My Top Ten Handheld Platformer Games!

As promised last month in my “Top Ten Console Platformers” post, this is a list of my personal favourite Platformer games from Handhelds such as the Gameboy, Gamegear and NeoGeo Pocket to name a few! Again in no particular order. Thanks for reading.

10: Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow / Circle Of The Moon / Portrait Of Ruin (DS/GBA)

I used to have a kind of running theme with all the Castlevania games for the GBA and DS. I would always buy one to play while travelling, either on holiday or on a trip. So the majority of my memories of this game are either in a car, caravan or tent! I’ve played and finished nearly all of the hand held entries in the series, but I’ve narrowed it down to just three that are clear winners in my eyes.

 Firstly, the amazing Dawn of Sorrow for the DS (… see what they did there…). Dawn of Sorrow was the first game for the DS, and is a direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow for the GBA, another impressive entry into the series. DS was a huge game which benefited greatly from being on the DS with a permanent map on the second screen, something the GBA games sorely needed! 

Portrait of Ruin is  the second game in the DS trilogy and introduced the ability to enter new areas by jumping through portals in paintings around the castle, (much like Mario 64) Meaning there was much more variety in the graphics and environments. The game is a bit more linear however and the overall areas aren’t as big to explore as Dawn of Sorrow. Order of Eclessia is also worth playing but is more similar to the NES games being a mostly linear experience with more emphasis on its mission based progression system and new abilities to access new locations.

The last game I chose is the first GBA entry, Circle of the Moon. Although Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of sorrow may look better, its Circle of the moon that really captivated me from start to finish. I’m not sure why but this is a game I could play for hours on end and never get bored.

These days the series has been completely ruined by the need to have 3D graphics and constant action. The newer titles seem to be more based on something like God Of War, than Castlevania. Such a shame because its extremely rare to see these kinds of exploration platformers any more…
9: Metroid Fusion / Zero Mission (GBA)

Not quite up to the incredible hights of Super Metroid, Fusion and Zero mission were none the less fantastic entries into the stellar (interstellar?) series! Fusion really shines as an example of how to turn a huge console game into a handheld masterpiece, breaking down the exploration of Super Metroid into smaller chunks by using different themed environments of a spaceship was a fantastic idea, making the game much more diverse while still containing the whole story in one place and making it more manageable to play in short bursts. Story was a much more important aspect in Fusion than ever before, for the first time we see some of Samus’s past and experience her struggle with being infected by a deadly parasite! Of course, all the classic Metroid tropes remain, from having to find all your weapons and items, to scouring every last pixel of the world in search of an elusive energy tank! It’s all here and better than ever! It was also a great companion to its bigger brother, Metroid Prime for the GameCube.

Zero mission on the other hand was a remake of the very first Metroid game for the NES, and what an amazing remake it was! forget all these new “HD Remasters”… THIS is how you bring an old game back into the limelight! It is completely revamped and uses many of the newer elements in the metroid series such as a very useful map and fantastic graphics that really are among the best on the GBA. The game is a million times more playable than its NES counterpart and even includes a new section at the end of the game which was the first playable appearance of the fan favourite, Zero Suit Samus, who went on to star in the much loved Smash Bros series (and subsequently some dodgy parts of Deviant Art… >.< )

8: Metal Slug 1st Mission / Gunstar Future Heroes (NGP / GBA)

This game was a complete surprise to me! I wasn’t expecting much from an 8-Bit hand-held but I was blown away by how responsive and fun this game is! It has really bright and colourful graphics which really keep the style of its arcade big brothers, and the analogue stick/D-Pad.. Thing on the Neo Geo Pocket is absolutely perfect for controlling the action! A perfect run and gun shooting game and easily the best of that genre I have played, not just on the overlooked NEO GEO, but on ANY hand-held console. A must play!

I haven’t played Metal Slug Advance so I can’t comment on how that holds up compared to this one. I also haven’t played 2nd Mission for the Pocket either, but I expect its just as good, if not better! Time to make a visit to eBay I think…

The other game I added on this spot is Gunstar Future Heroes. Originally I wasn’t going to include this, but I think this incredible GBA game deserves a mention, even if it is more of a straight up action game than a platformer. It’s pretty similar to metal slug, with many crazy weapons and some insane boss fights, as you’d expect from the developer Treasure!

