The 12 Best Games For The PlayStation Vita

The 12 Best Games For The PlayStation Vita
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The PlayStation Vita is something of an oddity — a pricy, powerful portable gaming console adrift in a sea of smartphones, touchscreen controls and inexpensive app-store games. All the same, we have a fondness for Sony’s beefy handheld, and the many unusual games you can play on it.

The Vita gives us a handheld machine with sticks, touch panels, lots of buttons, lots of online features and, oh yeah, graphical horsepower like we’ve never seen before in a gaming handheld. It lets you stream PS4 games remotely, which can actually work really well under the right circumstances. It also allows you to download and play select PSP games, the best of which sit comfortably next to their higher-resolution Vita brothers and sisters.

So, what must you play on this thing? Start with these games.

Unimaginable on any other platform and busting with imagination, Tearaway is a Vita dream come true. At its most basic, the game is a basic 3D platformer set in a world that appears to be made of construction paper. The trick is that the people of this world appear to be aware of you. They can see you, thanks to the Vita’s front-facing camera streaming a feed of your face into their world as their sun. They can feel the impact of your fingers as your forefinger and middle finger can tap the rear of the system to poke through their terrain. This game is wonderfully like nothing else.

A Good Match For: Fans of development studio Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet games and for fans of Instagram. This game basically has its own in-game version of the popular photo-modifying app.

Not a Good Match For: Grumpy people who don’t like cute stuff.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Gravity Rush is a delight, an open-world adventure game built around a truly new-feeling mechanic. The protagonist Kat is able to re-orient gravity, letting her fall in any direction. It’s something of a mix between falling and flying, and it makes the game a uniquely disorienting, highly enjoyable experience. Combine those mechanical smarts with a wonderfully imaginative, fun story, lush visuals, gorgeous art design and a dizzy, grand soundtrack and you’ve got a real winner for the PSVita.
A Good Match For: Crackdown and Infamous fans, people who like their games to look and play differently, jazz-heads.

Not a Good Match For: Those who want familiar mechanics, deep and involved combat.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from the PlayStation Store

“Waiter, I’d like a large order of high school drama with a side… of
murder.” That’s Danganronpa for you, a high school social simulator/murder mystery that combines elements of Phoenix Wright, Clue, Persona and Battle Royale into a pulpy stew of bloody entertainment. This is the first time we’ve collapsed two games into a single entry on The Bests, but considering that both games, Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair came out in the same year and tell two halves of a complete story, we feel ok about it. Monokuma agrees. Puhuhu…

A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a fun story to occupy their time for the next 30-40 hours, anyone who likes the games/movies/manga listed in the description above.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for challenging gameplay — both games feature weird minigames that take place at various points in the story, but they’re mostly just linear visual novels that you slowly work your way through.

Read our reviews of the first and second games.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available Digitally From The PlayStation Store

Rymdkapsel is a real-time-strategy base-building game with a Tetris twist. It’s also all touch-screen, but don’t let that worry you. It’s still superb on Vita. The game’s Swedish developers call it “meditative space strategy.” It’s simple. Place odd-shaped floors of different colours on a plane in outer space. Command little rectangular men to farm on or work in these spaces to generate resources to build more spaces and feed more workers. Rally the little men to defend the base against alien invaders every so often. Survive and repeat.
This is a minimalist game, a stripping down of the real-time-strategy genre that went baroque with the visually and technically complex top franchises StarCraft and Company of Heroes. Rymdkapsel makes its more ornate competitors feel needlessly garnished.

A Good Match For: Gamers looking for a portable real-time-strategy game. There ain’t much to choose from, and this one has the bonus advantage of being good.

Not a Good Match For: Those who want a lot of action or complexity. This is a mellow game with a single unit-type and a handful of rooms to create. Players won’t be progressing through complex skill trees.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: PlayStation Store

Combining the PlayStation 3’s PixelJunk Shooter and PixelJunk Shooter 2, PJS Ultimate is a two-in-one pack of well-designed, great-looking and great-sounding 2D flying/shooting/rescuing games. You control a little craft that you fly through a series of caverns. Each area contains some people to rescue (use your grappling hook), creatures to kill (use your guns), gems to find (use your brain) and, coolest of all, some sort of incredibly-animated liquid: lava, water and weirder stuff. The fluids are the stars of the game, as they realistically splash, flow, deform, melt, and cool in ways that aren’t just special to see but affect gameplay. Both games were created by Q-Games, a Kyoto-based studio that use the Shooter games to demonstrate their mastery of tight, clever level design, one cavern at a time.

