Early this month, Sony Interactive Entertainment announced that it was going to close PSP, PS3, and PS Vita’s PSN stores, removing the devices users’ ability to buy games from the digital storefronts in the process. Thankfully, SIE CEO Jim Ryan himself decided to reverse the course (although no such luck for PSP). Whether you’re one of the panic buyers who now own PS Vita or PS TV, or you’re a loyal Sony owner since day one, now we all got more breathing room to check out the fantastic game collection that we might’ve had missed.
PS Vita itself actually packed with its own interesting exclusive. But if you need to relive that holiday season nostalgia, wasting away days just playing games, here are the best PS2 classic games you can get for your PS Vita and PS TV.
1. Persona 4 Golden
If we’re talking about PS Vita, of course, we cannot not talk about Persona 4 Golden, the extremely popular RPG that’s basically Pokemon but with a dash of teenage angst. Here, you play as Yu Narukami, a high school student who just transferred to the rural town of Inaba. One thing leads to another, and you and your new friends in school end up being involved in a murder mystery. Oh, and all of you also gain the ability to get inside TVs and summon (and collect) demons called Persona.
What makes it a hit among RPG and anime fans though, is the Social Links system. While investigating the mystery, you can deepen your bonds with fellow townspeople that will give you bonus skills and/or new Personas. Each people will have their own daily routines depending on the time of day and weather. With that in mind, although I personally find it drags a bit too much at times, it does give an extra layer of gameplay that’s not strictly combat-related as well as flesh out NPC characters. Trying to complete all of the available Social Links and collects all Persona in one run will surely eat a huge chunk of your free time easily.
An enhanced port of the original PS2 release, this version adds many new contents. Quality of life changes such as more difficulty options and customization, modification to Persona skill acquisition, scene skipping, combat system rework, to brand new voice lines, costumes, areas, Social Links, characters, and even endings.
2. Final Fantasy X HD Remaster
Other than Persona, the other PS2 JRPG classic you can get on PS Vita are Final Fantasy X and its sequel. In Japan and Asia regions, both are sold physically. However, in the Americas and Europe, only the first game has a physical release, but it includes a download code for X-2. The game instantly made a wave when it first released (and still do among RPG enthusiasts) thanks to its strategic combat.
There’s Conditional Turn-Based Battle system that dictates turns based on both character’s stats and action, switching out party members on the fly, directly controlling summons’ attack instead of just running canned animations, and the highly customizable and expansive Sphere Grid upgrade system (which works similarly to Path of Exile‘s skill tree if you comparing it to a newer release).
Considering this HD compilation is based on the International version that never saw a release in North America, all the new additions are good enough reasons if you want to replay the game. The Final Fantasy X International was released with a new Sphere Grid option, optional Dark Aeons and Penance bosses, Eternal Calm scenes that lead into X-2, and new abilities. The Vita version even adds a Quick Recovery feature that lets you quickly restore the party’s HP to full using the minimal amount of healing items and magic together with a 30–minute audio drama at the end credits, Final Fantasy X -Will-, as bonuses.
3. Final Fantasy X-2 HD Remaster
Meanwhile, the sequel is based on the Japanese-only Final Fantasy X-2 International + Last Mission. It added new dresspheres, a Creature Creator system, a Fiend Arena, and a new randomly generated dungeon called Iutycyr Tower. You can also transfer save data between the standalone Vita version to the PS3 and 4 counterparts or vice-versa.
While some part of the fanbase is still not sure X-2 is a necessary addition to X‘s story, most agree that the Garment Grid system is one of the most interesting experiments the franchise has done. This is where you change dresspheres (or costumes) of the three main characters to instantly switch between abilities rather than changing party members. It also changes the combat system into an Active Time Battle system of previous releases but you can switch it back to Wait mode. These two options make the game’s combat system feel really flexible and robust for a simple turn-based RPG.
4. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
A full remake of the PS2 side-scrolling action RPG Odin Sphere. Heavily borrowing themes from Norse mythology and European folktales, it tells the stories of five people whose lives intertwine during a war leading to a foretold catastrophe, Armageddon. When it debuted in 2007, it instantly garners praise from critics and fans alike for its rich and colorful hand-drawn visual as well as the storybook-like presentation of the Shakesperean storytelling. Game Informer even compared Odin Sphere‘s complexity and intrigue to the A Song of Ice and Fire series!
The remake is highly recommended not just because of the extra content like new enemies and stages, but also for fixing small janks in the combat and item/meal crafting mechanics. Nevertheless, if you have played it before and do have nostalgia for the original gameplay, you can choose between Classic Mode or the New Mode from the main menu.
Two other equally gorgeous Vanillaware games are available on PS Vita as well: Murasama Rebirth (which was a Wii exclusive and now with extra contents) and Dragon’s Crown (which has cross-play and cross-save support for Vita, PS3, and PS4).
5. The Bard’s Tale: Remastered and Resnarkled
A departure from previous titles on this list, The Bard’s Tale serves up easy to digest, streamlined RPG system — party members are relegated to magical summons, and the lack of inventory or class – to ease you right into the meat of the game: cleverly written snarky dialogues delivered with superb voice acting. Made by inXile Entertainment in 2004, in this spoof of typical RPG convention you follow the story of an opportunistic Bard (voiced by Cary Elwes) that goes on an adventure simply driven by his selfish desires rather than noble pursuits.
The late Tony Jay lent his voice as a cynical narrator who mocked you all the way from the start to the end of the game. If you’re looking for an RPG that isn’t too complex, short, takes only around 20 hours to finish, less Japanese, and much more comedic than usual, then this one is for you.
6. God of War Collection
A collection of the first two Kratos’ adventures on the PS2. Considering PS Vita’s 960×544 screen, obviously the visual isn’t going to be equal to its console counterpart, But for the most part, it plays as you expect. Mashing several different button combinations will send the chained Blades of Chaos flying in quick succession, ripping apart any Legionnaires that stand in your way, not unlike Devil May Cry‘s Dante--but with more gore. Bloody, fast-paced, and thrilling, it is a game of choice for hack-and-slash enthusiasts or players who are curious as to God of War‘s (infamous) reputation back in the days.
However, the performance leaves much to be desired. In bigger areas and flashy boss battles, the game’s framerate could drop to 20 FPS. It also only runs at 30 FPS tops while the original releases could achieve 60 FPS. Still, a decent alternative if you no longer have your PS2 or just want to unleash hell on the go.
7. Jak and Daxter Trilogy
Cartoonish adventure games are a staple of the sixth console generations. And one of the best Sony exclusives you can play was Jak and Daxter from Naughty Dog. As its name suggests, this pack bundles the first three escapades of the titular iconic duo, Jax and his friend Daxter, who was turned into an “ottsel.” Compared to other games in the genre, throughout three games the series went through an “interesting” evolution. What was once a whimsical family-friendly game, quickly took a dark turn in the second installment as Jak was captured and tortured by his enemies. Latter games were also packed with bigger, open areas, Grand Theft Auto-style driving mechanics, edgier dialogues, and projectile weaponry.
It’s definitely worth a play to experience how Naughty Dog can inject mature elements to your typical platformer title in an attempt to keep up with its “aging” player base and keep the franchise fresh. Unfortunately, similar to the God of War Collection, there are noticeable framerate dips and visual downgrades in the Vita release.
8. The Sly Collection
If God of War and Jax‘s performance issues make you worried about the quality of PS2 games on the Vita, don’t worry. Those two are pretty much just an outlier; other ports run better than them. For example, all the Sly Cooper games in this collection could maintain a steady 30FPS with rare minor drops. Visually, it looks crisp and colorful as well. The digital versions for each game are sold separately, but if you snag the physical version of The Sly Collection, it will include all three titles.
