Portable spin-offs are often hit and miss. At their worst, they are cheap cash grabs aimed at exploiting loyal fans of a series. Games like Call of Duty Black Ops: Declassified and Mortal Kombat on the Game Boy come to mind as barely playable extensions of classic franchises.
But at their best, portable spin-offs become an integral part of the series. The following list will celebrate the cream of the crop. These games are so good, their main franchises shiver in fear that their mobile brethren will be more fondly remembered as time goes by. They shouldn't be too worried, however, as good spin-offs only serve to improve the whole series.
10 The Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening
This is The Legend of Zelda's acid trip. Link's Awakening isn't about rescuing a princess or locating all the parts of a Triforce. Link washes up on an island and must find his way off. Compounding the weirdness are the several cameos by Nintendo characters like Chain Chomp.
The deviations from the formula so early in the franchise's life made this one of the all time greats. Though the Game Boy's graphical and button limitations show their age, a full-fledged remake for the Nintendo Switch will update it for modern times.
9 Resident Evil: Revelations
In the early 2010s, Resident Evil was suffering from an identity crisis. Resident Evil 5 was well received and stands as an exciting action game, but it strayed far from the intense survival horror roots that made the franchise so great in the first place.
In January 2012, Resident Evil: Revelations came out on the 3DS, and reminded people what makes the series great. It returned to the slow-paced combat and claustrophobic setting of its predecessors. The franchise has since regained its footing, and one can see DNA from Revelations in the recently released Resident Evil 2 remake.
8 Max Payne (GBA)
The first Max Payne game has not aged as gracefully as its sequel. The aiming isn't as tight and the graphics look quaint by today's standards. Unexpectedly, one may find a more solid experience in the Game Boy Advanced port of the game. It plays from an isometric perspective and tells a condensed version of the first game's plot. It manages to capture the game's dark New York atmosphere and plays better than one would expect from a fast-paced GBA action title.
7 Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core
Crisis Core stands head and shoulders above all the other Final Fantasy VII spin-offs. Not only is it a fun and engaging RPG, but its narrative adds to the lore, making Final Fantasy VII a better game for it.
Zack Fair gets limited attention in the original game, so seeing him get a full story was a dream come true for fans. Crisis Core is just about the only spin-off from the classic title worth any attention.
6 Super Mario 3D Land
The Mario games have never seen downtime since the first game back in 1985. Some titles fare better than others, but its all solid across the board. Even with this in mind, Super Mario 3D Land manages to outdo its console peers.
Where the console games focused on large, explorable 3D worlds, 3D Land's levels were smaller and more linear, putting the emphasis on challenging platforming. This design made it feel almost like a great Crash Bandicoot game rather than a Mario title. It was successful enough for Super Mario 3D World to adopt a similar design.
5 Metroid: Zero Mission
Metroid: Zero Mission is a remake of the original Metroid, but takes several liberties with the design to make it more accessible for modern times. That doesn't make the game a cake walk, however. Players still get the same feeling of exploration and wonder as they journey through the mysterious environments. A new segment where Samus crash-lands on the planet and must fight her way through a different environment without her trusty armor is added to the game too.
4 Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Hideo Kojima wasn't done with his iconic series after Metal Gear Solid 4. Peace Walker came out on the PSP and eschewed the classic structure for a design more suitable for portable systems. Snake tackled smaller missions one at a time that took anywhere between five to ten minutes to complete.
During the missions, the player captured soldiers and slowly built up their own base to get better items and equipment. The system had previously been used in Portable Ops, but was improved upon here. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain would also follow a similar structure.
3 Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
What Grand Theft Auto fan wouldn't take the opportunity to revisit one of the series' most celebrated settings. Miraculously, this PSP game looks far superior to the 2002 PS2 title, and plays smoother. The missions indulge in its setting, with Phil Collins making an appearance and even performing his classic tune "In the Air Tonight." For those who hate the PSP, the game is also available on the PS2.
2 God Of War: Chains Of Olympus
One wouldn't expect this series, known for stunning visuals, to make its way to a handheld, but developer Ready At Dawn was up for the challenge. They not only managed to downsize the experience, but the game itself stands up to its big brother's gameplay and story.
This prequel expands upon the lore and gives Kratos more characterization. It was successful enough to warrant a second PSP game, Ghost of Sparta. It's a shame the developer never got the chance to flex their talent with another God of War title on the Vita.
1 Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
A common complaint lobbied at the Kingdom Hearts series is their overly drawn-out introductions. Birth By Sleep remedies this by throwing players into the action and worlds just twenty minutes into the game.
The environments are smaller and the game is shorter, but the developers bypass the limitations by having three playable characters and an ingenious method of player progression. The new characters are welcome additions to the ensemble, and Mark Hamill and Leonard Nimoy's casting is a fitting analogue for the game's theme of light and darkness.