PS Vita Essential Games Guide

Back in August of 2011, I wrote up an article for the 3DS when it received its price drop, specifying the best games to grab for Nintendo’s portable console at the time for the respectable genres. In similar fashion, I felt it was time to give the PS Vita the same respect I gave the 3DS by providing an essential buyer’s guide.

Sony’s latest portable device has been out for almost one year now, with it also being nearly a year since we’ve gotten our hands on it back at PlayStation Blog’s Community Meetup Event held in NYC. When we first got our hands on the device, we were immediately impressed with how the system felt. The overall design gave it a sleek and downright sexy look, while providing for an incredibly solid build.

With the console approaching it’s one year anniversary in the US, I look back at all the Vita games I’ve played in the various genres and provide my personal favorites that pertain to each category.

Best Action/Adventure: Gravity Rush

When it comes to the most refreshing, unique experience available for the Vita that also takes full advantage of the console, Gravity Rush shines above every other game. Back when it was shown during the Vita’s unveiling in 2011 (when the device was known as “NGP”), the game seemed very intriguing. The art style and mechanics truly stood out amongst the pack of titles announced for the console. Upon finally playing this game, my expectations actually exceeded, as I was floored by how stunning the game was. Rich environments, unique gameplay mechanics, interesting story and the best visuals to ever grace the Vita, Gravity Rush is a game that I truly can’t recommend enough to any Vita owner.

Best Third-Person Shooter: Uncharted: Golden Abyss

When the Vita launched, THE title to own was Uncharted: Golden Abyss. Being Sony’s flagship IP this generation, there was good reason for fans to be excited about the title’s first portable installment. Instead of being developed by series creator Naughty Dog, Sony Bend (Syphon Filter, Resistance: Retribution) took the helm and tackled the gargantuan task of translating a much beloved series on the PS3 to the PS Vita. The end result was proof that Uncharted can translate onto Sony’s new portable and still feel exactly like that of the console editions.

Best First-Person Shooter: Resistance: Burning Skies

With the PS Vita having two analog sticks built into it, many were eager to see how FPSs would translate to the portable device. While we haven’t seen many of these on the console yet, one developer has brought two FPSs within six months of each other: Resistance: Burning Skies and COD: BO: Declassified. This one was a mixed bag to pick from, but ultimately, the final decision wasn’t all that difficult for me to determine. Resistance: Burning Skies was released in May of 2012 and provided for a solid experience from developer Nihilistic. The setting was well done, the controls were solid, the visuals were pretty good and the campaign was entertaining. Multiplayer was a bit on the laggy side unfortunately and while there’s some fun to be had with it, there wasn’t much lasting appeal. The game does have the easiest platinum trophy to earn on the Vita at the moment, if that’s an extra incentive for you. COD: BO: Declassified, also developed by Nihilistic, was a herculan attempt by the developer since they were only given less than six months to develop it. However, with a campaign that was less than an hour long, and a buggy mess of a multiplayer, it’s impossible for me to recommend that over Resistance: Burning Skies…especially when it’s the priciest game available on the Vita for $49.99.

Best Racing: WipEout 2048

The Vita has its share of racing titles. Between WipEout 2048, Modnation Racers: Roadtrip, Asphalt: Injection, Motorstorm RC, Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, Need for Speed: Most Wanted and Ridge Racer, there are a good amount to choose between. Out of the available titles, WipEout 2048 is the game that has the edge over any of the other racing titles. Visually, WipEout 2048 is an absolute beauty to see in action. Replicating visuals from the console version (with the switchoff of 30 fps), the game looks stunning. The lengthy and challenging campaign will keep you busy for quite some time, the Multiplayer Campaign adds a fresh twist to the multiplayer component of the game and the Cross-Play between the Vita and PS3 “WipEout HD” is an outstanding demonstration of asymetrical gaming. It really is unfortunate that Studio Liverpool shut its doors…especially with a knock-out title like this.

