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Best of Handheld Gaming in 2018

We just may be on the cusp of witnessing the end of an era. The Nintendo Switch has arrived in grand fashion, and the PS Vita is barely clinging on to life. The 3DS has seen some releases this year, but this may well be the last time this category has much weight. At the same time, some cool stuff has cropped up on mobile platforms this year as well. So let’s do this thing right. Here are the ten best games to grace mobile hardware in 2018, which includes the Nintendo 3DS, the PlayStation Vita, and mobile platforms.

The Alliance Alive

The Alliance Alive

For me, 2018 was the year I discovered SaGa . Inspired by the likes of Octopath Traveler , I veered off the beaten path and finally dipped my toes into the Final Fantasy Legend series. Almost by coincidence, The Alliance Alive appeared. While it isn’t literally connected to the SaGa series, it’s heavily inspired by it for sure. What this means is, while this looks like a Final Fantasy game, it’s full of more challenging systems, including stats that go up via use rather than experience. But beyond that, the world is intriguing, the characters are weird, and you never know what you’re going to run into next.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night . In the meantime, Curse of the Moon is the next best thing. Inspired by Castlevania 3 down to literally what each character can do, this is the kind of detail-accurate homage you’d expect from a leader like IGA. From the Castlevania vibe to the awesome, gigantic bosses and intense soundtrack, this is well worth the measly ten bucks Inti Creates is asking for. It’s also a prequel to the upcoming Metroidvania title, so if you’re ready to go all-in with Bloodstained , this is required reading.

Donut County

Donut County

Donut County is an adorable game about a raccoon who somehow has the power to summon giant holes with his smartphone. He uses it to swallow his entire town in order to score points with the raccoon monarchy, but upsets all of his neighbors and friends in the process. As the player, you re-live the careless destruction of the neighborhood all the way through to facing off with the corrupt raccoon government, and it’s one of the most hilarious rides in video gaming. It’s cheap, it’s intuitive, and it’s hilarious. Check it out.

Dragalia Lost

Dragalia Lost

Nintendo’s latest mobile game and original IP at the same time, Dragalia Lost feels special. It isn’t just the fact of it being developed by Cygames, one of the top mobile developers in the world. It’s how well all the poieces fit together–the pop music from actual pop artist DAOKO, the incredible art from all kinds of different artists, and the action-oriented gameplay that incorporates player skill into the gacha-based structure–it feels like a complete package you don’t have to pay a cent for. I’ve checked in every day since it launched, and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Iconoclasts

Iconoclasts

The Metroidvania space has been especially crowded this year, but most of the titles have been appearing on the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4. If you’re still hanging out on Vita Island, however, you want to check out Iconoclasts . From the developer of the Noitu Love series, this game is bright, colorful, responsive, and creative. It even features an interesting story that combines the needs and wants of religion and technology, or better yet how those things can conflict with each other. It’s real neat, and a shining example of the genre.

Luigi’s Mansion

Luigi’s Mansion

Luigi’s Mansion never got the respect it deserved when it was a GameCube launch title. Because of that, it also felt like the sequel didn’t quite garner the kind of response Nintendo may have been hoping for. But since Luigi’s Mansion 3 is on the way, we ended up with a 3DS port of the original, and it’s awesome. All the little tweaks and additions make it a better game to play than the original, and the fact that the concept still holds up today says a lot about the idea in the first place. If you missed it before, give Luigi’s Mansion a shot today.

Part-Time UFO

Part-Time UFO

Part-Time UFO is an adorable game that seemed to come from out of nowhere on mobile platforms, from HAL┬áLaboratory of all places. From the house of Kirby , here’s a cute, little mobile game you can buy for just a few bucks. Taking the form of a crane game-style gimmick, Part-Time UFO is about a little flying saucer just trying to make a living on a strange planet. While it’s cute, don’t mistake the game for an easy time. The puzzles, which can involve making stacks out of things like cheerleaders, can get to be quite a challenge.

The Longest Five Minutes

The Longest Five Minutes

The Longest Five Minutes is a fantastic, small-scale JRPG that revolves around a central concept: memories.The game’s story only takes place over five in-universe minutes, but actually expands much further than that as a certain something robs the main characters of all their memories. As those memories and the powers associated with them come flooding back, not only do you gain power against the Demon King, but you also get back precious moments of the past that were almost lost forever. It’s compelling stuff.

Detective Pikachu

Detective Pikachu

You may have seen the recent trailer featuring Ryan Reynolds and crazy CGI depictions of what Pokemon may look like as real animals, but you may not have heard of the game behind the bizarre movie trailer. Detective Pikachu for the Nintendo 3DS is a lot more laid back in style and tone, opting to treat the Pokemon world more like the fantastical, whimsical world of the original games. A more family and kid-friendly riff on the Ace Attorney formula, Detective Pikachu has the player investigating puzzles, organizing clues, and solving mysteries with a Pikachu that sounds like that weird uncle you only see at every other family holiday gathering when he speaks.

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux

Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux

This one’s special. For a long time, Shin Megami Tensei was stuck in a bit of a rut. The Persona series had really taken off, but the core series hadn’t seen a new entry since Nocturne , and the other more hardcore spinoffs seemed to be firmly stuck in niche territory. A full-on console sequel to Nocturne seemed impossible. But then the Nintendo DS happened, and weird JRPGs were saved despite economic duress. Strange Journey ended up not being a new core entry, but it was something new in that darker, more unforgiving space, and it was exactly what the fanbase wanted. Atlus brought it back for the 3DS with better visuals and tons more content, including some wild new story material that made the journey, well, even more strange. If you like Persona and think a more serious, brutal take on the formula would be worth digging into, you can’t miss Strange Journey Redux .

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