Aside from the near-perfect performance, Sly Cooper games stand out in the sea of mascot platformers all thanks to their focus on stealth elements more than your basic beat-em-up and collect-a-thon gameplay. Writing is on point as well; with both heroes and villains always consistently deliver clever and light-hearted quips to brighten up the already fun adventure story, not unlike your typical Saturday morning cartoon characters.
9. Ratchet and Clank Collection
The first Ratchet & Clank starts off just like Sony’s other cartoon platformers. You travel between levels, collecting bolts, upgrading your tools (which were mostly guns and explosives), and solve light puzzles here and there. But by Locked & Loaded and Up Your Arsenal, Insomniac Games ups the shooter elements and made the combat much more frantic while still maintaining all the classic 3D platformer mechanics. Making the Ratchet series an interesting look at Insomniac’s golden years, where the company can seamlessly meld zany cartoon aesthetics with heart-pumping action.
In terms of performance, Ratchet Collection on Vita functions as well as Sly, although its visual downgrades are a bit more noticeable. While I did encounter a small audio mixing issue, overall the bundle still runs flawlessly.
10. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
Talking about compilations, we can’t forget about the MGS HD. Including enhanced versions of MGS 2 and 3, Hideo Kojima’s ambitious stealth shooter games’ gameplay still holds up to this day. Both games run and look as flawless as the original PS2 releases. And for this version, Konami also threw in touch controls for a quality-of-life update. Simply tapping the front touchscreen lets you quickly change item loadouts. Meanwhile, the back touchpad is used for first-person camera adjustment in MGS 2 and knife attack in 3.
Although it does not contain the PS1 Metal Gear Solid or the PSP Peace Walker (which you can buy separately on PSN), the MGS 3 is packed with the original Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2. Sure, the Mesal Gear Solid minigame is absent, but a portable MGS with most of the features intact is still a portable MGS.
11. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Almost everyone admits that this isn’t just the best GTA or open-world game, but also one of the must-play titles if you have a PS2. It’s safe to say that it had the biggest map out of all open-world PS2 games, consisting of three fully-realized cities, vast countryside, forests, a desert, and mountains. The expansive play area spawns many popular gaming myths and memes that still persist to this day such as bigfoot, aliens, ghosts, and more.
It’s also the first GTA that features immersive mechanics, from changing body mass through eating or exercising, leveling up skills, explorable building interiors, fighting styles, car customization, clothing pieces, gang wars, et cetera; some of them are even absent in GTA IV and V. And your eyes aren’t deceiving you, you can now play through the whole of San Andreas comfortably through your PS Vita. Where was a proper, native port when the handheld was still alive and kicking?
Although to be able to run it, you would need a hacked Vita and a copy of the Android release. Since this is technically a mobile port, while the game does run properly, you might encounter several differences and glitches that exist in the mobile port—most notably the cut radio songs and the lack of foliage sprites. Nevertheless, all 2D and 3D universe GTA games are now actually playable on the Vita. Along with San Andreas, 3 and Vice City got homebrew ports as well (thanks to the re3 reverse-engineer project). Then you can simply emulate the PS1 and PSP games through the device’s native emulation feature. Isn’t that neat?
12. Max Payne
Aside from the GTAs, homebrew developers managed to port the noir slow-motion third-person shooter too. Visually, it might not look impressive these days, but it successfully turned us into something out of The Matrix or John Woo’s films thanks to the flawlessly integrated bullet-time in its gameplay. Jumping around and dodging bullets will never stop being fun. With this and a Bully port that’s on the way, almost all Rockstar’s PS2 classics are playable on the Vita. It seems like the perfect time to get one, don’t you think?
13. Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space
Also known as Global Defence Force for the original PS2 European release. Jam-packed with 70+ levels that are filled with alien menace, this is the game you should get assuming you just want to have fun shooting giant bugs and space robots while leveling the whole town. Yes, you see those skyscrapers? You can destroy them. Because of it FPS drop happens often, but it is part of the EDF experience; just enjoy the explosions and watch as ants carcasses got thrown everywhere while the frame rate tanks into an equivalent of a Powerpoint slideshow. Especially if you play it with friends through the four-player online co-op feature.
14. FIFA 12
Sure, RPGs and shooters are staples of classic must-haves but don’t forget about sports games as well. Thankfully, EA managed to translate almost every aspect from the console version to handheld. Right from first starting up the game, the menu and navigations look exactly the same. Moving, passing, shooting control is still as precise as ever. The added back touchpad gimmick for shooting a goal surprisingly works really well. It also includes Career Mode, which lets you play an entire season as a single player, a manager, or a player-manager. It provides all you need and wants from a handheld soccer game.
EA actually has released four different FIFA titles on the Vita: FIFA 12 (renamed as FIFA Football/Soccer), 13, 14, and 15. But truth be told, each release was basically just an update to 12 that adds a handful of additions to the player roster. With that in mind, either pick FIFA 14 up or grab the last one, 15, if you don’t mind it not having online multiplayer support.
15. Touch My Katamari
Katamari means “clump” in English, and as you can guess, Bandai Namco’s quirky roll-em-up task you to rolling around a magical ball, collecting many different objects, from pencils to cats to buildings and mountains until the ball has grown large enough to become a star. Why? Because your father, King of the Cosmos, just wanted to be popular again after years of not making new stars. It is as silly (and fun) as it sounds. The handheld version launched with a bit of an upgrade. As you expected from its title, it utilizes Vita’s touch screen and pad to let you squash and stretches the Katamari, helping you navigate through narrow paths or low ceilings.
Despite the addition of touch control, though, a lot of the contents are recycled from past games, so hardcore fans who are looking for more new stuff might be disappointed. However, newcomers to the series might still be going to fully enjoy all the goofy absurdity Touch My Katamari has to offer. Definitely worth a play since it is a one-of-a-kind gaming experience.
16. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R
Guilty Gear series is well-known for its combo complexity and strict timing. Perfectly lining up input (or failing to do so) could mean an instant “Touch of Death.” Fortunately, Vita’s clicky d-pad and face button serve as a well-oiled canvas for anime fighters such as this one or Marvel vs Capcom. Pulling off Roman Cancels into Gatling Combo never feels so easy with a controller. Plus if you have the 1000 model with an OLED screen, the crisp pixel-art fits the rich display like a glove.
An update to the 2009 Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus, Plus R features HUD update, revised combo mechanic, returning old move list for most characters, re-addition and balancing of Kliff and Justice, among other tweaks. It also preserved many of the previous modes, including a story mode (continuing from X2), arcade play, survival M.O.M mode, Mission Mode, and more. In spite of it only supporting ad-hoc play, fans of fast-paced fighting games and solo players will get their money worth with this release.
17. Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen
There is quite a selection if you’re looking for classic PS2 visual novels. For starters, the first Utawarerumono game was released on Vita, complete with an English translation. Originally a Japan-exclusive title released back in 2002, this visual novel with a turn-based tactical battle system centers around an amnesiac masked protagonist, Hakuowlo, who leads a village rebellion from a predatory land ruler that eventually culminates with him as a king of a country.
It’s considered as one of the highly recommended titles as an entry point to the visual novel genre thanks to a sprinkle of strategic gameplay along the 30+ hours of storytelling, making the whole experience feel more like an actual game and less “boring.” Once you’re done with the game, you can continue on with the PS3/PS4 sequel, Mask of Deception, which was also ported to the handheld.
