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For those of us who enjoyed the PlayStation Portable sandbox games, there is a definite theme emerging – freedom. The freedom to take your gaming with you anywhere in the real world and the freedom to do things your way in the virtual world.

We’ve compiled a list of those sandbox games that stand out based on several metrics. To prevent too much subjectivity, we’ve used units sold, a combination of Metacritic Metascore and user scores, and a cross-section of user reviews. Since we’re going retro here, some of these numbers are hard to get or outdated. With all that in mind, and the inherent subjectivity when it comes to video games in general, here’s our list. Let’s see if any members match the ones on your list.

This list is in no particular order, as we are not rating the games, just picking our favorites.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories was released specially for a handheld device.

Released exclusively for the PlayStation Portable in 2005, this action-adventure was the first 3D version of the Grand Theft series to be released for a handheld device. As you might imagine, the story is set in the fictional Liberty City. The game gives the player huge flexibility in moving the camera to get different views of the area.

Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories makes the list for a very good reason – it is the game with the highest number of units sold for the PSP ever.

There are a couple of things that serious critics note about the game, although most critical reviews were good overall for this edition. The fact that the protagonist Toni does not have the ability to swim or climb and there are no airplanes available has drawn attention.

On the upside, the game features a lot more indoor scenes, clothing options, motorcycles (with machine guns!), and helicopters to up the action.

Grand Theft Auto Liberty City Stories
$62.70
  • An all-new, epic adventure set in Liberty City, the 3-island metropolis from Grand Theft Auto 3. the game features a fully 3D experience exactly similar to the PS2 Grand Theft Autos.
  • An astounding technical achievement, Liberty City Stories pushes the PSP to its absolute limit, resetting the public's understanding and expectations of what is possible on a hand-held gaming system.
  • Amazing visuals on the PSP due to enhanced draw distance, new lighting and shading models, as well as real-time reflections.
  • A massive non-linear storyline penned by Rockstar's award-winning writing team.
  • Professional character voice acting and production.
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01/28/2023 07:37 am GMT

Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines

Assassin’s Creed Bloodlines is set on the Island of Cyprus.

As the follow-up to Assassin’s Creed, Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines was introduced by Sony for the PlayStation Portable in 2009. It’s the story of Altaïr Ibn-LaʼAhad, as he stealthily stalks the last remaining members of the Templar Order on the Island of Cyprus.

The player is free to move around vantage points on the island and navigate the cities of Limassol and Kyrenia. Altair’s methods of assassination include a sword, hidden blade, fists, and throwing knives. A new power is given to the protagonist in Bloodlines that allows Altair to drag victims off of ledges.

Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines makes the list for its great storyline, non-stop action, and great fighting weapons. The visual and sound quality is very good as well.

It’s fair to say that Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines got some mixed reviews, one being that there is too much combat and not enough other things going on. Too much combat? For us, there is no such thing, and this is another reason it makes the list.

Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines - Sony PSP
$29.99
  • Sharpen your skills to become a Master Assassin in Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines as you pursue a deadly mission against the Templars
  • Explore a stunning open - world environment in which you have free rein to run and climb
  • Unlock exclusive material by connecting the PSP system to Assassin's Creed II on the PlayStation 3 system (Assassin's Creed II and PS3 not included)
  • Dynamic Locomotion - Like the next-gen SKUs, Altair on the PSP reacts to the terrain fluidly, diving through holes and climbing ledges with only the creative application of the Free Run button.
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01/27/2023 11:51 pm GMT

Gran Turismo

Gran Turismo is one of the best racing simulators out there.

By 2009, when Gran Turismo was released for the PSP, it was already a very popular game series. It is fourth on the list of best-selling games for the PSP and comes in at number one on the overall list of franchises under the PlayStation brand.

This racing simulator allows players to freely enjoy the excitement of auto racing through various features like realistic handling, a huge choice of cars, and a ton of content. Gran Turismo changed the game for racing sims and does not disappoint on the PSP.

Gran Turismo is one of the best examples of a true sandbox game. If you were to only look at the massive choices in cars alone, it would certainly qualify. Then add all the other options like tracks available, track reverse, etc. and the experiences are seemingly endless. As its creator Kazunori Yamauchi puts it, “Gran Turismo is an integrated simulator for enjoying life with cars. It’s a sandbox where players can freely discover experiences on their own.”

Gran Turismo - Sony PSP
  • Dynamic Vehicle Roster - Based on the amount of time Gran Turismo is played, the in-game calendar will change the dealer car lineup seasonally.
  • Developed by Polyphony Digital Inc. for PSP - Gran Turismo's debut on PSP is developed by the internal team behind the world's best-selling racing series.
  • Over 800 vehicle models - Players can race their favorite vehicles from the top manufacturers around the globe, including Ferrari, Nissan, and more. The vehicle model count climbs to over 4,500 when...
  • Over 30 Tracks from Around the World - Famous circuits and some of the favorite environments from the Gran Turismo series have been optimized for racing on PSP.
  • For the first time in the Gran Turismo series, players can share and trade the vehicles they have acquired throughout the game with others via PSP's ad hoc mode, with certain vehicles acquirable only...
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Harry Potter And the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter And the Order of the Phoenix is based on the book by JK Rowling.

