The next generation portable
It might have had wavering support over the last couple of years but the PS Vita is still a beautiful piece of hardware with a stack of brilliant games. It’s even had a skinnier make over since release and is still the best handheld if you are looking for real live analogue sticks. Sony's handheld is also ideal for PS4 Remote Play if you’re too far away from the TV or, y'know, just really lazy.
Games are still being released via the Cross Buy function on the PlayStation Store and the Vita has become a bit of an indie darling, but where should you start? We can help with that. Without further ado, here’s your ultimate collection of the best games for PS Vita.
Combining the clean, bright hues of Guacamelee's aesthetic with some ghastly monster design, Severed's sometimes gorgeous, sometimes grotesque world has a distinctly bizarre feel. The gameplay is fantastic, blending the pattern recognition and twitch reflexes of classic Punch-Out!! with the angled sword-slashing of Infinity Blade as you artfully swipe the screen to deflect incoming attacks and strike back at a host of freakish horrors.
Sasha also makes for one hell of a cool hero, determined to recover her family no matter the cost - even if that means donning bits of slain creature carcasses to serve as macabre armour, or ingesting ancient hearts and brains to increase her health and mana pools. Severed’s combat too is perfectly tuned, keeping you on your toes but rarely overwhelming you. Sasha's sword-slashing feels so right; the Vita screen looks and feels so much better than the obscured interfaces and fudged inputs that often struggle in iPhone games. Brilliant.
24. Don't Starve
It might be an honest title - no really, try not to starve - but nothing can truly prepare you for the perpetual stress of attempting to survive in a world that desperately wants you permadead. A handy stomach meter needs kept full to avoid hallucinations and madness but that’s only one of a stack of risks you have to contend with on the randomly generated biomes of complete death. Murderous spiders, penguins and even furious trees await your innocent survivalist.
Just like in Game of Thrones, winter is coming so even if your summer day is going ok and you’ve managed to build a proper fire that isn’t a nightmare to keep lit every night, misery is just around the corner. Yet despite the constant stress, there’s something beautiful about this nightmare and a genuine sense of achievement as the days count up and you're still wandering around without too many hallucinations. Plus, if it’s all too much, you can always turn off winter.
23. Thomas Was Alone
It's an odd thing becoming emotionally entangled with a group of basic shapes, but that's part of what makes Thomas Was Alone special.
A project developed by Mike Bithell, and ported to the PS Vita by Bossa Studios, Thomas Was Alone brings its devious puzzle platforming to life with narration by comedian Danny Wallace and a story that will have you rooting for Thomas and shapely friends. The spot-on physics and puzzle-solving elements alone are enough of a draw, but its the injection of charm and personality that make Thomas Was Alone one of the most surprisingly satisfying indie games on the PS Vita.
22. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
It looks like Sackboy was destined to call the PlayStation Vita home. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is the definitive version of the lovable series, with gorgeous visuals and tighter controls. Platforming still feels the teensiest bit floaty, but levels are designed in such a way where you naturally find yourself on the right plane, and never feel like you're wrestling with the controller. With that out of the way, you can enjoy each wacky world to its fullest, collecting bubbles, items, and new outfits to decorate your little Sackperson with.
The touch functionality makes creating levels more intuitive than ever, allowing you to smear new materials onscreen with your finger. Its still not easy to just jump right in and build an entire level, but at least Stephen Fry's narration is comforting, and makes you want to learn - well, maybe just a little.
21. Killzone: Mercenary
Killzone: Mercenary is something of an also ran in the FPS space, but this exclusive PS Vita entry puts the series at the top of the handheld pile.
Killzone: Mercenary makes the most of its handheld unit, sporting jaw-dropping visuals, expansive gameplay, and a multiplayer that gives last-gen console titles a run for their money. As gun-for-hire Aaron Danner, you'll face the full brunt of the Helghast-Vektan war in set pieces that rival sci-fi Hollywood blockbusters. With ample weapons at your disposal, and all manner of enemies eager to gun you down, Killzone: Mercenary is an intense and polished game that shows the PS Vita's true mettle.
20. Wipeout 2048
Going back to the days of the original PlayStation, Wipeout has been the game that gets made when Sony wants to show off. That ambition has never been more apparent than in Wipeout 2048, which is clearly meant to highlight the new Vita at its best.
It's essentially the same version as is available on PS3, too. Actually, it is the same version, so if youre interested in trying cross-play, the feature that enables you to compete on the handheld and a PS3 simultaneously, this is the best way to do so.
