This is the seventh in my ’30 Best’ series of articles in which I discuss my favourite games ever on a system-by-system basis for the first time in my career. In case you missed them, the full list of other ’30 Best’ articles can be found at the bottom of this page.
’30 Best’ will now be a monthly series, thanks to my lovely Patreon followers helping me reach a stretch goal. If you want to contribute and help me reach my next goal (to start a Tired Old Hack podcast), please visit my Patreon page.
“I didn’t even know it had 30 games!”
This was the predictable reply I got from all manner of clever individuals every time I informed my Twitter followers that my next ’30 Best’ article would be dedicated to the Sony PlayStation Vita.
It’s little wonder, to be fair. Sony abandoned its handheld quicker than David Cameron abandons his children in pubs, which led to the understandable consensus that the Vita was dead before its library had a chance to grow.
In reality, the Vita does have 30 great games. Indeed, it’s got plenty more than that: I’ve added another 15 at the end of this list for good measure, and even then there were some I had to leave out.
On paper it should never have come to this. The Vita was (and, four years later, still is) a remarkably powerful handheld with the type of graphical oomph that makes the games available for its rival, the Nintendo 3DS, look like cave paintings by comparison.
But, much as the DS destroyed the far more powerful PSP, Sony once again failed to convince gamers to pony up for their handheld and the Vita’s sales eventually all but flatlined while the 3DS grew from strength to strength.
Because of this, there’s a good chance that if you’re reading this you either don’t have a Vita or are considering getting a cheap one and want to know if there are indeed any decent games available to make your purchase worthwhile.
Read on, then, to discover the 30 best Vita games currently available. Hopefully by the end you’ll have something to direct people to the next time they joke that the Vita doesn’t have any games.
The annoying notes bit
This list is in alphabetical order. Much like it’s pretty pointless deciding whether a game’s getting a score of 72% or 73%, it doesn’t really matter if Gravity Rush is my 23rd or 24th favourite Vita game. Everything in this list was deemed good enough to make the cut, so I recommend them all with similar enthusiasm.
It’s also my own personal list and not a collaborative effort for a magazine or website, meaning there will be some ‘glaring’ omissions of games I simply didn’t play or didn’t like. So don’t lose your shit because The Binding Of Isaac Rebirth isn’t on here or say I “forgot” Hotline Miami – I didn’t forget it, it’s just not one of my 30 personal favourites.
If one of your own recommendations isn’t on the list, feel free to give it a shoutout in the comments below (politely though, mind) and tell everyone what it meant to you.
And just before the inevitable happens – no, Persona 4 Golden is not on this list. Simply put, I haven’t played it, and so (with one exception below) I can’t justify adding games I’ve never played to a list of my own personal favourites. But, by all accounts it’s fantastic.
Since I’m from the UK, all games will be listed by their European titles. Everyone outside of America has to deal with Wikipedia and the like deciding US titles are the standard for some reason, so on my turf it’s my rules. Deal with it.
Almost all of the games on this list are available for download on the PlayStation Store, which can be accessed right here or from the Vita itself. I’ve provided links to their pages on the UK PS Store – sorry to any American readers (or those in any other country) but I live in the UK so that’s the links I can provide. If they don’t automatically link to the same game on your respective PS Store, you’ll need to search manually.
Alternatively, where possible, I have included links to buy physical copies of the games on Amazon UK if you’re interested in a particular one. I won’t bullshit you: while the PS Store links aren’t affiliate links, the Amazon ones are.
This means if my list has tempted you to buy a game, if you do it through Amazon by clicking my link then I get a few pence (literally) of Amazon’s revenue for referring you to them. It doesn’t cost you any extra, so it’s a win-win situation.
Anyway, on with the list.
The Bit.Trip and Bit.Trip Presents Runner2
What they are: Seven minimalist action games, each focusing on a unique gameplay mechanic.
Why they were chosen: Like other handheld systems, the Vita is best suited to quick pick-up-and play games that take very little time to get into the action.
Every game in the Bit.Trip series fits this bill: within seconds you’re indulging in each title’s specific quirk: Beat’s rhythm game/Breakout mash-up, Core’s risk/reward system, Void’s multidirectional action, the ‘perfect run’ challenge of Runner and Runner2, Fate’s on-rails fluidity and the way Flux brings it all full circle.
If you’re looking for games that push the Vita’s graphical capabilities to their limits, these aren’t the ones you want (though pop in some headphones and they sound incredible). For a pure hand-eye challenge though, there’s nothing better.
Buy them: Here’s The Bit.Trip on the PS Store, and here’s Runner2 on the PS Store.
Dead Or Alive 5+
What it is: The fifth entry (obviously) in Koei Tecmo’s mammarian martial arts melee game.
