When Sony lost Monster Hunter to Nintendo, it was devastating for the PS Vita. Capcom’s co-op franchise had played a pivotal role in pushing the PSP domestically in Japan, and its absence left a gaping chasm in the handheld’s library. The company worked tirelessly to plug that gap, and Soul Sacrifice was one of its efforts: a dark fantasy action RPG with a strong emphasis on coordination and impossible odds. It was a great and successful attempt, and it spawned an enhanced re-release, named Soul Sacrifice Delta.
39. flower (PS Vita)
The title that put thatgamecompany on the map before it touched the world with Journey, flower is a brief tale about the environment and our impact on it. It’s never preachy, nor does it overstay its welcome, and while you could argue this PS Vita port doesn’t hit quite the same as on a large, high-definition television, it’s still a title you should absolutely play.
Sony’s desperation for a Monster Hunter alternative saw it fling a lot of ideas at the wall, and Freedom Wars came with such an intense marketing campaign that it’s a surprise it only received a single instalment. This anime-inspired co-op title was the posterboy for the PS Vita TV, and saw you assume the role of a prisoner who must complete various quests in order to reduce their sentence. It played great: it was a third-person shooter with grappling systems that made for some entertaining traversal and coordinated attack mechanics. Unfortunately, despite becoming one of the best-selling PS Vita games in Japan, the manufacturer eventually ceased first-party development for the format, and it was never ported to the PS4.
37. Fez (PS Vita)
Much like Bastion, Fez was one of the poster childs of the Xbox Live Arcade era. This game presented itself as a fairly rudimentary puzzle platformer, but players quickly discovered it harboured many more secrets. Designed a little like an ARG, the original launch of this vibrant adventure is one of the most memorable in modern gaming history, as fans all around the world worked together to uncover its many secrets. While all of those were exposed by the time it was ported to the PS Vita, it’s hard not to appreciate the sheer genius of this release.
Drinkbox Studios rarely misses, and Severed was another stunning effort from the Toronto studio. In essence, this is a dungeon crawler, but its twist is that its combat is entirely touchscreen based. While that may sound hellish for hardcore gamers, it works incredibly well, with each enemy requiring a different tactic to defeat – and the stakes really ramping up as you get surrounded by foes. With tons to discover and an attractive art style, this is another incredible effort from a team that rarely misses.
Sony sold the PS Vita on the basis of it being a handheld console you could take on the go, but it couldn’t convince third-party publishers to support the system in the same way as the PSP. Of the few home console ports that did make the transition, Need for Speed: Most Wanted was superb. Criterion managed to cram its entire open world racer onto the handheld, and while there were obvious visual compromises compared to the PS3 version, this was far-and-away one of the best racers you released for the portable, alongside Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed.
Originally released for the PS3 and later ported to the PS Vita, The Unfinished Swan is a Santa Monica Studio incubated debut effort from developer Giant Sparrow, which would later go on to release games like What Remains of Edith Finch. This walking simulator-esque experience toys with a number of gameplay ideas, including one system in which you’re required to navigate an “invisible” environment by throwing paint around it to reveal its secrets. It’s perhaps a little inconsistent in hindsight, but its inventiveness remains as impactful even today.
One of the quintessential indies from the Xbox Live Arcade era, Bastion was paraded as a masterpiece for many years. Supergiant Games’ subsequent releases have perhaps tempered the initial enthusiasm that revolved around this debut effort, but that doesn’t mean it’s not impressive. The USP here was its use of narration, which brings a unique narrative twist to a painterly isometric adventure.
Metroidvanias have, frankly, become ten a penny in this modern era of digital storefronts and indie developers. Even on the PS Vita, there are dozens upon dozens of tightly designed sidescrollers to choose from. Few are quite as realised as Axiom Verge, however – a one-man effort which perfectly encapsulates its NES namesakes. There’s not a lot that surprises about the design of this game, but its execution is second-to-none, and it’s perfectly suited to portable play sessions.
How do you make a game effectively about geometric shapes resonant and impactful? To be honest, we’re still not entirely sure, but Thomas Was Alone goes above and beyond the traditional puzzle platformer. It works within the confines of its own obvious boundaries to create an experience where simple silhouettes have actual personality, and like so many other indie experiences, it feels perfectly tailored for portable play sessions.