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10 Genres That Are Missing From the Vita’s Library - VGChartz
10 Genres That Are Missing From the Vita’s Library

10 Genres That Are Missing From the Vita’s Library - Article

by Adam Cartwright , posted on 20 July 2019 / 1,296 Views

For a console that can only really be seen as a commercial failure, the PlayStation Vita did extremely well for itself in terms of software – more than 1500 games are available for it and that figure is surprisingly still growing each week, despite the hardware being discontinued earlier this year and despite the rhetoric suggesting it’s only a good machine for indie 2D platformers and niche Japanese RPGs.

Unfortunately certain genres didn't receive any representation at all and act as glaring holes in the Vita’s software library. Some of these just aren’t particularly popular on consoles in general, such as city builders, which have been niche for years. It’s these genres I’m aiming to look at in this article – what they are (including examples of some modern entries in the genres), why they weren't represented on the Vita, as well as some suggestions about what alternatives are available to scratch that itch.

 

Business Management

While it might sound like a boring genre on paper, business management games tend to be massively creative and a tonne of fun. Look to things like Theme Park for an example of this, a bitingly funny piece of satire that also mixes in micro-management gameplay, allowing you to run your own amusement park. Generally these titles will let you manage a certain aspect of a business and were particularly popular on PC in the noughties, with games like Hotel Giant and Restaurant Empire allowing you to craft a business from scratch and then run it. They tend to be less popular on consoles, but things like A-Train and Prison Architect are available on modern machines.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar? 

PS1 classics are the way to go here. In North America, the sublime Theme Hospital is available and, while you might not think that hospitals should be businesses, the way you have to run it in the game certainly hammers home that they are! In Europe, you can try out Constructor, a neighbourhood-builder that’s all about balancing the books, while a handful of PSP Minis have you running small businesses for profit (such as Hotel Mogul). The Vita-native game BigFest could almost be included here too, but it doesn’t quite have enough management elements for my liking (plus it’s now delisted).

 

City Builders

I’ve been a fan of city builders since I played SimCity 3000 in the late 90s, where my dreams of creating my own sprawling metropolis were realised. In them, you generally play as the mayor of a city who has to manage the growth of a piece of land, zoning for different types of development and providing infrastructure to allow it to function.

They’ve never seen a particularly strong level of representation on consoles (ports of SimCity 2000 being the most notable), but there has been something of a resurgence in recent years thanks to popular series like Cities Skylines and Tropico. The former is now available on Switch, meaning you can at least take one city builder with you on the go, and the latter may well make its ways across at some point too.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

If you have a North American PSN account you can buy the PS1 classic SimCity 2000, which is a bit archaic and suffers from slowdown but gets the job done. Otherwise, it's difficult to recommend anything. Romance of the Three Kingdoms had elements of city building but is Japanese-only. And there’s absolutely nothing from the PSP’s library.

 

Combat Flight Simulators

Like many genres, flight games were most popular during the early PS1 era when 3D graphics were becoming the norm. This allowed developers to fully represent fantastical worlds where you could soar around and shoot bad guys out of the skies. Series like Ace Combat were born and flourished and things like AeroWings and After Burner gave it stiff competition (is it a requirement for most games in this genre to begin with ‘A’?). Enthusiasm has waned in recent years, but Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X and Ace Combat 7 show that there’s still some life left in the genre.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar? 

You best bet is a Japanese import called Macross Delta Scramble. It's a surprisingly enjoyable flight action title that has you gliding around as a machine that can transform between jet fighter and combat mech. If you’re not willing to muddle through without understanding Japanese you can grab IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey and WWII: Battle over the Pacific from the PSP store, but neither are particularly good. Sadly, the PSP's Ace Combat entry (Ace Combat: Joint Assault) got delisted a good while ago.