If you were into all things magical and adventurous, this named after the movie of the same name is an awesome choice. Everything from your arrival at Hogwarts, to learning spells, and then interacting with the objects as you explore the total environment contains nonstop action.

Duel with Slytherins on different floors, earn Discover points to increase the power of your spells, and take part in mini-games such as Wizard Chess and Gobstones.

The game was not exclusive to PSP and was released for Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance. The game received mixed reviews from the pros, but the overall visual quality and the true sandbox interaction puts it on our list.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is set in the fictional Liberty City.

Released for the PSP in October 2009, GTA Chinatown Wars is also set in the fictional Liberty City. The game has an entirely different storyline from the Liberty City Stories game. The plot centers around Huang Lee and his quest to recover his murdered father’s sword.

Chinatown Wars has some added features not included in earlier games, including different ways to steal parked cars, the ability to buy and sell drugs, and choices in how to deal with the police. A player can not only leave the “wanted” zone but may kill police or destroy police cars to reduce “wanted stars.”

The game garnered some criticism for the drug aspect that was added, but from game critics and sites like Metacritic it has received very high ratings. Metacritic gives Chinatown wars a 90/100, which is excellent, and the overall user rating was 7.4

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars - Sony PSP
$169.99
  • Take your game online with the PSP's Wi-Fi capabilities for head-to-head and co-op multiplayer mayhem and Chat, trade guns and commodities with your friends, and more on the Rockstar Games Social...
  • Utilizing the superior audio and visual processing power of the PSP, Chinatown Wars is reborn with noticeable boosts in graphic and sound quality.
  • Contemporary Liberty City is a massive world complete with pedestrians, weather and traffic patterns, five different radio stations and four different sprawling boroughs to explore.
  • Mature storyline with over 70+ story missions; plus dozens of side quests, collectibles, contextual mini-games and the all new mission replay feature.
  • Addictive drug dealing side game adds street economics to the mix with 6 different drug types, 80+ drug dealers and a supply / demand driven narcotics economy.
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01/28/2023 07:41 am GMT

Midnight Club: Los Angeles

Midnight Club: Los Angeles features an excellent depiction of the different city racing styles.

This fourth edition of the Midnight Club series makes the list for a variety of reasons. The virtual Los Angeles map is a sandbox environment larger than all the first three editions combined. Its excellent depiction of the different city racing styles gives the players an infinite choice of situations.

Features include 24-hour day and night racing, varied traffic levels at different times of day, weather variations, and a “quick fix” repair solution.

Another reason Midnight Club: Los Angeles makes our list is the great reception the game received from critics and users. Metacritic and GameRatings both give it a 79/100 overall rating for the PSP version. The user rating on Metacritic comes in at 8/10. Reviews were also very positive for its amount of depth, frame -rate, style, soundtrack, and accurate depiction of the city.

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01/28/2023 01:31 pm GMT

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories is set in a fictional version of Miami.

This action-adventure is set in Vice City, a fictional version of Miami, and is centered around its main character Victor “Vic” Vance. Released exclusively for the PSP in 2006, the game is the prequel to the 2002 release of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Having the usual gameplay elements of the series, including side missions, the game adds a new empire-building aspect to the PSP version. Players can expand their criminal syndicate by taking over the business of rivals and finishing missions to increase their profits.

also features a multiple-player option accessed through a wireless ad hoc network.

GTA: Vice City Stories received good reviews from the critics and had very respectable sales numbers to put it on our list of the best PSP sandbox games. Metacritic gave the game an 86/100 aggregate score and an 8.0 user score. Vice City Stories also received IGN’s award for best soundtrack.

Summary

It’s difficult to find a variety of truly sandbox-style games for PSP. We’ve attempted to stay true to the definition of sandbox here and not get into the fuzzy area that separates them from open-world releases. There still might be a few traditionalists that question a couple of our entries, but that’s a debate that may never be fully settled.

Up Next…

If you’re into all things gaming, then check out these other articles to get the details on some of our other favorites!

Last update on 2023-01-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Absolute Best PlayStation Portable Sandbox Games of All Time FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What puts a game in the "sandbox" category?

For a game to be considered a sandbox, the player must have an unlimited degree of freedom without predetermined goals or goals that the player sets for themself.

When was the PlayStation Portable in production?

Sony made the PlayStation Portable from 2004 thru 2014.

What was the number 1 selling sandbox game for the PlayStation Portable?

The best-selling sandbox for the PSP was Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, released in October 2005 in North America.

How many models of the PlayStation Portable were made?

There were 5 models of the PSP created, the first being the PSP-1000, followed by the 2000, 3000, PSP Go, and PSP Street. Some of the latter models were only available in certain regeons.

Do gamers still use the PSP?

Yes. Aside from the great games, the PSP can play tunes, and movies downloaded from a computer, giving you all your entertainment in one device.

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  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation_Portable#Games
  • Metacritic Available here: https://www.metacritic.com/
  • IGN World Available here: https://world.ign.com/
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  • Sony Available here: https://www.sony.com/