The best PS Vita games show how much can be accomplished in a short period of time. Sony's powerhouse of a portable console burned bright, and then burned out – but its incredible, versatile library of games lives on. With its beautiful OLED screen and impressive tech specs, the PS Vita was truly ahead of its time, which is just one of the reasons it sits so highly in our ranking of the best handheld consoles.
Still, the reason the system remains so beloved is because of the experiences it delivered. It brought big budget, AAA gaming on the move – something you'll see reflected in our ranking of the best PS Vita games, many of which were developed by the biggest developers in the world. This Vita might have been a commercial failure, but those who invested know just how awesome this handheld truly was.
Let's explore why, with our definitive breakdown of the 25 best PS Vita games of all-time.
For more definitive rankings of Sony PlayStation games throughout the years:
Best PS Vita Games, Ranked
25. Killzone: Mercenary
Developer: Guerrilla Cambridge
Considering its capabilities, the Vita was decidedly short-served when it came to excellent first-person shooters. Fortunately, Guerilla Cambridge was able to fill the void with a superb effort that made its peers look laughable in comparison. While the frame rate can take a hit at times and it’s a little on the short side, it looks tremendous, has great shooting mechanics, and offers you the opportunity to play as both sides of the conflict. Sadly, its excellent online multiplayer is no longer up and running, so you’ll have to make do with the single-player campaign which clocks in at a brief but action-packed five hours.
24. Minecraft: PlayStation Vita Edition
The accessibility of Mojang’s world builder means it’s perfect for gaming on the go. While some will be disappointed with its lack of story or instruction, the real beauty of Minecraft is the sheer freedom that it offers. Pretty much anything you can think of can be built (providing you have the right resources or are playing in Creation mode) and you’re only really limited by your own imagination. While it lacks the huge playing areas of the PC original, the Vita version still manages to impress on its own terms and looks fantastic too.
23. Soul Sacrifice Delta
Developer: Marvelous AQL
With Nintendo locking up Monster Hunter for the 3DS, numerous other developers rushed to plug the gaping hole on Vita. Soul Sacrifice Delta is easily the most ambitious of these clones, and it’s the brainchild of Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune. Sacrifice plays a big part in Delta’s mechanics as you’ll have to not only sacrifice fallen enemies to boost your stats but using certain powers will directly debilitate you, meaning there’s a little strategy to go alongside the combat. Delta is an enhanced update of Soul Sacrifice, rather than a proper sequel, and didn’t get a physical release in the west, although an expensive Asian English language version is available.
22. WipEout 2048
Developer: Studio Liverpool
There was no shortage of great games for the PS Vita’s launch and WipEout remains one of the best racing experiences you can have on the console. Yes, it’s hampered by some slow loading times and the weight and speed of the craft take a little while to get used to, but once the new handling does click you’ll discover the racing and combat to be just as satisfying as earlier games in the series (which are actually set many years after this prequel). While its online multiplayer is a thing of the past, there remains plenty of cart-based content to keep you busy.
21. Dariusburst: Chronicle Saviours
Few Vita shoot-’em-ups are as ambitious as this gargantuan game. While many balked at its high digital asking price, it makes perfect sense when you realize just how much content Taito’s magnificent shooter actually contains. In addition to featuring all the extras from the numerous arcade versions, including the 3,000 stage variations of Chronicles mode, Saviours also adds the brand-new Chronicle Saviours mode which gives you over 180 more stages to tackle and all sorts of delicious goodies to unlock, from new ships to bosses and audio tracks. Just be mindful that the nature of the arcade games means Arcade and EX mode are severely letterboxed, which can make it tough to tackle the water-themed bosses.
20. Mortal Kombat
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
The PS Vita is blessed with a wealth of great fighters, but few can compete with the insane amount of content that Mortal Kombat offers. While its online servers have long since shut it features virtually all the content from the PS3’s Komplete Edition, meaning there’s a genuinely excellent story mode to battle through, sickening X-Ray Moves to enjoy and a gargantuan Challenge Tower to climb. Amazingly, the PS Vita version improves on this by retaining all the excellent gameplay and adding new costumes, touch-based finishing moves, and a brand-new Challenge Tower with 150 new missions to complete.