Why it was chosen: It’s a brave man these days who declares his love for a Dead Or Alive game, given how its comically unrealistic breast physics and scandalously revealing outfits get even more questionable with each entry as graphical detail improves.
Dead Or Alive 5+ is so detailed you can practically pretend the VIta’s analogue nub is a nipple, but get through its mucky outer layer of bouncy baps and you’ll find a brilliant fighting game.
Crucially, it’s as welcoming to newcomers as it is compelling for experts, with simple yet visually impressive combos meaning it requires very little effort to look like you’re an incredible player.
It’s just a shame you probably can’t play it on the train for fear of being reported to the transport police.
Buy it: Here’s an Amazon link, and here it is on the PS Store.
DJMax Technika Tune
What it is: The latest instalment of Korean studio Pentavision’s cult rhythm action series.
Why it was chosen: I’m obsessed with the DJMax series, and adored the eight games released on PSP (especially the fantastic Classiquai Edition). But that’s for my ‘30 Best PSP games’ article another time.
Whereas all the others have you pressing buttons on a highway similar to Guitar Hero (or, more accurately, Konami’s Beatmania series) though, Technika Tune has you using the touch screen instead, tapping notes as a bar passes through them.
This control method doesn’t work quite as well as using buttons, especially if you use the horrible rear touchpad (turn it off in the options right away).
That said, a bad DJMax game is still a great rhythm game, and its wide selection of tracks and beautiful presentation have still ensured I’ve put countless hours into it.
Buy it: DJMax Technika Tune wasn’t released in Europe so it isn’t on the UK PS Store. The US version can, however, be imported from Amazon UK at a reasonable price and will work on a European Vita.
What it is: A charming 2D adventure game from the man behind ToeJam & Earl.
Why it was chosen: Doki-Doki Universe is an acquired taste. If you’re looking for a game that provides any sort of challenge then you will hate it.
If you’re looking for a game that plays like ToeJam & Earl because you heard it was made by the same guy, you might still hate it. This is nothing like it, you see.
If, however, you’re looking for a game with a charming art style, a laid back pace and dialogue that’s adorable and hilarious in equal measure, then you might just fall in love with it like I did.
Buy it: Here’s Doki-Doki Universe on the PS Store. Alternatively, you can buy a download code from Amazon for slightly cheaper.
Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders From Planet Space
What it is: A handheld remake of the second Earth Defense Force game, in which giant bugs from space invade the earth and it’s up to you to gun the pricks down.
Why it was chosen: Too many action games these days take things too seriously. Most have straight-faced, gloomy plots about meatheads saving the world from some threat or another, usually from another planet.
What if this alien threat was giant ants and spiders, and all the sober ponderings about the nature of war were replaced with you taping the fire button down while people scream at you in terror through your radio?
Earth Defense Force knows it’s ridiculous and doesn’t care. It’s the video game version of a 50’s B-movie like Them! or Phase IV, or something like Starship Troopers. Perfect for switching your brain off and emptying countless bullets into similarly countless baddies.
Buy it: Here’s Earth Defense Force 2 on the PS Store, and here it is on Amazon UK.
FIFA Football, FIFA 13, FIFA 14 and FIFA 15
What they are: Handheld renditions of the world’s most popular football game.
Why they were chosen: No, I don’t want to get into the same old argument about whether FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer is the greatest football series. When it comes to the Vita, there’s literally no choice: Konami has never released a PES game on the system in the west.
That means if you’re after some footy frolics it’s FIFA or sweet FA. Which one to get, though? Long story short: get the most recent one you can with your budget.
You see, every Vita FIFA game – FIFA Football, FIFA 13, FIFA 14 and FIFA 15 – is identical in all but teams, rosters and soundtrack. The actual gameplay is the same FIFA 11-inspired engine, absolutely unchanged from the first game to the last.
If you buy one, then, you’ve got them all. And while it’s essentially a six-year-old engine now, it still plays a solid game of football.
Buy them: Only the original FIFA Football and FIFA 15 are on the PS Store. If you want to buy physical from Amazon UK, here’s FIFA Football, FIFA 13, FIFA 14 and FIFA 15.
Final Fantasy X HD and Final Fantasy X-2 HD
What they are: Visually upgraded remasters of two of the most moving games in the Final Fantasy series.
Why they were chosen: The Vita isn’t exactly lacking in good RPGs: it’s pretty much the go-to system if you’re looking for anything Japanese and turn-based.
And I know there aren’t many on this list. Frankly, it’s a genre where I’m a wee bit out of my depth, so go and Google ‘best Vita RPGs’ to get loads of great suggestions.
That said, I know enough to know Final Fantasy X HD and its sequel are among the finest RPGs you’ll get on the system, thanks to Square Enix’s inimitable production values and characters that don’t adapt to the usual cliches you may see in other role-playing titles.
