The PlayStation Vita was a failure. We’re using “was” because, for all intents and purposes, it’s a dead system thanks to terrible support from its creators, who announced that they would be ceasing all production of the handheld in 2019 after quietly distancing themselves from it over the years. The downfall of the Vita has as much to do with Sony’s reluctance to push it as hard as they should have as anything else.
However, and this might come as a surprise to you, but now is probably the best time to pick up a PlayStation Vita. It shifted enough units to ensure that there will always be plenty of options on eBay for well under $100 as well as the fact that the best PlayStation Vita games might already be sat in your library waiting for you thanks to cross-buy: a program that allows you to download a game across multiple Sony platforms for one price. If you’ve been adding PlayStation Plus games to your library over the years, you may be surprised at just how many Vita games are waiting for you.
Away from those titles, the Vita also certainly isn’t lacking in quality games that you can’t find anywhere else. Sure, they may have all come in one relatively short burst, but the PlayStation Vita’s best games made full use of the handheld’s power, which was above and beyond its contemporaries on the market at the time. Heck, there are even some maniacs still releasing new Vita games after all this time.
So, if you’ve ever been curious about Sony’s forgotten child or just want to freshen up your handheld library, here are the PlayStation Vita games you should check out, ranging from throwback indies to the JRPG that will consume everything within your life.
2064 is a great example of some games just being a great fit on the Vita. A point and click title with a more than steady cult following, it pits you as a journalist who is trying to do their job in a world that seems split on technology, the pros and the cons. This is all relayed through the game’s spirited humor and bloody lovely pixel visuals, though it does have a few drawbacks on the Vita.
While those who are after some grand, challenging affair will be left wanting, 2064 excels in the small stories concerning the game’s many affable characters. It’s an eclectic bunch all paired wonderfully with established names in voice acting. Combine that with a good heart and some very catchy music and you have a quaint but worthwhile time waiting for you on your Vita.
19. Axiom Verge
Developer: Thomas Happ Games LLC Publisher: Thomas Happ Games LLC Cross-Buy: Yes
Completely unabashed about taking inspiration from Metroid, Axiom Verge has become a cult favourite indie not just because it’s the next best thing to a brand new 2D Samus adventure, but also because it builds and contemporises the experience while also delivering plenty of unique mechanics and innovations of its own.
Made presumably during a heavy binge on hallucinogenic drugs, Axiom Verge sees you playing as a scientist who awakens somewhere that feels entirely alien. By unlocking new abilities and even deforming the world around you, you’ll get utterly lost in this LSD nightmare that’s a total dream to play on your Vita.
Developer: Moppin Publisher: Devolver Digital Cross-Buy: Yes
If you haven’t owned Downwell on at least one platform, you really ought to fix that as it’s one of the smoothest action platformers going. You may actually be saving yourself, though: it’s so addictive despite being so basic on the eye that you will be cursing frogs and gravity before too long, completely unable to make it past the first few levels.
While Downwell is tough, it retains a pick up and play appeal that’s hard to resist. You effectively fall your way down through levels and kill enemies with your trusted Gunboots to eventually reach the end goal with plenty of power-ups along the way.
Its levels are procedurally generated and the replayability infinite, so there’s a hell of a lot of bang for your buck. Technically, two: Downwell is also really on the cheap side.
“Pound-for-pound (or dollar-for-dollar), Downwell is one of the Switch’s best games in its price bracket and just generally one of the system’s best games, which applies to every system that Downwell has appeared on to date. “
Developer: Joakim Sandberg Publisher: Bifrost Entertainment Cross-Buy: Yes
A game many, many years in the making owing to just how difficult it is to make a game when you’re mostly on your lonesome, Iconoclasts feels remarkably fresh and modern despite being in the oven for so long and doffing its hat to the SNES platformers of old.
Where Iconoclasts really comes into its own is in in its mechanic, erm, mechanic. Your protagonist, Robin, has use of a wrench which can be used to attack enemies but also solve puzzles, as well as many other trinkets down the line.
With an intriguing and subtly dystopian storyline as well as welcome periods of levity, Iconoclasts may be one of the last great games to release on the Vita.
16. Shovel Knight
Developer: Yacht Club Games Publisher: Yacht Club Games Cross-Buy: Yes
One of the first games to really embrace the retro revolution on modern platforms, Shovel Knight looks and plays every inch the Nintendo classic, just with a bit more welcome silliness in the fact that your protagonist has a shovel. Hey, at least nobody can say that its name is misleading as you spike downwards and dig your enemies an early grave,
For featuring a tonne of extra content and somehow still giving back to its audience so long after its release, Shovel Knight feels completely at home on the Vita. It’s a tough time, though you should come to expect that from basically any retro-styled platformer. Dig this one up in your PlayStation Store library and lose yourself for hours on end.
15. Super Meat Boy
Developer: Team Meat Publisher: Team Meat Cross-Buy: Yes
One of the most influential indie games of all time feels right at home on the Vita, its infuriatingly tight platforming the perfect antidote for your constipation while you’re sat on the toilet. That “just one more try” appeal has made it a classic and comes with cross-save so you can continue your anguish on the go.
So why’s it so low down? It’s really not the best way to experience the game, the Vita sticks not quite fine enough to make the inch perfect leaps you’d find on a controller. Still, that’s something for you to acclimate to and overcome on your quest to beat the meat in what is one of the simplest but most devilishly addictive games ever made.
Developer: DrinkBox Studios Publisher: DrinkBox Studios Cross-Buy: No
You may be more familiar with DrinkBox’s Severed as a Nintendo title after seeing it pop up on the 3DS, Wii U and later the Switch, but it actually began life as a Vita exclusive. As with so many games that were originally only available on the handheld, however, it had to find a new home to reach the audience it deserved.
Beautiful to look at and with a heart that cannot be denied, Severed pits you as a a warrior lost in an unusual world. You must use the touchscreen to attack your enemies and sever their limbs, which gives the game a strange but entirely welcome vibe of Fruit Ninja meets Dead Space. A really underrated dungeon crawler from a studio who always delivers.
13. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom Cross-Buy: No
Really, the ability to pit Deadpool against Viewtiful Joe from the palm of your hands should be enough to sell you on picking up Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for your Vita, not even considering the fact that many believe it be the best Marvel vs. Capcom game on the market. Well, it’s certainly better than Infinite, but that’s a low bar indeed.
The gameplay transfers wonderfully to the Vita, the cel-shaded visuals make everything pop just as much on the small screen as it would the big. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 also makes good use of the Vita’s touch-screen, though nothing can match the “conventional” controls.
The cult classic Metroidvania suplexed its way on to the Vita and then promptly into our hearts. While its sequel may mechanically be a better game, there’s no faulting the original Guacamelee!’s goofy humour and downplayed but stunning visuals. Guacamelee! is the perfect game for a train ride, hitting that perfect spot between being long enough to last and not so short that it ends so soon — the perfect pick me up.
There’s also a lot of replayability with Guacamelee! thanks to just how damn endearing it is to play. The protagonist, Juan, a terribly out of shape luchador, is a likeable protagonist, but a lot of the fun from the game comes from the interactions with the hilarious bad guys and even chickens.
Bursting with secrets and tidy combat, Guacamelee! is yours for a pittance and worth every penny.
Developer: Tarsier Studios & Double 11 Publisher: SCEE Cross-Buy: No
Poor LittleBigPlanet. After initially setting the imaginations of gamers — young and old — alight when it first landed on the PlayStation 3, it eventually sputtered towards relative obscurity by the time LittleBigPlanet 3 came around. It’s a shame because the experience is like a shot of joy straight to the heart, seen perfectly with its Vita version.
LittleBigPlanet on the Vita (or LittleBigPlanet PS Vita to give it its official name) took what had made the series so charming and minimised it for a handheld. Almost boundless creativity awaits you with touch controls spicing up the formula, as well as the fact that it’s a potentially bottomless well of content and possibilities.