While most attention is given to consoles and PC, there's no denying the portable gaming space can be as interesting, entertaining, and controversial as any other. Handheld systems are improving at a rapid pace, to the point where the very best titles are starting to look and play like home console releases.
As well as dedicated gaming handhelds, mobile devices are increasingly providing compelling interactive experience. The iPad, especially, has proven itself a competent gaming system to all but the most dogged of handheld loyalists.
With more competing systems than ever, the nominations for best handheld title of the year were hard fought. We have, however, managed to whittle it down to five standout titles. Here they are.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
It's well crafted, it's bursting with rose-tinted memories, and the average Final Fantasy fan will be unable to play it without goosebumps. While the songs can replay far too many times, there is at least a lot to unlock for the highly dedicated. New party members, stronger abilities, and a range of party-aiding items can be uncovered through continuous play; defeating Chaos simply reveals end credits, rather than terminating the game entirely.
Read the full Theatrhythm Final Fantasy review.
Rayman Jungle Run
Rayman Jungle Run is proof that platformers can work on touch devices if you tailor the them to the strengths of the hardware rather than attempt to recreate a console experience. Had this merely been a watered-down port of Origins, it would have invited direct comparisons and highlighted the flaws of touch-based gameplay. Instead, it's a game with bite-sized levels and sensible controls yet all the action of its console brethren. This is what companion software ought to be.
Read the full Rayman Jungle Run review.
Resident Evil: Revelations
Resident Evil: Revelations is an exhausting game. It's the type of game that demands cigarette breaks between levels, due to how strenuous it can be. It lacks the outright scares of its survival horror influences, but the consistently bleak atmosphere and exigent combat situations make for a game that will drain one's brain in a disconcertingly enjoyable way. Every challenge feels like it might be too much, and every step forward is another step closer to some horrendous, taxing endeavor, but that's what ends up being so much fun.
Read the full Resident Evil: Revelations review.
Super Hexagon is a simple, engaging game, perfect for the mobile experience. You'll go in thinking you'll play a short game, but soon find yourself repeating the same level at least a couple of dozen times, quickly jabbing at the screen to restart after cursing loudly from the ridiculous mistake you just made. Each play through is worth it though, as just breaking your own personal record by a second will give you a level of satisfaction you wouldn't expect to feel.
Read the full Super Hexagon review.
Persona 4 Golden
If you're a series fan, there's absolutely no excuse for missing Persona 4 Golden. The world has been enhanced and expanded so much that it feels like a new title, and that's coming from someone who has finished Persona 4 a couple of times beforehand. What started out as a pleasant revisit turned into a new adventure, with new story bits and dialogue constantly surprising me. You will not be disappointed.
Read the full Persona 4 Golden review.
Congrats to all the nominees! We'll be announcing the official winner on Friday, December 14. In the mean time we want you to tell us which game this year was the best portable. Plus, be sure to go vote in our Community Choice Award for your favorite game of 2012.
Check out all our other categories and nominations: