5. 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 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.
4. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
The Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is a surprisingly excellent way to play through Hideo Kojima's signature series. It includes Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, VR missions, Snake Tales, and even nicely modernized ports of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, the MSX games that started the whole torrid saga.
Even for those who played through these chapters before will appreciate the games' upgraded presentation on the 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 portability of some of the best stealth games ever made elevate the collection to the machine's upper tier.
3. Gravity Rush
Gravity Rush is an open-world adventure with super powers. Unlike the hundreds of other games that match that description, its art, style, and powers are utterly unique. Plucky heroine Kat has the power to shift gravity at will. Changing which way is down at a moment's 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 traversal, there's a wealth of charm in the chipper cast. An episodic mission structure keeps you constantly guessing as to what will happen next between battles with the jelly-monster Nevi that escalate from hand-to-hand combat to kicking building-sized bosses. Gravity Rush was the first Vita-only IP to truly blow us away and it still does.
Combining the clean, bright hues of Guacamelee's aesthetic with ghastly monster design, Severed's gorgeous, 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 armor, 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.
1. Persona 4 Golden
Persona 4 Golden is one of the deepest, most engrossing RPGs in history and its best incarnation is on the PS Vita. Far more than a dusted-off port of 2008's Persona 4, Golden uses the PS2 version as a springboard to launch an extended adventure replete with new characters, demons to pummel, personas to master, and stories to unravel.
When you aren't tuning in to uniquely themed dungeons in a secret TV world to thwart a serial 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. Persona 4 is a PS Vita system seller all on its own.