A Good Match For: People looking for something hand-crafted and focused, a break from modern gaming’s indulgence in open worlds or randomly-generated levels. Play this pair of games to experience the delightful sort of conversation, as it were, that a game designer can have with their player, one full of surprises, teases, challenges and solutions. Co-op is an option.

Not a Good Match For: Those looking for a Vita original (you might have this on PS3) nor for those looking for a more rapid-fire shoot-em-up, which this is not.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally from the PlayStation store.

It should not feel this cool to brutally murder people, but that may well be Hotline Miami‘s entire point. The top-down killfest would be fun with the sound turned off, but the astoundingly good soundtrack elevates things to a different, more disturbingly stylish level.

The game made a big splash on PC, and for a while, mouse-control seemed like the only worthwhile fit for its brand of extremely fast, unforgiving action. But Hotline Miami works surprisingly well with the Vita’s controls, thanks in part to the ability to tag enemies for locked-on shots, which lets you plan each room-assault with a bit more precision. Groovy, disturbing, disgusting, and worryingly satisfying, Hotline Miami is one of the Vita’s most potent, darkly enjoyable games.

A Good Match For: Fans of exploitation cinema, old-school twitchy action fans, perfectionists, sociopaths.

Not A Good Match For: The weak-stomached, those who don’t like violence, people who want a forgiving game and/or hate electronic music.

Watch it in action.

Purchase from: PlayStation Store

Possibly the best modern roguelike around, Spelunky is a platformer where you take a whip, a lasso, bombs, and whatever you find along the way in an attempt to go as deep as possible into randomly-generated ancient caves. The reason? Treasure, of course. Think of yourself as a cute version of Indiana Jones. While the game has appeared on other platforms, it feels at home on the Vita — Spelunky is devilishly hard and holds many secrets about the way its world and creatures work. Players can expect to die countless times as they learn how to get around. One run might last 30 seconds, the next might last 15 minutes, and both might be completely different from one other — you’ll play in bursts, which is perfect for on-the-go gaming. With its randomly generated levels and new daily challenges, Spelunky is a game that will likely stay on your Vita for a good long while to come.

A Good Match For: Anyway with tenacity and a sense of wonder. The game is difficult, but it’s also fascinating — there are a ton of rules and mysteries to uncover, which is compounded by the fact that most of the game is procedurally generated.

Not a Good Match For: Players looking for a relaxed experience: Spelunky demands that you learn how to play well, else you’re not going to get very far.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally from the PlayStation Store

Japanese high school never seemed so much fun. Persona 4 Golden, a remake of the critically-acclaimed PlayStation 2 role-playing game, combines a social simulator and a hardcore RPG with surprisingly addictive results. Take midterms in the morning, eat steak with your girlfriend on the roof for lunch, then head to the mall after school to fight off shadow monsters in a dangerous world that exists inside televisions. Just another day in Persona 4‘s Japan.

A Good Match For: RPG fans who want something different than the standard fantasy or sci-fi fare, or Persona fans looking for a good excuse to replay the fourth one.

Not a Good Match For: Something short. Persona 4 Golden will take you something like 70-80 hours to beat — and that’s before you start New Game Plus.

Read our review.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: PlayStation Store

Virtue’s Last Reward is a visual novel — in other words, it’s mostly text — but don’t hold that against it. As you weave through the game’s narrative branches, you’ll do some things you could only do in a video game, and you’ll discover a story that could only be told in a video game. The hook: Nine people are trapped in a facility where they’re forced to participate in a twisted version of the prisoner’s dilemma, and… well, the less I tell you, the better.

A Good Match For: Anyone who likes good stories — particularly grisly ones.

Not a Good Match For: People who don’t like to read, or can’t stand anime-ish characters and voices.

Read our thoughts.

Watch it in action.

Maybe you played through Final Fantasy X and X-2 back in the day and want to relive them. Or maybe you’ve never played them. Either way, the remastered versions of both games find a fine new home on the Vita. They’re perfect for on-the-go play, and given both games’ generous lengths should keep you occupied on commutes for months to come. And is there a better way to experience FFX‘s endearingly awful voice acting than while wearing headphones on the bus? There is not.

A Good Match For: JRPG fans, Final Fantasy fans, Blitzball fans. (We’re not sure that last type of person exists.)

Not A Good Match For: JRPG haters, Final Fantasy haters.

Read our impressions of the new version.

Watch it in action.

Remember back when people thought a game needed realistic graphics with flashy characters to successfully convey a story with real heart and soul? Thomas Was Alone is proof that we were incredibly stupid back then. Using nothing more than coloured quadrilaterals, indie developer Mike Bithell created a challenging puzzle platformer that tells a story much larger than what you see on your Vita screen. Through clever narration and intelligent level design that’s one part obstacle course, one part character development, Thomas Was Alone has a warmth and depth that adds gentle curves to the sharp edges of its four-sided heroes.

