The 10 Best Games for Playstation Vita on the PSN Store You Simply Have to Play
I can never quite understand why Sony never backed the PlayStation Vita. The idea of a portable PlayStation console clearly appealed to people (the PSP had sold close to 80 million units by 2012) and with the rise of digital games and a better equipped and implemented PSN, it could and should have shone.
Underappreciated by gamers and eventually unsupported by PlayStation first-party studios, the system now carries a cult-like status. When PlayStation originally announced that the PS Vita store was to be shuttered there was widespread shock, outrage and sadness from a community that had championed the PlayStation handheld. Many of them weren’t day one adopters, but all of them had discovered their own niche within the handheld’s expansive library.
This outpouring of support thankfully forced a U-turn from PlayStation, and shone a little more light on the lowly Vita for just a little while and piqued some interest from fans.
Alas, the cheap Vitas on eBay are all but a memory in 2021. However, if you do have the cash or one of these wonderful bits of kit sitting in a drawer at home you may want to take a look at this definitive* list — 10 games that you need to own if you have a PlayStation Vita.
*I say definitive, but this is coming from the guy who left InFamous: Festival of Blood off his PS3 ‘must-haves’ list. All these games are good though, trust me.
Before we get started with the list in full, there’s a number of honourable mentions that have to be made. Ten games does not a complete library make, and the PlayStation Vita has a library full of indie-gems and PlayStation classics to go alongside the ten excellent games in this list.
Games like Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection, which brings Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater — two of the greatest games ever made — to a handheld system can’t be forgotten. And if you’re looking for PlayStation history then the Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, and Sly Cooper collections all need to be mentioned as well. The likes of Undertale, Spelunky, Papers, Please and Guacamelee! made the PlayStation Vita a portable indie powerhouse long before Nintendo gave us the ability to Switch. PlayStation Studios delivered its own Monster Hunter-like in Freedom Wars, which sat equally with more esoteric titles like music-making platformer Sound Shapes and the pulsing throwback that is TxK. There are also all the PSP games you can play on it — but that’s a separate list altogether.
10. Hotline Miami | Developer: Dennaton Games, Devolver Digital
Before the Nintendo Switch, the PlayStation Vita was king of the portable indie game machines and Hotline Miami is the perfect game to demonstrate that. An almost instant classic, the Vita release also became the definitive version for a while thanks to its enhanced control scheme and additional features.
The fast-paced, fluid combat requires the player to be both quick and methodical at the same time, as one wrong move will have you killed. A top-down, ultra-violent delight of a game, you could play far worse titles on your commute.
Plus, this was the Vita game that we saw being played during The Last of Us: Part II. It had to be on this list.
9. Wipeout 2048 | Developer: Studio Liverpool
One of the standout titles in a stacked lineup from the launch of the PlayStation Vita, Wipeout 2048 delivers all of the fast-paced, frenetic fun of Wipeout on the go.
Whilst the franchise never quite found its feet on home consoles after its original PlayStation heyday — I’d love a Wipeout game on PlayStation 5, wouldn’t you? — it took both of Sony’s handhelds by storm. Of those, Wipeout 2048 is by far the best of the bunch and even today is a blast of an arcade racer with plenty to keep you going.
Alas, the online multiplayer modes are a thing of the past (hence why it’s only at number 9 on this list), but there’s still plenty under the hood here.
8. Uncharted: Golden Abyss | Developer: Bend Studio
Speaking of Vita launch titles — launching the Vita with an Uncharted game was a huge statement of intent. However, in hindsight, it proved to be a bit of a gift and a curse. Whilst it was evidence that the Vita could do console-like / console-lite experiences on the go, it set the bar to a point that Sony rarely if ever reached again and almost became the stick to beat the handheld (and Sony’s lack of support) with.
All of that aside, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a solid side story starring Nathan Drake and Sully, on yet another adventure that goes awry. Although there are a few touch-based gimmicks thrown in here, this is a full-length Uncharted adventure that plays really well on the PlayStation Vita.