19. Rogue Legacy
You wouldn’t think the combination of Metroidvania with roguelike would work. How can progression be possible if you, well, die all the time? Glad you asked. The key’s in the word ‘legacy’. When your brave castle adventurer eventually bites the dust in the procedurally generated world (*sob*), you play as the next heir in line. You’ll get everything the previous hero earned to spend in one go and you’ll get to pick who'll carry on the family business of adventuring in skeleton-packed dungeons.
Here’s where the true fun lies. While your spawn are split into different classes, they’ve got plenty of interesting traits. Got no sensation in your feet? Perfect for running across spikes. Dwarfism? Great for getting into small areas. It’s not all sweetness and light though. Muscle weakness will mean you can’t knock back enemies and Tunnel Vision will mean projectiles aren’t shown until it’s almost too late. Ah, the joys of video game genetics.
18. Child of Light
What happens when you let the developers behind a bloody shooter like Far Cry 3 take a break from triple-A development and work on their own passion project? Well, apparently you get a beautiful and refined RPG that makes you feel like you're playing a poem. Not really what you'd expect from the people who created Vaas, right? In Child of Light you play as Aurora, a girl who has fallen asleep and wandered into a dream land. But the land of Lemuria is under the control of the evil Queen of the Night. You'll need to gather allies and develop your abilities as you search for the way back home.
The game plays on a 2D side-scrolling perspective, allowing you to horizontally and vertically explore the world and solve puzzles with Aurora's powers of flight. When you enter combat, each character in your party and enemy takes turns attacking using and active time battle system. But there is much more strategy to the combat than simply waiting for your turn. One of your companions can stun enemies to delay their attacks, and that ability--along with the split-second decision making of the the tactical engagements--creates an extremely action-packed and immersive battle experience.
Guacamelee! may look like your everyday Mexican farmer finds magical luchador mask and journeys to the land of the dead and back to save his one true love story, but the beauty of JuiceBox's brilliant 2D platformer is that there's so much stirring beneath its surface. Besides the aforementioned dead, of course.
Blending finely tuned platforming, simple-yet-rewarding combat, and a 2D land teeming with personality, Guacamelee! is a Metroidvania game that begs to be mined for all its secrets. From sun-soaked desserts to cloud-covered fortresses, underground tunnels to quaint mexican villages, Guacamelee! whisks you through the land of the living and the dead in an adventure spiced with tons of secrets, hidden challenges, memorable characters, and inspired video-game references. There's just so much to take in (and break, and collect, and pile-drive, etc.) during Juan Aguacate's journey, you'll have no trouble clicking new game to see it all again.
16. Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Put simply, this is Uncharted. This isn't a shrunken mobile version hastily squeezed onto Vita. Development, while from Sony's Bend Studios, was overseen by Naughty Dog and that's still Nolan North and Richard McGonagle on voice over duties for Drake and Sully. It still feels like Uncharted too.
The visuals are beautiful, action varied and it even manages to make touch controls not feel too awful. The only sore point of this is that it shows just how good triple A games can look on Vita. The possibility is there and it's heartbreaking to see the calibre of games we could have had on the console. Hell, at least we've got Nate.
15. Velocity 2X
Want to feel like a god of the analogue sticks? Look no further than Futurlab’s ultra fast side-scrolling actioner meets top down shooter. This is the perfect gaming mash up. One minute you’re listening to the booming electronic soundtrack with Lieutenant Kai Tana hurtling sideways through platforming challenges, teleporting through walls and dodging enemy attacks, and the next, you’re back controlling her ship in a traditional top down shooter.
The controls match across both sequences so whether you’re killing enemies by magically appearing behind them or zooming through another wall to save civilians in a ship, there’s a glorious effortlessness to proceedings. More and more moves unlock as you progress, meaning the action never gets tired and you gradually turn teleportation into an art as you quest for the speediest times. The kind of game that Vita was made for, it’s a perfect portable addiction and a great excuse to crank up the volume on your headphones.
14. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
As a direct sequel to Aksys Games' 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors; Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward holds on to everything that made the original interactive novel a cult hit while branching out and atoning for 999's (few) shortcomings.
Like the original, Virtue's Last Reward presents a interactive story--this time revolving around nine kidnapped strangers who must contend with puzzles and interpersonal conflicts to escape an unknown facility. In an improvement over 999, you can use the FLOW system to replay key events and achieve new results, rather than having to play the entire game again. This, combined with a fresh 3D presentation, full voice acting, and cutscenes lifts the series from its static DS roots into a lively and compelling (virtual) page-turner.
13. Lumines: Electronic Symphony
Lumines has seen several iterations in the years between PSP's launch and Vita's debut, almost to the point of fatigue - yet the charm of its core mechanics always shines through. With Lumines: Electronic Symphony, the series grows in ways that render prior games as more spin-offs than true sequels. It reinvents itself for a new medium and showcases Sonys handheld just as wonderfully as its predecessor managed in 2005.