They may be showing their age in some areas, HD upgrade or not, but these are still two of the finest RPGs of the last 15 years.
Buy them: Here’s both games in a bundle on the PS Store, and here they are on Amazon UK.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved
What it is: The third entry in (what used to be) Bizarre Creations’ simplistic shoot ‘em up screen-melter.
Why it was chosen: Geometry Wars was never supposed to be a proper game. It was knocked together by Bizarre Creations staff as a way of testing the original Xbox’s controller while they made Project Gotham Racing.
They slipped it into the second PGR as a little bonus and it became so popular they decided to release it as a standard Xbox Live Arcade game. And then it went stratospheric.
It’s little wonder. If Geometry Wars was cocaine it’d be… um, Colombian pure or something? I dunno anything about cocaine, but I think I heard someone say that in a film once.
It’s addictive is what I’m saying. And this third iteration, with a variety of game modes, is just as compelling even though it’s no longer the now-late Bizarre’s baby.
Buy it: Geometry Wars 3 is only available digitally on Vita, so here it is on the PS Store.
God Of War Collection
What it is: Handheld versions of the first two games in Sony Santa Monica’s critically acclaimed God Of War series.
Why it was chosen: The God Of War games feel a little clichéd these days, but that’s because they invented the clichés.
That so many games these days combine hack-and-slash combat with epic boss battles featuring QTEs is a testament to the influence of God Of War 1 & 2.
They may be from the PS2 era and may be around a decade old now, but they’re still hugely playable to this day and perfect for a bit of grandiose escapism on longer journeys.
Buy it: Here’s God Of War Collection on Amazon UK, and here it is on the PS Store.
What it is: One of the earliest Vita exclusives, in which you play as a girl called Kat who’s been given the power to control gravity and has to save the world from an invasion by gravity-twisting monsters. It’s a story with a lot of gravity to it, in more ways than one, basically.
Why it was chosen: This was the first game that showed me the Vita was really capable of doing some special stuff.
Using Kat’s gravity powers to fly through the air, walk on walls and perform ridiculous flying kicks on enemies is massively satisfying, and the Vita’s gyro controls (optional, if you’re a snob about them) make moving between dimensional planes a treat.
It hurts your brain a bit at first as you get used to the idea of every wall and ceiling being a potential floor, but once you master it there are some fantastic moments in there.
Buy it: Here’s Gravity Rush on Amazon UK, and here it is on the PS Store.
Lumines Electronic Symphony
What it is: The third main game in the Lumines series of rhythm-based puzzlers. Drop coloured blocks to create squares of the same colour so a bar (sweeping across the screen to the beat) can remove them.
Why it was chosen: I have to confess, when Lumines first launched on the PSP I completely ignored it. Thought it looked shite, despite its mass critical acclaim. “Mass critical disdain, more like,” I said to myself, chuckling a bit at my master-level wordsmithery.
Then, when the Vita launched and its initial run of software was a little lacking (start as you mean to go on, eh?) I decided to finally see what all the fuss was about. I quickly realised I’d been missing out.
Lumines is stupidly addictive, especially when you play it with headphones on. Once you get used to the deceptively simple square-building mechanic and figure out how to put combos together, the block-dropping gameplay along with the music immerses you to a level that hasn’t been seen since Rez on the Dreamcast.
Buy it: Here’s Lumines Electronic Symphony on Amazon UK, and here it is on the PS Store.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
What it is: Handheld and upscaled versions of Metal Gear Solid 2 and Metal Gear Solid 3.
Why it was chosen: Right, I’ll level with you. Of all the 30 Best articles I’ve written and will ever write on this site, Metal Gear Solid HD Collection is the only one I don’t actually care about.
I’ve never gotten into the Metal Gear Solid games and though I’ve promised a friend of mine that I will one day, for now it’s a massive cutscene-sized hole in my gaming knowledge.
That said, I appreciate many think Metal Gear Solid 3 is one of the finest games ever made, so given it’s available on Vita in a bundle with its predecessor… just this once, I’m going with the masses and recommending it, because it would be irresponsible of me not to.
Just… if you get it and you think it’s shite, don’t blame me.
Buy it: Here’s Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on Amazon UK, and here it is on the PS Store.
What it is: The ninth instalment in the long-running Mortal Kombat series, marking a long-needed return to form.
Why it was chosen: After years of sub-standard Mortal Kombat sequels, the 2011 Mortal Kombat finally gave the franchise a kick up the arse and delivered everything fans had been asking for.
This Vita port is brilliantly faithful and includes all the downloadable characters that were later released for the game, including Freddy Krueger. It’s a shame it’s the modern Jackie Earle Haley version as opposed to the classic Robert Englund one, but it’s still Freddy in a fighting game so I’m taking it.
