Buyer's Guide: PlayStation Network

It looks like someone got a PSN gift card for the holidays! So, what are you going to buy? Whether you've got a PS3 or a PSP, a $20 or $50 card, there are many options to choose from in the PlayStation Store. From the Trophy Hunter to the Movie Buff, we have recommendations for you:



The Hipster ($50)
for PS3

The PlayStation Store has opened up the market to all sorts of unique games from independent developers. With a $50 card, you'll be able to support five very different games, from five very different indies. That's hip.

PixelJunk Shooter ($9.99)
Q-Games has earned itself quite the reputation among PS3 fans -- and for good reason. The studio is known for creating simple, but thoughtful games inspired by retro gameplay. The team's latest, PixelJunk Shooter, is no different, adding a wonderful physics-based twist to the classic twin-stick shooter. Shooter is by far the most accessible game of the PixelJunk series and is a blast to play alone or with a friend.

Braid ($14.99)
Perhaps it's only appropriate to forgive Braid's tardy arrival on PS3 -- it is a game about rewinding time, after all. Jonathan Blow's indie masterpiece was critically acclaimed for its innovative twist on platforming and puzzles, intertwining the two with a mesmerizing, layered story. Braid demands incredible ingenuity and thrusts players out of their comfort zone by introducing new gameplay mechanics, each more mind-bending than the last.

Critter Crunch ($6.99)
Capybara's Critter Crunch is one of the most stunning 2D games ever created. The hand-drawn art has been lovingly animated in impressive 1080p resolution. The $7 price makes Critter Crunch a steal from the PlayStation Store.

Flower ($9.99)
The masterminds behind flOw have created what is, essentially, the video game equivalent of poetry. While short, Flower's story evokes emotions previously thought unattainable from games. It's no wonder Flower won the VGA for Best Independent Game of 2009. A must-have.

Shatter ($7.99)
Brick-breaking may seem boring and old, but Shatter will -- pardon the pun -- shatter those preconceptions. The stylized visuals and crazy techno music makes Shatter one of PSN's best exclusive titles.

The Movie Buff ($20)
for PS3 & PSP

Whether you're at home or on the go, the PlayStation Store has a huge selection of movies and TV shows for you to rent and buy. $20 will go a long way here, so here are just a few of our recommendations:

Uncharted: The Eye of Indra ($2.97)
Available in the Games store in the Uncharted 2 section, you'll find The Eye of Indra, a motion-comic prequel that stars Nathan Drake in a brand new adventure. The first episode is free, and the remaining 3 episodes are only $0.99 each. It's an entertaining watch for the Uncharted fan and a terrific value. Note: Available only on PS3.

On Christmas Day, December 25, the PlayStation Store is having a one-day sale on various Disney movies. For only $6, you'll be able to download and keep a copy of this Oscar-winning musical Chicago. Not interested in this movie? Well, check out the other offers in this limited time PSN sale.

Star Trek ($3.99)
J.J. Abram's Star Trek is colorful, fast and exciting -- adjectives you may not have imagined would ever apply to a Star Trek movie. And it's a bit mindless -- the perfect rental.

Pixar's latest may not have the most attractive heroes, but Up is a thought-provoking film that's great for kids and adults.

Dexter: Season 1: Episode 1: Pilot
Finally, if you haven't had a chance to check out Dexter, the PlayStation Store gives you a chance to watch the series piecemeal, sans pricey Showtime subscription. The first episode of this antihero series will definitely get you hooked.

The PixelJunkie ($20)
for PS3 or PSP

Whether you're shopping on PS3 or PSP, there's bound to be a PixelJunk game you'll love. These addictive games are simple to learn, but hard to master:

PixelJunk Bundle: Racers, Monsters & Eden ($19.99)
For a limited time, you can grab the first games of the PixelJunk series for one low price. A single $20 PSN card will net you all three games: PixelJunk Racers, PixelJunk Monsters and PixelJunk Eden. It's like getting three games for the price of two. If you haven't picked up a PixelJunk game yet, this bundle is a terrific value. Note: Available only on PS3.

PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe
PSP owners must add PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe to their Memory Sticks. While it may seem pricey, Deluxe offers a staggering amount of content that newcomers and veterans alike will appreciate. In addition to a brand new island, Deluxe features a number of new towers and enemies. With old maps getting new enemy patterns, there's so much to see and do in PixelJunk Monsters Deluxe. It's the perfect addition to any PSP. Note: Available only on PSP.

The Retrobutionist ($50)
for PS3 & PSP

There are a ton of PS1 classics available to download on the PlayStation Store. Make sure you check out the best of the PS1 era with these games, compatible with both your PS3 and PSP:

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ($9.99)
Recent games have come close to, but none has surpassed the standard set by Symphony of the Night. This is a must-play for anyone that wants to understand how a term as ridiculous as "Metroidvania" could ever have been coined.

