By now, you’ve likely seen Sony’s plan to close down the PlayStation 3 and Vita stores this Summer. We had our suspicions for some time — after last year’s redesigned PSN web store dropped both sets of games — and news officially came through earlier this month. You can still re-download games from your existing libraries, but for the PS Vita, you’ve got until 27th August to buy anything new.
Though Sony has long neglected the PS Vita, there remains a dedicated fanbase for it, and Vita games are still releasing nearly 10 years later. It may have lacked a UMD disc drive, but was digitally backwards compatible with the PSP, meaning we’ll lose access to two generations of handheld titles in one go.
In similar fashion to our PS3 list, we’re highlighting some of the best digital-only handheld games before they permanently disappear. Like before, this excludes anything with a PS4/PS5 re-release - PS One Classics are also exempt - but mentions those without a Western release. With four months to go until this mass delisting, here’s 10 notable games we’d recommend checking out.
Back in the 90s, Square wasn't exactly helpful when it came to naming games. Known as Seiken Densetsu in Japan, Final Fantasy Adventure in North America, and Mystic Quest in Europe — not to be confused with Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest on SNES — this game kicked off the Mana series back in 1991. The original version has seen several re-releases across the years, including 2020’s Collection of Mana, but the remake has never received a Western physical release.
Launched in 2016 for PS Vita, Adventures of Mana offered a faithful 3D adaptation, as we tried to stop the Dark Lord of Glaive destroying the Tree of Mana. Playing much like an older Legend of Zelda game, Adventures offered a simple RPG experience, one we advised was “still capable of scratching that retro itch”. Considering Secret and Trials of Mana got similar remakes on PS4, we’d love to see Adventures make the jump too.
Few will need reminding about Japan Studio’s Ape Escape, but the same can’t be said for some of its spin-offs. Having first appeared in 1999, we’ve not seen a new entry for nearly a decade, and during the PSP era, Ape Quest arrived with an RPG premise. Released on a physical UMD in Japan, North America and Europe only received the downloadable version.
Playing as the heir to the Toqsica Kingdom, our goal involved travelling the land to destroy numerous golems, freeing them from an evil curse. Choosing set paths to follow, this involved turn-based random encounters and mini-games. You can download the Starter Pack for free, and there’s also three paid DLC chapters.
Nihon Falcom are better known for Ys and The Legend of Heroes these days, but back in 1991 they found another footing with Brandish. Offering a top-down dungeon crawler RPG, it went on to receive three sequels and back in 2009, the original game received a 3D PSP remake. Calling this The Dark Revenant, it eventually came to the West six years later.
Set within the kingdom of Vittoria, we found the warrior Ares trapped underground inside the Cursed Ruins with his nemesis Dora Doran, a mysterious sorceress. We had some good opinions on Brandish back in 2015, saying that it came with a tougher difficulty that “will likely scare off most” but provided old-school dungeon crawler fans "a breath of fresh air."
If we mentioned quick-fire mini games, most people would think of Nintendo’s WarioWare series, but back in 2012, Sony launched the PS Vita with their own, extremely British, take on this genre. Frobisher Says is quite an eccentric affair, presenting a series of surreal (yet simple) challenges, such as guiding ships into sea monsters.
Though it becomes repetitive in longer sessions, we still enjoyed it, calling it a “quirky and unique title” that made great use of the Vita’s interface options. Arriving as a free download, you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose by claiming it before August. Plus, if you do enjoy it, additional mini games are also available as paid DLC.
Hungry Giraffe made two appearances on Sony’s handheld consoles. Beginning life as a PlayStation Mini on PSP, Laughing Jackal brought out a Vita release the following year with expanded features. As you’ve probably guessed from the name, Mr. Giraffe is quite a hungry fellow, needing our help to eat as much as possible.
Played out as a vertical scroller, we were tasked with directing Mr. Giraffe towards the presented food, which ranged from healthy fruits to burgers and fries, taking care to avoid less nutritional offerings like anvils and medication. Though we enjoyed the original outing, Laughing Jackal’s Vita port took this premise one step further, and we gave it a respectable 8/10.
LocoRoco was one of Japan Studio’s standout titles on PSP. First released in 2006, a sequel soon followed with LocoRoco 2, and these platform puzzle games both received physical releases, alongside PS4 remasters back in 2017. Sadly, the third PSP entry, Halloween-themed spin-off game LocoRoco: Midnight Carnival, hasn’t been quite as lucky, and remains a digital-only release.
Building upon those platforming mechanics, Midnight Carnival presented a tougher challenge, incorporating a bouncing skill called “boing”. Letting you chain together combos to build up high scores, there’s a few frustrating moments within, but we still gave it an overall recommendation, awarding it 7/10.
It’s been nine years since we last saw Sony’s off-road motor racing series MotorStorm. First launched in 2006, it spawned several sequels, the last of those being spin-off entry MotorStorm: RC by Evolution Studios. Another PS Vita launch title — at least, it was in Europe — RC saw us racing remote-controlled cars from an overhead view.
Offering 26 tracks based off the previous MotorStorm games, we believed RC was an essential purchase for Vita owners. Awarding it 9/10, it had a couple of control issues, but still made for a “cunningly addictive” experience. Better yet, RC’s also available on PS3 (sadly, also a digital exclusive) with cross-buy and cross-saves.
Soul Sacrifice’s history comes in two parts. Released for PS Vita in 2013, Sony’s action RPG made for an entertaining fantasy adventure, bringing us a Monster Hunter style game within a more twisted world. Designed by Capcom alumnus Keiji Inafune, it saw promising sales and the following year, Sony released an expanded edition called Soul Sacrifice Delta.
Heading back to Librom, Delta included some quality-of-life upgrades, also implementing new bosses, a never-ending dungeon survival mode called “Alice’s Eternal Maze”, and more. However, unlike the original, Delta never received a physical release outside of Asia. One version includes an English language option, but related downloads are region-locked, including the Network Pass.
Housemarque is back on PlayStation soon with Returnal, but many will recall it made a name for itself with Stardust. Launched in 1993, this shoot ‘em up eventually saw a resurgence with 2007’s Super Stardust HD, later arriving on PS4 and PSVR. In between those editions, the PS Vita received a sequel, Super Stardust Delta, as a launch title.
Offering a twin-stick multidirectional shooter, players controlled a starship orbiting one of five different planets, taking down asteroids and enemies before reaching the planet’s boss. Calling it an experience which “fits the system like a glove”, we had high praise for this sequel, awarding it a solid 9/10.
FuturLab’s popped up a few times across PlayStation consoles. Most recently seen with the disappointing Peaky Blinders: Mastermind, we had exceptionally high praise for Velocity 2X in 2014, giving the PS4 edition a rare 10/10. To an extent, it ended up overshadowing its PS Vita game Surge Deluxe, which released earlier that year.
Initially launched as a PlayStation Mobile title, Surge Deluxe brought that classic puzzle gameplay of placing matching blocks together to make them disappear, containing a surprising level of depth. Calling it a “shockingly enjoyable experience”, Surge Deluxe proved easy to pick up and difficult to master, and we gave it a solid recommendation.
And that’s our roundup. Like with our PS3 list, there’s only so many games we could add here, but there’s plenty more which deserve honourable mentions, including: Patchwork Heroes, Everyday Shooter, Corpse Party, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines, The 2D Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character, Gravity Crash Ultra, and TxK. If there’s any you’ll be picking up before August — or further games you believe we should’ve mentioned — let us know in the comments section below.
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