Mortal Kombat X may have improved the series even further on home consoles, but for a portable Kombat fix this is still the best available.
Buy it: Here’s Mortal Kombat on Amazon UK, and here it is on the PS Store.
What it is: An isometric spin-off of Evolution Studios’ popular MotorStorm games. This time, instead of racing massive dirt bikes and buggies, you’re controlling little radio controlled versions of them.
Why it was chosen: This woefully underrated racer launched alongside the Vita in Europe and was then quickly forgotten about.
This is a bit of a shame, because it’s one of the finest Micro Machines style racing games I’ve ever played.
Because you’re racing in little RC cars, the controls feel very light and take a bit of time to get used to, but this only makes things all the more rewarding when you finally find yourself winning races regularly. And at only £4.99 you really can’t go wrong.
Buy it: MotorStorm RC is digital only, so here it is on the PS Store. Alternatively, there’s a Complete Edition for a couple of quid more which includes a bunch of new DLC tracks and cars.
OlliOlli and OlliOlli2
What they are: Infuriatingly addictive side-scrolling skateboarding games where the aim is to pull off long combos and land tricks well.
Why it was chosen: OlliOlli and its sequel are perfectly suited to the Vita because timing is such a key principle to their gameplay.
You have to press a button to land every time you jump, and the better you time this the more points you get. As a result, if your TV has a little input lag (and most do these days) there can be some frustrating moments of mis-timing.
On the Vita these issues are a thing of the past. It’s just as well really because its bite-sized chunks of combo-building goodness are exactly what handheld gaming is all about. Take it out, try some quick runs for five minutes, put it away again. Lovely stuff.
Buy it: OlliOlli and its sequel are digital only so here’s OlliOlli on the PS Store and here’s OlliOlli2.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
What it is: An unashamed Smash Bros rip-off, only instead of Nintendo’s well-known mascots the fighters are Sony’s slightly less famous characters.
Why it was chosen: This one was met with a bit of a ‘meh’ when it launched, partly because it was shunned by the fighting game community for not being very well balanced.
But listen, I couldn’t give a shit about that. All I know is that it lets me play as Heihachi from Tekken and kick the shit out of Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Dante from Devil May Cry.
Its mash-up stages didn’t really get the recognition they deserved either. Take the brilliant PaRappa The Rapper / Killzone stage, which initially takes place in Chop Chop Master Onion’s dojo before the Helghast invades and the walls come crashing down.
No, there aren’t Smash Bros levels of content in here and the fighting system does leave a lot to be desired. But as a bit of mindless fun I got a kick out of it.
Buy it: Here’s PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale on Amazon UK and here it is on the PS Store.
Ratchet & Clank Trilogy
What it is: The original three Ratchet & Clank platformers, all on one shiny Vita cartridge. Or download. Whatever.
Why it was chosen: There have been 13 bloody Ratchet & Clank games to date (not counting mobile spin-offs) so you can’t exactly accuse Sony of not wringing the utter piss out of the series.
That said, by and large each entry has been entertaining, which is certainly the case with the first three games: Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked & Loaded and Ratchet & Clank 3 (also known as Up Your Arsenal in the US, but not the UK… funny, that).
Because they’re showing their age a tad now – the first game is 14 years old – they’ve been given a little bit of upscaling polish too, which is nice.
Great gameplay is timeless though, and all three games are still some of the finest action platformers you’ll find on a Sony system, so having all three in one package is a great deal.
Buy it: Here’s Ratchet & Clank Trilogy on Amazon UK and here it is on the PS Store.
Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends
What they are: A pair of side-scrolling 2D platformers using the much-praised UbiArt graphical engine.
Why they were chosen: The Rayman games have always been quality platformers, even after it switched from 2D to 3D. But for years fans online had been requesting a return to the series’ side-scrolling roots. Well, demanding it. It’s the internet, after all.
Rayman Origins not only granted this wish, it did so with a beautiful new graphics engine called UbiArt, which allowed for fantastic hand-drawn animation to be effortlessly reproduced in-game.
Both Origins and its sequel Legends truly shine on the Vita’s OLED display, making both an essential purchase for fans of old-school platformers.
Buy them: Here’s Rayman Origins on Amazon UK and the PS Store. And here’s Rayman Legends on Amazon UK and the PS Store.
Resident Evil Revelations 2
What it is: The episodic second game in Capcom’s Resi spin-off series. The Vita port brings all four episodes together in one package, and adds the two bonus episodes and other DLC released for the console versions.
Why it was chosen: While everyone wasted their time moaning about Resident Evil 5 and 6 and bemoaning the death of the Resi franchise, the smart bastards were enjoying Resident Evil Revelations on 3DS and Wii U (and later 360 and PS3).
