Unveiling the Top 20 PlayStation Vita Games of All Time – 2023 Edition

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In the pulsating, ever-evolving universe of gaming, Sony’s PlayStation Vita has etched its name in the annals of history with its distinctive blend of portability and power. As we stand at the precipice of 2023, it feels fitting to revisit this iconic handheld console that pushed boundaries and ignited imaginations. Welcome to “Unveiling the Top 20 PlayStation Vita Games of All Time – 2023 Edition.” This curated collection is more than just a list; it’s a vibrant homage to the games that captivated us, made our hearts race, and even brought a tear or two. These are the games that resonated with the Vita community, stirring conversations and creating shared experiences. So, buckle up as we journey through time and pixels, unveiling the updated list of games that have left an indelible mark on the Vita landscape and continue to keep us hooked, one level at a time.

1. 2064: Read Only Memories

2064: Read Only Memories is a cyberpunk-style adventure game, masterfully executed by the creative squad at MidBoss. The game’s direction was helmed by John “JJSignal” James, with the script finely crafted by Valerie Amelia Thompson and Philip Jones. Adding to the overall ambiance of the game, 2 Mello contributed an original soundtrack.

The narrative unfurls in the festive atmosphere of Neo-San Francisco, California, set in 2064. In this futuristic backdrop, the tech giant Parallax introduces their innovative Relationship and Organizational Managers (ROMs) – robots programmed to take over the roles of smartphones and computers. Players step into the shoes of a journalist who embarks on a mission to locate their abducted friend and Parallax engineer, Hayden Webber. Assisting them in this endeavor is Turing, a creation of Hayden’s and the world’s first sentient machine, a self-evolving robot capable of emotional growth and learning.

2. Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge, a Metroidvania-style video game, is the product of American indie developer Thomas Happ’s creativity and innovation. The game revolves around Trace, a scientist who wakes up in an ancient but technologically sophisticated world after enduring a serious injury. With a strong emphasis on action and exploration, Axiom Verge offers players over 60 items and power-ups. It pays homage to classic games by incorporating elements from Metroid, Contra, Blaster Master, and Bionic Commando, among others, into its gameplay.

3. Downwell

Downwell, a unique blend of a vertically scrolling shooter game with roguelike elements, was introduced to the gaming world in 2015 by the developer Ojiro Fumoto and publisher Devolver Digital.

In Downwell, players step into the shoes of Welltaro, a curious character who decides to venture into the depths of a well in a local park one night. Equipped with his gunboots and aware of the monsters that lie ahead, Welltaro embarks on a downward journey, battling enemies and collecting treasures. The gameplay revolves around three basic controls: moving left and right, jumping while on a solid surface, and firing from Welltaro’s gunboots by pressing and holding the jump button mid-air.

4. Iconoclasts

Iconoclasts, a captivating platform game developed by the Swedish talent Joakim “Konjak” Sandberg and published by Bifrost Entertainment, was brought to various platforms starting with Linux, macOS, Windows, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita in January 2018.

The plot revolves around Robin, a naive but helpful mechanic, living under the shadow of a nefarious religious power known as the One Concern, headed by a being called “Mother.” This oppressive authority not only controls the government but also monopolizes the manipulation of “Ivory,” the power source for its machines, allowing only licensed mechanics to handle it. Robin’s self-taught skills and her efforts to help those in need put her in the crosshairs of One Concern’s soldiers. As a result, she is labeled a criminal and a heretic, forcing her and her allies into hiding as they mount their resistance against the tyrannical One Concern.

The game, a 2D platformer with Metroidvania elements, offers an engaging mix of exploration, combat against foes, and environmental puzzles that players solve using tools at the disposal of the main character, Robin. As players progress through the levels, the storyline gradually unfolds. A distinctive feature of “Iconoclasts” is its emphasis on boss battles, offering over twenty unique bosses for players to challenge.

5. Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight, an esteemed platform video game, is the brainchild of Yacht Club Games. The game’s development was financed through crowdfunding. The design of Shovel Knight is heavily influenced by the gameplay mechanics and visual style of platformer games that were originally developed for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Shovel Knight has received extensive praise, with many critics lauding it as one of the most exceptional video games ever produced. After new campaigns were introduced, the original storyline was renamed as Shovel of Hope. In December 2019, the comprehensive game, encompassing three additional campaigns – Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment, and King of Cards, along with the multiplayer fighting game Shovel Knight Showdown, was released as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove.

6. Super Meat Boy

Launched in 2010, Super Meat Boy is a platform game that was a collaborative effort by Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, collectively known as Team Meat. This game succeeded Meat Boy, a 2008 Flash game crafted by McMillen and Jonathan McEntee. Super Meat Boy presents players with the challenge of guiding a red, cube-shaped character, Meat Boy, on his mission to rescue his girlfriend, Bandage Girl, from the nefarious Dr. Fetus. The gameplay demands precision and impeccable timing as players traverse over 300 perilous levels, dodging various obstacles along the way. Additionally, the game offers the opportunity for players to create their own levels.

The development process for the game began in early 2009, with McMillen focusing on level design and artwork, and Refenes on coding. Danny Baranowsky, who also contributed to the original Meat Boy, composed the game’s soundtrack. Super Meat Boy has been the recipient of numerous awards and is often cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. It received critical acclaim for its controls, artwork, music, and challenging gameplay. Moreover, it was a commercial success, selling over a million copies by January 2012. A sequel, Super Meat Boy Forever, was released on December 23, 2020, without the involvement of McMillen.

7. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is an enhanced rendition of the crossover fighting game, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. This game was a joint creation by Capcom and Eighting. It showcases characters from both Capcom’s gaming franchises and Marvel Comics’ series.

The gameplay in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 involves players creating a team of three characters to engage in combat and aim to defeat their opponents. While its gameplay mechanics are largely similar to the original, changes were made to the aerial combat and X-Factor systems that were first introduced in Fate of Two Worlds. There have also been aesthetic changes, new playable characters, and gameplay modifications.

The game received generally positive reviews upon its release. Critics praised the expanded roster of characters and improved online experience, despite criticism regarding the lack of new features and game modes. A sequel to the game, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, was released in September 2017.

8. Guacamelee!

Guacamelee!, a Metroidvania-style action platformer game, was developed and released by DrinkBox Studios, drawing its inspiration from Mexican culture and folklore, with elements such as alebrijes and Day of the Dead. The game’s sequel, Guacamelee! 2, which provides a four-player cooperative gameplay experience, was launched on August 21, 2018.

The storyline of Guacamelee! centers around Juan Aguacate, a simple agave farmer from the small Mexican village of Pueblucho. On Dia de los Muertos, he ventures into town to reunite with his childhood friend and love interest, Lupita, who is the daughter of El Presidente. However, their reunion is disrupted by Carlos Calaca, an evil charro skeleton who kidnaps Lupita and kills Juan in the process. Juan awakens in the land of the dead where he encounters Tostada, a mysterious luchadora who gifts him a magical mask. This mask transforms him into a formidable luchador and brings him back to the world of the living. The game then follows Juan’s journey to rescue Lupita and prevent Carlos’ plan to merge the worlds of the living and the dead under his rule using a sacrificial ritual.

In terms of gameplay, Guacamelee! perfectly blends 2D Metroidvania-style action platform and brawler elements. Players control Juan, exploring an open, non-linear world, accomplishing main story objectives, collecting crucial character upgrades, and battling enemies. Coins earned from defeated enemies can be used to purchase new skills at shops, which also function as checkpoints. The game also facilitates drop-in co-op play, allowing a second player to join as Tostada, Guardian of the Mask.

9. LittleBigPlanet

LittleBigPlanet is a renowned platform game developed by Media Molecule and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The game’s standout feature is its innovative level editor, enabling players to design their unique levels and share them with an online community. Gamers control Sackboy, a fully customizable rag doll character, endowed with creative abilities that bring player-created levels to life. The game’s story mode unfolds across pre-designed levels, grouped into thematic areas, where Sackboy aids various Creator Curators across the LittleBigPlanet universe while facing off against the Collector, a villain hoarding and stealing creations.

