So you’ve got a PS Vita eh? Sony’s genuinely superb portable console is nearly ten years old, yet – unlike other consoles from the same era – has aged incredibly well.
Partly, it’s because of the beautiful screen (original models featured an OLED, but subsequent revisions of the console had LCD screens in order to cut costs) which is still impressive even now – but it’s just a brilliantly designed, high-quality bit of kit all round, which is to be expected from Sony.
It’s a shame that it relied on expensive, proprietary storage for its memory (another classic Sony move, unfortunately) – which was one reason for its slow sales, with an estimated 10-15 million units sold; a far cry from its predecessor, the Sony PlayStation Portable, and its estimated 80-82 million units sold – but it’s hard to find fault with many other aspects of the console.
The Vita was packed with inventive features such as a rear touchpad to go with the dual analogue controls, motion control and touchscreen, giving developers lots of options for the games created for the system.
The biggest issue the Vita faced wasn’t with any design issues of its own – it just found itself in a space that was rapidly evolving, with smartphones rapidly replacing the need for a dedicated, separate gaming device for most people interested in entertainment on the move.
So, with its age approaching a decade now (as well as its sales figures having been way below Sony’s expectations) we’ve undoubtedly seen all there is to see from an official point of view. That doesn’t mean that your Vita is dead, however – far from it.
Hacking the console is a relatively straightforward process – but no, we won’t be telling you how to do it here; we at Retro Dodo Towers would never condone such a thing, would we? And here’s a quick warning just to be clear: you do run the risk of bricking your console if you do hack it incorrectly.
However, it’s not a difficult process – and it opens up a wealth of possibilities for the aging console. So what exactly can a hacked PS Vita do? As it turns out, quite a lot…let’s take a look at some of the best features that ‘unlock’ when you use a hacked PS Vita!
Bye Bye, Proprietary Storage!
Those annoyingly expensive, aforementioned PS Vita Memory Cards – which are only getting more pricey as time goes on – are a real pain and definitely one of the reasons for the relatively weak commercial performance of the Vita.
Yet if you can get hold of a PS Vita Memory Card Adaptor, you can use normal, everyday Micro SD cards in your hacked Vita. Do note, however, that it uses the game slot, rather than the memory card slot – but if you have a hacked Vita, that’s no problem, right? If we continue to answer the initial question of ‘what can a hacked PS Vita do’, we find that it can…
Play Backup Vita Games from the Memory Card
So maybe you don’t need that game slot to be free after all – instead of using it to load just one game, why not store multiple PS Vita game – ahem – backups on the SD card you’ve got in there?
Sure, you could use the slot as intended with the usual PS Vita games, but you’ve gone to the trouble of hacking the console – so you may as well take advantage of it. It’s not just games that become more easily available on a hacked Vita though, because…
You can now use your Vita as a Media Player
Bizarrely, considering this is a Sony console, the Vita wasn’t the best at running media apps, which are mostly discontinued or non-functioning these days (with the console’s official YouTube app seeing its support removed as far back as 2015).
Hack your console and you’ll be able to use it as you always thought you would though, with books and comics even being readable on the surprisingly capable little console, alongside the more expected media content – such as films and TV shows – that it can handle. Talking of handling content…
When it comes to what else a hacked PS Vita can do, then we definitely need to talk about being able to overclock the console. Normally the preserve of ultra-expensive PCs and experts in tinkering, overclocking the PS Vita isn’t hard to do if the console has been hacked – and it means that almost all games played on the console will run more smoothly, with your games being even more impressive than usual. Not bad for an ‘old’ console, right? Speaking of which…
Next stop? Emulation Station
So again: what can a hacked PS Vita do? Emulation! A capable console in its own right, the Vita – when hacked – can comfortably handle emulating most classic systems up to and including Game Boy Advance (and that’s a console with some great games that have really stood the test of time – check out our list of the Best GBA RPGs for starters), though like many emulators, it can struggle with the most badly aging of Nintendo’s home consoles, the N64.
