PlayStation 3 Games to Buy Before the Digital Store Closes
4/19/2021 Update: Sony reversed course and will keep the PlayStation Store open. Maybe we’ll eventually get true backward compatibility out of this, but that’s probably way down the road. Downloading the following games is no longer urgent, but keep this page in mind if you have some bucks to spend.
Pour One Out for the PS3, PSP, and Vita
Most of my idyllic gaming memories came during the fourth, fifth and sixth generation console wars. (In terms of computers, I was technically a Mac kid until 2000, but I am happy to report I also have a desktop now.) Brand loyalty was fostered during these console wars as Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sega jockeyed for superiority through exclusive libraries, ergonomic controls, increased Internet support, and novel features. Of course, you could’ve been me and were strangely tempted buy the Philips CD-i, but that’s a conversation for another day. Although I own the Genesis and Super Nintendo, I went all in with Sony in 1997 and have purchased PlayStations since. I even purchased the PlayStation Classic on sale, even though the unit certainly was disappointing. However, as the seventh generation console war was underway with the Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3, 2006 was the year I tested competitive waters. In sum, Sony didn’t do much to separate itself from its rivals, which made me question if I even wanted a PS3. First, the PS3’s $600 price tag was excessive for my broke undergrad blood. Even if I were dying to buy a unit, they were damn-near impossible to find. Second, Sony’s noncommittal attitude towards backward compatibility didn’t bode well for my PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games. Third, the PS3’s exclusive game list at launch left much to be desired. The 360 had more to work with given its lengthy head start, and the novelty of both the Wiimote and the Virtual Console ultimately helped Nintendo win that console war.
There were probably a few additional minor reasons that factored into my decision, but I went with the 360 in 2006, which remained my next-gen console of choice until 2008 when I bought a Wii. I split time between my 360, Wii, PlayStation 2, and DS for several years before the PS3 became a consideration when I finally purchased both the PS3 and Vita during the summer of 2013. It was nice to return to my Sony ways, even if I purchased both consoles the same year that the corporation unveiled the fourth iteration of their flagship product. Let’s just say I was fashionably late to the party.
Like everyone else, I was shocked when I heard that the PlayStation Store would shutter PS3 and PSP operations on July 2nd and August 27th for the Vita. Shock became acceptance because we all knew this day would come. However, what we didn’t know was how this decision would impact our extant purchases. Would we have to download the games we absolutely needed onto our consoles? Would there be any way to retrieve past downloads? Do we need to download everything onto an external hard drive? What about PS+ games accrued over the years? Fortunately, Sony seemed to answer and allay most of those concerns, and our libraries appear to be safe (at least for the time being).
I’m an introspective person, but Sony’s decision to pull the plug on PS3 support certainly makes sense from a business standpoint. However, the news made me evaluate my relationship with a console that is somewhat of an anomaly given my gaming background and previous predilections. The most important takeaway was that I will return to collecting physical copies of games. An event like this has always been in the back of my mind, yet actually seeing it unfold is a reminder of the fragility of digital games. Not only do I like having an actual copy of a game that I can put on a shelf, but there is no assurance that digital artifacts like games can be completely preserved. It’s a sobering thought that we could be a factory reset away from losing games that may never again see the light of day. Fleeting glances of impermanence aside, I find it somewhat odd that the PS3 cannibalized and was cannibalized by the PlayStation 2, Vita, and PlayStation 4 throughout its storied life. For instance, developers churned out great games for the PS2 until approximately 2013 (repair support was finally pulled in 2018). On the flipside, the PS3 remained somewhat relevant during most of the PS4’s lifecycle despite the recently launch of the PS5. I can tell you for a fact that one of the best things about Black Friday during 2013 – 2016 was finding PS3 games marked down to ridiculously low prices. With that in mind, however, the list that follows (soon, I promise) suggests that I purchased my PS3 to be used primarily as a legacy machine to play PlayStation and PlayStation2 games. For example, I have Skyrim on the 360, PS4, and Steam, so there was never a legitimate reason to buy it on the PS3. As I took inventory of the specific PS3 games I downloaded, very few (if any) were exclusive titles that I couldn’t pick up elsewhere. In a weird way, the PS3 was a black box that had a few great moments in my living room, but was limited because of the order of my console purchases during that console war.
Still, I am the type of person who carries at least one game system with me when I travel. Thanks to PSN, various streaming apps, and the built-in Blu-Ray player, the PS3 was a great traveling partner for years. Compared to my bulky 360, the PS3 was a great carry-on comrade. On one fond occasion, a TSA agent saw it and said, “People still play this?” They sure do, dude. All that said, as I look back on these years, nothing ever screamed, “This is the system to get,” since I was most excited when I read reports like Suikoden II was available for purchase. It was a fun console, but I still also play games on the sleeker PS2 that were never released on the PlayStation Store. As a legacy machine, it could have been so much more. However, despite some of its shortcomings, the PS3 will have a special place in my heart.
So, hoist up the drinks and let’s give a proper send-off to the storied PS3 (and PSP and Vita). What follows is my list of games (mostly PlayStation 3) you should buy before they presumably disappear. I will lay down a few ground rules and will also take this time to mention that these suggestions are heavily Japanese. There will be some exceptions, but I won’t list a good chunk of games. First, I won’t list games that can be downloaded on other consoles. You won’t find games like Mass Effect, GTA, and Resident Evil 4. In a similar vein, I won’t go through indie games that have been ported onto multiple systems. If it’s a AAA or indie game you’ve been dying to play, chances are the PS3 or Vita aren’t its dream destinations. Additionally, I won’t mention remasters. For example, games like Yakuza 4 and Yakuza 5 are available, but since they were rereleased on the PS4, there is no reason to rush out and purchases them onto the PS3 (this also goes for games like Persona 5). Finally, I will admit in advance that my PSP and Vita libraries are scant. However, I know or and have played some of the games that have been ported to multiple systems. I swear by and vouch for games like Death Mark and NG, but they are available on PS4, Steam, and Switch. In sum there are better console options out there. Finally, there are also a few games I am interested in (like Rocket Knight, The 3rd Birthday, and the expensive Vita games that may or may not be cheaper on other consoles), but don’t actually know enough about at the moment.
Thanks for reading my intro. This list is from the heart. I won’t lead you astray. Let’s get going with my list of PlayStation games you should buy.
Buy These Games
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
I believe this is a PSP/Vita exclusive remake of Rondo of Blood. I personally found the controls to be awkward and stiff, but if Richter Belmont is your dude, grab this game.
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
As a prequel, this is the Castlevania that started it all. I liked Leon Belmont as a protagonist and the PS2 certainly was able to run a solid 3D Castlevania game in 2003. Curse of Darkness has better gameplay overall (it’s not on PSN), but Lament of Innocence is a fun installment that builds on Castlevania‘s mythos.
Disclaimer: This is a mediocre action-adventure ninja game. The story and music are cool, but this is a ridiculously hard PS2 game. Why? Sega decided to equip you with a sword that devours your life if you don’t kill enemies. It took me forever to beat it on normal and I couldn’t beat the final boss on hard. This game is “throw-your-controller” frustrating. I guess I want you to suffer like I did. Enjoy.
Tomba (not sure about 2)
It’s been ages, but Tomba was arguably my favorite platformer on the PlayStation. I’m not sure why it’s $10, though.
Yakuza: Dead Souls
Minus the samurai spin-offs, I believe this is the only Yakuza game that hasn’t been remade. It’s an alternate universe zombie romp, so if that is your thing AND you love Yakuza, get this.
Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001
This game screams “Cool Japan,” the marketing campaign that became a rallying cry in the early-00’s. Although it is one of the strongest 2D fighters available for download, this is also a nostalgic pick for me because it transports me back to living in Asia in 2001.
King of Fighters XIII
There are other consoles, but it might be easiest to download it from PSN.
Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
I had to double check, but it seems this is an exclusive. I was getting this confused with Super Bomberman R.
Want a 2D RTS? Here you go.
Heroine Dream (there is a sequel)
I bought this game back in 2014. Although dating sims have been popular since the 90’s (even further back if you want to find the progenitors), they were still getting their sea legs in the West in the 00’s. Heroine Dream is an idol simulator, which is up my alley. However, the catch is the game was not translated, so hopefully your Japanese skills are better than mine. Regardless, this is a good one to pick up for $6.
Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds
Hot Shots Golf is a blast, and this PS3 entry is among the best.
Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
This Vita installment is as fun—if not more fun—than Out of Bounds. This was one of my go-to games when I traveled with my Vita.
Jet Set Radio
Like Heroine Dream, this is a dating sim, so it should be my jam. However, it is also in Japanese. Keep that in mind.
SSX (snowboard racing)
If you’re willing to go back in time to 1996 and interact with some ancient polygons, Deception might be for you. Although it was billed as a role-playing game, it’s probably better to say it’s a tactical adventure game in which the character activates traps in a demonic labyrinthine mansion. It’s tricky and cryptic, but also surprisingly original.
Run around a humanless Tokyo as multiple animals. I was partial to the golden retriever route myself.
Breath of Fire III – IV
Although I have a physical copy of BoF III, I purchased it when it was ported to the Vita a few years ago. In my opinion (which is a very good opinion), this is one of the top RPGs released on the original PlayStation. Since I am a fan of the series, I downloaded the fourth game to complete my library, but I haven’t played it very much. It’s much different than III, but still good.
While I love Chrono Trigger, I wasn’t able to get into Chrono Cross as easily. Still, I’m not sure what the future holds for this game, so you might as well get it now.
Digital Devil Saga
Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Suikoden I – IV
Every similar list you encounter the next few months is going to have this series, and for good reason. Suikoden is required for any JRPG library. This could be the last chance to ever pick up the series if you haven’t already because Konami shut Suikoden down after Tierkreis was released on the DS in 2009. If money is tight, get this series at the very least.
Persona 1 PSP
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
This is the direct sequel to Innocent Sin, and it is one of my all-time favorite RPGs. Be warned that it plays nothing like future Persona titles, but you’ll have a tough time finding a game that can boast this much atmosphere.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin
Although I don’t like the characters in this game nearly as much as Eternal Punishment, and there is a cryptic choice halfway through that proves to be consequential, this should be added to your PSP/Vita library.
Persona 3: FES
Persona 3 PSP
Disclaimer: Only download this from PSN if you are dying to play the vanilla version. Although Golden was originally released on the Vita (literally the reason why I bought the handheld), it has since been ported to Steam.
Wild Arms 1, 2, XF
Xenogears is a tale of two CDs. The first contains one of the best RPGs ever devised. The second was thrown together at the last minute so that the design team could meet its deadline.
La Pucelle: Tactics
Want an early Nippon Ichi Software SRPG, but you’re not sure if you want to play Disgaea? This is your game.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Fatal Frame I – III
Parasite Eve (possibly 2)
Since Squaresoft was behind this series, it’s technically a role-playing game. As a horror series, the first game is among the most original concepts you’ll find. The second game is nowhere near as strong (and The 3rd Birthday divided fans), but it’s worth picking up for your digital library.
Resident Evil 2 and 3
Like the remakes, these are both great games in their own right. Resident Evil 2 was one of the most lauded games released on the original PlayStation. Resident Evil 3 was sort of stuck in its shadow, but is nonetheless solid.
On My Radar, But Haven’t Played
Battle Hunter (SRPG)
Battle Princess of Arcadias (RPG)
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair
Deception IV: Blood Ties
Devil Summoner 1 and 2
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories (I own this one for the PS2)
First Queen IV (untranslated)
The Guided Fate Paradox
Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi
Hakuoki is a visual novel series spread across multiple platforms, but from what I gather, this is a PS3 exclusive.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle
Record of Agarest War 1 and 2
I own a physical copy of the second game because I got it for cheap. I haven’t played much of it, but it seems to be a competent (albeit scattered) SRPG.
A PS2 Japanese survival horror game that is allegedly very scary. Sounds good to me.
Tales of Symphonia Chronicles
In My Cart
Digital Devil Saga 2
Final Fantasy III
Threads of Fate
Growlanser Wayfarer of Time
Arc the Lad
Valkyria Chronicles 2
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
And there you have it: my personalized and carefully curated list. If there are any games I missed or you want to offer your own takes, feel free to leave a comment. I’m especially interested if you’ve played the games that are on my radar. Thanks for the good memories, PS3. You had a helluva run.