7: Sonic Advance 2 (GBA) / Sonic Rush (DS) / Sonic Pocket Adventure (NGP)

Sonic advance 2 took everything that made the first Sonic Advance so great and ran with it! literally. SA2 is my favourite of all the hand-held sonic games, it’s really fast and fun, theres loads to collect and the music is fantastic! Theres several different character to play as including the new character Cream the Rabbit, who uses a Chao creature as an attack, sending it to fight enemies in her place. I feel sega kind of missed the mark with Sonic Advance 3 by making it too complicated with huge levels and controlling multiple characters at once. SA2 is simple and fun and just the way a sonic game should be!

There’s one more that I’d like to quickly mention, that is Sonic Pocket Adventure for the NGP. Kind of a remake of Sonic 2, or it takes inspiration from it. This was the first proper entry in the sonic series that wasn’t on a Sega console… (Sonic Blast on Game.Com doesn’t count!) Once again it goes to show just how capable the Neo Geo pocket was! it’s a fantastic entry in the series with very colourful graphics and great controls. It’s a bit easy but that doesnt stop you from enjoying it.

Theres clearly no shortage of Sonic fun to be had on handhelds, as Sega also had their own GameGear back in the early 90’s there was a plethora of Sonic games released for the system, many of them were ports of the Master System titles that came out at the time, as well as a few exclusives. The best of the bunch for me, is also the first. Although its extremely basic, It was a great alternative to the MegaDrive / Genesis version, and sometimes, I actually prefer it. It has fantastic music and levels and is fast and fun, and much bettere than the 2nd one for Gamegear…

6: Megaman Maveric Hunter X (PSP) / Megaman IV (Gameboy)

Maveric Hunter is a remake of the SNES game Megaman X, and what a remake it is! This boasts some pretty impressive visuals for the PSP and a rocking remixed soundtrack! The game plays almost identically to the SNES counterpart, save for some extra features like the ability to play the whole game again as Vile, and watch an animated movie! This is one of the best MegaMan games ever released and it’s a huge shame they didn’t continue the remakes for the PSP as they originally planned to do. There was also a planned 3D entry in the Maveric Hunter series by some of the original members of the Metroid Prime team! This too unfortunately got cancelled… Along with Megaman Universe and Legends 3… Capcom. I Hate You. 

The other Megaman game I have chosen to mention is the Gameboy version of Megaman 4, or IV as the Gameboy calls it. This was a huge step up from the previous games in the Gameboy series, and actually contains a mix of robot masters from both megaman 4 and 5. The game plays just as well as the NES counterparts and is even more precise thanks to some grat controls and tight level designs! I actually did an entire let’s play of it a few years ago! you can watch it all here (actually its a let’s play of Megaman III not IV, but they are very similar…)

5: LocoRoco / LocoRoco 2 (PSP)

Easily the most colourful game on the list, LocoRoco is a very strange game where you have to press the L and R buttons of the PSP to rotate the screen and send a singing blob around many maze like stages, sometimes made of jelly. I’m not really sure if it counts as a platformer or not… but I’m including it anyway! It’s such a unique game and never looses focus with some very cool level designs and innovative mechanics. The game is simply a joy to play, the same can be said for the sequel.  This game kept me glued to my PSP for hours on end, and trust me, once you’ve stopped playing, you won’t be able to get the music out of your head! 

The idea of the game is to roll around and collect berries that make your Locoroco blob bigger, and therefor able to get to more places and ultimately grow big enough to split into many smaller blobs, which each begin to sing and add to the already intoxicating cute atmosphere! You can use all these smaller Locoroco’s to solve puzzles and wake up a giant tree at the end of each stage.

4: Super Mario Land / Super Mario Land 2 / Wario Land (Gameboy/GBA)

Its no secret that Super Mario Land 1 is one of my all time favourite Super Mario games. I even wrote a whole post just on how much I love the game… So It’s probably easier to point you to that rather than repeat myself here! This is another game which I did a let’s play for many years ago! 

As for Super Mario Land 2, it is a much bigger game, and many people would say its also a much better game too. I still prefer the first one though. This one had loads of cool new powerups that haven’t been seen since, including bunny ears which let you hover, a space suit for a few moon based levels and even a bubble which lets you float above the level for a short time! This is definitely a very unique game in the Mario series, as, like the first game, this is not set in the mushroon kingdom and has such strange areas as a Lego land, a land set inside a bees nest, a Halloween themed area and the inside of a turtle to name a few! It also introduces Wario for the first time, who would soon go onto star in his own game, Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land.

3: Klonoa Empire Of Dreams / Moonlight Museum (GBA / Wonderswan)

Any of you that read my “Top Ten Console Platformers” will already know of my love for the Klonoa series! This continues with the hand held entries, I’ve only played two out of four of the handheld games, but I love the ones I have had a chance to play. They are far more puzzle focused than the main game, separating each level into one big area in which you have to manipulate enemies and boxes to find keys which open certain doors. Theres loads of collectibles scattered about and plenty to unlock along the way. It’s a joy to play, and the boss fights and mini games make a welcome change of pace every so often! 

2: Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (DS)

It’s hard to believe this very odd platformer/puzzle combo came out of EA of all places! The game is half something like Kirby, and half Bejeweled. Its a strange combination but works surprisingly well! As you play through the main adventure as Mr Hatsworth, you can also manipulate the puzzle blocks on the lower screen at the same time, making links to send powerups to the platformer game on the top screen! It’s a really interesting mechanic and works far better than you could ever imagine! It also has really nice visuals and great gameplay to go with it! Definitely an underrated DS gem!

1: Kirby’s Dream Land / Dreamland 2 / Nightmare In Dreamland / Super Star Ultra / Mouse Attack / Triple Deluxe (Gameboy / GBA / DS / 3DS)

Every main kirby game is pretty much the same… so why not include all of them! 

Starting on the original gameboy, the very first Kirby game ever, Dream Land, did not include a whole lot of anything… You could fly and… well thats about it. There were no abilities to be gained from the enemies, instead you could just suck them up and spit them out. The game was incredibly short, clocking in at under 20mins for a full playthrough! Despite all these shortcomings though, it was a fantastic game, loved by many for its simple gameplay and very cute style. 

The second game in the dreamland series greatly improved on every single aspect of the first game, giving you a range of enemies to eat and transform into, as well as taking a leaf out of Kirby’s Adventure’s book and giving the game a proper hub world. This made for a much larger and better game. 

Next in the hand-held line of kirby games was a GBA game, a remake of the NES and Famicom game, Kirby’s adventure. This was a brilliant update with fantastic graphics and remixed music! You could even play the whole game through as Metaknighgt once you completed it! Unfortunately I’ve lost this one and the price of the cart is getting excedingly expensive each time I look… I’ll skip over the next GBA entry as it’s one of the only Kirby games I don’t enjoy. It was called Kirby and the Amazing Mirror.

The next proper hand held kirby game came on the DS in the form of Kirby’s Mouse Attack, (or Squeak Squad if you’re from America) This game was more of the same, with a few new enemies to eat. The main difference in this game was the inclusion of a band of naughty mice, called the Squeak Squad! They run around stealing treasure and it’s up to kirby to chase them down and get it back! The only reason Kirby’s interested in chasing down these mice is because they ran off with his strawberry shortcake! Clearly Kirby has no interest in the millions of kirby dollars he could get from all that treasure!

After this came another Re-Make in the form of Kirby Super Star Ultra. I wrote a post on this a while ago, so here you go!

The latest new game in the series is on the 3DS, called Kirby Triple Deluxe. It makes great use of the 3D effect as the game plays out on two planes at once, so you can move into the background and foreground. Theres also a really fun game hiding behind this cool mechanic, and it’s one of the best and most replayable kirby games to date! With loads to find and collect in each stage and amazing unlockable keychains! I wish they were real! 🙁

Once again that ended up being much more than 10 games! Never mind. 

Thanks for reading! 

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