While Nintendo's Game Boy wasn't technically the first handheld gaming system, it was definitely the one that first successfully introduced the concept to a mass audience and forever changed the notion that video gaming was a strictly at-home concept. Of course, a lot of that success had to do with a little pack-in game by the name of Tetris, but still—from that point on, the reach of video games was no longer limited to the length of controller cords.
Some all-time classic games have called handheld systems home, both shrunken-down versions of console games and titles that were exclusive to handheld platforms. And while Nintendo has generally had the greatest success in that arena, other companies—including Sega, Sony, Tiger, and others—have also entered the fray with varying degrees of success. But there is one thing that every handheld system has had in common: A whole lot of really, really bad games.
It's not that consoles and PC don't have awful games as well, but when games are bad on a handheld, they just seem to be bad on a whole other level. Handheld systems also seem to be the home to a lot of forgettable, disposable installments in otherwise-acclaimed franchises—chalk it up to how much cheaper handheld games tend to be to develop. In addition, handheld entries in video game franchises also end up being a place for developers to try new ideas within that franchise—and a lot of the time, those new ideas fall flat on their face.
25 The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes (3DS)
There are very few games within the Zelda franchise that can actually be considered "bad games"—well, except for those weird CD-i ones, but we don't count those.
Handheld Zelda games can be great—but they are also some of the weakest installments in the series.
Revisiting the theme of multiplayer-focused Zelda was a fine enough idea, but Four Swords this ain't. Most people didn't even realize Triforce Heroes came out—and those that played it probably still forgot it existed shortly after.
24 Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
After two fun but limited installments in the Metal Gear Acid series, Konami finally got the guts to do a proper Metal Gear Solid game on the PSP. The results were...mixed.
Portable Ops played decently enough for its time, but after the excellent Peacewalker, revisiting the clunky Portable Ops is nearly impossible.
Its story also isn't even considered canon, so there's not much point in playing it anyway from a lore perspective. Unless you find it super fun spending literally half the game dragging guards back to your truck, this is one MGS game that's easy to brush aside.
23 Resident Evil Gaiden (GBC)
The Game Boy family already struggled to properly shrink down SNES franchises to its tiny-screened world—so once it decided to start adapting PlayStation games, all bets were off as far as quality was concerned.
At least the original RE game for Game Boy Color—the one that was a more direct port but was ultimately cancelled—was incredibly ambitious.
Resident Evil Gaiden just feels like a half-baked action game with light horror elements that the RE licensed was shoehorned into halfway through its development. Just find and play a ROM of the cancelled RE for GBC instead.
22 Grand Theft Auto Advance (GBA)
It wasn't a completely absurd notion to bring a top-down Grand Theft Auto game to the Game Boy Advance, since that's how the GTA series was prior to its 3D introduction with GTAIII.
The problem is that the old-school GTA games had the processing power of late-90s PCs behind them. Grand Theft Auto Advance was basically running on hardware from 1989. The results shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Considering how good subsequent handheld GTAs were on DS and PSP, this one is best left forgotten to time.
21 Call Of Duty: Black Ops Declassified (PS Vita)
In 2012, the Call of Duty series was still at its critical and commercial peak, and it was a foregone conclusion that it would find its way to Sony's fancy new handheld, the Vita.
The Vita should've been more than capable of running a respectable CoD game—which makes this abomination all the more baffling.
While games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss were pushing first-gen PS3-quality graphics and gameplay, Black Ops: Declassified somehow played worse than the CoD game for PSP. Declassified is so bad, in fact, that it's now considered among the worst games of all time.
20 Virtual Boy Wario Land
Nobody can be blamed for forgetting about the Virtual Boy in general—Nintendo itself certainly seems determined to act as though it never existed. Not that the Big N doesn't have plenty of reasons to be embarrassed by what remains their single biggest blunder, but the VB still had a couple of gems that remain unfairly marooned on a failed, hard-to-play platform.
Virtual Boy Wario Land definitely isn't one of the best Wario Land games. But it's also far from the worst, and it deserves to be ported to a platform that doesn't give people migraines.
19 Guitar Hero On Tour (DS)
For a couple of years, Guitar Hero was the biggest thing in video games. The music genre was so huge, in fact, that big box retail stores cleared out huge blocks of floor space to allow for mountains of boxes filled with plastic instruments.
One of the weirdest offshoots of the music game craze was when Guitar Hero made its way to the DS.