 

Life Simulation

The life simulation genre incorporates a number of different idea, but generally entails looking after and raising virtual avatars by meeting their needs. Examples include the Creatures series (breeding and caring for cute animals known as Norns) and virtual pet games like Nintendogs and Petz, but by far the most famous has to be The Sims, which became a phenomenon in the early noughties and is one of the best selling PC games of all time. There was a period when new entries were ported to every console under the sun but that has dried up a little in recent years.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

The best you’re likely to find at this point is Stardew Valley, a farming game that at least lets you experience a variety of non-linear life events along the way. The PSP & PS1 Harvest Moon titles would also count on this front as well. Ecolibrium was a free-to-play ecosystem sim that was pretty naff and has now been delisted. If you have a Japanese PSN account, you can grab the PSP Boku no Natsuyasumi games from the store. Oddly, The Sims 2 and a couple of spin-offs were available on the PSP store but have now been delisted.

 

Massively Multiplayer Onine Role Playing Game

While World of Warcraft has ruled the roost of this genre for more than a decade, that hasn’t stopped a sea of imitators forming, including Final Fantasy XIVGuild Wars, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Those are three of the successful ones, but there are many more that have failed. An MMORPG creates a big, connected world where players can progress through questlines and dungeons on their own but come across other real-life players on their journey and can interact with them as they choose – teaming up or engaging in player-vs-player combat. They’re not particularly designed for handhelds (due to the requirement of an always-online connection), but I’m sure it’s possible to build a game that you could progress in offline before connecting to the web and uploading you progress.

What can I buy on Vita’s that’s similar?

Saying there are no MMORPGs available on Vita isn’t quite true because there are a handful available, including the ever-popular Phantasy Star Online 2, but there is a massive kicker with this – it’s Japanese-only, hence why I didn’t count it for this as it’s off-limits for the vast majority of people who read these articles. There are a handful of others if you can read Japanese. The Legend of Heroes: Akatsuki no Kiseki is one and Onigiri is another, but for English gamers your best choice is one of the titles that simulates the MMO feel like Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment.

 

Open-World 3D Crime Sim

Ever since Grand Theft Auto III burst onto the scene in 2001 and changed the gaming landscape, it seems every publisher has been trying to get in on the pie by making its own crime sim. You’ll play in an open world city that you can explore at your leisure and undertake side activities to gain money, while the main quest will usually involve elements of the criminal underworld. Examples include things like The GetawaySaints Row (which was meant to get a PSP title at one point), and Watch Dogs, but there are plenty more that I haven’t got space to mention here. It’s a big business, although often relying on stronger hardware than the Vita offers.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

Thankfully two of the best of all time are available on Vita through backwards-compatibility – Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. You can also grab Gangs of London (not very enjoyable) and Driver ’76, meaning there’s plenty to choose from. Two other games worth mentioning are Retro City Rampage and Shakedown Hawaii, but they are 2D rather than 3D (thanks to /u/fuqdissh1timout from /r/Vita for reminding me to include these) .

 

Real-Time Strategy

You’ll probably be able to tell by this point that I have a bias towards genres that often started on PC but came to consoles. Real-time strategy titles traditionally don’t work well with controller inputs, but the PS1 is where I first became exposed to the genre, with things like Command & Conquer and KKND: Crossfire. I love the feeling of gathering resources, building a stronghold, then commanding an army to victory over my foes (I can get lost for days if there’s a randomly generated skirmish mode). Recent console examples include Halo Wars 2 and Tooth and Tail, showing there’s still life in the genre on consoles yet, but it’s not quite the powerhouse it used to be.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

Your best bet is the completely bizarre futuristic sim Eufloria HD that has you colonising asteroids and growing trees as a strange alien race, but it’s not quite what I have in mind when thinking of real time strategy. Zombie Tycoon II also provides an alternative, but it’s not very fun and has more of a MOBA feel to it. Frustratingly the original Command & Conquer PS1 classics are up on PSN but aren’t compatible with Vita, but the sublime Populous: The Beginning is, and it's is more than a worthy substitute. Sadly, there was an RTS title being worked on for Vita named Terrorforge, but it was cancelled early in development.