Starring Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, the first Revelations successfully merged the action of Resident Evil 4’s gameplay with the more tense atmosphere of earlier Resident Evils to make for a brilliant return to form.
Revelations 2 continues this with another four chapters of survival horror mastery, this time dumping a kidnapped Claire Redfield in an island facility and telling her “deal with it, mate”. Metaphorically, that is.
The Vita version is the complete Revelations 2 package of all four episodes and the two bonus ones that expand the story further. Then, when you’re done with all that, there’s the much-loved Raid Mode, which – with its time-based nature – is better suited to handheld play.
Buy it: Resident Evil Revelations 2 only launched digitally on Vita in the West, so here it is on the PS Store.
What it is: A love letter to old-school 8-bit platformers, but one that actually tried to be accurate.
Why it was chosen: Six or seven years ago I would have swooned at the sight of an indie game using an old-school 8-bit graphical style to pay homage to the past.
Nowadays, it’s so commonly used that it’s started to feel lazy and uninspired, especially when a developer claims their game has “8-bit graphics” even though it pulls off stuff that would make a NES or Sega Master System soil its GPU.
Shovel Knight, then, would have had to do something pretty special to win this jaded old prick over. And that’s exactly what it did.
Although it also wouldn’t have been possible in the NES days it somehow feels like it could have been, while also throwing its own little quirks into the mix to make for a game that looks and feels immediately familiar yet fresh at the same time.
If you used to love 2D retro platformers but are sick of them being all ‘style’ and no substance, Shovel Knight will restore your faith in what I like to call ‘fauxtro’.
It means ‘faux retro’. Look, shut up.
Buy it: Shovel Knight is digital only on Vita, so here it is on the PS Store.
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed
What it is: Sega and Sumo Digital’s latest attempt at taking on Mario Kart, and it does a surprisingly good job of it.
Why it was chosen: I quite liked 2010’s Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. It was a decent enough Mario Kart clone and it was nice to see old Sega characters like Ryo from Shenmue getting another chance at the limelight.
This sequel, though, blew me away. While nothing will ever top Mario Kart in terms of handling and excitement, I’d go so far as to say Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed destroys it when it comes to sheer fan service.
Each of the tracks is littered with detail – there’s a little less of it in the Vita version but still enough there – and the countless classic and reprised music tracks on offer will be sheer nostalgic glory for Sega fans who stuck with the company through the Master System, Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast days.
It’s got a brilliant car-transforming feature which lets you seamlessly switch between land, sea and air racing, and its character roster is even better than its predecessors – wait until you unlock the hidden AGES character.
Buy it: Here’s Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed on Amazon UK, and here it is on the PS Store.
What it is: A simplistic platformer from Sony’s Santa Monica Studio in which collecting pick-ups adds to the background music.
Why it was chosen: Another game that didn’t get the widespread love it deserved (noticing a theme here?), Sound Shapes is a fun enough platformer when you play it with the sound turned off.
Stick some headphones in though and it becomes a completely different beast: a game where you create the music as you progress. Some stages are even influenced by the music: check out the Beck stages where the lyrics affect the platforms.
Beat the game and you also unlock a bunch of rock-hard ‘Death Mode’ levels which will really test your skills. Brilliant stuff.
Buy it: Here’s Sound Shapes on the PS Store. Alternatively, you can buy a download code for it on Amazon UK.
What it is: A procedurally generated platformer where the aim is to get through a set of random caves, rescuing an optional ‘damsel’ in distress (or chap, if you prefer) along the way.
Why it was chosen: Spelunky’s another 2D platformer that suits the Vita’s handheld format to a tee.
Armed with a whip and a finite number of bombs and ropes, you’ll encounter all manner of beasties and bizarre surprises as you fight your way through each stage.
It’s surprisingly difficult too: no matter how often you practice it the random nature of the levels means you’ll never be a complete expert and the ability to think on your toes is an essential skill.
To this day Spelunky’s still one of the games I automatically start up without thinking when I turn on my Vita.
Buy it: Spelunky is digital only so here it is on the PS Store.
What it is: A steampunk (wait, come back) indie title that shows what Mr Driller (or the desert stage in Super Mario Bros 2) would be like if it was turned into a proper adventure.
Why it was chosen: I wasn’t expecting much from SteamWorld Dig because, frankly, I’m massively biased and I hate most things with a steampunk aesthetic.
Luckily I was completely wrong and the game held my undivided attention for a 5-hour train journey from London to Glasgow, and again for the 5-hour return journey.
As you progress ever further down into the mines while maintaining your health and water levels, you get a genuine feeling of “oh shit, can I handle this” when you encounter a new area or enemy.
