Elemental Challenge Day Twenty-Nine: Handheld/Mobile Games



Over the years, at least four branches of gaming have developed: the console thread, the PC thread, the VR thread, and the handheld thread. Handheld games aren’t a genre but they are a classification of games and often the blunt fact of their existing on a handheld device that has less power than a home console or a PC defines what’s possible for their development and mechanics. That, in essence, is what makes handheld games interesting. They can feel much more bite-sized, much more focused, but they can rely on many features unique to handheld devices such as link cables, roaming around, AR, sunlight reception, battery levels, and so on.

I recently tried to make this point in my review of Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. I felt that this was an example of a game which didn’t take advantage of its existing on a handheld platform. Rather, it took good ideas and stunted them, made them worse. Instead of taking its tribute of borrowed thoughts from the Legend of Zelda series and interpreting them in a new way, it took those and did little with them, in a few places even making them more frustrating than they were originally. Nintendo, who dominates the handheld gaming arena, has historically used the handheld platform to come up with innovative ways to play. After all, the omnipresent directional-pad cross on the controllers with which we’re all very familiar was first created by Nintendo for a handheld device, developed in ’82 for the Donkey Kong handheld.

These are our favorites in miniature…


FF3-NES-Summoner2.png  The Green Screen Mage

Animal Crossing: New Leaf!! WHY WAS THERE NOT A NEW ONE ANNOUNCED AT E3? WHY? Does somebody hate me? It’s a real-time game where you go to a town full of animal people and you have to earn Bells (Money) to pay off loans, make the town better, buy new clothes, and a whole bunch of other things that would make it seem boring, but it so works!



blackmage  The Black Humor Mage

I have a love for handheld games. Growing up, I had to go to work with my mom after school, run errands with her, or travel to my family’s house an hour away a few times a month. So, this made handheld games a godsend. I played so many games on my Game Boy Advance and PSP, and out of all of these games, Pokémon Fire Red has to be my favorite. I loved all the original 151 Pokemon, so when a remake for Red and Green came out, I was on board. I played this game so much, and I’ve played it multiple times throughout the years. A really special game for me.



mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

I had the Pikachu Game Boy Color with Pokémon Yellow, and there was no game that could hold my interest more. The Pokémon RPG’s have always been the ideal handheld game in my eyes and are still to this day some of the most fun to play. Wish I still knew where that awesome Game Boy was! (Honorable Mentions – Pokémon Black/White, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Scribblenauts)



spoonybardmageright.jpg  The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

This is a broad category. There have been so many amazing games on handheld, taking games on the go was a true revolution. That being said, the one game that demonstrated what handheld games were truly capable of is Pokémon, with its trading and battling capabilities, and I always think way back to my first: Pokémon Blue. For the first time, kids would meet on the playground and be able to play a game together using their own trained creatures, which made the multiplayer experience more personal. Remember link cables?



FF3-NES-Geomancer1 The Five More Minutes Mage (Gamegato)

The first Minecraft “edition” that I got was Pocket Edition, and I loved it. I enjoyed building things and fighting monsters. I loved exploring. Even though now I can play a better version on my Wii U, Minecraft Pocket Edition will always have a special value to me.



finalfourteenthmage  The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)

The World Ends With You. What a fantastic gem on the Nintendo DS! The artstyle and concept captivated me before the initial release and I was so delighted with the game. I enjoyed the characters, the story, collecting the different pins and the battle system. I was so very excited when they had their countdown for the ‘New Seven Days’ and it turned to be an iOS port. I will never forget the hurt that I felt that day.



HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

Mario Kart: Super Circuit (GBA). In answer to question 21, no, this is the best Mario Kart ever. It’s an upgraded version of the SNES game, with a great roster and some incredible tracks. I’ve bought and played through this game twice and would happily do it a third time.



EKkbAqWy  The Brave Blue Mage (924COLLECTIVE)

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. This was my first Game Boy game.  So it holds a special place in my heart.  Also the debut of Wario makes this a memorable inclusion in Mario’s long history. Bring back my Bunny Ears!

Super Mario Land 2 cover art


Kx18GL1dNEW  The Dapper Zaffre Mage (Save File 02)

Persona 3 Portable. This Persona 3 port for the PSP probably got an unfathomable amount of hours from me, thanks to multiple playthroughs and how grindy one could get in trying to properly complete the game 100%. The adjustments to the gameplay from the original certainly helped it become a favorite, as you no longer had to sit by helplessly as your AI partners did everything except what you wanted them to do. I think that alone made P3P more accessible to a lot of players than before.

Honorable mention goes to Soul Hackers on the 3DS, which also kept me along for multiple playthroughs for 100% and increasingly hard difficulty. But that’s SMT games in a nutshell.



nostalgiamage  The Over-Caffeinated Nostalgia Mage (Nostalgia Trigger)

Pokémon Red/Blue (1998 in NA). Like many kids who grew up in the late 1990s, a Game Boy was a part of the every day “out of the house” arsenal, tossed carelessly into the backpack before heading out of the house. Once you got to the middle school playground, it was all about none other than Pokémon! Trading and battling your way to the top of your class was part of every day life – and if that sounds like an exaggeration, at my school, it certainly was not. Everyone played Pokémon and it was an incredible time for the franchise. Whether you played the card game or the video game, it was everywhere.

With the release of Pokémon GO last July, we saw a beautiful resurgence of the franchise, the scale of which hasn’t been seen since the earliest days. But those early days of handhelds and Pokémon still hold a special place that, with the explosion of smartphones, likely won’t ever be seen again.



  The Rage Mage

As far back as stupid 1980, Nintendo was already tainting the gaming industry with their irresistible cuteness. The Game & Watch series of handhelds are credited with being some of the first mobile games, and everything’s been downhill ever since. Now we have mobile gaming with microtransactions and crappy Wifi. Thanks, Big N.



rmage2.jpg  The Well-Red Mage

Despite possessing a moniker indicative of well-rounded experience, I consider myself to be very much a console gamer, as distinct from PC and handheld systems. I certainly don’t partake in the gimmick of VR. I prefer to relax on a couch a look at a big screen. That said, TetrisPokémon Red/BlueGolden Sun, Advance Wars, Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, and yes Pokémon GO all come to mind as games on handheld platforms that I’ve enjoyed. As much as I’d love to name classic Tetris at least once during this Challenge (spoilers), I’m going to go with my favorite Zelda game that didn’t make the cut when we talked Open-World games. This is of course The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. It’s a haunting soliloquy in the Zelda series and its plays upon the world of dreams and even a bit of existential philosophy, as well as its monochrome graphics, making it one of the unique titles in its franchise. It feels like a natural successor to the original game and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for more Legend of Zelda post-Breath of the Wild.



Quit squinting at the screen. Today’s list is over! Our Elemental Challenge is almost done, too! There are only two days left. See you again soon.

Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in restoring integrity and quality to entertainment journalism. We specialize in long-form, analytical reviews and we aim to expand into a podcast and webzine with paid contributors! See our Patreon page for more info!


24 replies »

  1. TETRIS!!!!!! EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!!!!!!! but mad love for the shout out to The World Ends With You! I’m glad I’m not the only 1 sad that sequels will never occur… *Lord C Sobs Uncontrollably & Runs Off, Clutchin his Heart* :C :C :C D: D: D:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I nominate Wario Land 3 on the Gameboy. The Wario Land games followed the Mario Land games, except the main character was Wario instead of Mario. While the series began as similar to the Mario Land games, they started to develop an innovative gameplay. When Wario Land 3 was released, the main character was invincible and there were no power ups, instead certain conditions caused the character to transform (for example, touching bats turns Wario into Vampire Wario) and these can hinder progress or give Wario special abilities that can be used to help. The game was bizarrely set inside a music box and used a large number of connected levels. I liked the way each level contained four keys and four chests. Collecting a key allows the player to open a chest, which contains a treasure that can be used to accessed a new level or a new key in a previous level or gives the character a new ability. Interestingly, this means that each level is initially completed, then the player needs to return to the level later in the game to find new treasure that can be found when the character has gained new abilities. I enjoyed exploring the different levels and trying to work out how to obtain the keys. I remember the bosses were also enjoyable and I enjoyed collecting the hidden music coins in each level to unlock a mini-game. The levels were also quite small, which made it easy to play for short periods, which is ideal for a handheld game.
    I remember Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a good game. Why is Mario Land 2 so popular? I remember enjoying it, but am surprised that it seems to be nominated so many times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had to laugh to myself… I haven’t heard of Clicker Heroes but the first thing that came to mind was a Wii era RPG with the zombie clickers from the Last of Us as the adventurers, shaped like Miis.


      • That sounds a lot more interesting, haha. It’s a mindless, story-less RPG where you “tap” the tablet/phone screen to deal damage to stationary enemies that don’t attack back. Beating them awards money, money is then used to recruit additional heroes (who deal damage to the enemy on screen every 1 second) and unlock their special abilities (100% more damage delt, or push-to-use buffs for things like increased money gain, damage output). Every 10 enemies defeated takes you to the next level and every 10 levels is a boss fight, which just have a ton more HP than normal things. There’s gear and talent-tree specs, guilds to join for raids against harder bosses, and it’s just mindless enjoyment if you like a super-fast drip-feed reward system.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Very cool list! For me it’s tough as most of my gaming in my life has been on portables (due to commuting and work). Fantasy Life on 3DS is my perfect game. It’s like someone read my mind and then said “Okay he wants this and this and this. Let’s make it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m going to go with Tiger Electronics. They just knew how to do handheld gaming right. Actually, I’m kidding. But who didn’t have at least one of those things growing up in the 80’s or 90’s? When your folks felt a Game Boy was too expensive, these little crappy LCD games were what you had, and you had to learn to love them. After all, it was Tiger Electronics or nothing.

    When I finally did get a GB though, I was pretty happy with it. And if you have the GB the one game you need is Donkey Kong 94. It’s DK amped up with a bunch of new stages, and crazy tricks. If it isn’t in your collection it really ought to be. It can be marathoned on a long flight, and it can be played in short bursts in the waiting room or on lunch break.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d have to agree with all the Pokémon love. Actually, just looking at the box art in the article for red/blue which I haven’t seen in awhile hit me right in the nostalgia. Although nowadays I have to play red/green for the quality of life upgrades.


  6. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    Day number 29 of the Elemental Challenge is Handheld/Mobile games. My pick was Pokémon Yellow a game that consumed sooo much of my childhood. I wish I still had that special Pokémon edition GameBoy Color, good times. Come by The Well-Red Mage and let us know your thoughts on the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a broad category! Well, since I’ve used a number of my favorite handhelds so far (I primarily play handhelds), I’ll go with a mobile game for this category. There’s a stigma around mobile games where many gamers don’t consider them to be true video games. On the contrary, they’re just a new form of video game that are more accessible to a wider audience, increasing the population and demographics of casual gamers. It was a tough battle between three games, but ultimately I would say that Godus is my favorite mobile title. It’s a pretty simple narrative– you’re a god of some sort who finds and saves two drowning people. You start helping them create a civilization, and become a god to them. They offer you belief, which powers you up and allows you to mold the land, build new structures, and add new monuments. There’s a lot that this game could do better, and more elements that it really could add to make the game more engaging, but I enjoy it. Honorable mention to Pokemon Go and Kingdom Hearts Union X.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The one game I can’t seem to bring myself to delete off my phone is Quiz Up. Probably my favorite mobile game next to Tetris on handhelds.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Off the top of my head, this is either Pokemon Red or Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood. As a side, my youngest daughter recently bought herself a Gameboy Colour and a copy fo Link’s Awakening, which she’s been enjoying mightily.

    Liked by 1 person

Kindly leave a civil and decent comment like a good human being

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s