, so Final Fantasy sessions in bed are just seconds away.

That just leaves the positives about the system which are the same now as they were in 2009. Fantastic portability, with a machine smaller than the Vita, and which can carry around a massive library of games inside its 16GB memory (most games on PSP clock in at between 500MB and 1.5GB). Cheap expandable memory as the PSP Go can use an M2 memory card of up to 16GB if you should need one. Compatibility with the PS3, offering remote play for certain titles in exactly the same way that the Vita does, oh and no touch screen as well for those that hate all touch controls. The machine itself still looks really nice as well and is in my opinion the best looking handheld Sony has produced.

So there we have it, if you are looking for a bargain of a handheld system this Holiday season for you or a loved one, that will provide hours of entertainment then the PSP Go may just be the system you are looking for, even if it is three years old. Mobile gaming is fine for what it is, but if you want to play some great games on a ‘proper’ portable system, then until the Vita and 3DS pay off, the PSP Go is where it’s at.

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Mark Coupe

Mark Coupe

Writer at ZoKnowsGaming
I'm a UK based gamer, as well as being more obsessed with video games and Doctor Who that any adult has a right to be. I keep telling myself I will grow up one day, but certainly not if I can help it.
Mark Coupe