From beautiful visuals to stellar integration with the PlayStation Network, Lumines: Electronic Symphony is everything we wanted from a Lumines sequel and more, and is already responsible for draining the system's battery dry more times than we're comfortable admitting.
12. Rayman Legends
Platforming on the PS Vita doesn't get much better than this. Or on any system, for that matter. Ubisoft's follow-up to Rayman Origins is a sight to behold on the PS Vita's oh-so-pretty screen, offering gorgeously animated 2D action, an eclectic mix of gameplay, and a challenge befitting the bravest human or glute.
From hunting dragons to outrunning mutant luchadores, sneaking through underwater labs and carving paths through cake, Rayman Legends is awash in creative surprises. What's more, the touch-screen-controlled Murphy levels (a carryover from the original Wii U version) offer a devious change of pace, as do the music stages wherein you run, jump, and attack to the tune of familiar song covers. Toss in a game's worth of bonus levels from Rayman Origins, oodles of collectibles, a handful of minigames, and both daily and weekly online challenges, and it's possible Rayman Legends could take up permanent residency on your PS Vita... or at least crash on the couch for a few months.
11. The Walking Dead
Like a good book, season one of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead adventure game is a tale that's hard to put down. It's exciting. It's gut-wrenching. It forces you to make some of the toughest decisions you'll ever make in gaming, and it leaves you questioning those choices long after the fifth and final chapter fades to the back. The Walking Dead: Season One is interactive storytelling at its best, and its swift-yet-measured pace feels at home on the PS Vita.
As in the console versions, Lee and Clementine's odyssey is designed to be played multiple times over so that you can make different decisions, save different allies, or toss new friends to the horde. This is still the main draw in this version, however there's something extra special about how Telltale's cel-shaded comic book style looks on the (original PS Vitas) screen, and how it feels tapping away your moral dilemmas through optional touch-screen controls. Even those who have played the original version will find something alluring about this PS Vita adaptation, or at the very least dig the fact that it includes the bonus 400 Days episode.
10. Sound Shapes
Sometimes it's the oddballs that stand out, and Sound Shapes is a sterling example. Part music-maker, part platformer, and all parts groovy, Sounds Shapes stars a simple blob that must navigate 20-odd levels collecting notes that build upon each world's soundtrack, provided by artists like Beck and Deadmau5.
Completing Sound Shapes is just the beginning. The real fun begins after the campaign when the level editor unlocks and all its music-making tools become available for you to craft your own levels and share them with the Sound Shapes community. Mix this with developer Queasy Games' steady stream of DLC and the almost impossible Death Mode, and the result is a game that always has something new cued up.
9. Gravity Rush
Gravity Rush is an open-world adventure unlike any you've played before. That'll be because plucky superheroine Kat has the power to shift gravity at will. Changing which way is down at a moments notice takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be joyously running up walls or soaring through the air above the games gorgeous vistas.
Past the topsy-turvy traversing, there's a wealth of charm to the chipper cast of characters. The episodic mission structure will constantly keep you guessing as to what happens next - and battling the jelly-monster Nevi escalates from hand-to-hand combat to kicking building-sized bosses. With some great gyro-sensor functionality and stylish cutscenes, Gravity Rush is easily the first Vita-only IP to truly blow us away.
8. Hotline Miami
Imagine if Quentin Tarantino teamed with David Lynch to develop a retro-Miami Vice video game, and you'll have an idea of the creative madness flowing through this indie hit from Dennaton Games.
Smuggled to the PS Vita by Abstraction Games, Hotline Miami maintains the neon-soaked, blood-drenched vibe of the original in every way. Better yet, its mission-based structure makes it ideal for the Vita's pick up and play (and murder) sensibilities. Each bite-sized assignment plays out like a self-contained puzzle, casting you as a hired gun who must clear top-down maps of bad guys using the right mix of stealth, weapon skills, environmental hazards, and creepy animal masks. Hotline Miami is relentlessly brutal, ridiculously cool, and definitely not for beginners. It's a retro-inspired challenge that demands mad skillz and a tough skin. Will you answer the call?
Derek Yu's roguelike action adventure isn't for the easily frustrated, but those who make peace with permadeath and have the patience to keep trying will find much to love (and curse) about this indie hit.
Starring a character known only as the Spelunker, the game sends you underground on a treasure-hunting mission chock full of beasts, environmental puzzles, and the occasional damsel in distress. Failure to survive means starting from scratch, however Spelunky's randomly generated levels guarantee each attempt feels fresh. You will die, and you will die often, but the promise of new environments and game-changing items will have you dusting yourself off and believing that this time... yes, this time... is the one you'll make it to the end (spoiler: you won't). Relentlessly challenging but always addictive, Spelunky offers an elite adventure that never gets stale.