Who asked for tinny, low-fi versions of rock songs played by holding a DS like a book and flicking a pick across its touch screen while pressing buttons jutting out from the side? Nobody. Absolutely nobody.
18 Virtua Fighter Animation (Game Gear)
Believe it or not, the proportions in the screenshot above aren't out of whack—that's actually how Virtua Fighter Animation for Game Gear looked when the fighters would get in close.
To be fair, it was an impressive technical trick for the 8-bit handheld, to be able to zoom in on the action when characters got near each other without any drop in framerate. But it was also extremely jarring and made the game basically unplayable, as if you were trying to play a console game with your nose pressed to the screen.
17 Dead Or Alive Paradise (PSP)
Even though the Dead or Alive Xtreme series is as much about enjoying the "scenery" as actually playing the games, they still bother to include actual gameplay and things to do while you're girl watching.
Dead or Alive Paradise for PSP does away with pesky things like "gameplay" and is basically just an inappropriate photography simulator.
Not that there is anything wrong with a game that's all about taking pictures of women who don't think that the laws of physics or gravity apply to them. But games like this should only be played at home, not on buses and planes.
16 Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS)
Metroid is a franchise that is notorious for going on hiatus for long stretches of time. More than once, we've had to wait over five years for any kind of new Metroid game.
So hungry are we for anything Metroid that we all lost our minds when Nintendo showed us nothing more than the title for Metroid Prime 4.
With a series like that, there's no room for halfhearted efforts—which is exactly what Nintendo gave us with the multiplayer-focused Federation Force for 3DS. Even among a fanbase eager for every crumb we can get, Federation Force was still unanimously rejected.
15 Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu (GBA)
The Dragon Ball Z franchise definitely has a spotty history when it comes to video game adaptations, but even the worst ones tend to still at least be decent enough fighting games or beat-em-ups worth spending a Saturday afternoon playing with your friends.
Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu is not worth spending a Saturday afternoon playing. Or even five minutes playing, on any day of the week. Beyond the ill-advised decision to use 3D pre-rendered characters that robbed Goku and co. of all their charm, the gameplay seemed like it was slapped together in a week of development time.
14 Perfect Dark (GBC)
It actually wasn't completely unheard of for an FPS to make the transition to the Game Boy Color via a surprisingly good 2D action game. In fact, the secret best—and only good, actually—version of the troubled Daikatana is the one found on the GBC.
But maybe it's a different story when the original FPS was already great and the GBC version didn't have as much to prove, because Perfect Dark for the platform was a bigger, uglier mess than Rare's split from Nintendo.
13 Duke Nukem 3D (Game.com)
Much like the Virtual Boy, Game.com as a whole is something that gamers pretend didn't exist. While it was ahead of its time in featuring a touch screen as well as trying to have some very rudimentary non-gaming applications, the Game.com was an utter failure whose only saving grace was that it came pre-installed with Solitaire.
Of all the crazy things developers thought they'd be able to do with Game.com's underpowered hardware and B&W screen was this embarrassing port of Duke Nukem 3D.
Don't let that misleadingly decent-looking screenshot fool you—this game was almost completely unplayable.
12 Borderlands 2 (PS Vita)
There are a few reasons why the PS Vita didn't end up being a huge success. The go-to answer is that stiff competition from much cheaper gaming options on smartphones means that people don't want dedicated gaming handhelds anymore—but the continued success of the 3DS would seem to dispute that.
A real reason for the Vita's failure is that its console ports weren't always what they should've been. Like with CoD, the Vita should've had no problem handling Borderlands 2—but somehow it did, and it was a huge bummer for everyone who wanted Borderlands on the go.
11 Lunar: Dragon Song (DS)
The Lunar series was one of the most compelling reasons to buy a Sega CD, as it was not only a great JRPG series but did things that weren't possible without the use of the CD-ROM format—orchestral music, animated cutscenes, and more.
Unfortunately, the Lunar games never really found recaptured that magic in any of their post-Sega CD installments.
The DS game Dragon Song was perhaps the worst of them all, with needlessly punishing design decisions like forcing players to spend health to dash in battle and making them choose between XP or items after winning a battle, never both.
10 Sonic Labyrinth (Game Gear)
The list of Sonic games that fans want to forget is sadly a long one, even though the positive buzz over Sonic Mania has Sonic fans happy again these days. But that game is great because it brought the series back to 2D, where Sonic should stay.
