The PlayStation Vita is a fascinating little machine. Commercially a complete failure in the west, the powerful handheld is nonetheless adored by thousands of fans who have embraced it as the go-to console for quirky indie titles and a plethora of JRPGs.
I’d personally consider the PS Vita to be the best handheld console on the market, and it’s a shame to see it struggle in a rapidly changing landscape. A lot of this can be attributed back to how Sony initially marketed the console, along with some utterly baffling hardware decisions (proprietary memory cards, really?) – but that’s a conversation for another time. For now, in no particular order, let’s take a look at my ten favourite PS Vita titles.
Handheld gaming is at its best when presented with a title built for short, quick gaming sessions. Enter Hotline Miami. Initially armed with just your bare knuckles, the top-down arcade title sees you infiltrating nightclubs and apartment buildings with only one goal; kill everyone. Multiple kills in quick succession lead to combo points, lending itself to endless replayability as you unlock more weapons and masks for special bonus abilities. It’s violence will give the folks over at Daily Mail a hernia, but at its heart lies simple, pure gameplay that will keep you coming back for more.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Visual novels have found a comfortable home on the PS Vita, but the most famous and beloved (certainly my most beloved) is the first in the Danganronpa series. You play as Makoto Naegi, who wakes up within the walls of Hope’s Peak Academy, along with fourteen ‘ultimate’ students. They find themselves at the mercy of Monokuma, a psychotic teddy bear who keeps the students captive until one can successfully kill another without being found out. Much of its gameplay is similar to Ace Attorney as you work to solve each murder case, with wonderfully unique characters keeping you locked into the unfolding narrative.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
What can be said about Metal Gear Solid that hasn’t already been touched upon? The HD Collection on PS Vita houses both Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The omission of Peace Walker is unfortunate, but there’s enough stealth action here to satisfy Metal Gear veterans and newcomers. The gameplay has been tweaked to fit the handheld perfectly, with inventory management moved to the touch screen. Everything else remains untouched from their home console siblings, bringing a narrative tour de force that can only be made possible by Metal Gear’s creator, Hideo Kojima. Sorry, Konami.
Metroid fans everywhere have been tragically neglected in recent years, with no new 2D outing from Samus in over a decade. Thanks to the efforts of lone game developer Thomas Happ, Axiom Verge arrived to ease the wait with a beautiful homage that can stand proud alongside ‘Metroidvania’ greats such as Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Utilising modern pixellated graphics and some truly bonkers weapons, traversing the colourful maze is an absolute joy.
Persona 4 Golden
The crowning jewel for most Vita owners, Persona 4 Golden is a sprawling adventure with some incredibly intimate moments. School students Yosuke, Chie and Yukiko head up a truly relatable cast of characters, who investigate local town murders whilst tackling their own fractured psyches within the mysterious TV world. It’s a traditional JRPG at its core, but much of the game’s enjoyment stems from the relationships built with the town’s population, from the protagonist’s uptight uncle Ryotaro to the trombone playing Ayane. Clocking at well over 70 hours, it’s a huge game that will consume your free time. Enjoy!
A late bloomer for the Vita, Severed is the perfect example of how to effectively utilise touch screen gameplay. You control Sasha, a one-armed warrior searching for her family in a beautiful but dangerous world. Set entirely in the first-person, you traverse a multitude of dungeons filled with truly nightmarish beasts. Upon encountering enemies, your weapon is your finger. Swiping across the screen with accurate, successive gestures is key to victory as you figure out each monster’s weakness. Simple to pick up yet devilishly difficult to master, Severed is the perfect dungeon crawler for the handheld.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
Often overlooked by fans of the Naughty Dog series, Bend Studio’s handheld take on Uncharted is a fully fledged Nathan Drake adventure through and through. From traversing crumbling buildings to tense shootouts, it’s all here. One of the few PS Vita launch titles, it is still one of the best examples of what the little handheld can accomplish, with gorgeous graphics and superb use of the front and back touch panels.
Developer Mike Bithell has become somewhat of a legend among the indie gaming scene, and it’s no wonder. Volume is heavily inspired by Metal Gear Solid, but manages to stand proud on its own as a fun, tense stealth experience. Similar to Metal Gear’s VR missions, the game is broken into small, bite size levels littered with obstacles and guards that protagonist Robert Locksley must navigate through without being seen. Complimented with the voice over talent of Andy Serkis, it’s the perfect arcade game for the PS Vita.
Following on from the success of Little Big Planet on PlayStation 3, British developer Media Molecule took a big gamble on the PS Vita, creating a platform game that creatively utilises every unique feature of the handheld. You can help cute protagonist Iota/Atoi through the adventure by poking your fingers into the game world via the back touch panel, or taking photos of real life objects to create unique textures for the game’s many varied NPCs. It’s truly a game like no other, and despite since crossing over to the PlayStation 4, it is certainly best played as originally intended on the PS Vita.
OlliOllie 2: Welcome to Olliwood
With the added bonus of sounding like my own name, Olliolli 2 closest out this top ten list. Boasting an incredibly simplistic gameplay hook, it quickly draws you into its addictive high scoring nature. You will quickly master the art of kickflips, manuals and grinds as you rack up millions of points in in each of the vibrant levels. Be careful though-you may be tempted to launch your precious Vita across the room after bailing a lengthy combo.
So there you have it! A small sample of some of the top quality games found on the PlayStation Vita. What are you favourites? Let me know in the comments below.