Despite initial slow sales, LittleBigPlanet rapidly gained momentum to become a commercial success with four million units sold. The game garnered widespread acclaim and numerous awards, particularly for its gameplay, creativity, and community features. It is frequently cited among the greatest video games of all time and has left a significant mark on the “play, create, share” genre. While a sequel was not initially planned, the popularity of LittleBigPlanet led to the development of a franchise, including LittleBigPlanet 2 and 3, and several spin-offs. Sackboy, the game’s protagonist, has since become a beloved mascot for Sony. The release of LittleBigPlanet aligned with a rise in user-generated content, playing a crucial role in the emergence of a new genre of level-editing games.

10. Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami, a top-down shooter game released in 2012 by Dennaton Games and Devolver Digital, is set against the vibrant backdrop of Miami in 1989. The plot centers on a silent protagonist, known as “Jacket” among gamers, who receives enigmatic messages on his answering machine that prompt him to carry out brutal assaults on the local Russian mafia. The game combines a top-down viewpoint with stealth gameplay elements, delivering a surreal storyline filled with extreme violence. This narrative is complemented by a soundtrack and visual aesthetics that echo the distinct vibe of the 1980s culture.

Hotline Miami was conceived as a spiritual continuation of Super Carnage, a 2004 game venture that was eventually dropped, with its primary goal being to maximize the number of casualties. Upon its debut, Hotline Miami received broad critical acclaim, with reviewers praising its intriguing plot, thematic richness, unique soundtrack, vibrant color scheme, and compelling gameplay. It has gradually been celebrated as one of the most influential video games in history, recognized for its impact on the indie gaming scene, and acknowledged as an exceptional cult video game. Hotline Miami’s extraordinary success significantly boosted the profile of its publisher, Devolver Digital. In March 2015, a sequel, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, was launched. Later in 2015, the original game and its follow-up were bundled for a re-release in Japan as Hotline Miami: Collected Edition. This compilation was later released globally under the name Hotline Miami Collection in August 2019.

11. Killzone: Mercenary

Guerrilla Cambridge developed Killzone: Mercenary, a first-person shooter game, which was published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation Vita in September 2013. As the second handheld entry and the fifth installment in the Killzone series, the game unfolds across key scenarios and locations from the first three Killzone games. It delves into the story of Arran Danner, an ISA-employed mercenary. The plot is set on the conflict-ridden planets of Vekta and Helghan, wedged between the timelines of Killzone 2 and Killzone 3, revisiting significant events from the series through Danner’s perspective. His operations for the ISA are facilitated by a mysterious arms dealer, Blackjack, with occasional assistance from his boss, Anders Benoit. Unique to the Killzone storyline, players can align with Helghast forces and ISA specialists, taking on missions beyond the capacity of regular soldiers. They have the liberty to choose their tactics and equipment as mercenaries, with successful contract completions rewarded monetarily. The game maximizes the features of PS Vita’s touchscreen and rear touch panel. Upon its release, critics positively received Mercenary for its quality as a portable console first-person shooter, praising its controls and visuals while criticizing its storyline and campaign length.

12. Tearaway

Tearaway, a platform adventure game, was conceived by Media Molecule and launched by Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation Vita. The game’s unique concept draws inspiration from the art of papercraft and Rex Crowle’s doodles, which were scattered around the Media Molecule office. The story commences with two characters – the “Green Man” and an unnamed Fortune Teller – making their acquaintance with the player, designated as the “You”. They inhabit a papercraft world called ValleyFold, where they’ve grown tired of the existing “stories”. Hoping to weave a new narrative, they enlist the You’s aid. In a bid to bridge their universe with the You’s, the Green Man and the Fortune Teller pierce a hole in ValleyFold’s sun to send an envelope through. This envelope descends through the hole and lands in a field in ValleyFold, where it morphs into a papercraft humanoid known as the “Messenger”. The You has the choice of the Messenger’s identity – either Iota or Atoi, with the envelope forming the head.

13. Spelunky

First unveiled in 2008 as freeware for Microsoft Windows, Spelunky is a captivating 2D platform game crafted by independent developer Derek Yu. Spelunky invites players to step into the shoes of a spelunker who embarks on thrilling adventures through a series of caves. The tasks? Collect treasure, rescue damsels, battle foes, and dodge traps. What sets this game apart is its procedurally generated caves, offering a fresh, unique experience with every playthrough.

