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Handheld Week: The 3 Best Games for Each Handheld
Here at Leviathyn I am dedicating this week to handheld gaming and all its ups and downs through gaming history. Portable gaming has been through a heavy evolution. Some may argue even moreso than home consoles. When you think about what he played on the dot matrix GameBoy and look at the PS Vita or the 3DS, it is absolutely astounding to see what we can do with technology. This week we’re going to look into some retrospectives from Nintendo, Sony, and what devices like smartphones and tablets have to offer portable gaming.
Monday: The 3 Best Games for Each Handheld
Tuesday: The GameBoy Retrospective
Wednesday: Sony’s Gambit: The PlayStation Portable
Thursday: The Smartphone and Tablet Uprising
Friday: Top Ten Handheld Games Ever
Saturday: The Forgotten Devices: Portable Nobodies
We start the week off by introducing all the devices we’ll be talking about this week. It won’t be every handheld ever but that’s what Saturday’s article is for. You won’t find a focus on the Wonderswan or N-Gage but you’ll see all the hits. Each handheld in this list had their own strengths and they were shown through their games. The GameBoy started it all. The Game Gear brought a vibrant world to our hands. The PSP emulated console gaming on the go. Every device below had a library of hits but if I was introducing you to these for the first time, these are the games I’d put in your hands:
This was the coolest thing as a kid. Having a full fledged Mario game in your hands was a crazy concept to me. Hell, the whole GameBoy thing was crazy. I ran into many a things while walking around playing Super Mario Land. The music, the level design, and just the overall fun it had makes this still one of the best handhelds games ever. If you own a GameBoy and have never played this game (which tells me you never owned a GameBoy) then get on it. Now.
2. Pokemon Red/Blue
The first handheld game where I played with friends. The Link Cable for the original GameBoy was huge but they stayed in and kept you connected, unlike the GBA ones. The concept of growing your own team of select monsters, raising them, and fighting your friends was unbelievable cool. Even without multi-player, Pokemon was extremely cool. So many people were playing this game. If your buddy had his GameBoy out, you knew he was playing Pokemon. The problem was: which version? For me, it was always Red.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
For me, this was the Zelda game that got me into the franchise. I had not played A Link to the Past at the time as it was not my decision to pick my games yet back in 1991. Link’s Awakening was basically A Link to the Past with a new story attached and portable. What’s not to like about that? Pokemon didn’t come out until 1996. In 1991, this was the full fledged adventure that helped the GameBoy look legit.
Game Gear (1990)
Sonic was the star of not only the Genesis but also the Game Gear. There was a ton of Sonic games released for the Game Gear but none better then Triple Trouble. The sequel to Sonic Chaos didn’t bring too much in terms of gameplay upgrades but the stages, music, and flow was better. Tails was actually usable this time around, too. In Chaos, you couldn’t get the Chaos Emeralds with Tails. Triple Trouble was a really fun game and brought along Knuckles for the adventure. There was even a new character introduced to Sonic called Fang who was featured in the special stages as a boss.
2. Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya
Shining Force is a great series on the Genesis and it was no different for the Game Gear. You had to pay attention in Sword of Hajya to see its brilliance. In some ways it may even be the best Shining Force game. The way the enemies worked together and how the characters were (you actually had to try and not rely on Peter) made it extremely fun and challenging. You could miss items in shops if you didn’t check them. Very awesome game for the Game Gear.
3. Shinobi 2: The Silent Fury
Shinobi for the Game Gear was pretty good. Shinobi 2 made it even better. The gameplay was much better and the story involved our main character getting elemental powers by rescuing master ninjas in the stages. At the end of the game, you were this badass powerful ninja with a ton of powers. It was hard to pick between this or Power Rangers: The Movie but I felt that the character progression and sense of accomplish was way better here.
