The next generation portable
Say what you will about the PlayStation Vita's slowly (but surely!) expanding game library, but there's no denying this is one of the sexiest pieces of portable hardware out there. It packs a surprising amount of power in its tiny but substantial form factor, and its screen produces some of the most crystal clear, vibrant colors we've ever seen. That's great and all, but what about its games?
The Vita-exclusive list is unfortunately light, but when you factor in all the downloadables and PSOne classics that are available for the system (not to mention PS4 streaming), it's not so bad a deal. Looking for something to play on your commute to school or work? Here are the best 25 games currently available for the Vita, starting with...
25. 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.
24. Velocity Ultra
Velocity has come a long way since its PS Mini roots, and this uprezzed, upsized, and up-everything-ed version for the PS Vita is its greatest incarnation.
Navigating the Quarp Jet never felt or looked better. Velocity Ultra keeps the game's top-down shooting, space-shifting, and puzzle-solving elements intact while boasting remastered graphics to suit its new home. Toss in trophy support, online leaderboards, and hidden minigames, and Velocity Ultra can easily become one of those games you'll play for just one more mission, and then another, and then just one more, and just oooonnne...
23. 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 result is a game that always has something new cued up.
22. PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate
PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate isn't another tower defense clone. Sure, you'll order Tikiman to erect towers and equip them to defend your island from monsters, but it's the level of finesse and personality Q-Games infuses into the title that makes it er.. .tower above the competition.
Based on the PS3 and PSP games, this Ultimate version looks brilliant on the PS Vita and makes innovative use of its touch-screen controls to whip through the battlefield and see the ensuing madness from all angles. That's where the additions end, however, as PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate rightly assumes not much else is needed to improve upon an already near-perfect experience. PixelJunk Monsters: Ultimate is guaranteed to put even the most seasoned armchair generals to the test, while treating all to the best tower defense title on the PS Vita.
Tempest wasn't a game itching for a revival, but thanks to Llamasoft founder Jeff Minter (Space Giraffe, Gridrunner Revolution), TxK showed us what we'd been missing.
TxK is a vibrant and chaotic sensory overload that just has to be seen to be appreciated on the PS Vita. It's also amazingly fun to play, turning Tempest's vector-based shooter mechanics into a fast-paced light show featuring new enemies and power-ups at every turn. Like other indie titles on this list, TxK is proof you don't need a blockbuster budget and a warehouse of programmers to blast through the clutter.
20. Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Uncharted: Golden Abyss proves what we all hoped: The Vita is almost as powerful as the PS3. That alone makes it worth taking a look at. It's remarkable how little had to be cut in order to get it all working on the handheld.
You're still exploring lush jungles with wonderful views, youre still fighting dozens of enemies at once, and youre still chatting with likable, well-designed characters. This really is Uncharted, with all its action-packed adventures taking place in the palm of your hand.
19. Dragon's Crown
Vanillaware is renowned for its visual flair, and on the PS Vita, Dragon's Crown looks like a fantasy painting come to life. Not that looks are the only things it has going for it. Cast as a four-player beat-em-up, Dragons Crown offers one of the tightest, most addictive, and challenging brawlers on the system.
Dragon's Crown starts slow, but that's part of its appeal. After cozying up to each of the six classes and learning the ropes on normal mode, it opens the doors to deeper customization options and a multiplayer mode that will surely keep you hooked--if not to experience the game with actual humans, then to spend more time drooling over what is one of the most visually appealing games in the PS Vita's gallery.
18. 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.
17. 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.
16. 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.
An indie project developed by Mike Bithnell, 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 this injection of charm and personality that make Thomas Was Alone one of the most surprisingly satisfying indie games on the PS Vita.
15. Hot Shots Golf World Invitational
The latest in a casual golf dynasty that dates all the way back to the original PlayStation, Hot Shots Golf World Invitational doesnt do much to revolutionize the series, but it gets by just fine by doing what it does best: presenting some of the best golfing action around.
With tried-and-true, user-friendly golfing action, robust multiplayer, and a smart smattering of Vita-specific gimmicks and upgrades, World Invitational deserves a home in your Vita, especially if you've been a fan of the series in the past. We especially enjoy the neat camera trick that lets you look around the course by moving the Vita itself--sometimes it's the little things.
14. 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, as we discussed in our LittleBigPlanet PS Vita review. 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 youre 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 Frys narration is comforting, and makes you want to learn--just a little.
13. Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack is a perfect example of what digital games can do on the Vita. Its quirky and subversive, toying with styles of play that youve spent years honing.
Better yet, its actually really funny, with sharp inside jokes on video games and popular culture. And even better, its a steal at under $10. Check out the heavy hitters like Uncharted and Lumines first if you want, but this may be the tiny game that steals your heart.
12. 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.
11. Super Stardust Delta
Housemarque's twin-stick space shooter will cripple your thumbs and haunt your dreams. In a good way, though. Exclusive to the PS Vita, it is the ultimate in score-chasing, twitch-gaming, one more round and I promise I'm coming to bed-ing gameplay that evolves the Super Stardust concept in every way that counts.
Unique to Super Stardust Delta is the opportunity to tilt the planet using the PS Vita's gyroscope, or unleash intergalactic hell using touch-screen weapon controls. Both additions feel natural and far from gimmicky, and the PS Vita is a perfect host for Super Stardust Delta's one more quick game, I'm serious! quality. Fused with rich, eye-burning visuals and loads of new modes and challenges, Super Stardust Delta is a staple for any self-respecting arcade junkie.
10. 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.
9. 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 that 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.
8. Gravity Rush
Gravity Rush is an open-world adventure unlike any youve played before--thats 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, youll be joyously running up walls or soaring through the air above the games gorgeous vistas.
Past the topsy-turvy traversing, theres 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.
7. Lumines: Electronic Symphony
Lumines has seen several iterations in the years between PSPs launch and Vitas 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 new handheld just as wonderfully as its predecessor managed in 2005.
From beautiful visuals to stellar integration with the PlayStation Network, Lumines: Electronic Symphony was 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.
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 addicting, Spelunky offers an elite adventure that never gets stale.
5. 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 PSVita.
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) OLED 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.
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.
3. 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 for the PS Vita maintains the neon-soaked, blood-drenched vibe of the original in every way. Better yet, its mission-based structure makes it ideal for the PS 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?
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.
1. 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.
The Vita's still got a lot of life left in it, especially given its functionality with the PlayStation 4. Think your favorite Vita game should've made the list (like DanganRonpa, above)? Or is this list perfect? Whatever your feelings, tell us about it in the comments below.