GameCentral readers name their favourite handheld games and consoles, from Pokémon and Phoenix Wright to Gravity Rush.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Onibee and inspired by the 3DS slowly coming to the end of its life. You could name any game from any format, including dedicated portables, as well as smartphone games, and Switch titles.
Plenty of people mentioned using the Switch in handheld mode but hardly anyone nominated mobile games, with the majority going for DS and 3DS classics, as well as indie games on the PS Vita.
There’s only one possible answer for best handheld game as far as I’m concerned: Advance Wars on the Game Boy Advance. There aren’t many games that I think could legitimately be considered ‘perfect’, but Advance Wars is one of that elite number, in that everything it does is impossible to improve upon. As has been proven by every subsequent sequel attempting to add additional content that just ends up damaging the precarious balance of the units and commanders.
It was the first Game Boy Advance game I ever got, and I remember being amazed that this tiny little cart could contain a flawless campaign, addictive pass-the-console multiplayer, and a powerful map editor. It would certainly be one of my desert island games. (Hmm… future Hot Topic?)
Talking about it just makes me want to play it again.
Sparky the Yak
I love the Ace Attorney series, which I believe started on the Game Boy Advance although we only saw it in the West from the DS onwards. It’s a crazy Japanese series about being a lawyer and is kind of an adventure game but focused on the stories and madcap characters. It’s sill but you also really get to love the people, the heroes and villains, and I’ve been a fan ever since the first one.
Shouting objection and figuring out the clues is not like any other game I’ve played and it feels to me like the sort of thing that wouldn’t have ever existed on a home console. It is coming to the Switch in a remastered edition, but I don’t think it’ll be the same. Although it’ll be interesting to see if it works and if there is a future for the franchise there.
I worry about this with a lot of old DS and 3DS games though, where they not only suit the portable format but the smaller budget that was needed to make the game work on it. A Switch game is still pretty expensive to make I would assume and we’ve already missed out on a lot of Ace Attorney spin-offs because they wouldn’t have been profitable enough to translate.
I’ve never really known how to feel about the success of Monster Hunter: World (okay, I’m really happy) because I’ve been a fan of Monster Hunter ever since the PSP games. The PSP is thought of as a bit of a failure in the West but it was actually hugely successful in Japan and largely thanks to Monster Hunter.
The success of World is interesting though as it shows that it was never really the gameplay that was the problem (World is very similar to the 3DS games and they weren’t that big here either) but the style of co-op. In Japan everyone would meet up socially and play it but because there was no online that never happened in the West and Monster Hunter on your own really isn’t that much fun.
I still hope they do portable versions in the future though as it definitely works like that and it’s still more fun to play with someone sitting next to you than just in cyberspace.
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Over the years
I think I’ve probably owned more portable consoles over the years than home ones, although that’s probably as much due to Nintendo’s knack of releasing new versions as anything else. I never resented them though and portable games are still amongst my favourite gaming experiences ever.
From Tetris and Pokémon on the Game Boy to Advance Wars and Astro Boy: Omega Factory on the Game Boy Advance to Soul Bubbles and Bangai-O on DS and Luigi’s Mansion 2 and Fire Emblem: Awakening on the 3DS I’ve loved Nintendo’s portable through the ages.
I have owned the PSP and PS Vita as well but while they’re good for indie games they’ve so few exclusive games that it never even seemed like fair competition.
As for my absolute favourite, it’s hard to say. The DS is definitely my favourite console of all time and I could name a hundred other great games, including Ace Attorney, the touchscreen Zeldas, Rhythm Paradise, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, Trauma Center, WarioWare, Ghost Trick, and Contra 4.
The top of the pile has got to be Ouendan 1 and 2 and sister game Elite Beat Agents. There’s something about their mix of music, visuals, and gameplay that keeps me coming back again and again. They’re so silly and yet the sad songs really do bring a tear to my eye. And there’s not many games you can say that about whether they’re portable or not.
TxK on PS Vita is my jam. I love that game and for legal reasons I don’t think you’ll ever be able to get it anywhere else. Which is a real shame because the officially licensed Tempest 4000 isn’t anywhere nearly as good. I mean, all Tempest games are good but TxK I genuinely feel might be the best arcade game of all time.
But the PS Vita was filled with great indie games like that (which was a good job because it didn’t have any support from Sony) and some of my other favourites included Guacamelee, FEZ, Spelunky, Hotline Miami, Virtue’s Last Reward, and Rogue Legacy.
The Switch has obvious taken over this role nowadays but that’s fine as it does it at least as well. But for a while there a portable-only console had the best line-up of original and innovative games anywhere. I’ll kind of miss those days, even if it is obvious why they’re over.
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The first portable game I ever became obsessed with was Zelda: Link’s Awakening, so I’m obviously keen on the remake this year. Although I still hope it’ll be expanded on a bit because I’m not sure it would represent great value if they charge full price for the same game with just a few new hidden collectibles added in.
Playing it on the original Game Boy was a revelation though, especially that item trade quest line with all the wacky characters and items that compelled me to wonder what I’d end up with when it was over.
Since then, the only dedicated portable game I’ve been equally into was… Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which I felt was brilliant but over a bit too quickly. I’d love a new 2D Zelda made from the ground-up for Switch, but this time a 50+ hour epic with high production values.
I had a 3DS from launch but I was never quite as enamoured with its other games compared with what I could get on home consoles, so I sold it and got a Switch. I know in theory there’s something to be said for games designed with portability in mind but the ability to play full traditional console games portably is a much bigger draw for me, especially in conjunction with the Switch’s rest mode which seems to instantly negate a lot of the stop/start pick up and play concerns. If even something like Dark Souls works well – and it certainly does – there’s no longer a need for games to be designed purely for portability.
So my view of portable gaming is that it’s very (very) welcome as a means for me to get way more gaming done than I usually would but portable games per se, I’m not that fussed about. You can probably tell from the fact that my two top ones are games that closely resemble a home console counterpart anyway.
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