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PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!

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'WorthPlaying's Top Games of 2009' - Handhelds and Downloadables

by Rainier on Dec. 29, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Yesterday we revealed the honorable mentions, and today we're announcing the top handheld and downloadable titles. Check us out later for the top console/PC offerings. Once that's out of the way, we'll start the countdown of the top 20 titles, including what WP considers to be the best game of 2009. Read more for the results!

NDS

5. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars manages to bring the GTA formula to the DS in a spectacular way. The gameplay is just as fun as ever, and the use of the DS hardware and added features, like the revamped cop chases and drug-selling mini-game, make the experience feel fresh and not a dumbing-down of GTA for the DS. This is a fantastic title that's worth a look if you have a DS and like GTA.

4. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure

If you own a DS, be sure to put Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure on your "must buy" list. It may not have gotten a massive amount of press, but it's sure to rise in popularity thanks to positive word of mouth. Snag it now, before it becomes a sought-after title with an inflated price tag.

3. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is a solid, if uninspired, addition to the franchise. Everything's been tightened up a bit from Phantom Hourglass, and the title's strongest features are its sense of humor and the great dynamic between Link and Zelda, which keep the plot engaging and fun for gamers of all ages. Despite some small gripes, Spirit Tracks is a well-rounded game that is difficult to dislike. It may not stand out as much as other Zelda titles, but Spirit Tracks offers a lot to keep gamers happy.

2. Scribblenauts

The premise of Scribblenauts is deceptively simple, but how you go about completing the tasks is what sets it apart from everything else. There are no princesses to save, gods to slay, or a vast conspiracy to uncover. Instead of relying on reflexes, the innovative gameplay tantalizingly opens the door to anyone's imagination with the ability to write into the game nearly anything that you will need. In this way, one could say that it's a god game built on words, and that description wouldn't be too far off the mark. Scribblenauts can easily fill in the blanks as one of the most unique gaming experiences that anyone can have this year.

1. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

The bottom line on Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story is that it's one of those games that every DS owner should buy, period. Regardless of your feelings about RPGs, the title is just so entertaining and well-executed that you're nearly guaranteed to love it. The game's few blemishes aren't really flaws at all, but rather opportunities that weren't fully exploited. It genuinely doesn't get much better than this folks, and it would be a travesty if you miss out.

PSP

5. Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite

My only complaint with Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, besides the fact that long-loyal series fans don't really get the enormity of fresh content that new players will experience, is that it's not a game particularly well-suited to a portable console. Due to both its addictive quality and the longer, more difficult quest design, it's a bit odd playing Freedom Unite in portable-sized chunks as opposed to marathon sessions.These small issues aside, Freedom Unite is an excellent Monster Hunter title, and it's certainly the place to start if you're new to the series but have been meaning to give it a go.

4. LocoRoco 2

LocoRoco 2 isn't about competition, you versus you or versus the computer or versus anyone. It's about having fun with a game that's clearly exceptional in many aspects. A basic linear progression of LocoRoco 2 doesn't take all that long to complete. The game is enough to bring you back, but there are also special level mode triggers, an ad-hoc multiplayer mode, the hidden ending, unlockables galore, collectibles all over the place, and mini-games aplenty. There are enough mysteries to solve in each level that you'll probably miss things miss several times before finding them. You'll wind up playing through levels a couple of times past the point when you've unlocked everything — without even knowing there's nothing left to figure out — and it won't be a minute wasted.

3. Patapon 2

While there are a couple of small blemishes, Patapon 2 manages to shine in a glorious way. The original game was a triumph, showcasing the fact that we haven't run out of good ideas yet, and the sequel continues to drive the franchise in the right direction. While the PSP has taken its lumps for not having a ton of fantastic games, this one nicely bucks that trend, delivering an amazing experience that remains unmatched by any title on any other system, handheld or otherwise. If you own a PSP, you really ought to own this game.

2. Half-Minute Hero

For everyone claiming to be "too busy" for games these days, Half-Minute Hero may be exactly the title you need. The title's bite-sized action will hook you right from the start, and once you start playing, this is really one of those games that's extremely difficult to put down (especially since you know that the next level is only 30 seconds long). The game's only minor weakness is that Hero mode makes the other three pale in comparison, but if you judge each by its own merits, they're all incredibly fun. You can now also save the world in 30 seconds, and haven't you always wanted to do that?

1. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is a great entry into the series on the PSP, despite the fact that the system is already home to two full-fledged versions of GTA titles. It certainly remains unique in style and gameplay by comparison, and the story makes it well worth checking out for longtime fans of the franchise. New players would also do well to give this one a shot since it's a pretty big departure in style, especially if you haven't been able to get into the series' gameplay up to this point. Chinatown Wars on the PSP is definitely worth picking up.

WiiWare/PSN/XBLA

5. Virtual On (XBLA)

I can't think of a good reason to skip Virtual On.  It's a great online experience, and it's a lot of fun to play a hidden gem from the past.  For those of you who missed Virtual On the first time out, give this version a go; it's very true to the original, and it's a great, all-around port of the material.  For longtime fans, it's a great way to get reacquainted with the game, and it already has a decent, established online community.

4. The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (XBLA/PC)

For $10, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition is a fantastic remake of a classic game. The changes are mostly for the better, and beyond some questionable animations, audio glitches and rather hidden command system, this is truly a fantastic title. If you can get past those flaws and the usual pitfalls, chances are that you'll find something to enjoy. Existing fans will find a well-crafted remake of an old favorite, and new players will find a great point-and-click adventure for a very reasonable price. Even if you only discovered Monkey Island with the recent series reboot, this is a fantastic way to go back and find out how the series began.

3. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (PSN/XBLA)

When paired with an arcade stick, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is an arcade perfect port that is sure to please fighting aficionados old and new. Aside from online play, there aren't any new features or upgrades, but to be honest, the game doesn't need them. It may not be quite as flashy as Street Fighter IV, but it plays just as well, and in the end, that's what really matters. This is one game that has most certainly stood the test of time.

2. 'Splosion Man (XBLA)

'Splosion Man is one of the most enjoyable and unique platform games I've played in years. The gameplay is simple to pick up but full of complexities to master. The level design is consistently fun and rarely aggravating, and the game is forgiving enough that almost any gamer can eventually make his way through. There's also plenty here for hardcore gamers, with the time trials and Hardcore mode offering enough challenges to test even the most skilled gamers. Most importantly, the game drips with charm and humor, and it's a joy to watch and to play. For the price of a mere 800 Microsoft points, it's a real bargain as well. Anyone with an Xbox 360 really owes it to themselves to give this strange little platformer a try.

1. Shadow Complex (XBLA)

From the power-ups to the level design, Shadow Complex is a love letter to Super Metroid. The result is a game that is a heck of a lot of fun, although it would be unfair comparing it to Super Metroid. Those who enjoy a challenge will spend hours trying to find the perfect way to get through the toughest areas with minimal equipment, while those who prefer overwhelming their foes will have a great time as a powered-up armored superman. Shadow Complex is fun, in exactly the same way that a well-designed Metroid game is fun, and I can't pay it any higher praise than that.

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