I know what you're thinking: "Any game is a portable game if you try hard enough." Fair point. But, I don't know about you, but my 2013 was off the wall busy and I appreciated a good, proper handheld title that didn't require me to cart around a small generator and monitor.
In fact, some of my favorite games of the year came out on handheld systems this year. The 3DS had about as good a year as you can hope for, the Vita knocked it out of the park with at least one sublime title, and the mobile sector left us with some great experiences that weren't Angry Birds cash-ins or coin eaters.
Everything just works so well in unison. The soundtrack is delightful and odd, at times reminiscent of Paprika’s parade fanfare with its lively horns. The world, put together in paper scraps, is unbelievable in its artistry and function. Tearaway’s paper water and ripples as you walk through it are more impressive than any realistic water graphics I’ve ever seen. The level of unique detail in the world is staggering. Every moment spent immersed in it is heartwarming. Fittingly, it feels positively handcrafted.
Read the full Tearaway review
Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon
In many ways, Dark Moon's ScareScraper is one of the best multiplayer modes I've ever played. There's so much variety to it, and the formula of combining the cooperative nature with competitive, playful elements is genius. If Dark Moon was just a single-player experience, it would have been a fleeting, yet enjoyable adventure. But with the addition of an infectious multiplayer element that can't be replicated anywhere else, it makes Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon even better than its predecessor, and one of the clear-cut best games on the 3DS.
Pokemon X and Y
Many will tell you that Pokemon X and Y totally shakes up the stale old Pokemon foundation, but they are simply dazzled by the bright lights and flashing images. This isn't a problem though, because some of us love the "stale" old Pokemon foundation, and we're happy to get it looking as good as it's ever looked. I want to walk around in grass and toss my balls in a magic dog's face, and that's exactly what I get from X and Y. That I get it with beautifully animated combat and gorgeous, vivid colors just totally seals the deal.
Read the full Pokemon X and Y review
Yes, perfect is the word for Ridiculous Fishing. Everything comes together to deliver a cohesive whole that works to alternate between making you smile, making you wonder, and most of all, making you want more. Thankfully, the game is quick to offer more. Just when you think you've seen the end, there's a new area, new item, a new kick in the storyline, or new fish to savor. Ingeniously designed, continuously compelling, painstakingly crafted, dripping with personality, packed with content -- I like everything about Ridiculous Fishing.
Read the full Ridiculous Fishing review
Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time
Launching Plants vs. Zombies 2 exclusively on iOS platforms first is a really odd choice for a game that was originally a big-hitter for the PC, but it may very well pay off -- especially given the fact that the game is actually good. So long as EA and PopCap don't eventually ruin the game through greedy in-app purchases, the base game at launch is a treat, and worth a download from every iOS owner out there. What you're getting is basically more of that classic Plants vs. Zombie experience, with just enough tweaks to keep it interesting -- and that's more than enough for me.
Read the full Plants vs. Zombies 2 review
Shin Megami Tensei IV
Shin Megami Tensei IV may have been developed for two little screens, but it's a massive, uncompromising game that feels just as big as any console RPG release. It's as deep and gratifying as you'd expect from Atlus' original key franchise, and now it's fully portable (with a save anywhere function). In fact, the only real problem you're going to have with Shin Megami Tensei IV is keeping your 3DS battery charged up, because it's the best RPG for 3DS to date.
Read the full Shin Megami Tensei IV review
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
There's plenty of fun and silliness to be had in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and obsessive fans will likely find the extra content, however fundamentally familiar, to be endearing and laudable. It's a good little game, but it's nowhere near as special as it used to be, and those hoping for more flexibility and interaction from their new political careers will feel let down by what is, ostensibly, just more goalpost shifting and further excuses to get you to shake bananas off trees.
Read the full Animal Crossing: New Leaf review
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies
Dual Destinies delivers exactly what I wanted from a new Ace Attorney game. Interesting new cases, great new characters, lots of twists and surprises, and what is ultimately an excellent work of interactive fiction. Topped off with beautiful 3D animations, an unsurprisingly excellent soundtrack, and some great anime sequences that highlight major moments in each case, Dual Destinies is not to be missed.
Read the full Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies review
Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds
The best thing about A Link Between Worlds though is that it doesn't waste any of your time. After waking up in your iconic bed, Link is off to the races almost immediately, encountering his first dungeon in less than five minutes. It's there where you'll learn the basics of combat, item management, and the core game mechanics -- you're essentially dropped off into the open world on your own. Here's where things get interesting.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
While Fire Emblem: Awakening may not turn the notch up to 11, it's everything that's right about strategy RPGs. Whatever options you choose to go with at the beginning of the game, it's either one of the most accessible strategy games to date, or one of the most difficult. It's a brilliant design that will pay dividends for Nintendo in the long run, as it will convert plenty of new fans. If you've been itching to get into a Fire Emblem game, this is a great place to start. If you've been playing them all along, you'll feel right at home.
Read the full Fire Emblem: Awakening review
Congrats to all the nominees! We'll be announcing the official winner on Monday, December 24.
Here's all the other nominee categories we've revealed so far:
In the mean time we want you to tell us which game was the best new portable game of 2013.