It’s not the longest game in the world but it’s compelling stuff and difficult to put down once you get under the surface of it (pun partly intended).
Buy it: SteamWorld Dig is digital only so here it is on the PS Store.
Street Fighter X Tekken
What it is: A long-awaited crossover game bringing together two massive fighting series from Capcom and Bandai Namco respectively. Developed by Capcom, it uses the Street Fighter engine, letting players see how Tekken characters control in this style.
Why it was chosen: I’ve already made it clear with my inclusion PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale that I don’t really care about fight balancing or any of that malarkey.
I’m only interested in having a laugh, and this amalgamation of Street Fighter and Tekken characters made me do just that.
With a ridiculous 55 fighters to choose from – including a few Sony-exclusive ones like Japanese cat mascots Kuro and Toro, and Cole from Infamous – it’ll take you an absolute age to master every character.
Plus it’s got Pac-Man in a giant wooden mech, so there’s that.
Buy it: Here’s Street Fighter X Tekken on Amazon UK and here it is on the PS Store.
Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition
What it is: The fourth and final entry in Sega’s fantastic arcade-style tennis series.
Why it was chosen: I’m not really sure why, but it seems to be really difficult to make a good tennis game. Attempts at realistic simulation like the Top Spin series tend to be too fiddly for their own good, so only simplified arcade-like efforts such as Mario Tennis do the job.
The king of all tennis games in my eyes will always be the Virtua Tennis series, and this final instalment proves why. Just like its predecessors it’s got a refreshingly simple control system, yet one that allows for a wide variety of shot types.
Its World Tour mode is one of the more entertaining career modes in a sports game, offering a board game-style progression and various training mini-games (such as the return of the classic ten-pin bowling one) to keep things varied.
If you’re a tennis fan, this should be a no-brainer.
Buy it: Virtua Tennis 4 is the only game on this list that isn’t available digitally at the time of writing, so you’ll have to buy it physically. Here’s the Amazon UK link.
Virtue’s Last Reward
What it is: Part visual novel, part ‘room escape’ puzzle game, this sees nine characters locked in a complex and attempting to not only escape with their lives, but figure out who’s behind it all.
Why it was chosen: Although Virtue’s Last Reward is the sequel to the 3DS game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (which was never released in the UK), you don’t need to have played the predecessor to enjoy this one.
To be blunt, visual novels aren’t to everyone’s taste, and if you’re more the sort of person who thinks gaming is all about reaction-based gameplay and action-packed shenanigans then you may find this painfully dull.
For those who can appreciate what’s essentially a big long story, though, this is pretty gripping stuff and has more twists than a Curly Wurly factory.
Its puzzles are the only real annoyance sometimes, but luckily there’s an easy mode which gives you hints. With that problem sorted and six different endings to see, you’ll spend a long time breaking down this brilliant storyline.
Buy it: Here’s Virtue’s Last Reward on Amazon UK, and here it is on the PS Store.
What it is: Another retro 2D platformer that’s actually fun, mainly thanks to its gravity-switching mechanic.
Why it was chosen: Here’s a novel concept: a platformer where your character can’t even jump. Instead, the game’s hero Captain Veridian can reverse gravity at the touch of a button, letting him switch from the floor to the roof and vice versa.
It’s a mechanic that leads to a bunch of interesting navigational puzzles that you have to figure out in order to find and rescue your missing crew members.
This is all wrapped up in a lovely retro package, this time with a look and feel based on old Commodore 64 games. Much like Shovel Knight, this isn’t a half-arsed attempt at fauxtro (I told you, I’ll make it a real word eventually) but a lovingly authentic homage.
The pixellated cherry on top is the fantastic soundtrack by Magnus Palsson: yet another reason to make a set of headphones a permanent fixture in your Vita.
Buy it: VVVVVV is digital only so here it is on the PS Store.
The Walking Dead: Season One and Season Two
What they are: Telltale Games’ episodic zombie series based not on the TV show, but the comics that inspired it.
Why it was chosen: Telltale may be churning out point-and-click shite left, right and centre just now but The Walking Dead is still probably its finest moment to date.
Granted, if you want to get really cynical about it, the big selling point – that the decisions you make affect the story – only have a limited impact and ultimately the overall path you take is the same.
But when it comes to gripping narrative, hard-hitting twists and some top-quality ‘choose your own adventure’ style storytelling, this is well worth a look.
It’s extremely linear and you’re basically just following a set route, but what a route it is.
Buy it: The Walking Dead is digital only in the UK so here’s Season One on the PS Store and here’s Season Two. If you absolutely have to have a physical copy you can import the boxed US versions of Season One and Season Two from Amazon UK.
