Sony’s PlayStation Vita may have met an untimely end, but the company’s second attempt at a handheld game system was fantastic. Equipped with two full analog sticks, a touchpad for controlling games, a touchscreen, and a ton of horsepower, the Vita was the closest we had ever gotten to console-quality gaming in a portable system until the Nintendo Switch arrived. Though Sony has stopped supporting it and game releases are now limited to a small number of independent developers, the PlayStation Vita built up a formidable game library since its 2012 launch. These are the 20 best PlayStation Vita games, ranked in order.
Persona 4 Golden
One of the most acclaimed role-playing games of all time, Persona 4 originally launched on PlayStation 2, but it found new life on the Vita as Persona 4 Golden. The game includes more content than the original version, with a sprawling story that can take hundreds of hours to get through if players are being methodical. Its unique flair and style are pure Atlus, and its darker and mature plotline will feel more appropriate for players who think they’ve grown out of most JRPGs. Persona 4 Golden is also the perfect game to play before jumping into Persona 5, which is available on PS4 and has received similar acclaim.
Read our full Persona 4 Golden review
One of Media Molecule’s best and most creative games to date, Tearaway is a 3D platformer set in a papercraft world. As players progress through the environments, they’ll need to peel, cut, and rearrange paper objects to solve puzzles, and occasionally they’ll even make use of the rear touchpad to give themselves a boost onto a higher platform. White space in the game world is a sign of a collectible item, and once collected these can be printed out and turned into real-life papercraft. Tearaway isn’t action-packed and features little in the way of story, but it’s a whimsical and extremely unique game.
Available on practically every platform, Spelunky got immensely popular for a reason. The randomized exploration-based platforming makes every run feel different, with players looking for treasure and avoiding danger as they venture deeper into dark mines. It’s a simple concept that succeeds because of its brilliant spin on the roguelike genre, and players can choose from several different explorers for their run and play the game together in cooperative mode. For players looking for something they can enjoy as part of their daily routine without getting bored, Spelunky is absolutely perfect.
An influential game for both the indie development scene and the industry at large, Hotline Miami helped prove that retro-inspired visuals and deep, meaningful storytelling were not mutually exclusive. Set in a neon-drenched 1980s with noir influences, the game’s intensely violent combat goes hand-in-hand with its mysterious narrative, which is a commentary on video game violence and the player’s role in it. Aside from its message, however, it’s a blast to play, with pinpoint accuracy as players make their way through buildings and blast and beat enemies they find. One shot is enough to die, making careful planning and reflexes required. Even multiple mission failures aren’t enough to deter players from trying again because it just feels so perfect.
Read our full Hotline Miami review
The sequel to the excellent 2D platformer Rayman Origins, Ubisoft’s Rayman Legends is an even better take on the no-frills series. As the titular character, either solo or with friends, players make their way through each level collecting the game’s Lums, defeating enemies with powerful punches, and discovering secret areas. The floaty jumping and running feel remarkably different from Mario or Sonic, but where Rayman Legends really separates itself are its musical stages. They’re set to rudimentary covers of classic tunes like “Black Betty” and “Eye of the Tiger,” and passing obstacles to the beat puts a massive smile on anyone’s face.
Read our full Rayman Legends review
Most “Metroidvania” games put their emphasis on platforming and open-ended exploration rather than combat. Guacamelee! doesn’t compromise this way, with a rich and combo-based brawling system for its luchador protagonist. The game’s gorgeous colors feel like they were lifted from a Mexican folktale, and its mariachi-influenced soundtrack serves as the perfect companion. Special new attacks and abilities also keep things feeling fresh, and the progress players can make in a single sitting makes it ideal for the PlayStation Vita. A sequel was also released a few years later — it’s not available on Vita, but it is on the Switch for players who want a similar experience.
Read our full Guacamelee! review
It’s a shame developer Housemarque is no longer making arcade-style shooters, because it certainly has a knack for them. Coming to the PlayStation Vita after initially launching on PlayStation 4, Resogun puts a spin on the standard horizontal shooter by moving in a carousel shape, forcing players to take out enemies in two directions as they save the little green humans scattered across the ground. It’s simple and addictive, like any arcade shooter worth playing for more than a few minutes, and it translates well to the Vita’s small screen despite a lower frame rate and resolution.
OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
For those who loved and beat the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games, OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood is a great follow-up. As a 2D skateboarding game with an emphasis on traversing obstacles and pulling off difficult strings of moves, OlliOlli 2 is all about proper timing and practice. It’s entirely different from simulation-style skateboarding games, but its colorful and creative environments and surprising depth make it a great time-killer. Getting the highest possible ranking on a stage is much easier said than done.
Gravity’s Rush was a game built from the ground up for the Vita, which made its subsequent port and sequel on the PS4 peculiar. The action-adventure game stars Kat, a girl who is given gravity-switching powers that let her soar through the air and battle mysterious enemies by “falling” in a particular direction. This made exploring the gorgeous flying world a joy, and the game is filled with collectibles and secrets. It also has a bumping, jazzy soundtrack and anime-style visuals that give it a level of charm missing from more realistic-looking games.