Spelunky broke new ground by fusing roguelike principles with real-time side-scrolling platformer facets. Its popularity sparked a wave of similar roguelike games. It garnered widespread acclaim for its immersive gameplay, atmospheric design, and creative concept, although its controls and multiplayer features sparked some debate. Nevertheless, the game’s overall excellence has led many critics and gaming publications to laud Spelunky as one of the most exceptional video games in history.

14. Darkest Dungeon

Red Hook Studios has developed and released Darkest Dungeon, a unique role-playing game that incorporates roguelike elements. Players are put in charge of a group of heroes and tasked with exploring the dungeons located beneath a gothic mansion they have inherited.

Upon starting the game, players learn they’ve inherited an estate from an Ancestor who inadvertently unleashed a horrifying creature and various evil beings onto the world while pursuing his unclear ambitions by excavating the dungeons and catacombs below his manor. As the new owner of the estate, the player is tasked with assembling a team of adventurers to rid the estate of its evil dwellers.

In Darkest Dungeon, players must manage a roster of heroes, each belonging to one of fifteen distinct character classes, with individual statistics and skills that can be enhanced over time. The Hamlet, the game’s hub town near the mansion, provides facilities for managing heroes and inventory. However, if a hero dies during a dungeon exploration, they are permanently lost.

The game received positive feedback from critics, earning several award nominations and selling over two million copies. Red Hook Studios announced a sequel, Darkest Dungeon II, in February 2019 and a board game adaptation is also currently under development.

15. Gravity Rush

Gravity Rush, known as Gravity Daze in Japan, is an action-adventure video game developed by the Team Gravity division of Japan Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation Vita in 2012. The narrative begins with the main character, Kat, waking up with no memory in Hekseville, a floating city around the World Pillar. With her mysterious cat, Dusty, she discovers her ability to control gravity, which she uses to fight off Nevi, storm-spawned monsters. After rescuing Syd, a friendly police officer, she learns that those with her powers are called “Shifters”. Despite conflict with Raven, another Shifter, Kat helps the city’s residents and gets involved in the pursuit of Alias, a criminal connected to the Nevi. After Alias’ defeat and restoration of parts of Hekseville are consumed by spatial rifts with Gade’s help, she earns the nickname “Gravity Queen”. Even when offered a position in the city’s military, she refuses. The game, which draws artistic inspiration from Japanese and Western comics, including the work of French artist Jean Giraud, received generally positive reviews. Critics praised the art style and portrayal of Kat, despite some criticism of gameplay aspects and control issues. The game and its remaster sold 200,000 copies globally, and a sequel, Gravity Rush 2, was released in 2017 for PlayStation 4.

16. Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Uncharted: Golden Abyss, a 2011 action-adventure game, was developed by Bend Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment as an initial offering for the PlayStation Vita. This game, which precedes the events of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, serves as a prequel to the series. The narrative follows the journey of adventurer and treasure hunter Nathan Drake, who sets out on a mission to discover the lost city of Quivira, with the assistance of Marisa Chase, a fellow treasure hunter. The gameplay blends elements of action-adventure and platforming, challenging players to solve puzzles and engage in cover-based third-person shooting combat with enemies. Upon its release, Golden Abyss was met with substantial sales and largely positive reviews. Though the game’s graphics, voice acting, and the successful adaptation of Uncharted’s gameplay to a new platform garnered positive reviews from critics, they also pointed out issues with its storyline and the execution of controls specific to the Vita platform. The game remains a PlayStation Vita exclusive, as it was not included in PlayStation 4’s Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection due to its independent narrative.

17. Velocity 2X

Velocity 2X, an enthralling shoot ’em-up video game, is the innovative creation of FuturLab. It was meticulously developed and published for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita. The inception of this project dates back to 2012 when FuturLab, emboldened by the triumph of their initial game, entered into a partnership with Sony to produce games for Vita.

