While the PS Vita was a critical success thanks to some innovative design features and forward-thinking compatibility with the PS4, it wasn’t the financial blockbuster that Sony was hoping for. Selling 18 million units through its run, the PS Vita had an OLED screen long before Nintendo upgraded its Switch console with the better display technology, it paired well with the PS4 for remote play, and it had a gaming library to be proud of.
With the PS Vita’s online store almost being shut down this year, it’s another reminder to grab some titles from that console’s digital market before it’s too late. Sony’s pocket gaming machine had a terrific variety on offer, and if you’re pondering which games to grab with one of those devices for a recently-retro collection of classics, our top 10 list of the best PlayStation Vita games should help sway your opinion. We’ve arranged these in alphabetical order and excluded some of the Vita’s (admittedly awesome) collections from consideration. But yes, it’s still very cool that Ratchet & Clank, Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper, and Metal Gear games could be played on the go.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy HavocDanganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
If you’ve ever pondered causing some mayhem, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a fascinating examination of just how far some people are willing to go when they reach their breaking point. The setup itself was simple, pulling from The Hunger Games and Battle Royale to establish its core plot. Trapped in an abandoned building with 15 other students, the only way out of the makeshift prison is to kill another student and avoid being found guilty of the crime.
Playing out across a heavy story of betrayal, guilt, and a deep examination of the human psyche, the game’s intricate plot mixes fast reflexes with sharp decision-making, rhythm games, and trials that reveal shocking truths about the cast. Even with its grim subject matter, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc still has a surprisingly optimistic tone, relatable characters, and striking visuals that stand out on the PS Vita.
Read our Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc review.
Gravity RushGravity Rush
Breaking the laws of physics with enough reckless abandon to draw the attention of an Isaac Newton-sponsored police force, Gravity Rush is a joy to play thanks to how well it uses its core idea of gravity manipulation. Japan Studio’s action-adventure game cast players as Kat, a manipulator of gravitational forces who could fall into enemies by shifting gravity’s direction and make herself light as a feather to soar through the skies and streets of Hekseville.
A killer app on a console that had no shortage of certified classics available on it over the years, Gravity Rush is a joyous celebration of power that still looks great almost a decade later. If you know anyone with a PS Vita, chances are high that this game has a treasured spot in their collection. A remastered port was released on PS4, and Gravity Rush 2 is also worth playing.
Read our Gravity Rush review.
Hotline MiamiHotline Miami
The perfect just-one-more-turn game that expertly balanced frustratingly challenging levels with the euphoria of a single perfect run, Hotline Miami still stands tall as a weird and memorable rush of blood to the head years after it was first released. Lo-fi visuals captured the intoxicating lure of ultra-violence and reckless bravado needed to survive each level, with the entire game feeling like a lengthy extension of Tony Montana’s final drug-fueled stand in Scarface dialed up to 11.
Relentlessly addictive and a white-knuckle ride from start to finish, this is one game on the PS Vita where it’s a good idea to make certain that your wrist strap is tightly secured lest you fling your console through a wall after yet another run gone bad.
Read our Hotline Miami review.
Lumines Electronic SymphonyLumines Electric Symphony
Lumines first appeared on the PlayStation Portable, and by the time it was ready to bring its signature sound-based puzzle gameplay to the PS Vita, it had picked up a few new tricks along the way. Developer Q Entertainment had once again blended style with some of the catchiest electronic music on the planet, while also utilizing the PS Vita touchscreen to improve on the original gameplay with tactile enhancements. The new Voyage mode was a challenge that would take any Lumines veteran to the limit, while the multiplayer’s ad-hoc nature made for intensely beautiful sessions of addictive audio and visual beauty.
Read our Lumines Electronic Symphony review.
Persona 4 GoldenPersona 4 Golden
The Persona series has long been one of the best JRPG series in gaming, with the last few years shining a new light on the Atlus-developed games that have exploded in popularity thanks to titles such as Persona 5 and Persona Strikers. Persona 4 Golden still holds a special place in the hearts and minds of fans, as this enhanced version of the PS2 gem took the existing mechanics and story and mightily improved them to make the definitive version of this grand adventure.
For many years, it was solely available on the PS Vita and anyone fortunate enough to have played that masterpiece of flexible combat, challenging dungeons, and brilliantly written characters, had a well-earned smirk on their faces for a time. When Persona 4: Golden eventually came to PC, it became not only a surprise hit on that platform but also changed Sega’s approach to how it traditionally rolled out games from Atlus around the world. A thoughtful and engaging mystery that keeps you enthralled, Persona 4 Golden’s tale is a lengthy RPG of exceptional quality.
Read our Persona 4 Golden review.
DrinkBox Studios made a name for itself on the PS Vita with games such as Tales from Space and Guacamelee, and Severed was no different. Telling a rich story of a young girl tracking down her missing family by carving a bloody path through nightmarish monsters, the game’s controls made fun use of the PS Vita touchscreen. By swiping the screen, players could deliver deadly slashes on monsters, or tap at the right time to counter an attack and respond with devastating damage to anything unlucky enough to be caught in the way of protagonist Sasha’s fury.
Like other games from the developer, Severed also looked terrific, combining its deep finger-flexing gameplay with visuals that were distinctively horrifying. It’s an old-school dungeon crawler with modern flourishes.
Read our Severed review.
It wasn’t exclusive to the PS Vita, but Spelunky was easily best enjoyed on Sony’s handheld system when it first arrived in 2013. On the surface, Spelunky is an compelling roguelike that combines platforming with a brutal challenge. It wasn’t unusual for a typical Spelunky run to last around five minutes before a player made one mistake that sent them back to the start of the labyrinth, and for the Vita, that makes the game a perfect portable experience of incredible highs and lows.
Also worth praising is the co-op factor, as Spelunky’s crossplay functionality expanded on the game’s core idea and opened the doors for wild and hilarious predicaments. Risk-reward dynamics at their finest, the best version of Spelunky called the PS Vita its home when it arrived on that system all those years ago. Spelunky remains one of the best roguelikes ever made all these years later. It’s the type of experience that can make you fall in love with the genre.
Read our Spelunky review.
Not too many games have given players almost unlimited power within the confines of their digital worlds, but Tearaway is one of the few exceptions to the rule, as players were literally capable of tearing down the barriers between the virtual and real worlds. While you were still playing as a sentient envelope on a mission to reach the sun, at the same time you were also the daytime star, your face attached to the celestial orb through the magic of the PS Vita’s front-facing camera.
The paper-thin building blocks gave way to a traditional 3D platformer with clever and colorful level design that felt unique thanks to every technical aspect of the PS Vita being used to its maximum potential. With a distinctly British attitude courtesy of Little Big Planet developer Media Molecule, Tearaway is still a unique feat of fantastic puzzles, fun platforming, and a distinctive art style.
Read our Tearaway review.
Jeff Minter’s TxK was essentially a reinvention of the tube-shooter Tempest series but, more importantly, it was also the concept polished to a degree of near-perfection. Rolling around the infinite expanse of space and annihilating anything in your path, TxK’s simplicity looked like a mind-trip on the PS Vita’s bright screen, while the soundtrack that blasted out from the speakers was a foot-tapping collection of tunes that complemented the escalating action in front of you.
A trippy and visually busy merger of psychedelic action, TxK was an instant classic when it landed, and legal issues eventually limited its release and led to Tempest 4000.
Read our TxK review.
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last RewardZero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
Adventure games found a comfortable niche on the PS Vita, and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward was a standout example thanks to its combination of devious puzzles, fascinating characters, and a prison break theme that required making hard decisions. With plot twists rolling in hard and fast, the follow-up to Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors was an engrossing mix of visual novel storytelling and puzzle rooms that would leave you scratching your scalp bloody as you looked for a solution, all of which was helped along by an interface that vastly improved on 999’s systems.
For fans of quality storytelling, Zero Escape was a benchmark for its genre on the PS Vita as it weaved its sci-fi and horror themes into a hidden gem of thrills and chills.
Read our Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward review.