19. Lumines Electronic Symphony
Developer: Q Entertainment
Q Entertainment’s sound-based puzzle game made its debut on the PSP and this new Vita iteration keeps the same base mechanics while adding in a few clever wrinkles of its own. Touch-based controls are usable as well as a more traditional set-up, while musical skins are now unlocked via a new experience system. Two brand-new blocks are introduced allowing you to shuffle on-screen blocks or chain together blocks and there’s a new Voyage mode where you must continually create colored squares, which is easier said than done. Coupled with a stunning soundtrack and the PS Vita’s OLED display it makes for a beautiful fusion of sight and sound.
18. Dragon Quest Builders
Developer: Square Enix
As great as Minecraft is, its freeform gameplay certainly isn’t for everyone. If you’re like us and need a little more structure with your digging and building, you’ll find Dragon Quest Builders to be the perfect tonic. It takes the core concept of Mojang's phenomenally successful game, but marries it to the popular Dragon Quest universe and fills it with likable characters, lite RPG mechanics, and an engaging story. It’s clever with its structure too, slowly giving you simple tasks to complete that rarely tax you, but as the game reaches its conclusion you’ll be overseeing objectives that will be beyond your wildest dreams.
17. The Walking Dead: Season One
Developer: Telltale Games
It’s possible to purchase several TellTale Games titles on PS Vita, but its first entry in the popular Walking Dead series remains its strongest. While the game doesn’t give anywhere near as much agency over events as it would like you to believe, there’s no denying the weight of each choice you make as every decision seemingly dictates the future of protagonist Lee Everett and his young charge, Clementine. Yes, it’s built on a flimsy game engine that would become ever more problematic with later games, but the distinctive-looking visuals, magnificently written episodes, and numerous tense situations mean your Vita will rarely leave your hands.
16. Rogue Legacy
Developer: Cellar Door Games
This charming roguelike is one of several PS Vita games that didn’t receive a physical release, meaning you should pick it up sooner rather than later. The clever mechanics at the base of Cellar Door Games’ adventure is that dying lets you carry on playing with a direct descendant of your character and they’ll often have abilities that can enhance or hinder your progress, from shortsightedness to smashing anything they blunder through. You soon realize that every trait can be exploited in some way meaning there are always new ways to explore the procedurally generated castle. It’s certainly not an easy game, but an excellent skill tree and perfectly balanced combat mechanics make each new run that little bit easier.
15. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
While the Zero Escape series started on Nintendo’s DS, its two concluding parts can be played on Vita and both of them are cracking yarns. Like 999, Virtue’s Last Reward is split between narrative-based story sections that allow you to interact with the eight other characters who are trapped with you in an unknown location and Escape sections that require you to solve numerous tricky puzzles so you can progress the engaging story. The masterstroke here though is the addition of a new Flowchart that allows you to instantly jump to key points of the story rather than playing through the entire game again.
14. Ys: Memories Of Celceta
Developer: Nihon Falcom
The Ys series has been knocking around since the late 80s and Memories is actually a remake of the fourth game in the series which itself has two versions by two different developers. Despite its confusing lineage Celceta is a cracking update that features dynamic combat mechanics, a wealth of interesting characters to meet, and a genuine sense of exploration as the amnesia-stricken Adol attempts to piece his memories together while mapping a gigantic forest. It’s a great example of modernizing a 16-bit game for a new audience and is filled with great story beats and some fantastic boss fights. Adol’s Vita adventures would continue with Ys VIII: Lacrimosa Of Dana in 2016.
13. Velocity 2X
While its physical release is rapidly escalating in price there’s always the digital version (while the store remains open). Regardless of which option you do plump for it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed with FuturLabs’ slick shooter/run-and-gun hybrid. As with the original Velocity most levels take part in your Quarp Jet which has the handy ability to teleport, but you can also now dock at various points and it’s here that the game introduces new run-and-gun stages as Kai Tana tears around cleverly constructed levels. She’s as nimble as her jet and can also warp, meaning you’ll have plenty of clever puzzles to solve as you race through each stage. Exceptionally fast-paced and blessed with an astonishing soundtrack, Velocity 2X has some of the most frenetic blasting you can experience on Sony’s console.
12. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
Although Vanillaware’s game started off on PS2, the PS Vita revision has gone through so many changes it can be considered a standalone (and much better) release. Combat has been dramatically overhauled compared to the PS2 original, numerous new enemies and bosses have been added and clunky elements like the inventory, POW gauge, and Psypher systems have been completely overhauled. The numerous new tweaks, greatly improved framerate, and additional quality of life touches that Vanillaware has added really allow you to enjoy Odin Sphere’s delightful story as it unfolds and intertwines via the five distinct characters you get to control.
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
There are a number of entertaining Metroidvanias on Sony’s handheld, but our favorite remains this larger-than-life effort from DrinkBox Studios. As you’d expect from its name, combat plays an important role in Guacamelee! with luchador Juan receiving many combat-based moves that allow him to effortlessly navigate the village of Santa Luchita and best its many inhabitants. Filled with delightful characters, a drop-in and out two-player mode, a sharp script and plenty of memorable boss encounters, Juan’s adventure spans both the land of the living and the dead and never fails to impress. What a pity PS Vita owners never received the sequel.
10. Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Developer: Bend Studio
Even today we still can’t work out how Bend Studio managed to cram a full-fat Uncharted experience into a 7.2-inch console. Granted it’s hampered by some rather naff touchscreen-based controls (many of which can thankfully be turned off) but that’s the only criticism we really have. The action is relentless, there are some spectacular set-pieces to gape at and Nolan North and Richard McGonagle return as Drake and Sully. Filled with inventive touches from using the PS Vita’s motion controls to aim your gun, or holding your Vita up to a light source, or rubbing its screen to solve puzzles, there’s always a lovely new flourish to discover. Sadly, the Vita never received another adventure quite like it.
The original Limited Run Games release of Derek Yu’s masterful platformer sold out in a couple of minutes, making it quite a pricey purchase nowadays. There’s a reason for the high demand though, it’s quite simply the best platformer you can play on Vita, and considering the competition that’s high praise indeed. Spelunky’s brutal difficulty will no doubt put many off, but if you stick with it you’ll find one of the most rewarding experiences around. While stages are procedurally generated, the enemies and traps that inhabit them obey certain laws and you’ll need to understand those in order to make progress. Just make sure to chain your Vita to your wrist as you may want to throw it at times.
8. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
This excellent visual novel and murder mystery game is cleverly split into two distinctive parts. The School Life sections feature dating sim elements and have you chatting to your peers as you try and work out who is knocking off other students and the identity of a creepy talking bear called Monokuma. You also get the opportunity to investigate rooms and pick up clues similar to the Phoenix Wright games. Class Trials on the other hand crop up whenever a murder victim is found and you then have to work out who the killer is using multiple choice answers or literal “Truth Bullets” to hopefully catch someone in a lie and save your own skin in the process. Sharply written and expertly paced it’s one of the finest examples of the genre on Vita. Its two Vita sequels also come highly recommended.
7. Dragon's Crown
Vanillaware’s vibrant brawler is also available on PS3 and PS4 but the Vita’s stunning OLED screen punches up the action no end. Dragon’s Crown is essentially a modern-day evolution of the scrolling fighters of old but ramps things up considerably thanks to its rich combat system, some solid RPG mechanics, six distinctive character classes that all play differently from each other, and some truly huge dungeons to navigate. While it lacks the multiplayer of its bigger brothers, the enemy AI is balanced enough that you don’t mind battling the game’s often stunning bosses on your own. The studio’s earlier release, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, is equally worthy of your time, but quite pricey now.
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
DrinkBox Studios pushed out some wonderfully creative stuff on Vita and this epic slash-’em-up from the Toronto-based studio is as challenging as it is beautiful. Blessed with a surprisingly rich story, Severed casts you as Sasha, a plucky young girl on a quest to find her missing family. With a demonic blade in hand, you swipe at the PS Vita’s screen to deliver quick slashes, slow swipes, and clever counters as you’re constantly assaulted by grotesque nightmares that are vividly brought to life with the studio’s distinctive art style. Each monstrosity in the game has its own weaknesses and it becomes a mad juggling act as you switch between multiple targets to exploit the chinks in their defenses. Severed is one of those rare Viva titles where its touched-based controls improve the action rather than detract from it, so download it now and prepare to give your fingers a proper workout.