The narrative of Velocity 2X picks up the threads from its antecedent. It sketches the gripping tale of Lt. Kai Tana, who is discovered unconscious, floating aimlessly in a distant galaxy, her body mysteriously merged with her ship’s self-repair mechanisms. When she awakens, she finds herself a captive of the menacing Vokh Empire. The Empire harbors sinister intentions to utilize her ship’s teleportation features and her recently enhanced cyborg powers to broaden their control across the galaxy. In this dire situation, Tana receives assistance from an imprisoned alien scientist. Together, they engineer an escape and Tana repossesses her ship. With a shared objective, they embark on a bold mission: to ensure Tana’s safe return to her home planet and thwart the Vokh Empire’s rampant expansion.

18. Rogue Legacy

Developed and published by Cellar Door Games in 2013, Rogue Legacy is a distinctive platform game that incorporates roguelike elements. The game adopts a genealogical rogue-“LITE” approach, offering every player the chance to emerge as a hero.

In the unique world of Rogue Legacy, each time your character succumbs, their progeny steps into their shoes. These descendants are far from cookie-cutter characters; each one brings their own quirks to the table. One might be navigating the world without the full spectrum of color, another could be grappling with vertigo, or they might even be shorter in stature.

But herein lies the beauty of the game: perfection isn’t required for victory. Despite its challenging nature, success hinges on your skill. And there’s a silver lining – the gold amassed during each round can be utilized to enhance your manor, providing your next child with a leg up in life and another shot at vanquishing evil.

The mission in Rogue Legacy is simple yet engaging. It involves traversing a randomly generated dungeon, tackling four bosses in each of the dungeon’s distinctive environments, before squaring off against the ultimate boss. Characters come equipped with the basic abilities to jump and swing their sword, supplemented by additional skills like mana-consuming magic attacks. The game also allows players to extend platforms with a swift slash of their swords.

19. Persona 4

Persona 4, also known as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 outside of Japan, is a revered role-playing video game that was launched in 2008 by Atlus. This game serves as the fifth installment in the Persona series, which is a part of the more extensive Megami Tensei franchise. Set in a fictional Japanese countryside, Persona 4 has subtle connections to its predecessors in the Persona series. The protagonist of the game, christened by the player, is a high school student who shifts from the bustling city to the tranquil countryside for a year. During his rural sojourn, he finds himself embroiled in the investigation of enigmatic murders alongside his friends, all while harnessing the power to summon Personas, the physical manifestations of their inner selves.

The storyline of Persona 4 is heavily influenced by mystery novels, mirroring their murder-mystery premise. The game’s setting, inspired by a town on the periphery of Mount Fuji, was intentionally conceptualized as a ‘non-place’ to allow players to relate to the characters’ daily lives. The developers incorporated numerous in-game events to ensure the gameplay remains fresh and captivating. During the localization phase, several changes were made to Japanese cultural references to retain the original essence as much as possible.

With its well-crafted gameplay, intriguing story, emotional depth, compelling characters, and enchanting music, Persona 4 has earned widespread critical acclaim. It has left an indelible mark on the gaming world and is frequently named among the best video games ever created.

20. Pinball Arcade

While Zen Pinball 2 was regarded as being the best arcade style pinball game for the PS Vita, for the most realistic pinball simulation there was nothing better than Pinball Arcade. With a massive selection of tables from industry pinball giants like Bally, Stern, Williams and more this was a game that delivered everything a pinball game could ever ask for. As well as a superb selection of diverse games, it boasted some of the most well-known and popular tables of all time including the classic Addams Family and Star Trek: The Next Generation tables that drew crowds in arcades worldwide.

Whether you were looking for sports based tables, horror such as Haunted House, sci-fi (Space Shuttle and Doctor Who) and one of my personal favourites High Roller Casino which recreated all the excitement of a casino with on-table mini games based on roulette, slots, and video poker. With these and so many more, there really was something for everyone. With tables available individually and packs it made it easy to customise your table collection to suit your needs and budget as well.

This truly was a must-have game for everyone, but sadly – as with Zen Pinball 2 – most of the table licensed have expired so many are now only available to those of us who are lucky enough to have already picked them up.

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About Simon Plumbe 1064 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe