My Top 15 (Portable) Games of All Time

As I plan to continue writing these blog posts, I have decided it would be prudent of me to make my gaming tastes public. So I compiled a list of my 15 favorite games to share with everyone. All of these games happen to be on portable systems or best played, in my opinion, on a portable system. This list is true to my gaming sensibilities, I am not making a list of my top 15 portable games, I’m making a list of my top 15 games. I would not put any other games, console or portable, above the games on this list (Super Mario Galaxy is #16 and Last of Us #17). Without further ado, let’s hop in!

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15. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

I am relatively new to the Hearthstone scene, about a few months in, but Hearthstone has me hooked. I have a friend who is much more experienced than I am who I looked to for guidance in the beginning, but he gave me very little. He told me to just play and unlock packs and then keep playing. I love how simplistically challenging Hearthstone is and how the game never really feels unfair. If you lose to someone, it’s simply because they put in the time to make a better deck than yours. The knowledge that my effort will be rewarded has pushed me to make better decks and learn more about the game. I love Hearthstone, and I am going to continue to love it for a long time.

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14. Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy is a game I got for free through Playstation Plus on my Vita earlier this year and I shamelessly sunk 70-80 hours into it. I closed off friends and skipped social events for two weeks and just grinded through Rogue Legacy’s excruciating castle. Boy did I suck in the beginning, everyone does I think, that’s kind of the point. But I don’t think there has been many things more rewarding than building my lineage up to a competent family and then just decimating. It feels like a real accomplishment when the randomly generated castle doesn’t scare you as much because you know you’re strong enough to handle what’s around the corner.

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13. Pokemon Ranger
As you’re going to be able to tell further down the list, I’m a huge sucker for Pokemon. Pokemon Ranger has always held a special place in my heart though, because it didn’t make me feel like a badass, but instead a good guy. I felt like my mission was to help people and Pokemon first and foremost, which made some of the game’s tougher battles all the more climactic and rewarding. I enjoyed the other Pokemon Ranger games, but they made combat easier and the stories were a little more developed. Pokemon Ranger doesn’t have a rich, deep story but that’s why I appreciate it, because sometimes stories don’t have to be deep to make you appreciate the world you are in and the difference you’re making, no matter how small.

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12. Pokemon Black Version
Pokemon Black (the version I played) and White were really the swan song of the Nintendo DS and even though they spawned sequels a year later, they were the last big games that came out before the 3DS. To me, Black and White are the games that Game Freak really pulled out all the stops on. I think it was a bold move to invent more new Pokemon than any generation since the inception of the series and then making a region with only the new Pokemon available. By the time BW rolled around, I was fatigued with zubats and geodudes in every game, so having them absent from this one in lieu of new Pokemon was the breath of fresh air I, and the series, needed. I also love the aesthetic of the game. While the 3D models of X and Y are gorgeous, I would take the animated 2D sprites any day. The part of Pokemon Black that sticks with me the most though, is the story. I am super critical of Pokemon’s story and have been really disappointed with most of the stories. I want a story that matches the deep combat and in most games, I feel let down, but not in Pokemon Black. Without spoiling anything, the story revolves around the ‘evil’ team fighting for Pokemon’s freedom against Trainer’s ‘oppression’. The leader of the organization isn’t pining for world domination, but equality, and it’s hard not to empathize with him. The story really brings the journey of becoming a champion and defeating an evil organization together closer than any other game has while also having the player struggle with the morality of who their character is and the repurcussions of what he/she is doing to Pokemon. Never have I thought so much about the story of a Pokemon game than in Black and White, which is why it will always stick with me.

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11. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Phantom Hourglass was my first Zelda game and I loved everything about it. The puzzles and dungeons were not incredibly difficult but I still felt intelligent when I figured it out. Having an ocean to explore was fun and addictive and I spent a good 10-20 hours playing the claw game alone, trying to obtain treasure and ship parts from the bottom of the sea. The small cast of characters worked really well, I felt the few characters that you met through the game were really flushed out. Best of all, Phantom Hourglass felt accessible, so when PH became the first game I ever completed to 100%, I felt I had spent my time well. Since playing Phantom Hourglass, I have 100%’ed every portable Zelda game released afterwards, an achievement I take pride in and attribute to Phantom Hourglass.

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10. Rhythm Heaven

Rhythm Heaven was a really quirk, addictive game that I still fondly remember having a ton of fun with. The zany style and groovy beats still bring a smile to my face even though I haven’t touched the game for years. Beyond how great the actual game is, I have very specific memories attributed to this game. The most memorable was when my friend and I raced each other to see who could unlock all of the minigames first while at a sleepover. To complete a challenge and move on, you have to perform moderately well, but if you fail three times, the game shows you mercy and allows you to move on. My friend was not as rhythmically inclined as I am so while I was nailing challenges on my first or second try, he had to flounder through each game three times before he could stumble on to the next one. At some point late in the night, we agreed to finish the race in the morning and went to bed. I woke up the next morning to find that my friend did not go to bed, but instead kept playing all the way to the final challenge, all while I was sleeping. My saving grace was that no matter how many times you sucked at the final challenge, the game wasn’t gonna let you skip it and ostensibly complete the game. The morning ended up being a painful experience for my friend because my friend just could not beat the final game to save his life, so I was able to make up the ground I lost and skate past him to victory. The funny thing is that story is just one of many I have with this game and Rhythm Heaven hits an undeniable, nostalgic tone for me. (Pun intended)

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9. Kirby & The Amazing Mirror

When reflecting on what this Kirby was, I came up with ‘My Little Metroid’, and that’s essentially what Amazing Mirror was. It was an open world game that required certain abilities to reach certain areas. This game also happens to be the first Metroidvania game I ever played and I would say that Amazing Mirror is what hooked me on the genre. As a young gamer, there were areas I reached and felt scared in, not in the traditional sense, but was far from where I started and was facing new enemies and terrain I had never seen before. I persevered and I made it through Amazing Mirror in longer than it probably should have taken, but as a little tyke I felt as if I just accomplished something monumental.

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8. Super Smash Bros. for the 3DS

Smash Brothers is by far my favorite fighting series of all time and the portable version was in no way shortchanged. The diverse set of characters makes every fighter fun to play with and thusly extends the value of all the modes. Aside from being a great brawler, what makes Smash Bros. special is how it acts a museum for Nintendo. Nintendo is by and far my favorite developer/publisher and Smash Bros. allows you to take a virtual tour of the Big N’s history. The sheer amount of content that doubles as a fighting game that is fun to play alone and with friends is an absolute no brainer on my list of favorite games.

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7. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box was a game I was all of a sudden able to purchase thanks to a generous grandfather. I could not have been more lucky because I found my favorite puzzle game of all time. I beat Diabolical Box in that same visit, about three days long. I had already played the Curious Village, the first game of the series, but was not quite intellectually ready to take on that game. By the time Diabolical Box came around, I had grown up and generally knew what to expect with the newest mystery puzzle game. Being prepared made a world of difference as the puzzles presented the right amount of challenge. Diabolical Box was also the first game that really gave me the feels. No spoilers but the story is tragic, a cute kind of tragic, but you still leave the game feeling a bit melancholy. It was the first time a game tugged at my heart strings and for that it will always have a special part in my heart.

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6. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

At E3 this year, nothing would make me happier than Square Enix bringing the 3DS remake of Dragon Quest 8 west. One would think I’m a big fan of the Dragon Quest series, and I am, but here’s the kicker: the only Dragon Quest game I’ve played is DQ9. That’s how much I love this game. The art style of Dragon Quest is quite possibly my favorite art style in any game. DQ9 introduced me to a job system which is one of my favorite and personally addictive mechanics in all of gaming. I felt the world was incredible and so alive that I felt connected to it and the inhabitants. This game also did Streetpass before Streetpass was even a thing, and has done Streetpass better than any other game, in my opinion, with their additional quests. While making this list, Dragon Quest IX became the game I most wanted to go back and replay.

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5. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Ocarina of Time is pretty widely known as the best adventure game of all time. I look at OoT as the grandaddy of 3D adventure games and for great reasons. I tried to play the game when it was on the Virtual Console for Wii. I made it decently far, but wasn’t able to get through the shadow temple so I set it down for the time. When a port was announced at E3 2010 alongside the 3DS, I was elated and rightfully so. Grezzo did the original game justice and made the best hero’s journey trope in video games portable. Since OoT 3D’s release in 2011, I have played through the game at least two or three times a year. If you haven’t played Ocarina of Time, you definitely should treat yourself and play this game, and the 3DS is the best place to do so.

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4. The World Ends With You

I’m trying to avoid sounding like a hipster, but TWEWY was my first ‘cult’. Combat is incredibly unique and I would argue that very few games took advantage of both of the DS’s screen like The World Ends With You did. The game is very Japanese in my favorite kind of way, the characters all wacky, and the ones who seem normal turn out to be the wackiest. The world a fantastic recreation of Shibuya and is complex when you first start, but as the game progresses, it becomes home and you start to master the flow of the game, the one you are playing and the much more suspenseful one Neku, the protagonist, is playing. TWEWY has one of the best and unique ‘easy to learn, difficult to master’ systems I have ever seen in one the most intriguing stories I have experienced not only in gaming, but all of media. Now if only Square Enix would give us a second one.

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3. Animal Crossing: New Leaf

My cousin first introduced me to Animal Crossing with Wild World on the DS and I was hopelessly hooked. City Folk came and went with rather disappointing reception, but New Leaf really took the series to a whole new level. To put my feelings simply, I bought a 3DS for Animal Crossing. I poured over the tech demo from E3 2010 (my favorite E3) for years afterwards. until New Leaf was released in 2013. The wait for New Leaf was the most excruciating wait for a game I have ever experienced, I feel bad for you suckers waiting for The Last Guardian because my wait was only 3 years, yours is between 8-9 years and still going. Thankfully, ACNL delivered. I'm 250-300 hours in, I have my perfect town, the perfect house, and the greatest residents, but I'm always finding new things to do and develop. I could happily play Animal Crossing everyday and I usually find myself doing just that. Hell, I'm the Mayor of my own personal Paradise, which is where the name of this blog comes from!

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2. Pokemon Emerald Version

In 2003, I got a Gameboy Advance for my birthday and for the sole purpose of playing Pokemon Sapphire, which was my first video game. I fell in love with video games on that day, but Pokemon Emerald was a great refinement of the game that hooked me. The story was more dramatic than it’s predecessor and the Battle Frontier, oh the Battle Frontier. I never did get all the symbols or whatever the badges were called but I was addicted. I spent 300+ hours trying to crack the Battle Frontier, but only had one silver symbol to show for it. While I was pretty devastated that Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire didn’t have it’s own, updated version of the Battle Frontier, you better believe completing the Battle Frontier in some capacity is on my bucket list. But besides being a game that kept me entertained for an incredibly long time, Pokemon Emerald gave me a lifelong friend. I don’t see her or even talk to her often anymore, but we used to be neighbors and would play Pokemon in some form everyday. I’m going to always cherish that friendship that I got from Pokemon Emerald.

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1. Persona 4 Golden

I got a Vita for Christmas in 2012 and bought P4G that day, all without knowing anything about the game, except that many people said it was incredible. I was not disappointed by any stretch of the imagination. The social aspects really resonated with me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The story and gameplay were so engrained in me that I was devastated when it ended. I marathoned the anime twice, once right after the other, because I just couldn’t let my experience end. Persona 4 Golden did something special to me though, it inspired personal change. It made me want to be stronger for the people I care for. When I shared my desire to change with the people I love, I feel they understood me and appreciated me for it. I told one of my friends about my change one night when I was bringing her home. We grew closer over the last few months of high school afterwards, went to prom together, and started dating. She has told me through out the relationship that the night I drove her home was the first time she looked at me as more than a friend. We celebrated our 1 year anniversary this past Monday. Persona 4 Golden changed me like no game ever has and I expect ever will again.

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Those are my 15 favorite games of all time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of games to go replay. Tell me about your favorite games in the comments below and feel free to follow my gaming musings on Twitter.

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