With so many control options, it’s a wonderful way to experience many different consoles from previous generations, many of which had very different controller layouts.
Though we don’t condone using ROMs of games that are commercially still available in some form (on the Evercade, for example – check out our Evercade Review here), from a preservation point of view for games that have long sunk into the rights or abandonware quagmire, it’s hard not to see the appeal and make a reasonable case for it.
We do have to remind you that you’re on shaky legal ground though, for obvious reasons. That’s not the case for the next feature we’ll take a look at though…
Playing Homebrew Games and Apps
Though seen by many as a commercial failure, the Vita nonetheless has a vibrant homebrew community, with plenty of users creating some great unofficial software for Sony’s handheld console.
These range from apps that open up some of the aforementioned features we’ve talked about here to indie games and ports that have been especially created for the console, albeit unofficially of course, with ports of titles such as Doom proving incredibly popular with gamers who have already discovered the many things their hacked PS Vita can do.
Apps that allow gamers to install and play any RPG Maker-created game and visual novel-based games open up the console’s game library even further. And yet, the options don’t stop there…
You’ll be able to play any PSP game too
Though many PSP games are available on the Vita store – which remains open for now, after a swift u-turn from Sony on the decision to close it earlier in 2021 – there are still gaps in the library.
Along with this, given that the Vita lacks the proprietary UMD drive featured on the PSP, there’s no way of officially playing the physical games that you may own for Sony’s original handheld console (and there’s a lot of great titles – check out our list of the Best PSP Games).
Having a hacked PS Vita means that you can download backups of any PSP game to play on the console,without having to use the now-ancient PSP hardware, which can be pretty noisy and slow.
UMD discs are fairly fragile too, unfortunately – so being able to use digital backups instead extends the lifespan of your favourite PSP games. It’s not limited just to PSP games either, because…
You can also play any PS1 game!
Though already more than competent as a machine that can play PS1 titles officially (with games available on the PS Vita store), the huge software library for Sony’s first ever console (which contains a lot of absolute classics – check out our list of the Best PS1 Games) isn’t fully available on the Vita.
With more than 4000 titles available for the PS1, it’s perhaps unrealistic to expect all games to be officially available – but if you have yourself a hacked PS Vita, it opens up your options massively.
If you can find a PS1 game backup online, you’ll be able to play it on your Vita. There’s another impressive feature that having a hacked PS Vita allows too…
Streaming PC Games
As if having access to the consoles of numerous past generations, the PSP and PS1 as well as homebrew games wasn’t enough, you can also stream PC games to Sony’s underrated handheld once it’s been hacked.
It’s a great feature that gives Vita owners even more reason to hack their console and further opens up the possibilities for playing games on the machine – especially given that the rear touchpad (or the touchscreen itself) can do a great job of emulating mouse control for in-depth strategy titles, for example.
But wait, there’s more…
Despite that list of very impressive features, there’s even more that answers the question of ‘what a hacked PS Vita can do’? Game patches can be accessed where previously, these wouldn’t gave been available – and that’ll improve the performance of certain titles or even give access to translations of games that didn’t make it out of Japan.
Various other improvements to the console become available too, such as home screen customisation and quality of life options that may be minor, but they add a lot for regular users of the Vita. Save states become possible and are always welcome, allowing players to jump back into a game at the exact point it was saved at.
It’s also possible to download and install cheats for games too, so if you’ve ever struggled to see much of a particularly difficult game, well…there’s almost certainly a cheat out there to assist you.
There’s plenty more that you can do with a hacked PS Vita, but these are by far the most useful and impressive features.
The Vita really is a very impressive console and – despite the lacklustre sales, as well as the fact that it’s no longer being manufactured at all by Sony – as you can tell from the list above, it’s a handheld that’s well worth picking up and adding to your collection. So in short, I guess that definitely answers the question of what a hacked PS Vita can do!
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.