Handheld gaming is in quite an interesting place these days. Mobile gaming has of course taken most of the handheld market over the last decade. But perhaps more interestingly, the Nintendo Switch has essentially bridged the gap between handheld and home console gaming.
There was once a clear cut difference in terms of what kind of games you’d see on handhelds. In the Game Boy days, it meant the compromise of quality for the convenience of portable gaming. In the Game Boy Advance days, handheld titles were smaller, shorter experiences, but no less great than their console counterparts. But now with the Nintendo Switch, there’s really no difference.
This is, of course, making this particular award a little tricky. Do I stick with what is traditionally considered a ‘handheld’ game (3DS, etc.)? Or do I include Switch titles?
Well, I suppose since the 3DS is (unfortunately) on its last leg, I guess now is as good a time as ever to allow Switch games into the mix. However, I will only consider Switch exclusives eligible for this award. I don’t want to dilute the idea handheld gaming too much. Therefor, if I only make the exclusive Switch titles eligible for this award – as opposed to multiplatform games and ports/re-releases that also happen to be on Switch – then I feel this award’s continued existence is justified.
So without further explanation, here is my favorite handheld game of 2018.
Winner: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
First, let me give credit where it’s due: If I were going with the “traditional” handheld route, this award would go to WarioWare Gold. So let’s award that as the “Runner-up” in this category, and give it some additional brownie points as well. Because WarioWare is an awesome series, and Gold was just so much fun.
With that said, I can’t deny the sheer joy of playing Super Smash Bros. on the go. Sure, Super Smash Bros. on 3DS did it first, but it also felt like it made some compromises in the transition, and was kind of the ‘lesser’ version of its Wii U counterpart. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, on the other hand, is Super Smash Bros. at its best whether your playing on your TV or on the go.
Ultimate is one of the best examples of the appeal of the Switch itself. It’s top tier gaming no matter how you choose to play it. And Ultimate gives you one of the best multiplayer series of all time, whether you choose to go the home console or the handheld route.
Runner-up: WarioWare Gold
2014: Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS
2015: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D
2016: Kirby Planet Robobot
2017: Super Mario Odyssey*
*Retroactively awarded now that I’m qualifying Switch titles for this award.