 

Skateboarding/Snowboarding Games

There was a time when these genres were all the rage – things like SSX and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater were dominating the sales charts and new imitators were springing up every year. Both could be classified as ‘extreme sports’, which is something of an umbrella term that incorporates a number of different disciplines, but the general theme I’m going for here is sports titles that grant a larger-than-life feel when playing them. Recent examples include things like EA’s Skate series and Ubisoft’s Steep. They’re not as prevalent as they once were, likely due to budget increases and lower rate of return, but there have certainly been opportunities to bring such titles to handhelds

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar? 

Jet Set Radio could be classified as an extreme sports game depending on how you look at it – there’s in-line skating and pulling off insane tricks, but it's more about graffiti culture and exploration. As such, the PS1 Cool Boarders games are probably the better option (why Sony never revived this franchise is beyond me). They’ve aged quite a lot but are still playable. If you grabbed SSX: On Tour before it was delisted (like I did, thankfully), then that would be an option too, and the Vita-native high-score chasing OlliOlli titles provide a 2D alternative. OlliOlli didn't work out for me but it has its fans.

 

Western Role Playing Games

While not necessarily a genre as such, western RPGs tend to be significantly different to their Japanese counterparts – more open-ended, often allowing players to create their own characters and experience the story in their own way. Notable western RPG franchises include Bethesda’s fantasy epic Elder Scrolls and its post-apocalyptic Fallout. EA also has a couple of major series with Dragon Age and Mass Effect. They’re a lot more common on home consoles and particularly PC and have been eschewing handhelds for years. The cancelled Elder Scrolls Travels on PSP was the closest we got until Skyrim landed on Switch.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

Very little to be honest. Borderlands 2 has a lot of the elements of a western RPG but is a first-person looter-shooter at its core. Dungeon Hunter Alliance is a traditional isometric dungeon crawler which shares some DNA with WRPGs and, if you enjoy that, you can also try things like the Untold Legends titles and Warriors of the Lost Empire through PSP backwards-compatibility.

 

Wrestling Games

While there are a number of sports that aren’t represented on Vita, including basketball, ice hockey, and track & field (you can read plenty more about that in my sports article), the most egregious omission for me is wrestling games, particularly since they were so well represented on PSP with yearly WWE titles. Ever since the Smackdown titles on PS1 they’ve evolved far beyond the sport, offering great character customisation, plenty of modes, and enjoyable fighting, although alternatives such as the recently-revived Fire Pro Wrestling series provide a very different perspective and unique gameplay.

What can I buy on Vita that’s similar?

At present the only wrestling game available on Vita is WWE All-Stars – a backwards-compatible PSP title that offers a decent if shallow arcadey experience (sadly all the Smackdown vs Raw games have long been delisted). Otherwise, there’s not much to choose from. Boxing titles like Fight Night or Real Boxing exist, and there’s Supremacy MMA if you can manage to track down a copy, but these are obviously completely different sports that play as their own beasts.

 

Conclusion

There is a great deal of genre variety in the Vita’s library – you can find everything from fast paced action games (Ninja Gaiden), to sporting simulations (Madden NFL), to turn-based 4X games (Civilization Revolution), to calming meditative art games (Flower). Many of these are uncommon on handhelds, which makes their presence quite the achievement in itself, even moreso on a console that failed to achieve the type of commercial success that would ordinarily entice developers to take a gamble on the market.

Yet I can’t help but lament what’s missing. Many of the genres listed in this article are among my favourites (city builder and real-time strategy), and the fact they have been so absent on handhelds in the past just makes me want them all the more (both the aforementioned genres would benefit from the dip-in-and-and-out playstyle that portable consoles offer). It’s somewhat inevitable that, given they’re all relatively niche in today’s market, they’re not going to appear on a boutique piece of hardware, but it’s still slightly disappointing all the same.

The one parting shot from this article is that Nintendo Switch seems to be succeeding where Vita has failed. Games like Cities SkylinesElder Scrolls: SkyrimSaints Row: The Third and Siegecraft Commander are the types of things I’d never have expected to be seeing on a handheld and it means that perhaps one day I’ll have to jump on Nintendo’s train – but for now, I’m more than happy working through what Vita does have available!


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