Read our full Gravity Rush review
An underrated gem and one of Vanillaware’s best games, Dragon Crown takes the aesthetic and storytelling of a western role-playing game and mixes it with classic beat-’em-up action. The result is an endlessly replayable and very difficult game with multiple classes, each of which uses their own unique attacks, and several powerful bosses to defeat. Getting through the game the first time is just the start, as mastering each stage with the various heroes is the true test of skill. With satisfying combat and charming narration, it’s one of the best PlayStation Vita games and also has a PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 version.
Read our full Dragon’s Crown review
A scrolling shooter unlike anything else on PlayStation Vita, Sine Mora is a post-apocalyptic and grim affair that sees a world overrun with pain, suffering, and decay. A seemingly never-ending war rages on, and players take the role of several different pilots against overwhelming odds. What makes the game so different from other contemporary shooters is its health system, which is tied to the total remaining game time rather than the ship itself. Time can be slowed, and when the player gets hit, it shaves seconds off the remaining total. Racing through areas and trying to get to the boss with enough time to spare makes every level exhilarating.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
What better game could there possibly be to launch a new PlayStation system than Uncharted? The prequel Uncharted: Golden Abyss doesn’t feel like a dumbed-down take on the series, with a full-length story and several huge set-pieces that would feel at home in the console versions. Nathan Drake is as chatty and charming as ever, and the game’s motion-assisted weapon aiming makes it incredibly easy to line up a headshot. Perhaps its only sin is relying too heavily on the Vita’s motion features for platforming sections, as moving the console from side to side to balance on a log gets older rather quickly.
Read our full Uncharted: Golden Abyss review
Resistance: Burning Skies failed to translate its series’ epic action to the Vita, but Killzone: Mercenary definitely did. Split into bite-sized missions perfect for on-the-go play, Mercenary puts players in control of a hired gun willing to work with both the Helghast and the ISA in their ongoing war. Its story is secondary to its action, which is better than any other handheld first-person shooter, and things get even better online. Killzone: Mercenary’s competitive mode features several game modes and even perk-style power-ups to take out several enemies, and it’s one of the only options for hardcore shooter fans.
Read our full Killzone: Mercenary review
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
The PlayStation Vita is home to a surprising number of visual novels, and few are better than Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. A successor to 999, the game’s blend of puzzle and mysterious intrigue is perfect for when players are ready to get under the covers in bed and game for hours. Choosing dialogue options and items to use as the kidnapping story becomes clearer, players can see just how dark and twisted it can get — there are even Battle Royale style on the main characters, ready to detonate if they fail.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Sucker Punch left the Sly Cooper series after three games, but Sanzaru Games was there to take over with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. It’s more Sly Cooper and doesn’t stray from the formula too drastically, but that’s not a problem when the template is such a classic. Mixing platforming with stealth, the games make players feel like master thieves, and in between missions there are plenty of jokes and goofy moments from the supporting cast. It’s a great fit for the Vita, and it’s a shame the franchise has been dormant since the game’s release.
Read our full Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time review
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet series revolutionized how user-generated content would work for console games, and that player power is just as impressive on the Vita. Complete with its own puzzle-platforming campaign that is clever and charming, the real fun in LittleBigPlanet PS Vita comes when players started trying out each other’s creations. Rudimentary takes on other game series like Splinter Cell and Castlevania are available, complete with amateur voice acting, and seeing how far others’ imagination can take them is always a joy.
Read our full LittleBigPlanet PS Vita review
XCOM: Enemy Unknown Plus
It doesn’t run as well as it does on larger systems, but XCOM: Enemy Unknown is available on PlayStation Vita — and that’s pretty impressive. The turn-based strategy game is a reboot on the classic ’90s series, and its blend of tactics and overarching strategy is tense and satisfying. Choosing how to organize a small squad of troops to take on a much larger alien force is never easy, but figuring out a strategy and steamrolling the enemy makes it all worthwhile. This is especially true if players name their allies after personal friends, and it makes the permanent death mechanic sting more.
Read our full XCOM: Enemy Unknown review
One of the strangest action role-playing games on any system, Soul Sacrifice has players sacrifice parts of their characters — permanently — in order to increase their power during battle. This adds a layer of decision-making and risk-reward balancing that isn’t present in most other games, changing what is possible with the character and their appearance. It isn’t the most accessible game, but those willing to put in the time and learn its systems will be handsomely rewarded.
Read our full Soul Sacrifice review
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
Sonic loves running, which is why it’s so odd that his kart-racing game is actually better than most of his platformers. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is Sega’s take on the Mario Kart racing style, but with a little more attention to deep vehicle mechanics and skill rather than pure luck-based gameplay. It doesn’t go too far into that territory to lose its appeal to casual players, and seeing all of Sega’s biggest mascots together will put a smile on almost anyone’s face.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
Another PlayStation Vita game with clear influence from a Nintendo franchise, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale takes many elements from the Super Smash Bros. games, but it also manages to feel unique. Rather than knock enemies off platforms, characters have to perform super-powered moves in order to eliminate them with one hit. Alongside first-party heroes like Kratos and Nathan Drake are other companies’ characters, including Dante from DmC: Devil May Cry and Raiden from Metal Gear Rising. It’s not up to Smash Bros. standards, but it’s definitely a worthy substitute and a great choice during parties.
Read our full PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale review