With its stunning OLED display, dual analogue sticks, and high performance processor and GPU, the PS Vita is an ideal console for delivering stunning arcade games on the go. Whether it’s recreating modern reimagined arcade classics, fast action bullet-hell shooters, or frantic twin-stick shooters, there’s plenty on the Vita to keep even the most hardened adrenaline junkies happy. We sat down and took a look to see what we think are ten of the best arcade shoot-em-ups to grace the console to-date…
Back in the 8-bit era, whenever you saw the name Llamasoft on the packaging for a game you could be certain of a few things – fast psychedelic visuals, incredible arcade action, farmyard animals, and games more often than not that were “influenced” by arcade classics. For their first (and only) PS Vita game, they looked to one of Jeff Minter’s all time favourite arcade games, Tempest. A game that he had already updated a few times officially on behalf of Atari, this was a “spiritual successor” in all but name and is one of the best games to grace the Vita. Stunning graphics, sound and a game that just oozes playability and a Vita exclusive to boot. Other ports were cancelled when Atari stepped in with the threat of legal action before console and PC ports were refined and rebranded as official Tempest sequels once more.
The first side-scrolling bullet-hell shoot-em-up in our top ten. Ported from the PS3 and this stunning game has managed to retail all of the speed, graphics and action from its console big brother. If it wasn’t for the fact that this sits in the palm of your hand, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a fully-fledged console game that you were playing. This would feel right at home in the arcades, it plays like a dream and runs superbly at a wonderfully smooth 60fps throughout.
When I first saw this modern take on the Williams arcade classic Defender running on the PS4, it was the one game that made me want Sony’s latest console. Stunning voxel graphics, a great update while still retaining all of the playability and addictive qualities of the original – everything I had come to expect from Housemarque and it was a true system-seller. When it was announced for the Vita my mind was made up to wait and see if it would do justice to the original and it more than demonstrated that the handheld was up to the task. While it doesn’t match the PS4s 60fps frame rate, it’s still a gorgeous looking game, retains the same compelling gameplay and is a must have for any arcade fan.
In all of its previous incarnations – Velocity on the PSP and Velocity Ultra on the PS Vita – the series managed to delight and wow games with it’s complex yet absorbing gameplay and original twists on the vertical scrolling shoot-em-up format. Velocity 2X took things in a brand new direction ramping up the visuals, sound, and core gamplay and if that wasn’t enough, Futurlab then added an entire new game element with a side-scrolling 2D platform game as well. That was just as robust as the main game and could have easily been released as a standalone game in its own right. Combine the two halves and you’re left with an instant classic.
Super Stardust Delta
If Housemarque’s first PS Vita release seemed familiar to many, it has quite a long history behind it. Not only is it an updated port of the PS3 and PSP Super Stardust games that came before it, but both of those were in fact contemporary remakes of the original Super Stardust developed for the Amiga by Bloodhouse – one of the two software companies that merged to form Housemarque. Back then the original version bore a closer similarity to the game that was the inspiration behind the game in the first place as well – the arcade classic Asteroids. This is far more than just Asteroids though – mix in a choice of weapons, powerups, bosses, and stunning visuals and you have one of the most remarkable games on the Vita, even six years after its first release.
There aren’t many side scrolling bullet-hell shooters on the PS Vita that are as tough as Sine Mora. That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing but it’s definitely not a game for the faint-hearted. The slick visuals and presentation will draw you in, the relatively gentle early segments will lull you into a false sense of security and then – BLAM! – you’re hit with how hard the game is but by then you’ll be hooked on this classic slice of arcade gaming. One of the best looking shooters on the Vita, and with an innovative time manipulation feature allowing you to slow the game down when the going gets tough, this is the game to get out to show people just what the Vita can do.
The real icing on the cake for Sine Mora for me is its extra 3D mode. Grab a pair of red/blue 3D glasses and play the game in glorious stereoscopic 3D. The effect is absolutely mindblowing yet even with the extra work demanded from the Vita the game still doesn’t slow down for one second. It’s almost worth buying for the 3D mode on its own!
Darius is one of Taito’s all time classic games in all of its incarnations, whether it’s the arcade original, any of its home ports or any number of the countless sequels that have been released. DariusburstCS (Chronicle Saviours) is the only entry in the series to make it to the PS Vita, but it’s more than made up for with its quality. Arcade quality visuals, spanning hundreds of stages, many of them branching allowing you to choose your own path through the game. Not enough for you? How about two distinctive game modes and a staggering 40 bosses and Cross Play with the PS4 version which unlocks additional content on the Vita version. This really is an arcade machine in your hands.
Aqua Kitty DX
Another reworking of Defender, but this time it’s an update of Tikipod’s own game originally released on PlayStation Mobile. Back then it was one of my favourite games for the format and the 16-bit styled shooter hasn’t lost any of its charm in its transition to this PS Vita enhanced port. Essentially as I said before it’s a Defender clone, but set underwater… with cats, killer robotic fish, crabs and other aquatic lifeforms… and the Earth in crisis thanks to a global shortage of milk. Sounds bizarre but the lush retro visuals, chip soundtrack and gameplay come together in harmony to make for a perfect shooter.
Sky Force Anniversary
Another PS Vita update, this time from the PSP original that made it to the Minis range. A radical improvement on the original, Sky Force Anniversary takes a slightly different angle on vertically scrolling shooters. While the game is split into stages, each is played separately and has a series of goals. For each one you complete you’re awarded a medal. Once you collect enough, and complete each level, the following one is unlocked for play. Stars you collect in game from destroying land-based turrets or attacking ships can be used to upgrade your ship with new or existing weapons and you can play any of the unlocked levels at will to earn more stars, improve your performance, earn more of the 8 medals on offer per level and progress as far as possible in the game. It’s this upgrade and medal system that gives the game a much longer shelf life that you’d expect from a straightforward shooter, in addition to the great aesthetics so you’ll be drawn back to this right until you beat the final stage and beyond.
Riddled Corpses EX
Twin-stick shooters. Zombies. Retro inspired visuals. They are always firm favourites and Riddled Corpses EX has them in abundance. The retro styled twin stick shooter has proved to be a hit and it’s easy to see why. Plenty of power ups, non-stop action, a wide range of characters and upgrades and replayability gives you enough bang for your cash to keep you coming back long after others have been left by the wayside.
Well that’s our pick of the best. There were a few that didn’t quite make it into the list but are still worth getting so you could do far worse than getting any of these as well…
- Dead Nation
- Son Of Scoregasm
- Metal Slug 3
- Alien Breed
- Project Root
- Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved
Do you have any favourites that you think we’ve missed out or do you agree with our choices? Let us know in the comments below.