It's a no brainer that handhelds offer great single player experiences. But one may overlook the fact that handhelds have provided unique multiplayer experiences that is unmatched on home consoles. Let's look at some examples:
The Game Boy's killer app was packed with the link cable. This allows players to face off to see who can last the longest in the game of Tetris
. What's awesome about this is simultaneous multiplayer on separate screens. Most console games at time didn't really offer that option. It was pretty satisfying and intense playing face-to-face with your friends.
Pokemon: Multiplayer Collect-a-thon Pokemon
offered a nice twist on portable multiplayer. In addition to head-to-head battles, this game has a trading mechanic that forces completionists to make friends who have the pokemon they want. Personal note: I've became a local playground legend by being "that kid with the 100 lvl. Mew."
Advance Wars: Hot Potato
This game holds a special place in my heart for providing quick multiplayer fun with friends who didn't even own a Game Boy Advance. A main issue with handheld multiplayer is not everyone owns the same game, a link cable, or a handheld. The solution? Have a game mode where you just pass the handheld around taking turns. It might not be the first game to provide alternating multiplayer. But, being a turn-based strategy game makes this style of multiplayer work so well.
On an unrelated note: Advance Wars
was among the few handheld games that provided linked multiplayer with one game cart. Warioware: Dual-Player
One of the best parts of a Warioware
game is unlocking a dual-player mini-game/souvenir. For those unfamiliar, players share one handheld system with one player sharing the L-trigger and the other player sharing the R-trigger. It doesn't sound fun unless you actually try it. However, the quirkiness of this multiplayer style just works with the quirkiness of Warioware
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures: Marriage between consoles and handhelds
Some may think that the Gamecube/GBA connectivity was a failure. They might have overlooked the fact Wii/DS and PS3/PSP connectivity are pretty common in this generation of games. While the Dreamcast/VMU may have played with this idea, Nintendo pushed this idea (They even had a press conference dedicated to GC/GBA connectivity). I could talk about how awesome the GC version of Pac-Man
, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
, or even Animal Crossing
. But, GC/GBA connectivity really shined in The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures
. What I especially like about this game was being allowed to explore indoors without forcing all players to be inside. The GBA screen is used when players are off-screen. This mechanic is played with when players have to split up in later levels.
Now and the Future:
It's fun to see the evolution of handheld multiplayer. These days handheld rely on wireless connections instead of link cables. Not to mention, players don't need to be in the same room anymore to play multiplayer. Some may argue online handheld multiplayer is diminishing the experience. However, unlike console and local multiplayer, handhelds aren't abandoning the old style of local play.
With the release of the 3DS and PSVita this year and knowing how these handhelds will connect to their respective home console, handheld multiplayer will get better and better. Especially if handheld/console connectivity catches on in the future, gamers may see more varied, unique multiplayer experiences with their handheld. Hell, multiplayer may be what will save handhelds from dying off.