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2013: The Year of the Handheld
by Brian Davis on 12/18/13 02:22:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


2013 was a year where I spent the majority of my gaming time on portable handhelds than on my consoles. I was away from my consoles more often, and handhelds were the easiest way to get quality gaming sessions in wherever I happened to be (on the road, at the office, not in the living room, etc).

It was also an effect of the Nintendo 3DS having such a great selection of new games, and my preference of gaming time becoming more burst-based. For me in 2013, playing a 3-8 hour game was more common than a 20-40 hour experience. I could get a ton of enjoyment out of games like Animal Crossing: New Leaf or Zelda: A Link Between Worlds in short 10-30 minute play sessions.

Now that I’ve declared how my gaming habits have been in 2013, it's no surprise that my favorite gaming experiences would stem from handhelds, specifically the Nintendo 3DS. With that in mind I do own consoles, as well, so I’ve been fortunate to have played some of this year’s biggest titles. However, I’ve found that the most interesting games this year have come in handheld form.

At the end of the year, many of the best overall games are highlighted in the industry media. What I’d like to do here is share my thoughts on noteworthy games and gaming-related things that I found interesting in 2013.

Here we go!

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale by Level-5 with Millenium Kitchen

Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale is a card-battling game that has a unique “Kaiju vs Hero” storyline that takes place in 1970s Japan. The core of what I really enjoyed with this game wasn’t the card battle component but was simply exploring this retro world where Giant Monsters attack your town every Friday. The music and ambient noise really sell being part of the world as you explore it as a young boy. I wanted to keep returning to this game to see what else I could uncover in this small town. The game was great at rewarding the player for exploring and interacting.

SteamWorld Dig by Image & Form

A procedurally-generated world. Robots Miners. Western-themed. These are some ways of describing aspects of Image & Forms excellent SteamWorld Dig. What I was most impressed about the game was that weapon upgrades felt meaningful and each player’s experience was unique.

As a player you control a Robot that has a job of digging down to find his Robot Uncle. The task of digging is made easier with the upgrades earned by the player. What’s even more special is that each playthrough is different; each player’s world map is uniquely generated and can be explored in the player’s own way. Dig for depth or breadth; it’s up to the player.

Gunman Clive by Hörberg Productions

This $1.99 eShop game caught me by surprise. It features 20 stages of Mega Man-like gameplay, boss battles and a unique art style. What impressed the most is the clearly-designed mechanics and simple two-button controls. The game was originally released on iOS and Android, but saw a 3DS eShop debut this year with responsive button controls -- my preferred control preference for this game.

The Starship Damrey by Level-5 with Kazuya Asano and Takemaru Abiko

The Starship Damrey prides itself for allowing the player to discover things on its own. The game’s designers declare this at the beginning of the game:

“This game contains no tutorials or explanations.

Part of the experience is to discover things yourself.”

I think this is great. The build up to finding a problem, seeking out the solution and solving it is rewarding in itself. I recommend checking this game out, if you’re looking for a suspenseful horror storyline with a bit of challenge and an old-school discover-things-on-your-own design.

Solitaire (Klondike)

I played Solitaire for the first time this year via Brain Age: Concentration Training (3DS). It’s true. I’ve seen many people play the game before, but I never sat down and learned how to play until 2013. There are many forms of Solitaire, and I found I gravitated most to the Klondike rule set. It is one of those games that hovers on that fine line of “it’s challenging/I’m so close to winning”. Something that other games like Super Mario Bros (NES) and Tetris (GB) do well, too.

Miiverse and Twitter

Although it launched alongside the Wii U in Nov 2012, I feel Miiverse hit its stride (for me) once it was accessible from the Web Browser and most recently on the 3DS. I quite enjoy seeing the creative posts and Communities in Miiverse.

One of the best parts about video games is talking to others about them. Which is why I listed Miiverse and Twitter here. I’ve met many passionate and knowledgeable people interested in video games via these networks in 2013.


This represents a small selection of games out there. 2013 has been packed full of amazing, high quality games. I could easily include games like The Last of Us, Super Mario 3D World, Zelda: A Link Between Worlds here, but I feel you probably will see them on many lists.

My goal with this article is to help others discover games they may have missed, and to spark discussions about pockets of fun that people found in games this year. I'd love to hear what your favorite gaming moments in 2013 were. Sharing your gaming experiences is part of the fun.

Thanks for reading!

- Brian (@GameplayDev)


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