All of the pulpy action you’d expect from an Uncharted game is present and correct and, although it is rarely acknowledged in the series’ wider canon, I think it’s a must-play for fans of the series.
7. Luftrausers | Developer: Vlambeer
When I think about ‘hidden gems’, this game is one of the first that springs to mind. A shining example of the depth of the Vita’s vast array of indie offerings, Luftrausers is a game that you won’t be able to put down.
Delivered in a two-colour vintage package, Vlambeer’s game is old school arcade fun meets rogue-like replayability. And what begins as a nostalgic shoot 'em up quickly descends into a frantic fight for survival.
Upgrading your airship as you go with new weapons, hulls and engines affects both how you play and the excellent soundtrack by Jukio "Kozilek" Kallio. It might also be available on PC and consoles, but Luftrausers is a perfect pick up and play game that you can play for five minutes or five hours and still have tons of fun with.
6. LittleBigPlanet PS Vita | Developer: Double Eleven, Tarsier Studios, XDev
Whilst Media Molecule were hard at work on Tearaway — more on that in a moment — the crafted world of LittleBigPlanet was brought to life on the Vita away from Sony’s most inventive first-party studio. However, this littler edition of LittleBigPlanet may actually be the best in the series.
Much like Wipeout from earlier in the list, LittleBigPlanet never quite managed to reach the heights that the original game in the series promised on home consoles. However, it’s a perfect fit for the Vita.
Sackboy’s bite-sized platforming adventure worked perfectly on the handheld, with individual levels and steady checkpointing making it perfect for playing on the go. The use of the Vita’s hardware was impressive too, with interaction possible using the touch screen as well as traditional controls. This also worked heavily in the favour of creation — a huge part of the LBP series — with the additional tools from LittleBigPlanet 2 included and the additional touch controls allowing for levels to be created in a fun and interactive way.
Finally, any hardcore LittleBigPlanet fans who downloaded costumes and other content from the PSN could have access to them here too, alongside all of the levels created in the first two games.
LittleBigPlanet was at home on the PlayStation Vita, I just wish we’d seen more of it.
5. Tearaway | Developer: Media Molecule
With LittleBigPlanet handed over to other studios, and before Dreams was a glimmer in Alex Evans’ eye, Media Molecule set about developing a brand new title specifically for the PlayStation Vita. Like many stand-out PS Vita exclusives, it did eventually find its way onto the PlayStation 4. However, the original experience is certainly the more engaging.
Sony’s second handheld boasts a back touch pad, front and back cameras, gyroscopes and a touch screen and Tearaway used all of that tech and built a papercraft platformer out of it. Putting the player at the core of the story, you play god and help the envelope-headed Messenger navigate the world of Valleyfold through a series of platforming challenges.
The level of invention here is pretty astounding, with almost every facet of the Vita accounted for. The way Media Molecule has implemented the Vita hardware is almost the sole reason it’s on this list. However, Tearaway is very much a solid platformer in its own right as well and one that I wholeheartedly recommend you play here.
4. Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir | Developer: Vanillaware
Whilst another late PS2-era remaster often dominates lists like this one — and might well show up later — Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is also in for a shout as ‘best Atlus published game on PlayStation Vita’.
A heavily revamped version of Vanillaware’s cult classic action RPG, Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir is practically a whole new game. It’s got a whole new combat system, additional enemies have been added, and there’s a raft of quality of life changes to help streamline the experience. Playing through the story as five different characters, there’s a lot to get in here but it’s all handled incredibly well. What’s more, it also looks incredible with the game’s beautiful visuals really popping — especially when viewed on the original Vita model’s OLED screen.
This is the definitive version of Odin Sphere, and the PlayStation Vita may be the best place to play. It looks and runs just as well as its PS4 counterpart with the added ability to play this lengthy RPG on the go.
3. Killzone: Mercenary | Developer: Guerrilla Games
Yet another attempt from PlayStation to prove that ‘console quality’ games could be played on the Vita, Killzone Mercenary actually goes some way to making a game that works on a handheld and plays to the strengths of the system. Those efforts mean this doesn’t just feel like an afterthought, and is actually the only great first-person shooter on the system — something that people were crying out for with the addition of dual analog sticks.
Whilst Guerrilla Games might be better known for Horizon: Zero Dawn these days, Killzone was the studio’s bread and butter in 2013. The shooter was a would-be flagship for PlayStation, relying on graphical prowess as much as solid gameplay. Therefore, the fact Killzone: Mercenary manages to capture the look and feel of a proper Killzone game is astonishing. However, unlike a typical shooter campaign, there’s an added emphasis on experimentation and replayability. Each completed mission will earn you money to upgrade your arsenal and heading back into a mission with a new gun and a new approach is always fun. It’s a philosophy that lends itself well to handheld gaming whilst not reducing the overall quality of the game.
There's also an added incentive for Killzone fans to play, as the story of Mercenary often runs parallel to that of the core series and seeing them from the perspective of the titular gun for hire offers plenty of opportunity for twists and turns. And although it looks a little rough around the edges now, it was a bit of a marvel to look at when it launched in 2013.
Somewhat surprisingly, the multiplayer servers for the game are still online at the time of writing as well, giving players even more to do. However, with reports that they had been shut down circulating in 2020 (per TheSixthAxis), playing with friends using PSN may be a feature that is soon lost.
2. Severed | Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Few indie developers supported the PlayStation Vita like Drinkbox. The studio behind hits like Guacamelee, Mutant Blobs Attack and the forthcoming Nobody Saves The World (an Xbox and PC exclusive), put so much support behind Sony’s handheld and even made this version the flagship.
A dungeon-crawling action adventure game puts you in control of Sasha, a one-armed warrior who must explore a cavernous dungeon and defeat enemies with precision — severing their limbs for the most effective results.
Deeper than expected, beautifully weird, and taking advantage of the Vita’s touch screen incredibly well, it's a prime example of the kind of brilliant games that only ever reached the most hardcore of PlayStation fans.
1. Persona 4: Golden | Developer: Atlus
Sing it with me — “Every day’s great at your Junes!”
Persona 4: Golden is the reason that so many people own a Vita today. An overhaul of the critically acclaimed (very) late PlayStation 2 release, this dungeon-crawling JRPG has since been ported to the PC. However, I’d argue that this game is best played on a Vita.
Boasting a weird but wonderful story and a whole cast of characters that will stick with you forever. It also has that X-factor of being equally playable in short chunks or for hours on end — perfect for a handheld. Never have I had more enjoyable commutes than when I played Persona 4: Golden on the train to work. I’ve also never missed my stop more either, so that’s an unfortunate side effect.
Persona 4: Golden is the surprise killer app for the PlayStation Vita. It’s not the first game that springs to mind when Sony (over)promised the handheld would play ‘console quality’ games, but it’s the one game in the library that will live longest in the memory. It’s also the best rated PS Vita game of all time on Metacritic.
Exceptional upon release and still mighty fine today, this should absolutely be added to your PlayStation handheld library.
The PlayStation Vita really is an unbelievable system marred by a lack of support and a series of ‘what if?’ — or, more accurately, ‘if only’ — moments. However, the notion that there are no games for it is simply absurd.
Can you find many of the games in the PS Vita library on your PlayStation 5, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch? Sure. However, for many the Vita remains the indie game machine, the way to relive pieces of PlayStation history, the home for visual novels, the place to play addictive puzzlers, or how you play eighty-hour JRPGs on the way to work.
It’s a system that is criminally underrated — as much by Sony as it is by video game fans — with a selection of games more far-reaching than many will realise. I hope this list goes some way to showcase that.
You can subscribe to Jump Chat Roll on your favourite podcast players including:
Let us know in the comments if you enjoyed this podcast, and if there are any topics you'd like to hear us tackle in future episodes!