With life so busy as it is these days, we just seem to never have the time to sit on our comfortable beds and play our favorite titles. We’re either on the trains to work or on the bus back home, so often times we have to rely on our mobile devices to hold us over. Not all of us are quite interested with mobile however and so that’s where handhelds come in. Nintendo has been dominating the handheld market for years with its Nintendo DS hardware, but Sony has definitely managed to maintain its loyal fans in Japan with the still strong PlayStation Vita. With a massive library of titles to choose from our list wasn’t easy, but we’ve managed to jot down some of the best out there that are sure to keep you busy long enough to get through rush hour. Let’s take a look at the top ten handheld anime games and see just which one takes home the number one prize.
10. Stella Glow
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Sega | Atlus | Atlus USA
- Developer: Imageepoch
- Release Date: June 4, 2015
Stella Glow makes its first appearance on the Honey’s Anime game list and for good reason. While not a staple franchise name like the others found on this list, Stella Glow’s tactical adventure is sure to give anyone a run for their money, along with a charming story to enlighten you along the way. Stella Glow looks at a young determined man named Alto, who ventures out into the wild in search for four witches that have the power to save his town from being crystallized.
Gameplay in Stella Glow is divided into free time and battle time, with each having their own unique characteristics that can only be completed in the respective mode. In Free Time mode, more options are allotted to the player such as building relationships with teammates, or tuning witches which basically means building a bond with a witch when you otherwise couldn’t while dealing with personal strife. Battle time is more or less what you’d expect, as you battle your way through a horde of enemies in a turn based style, while progressing the game’s story over time and unlocking various abilities as well.
9. Persona 4 Golden
- System/Platform: PlayStation Vita
- Publisher: Atlus
- Developer: Atlus
- Release Date: August 2011
Fans of Persona will most certainly know this title very well as Persona 4 Golden is the ported version of Persona 4 for PlayStation, with some added features to reel players back in. Various story elements were thrown into Golden to provide players with a fresh new take on the series, while introducing a new character known as Maria into the mix. Additional Personas, cutscenes, along with new social links for Marie and Tohru were implemented, and other features that took advantage of Vita’s powerful graphics engine.
While Persona 4 Golden is merely just an add on to the original, it gives players who truly enjoyed Persona 4 a new experience to look forward to while providing some extra hours of gameplay to the mix. It’s all a pretty package that truly makes up for perhaps some of the things that players felt were missing in the original, while still retaining the tried and true adventure that the Persona series is notable for. Known for its really quirky characters, compelling story and just all around fun, Persona 4 Golden is a great port and nice little added cartridge to your Vita collection.
8. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
- System/Platform: PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4
- Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
- Developer: Media.Vision
- Release Date: March 12, 2015
Digimon has slowly been making its way back into the spotlight ever since it was overshadowed by Pokemon for several years, and Cyber Sleuth is one of the more recent titles that really hits home with fans of the franchise. You start off as an amateur hacker who receives a device known as the Digimon Capture from a mysterious forum lurker, and states that it allows you to capture and become friends with Digimon in a world known as Cyberspace Eden. As you dive deeper into the world of Eden you’ll come across some strange enemies and strong allies in this action packed role playing game.
What sets Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth apart from any of the other Digimon titles is that it allowed players to retain much of their collected items with a new feature known as New Game Plus. Much of the role playing experience is what you’d typically find in any other JRPG, but Cyber Sleuth had a very vibrant feel to it with great character design to top things off. It’s certainly a step in the right direction for the franchise, and with Digimon World: Next Order International Edition hitting western shores next year, you can expect there to be a lot more in store for fans of Digimon. Be sure to read up on our review on Next Order in our gaming section for more details.
7. The World Ends With You
- System/Platform: Nintendo DS, iOS, Android
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix | Jupiter
- Release Date: July 26, 2007
The World Ends With You told a powerful narrative which took place in modern day Shibuya in Tokyo, and has players racing around the city as Neku and his allies must take part in a game that will determine not only their fate but the world around them. Will Neku and his friends be able to dig their way out of the Underground and find peace, or will disturbing creatures known as ‘Noise’ be too much for them?
Known for its steep learning curve during combat, The World Ends With You is a title that resonates in the hearts and minds of those who’ve played it not for the difficulty in combat, but the emotional connection you get when interacting with each character. The story is compelling enough to keep you seated for hours, while the pace of combat is sure to have you on the edge of your seat. Getting used to the many facets of each district will be a little daunting at first, but once you wrap your head around how battle properties work you’ll have a blast.
6. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Nintendo Australia | Level-5
- Developer: Level-5
- Release Date: February 28, 2013
Despite Professor Layton not getting as much attention as he and his partner Luke would like to, the series is still widely considered to be one of the best puzzle titles on the Nintendo DS and 3DS. As you and Layton wander through the many locations of the world solving mysterious crimes and puzzles, it feels as if you’re right there next to him as each testimony is thoroughly digested into your memory, and the challenging puzzles stimulate your brain for hours on end.
Wherever Layton and Luke travel to, it’s most certainly an adventure unlike no other and with the latest Azran Legacy there seems to be nothing Layton can’t solve, of course with the help of you of course. Sadly, Azran Legacy is the last title that we’ll see Layton in as his daughter will now take his place in the next installment known as Lady Layton: The Millionaire Ariadone’s Conspiracy, where she’ll be on the hunt for her father who has gone missing. If you’re a puzzle freak and love a great challenge every now and then, be sure to grab Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy as well as the new one which is slated to release next year.
5. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Release Date: June 9, 2016
The Phoenix Wright series has really grown in popularity ever since its initial release back in 2001, and to this day still continues to shine with its clever approach to crime based games, along with random humor thrown in for the ultimate adventure. The story looks at rookie defense attorney Phoenix as he works his way up the ladder, dealing with various criminals and deciphering clues to bring them to justice, while working alongside allies such as Maya to ensure his points are concise in front of the judge.
In Spirit of Justice, a lot of the gameplay you’d expect is still concrete and entertaining as it were in previous installments. Spirit of Justice also compiles many features from previous games such as being able to gauge the emotions of those on stand, using forensic evidence to close difficult cases, and looking out for certain tells that witnesses tend to expose when under pressure into a single game. All of these plus the thought process behind actually solving each case is what truly makes Spirit of Justice a welcoming addition to an already strong library of Phoenix Wright titles to choose from.
4. Fire Emblem Fates
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: Nintendo Australia
- Developer: Intelligent Systems | Nintendo Software P&D
- Release Date: June 25, 2015
Fire Emblem Fates is the title that came after the popular Fire Emblem Awakening, and much like its earlier ancestor Path of Radiance for the Nintendo Gamecube, Fates brings players the same challenging gameplay along with fresh additions for long lasting play time. Splitting up into three versions each focusing on their own storyline, Fates gave players an opportunity to play the game from different perspectives to determine the outcome for each character played.
As stated earlier, much of the tactical approach to the game is still very much intact and each version, Birthright, Conquest and Revelation comes with their distinctive gameplay elements that cater to certain players’ playstyles. Birthright is targeted more towards those who are new to both tactical RPG’s and the series, Conquest encompassed the usual take on the series with its challenging scenarios, while Revelation acted more as the median and provided a nice balanced experience. Whatever version you decide on is entirely up to you, but Fire Emblem Fates is sure to work your brain for a good amount of time, while its story will surely impress you.
3. Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
- System/Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
- Publisher: Atlus | Atlus USA
- Developer: Vanillaware
- Release Date: May 17, 2007 [PS2] | June 2016 [NA/EU]
Odin Sphere is the ultimate handheld classic and has consistently come out in the top 5 rankings for handheld titles numerous years in a row. Just why is Odin Sphere so highly sought after by handheld fans? For one, it’s certainly the unique gameplay experience that blends action, adventure and RPG into one huge glorious package that’s constantly full of surprises at every turn. The game has been out since 2007 and since then the title has had captured the hearts of many with its incredible storytelling, which found influence from William Shakespeare and Norse Mythology along with some hints of fairy tales for added diversity.
It truly feels like poetry in motion as you play because everything feels seamless when you attack enemies with very intuitive controls, and the challenging experience you get keeps you hungry for more. With over 40+ hours in a handheld title, that’s more than enough for several train rides, a plane trip, and perhaps a short trip by bus if you’re the type to be on the go frequently. Odin Sphere incorporates everything you love from every genre, places it into one package and sells you on its overwhelmingly strong plot and incredible attention to detail.
2. Steins;Gate 0
- System/Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Publisher: 5pb. | PQube
- Developer: 5pb. | Nitroplus
- Release Date: December 10, 2015 [JP] | November 2016 [NA/EU]
For anyone curious about how Steins;Gate 0 lives up to the original, be sure to check out our latest review on it for more details. We all know that Steins;Gate has made a name for itself over the years as arguably the greatest visual novel experience out there, and it has enough proof to back that up entirely. With incredible narrative, spectacular soundtracks to keep your ears aroused, along with a diverse cast of characters that all come with their great personality, we can’t help but celebrate this game for its devotion to high quality.
Rintaro is such an odd character and yet, for some reason you’re attached to him and his struggles as he desperately tries to save the world and finally reach Steins;Gate. All of the Future Gadget Labs team are quirky in their own way, and just bring some extra spice to really provide some splendid flavoring to a remarkable adventure. Of course there are plenty of other fantastic visual novel franchises out there, but the one that many flock to, even newcomers to the genre, is almost always be Steins;Gate.
1. Pokemon Sun & Moon
- System/Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Publisher: The Pokemon Company | Nintendo
- Developer: Game Freak
- Release Date: November 18, 2016
The Pokemon franchise as of late has been on fire and doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, since Pokemon GO is carrying the torch in the mobile area. Pokemon Sun & Moon released several months after GO and many thought that Pokemon GO was the engine that Nintendo needed to really drive the latest installment of the popular series home, and it surely did with over a million sold in its first week. Combine that with the continuing sales of Pokemon GO and you’re pretty much counting Scrooge McDuck money at this point.
Pokemon Sun & Moon was everything fans expected with a lot more features to keep them busy for months and years. The game features 81 new species, along with Aloha forms of previous generation Pokemon that we all know and love. Trading and battling never felt more satisfying in the game as so much more has been added to really boost the level of replay value you get when going up against other trainers worldwide, and with so many people chasing after shiny Pokemon all day there’s seriously an unlimited amount of things to do.
With an enormous amount of titles to choose from ranging from the likes of Super Mario, Sonic titles, Exist Archive, Metal Slug, Hyrule Warriors Legends, Saga: Scarlet Grace, Idol Death Game, World of Final Fantasy, Ray Gigant and a handful of classics, handheld gaming just can’t be defined by just a small conglomerate of titles. So let us know what handheld games you love most and drop them down in the comments section below. We just may make another top 10 someday and your choice may end up on there! Be sure to also follow us on Twitter to keep up to date with what’s happening here in Japan.
As always, if you want to know about all the latest buzz straight from the bee’s nest in Japan, be sure to keep it locked here at Honey’s Anime.