Metal Gear Solid
Two generations and countless sequels later, the original Metal Gear Solid stands as our favorite Metal Gear game by far. The stealth gameplay may seem antiquated by today's standards, but it's great to experience a Kojima narrative that doesn't quite jump the shark.

Final Fantasy VII
It's the game that sold a million PlayStations. The CG is hilariously out of date, and the graphics are painfully blocky. Still, who doesn't appreciate the classic story of a boy that saves the world from a maniacal planet-hugging, genetically-engineered clone project?

Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 is arguably the best of the "classic" RE games. Not only does the game spread the infection across all of Raccoon City, you get to play as a piece of tofu.

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Before Amy Hennig went on to create Uncharted, she worked on Legacy of Kain. Soul Reaver took the franchise in a different direction and is one of the most under-appreciated gems from the PS1 era.

Crash Bandicoot ($5.99)
Sony's mascot of yesteryear -- from an era when game companies needed mascots -- made his debut in a pretty decent platformer. Naughty Dog's first PlayStation game has aged well; its simplistic, behind-the-back platforming fits perfectly with the PSP's limited controls.

The Speed Demon ($50)
for PS3

Racing enthusiasts have a lot to enjoy on the PlayStation Network. Two of the biggest racing games ever can be downloaded straight to your PS3 hard drive. While on the PlayStation Store, don't forget to look for a special GT5 bonus.

WipEout HD Bundle ($24.99)
Running at 1080p and 60fps, WipEout HD is quite possibly the prettiest game ever created for the PlayStation Network. This futuristic racer features 8-player online racing, 8 gameplay modes and a stunning collection of gravity-defying tracks.

Burnout Paradise Ultimate Bundle ($20.99)
While Burnout Paradise offers extensive DLC support, you won't need to think about extra content with the massive size of the original game. The PSN version includes some built-in DLC, like motorcycles and additional online multiplayer features. The "Ultimate" Bundle also adds a pass-the-controller multiplayer "Party" mode.

Gran Turismo 5 Time Trial Challenge
This short demo of Gran Turismo 5 only offers one track, but it's the only way you'll be able to get a taste of Gran Turismo 5 before its 2010 release -- fingers crossed.

The Strategist ($20)
for PS3

There are approximately one million strategy games available on the PS3. However, you don't have to break the bank trying them all. Use your $20 card to buy these two games that represent the best of the bunch:

PixelJunk Monsters ($9.99)
This is the quintessential tower defense game on PlayStation Network, and it's perfect for one or two players. The original game features a ton of content and, with the recent Trophy patch, includes challenges that add a special twist to the main game. If Monsters isn't enough, consider getting the excellent Encore expansion, as well.

Comet Crash
PSN has no shortage of tower defense games, but quite possibly the most unique interpretation of the genre is Pelfast's Comet Crash. It may not have the looks, but the gameplay is simply unparalleled. The "tower offense" twist makes for terrific fun, and the game does a great job of introducing new mechanics, making it feel fresh.

The Trophy Hunter ($20)
for PS3

Don't be ashamed to admit it: You're addicted to unlocking Trophies. You love it every time you hear that "ding" and see your gamer XP rise. Well, did you know you can add a huge collection of Trophies to your profile for under $20? If you're a Trophy hunter, these are some essential games for boosting your cred:

.deTuned ($2.99)
This music visualizer may not have much "gameplay," but for those of you in serious need of a quick Trophy boost, look no further. It's entirely possible to get 100% of the Trophies in this PSN title in five minutes. Don't believe us? Watch it for yourself.

Linger in Shadows
Like .deTuned, this indie project isn't a game. Rather, it's an interactive piece of art -- one that happens to have a easy selection of Trophies to unlock. While a bit trickier than .deTuned, you can expect to get 100% of the Trophies in this game in less than an hour.

Buzz! Junior: RoboJam & Monsters ($4.99 each)
While the Buzz! series is generally known as a trivia game, the Buzz! Junior games are a collection of simple mini-games meant for kids. The Trophies are easy, and best of all: you don't even need the Buzzer accessory to get 100% of the Trophies in either of these games.

Noby Noby Boy
Once again, this isn't really a game in the traditional sense. Instead, Noby Noby Boy is a virtual playground where players must do all sorts of crazy things to their worm-like "BOY" to reach the outer reaches of the galaxy. It won't take too long for Trophy hunters to find all 100% of this game's achievements.

Gunstar Heroes ($2.99)
One of the finest Genesis games ever created. Why? Because you blow up a lot of stuff. It's mindless fun and features some of the easiest Trophies around. And, for a limited time, you can get it for 40% off.

DLC Essentials ($20)
for PS3

Your PS3 games don't have to collect dust when you're done with them. Use a $20 PSN card to extend some of the best-selling PS3 games of all time:

LittleBigPlanet: Pirates of the Caribbean Level Kit ($5.99)
This is the first big addition to the LittleBigPlanet universe since last year's Metal Gear Solid pack. Not only will this premium level kit add brand new levels from the game's developer, it will enable player-creators to add water to their original designs. This is an essential piece of DLC that owners of both the original and "Game of the Year" editions of LittleBigPlanet should invest in.

Fallout 3: Broken Steel ($9.99)
While there are a number of great add-ons for Fallout 3, none will extend the play experience as much as Broken Steel. This DLC pack alters the ending of the game, allowing you to "finish the fight" against the Enclave. Additionally, the level cap is increased from 20 to 30, meaning new players are encouraged to buy the DLC long before the game's end.

Batman: Arkham Asylum: Prey in the Darkness (Free)
Newcomers to Batman: Arkham Asylum this holiday are reminded to go to the PlayStation Store to get three different DLC packs: Prey in the Darkness, Insane Night and Play as the Joker. Best of all, these are all free!

Assassin's Creed II: Battle of Forli ($3.99)
While not available now, we wanted to remind you to save some PSN money for January's release of the first of two upcoming Assassin's Creed II DLC packs. The Battle of Forli will fill in a missing chapter from the story and is most affordable at only $3.99.

The Comic Collector ($20)
for PSP

With the latest firmware update, Sony added support for digital comics on the PSP. With most comics ranging from $1 to $3, a $20 PSN card will nab you a lot of good reading:

Metal Gear Solid: Digital Graphic Novel ($9.99)
The MGS Digital Graphic Novel retells the story of the original MGS game in a brand new way. Interactive visuals, with animation and sound effects, bring the entire story to life.

Burke & Hare: Part 1 of 4 (Free)
There are over a dozen free comics available on the PlayStation Store, and this series about the West Port murders are as grizzly as them come. Check out the first issue for free.

Clive Barker's The Thief of Always #1 ($0.99)
This three-part adaptation of Clive Barker's dark fantasy is a children's story ... meant for adults.

Leviathan ($2.99)
The entire story has been collected in this digital graphic novel about a giant ship (modeled after the Titanic) that disappears into a parallel world.

Wallace and Gromit Comic #1 (Free)
A stark contrast to the rest of the recommendations here, this free comic should provide a good laugh or two.

Captain America #24: Civil War ($1.99) &
Captain America #25: The Death of the Dream ($1.99)
These two comics are part of Marvel's epic "Civil War" crossover series, which tells the tale of superheroes in their fight against government registration.

X-23 ($1.99)
It's about a female Wolverine. Seriously.

The Music Maker ($50)
for PSP

These are the essential games that should be on any music lover's PSP Memory Stick:

Beats is the only game on the PSP that will transform the music on your Memory Stick into playable levels. Developed by London Studio, this stylish game gives you a new way to interact with your music and offers unlimited replayability.

Rockstar's Beaterator is a surprisingly deep music creation studio for the PSP. Developed in partnership with Timbaland, Beaterator is a comprehensive app that lets you make your own tunes.

Patapon 2 ($19.99)
Sony's 2D game may look cute, but it's all about war. Players will have to keep to the beat, as they drum up support for troops in this unique rhythm-battle game.

PSP Essentials ($50)
for PSP

There's no shortage of great PSP games to download from the PlayStation Store. Whether you're looking for UMD archived games or PSN exclusives, there are a lot of games to choose from.

God of War: Chains of Olympus ($19.99)
Quite possibly the best PSP game ever created. Ready at Dawn has masterfully translated Kratos' merciless moves for the handheld, with great effect. Few PSP games ever look -- and play -- this well.

For a limited time only, you can pick up Zoe Mode's innovative 2D/3D hybrid puzzle game for 40% off. The inspired art and mind-bending gameplay make Crush one of the most interesting additions to the PSP library.

LocoRoco: Midnight Carnival ($14.99)
The LocoRoco are the closest thing PSP has to a mascot. Their latest game, Midnight Carnival, adds a fun "boing" mechanic, making it easily the best LocoRoco game so far.

Pinball Heroes - High Velocity Bowling ($3.99)
Last but not least, Pinball Heroes may seem like an odd choice, but it's one of the best values for the PSP. At only $4, this faithfully recreated pinball game is perfect for on-the-go play. High Velocity Bowling is the best table by far, with creative mechanics that will have you paddling for the high score for a long time to come.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.