Staff Picks: Top 10 Handheld Games (Nintendo)

Monday, September 24th, 2012

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I’m going to level with you all: some of the Top 10 Lists that the Operation Rainfall Staff have compiled in the past were…admittedly skewed. There’s simply no denying our affinity towards RPGs, and we know some our lists yielded less-than-desirable results from the majority of you.

With that said, we spent a decent amount of time discussing how to improve our voting process. Without going into too much detail—we’ve come up with an absolutely iron clad method that assures the best game wins. I’ve nicknamed it “Beast”, because it was a lot to wrap my head around (and let’s be honest; saying I’ve slain a beast at the end of creating a Top 10 List makes me sound more accomplished).

No Top 10 List is without controversy. But… as long-time readers may know, there is hardly a more suited person amongst the staff to be tasked with compiling the best handheld games. Out of a list that began with easily thirty to forty of the best games you could think of across all conceivable handheld platforms, our list…completely alienates the PSP, and consists mostly of the best JRPGs to be played “on the go”.

I watched the voting process like a hawk. I cringed at some of the choices as certain games began to climb their way up to the top. I was there—and I definitely stand by this one. So without any further ado, allow me to introduce the Operation Rainfall Staff’s picks for the Top 10 Handheld Games (on Nintendo platforms).

Top 10

Ladies and gentlemen: My handhelds over time.

These games didn’t quite make the list, but came close:

Final Fantasy IV DS: We argued for a long while, whether or not games like this should be included on the list since they ultimately started out on another platform. We decided FF4DS could make it because it was remade from the ground up for Nintendo DS.
Pushmo: You’d be surprised how close this one nearly came to fighting it out with the rest of them for a spot in the Top 10.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: This was the one PSP title that persevered against the masses, but it wasn’t quite enough to beat out the games that made the list.

Now then. LET’S ROLL.

10. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Top 10

The one I’m not familiar with. No, your eyes do not deceive you. Here I am, high atop my pedestal of “I am mighty Handheld Gamer”, but I’ve somehow managed to let the Phoenix Wright franchise slip me by. Was I too busy playing Mario and Pokemon Pearl back when this franchise first came around? Maybe. Or perhaps I saw quite enough lawyer drama through witty shows like Boston Legal or Ally McBeal. (Yeah…I definitely went there. No going back now.)

One part investigation, one part trial—there’s a gameplay formula you don’t hear of too often. A majority of our staff seem to think this game has enough staying power to be readily etched alongside the juggernauts of this list. And please do spare me “YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED PHOENIX WRIGHT?!? OBJECTION”—I’ve heard it all before.

9. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Top 10

The one where the main character can actually say s/he’s “heaven-sent”. Ahh, now here’s familiar territory for me. At this point, I can safely say I’ve played six of the nine Dragon Quest games offered in the United States (including some of the old ‘Dragon Warrior’ Gameboy games) to completion, and none shines more brightly than this one, in my humble opinion.

Dragon Quest IX allows you to customize your character and his or her allies in every way imaginable, then sends you on a quest involving angels, demons, fruits, deception, a dragon or two, and a goofy pixie sidekick of sorts. The battles are just like they always have been, but quite a few cumbersome aspects of the franchise have been shed in favor of more ingenuity and ease. The game received critical acclaim for packing so much content (and puns) into a tiny little DS card, and may very well be considered “the last great Dragon Quest game” depending on how well Dragon Quest X is received when it finally arrives stateside. (And it will make its way here. Keep the faith!)

Also: Swinedimples Academy—meant to parody Hogwarts. Need I say more?

8.  Golden Sun & Golden Sun: The Lost Age
Top 10

The one(s) that will make you say OMG JONATHAN. WHY DO TWO GAMES TAKE UP A SINGLE SPOT ON THIS TOP TEN LIST?! THAT’S NOT FAIR! YOU’RE NOT BEING FAIR! Back around the mid nineties, Sega released Sonic the Hedgehog 3. It had six zones and felt like an unfinished product. A little later on however, came Sonic & Knuckles—the next chapter to help make a complete game that many longtime fans hail as the greatest entry in Sonic’s long, shaky history: Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

I view Camelot’s masterpiece in a similar fashion. Alone, both Golden Sun and The Lost Age feel like unfinished products. But when played together and viewed as a cohesive gameplay experience, the two create a solid handheld entry that dares to shout, “I AM NOT FINAL FANTASY, BUT I AM STILL UNIQUE.” Over time, I’ve had quite a bit to say about Golden Sun. But really, with music, a battle system, a story, and a sense of artistry like that—how could the two GBA titles not place somewhere in this list?

