Top 25 PSP games before Xmas 2006If you thought that with Gitaroo Man Lives!, B-Boy, Mercury Meltdown and Gradius Collection out the door there was nothing to look forward to on PSP, you better start sweet talking your bank manager.

Below you'll find 25 upcoming titles we think are worthy of special consideration. All – at least at the time of typing – are due between now and Christmas, although for those who are happy to import their games from the other side of the Atlantic, one or two are US releases (we've indicated this where appropriate).

The PSP release schedule is possibly the least reliable thing in the world, but we've tried to get the dates below accurate, using publisher information together with dates given by retailers Play.com and Game.co.uk.

We've also attempted to get a reasonable mix of genres. Listing 25 racing games wouldn't be much practical use to anyone other than the guy who sits alone in the corner of your local pub. With categories that are generously subscribed with titles, we've therefore restricted our selection to those we expect will emerge as the best.

And ultimately, that's what this list is. An indication of what we suspect will turn out as the best, most fun PSP experiences between now and Jesus' birthday. Many choices are based on hands-on knowledge; some are educated guesses. But please don't sue us if they don't turn out the way we expect them to – wait for our reviews! And happy decision making...

The top 25 PSP games still to come in 2006

Ridge Racer 2
Developer: Bandai Namco Games
Publisher: Sony Europe
Release date: 13th October
When nuclear Armageddon destroys the Earth, only cockroaches and Ridge Racer will survive. Following up its best-selling PSP debut, nearly half Ridge Racer 2's 42 tracks will be plucked from the numerous console versions, but new to PSP Arcade, Survival and Dual modes should prove more innovative. Otherwise, expect nitro-boosting drift-racing, par excellence. Already out in Japan.
Power Stone Collection
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release date: 13th October
Porting the Power Stone series to PSP might even please the Something New brigade. The Sega Dreamcast's early demise meant too few people enjoyed this game's frenetic four-way beat-'em-up battles, made extra raucous by all the interactive furniture, gun fittings and power-ups in the environments. With PSP supporting four-way multiplay, perhaps Power Stone's time has finally arrived.

SOCOM US Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2
Developer: Zipper Interactive
Publisher: SCEE
Release date: 27th October
The first SOCOM game on PSP was a well thought-out, cleverly executed tactical shooter, and from what we've seen of the sequel, the developer hasn't deviated from the original plan. Expect dynamic, non-linear missions, enhanced Crosstalk support, generous multiplayer options and, of course, a trademark focus on realism.
Every Extend Extra
Developer: Q Entertainment
Publisher: Buena Vista Games
Release date: 27th October (US) / February 2007 (UK)
A simple shooter that started life on the PC and which has been given a dramatic revamp by music-loving Q Entertainment, Every Extend Extra re-emerges on PSP as a glorious audio-visual experience intent on sucking players into its wonderfully frenetic and colourful dimension – not a difficult task given the size of the PSP's screen.

Pilot Academy
Developer: Kuju
Publisher: Rising Star
Release date: 27th October
While not exactly a flight sim in the traditional "let's demand a month to read the instruction manual" sense, Pilot Academy nevertheless takes taking to the skies seriously enough to incorporate the principles of aerodynamics into its extensive fleet of aircraft. It promises to be a different and hence very welcome experience.

Metal Slug Anthology
Developer: SNK Playmore
Publisher: Ignition
Release date: 27th October

While this classic arcade series got more complicated during its 10-year tenure, its two-player sideways scrolling run-and-gun action seldom missed a beat (and its comic timing was often pretty good, too). With Metal Gear 6 now confirmed for the Anthology, 'perfect conversions' promised, an option to play in the original constricted arcade resolution present, and wi-fi multiplay, we're crossing our fingers for a slowdown-free Slug.

Killzone: Liberation
Developer: Guerrilla
Publisher: SCEE
Release date: 3rd November

In switching the PlayStation 2's first-person shooter to a third-person perspective for PSP, the developer is also crafting a more tactical outing. A loosely-locking targeting system means there'll be plenty of opportunities for heroic shoot and dodge solo antics, but you'll also be able to direct the activities of nearby allies via a handy pop-up menu. Alternatively, there's a co-op mode as well as up to six-way multiplay.
Hot PXL
Developer: zSlide
Publisher: Atari
Release date: 3rd November
Why take a game with you when one UMD can carry 200? We're not entirely convinced by Hot PXL's narrative (in that we think this type of game hardly needs one) but that doesn't matter as long as the vast number of mini-games centered around old-skool, twitch gaming principles fully deliver on their entertainment potential.
Need for Speed Carbon
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release date: 3rd November
The latest version of EA's city-based driving game is also the latest crew-focussed racer to come to PSP. In Carbon's story-based career mode you'll be able to discover and recruit other petrolheads into your team; when installed in your passenger seat, each driver will give your skills a different boost, depending on their particular driving statistics. Meanwhile, Canadian actress Emmanuelle Vaugier provides some eye-candy as your ex.

Gun Showdown
Developer: Rebellion/Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Release date: 3rd November

Not every free-roaming adventure with a penchant for shooting has to be set around obscure special ops units, and so it's encouraging to see something based on the brutal gun-slinging, speedy horse-riding and often corrupt world of the Wild West. Specifically tailored to PSP, this version includes new missions, quick-play modes and wireless multiplayer support.