GameBoy Color (1998)
I wanted to make this number two because of my love for the next game, but I couldn’t do that and be alright with it. Gold and Silver are basically two games in one. You don’t just get eight gym leaders and trip up to the Elite Four. You get 16 gym leaders, two Elite Fours, and two Champions. Once you finish Johto region you head right over to Kanto (the original region) and get to experience the magic of the first generation all over again and see how its evolved since Red’s (or Blue’s) journey.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons/Ages
I may be a bit biased here as these are my all-time favorite Zelda games. Yes, you heard me right. The Oracle games features great storylines, awesome dungeons, a ton of weapons and items, and a variety between sections of the worlds that made the experience fun from start to end. These games were different in the powers you received and the some sections of the map that required different things. You would either be switching seasons to get past terrain or going back and forth through time to do the same. It may not sound like a big difference but trust me, there is. If you have played one of these, play the other. If you never touched them, play both. These games are why we play portable games.
3. Metal Gear Solid
Throw out what you know about the PS1 game. This is an alternate timeline that sees a different mission after the first Metal Gear game. This was definitive proof that spin-offs could be great. Metal Gear Solid featured gameplay that brought the best from the old NES games and the PS1 game. All the weapons and items were there and even VR training. The story was fantastic and you felt just as satisfied beating this as you did with the PS1 title. Absolutely one of the best handheld games ever.
GameBoy Advance (2001)
One of the best RPG experiences on handhelds. The tale of Isaac is an unforgettable one. So much to collect and find with top notch gameplay and a great story. The characters were really likable and even the bad guys were featured prominently enough to gain some sort of feeling towards them. The game was challenging, too. The final boss fight alone was tough enough but if you found the hidden boss, whew, good luck. Golden Sun has everything and more that you would expect out of a console RPG except this was portable.
2. Metroid Fusion
Finally we get Samus on a list. Fusion was an excellent game and a huge seller. A Metroid-infused Samus is tasked with ending the threat of these nasty things called X-parasites. With ADAM, Samus’ computer companion, the game had a lot more story and personality to it then Metroid fans were used to. Fusion had extremely great flowing gameplay, awesome fights, and a chance to see Samus with sick powers thanks to her worse enemy. If you enjoy Metroid games and have never played the portable ones, this is the best one.
3. Advance Wars
The best strategy RPG on a handheld. Hands down. Advance Wars had a great story with amazing characters that made the game that much more fun to play. The tactics here were top notch and rivaled even Final Fantasy Tactics. It may not have the in-depth growth of games like Disgaea but for portables, you can’t go wrong with Advance Wars. It highlights the strengths of being on the go and wanting some strategy while having its own unique charm added in. Sure, you could just play a Disgaea port but could you really fit a session of that in an alloted time? Disgaea was always a sit down and play game to me.
Honorable Mention: Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen
I know I’d get chewed out for not mentioning these two games. The thing is, I already have them up on the GameBoy section. As much as FireRed and LeafGreen made the 1st gen better, I couldn’t list them above the games I placed knowing that I had them earlier. However, that being said, unless you are feeling extremely nostalgic I would completely recommend playing these over Red and Blue. FireRed and LeafGreen takes what 1st gen did and added all the tricks Nintendo learned with 2nd and 3rd gen. That equals one thing: greatness.
Nintendo DS (2004)
This game is huge. The first Dragon Quest game for portable devices and Square-Enix didn’t half-ass it. The story is simple and nothing write home about but there is so much to find and collect in the world that you’ll be too busy to notice. The job system and item crafting systems are very in-depth with a lot of customization to be done. You won’t find yourself bored in this game at all and for a portable title, that is very important.
2. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
This game is out on a lot of devices but it was on the DS first and the use of the touch screen is great. You’ll find that Chinatown Wars makes the best use of the DS’s capabilities and features. The story is actually not that bad and the old school top-down perspective comes back with a blast. This was a great way to implement GTA onto the DS and you’ll find plenty here to satiate your killing sprees and exploration.
3. New Super Mario Bros.
This game may not bring much new to the table for 2D Mario, but it was the first 2D release for the iconic character since 1991. That fact alone made it a highly anticipated release and a gigantic seller. A lot of DS systems were sold with this game either in a bundle or people just asking to buy it along with the device. It’s Mario! It is a lot of fun and no matter how many times you beat it, you’ll find yourself still playing it.
PlayStation Portable (2005)
A full Metal Gear Solid experience with the same intricate and exciting story that the console games had? Sign me up. Peace Walker’s controls may have been awkward, but what game didn’t feel a bit like that on the PSP? That’s what you get for having only one analog nub. Big Boss’ journey on the PSP this time around was the true sequel to Metal Gear Solid 3 and absolutely broke all the expectations that the system could do. Everything from the cutscene, the graphics, and the gameplay was top notch and up to Metal Gear-standards. The multi-player was a lot of fun and brought a new element to the series that surprisingly worked. This is the definitive PSP game.
2. God of War: Ghost of Sparta
When the PSP was announced, the same feeling that the GameBoy had came about: Sony’s signature games could see portable versions. Most of them did. God of War had two games on the PSP but Ghost of Sparda was the best. Chains of Olympus felt sort of like an experiment that brought Kratos to smaller screens. Ghost was the masterpiece that resulted from it. Kratos journeys to Atlantis, Sparta, and the underworld in this game and every second of it feels like a console game and never lets up. The graphics and gameplay were great and did a wonderful job with the PSP’s controls. (ed. note: fixed the “Sparda” thing, thanks commenters!)
3. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
This wasn’t another spin-off title with some gimmick attached to it. Birth by Sleep is a full fledged Kingdom Hearts game. In fact, it almost perfects the experience of the series with a new combat system that was less hack-and-slash and more best-combat-system-on-a-handheld-ever. It’s the best combat system on a handheld ever. This is a great game with a ton of replay value. You have three characters to select from and a journey in the wonderful mash-up world of Kingdom Hearts that rivals the console games.
Nintendo 3DS (2011)
Note: This is a current selling system. I’ll be naming the top three games you should buy right now for it instead of the best ones since… well that’s impossible to list right now.
This is the best version of one of the best games of all time. Do you need anymore explanation then that? The visuals are perked up to look cleaner and more vibrant but beside that, you’ll find the same experience with the same exciting story and dungeons. The new menu system makes the Water Temple less of a hassle which gets rid of my only complaint about the game. Right now, you won’t find a better experience on Nintendo’s new handheld.
2. Super Mario 3D Land
Think Super Mario 64 mixed with New Super Mario Bros. and you got 3D Land. This is a fantastic game that we also have reviewed on this site. Check it out here. I’ll let Jason’s words describe the experience for you given that he gave the game a perfect 10/10.
3. Resident Evil: Revelaitons
See what I did there? Capcom knocks aside, Revelations is a great game for Resident Evil fans and newcomers alike. The story features two fan favorites in Jill and Chris and a sweet, new underwater theme that can freak the hell out of you. You don’t have much to worry about if you’re a newcomer or a fan that feels iffy about portable RE titles. Inventory management is made very simple and the controls work great thanks to the extra slide pad addition. I don’t like the addition itself but it makes Revelations play so much better.
PS Vita (2012)
Note: Just like the 3DS, this is a current system. I’ll just name the top three games you should buy for it.
Despite not reaching the same caliber that the console games do, Golden Abyss still manages to bring the Uncharted gameplay experience to the portable realm. The controls take every advantage of the Vita and they feel great. Aiming with the analog nub is a bit too shaky but you can aim with motion controls and that is just lovely. The story is alright and does its best to feel like Uncharted but something about it just doesn’t feel up to par. Still, it is currently the best game on the system and when you think about what Golden Abyss 2 (or whatever you want to call the next Uncharted portable) could do it’s exciting. You’ll have a blast taking Nathan Drake with you.
2. Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
Another game we have reviewed. Check it out here. This game brings everything that Out of Bounds did on the PS3 and puts it on a 5 inch screen. It doesn’t take as much advantage of the system capabilities that Uncharted did but you’ll be hard pressed to find this much fun on the Vita right now. The online component isn’t the best but Clap Hanz did a great job at making World Invitational a great launch title.
3. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
The rest why this game is on this list is because of what it does right. Capcom was able to bring the full console experience to the Vita with 60fps and full online capabilities. If anything, this really shows what the Vita could do and it did it at launch. I reviewed this earlier last month which can be seen here. The controls match up perfectly. While the touch controls are a bit… iffy, you can skip them completely if you don’t like them. Capcom did a great job with this port.