For Years, PlayStation Plus Kept The Vita Alive

Last week, Sony announced that the Vita, along with PS3, will stop getting monthly games through the PlayStation Plus subscription service in March 2019. In the wake of that news, it's worth remembering: Vita owners never had an easy go of things, but it would have been a whole lot worse without PlayStation Plus.

Vita owners like to talk about the handheld like fans of a sports team that's never won a championship despite coming close on several occasions. "If just a few things had gone differently," we like to speculate on forums, or at the store while hunting for a rare physical copy of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. The narrative arc of the Vita will forever be a tragic one, but there have been a few silver linings over the years, and none bigger than the decent, and sometimes even great Vita games that were included with PS Plus, which allowed paying users access to select games at no extra charge.

Over 100 games have come to the handheld as part of the program since it launched in the spring of 2011. Some of have been completely forgettable, such as Dragon Fin Soup, while others I still find reason to return to on occasion. I'm pretty sure I'll be dipping in and out of Freedom Wars for the rest of my life - 1,000,000 years is a long prison sentence to work off. The $79.95-a-year service has by no means saved the Vita. At $6.66 a month, you're sometimes getting great games and sometimes paying for junk. It has, however, helped to keep the handheld on life support so it can live out the rest of its days in the loving hands of a few remaining diehards like myself.

The Vita released in early 2012 with some decent games including Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Little Deviants, ModNation Racers: Road Trip and Wipeout 2048. There were also ports of major sports games and several fighting games such as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The future looked bright, despite proprietary memory cards which remain ridiculously expensive to this day.

But as we now know, this heyday was short lived. The focus on putting blockbuster AAA games such as Uncharted on a handheld ultimately proved misguided, as the troublesome port of Borderlands 2, which arrived in poor shape by mid-2014, made clear. Sony managed to go 80 minutes at Gamescom that year without ever mentioning the Vita. To fans, it looked like the beginning of the end.

And it was, although that end has been a slow and stable descent rather than a quick nosedive thanks both to the Japanese gaming audience's continued interest in the platform and the diligent efforts of indie studios to continue porting some of their best games to it. I've spent more hours with Titan Souls, Fez, Spelunky and Rogue Legacy on my Vita than other platform, and a lot of other PS4 and Steam ports of similar quality continue to consistently pop up in the monthly PS Plus lists.

If you were a subscriber when the Vita was first integrated into Sony's Instant Game Collection program back in November 2012 you would have gotten Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush, Chronovolt and Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. Since the start of this year, you'd have gotten Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness, Uncanny Valley, Exile's End, Grand Kingdom, Claire: Extended Cut and Bombing Busters.

These latest games are admittedly a more meagre offering than five years ago, but still decent considering the Vita is supposed to be dead. Psycho-Pass is a great visual novel adaptation of an anime by the same name that normally still costs $28 used, while Grand Kingdom is one of the better tactical-JRPGs to sneak out in the past few years. Sure, you could play it on PS4, but I definitely prefer it on the handheld where I can spend hours pouring over menus and preparing my party for battles during the spare minutes of a commute or in the middle of cooking dinner.

The Vita's been a backwater for years now, but it's one I've come to appreciate as a respite from the frantic day-to-day chaos. Games I didn't get to when they originally released are there for me to dip back into whenever the spare moment presents itself. I can assure you I wouldn't have ever finished beating every exquisite Zelda-like boss in Titan Souls if it hadn't bubbled back up to the surface as a January 2017 PS Plus game, and yet sitting on park benches last year memorising enemy attack patterns remains one of my favourite gaming experiences of that year.

Here's a bunch of other stuff the Vita got with PS Plus during the past five years:

  • Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
  • Hotline Miami
  • Soul Sacrifice
  • Velocity Ultra
  • Fez
  • Metrico
  • Proteus
  • Spelunky
  • Rainbow Moon
  • The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
  • SteamWorld Dig
  • Luftrausers
  • The Swapper
  • Rogue Legacy
  • OlliOlli2
  • Killzone: Mercenary
  • The Unfinished Swan
  • Sound Shapes
  • Super Time Force Ultra
  • Xeodrifter
  • Teslagrad
  • La-Mulana EX
  • Super Meat Boy
  • Broken Age
  • Freedom Wars
  • Grim Fandango Remastered
  • Helldivers
  • Nova-111
  • Little Deviants
  • Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines
  • Patapon 3
  • Day of the Tentacle Remastered
  • The Swindle
  • Titan Souls
  • Severed
  • Downwell
  • Hatoful Boyfriend
  • Hue

I'll be sad to see the Vita lose its last lifeline from Sony when this all stops next March, but until then it's been a decent ride, one which could have ended much more abruptly. No matter what happens now, I'll always have a stellar library of games for the handheld, at least as long as I can afford enough memory cards to download them all before the current iteration of PlayStation Network eventually disappears.