A Good Match For: Platformer and puzzles fans with a healthy imagination, folks who think they’re so clever.

Not a Good Match For: Those who can’t relate to a platforming hero unless it has eyes, sunglasses and a sassy attitude.

Read our review of the PC version.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally from the PlayStation store.

Something is wrong with Isaac’s mum: She thinks that she can hear God. And God, disturbingly enough, has instructed her to kill Isaac. The only way Isaac can get out of that hellish situation is by jumping into his basement — which happens to be endless, and full of terrors. Thankfully, these demons can be defeated by directing Isaac’s tears, twin-stick shooter style, across Zelda-like dungeons. Well.. they’re like Zelda if Zelda was full of horrifying hellspawn, poop, and tons of mysterious items which you don’t know how to use…yet.

A Good Match For: Players who like a challenge, especially of the roguelike variety. A lot of the appeal with the Binding of Isaac is that it’s full of stuff you don’t grok the first time around.

Not A Good Match For: Players who are sensitive to gross stuff or jokes about religion, or people who are just looking to relax while playing a game.

Watch it in action.

Purchase From: Available digitally from the PlayStation store.

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Update 26/11/14: The Vita list gets a much needed update. We’ve cleared out LittleBigPlanet Vita, Super Stardust Delta, OlliOlli and Sound Shapes to make room for newcomers Final Fantasy X/X-2, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, PixelJunk Shooter Ultimate, and Danganronpa 1&2.

Update 5/3/2014: We’ve wrestled with a number of good recent Vita games, but only one has made it all the way to the list: The rail-grinding OlliOlli, which bumps off Assassin’s Creed: Liberation.

Update 10/12/13: With a new design overhaul for The Bests come a few new games: Need For Speed: Most Wanted, Rayman: Origins and FIFA Soccer leave to make room for Tearaway, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward and Spelunky.

Update 21/8/13: Vita price drop officially announced! Sony dropped the news at Gamescom yesterday, to the welcoming arms and ears of probably many gamers. If you were waiting for just this kind of news to hit before making your handheld hardware purchase, now is the time to check out what games you’ll want to get started with. We’ve made a few adjustments in light of the recent events, swapping in Hotline Miami, Rymdkapsel and Thomas Was Alone in place of Hot Shots Golf, Lumines and Where Is My Heart. Take a look at our new list below.

Update 12/11/12: The quality of titles available for Sony’s handheld keeps getting better so we’re refreshing the list of what we think are the best games for the PlayStation Vita. New to the Bests for Vita are: Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Need for Speed Most Wanted and Persona 4 Golden. Games that fell off the list include Mutant Blobs Attack, Wipeout 2048 and Escape Plan. They’re still good but their replacements are just a wee bit more impressive.

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods


  • No Muramasa or Dragon’s Crown..? And why need for speed and not Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing Transformed? That’s an amazing handheld racing game.

  • im sorry, but if that was the ‘best 12’ games for vita, im kinda glad I didn’t get one, not a great selection 🙁

    • So if you don’t have one, then you obviously haven’t played any of these. I have 6 of these 12 games on my system right now and love them : P4G, Hotline Miami, AC3 Liberation, Rayman Origins, NFS:MW and Soundshapes.

    • I have all of these games except Rymdkapsel and FIFA, and can say that they are great fun, and cater for most tastes. Notice there isn’t an FPS on there, though. Hopefully Killzone: Mercenaries will plug that gap. You don’t know what you are missing 🙂

  • I am with these guys^
    Dragons Crown (probably better on ps3 though)
    Soul Sacrafice
    Muramasa Rebirth
    Sly Cooper (probably better on ps3 though)
    Velocity Ultra
    Mutant Blobs Attack
    PS Allstars (probably better on ps3 though)

    Zero Escape: Virtues Last Reward. This is an overlooked title, its also on 3DS but i swear i never hear enough about people playing this game. Visual Novel/Puzzle Game it tells an amazing story & is one of my top vita games for sure.

  • That’s still a pretty baron looking list at any price. If I bought one I think it would be mostly for the downloadable back catalogue games.

    I think the biggest difference between the Nintendo handhelds and the PSP/Vita is that Nintendo has a better understanding of what people want in a mobile game and cater their experiences to suit. Most of their games a bright with large, simple colours and gameplay well suited difficult to see area’s and less than ideal control arrangements (ie not laid back on the couch with the lights off, a huge TV and both hands on a well designed controller).