Best Fighter: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale

The Vita has a large amount of fighters to pick from. Between Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat, Blazblue, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Reality Fighters, and Street Fighter X TEKKEN, the Vita isn’t exactly short handed on fighting titles at the moment. However, out of all those titles, the one game that really stood out as a proper game on-the-go was PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. First off, utilizing the Cross-Buy feature of purchasing the PS3 version and getting the Vita version (digital) free is an excellent incentive to pick it up. The game itself was called a “Super Smash” ripoff and I’m going to be 100% honest, I was on the fence about the game when it was announced myself. However, finally getting my hands on the game, it was an absolute blast to play. The amount of fan service Superbot Entertainment has incorporated into this game is astounding, with only more that could be added to the game in the near future. The gameplay is fast-paced frentic fun and having to buildup your Special meter before actually eliminating your opponent for a point is a very strategic and intense twist to the genre. Couple that with Cross-Play support to play online amongst both PS3 and PS Vita owners and you’ve got a robust game that you’ll be returning to for quite some time.

Best Sports: Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition

Another genre that hasn’t seen the short end of the stick are sports games. There are quite a good selection of them, between MLB ’12, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, Virtua Tennis 4, FIFA Soccer and FIFA ’13 (yes, there were two editions within a year). While any of your choices here would do you well, especially pertaining to which is your favorite sport, I was torn between two particular titles: Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational and Virtua Tennis 4. Ultimately, Virtua Tennis 4 had the slight edge for me for various reasons. If you’ve never played VT4 before, it’s one of the most refined, yet easy to pickup-and-play tennis games ever made. Visually, it’s incredibly impressive that SEGA was able to cram the entire console version into the portable format without any loss in quality, while also adding Vita-specific content. It even ran at the 60 fps the console versions did.

Best RPG: Persona 4 Golden

The PlayStation brand was built on a plethora of JRPGs back with the PS1 and PS2. Fast-forward today and JRPGs have dwindled their way down in numbers. However, Atlus aims to revive the genre a bit for Sony’s latest portable with Persona 4 Golden. P4G is an enhanced version of the PS2 title, Persona 4, but with completely redone visuals and some extra content. Speaking of content, Persona 4 Golden is an immensely deep game that will keep you busy for tens, if not hundreds, of hours tackling everything the game has to offer. Whether you’re interacting with people to form friendships, working side jobs, attending school, or dungeon-crawling through the “TV World” (where missing people vanish to from the real world), P4G offers hybrid RPG/Simulation gameplay mechanics. If completing the game wasn’t enough, there’s a New Game+ to dive into, further extending the longevity.

Best Platformer: LittleBigPlanet Vita

In terms of carrying a platforming title on-the-go, LittleBigPlanet Vita is hands-down the choice to go with. LittleBigPlanet has picked up a huge fan base since Media Molecule’s first release on the PS3, and more so with the sequel. The PS Vita edition wasn’t developed by Media Molecule, but rather, Tarsier Studios. While fans can be wary when their franchise is later developed by a different studio, Tarsier Studios absolutely nailed bringing the experience to the Vita. Taking full advantage of the Vita’s features, creating levels has never been easier thanks to the touch screen implementations. Naturally, a big part of LBP is the user-generated content and playing other people’s creations is a huge portion of the fun. There’s some really innovative stuff that people have created and the developers incorporated filters to ensure you come across the best stuff every week. Additionally, one of the best features is the compatibility with DLC between the PS3 and Vita versions. Almost every DLC costume you own for the PS3 is accessible for download on the PS Vita version, at no additional cost. While Rayman Origins is another great platformer, LittleBigPlanet Vita is one that feels more like a tailored experience for the PS Vita (due to the fact that it was developed specifically for the Vita).

Best PSN Download: Retro City Rampage

There is a pretty wide assortment of PSN titles available for download on the PS Vita at this point of the system’s lifecycle. However, there’s one that particularly struck solid gold for me: Retro City Rampage. When I reviewed RCR back in October, there wasn’t enough praise I could give the game. Essentially an 8-bit “GTA” style game, you’ll tackle an insanely wild adventure that packs a rich amount of content. While I won’t go crazy in-depth here (read the full review for that), Retro City Rampage is simply a retro throwback with countless nostalgic moments that has me coming back day after day.