What it is: The ninth and (so far) last game in SCE Studio Liverpool’s futuristic racing series.
Why it was chosen: WipEout has been synonymous with PlayStation since literally day one.
The first game, developed by what was then known as Psygnosis, launched alongside the original system in 1995 and was one of the main games that sold the PlayStation brand to an older audience.
Since then, almost every PlayStation system has had at least one unique WipEout game (the PS4’s yet to get one, sadly, and now that SCE Studio Liverpool has shut down it seems unlikely).
This Vita version is a beautiful looking game, and while it doesn’t exactly offer anything groundbreaking in terms of new features or changes to the core WipEout gameplay, it does what it aims to do with point-blank precision.
While I hope this isn’t the last WipEout game ever, if it is then it’s gone out on a high note.
Buy it: Here’s WipEout 2048 on Amazon UK and here it is on the PS Store.
If you’re a bit of a Vita addict, 30 games may not be enough for you. Luckily, the wee bastard’s got more in the tank.
Here’s another 15 games that may not have quite made the main list but are still highly recommended purchases if you fancy trying something new.
Retro 2D platformer with a bit of a Spelunky feel to it. Well known for its high difficulty level, so not one for novices.
A brilliant Metroidvania game that’s about 90% Metroid and 10% ‘vania. Another member of the small ‘retro inspired games that are actually great’ club.
Crypt Of The Necrodancer
A turn-based roguelike that also incorporates rhythm action elements. Any time you move to the beat of the music your actions are more effective, meaning moving constantly and rhythmically is necessary to do well.
Don’t Die, Mr Robot!
Imagine a twin-stick shooter that doesn’t feature shooting but instead has you triggering massive combos with fruit bombs. Read my full review for more information on why you should play it.
Football Manager Classic 2014
You couldn’t get closer to an addictive substance on your Vita unless you literally snorted cocaine off the screen. The control system is a little shonky on this port but once you get used to it, it’s the same Football Manager you know and are probably obsessed with.
Another Metroidvania style platformer, this one has more of a sense of humour and has you playing as a Mexican luchador tasked with rescuing El Presidente’s daughter.
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA F and Project DIVA F 2nd
A pair of Sega-developed rhythm games starring bizarre Japanese virtual pop star Hatsune Miku. The rhythm mechanics are solid and satisfying but naturally you’ll only get something out of this if you like that sort of music.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
A handheld instalment in Media Molecule’s adorable puzzle platformer series which focuses mainly on creation, customisation and sharing your homemade levels with the rest of the world.
The Sly Trilogy
The first three games in the Sly Cooper series of action platformers. Solid stealth gameplay and a nice cel-shaded art style mean all three games are still fun to play and still feel relatively modern despite having been released back in the PS2 days.
Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack
An eat ‘em up in which you have to make a giant alien blob absorb as many things as possible so it can grow big enough to get past various obstacles. A fun game with a great sense of humour.
A papercraft-inspired platformer with a beautiful art style and an insistence on using every possible input and feature the Vita is endowed with.
Thomas Was Alone
A puzzle platformer with minimalist graphics, lovely music and a witty storyline narrated by Danny Wallace. You’ll either love it or hate it: I fall into the former camp.
If you’re old enough to remember Tempest and its sequel Tempest 2000, you’ll love this modern take developed by Tempest 2000 designer Jeff Minter. A great shooter with trippy visuals and a thumping soundtrack.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
It’s a shame that the recent PS4 compilation The Nathan Drake Collection somehow decided this game didn’t even exist, because while it’s by no means the best in the Uncharted series it’s still a solid and visually impressive adventure, annoying touchscreen bits aside.
Velocity Ultra and Velocity 2X
The first is a top-down shooter with an interesting teleport mechanic. The second is more of the same but also adds docking stations where the action switches to a 2D platformer. Crucially, both are brilliantly addictive.
The ’30 Best’ series to date:
The 30 best SNES games
The 30 best Amiga games
The 30 best Dreamcast games
The 30 best GameCube games
The 30 best Nintendo DS games
The 30 best Wii games
If you enjoyed this, please consider contributing to my Patreon account. ’30 Best’ is now a monthly series because of my lovely Patreon friends helping me hit a stretch goal, and hitting the next will mean a regular Tired Old Hack podcast.
Interesting choices Chris, really great list. Personally I’d point out that if you want to play online you need to avoid FIFA 15 due to no online features.
Out of interest, is P4G not something you fancy or did you just not get around to playing it?
No ads, all on one page, no 600 game of thrones articles a day, GENUINE appreciation for all eras and consoles, and, actually, properly funny. Nice work, ma boy.
