Get on your computers, kids. It’s time for…
Tiny Cartridge’s favorite Tiny Cartridges of 2013!
It’s time to look back on the handheld games that captivated us this year, in list-plus-short-blurb form! It was a very special year for handheld games, with a weirdly diverse selection of really, really obsession-worthy games. Everything from action games you could play for 5 seconds and enjoy, to a game that you could play continuously for years.
Sadly, no Luigi games made it on our list in this, the Year of Luigi.
Even so, our end of year list is special for a couple reasons:
- it panders to handheld fans, the shadow master race of gaming
- since we’re on Tumblr, we’ve packed this list to the gills with GIFS, starting with the above image from Nookling
Let’s look back at 2013!
10. Tearaway (Media Molecule)
This game hit all the right sentimental notes, and looked charmingly beautiful doing it. Though it doesn’t go so far as to totally justify the PS Vita’s dumb rear touchpad, it does make as much use of all the Vita’s various inputs as could be expected!
9. Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan (Atlus)
After years of this series’ infamous difficulty scaring us away, we finally tried out the first-person RPG with Etrian Odyssey IV… And it was fantastic! The newly introduced Casual Mode (along with the Jig Lizard) helped convince us to finally give it a spin, but we also appreciated exploring the overworld in an airship, the cooking system, and Yuzo Koshiro’s orchestral soundtrack.
And while we’ve heard Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl, the remake/overhaul of the first game also released this year, might be better, we have to give our vote to EOIV for integrating QR codes you can scan to unlock other players’ guilds and special equipment/quests — including a very special quest delivered to you by our mascot Tiny!
8. SteamWorld: Dig (Image & Form)
Probably the biggest surprise of the year, SteamWorld: Dig mixes the best of Metroid and Mr. Driller, creating one of the tightest and most addictive experiences of the year. This eShop-only game does so much right, from the efficient way it introduces you to new mechanics, to its simple balancing of resources that keeps you from just burrowing your way through miles of dirt without coming up for a breather.
We also have to commend Image & Form for setting a standard on the eShop, not just for what developers can do on the platform, but also the success small indie studios can enjoy with a polished exclusive released specifically with the system in mind. We really hope to see more of these indie eShop hits next year!
image via Geostar
7. Dragon’s Crown (Vanillaware)
If you grew up playing, I don’t know, Golden Axe or Final Fight or that kind of game, Dragon’s Crown is the version of those games that, back in the ’90s, you would have imagined would happen in 2013. Does that make sense?
Like, back then, you would have dreamed of cartoon-quality, high-res hand-drawn art, crazy huge bosses, and lots of secrets. You might not have thought to wish for seamless online play, but that’s because you were kind of dumb back then.
image via PaulHasTumblr
6. Pokémon X and Y (Game Freak)
The two of us can hardly compare this to previous Pokémon games… because we didn’t care that much about previous Pokémon games. But this one made a perfect entry, or re-entry, point for the series! It’s really great to look at and features speedy movement and UI that are surprisingly not at all annoying.
Plus one of the new Pokémon is a damn sword. And another is a keychain. This is a AAA game in which you can give orders to a sentient keychain.
5. Attack of the Friday Monsters (Millennium Kitchen)
We were already in love with Level-5 for putting together the Guild series of downloadable games and localizing them, but now we’re indebted to the publisher for Attack of the Friday Monsters. It’s the closest thing to My Summer Vacation (a nostalgic series about grade school summers spent in the Japanese countryside) that you’ll find on the 3DS — even directed by the same man, Kaz Ayabe — except it actually released in the States!
It’s a short, lovely tale about timid fathers, childhood myths, and afternoons spent making up games with friends. If you want to relive that brief period of your childhood when you had a favorite TV show about giant heroes fighting bizarre monsters, grab this from the eShop immediately. Like all Guild games right now, it’s on sale for $4.99 until January 9.
image via Dino
4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Nintendo EAD Group No. 3 and Monolith Soft)
Did anyone expect that a new handheld Zelda game could rival the brilliance of Link’s Awakening? Even if you were that optimistic, there’s no way you could have predicted that this 3DS game — considered by many at first to be a lazy sequel to A Link to the Past — would be one of the finest Zeldas released in the franchise’s 25+ year history.
Everything is streamlined to get you started on your way as quickly as possible, and to make sure you’re focused on enjoying the adventure, not trying to figure out how to get to the next fun part. Even if you’ve played Zelda games and A Link to the Past to the death already, the new wall-merging feature switches it all up, making possible some really clever puzzles and inventive boss fights. It’s the kind of game you can give to anyone and feel confident that they’ll love every hour with it.
image via GameDesignNovice
3. Spelunky (Mossmouth and Blitworks)
It was one of the best games last year, and now it’s an even better version of that, but portable. Even before the addition of the Daily Challenge, Spelunky was as close to perfect as a game could be. Every single thing you can do in that game is fun, even if it ends in catastrophic failure, and it always will.
Spelunky is action platforming refined beyond anything else. Running, jumping, throwing, climbing, bombing: all feel exciting and easily manageable, and all work within an ever-shifting, complex machine of moving parts. Most of which kill you.
2. Fire Emblem: Awakening (Intelligent Systems and Nintendo SPD)
There are plenty of reasons why this was the Fire Emblem game that seemed to really put the strategy RPG series on the map: the new Casual Mode finally allowing you to play without permadeath, the avatar system dropping players into the story as customizable characters, and Yusuke Kozaki’s always amazing character designs chief among them.
But, real talk, the reason why everyone was posting dozens of photos of the game’s scenes on Tumblr and Twitter was the waifus. Voice-acted waifus. Waifus who will defend their spousus, or team up with them for attacks while next to each other in battle. Waifus in swimwear if you put down extra cash for DLC. Many of us experienced a Waifu Awakening this year thanks to Fire Emblem.
image via Nookling
1. Animal Crossing: New Leaf (Nintendo EAD Group No. 2 Monolith Soft)
The whole TinyCast team lost hundreds of hours to New Leaf, despite all being lapsed Animal Crossing fans. It’s just that good. And it’s not just that the actual game is that good – though it is, a perfect oasis where there’s always something new to do every day, be it collect outfits, decorate your house, run errands, or visit friends, and it’s all equally optional.
There wasn’t a better moment this year in games than the metagame we all made up for New Leaf, in which we share screenshots of our dream bathrooms and coordinate visits and trades on Twitter. Even when we weren’t in the town of Buttocks, we were able to think about Buttocks.
While we only had ten spots for the list, we wanted to make sure we mentioned the other great portable games that came out this year, like Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei IV, Bertil Horberg’s Gunman Clive, Capcom’s Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Dennaton and Abstraction Games’ Hotline Miami port to PS Vita, Daisuke Amaya and Nicalis’ Ikachan port to 3DS, and probably a dozen others we’re forgetting to mention.
There were lots of amazing games released in 2013 on all kinds of platforms, and this list, like most things we post, is based only on our own opinions! That said, if you didn’t play and love all of them we’re ashamed.