It’ll be almost one year since the PS Vita released in North America and the console has expanded over that course. At launch, the system wasn’t backwards compatible with many PSP games and/or Minis, and had zero PS1 Classics compatibility. Over time, we’ve seen the backwards compatibility library of PSP and PS Minis expand dramatically, while PS1 functionality finally gave old-school fans the ability to play their favorites on the stunning OLED screen. The Vita has also seen the inclusion of PlayStation Mobile content, as well as some neat apps, with more surely to come.

There you have it PS Vita owners. These are my personal picks for you to look into getting and while I’m not telling you that you have to buy these, I’m strongly recommending them. Enjoy!

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  • VengefulTorture

    Great stuff man! I loved the attention to every category of games, even the PSN download titles. I can definitely see why you picked each of these games. It’s too bad there aren’t many FPS or just shooters in general for the Vita. I did like Resistance a lot, but the lack of online support post-launch really killed it for me. I found it had decent graphics but i’m not sure about great ones, granted when compared to CoD it’s clearly much better. Not sure if you check it out or not but i was hoping to see Ragnarok Odyssey make this list somewhere. That’s a great game as well with plenty of hours in it.
    Great job again, i’m sure people will find this very helpful in making purchases!

    • Thanks VengefulTorture! I was really going back and forth about Ragnarok Odyssey actually, as it is a really fun title based on what I played. Even though I didn’t mention it above, it’s certainly a game worth checking out as well. The PS Vita is a great portable console and I really wanted to highlight some of the best titles available at this point of the lifecycle. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the article!

  • In most of those examples you can replace the word “Best” with “Only”

    • Edify yourself. Each of those categories/genres have several representatives on the Vita.

      Not even a full list:

      • Axe99

        It’s just another hater – it’s amazing how clueless many ‘gamers’ (and I use that term very loosely in this case) are of the Vita library.

        • I own a vita and also, prove me wrong.

          • Axe99

            Simply G just did, and you either don’t own a Vita, or you don’t spend a lot of time looking out for what you can play on it! That’d be like me owning a 360 and saying that it’s only got a couple of good shooters ;).

            Anyways, let’s go, and this is off the top of my head:


            – Gravity Rush, Oddworld: Strangers Wrath HD, MGS HD Collection, Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation.

            Third-Person shooter:

            – Uncharted, Unit 13


            – Resistance, CoD


            – Wipeout, Modnation Racers, WRC, F1 2011, NFS: Most Wanted


            – PSASBR, Marvel vs Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat, Blazblue, Street Fighter X Tekken


            – LBP, Tales from Space, Katamari, Knytt Underground, Escape Plan, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Rayman Origins


            – Virtua Tennis, Everybody’s Golf, FIFA, MLB 2012 and 2013


            – Persona 4 Golden, Disgaeia 3 – this is an area the Vita is weak in, but you do have access to oodles of quality PSP RPGs ;). New Little King’s Story could probably fit under this genre as well.

            PSN Download:

            – Oodles of ’em, RCR, Puddle, Uncharted: Fight for Fortune, Tales of Montezuma Blitz, Top Darts, Hustle Kings

            So there ya go, _at least_ one entry in each genre (and all of these are quality games too outside of the FPS category), and often quite a few. Not bad at all for a system one year in. So now you’ve been proven categorically incorrect, are you going to have the substance to acknowledge it? Hell, if you actually have a Vita, you really should be trying out a bunch of the games I’ve just listed ;).

          • Wow, you’re an idiot…..

          • Axe99

            Haha – righto Billy. Carry on ;).

    • zach

      I’m betting he’s just kidding guys :p

  • I Have Nearly All Of The Mentioned Games and they are amazing
    great list!

  • Vita

    Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath is another great PSN only download its an up-scaled HD version of the Xbox game of the same name and its a mixture of FPS and Third person, the story is awesome as well.

    • I’ve actually never played that, but I was interested in picking it up eventually. I’ll definitely look into getting it in the near future. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • welp

    Best rhythm game? : DJMAX TECHNIKA TUNE

    • I never played that but I’ve heard good things about it. I may have to look into checking that one out.

  • zach

    Well done. After I finished reading this I actually felt like you had played all these games unlike other lists I have read before. Including some under-the-radar titles such as Wipeout and RCR was great in my opinion, and I love how you always went into comparing it to the other genre specific titles. Good read, I enjoyed it.

    • Wow, thanks for the awesome comment! I’m really glad you enjoyed the read.