It is one major, major major oversight not to include Persona 4 Golden on this list. Even if you don’t normally like JRPGs, there’s no question the quality of P4G. The original PS2 version was one of the finest games ever made, and the Vita version is a further improvement still. It is no exaggeration to say that this 2012 title is still absolutely the Vita’s killer app, worth buying the system over for it alone. To see it absent from a top 10 – let alone a top 30 – is sloppy. The only possible reason for it not being here is that you haven’t played it. Fair enough.
But get yourself a copy and see for yourself. P4G is quite arguably the best game for the system.
I would also highly recommend the Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth series which are enhanced ports of the PS3 trilogy. They’re a little bit niche, but then again so is the Vita to begin with. If you know gaming history and nerd culture, you’ll find the humor amazingly funny.
I explicitly address Persona 4 Golden in the article and explain that I haven’t played it, because I knew people would question its absence in the list.
However, I’ve got to object to you calling me ‘sloppy’ for not including it. This is my personal list and I’m not going to fill it with games I haven’t played, because otherwise I might as well just go to Metacritic and list the top 30 games on there.
As I explain in the article, the only exception is Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, because though I’m not a fan of MGS I’m at least well versed enough in it to know MGS3 has been considered a classic for over a decade so I’m comfortable enough to recommend it. I have actually played it, I just couldn’t get into it. But I appreciate its value.
I appreciate that Persona 4 Golden has a fanbase that adores it, but so does Battlefield and I’ve played that and don’t like it.
In short, please appreciate that these are my own personal choices and while I thoroughly welcome people recommending their own selections in the comments, I don’t welcome accusations that my work is ‘sloppy’ because my choices don’t correspond with yours.
saying this is an explicitly personal list rather than a definitive one, and including a series you haven’t played is so bizarre to me. plenty don’t like the metal gear games – they’re fairly divisive, even. i liked some of the series, but not MGS3 (relatively fiddly controls, unfit for purpose camera, absurd melodrama, endless busywork mechanics). mgs1 and 2 were much taughter games.
this idea of “i haven’t played it/don’t like it but i can understand how it’s a great game” is the most baffling thing to me. it’s not criticism.
To be clear, I have played the Metal Gear Solid games, at least to the extent that I know they’re not for me but can appreciate why they’re regarded as much loved by others. Having never even seen so much as the Persona 4 Golden title screen, I can’t possibly recommend it.
I can appreciate why you’d find it “baffling” but ultimately it’s my own list of games I’d recommend to someone if they asked me which Vita games to buy. I don’t necessarily love the Metal Gear Solid games, but I’ve played enough of them to know most people would enjoy them.
It’s the same deal with Battlefield, for example: I put about 10 hours into Battlefield 3 and decided it wasn’t for me, but can fully appreciate why others obsessed over it.
That MGS HD Collection features not only Metal Gear Solid 3 (a game you say you didn’t like) but also Metal Gear Solid 2 (a game you imply you did) makes it worth recommending in my eyes over an RPG I have no knowledge of and would be blindly supporting..
You weren’t kidding about the odd choices, but since it’s a personal list I understand it.
But I do wonder about Killzone Mercenary, because to leave it both out of your top 30 and honourable mentions, seems harsh.
The Vita has very much become my Persona/Danganronpa/rhythm-action/visual novel machine. I honestly only got it because of Persona 4 Golden but I am so glad I’ve found more and more games for the thing. Not to mention its battery life is stupidly impressive. I left the thing on overnight by accident and the battery barely drained.
Pretty interesting list, though. Was nice to see some unexpected choices. Fingers crossed that the rumoured 999 Vita port is true coz then we can have all three Zero Escape games on one system.
Great article Chris, I agree with most of those choices, any people looking for any more reccomendations, both Joe Danger games are seriously addictive, and Tetris is cheap at the moment, perfect pick up and play titles.
You need to play Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc. It’s so well executed!!
Ignore it’s sequel. It was poorly executed!
Enjoyed your list. Just wanted to say a couple games you have listed as digital actual have a english physical vita print.
Resident evil has a asian english copy
Shovel knight can be preordered from fangamer atm if u want a physical copy
Steamworld heist (sequel to steamworld dig try it Chris)
Just a few I would put on my own list. Surprised you didn’t put any Lego games knowing that you live those franchises?? I actually preferred the smaller closed off Lego games on vita rather than PS3/ps4 but since they’ve became open world/hubs I’ve lost interest.
The Danganronpa series is absolutely worth playing 🙂 Although they were ports of PSP games and they are now being released on PS4.
Great to see a fresh list. Deffinately different taste than my own on a handfull, but a few that sound great. Ill check out. Appreciate your style.
Wasnt big on p4g. Appreciate it and if i made a list, it woulda probly been on as tribute similar to your MGS HD listing. Keep up the good work. Not bad, regardless of sloppiness. .. just kidding
People should read before they write.