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  • That Trails in the Sky is only an honourable mention is criminal! CRIMINAL I SAY!!!

  • This was a good list.  But here’s my top ten:
    1.) Link’s Awakening
    2.) Pokemon Blue
    3.) Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones
    4.) Metroid Fusion
    5.) Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
    6.) The Ace Attorney trilogy
    7.) Mario Kart 7
    8.) Resident Evil: Revelations
    9.) Pushmo
    10.) Super Mario 3D Land
    Also, watching all those old video game commercials brings me back to the good old days when video game commercials bordered surrealism.

  • This list is bogus… Advance Wars is nowhere to be seen.

    • Here, here. Advance Wars is the most played game (console OR handheld) in my collection in the last 5 years.

  • Dushanan

    Ys Seven.
    Also, this means we get a top PSP game list.
    R-right?

    • Not a lot of the staff owns a PSP (as is clearly indicated by this list), but I promise one shall appear in due time (perhaps encompassing the Vita as well)!

  • I’m not completely sure what my personal Top 10 would look like, but I imagine it might come out something like this:

    1) The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
    2) Final Fantasy Legend 3 / SaGa 3
    3) Kirby’s Dreamland 2
    4) Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
    5) Golden Sun / Golden Sun: The Lost Age 
    6) Pokemon Heartgold
    7) Radiant Historia
    8) Bomberman Max Red: Challenger (GBC)
    9) Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword
    10) Final Fantasy Adventure

  • Having played Radiant Historia and Trails in the Sky both in the past few months, I found Trails to be the better game (music is better in Historia though).  The story and characters just seemed more detailed and rich – it’s my personal opinion of course.

  • Zach Edwards

    Called the #1 game!!!

  • RenatoFontesTapia

    I love you. Thanks for putting radiant historia in first place. =D

  • I would definitely nominate Ghost Trick as a contender. Radiant Historia as #1 is a nice fresh choice though.

  • I’d have to disagree about Pokemon not getting better than Gen 2. Hell, Black and White (Gen V) almost rivals Gen 2 in my favorite Pokemon generations, since B/W brought so many great things to the series, like continuously moving battle sprites, a better camera, Triple and Rotation battles, 153 brand new Pokemon, no older ones until after the game is beaten, and more.

  • Personally I like FE6 over FE7, characters were more powerful while the difficulty was still harder than FE7’s.
    Article should clarify that Blazing is the one that started it all for westerners. Someone new might mistake it as the first game in the series (there’s quite a few people still mistaking it as the first).
    Can’t wait for Awakening though, everything I’ve seen and read about it so far makes it look like it absolutely DESTROYS 7.

    • Noted. I’ll edit the article and specify to reduce confusion, but I imagine those who frequent oprainfall.com are more than familiar with the origins of Fire Emblem. 🙂

  • John Ellis

    The best game on a Nintendo handheld is without a doubt Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, and it’s not even on the list for shame.

  • I’d probably put 999 or blazing sword as #1 for my own top 10. I like alot of handheld games, can’t see myself being able to think of ten in particular that I love.

  • Man, a Top 10 for Handhelds would be hard for me since I’ve played so many good ones (half of them are on here). Home consoles definitely have great games, but handhelds (Nintendo in particular) always have a ton of good games.

  • shin megami tensei are not games. they are books with animations and button presses. beyond that-world ends with you? contact is better-and that game is short and boring.
    pokemon should have been higher. I won’t contest Link;s Awakening-i’ve never played it, but it has to be better than most of these stinkers on principal alone. New Super Mario Bros. was done better on the DS than the Wii, in my opinion, and rightfully deserves a spot on this list as well.
    Oh-and where the hell is Scribblenauts?