Not all of Sonic's 2D outings are worthy of a gold ring, though. Sega had the bright idea of combining the awkward isometric perspective of Sonic 3D Blast and the poor play control of the "on foot" portions of Sonic Spinball to create the sum-is-even-worse-than-its-parts mess that is Sonic Labyrinth.
9 Mega Man In Dr. Wily's Revenge (Game Boy)
One of the issues that a lot of NES-to-Game Boy transitions had is that the developers opted to zoom in on the action rather than re-proportion everything for the smaller screen.
The result was games that looked impressive but were difficult to play.
The close cropping meant that it was often hard to see enemies and hazards before you could avoid them. MM games are hard enough when you can see the cheap deaths coming—when you can't, you'd better hope your Game Boy survives being hurled at the wall 20 or 30 times.
8 Gangs Of London (PSP)
The Getaway for PS2 was one of those games that was hyped for what felt like years, promising movie-like graphics within a photo-realistic London and featuring gameplay similar to GTA. While not all of those promises quite panned out, it was still a great game that should've launched an entire franchise.
Any chance of The Getaway becoming a long-running series were dashed with this unfathomably bad PSP installment.
While they got the atmosphere right, they got just about everything else wrong—boring, repetitive missions; absolutely bad gameplay; and frequent, game-breaking glitches. Bullocks.
7 Tomb Raider: The Prophecy (GBA)
The Tomb Raider series was originally a 3D interpretation of the traversal-based gameplay from the old Prince of Persia games—so it was both an obvious choice and a fitting tribute when the 2D Tomb Raider games for Game Boy Color played a lot like Prince of Persia.
And those TR games for GBC were great. Yet, for some reason, Eidos got it in their heads that the franchise had to be more "3D" when it made the jump to GBA, the result of which is an awkward top-down TR game that looks ugly and plays badly.
6 Bubble Bobble Revolution (DS)
Because handheld platforms tend to be a generation or three behind where their console peers are currently at, handhelds often become a place for ports and remakes of old-school video games.
The idea of Bubble Bobble—one of the best games ever made—on the go is a fantastic one.
That is, as long as it isn't delivered via a completely slapdash port so poorly made that a glitch literally prevents you from even being able to finish the darn game.
5 Street Fighter II (Game Boy)
There is a great quote delivered by Jeff Goldblum in the original Jurassic Park that accuses the scientists of being "so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."
That quote sums up this late-era Game Boy port of arcade classic Street Fighter II, which Capcom technically could make but definitely should not have. By 1995, were we still so desperate to play vanilla SFII on the go that we were willing to sacrifice its quality for...this? The answer is no, no we were not.
4 Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow— Mirror Of Fate (3DS)
Castlevania is in a bad way these days—that is to say, it's virtually non-existent. And much of that has to do with how bad the last couple of installments were.
Reboot Lords of Shadow was awesome—its two sequels, however, were anything but.
Mirror of Fate was Konami's attempt to bridge the gap between the 3D of the previous LoS games and old-school 2D Castlevania—an attempt that was a failure of the utmost magnitude. It's not a coincidence that it is thus far the last new installment in the franchise.
3 Medal Of Honor Underground (GBA)
With games like Duke Nukem Advance and Ecks Vs Sever, the Game Boy Advance had proved that it was surprisingly capable at handling first-person shooters—provided they were developed smartly and didn't try to overextend the reach of the hardware.
Medal of Honor: Underground missed both of those marks completely, not only looking like a blurry, choppy mess but being so hard to play that you had just as much of a chance beating it by not even looking at the screen.
2 Super Mario Land (Game Boy)
Super Mario Land has a lot of fans, but we maintain that much of it was due to Game Boy owners not having another Mario game to play in the back of their car during long road trips. Once Super Mario Land 2 came out, there was no reason to keep defending the weird, clunky original anymore.
Given that its big bad has never been seen again, even Nintendo is obviously keep to forget Super Mario Land ever existed.
Ditto for the submarine shmup levels, the bouncy-ball "fireballs," or the exploding Koopa shells—all forgotten to time, and rightfully so.
1 Mortal Kombat Advance (GBA)
All you really need to know about Mortal Kombat Advance is that it was the first video game in history to get a 0.0 from Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine.
How bad does a game have to be to not even deserve so much as a 1 out of 10?
Shouldn't a game at least get half a point just for turning on? Not Mortal Kombat Advance. This GBA port of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is considered one of the buggiest, glitchiest, most broken commercial video games ever released. It would've been better if it didn't actually turn on.