Jeff Minter has been tweaking and evolving Tempest for years now and with TxK he comes pretty close to perfecting it. At its heart, TxK is a tube shooter meaning you zip around the edges of elaborate shapes shooting at anything in your path, before proceeding to the next level. It’s simple enough in its execution, but TxK works so well because Minter is a master at creating twitch reaction-based shooters and TxK is one of his finest ever creations. Each level not only looks incredible thanks to the trippy psychedelic visuals and the Vita’s OLED screen, but they also sound incredible too and it’s this masterful blend of shooting and aesthetics that makes TxK so hard to put down. It has an alluring pull that’s impossible to ignore and it’s a crying shame that it never received a physical release.
4. Hotline Miami
Developer: Dennaton Games
Dennaton Games’ viciously violent top-down shooter is as much a puzzle game as it is an all-out blaster. Each meticulously structured level requires you to navigate rooms filled with goons and achieve your goals as violently as possible. Doors can be slammed into enemies, weapons can be thrown at them and dogs can be violently stabbed. No deed is too dirty for your protagonist Jacket and you’ll have to do a lot of nasty stuff and don several animal masks (all of which grant you distinct powers) before you reach the game’s conclusion. Hotline Miami is as stylish as it is vibrant, thanks to its neon-soaked pixel art and solid writing, and shouldn't be missed. Its equally violent sequel, Wrong Number, is also available on Sony’s console.
Developer: Media Molecule
While an enhanced version would make its way to PS4, we feel Media Molecule’s inventive platformer fares best on Vita. Like many early Vita games, Tearaway makes heavy use of the PS Vita’s features, but here they enhance the on-screen action and never feel like forced-in gimmicks. You can touch the back screen to poke your fingers into the world and interact with it, create various things for the world’s inhabitants via the touchscreen and even appear in the game as a Teletubbies-styled sun. Outside of its many innovative flourishes Tearaway takes place in a beautifully constructed paper world full of folds, creases, and wrinkles and has a charming story at its center that’s every bit as memorable as Tearaway’s ever-evolving game mechanics.
2. Persona 4 Golden
This tremendous remake of the PS2 game was originally planned for PSP, but Atlas moved development to Sony’s new console and the end result is one of the system’s most engrossing games. Persona 4 was already a staggeringly deep experience on PS2, but this new Vita revision expands things dramatically with plenty of new content, including a brand-new character called Marie, as well as expanded storylines and social links and the introduction of new Personas, brand-new story elements and greatly enhanced visuals. Even without all these delicious extras Persona 4 is elevated to greatness thanks to its deep combat mechanics, wonderfully flexible gameplay, its unique dungeons, and exceptionally written characters who are as interesting as they are varied. Indeed, there’s so much going on in Atlus’ game that it’s easy to forget you’re supposed to be tracking down a serial killer.
1. Gravity Rush
Developer: Japan Studio
Few videogame superheroes express their available powers as well as the main protagonist of Japan Studio’s sensational action-adventure game. Kat has the power to manipulate gravity and while it takes a little while to master, you’ll soon feel invincible as you run along the sides of buildings, propel yourself at enemies and even master the power of flight. It creates a wonderful sense of freedom as you explore the breathtaking city of Hekseville and complete quests for its memorable NPCs while looking for the tucked-away gems that will expand Kat’s health and grant her new abilities. Not since Crackdown has the feeling of exploring presented so many rewards and it’s easy to lose focus from the main adventure as you explore Hekseville’s many nooks and crannies.
Japan Studio’s game is everything you want from a killer app: it offers stunning visuals, does a spectacular job of showcasing the PS Vita’s unique attributes, and is mechanically excellent. It’s quite simply the best experience you can have on Sony’s handheld.
If you're passionate about retro gaming or just want to learn more about it, then you should check out Retro Gamer. Retro Gamer is the world's longest-running magazine dedicated to classic games, and you can find out more about it at at Magazines Direct (opens in new tab)