Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Your favourite portable video game

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.


Most perfect

My favourite would have to be Pokémon. If I have to be specific Pokémon Red, purely for the nostalgia. I know a lot of people have the wrong idea bout Pokémon games but I still remember being blown away by the depth of the first game and how much freedom and control you had of that little world. Even modern open world games struggle to compare to that sense of freedom and exploration, as you explore every nook and cranny and try to catch ‘em all.

The graphics were simplistic but gave you just enough to let your imagination do the rest, which is another reason why I think the first gen game is genuinely the best overall. Or at least the most perfect.

I have enjoyed all the games since and while I don’t always play them all to the same degree I think Game Freak has done a good job of maintaining the quality and I’m definitely interested in Sword and Shield on the Switch.

And who could have imagined back in those days that Pokémon would go on to become the biggest media franchise in the world (seriously, Star Wars and Marvel need not apply). Looking forward to seeing the movie this year and I’m sure that’s going to make the games bigger than ever. But I’ll always think of them as Game Boy games to me.


Honeymoon exception

I always find Hot Topics like this one tricky, but after probably too much thought I’d have to go with a selection of original Game Boy games which I bought at the time and still play to this day. The titles I still play are Operation C (Contra), R-Type (a pretty stunning conversion given the limitations of the monochrome screen and hardware), and Monster Max – an isometric adventure game in a similar vein to Head Over Heels. Which if I remember rightly was also designed by Jon Ritman and was developed by Rare.

No emulation just original hardware and cartridges.

Honourable mentions to the 3DS version of OutRun, the best conversion on any format. Might not have the original car of the Sega Saturn version but the tilting effect of the screen and the sound effects from the original hydraulic cabinet seal its position for me and you can play it in 3D too. Playing Zelda: Ocarina Of Time on the 3DS actually allowed me to complete it without having to compete for use of the family television. These two games alone equate to more than 100 hours of play.

I’m currently playing and enjoying Bomb Jack on the Nintendo switch. This is such an easy game to pick up and play. However, really hard not to have just one more go. It was only released a few weeks ago and it has been my go-to game ever since.

I haven’t been without a handheld console since the very first Game Boy and without fail have taken a handheld console with me on every holiday I’ve been on, with exception to my honeymoon! I enjoy retro compilations on handhelds as they provide a quick gaming fix when you have a few minutes of downtime, but there are much bigger games you can get into without the time commitment of the more epic titles on a home console. Although with Nintendo’s switch that line is becoming increasingly blurred with the likes of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild to name just one example.

I’m not sure what the future holds for portable consoles, what I do know is I have several Nintendo handheld consoles, a Sony PSP, and more games than I’ll honestly get round to playing, which will keep me busy for years to come.


Portable epics

Ever since I found a Firefox F-7 console hidden away in my parents’ cupboard and ruined Christmas, I’ve enjoyed handheld gaming. Jump forward a couple of decades to my first pay packet, I treated myself to a PlayStation Portable. Games like WipEout Pure, God Of War: Ghost Of Sparta, and Final Fantasy Tactics made the daily train journey more enjoyable. The latter game started a lifelong appreciation of strategy role-playing games, leading to titles like Jeanne D’Arc, Tactics Ogre, and Valkryia Chronicles 2.

One title though, that caused me to miss my stop more than once, encapsulated everything good about portable gaming; Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness. Later iterations would not capture the same sense of fun, humour and pathos, but the original kept me hooked for a long time. The levels were well designed, the controls matched the console and the story worked. Then there was the in-game madness of Item World – a whole realm that I regularly disappeared into for extended periods, trying to level up my weapons. Good times.

When I look at mobile offerings, strategy games like Total War Battles: Shogun and my personal favourite, Outwitters, are two examples of what can be achieved. The market is crowded and there’s a lot of dross, but there are gems out there. Clearly tastes have changed, and the feasibility of a dedicated portable games console may not be a profitable endeavour any longer, but I believe the mobile market offers opportunities to developers to make the most of the available technology and deliver standout titles, even if I’ll have to keep wiping the screen to remove my fingerprints…
Bruce MacLean


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Portable focused

I’m going to miss it if Nintendo stop making portable games like they used to as I think that’s where they’ve had some of their best work. Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Metroid II, and Super Mario Land are just as good as their home console equivalents and so have many of their modern equivalents been (I’m sill convinced Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the better than Breath Of The Wild.)

I think the Switch is doing a pretty good job of maintaining that legacy, like with the Link’s Awakening remake, but I’d still like to see a line of portable-focused titles that are more like what you would’ve got on the old Game Boys.

As for Sony’s portables, they were great at the time but looking back at them now most of the best ones, particularly on the PS Vita were indie games which are now multiformat. The PS Vita was a great console but it was never supported properly by Sony and in the end didn’t really have much to show for itself.


Portable era

I used to love the DS era of games. It was right on the overlap between the retro and modern era, where Japanese imports were still a thing and games were cheap enough to make that they could be as weird and wacky as they liked. I’m kind of torn on which to say is my favourite though so it’s kind of a tie between Soul Bubbles and Ouendan.

I wouldn’t have know about either if it wasn’t for GC but Soul Bubbles is an amazing puzzle type maze game that I still play today and Ouendan is the best music game ever, with the best soundtrack ever. So yeah, I think it’s that one.


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Everything is portable

Given that I use the Switch predominantly in handheld mode, and the wealth of great games that console has, this Hot Topic is somewhat skewed for me.

How on Earth do I decide between Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8, Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, Hollow Knight, Diablo III, Celeste, Stardew Valley, Into The Breach, Undertale, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Disgaea 5, Oxenfree, The Messenger, Octopath Traveller, Mario + Rabbids… Actually that is quite easy it’s Hollow Knight. It is an excellent game and one that was perfect for me. I loved the exploration elements and also the challenge it presented.

Ignoring the Switch there has still been an enormous wealth of great games on portable systems.

  • On the PS Vita my favourite games were Danganronpa, Disgaea 4, and the Metal Gear Solid 3 remake.
  • On 3DS there was Luigi’s Mansion 2, Monster Hunter 4, and the N64 Zelda remakes.
  • On PSP there was Legend of Heroes: Trails In The Sky and Persona 3
  • On DS there was the Mario & Luigi games, The World Ends With You, Phoenix Wright, and the Chrono Trigger remake.
  • On Game Boy Advance there was the Advance Wars games and a number of SNES remakes, like Super Mario World.
  • And of course on Game Boy there is Tetris.

Given that I commute by train and also can spend months at a time abroad with work I do a lot of portable gaming. In fact, this year I have barely used my PlayStation 4 beyond a couple of VR games but have already completed 10 games on the Switch. Over the years portable gaming has been a key part of my life and in my opinion is the ideal medium for many indie games and also tactics-based games. The suspend/sleep feature on recent portables also enables games of increased scope to be played on portable devices.

Regarding a 3DS successor the Switch already performs that role brilliantly and has easily surpassed the PS Vita and DS as my favourite portable system of all time.


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