    I can say with 100% certainty that the reason I personally didn't buy a Vita was because it doesn't support SD cards for storage. It was such a stupid decision at the time, and remains so to this day.

      I did buy one and enjoy it, but totally agree.

      Last edited 07/03/18 10:43 am

      This was certainly a huge mark against the Vita. Even now finding a 16 or 32GB card to hold all those PS+ games is enormously difficult. I enjoy using my Vita on the bus more than my Switch, given its much easier to put in a pocket etc, but justifying an expensive memory card for an essentially dead platform is difficult.

        You can get a micro sd adapter these days! SD2Vita

        Considering that the official 64gb card is rare, expensivs garbage, sd is easily the way to go.

          I literally found this out just after I wrote my comment! Looks interesting. Do you still need to hack the Vita for it to work?

            Console needs to be hacked with Henkaku for these to work.

          Yeah but i thought that you needed 3.60 firmware to set it up and and use it? if youve kept ps plus, you wouldnt be able to download anything from the store otherwise.

            Yeah, i never updated it, looks like that still hasn't been worked around either. I got the adapter so i didn't have to bring my carts with me when i travel, never really did much with the psplus.

            Dammit sony, just let it work!

    Vita means life. It will never die.

    Also because of my substantial backlog. It will take a good few years for me to get through it all. Hopefully Sony will do another handheld by then :-)

    And it was, although that end has been a slow and stable descent rather than a quick nosedive thanks both to the Japanese gaming audience's continued interest in the platform and the diligent efforts of indie studios to continue porting some of their best games to it.This is why the Vita is still alive more than PS Plus. Getting those games for free is probably what brings some people back to it but people purchasing games on the Vita is what keeps publishers releasing on it.

    I imagine this year will see the decline of that though as every indie and their dog jumps on the Switch bandwagon and Japanese developers start releasing games on both Vita and Switch. Which is reasonable seeing as the Switch is basically doing what the Vita was meant to do when it was released. (ie. Provide an interchangeable handheld and console experience.)

    I only really travel every 4 - 6 months these days so i usually just grab the vita out then and go through the backlog of added psplus games. having said that i still love the vita for what it is and have more than got my money's worth. I'm currently loving ys viii on there too which i highly recommend

    I manage to stuff my vita in the travel case with my Switch which suits me quite well on plane trips, etc.
    Love the Switch of course, but I like having those old PS1 classics as well for a bit of a trip down memory lane. Although it is a damn shame that the Aus store doesn't have Chrono Trigger and the US one doesn't have MGS1 ... or it can't just f*cking change users like the PS4. Grinds my gears it does.

    I never had a vita but I really enjoy reading these articles. I think it's those great gaming memories that it's really all about.

    Sure it's great playing a good game now. But when you think back on how it made you feel in a years time? Then you really know how it made you feel.

    The saving grace of the Vita will be the almost certainty it will be hacked because of Spectre & Meltdown related execution breaches.

    Otherwise, I've loved it for playing Crash Team Racing. Its about it.

    It's a real shame that its basically dead, imagine how good stuff like Into The Breach would be on Vita.

    Such an amazing screen.

    I still don't understand why Netflix never came to the Aussie Vita. I mean it doesn't even have a youtube app! I created a US account to dload the app but ended up going back to my Aussie account for all the games, unfortunately having to wipe the Vita every time.

    I know i can use the browser to view videos but man!

    Vita is great handheld and so underrated. PSN+ free games are a great way to boost your library. I bought Persona 4 Golden for $14.95 last month from PSN Store and I already have two complete cartridges of the game, I just wanted the convenience of a digital copy. There has been a resurgence in interest in the Vita and that has seen prices increase on eBay in the last 12 month.

    I have very little use for handheld gaming, but I ended up buying a Vita just because I had such a huge collection of games for it from PS+ (as well as cross-buy games on PS3 and PS4). When the original Vita went on sale cheap when they introduced the updated model it didn't really make sense to NOT buy one, so I took the plunge. Never regretted it, even though it only gets limited use when I'm not travelling.

    It has its annoyances like the memory cards, trying to navigate your games library (seriously, no sort or filter option? And why does it show games for other devices like PS3 if I can't download them to the Vita anyway?), not to mention that there doesn't seem to be a way to delete saved game data without deleting the game itself and downloading it again (WTF?!), but overall it's a great device. I've got enough of a backlog on my Vita to keep me going for the rest of my (or its) life anyway, so it's far from dead for me.

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