18. Fate/stay night Réalta Nua
Fate is a multimedia series that I think needs no introduction, especially with the popularity of Fate/Grand Order. But if you got into the series through Grand Order or just want to experience where it all started, you can pick up this updated version of the original Fate/stay night visual novel. The 17 years old story actually still holds up quite well, as it filled with not just action but also drama surrounding the Holy Grail War, the three main girls — Saber, Rin, and Sakura — and Shirou’s part in all of it. It will take you more than 100 hours to finish it. So yeah, definitely a slow burn read that’s perfect to be read on a handheld console.
This PS2 re-release removed the sexual contents and references. But on the other hand, it adds Japanese voice actors from the anime series, covers the three main storylines: Fate, Unlimited Blade Works, and Heaven’s Feel, and a true ending to the Fate route. The Vita version also includes three new opening animations by Ufotable with songs from Earthmind and lets you change the aspect ratio to 4:3, 16:9, or in-between. While it was released only in Japanese, an English fan patch is currently in the works.
Debuted in 2009, this PS2 romance visual novel is a highly coveted title in the western fanbase for its realistic depiction of adolescent love story, complete with its sweet ups and bitter downs. All the six heroines also have ground-yet-appealing designs (you won’t see a blonde stuck-up royalty with drill hair in Kibito High) and their own charming quirks. Not to mention that this is an actual dating simulator with a relationship management system, where you have to engage and gradually open up the girls’ true feelings through a selection of dialogue options.
It’s been said that while it probably will only take you around 20-30 hours to beat all the routes, but players have known to stick to triple digits just to stick around with all (or just one) of the heroines a bit longer. The game was later re-released to PSP as EbiKore+ Amagami, which fixes a number of bugs and adds a mahjong minigame. And since it’s on this list, obviously, Kadokawa eventually ported it to PS Vita. A fan-translation project for the original and re-release has been in the works since 2016.
20. Higurashi When They Cry Sui
A very popular visual novel for its shocking twists. The story revolved around a group of cute and easily likable teenagers in the fictional village of Hinamizawa who’re preparing for the Watanagashi Festival, where people pay tribute to the local god. However, every year, one person will always end up getting murdered and another one goes missing. Slowly and steadily, a mysterious conspiracy is exposed while we watch the group of friends’ descent into madness. Why did it happen? Who or what’s causing it? Only one way to find out.
The Sui release is jam-packed with a total of twenty arcs and it will take you around 100 hours to completely reveal the mystery. It incorporates all the arcs from the DS Matsuri and PS2 Kizuna rereleases, two arcs from the original version, plus the addition of the Hajisarashi-hen arc. The game is fully voiced and uses Kizuna‘s more “modern” art for character sprites. Again, it is a Japan-exclusive release and no English patch is known to be developed right now. I wouldn’t hold my breath even with Sony postponing hammering the final nail on the handheld’s coffin.
21. Samurai Warriors 2
Like EDF, the Warriors series is a well-known game for when you just want to wreck stuff up. Despite lacking a Custom Officer feature, the majority of fans agreed that Samurai Warriors 2 is the best incarnation of the Sengoku-focused spin-off even to this day, thanks to the tight level design, well-balanced abilities between all 26 playable roster, and difficulty. Again though, unfortunately, the game is only available in Japanese and a download-only title to boot. You would need a Japanese PSN ID and a gift card to purchase it.
But if you do need to scratch that Warriors itch, other titles like Dynasty Warriors 8, Samurai Warriors 4, Warriors Orochi 3, and One Piece: Pirate Warriors 3 are all available on the handheld. The draw distance and character count are pretty pathetic compared to the proper releases, though. So I suggest you get the developed-for-handheld Samurai Warriors Chronicles 3 instead.
And that’s all for now. While 21 natively ported titles are already quite plenty, I still wish PS Vita was actually capable of PS2 emulation. Or just got more PS2 ports. Imagine if it got Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, Gran Turismo, Tekken, and other classics. Nevertheless, personally, I would’ve been content if we got a Road Trip Adventure port. How about you?