It’s easy to look at Terraria and think it’s just a 2D Minecraft knock off. Because it is. BUT, that two dimensional refit makes it a perfect fit for Vita. The mechanics are all instantly familiar - so, resource collecting, crafting, survival, building a house (and spending ages getting it just right). All the while battling monsters and searching out the rare resources you need to complete builds.
Here, though, the 2D limits actually create a tighter and more focused build-em-up that suits smaller Vita chunks of gaming beautifully. You can travel more to varied biomes quicker, for example. Or create and shape the world around you at much faster rate, making it perfect for quick dives in on the go, but without losing the potential for those long sofa sessions that strip away an afternoon unnoticed.
5. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
There’s nothing quite like loading up Edmund McMillen’s fiendish dungeon crawler for the first time. It hates you and you’ll hate it more. Permadeath, hundreds of items, the kind of disturbing imagery best left saved for a night of sleep after a lot of blue cheese… And then it suddenly clicks. The magic of the random drops as you explore further into the pit of the basement, the way each pick up and item layers effortlessly on top of the others.
Isaac’s tears - of course you fight with tears - become toxic waste, scattered with teeth or even double or triple up. Lasers anyone? The deeper you go into this world, the more it opens up. As bosses get more terrifying, more and more procedurally generated levels of hell unlock, so you’ll never truly be able to say you’ve finished. The perfect travel companion on Vita. Just don’t blame us for the nightmares.
4. Persona 4 Golden
Persona 4 Golden isn't just one of the deepest and most engrossing RPGs on the PS Vita, it's at the head of its class for portable role-playing. Far more than a dusted-off port of 2008's Persona 4, P4G (as the kids call it) uses the PS2 classic as a springboard to launch an extended adventure replete with new characters to meet, demons to pummel, personas to master, and stories to unravel.
No doubt, Persona 4 Golden is loaded with extra content. When you aren't tuning in to uniquely themed dungeons to thwart a TV killer's next move (don't worry, it makes sense), you'll be living the life of a Japanese teenager in the real world, recruiting allies and forging social links that have tangible benefits in battle. There's also the ability to reach out for help from the real, real world by summoning help from online friends. These features, combined with new gameplay modes, combat enhancements, and Persona 4's trademark brand of quirk, make P4G the closest thing on the PS Vita to a system seller.
There are games that seem made for the PS Vita, and then there are games that are 100% made for the PS Vita. Without question, Media Molecule's post-LittleBigPlanet effort falls into the latter camp, bringing an original and innovative adventure game to the PS Vita that showcases the handheld's many strengths.
It helps that Tearaway has a bit of LittleBigPlanet in its DNA. Like Sackboy's adventure, the messengers letter-delivery quest is brimming with a sense of charm, experimentation, and playfulness at every page. Its papercraft world is ripe for exploration, and the ability to affect its landscape and its characters through touch-screen controls and the PS Vita's camera makes you feel like youre an honored citizen of the messenger's world, rather than a passing tourist. In many respects, Tearaway is the PS Vita game that should have been a mascot for the system at launch, and it's unfortunate its taken so long for it to assume that role. Now that it's here, however, Sony has a showpiece at its fingertips which is absolutely a (paper) cut above the rest.
2. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
There's a ton to love about this Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, notwithstanding the fact it comes with two full-sized Metal Gear Solid titles (the subsistence versions of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater), VR missions, Snake Tales, and a solid helping of extras.
Those who have played through these Metal Gear chapters before will appreciate the games' upgraded presentation on the PS Vita, as well as the option to handle Snake's inventory and peek around his environments via touch-screen controls. Overall, there isn't much new about this PS Vita version of the console collection, but the mere offering of two highly praised Metal Gear games in one package makes it a valuable asset.
It’s no accident that Mojang’s world builder has sold more than 100 million copies across PC, consoles and mobile. Minecraft is a game of literally endless possibilities. Want to build yourself a farm, raise chickens, and have a simple life? You do that. Maybe don’t mine at night. But want to go on vast adventures and quest to slay an enormous dragon? That’s fine too.
Or maybe you just want to hang out with friends and build yourself your own world to live in that looks like Hogwarts or Middle Earth. There’s nothing like landing in a new biome in creative mode of Minecraft and being overwhelmed by the possibilities ahead. As Vita experiences go, the blocky wonder makes for a perfect handheld adventure. Relax in creative mode or get stressed in survival as you hurry to build your first shelter to protect against creepers. Maybe make sure you’re near a charger though.