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Why you should buy a PlayStation Vita

A decade from now, people will look on this generation of video game consoles, and think of all of the amazing hits from The Witcher III to God of War to Red Dead Redemption II. But just as we look back at systems like the Sega Saturn and the Wii U, a similar mournfulness will fall upon the PS Vita.

But, wait. Hold on a second. The Vita is very much alive, and while it might not be thriving like the Nintendo Switch, it's still one of the best handheld consoles, and totally worth owning.

But why should you buy a $225 handheld released way back in 2013? Surely, given the system's age, you'd think that using that money toward a Switch is a more worthwhile investment. And you would be correct. The Vita should not be considered a main purchase, but a secondary one.

Even in the Vita's heyday, it was ultimately hard to recommend it over the 3DS. Nintendo software, even on a chintzy 400 x 240 resolution display, was — and still is — incredibly compelling. But while the 3DS has aged like a Palm Pilot, with its chunky plastic body and mediocre displays, the Vita has aged like an iPod, still very functional, and totally cool to be seen in public.

The games

The Vita has a bit of something for everyone. If you're a fan of AAA titles, there are games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Killzone: Mercenary, Gravity Rush, LittleBigPlanet Vita and Dragon's Crown. Although some of the Vita's big hitters have made transitions over to the PS4, there are plenty of great exclusives, including Freedom Wars and Soul Sacrifice.

There is also a plethora of AA titles, like Wipeout 2048, Tearaway, Danganronpa, Everybody's Golf, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, Dragon Quest Builders, Disgaea 4 and Oreshika 2: Tainted Bloodlines.

If you're into ports, Persona 4 Golden is an obvious choice. Danganronpa 1 and 2, Final Fantasy X/X-2 remake and Metal Gear Solid HD Collection are also great picks.

And then there are the indie titles. So many indies. Don't Starve, Lumines: Electronic Symphony, The Walking Dead, Rogue Legacy, Spelunky, OlliOlli, Luftrausers, Guacamelee, Sound Shapes, Severed, Resogun, Fez and the list goes on. And many indie titles are cross-buy enabled, so if you buy the PS4 version, the Vita version will be included for free.

If you've been a loyal PS+ member, then here's hoping that you've been saving all your games -- including your Vita titles -- to your library. Because once you log in with your Vita to your PlayStation Network account, you'll have a trove of games ready for the download.

And the game train still hasn't stopped with the Vita. If you jump on the PlayStation Blog or the dedicated PS Vita subreddit, you'll notice that games are still occasionally dropping for the system. While many of the hits are Japanese titles, like Persona 5: Dancing in Moonlight/Dancing in Starlight and Fernz Gate, there are cool indie titles in the pipeline, like Scintillatron 4096 and YIIK: A Postmodern RPG.

Of course, the Vita can also play PSP and PS1 games, so if you ever feel like jumping back into Final Fantasy VII, Crash Bandicoot, or God of War Ghost of Sparta, Vita is the device to do it on. It’s also possible to map certain movement options on the Vita's second stick, making certain PSP games more playable on the Vita. Buying a Vita is definitely a more practical option than spending $99 on the disappointing PlayStation Classic, with its limited functionality and paltry selection of games.

The hardware

Any way you look at it, the Vita is a slick-looking handheld. The original model, which is slightly chunky when compared with the later 2000 iteration, is still solid. The silver trim surrounds two pieces of plastic that sandwich the device, giving it an ultra-premium look. It would have been nicer if it were glass, but plastic gets the job done. That plastic does scratch easily, so it's recommended that you layer it with screen protectors.

The real showstopper with the original Vita was its OLED display. I own both the 1000 and 2000 Vitas, and I can tell you, the 1000 does look better. But only in a side-by-side comparison. The blues, in-particular, shine on the OLED display. For the slimmer PS Vita 2000, Sony opted to use an LCD display. The colors simply do not pop as well, but it's far better than anything found on a 3DS. I would say it's most similar to a Switch display in quality. And unlike the Switch, the Vita has Bluetooth support.

The Vita 2000 also comes in a slew of nifty colors. Sure, the colored variants are in Japanese units, but that won't pose a problem for American gamers. My blue PS Vita 2000 was very easy to set up in English. In Japan, the X and O buttons tend to be flipped, but there are workarounds, which I’ll get into later.

MORE: Nintendo Switch vs. PS4 vs. Xbox One

Other than that, all the buttons feel responsive and clicky. The sticks are small, and feel most similar to the Switch's joy-cons, and the touch screen is responsive.

Remote play

OK, Christmas is coming. You're going home for the holidays to enjoy some of your mom’s famous gingerbread brownies. You won’t be able to fit your PlayStation 4 Pro on your carry-on suitcase. But you have a solution, and that’s remote play.

The PS Vita will -- assuming your PS4 is set up via Ethernet -- play games while you’re hundreds of miles away from home via the internet. The Vita is a great way to escape from your little cousins asking if you want to a lick of their candy cane, so you can dive back into the world of Red Dead Redemption 2. Yes, remote play does work on PC as well, but that requires you to bring your controller and a USB cable along. Who wants to deal with that mess?


As gaming systems grow older, dedicated communities usually find ways to hack devices for more functionality. The Vita has entered this phase, and already we're seeing some interesting applications, from custom apps and games to  being able to overclock the processor.

Bottom line

Do you really need a Vita these days? That depends on the type of gamer you are. If you want a high-quality handheld that can play a slew of PlayStation hits, indie gems and obscure Japanese titles, there really isn't a better option out there. If you're a casual gamer, then your PlayStation and Nintendo Switch combo will get you by just fine. But if you're both a hardcore gamer and one who's willing to mess with some hacks, then you can get some incredible functionality out of your Vita, making it one of the best pieces of handheld kit on the market.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.

  • sneezerdoc
    Sony missed the boat. Overpriced memory really hurt sales of this awesome device.
  • guised
    To be honest, it seems to me that the PS have become arrogant. They inflate prices, knowing that competition is not too consistent, at least they are divided spheres of influence.