    As someone who bought a PSP on day 1 (I don’t own a Vita) I feel like Sony and their 3rd parties continue to focus on aiming for the big-budget blockbuster when designing their major releases and it just doesn’t work as well on a handheld. The Assassins Creeds, Need for Speeds and Borderlands of the world are all wonderful games to play on the lounge but I (and most people by the looks of sales) don’t want to play them in all their high-res, fast moving glory while I’m squinting in the sunlight and crushed in a crowded train.

    Have a look at the big-budget 3DS releases over the past 2 years and you’ll find most of them would be included on a similar list of the top 12 games on 3DS. The Vita’s top 12 list is full of cheaper more “niche” games which try to do less than the big-budget action games and console reboots.

    • “That’s still a pretty baron looking list at any price.” ROFL sorry but amazing accidental usage there

    • Well, I for one don’t particularly care for the bright, simple games that Nintendo publishes. I don’t like Candy Crush Saga either. It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate their quality.

      I recently finished the Metal Gear Solid HD collection on Vita. You’d probably classify these games as being more suited to the lounge room than a handheld, but you know what? Having the Vita’s instant resume made it really easy to just play 5-10 minutes here and there. I could even power down in the middle of cut scenes, loading screens or whatever. This doesn’t really consume much battery so I could leave it suspended for a day or two without even charging the Vita. I found that the game experience was just as good as if it had been on my PS3, the only caveat being that the Vita’s somewhat stubby analogue sticks made precision aiming something of an acquired art.

      Anyway, end of ramble. I think that the Vita can stand in for a more traditional lounge room experience and handle the bigger titles (as long as they are ported across).

  • Yeah, Muramasa Rebirth. Dragon’s Crown. Guacamele. I feel like they should be there

    Even some ports like MGS 2 and 3, and DOA5. Sly Cooper. Those actually play really well, as well…

    All a matter of taste I guess.

  • No Uncharted?… wtf… That game was pretty epic except for the QTE swiping (which was an absolute prick for the final boss fight)

    • That game got some pretty harsh critisism, but I thought it was great. Not the QTE swiping shit though. But then again, that was far less irritating than some of the glitch-tastic bugs in AC: LIberation. That damn ball maze…

  • I’m just going to pick on one of them, as there are a few that I don’t agree with

    Look, I enjoyed AssLib even with the faults and lack of polish (Platinum obtained), but there are so many better games available at the moment.

    Guacamelee, Velocity Ultra & Stealth Bastard/Inc are just 3 games I would instantly swap into that list.

    Still, the brightside of this shoddy list (even if some are ports), the shear amount of different games that are being mentioned by this community, just goes to show the Vita does in fact have games and great ones at that.

      • I can’t guarantee this will work, but save the game, turn off the PSVita and lay it flat on a table, turn on the unit and then make your way and start the mission, whilst keeping the vita as flat as possible

        I do know that the analogue sticks dead zone can be skewed abit if you have them pressed in a direction when turning it on. The same could be possible for the gyro because I know I have had a few goes trying that maze where tilting in illogical directions was the only way to get anywhere

        If it works you should really have no drama with the maze because then the Vita gyro position should actually match what is on screen and you’ll know exactly which way to tilt to finish the maze, even if you have to look directly down at the screen for 1 mission

    • I think it is awesome that we are even having arguments about what should or shouldn’t be on there – the Vita now has a lot of great games 🙂

  • Does anyone know if/when Telltale’s The Walking Dead will be released for Vita on Australian PSN?

  • Re: The Walking Dead Vita

    Seems like Telltale are dragging their heels over the release… Sony EU don’t have a date for the game at the moment.

    So who knows, it might be next week or it could be a few weeks away still.

    • Thanks, I couldn’t find anything Australia-centric, and was beginging to think I may have made things up in my head. I hope it’s soon, I have a flight to the US soon and would like to fill a goodly amount of that time playing this on my Vita.

  • Thomas Was Alone??? Are you guys serious???

    Swap it out for Guacamelee, Soul Sacrafice… heck even Pinball Arcade

  • Lumines is a great way to sit down for just 10 minutes and then look up and see it’s 60 minutes later.

  • VIta is awesome – gorgeus visuals, solid controls, useful battery life, instant resume, visual control over emulated games and much more! That’s the hardware, so the software – you must have PS+. Sadly I still don’t think there’s one killer game on it.. that said, I have mine and have finished 6 games so far and loving it! Give it a go, you’d be surprised how good the gaming experience is.

  • Came here expecting P4G. Not disappointed.

    I know they’re older titles, but I still think wipeout and dynasty warriors are better than some of the others on this list.

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