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Developer: Rockstar Leeds
Publisher: Rockstar
Release date: 3rd November
Vice City Stories has a long way to fall if it's not as gorgeous and expansive as the world expects. In case you've never indulged, the GTA games offer a criminally-minded mission structure set within a massive anything-goes urban environment, where you can steal cars, squash citizens and go on shooting sprees with ASBO-earning abandon. As well as an all-new storyline, Vice City Stories promises lots of water-based Miami Vice inspired action, and, ahem, Peter Cetera on the soundtrack.

Madden NFL 07
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release date: 3rd November
So regular is Madden's appearance that Gregorians could have used it to help work out their calendar. Last year's version played a very decent game of America's version of football – EA doesn't usually fumble its biggest franchise – but there were some niggles that we're hoping this latest incarnation will have blitzed.
Capcom Classics Collection Reloaded
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release date: 10th November

We'll let the games do the talking: Ghost & Goblins, Mercs, 1942, Vulgus, GunSmoke, SonSon, Higemaru, Exed Exes, 1943, Commando, Ghouls & Ghosts, Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting, SFII Champion Edition, Super Ghouls & Goblins, The King of Dragons, Knights of the Round, and Eco Fighters. All arcade perfect, we're assured.
Justice League Heroes
Developer: Snowblind
Publisher: Eidos
Release date: 10th November (US)
Okay, a bit of a leap with this one. But the concept – an action adventure game with role-playing elements – fits in with how you'd expect a title featuring some of the world's finest superheroes to play out. And crucially, it's an area developer Snowblind knows well. Fingers crossed, then.
WWE SmackDown! Vs RAW 2007
Developer: Yuke's Go
Publisher: THQ
Release date: 10th November
Aside from Andrex-long loading times, last year's version didn't really stomp a foot wrong. Still, a new update demands improvements, and as such the 2007 edition promises a revised grappling system and interactive fighting areas within the crowd, to name two. Nothing's been said about the loading times, though.
Medal of Honor: Heroes
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release date: 10th November

Relive key WWII moments by battling along the Italian coastline, through Holland's streets and across the snowy fields of the Ardennes. The single-player campaign has been uniquely tailored to the PSP (that is, it's not a hand-me-down from a home console version) and with up to 32 combatants, the multiplayer experience could be uncommonly intense for a pocket game.
Pro Evolution Soccer 6
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Release date: 10th November
Call us picky but we judged the last version of PES, though technically accomplished, not that much fun to play. Having said that, we have high hopes for this year's squad – key improvements this season include refined AI, a tweaked shooting system and better dribbling control.
Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception
Developer: Namco
Publisher: SCEE
Release date: 17th November
The popularity of arcade air combat titles on home consoles may have stalled in recent years, but they remain a fresh genre on handheld. From what we've played of this, Namco – which has more flight hours making this type of thing than most – has integrated all of the key elements into the mix.
Lumines II
Developer: Q Entertainment
Publisher: Buena Vista Games
Release date: 17th November
For many, Lumines is still the best game on Sony's system: a supreme, utterly engrossing puzzle title. The sequel promises a lot more music (from more mainstream artists) along with the corresponding video, but the crucial element is the fact the original's core dynamic remains untouched.
Thrillville
Developer: Frontier
Publisher: LucasArts
Release date: 24th November
Viewed from above, Thrillville is a build-your-own-fairground sim, where you design rollercoaster rides, manage your staff and count your cash. But Thrillville also wraps up a crazy amount of fun-fodder within the Theme Park format; all the rides, from the bumper cars and shooting arcades to the rollercoasters can be enjoyed as mini-games in their own right by up to four players, and you can even dance for your staff and flirt with punters.
SEGA Mega Drive Collection
Developer: Various
Publisher: Sega
Release date: 24th November
In the heyday of Sega's hardware manufacturing past, its fanboys made Nintendo cheerleaders look like a school choir. Hence porting 30 great and not so great Mega Drive titles to PSP won't just introduce classic games such Sonic The Hedgehog, Golden Axe and Shinobi to a new generation, it could also bring some new gamers to PSP. (If they haven't already been playing them under homebrew emulation, that is, the naughty blighters.)
Tony Hawk's Project 8
Developer: Page 44
Publisher: Activision
Release date: 24th November
More goals, side-missions, secret areas and mini-games than ever before, we're promised. The game has been redesigned from the pavement up, with revised physics and control systems to deliver a more responsive Tony Hawk experience. We didn't necessarily have a problem with previous iterations but we'll take the improvements, thank you very much.
Football Manager Handheld 2007
Developer: Sports Interactive
Publisher: Sega
Release date: 24th November
Can this second Football Manger PSP title deliver on its twin promises of a more user-friendly interface and deeper, more home console-like gameplay? It seems a difficult reconciliation, but the addition of international management, better scouting and coaching options, database editing, a multiplayer mode and much more (although still no match engine) should have them singing on the terraces.
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Publisher: Activision
Release date: November
An ongoing saga, this. Originally due in September, PSP Lego Star Wars II has yet to materialize from development hyperspace. Still, we're hoping it will be worth the wait – the game should prove charming for both young and old, provided it's free of all the bugs of the presumably-rushed DS version.
TOCA Race Driver 3 Challenge
Developer: Codemasters
Publisher: Codemasters
Release date: 1st December
If you like your racing reality- rather than arcade-based, then screech no further than Codemasters' latest installment in its hugely popular (and usually expertly realized) TOCA series. Designed specifically for PSP, this latest version offers a comprehensive damage system, a vast single-player mode, 12-player wireless and even four-player gameshare.


To see if we've called any of these games embarrassingly badly in the weeks to come, bookmark our dedicated PSP section now!