Handhelds vs. Mobile: Handhelds are superior

Handheld games have lots of things that make them better than mobile.

In case you missed my last article, I discussed how mobile games were kicking handheld games out of the market. Mobile games are so much more prolific nowadays. Between Sony giving up on the Vita, Microsoft never partaking in a handheld console, and Nintendo fading out of most mainstream news, they're winning the on-the-go gaming market. Which is terrible.

Mobile games aren't as fun; handheld games are more diverse


Candy Crush is painfully simplistic. You tap on a couple of things and go on your way. Deep Dungeons of Doom (Boss Studios), Mobile Strike (Epic War), Clash of Clans (Supercell)and all the other mobile games that are popular right now are still just as simple. They just take quick couple of simple swipes to play.

That's the problem though. Mobile games are too simple. Gameplay gets very repetitive very quickly and you start to get bored. Gameplay is not engaging as a result, either. Tapping a screen every once and a while is not what I consider good gameplay at all.

Handheld games are much more diverse in terms of gameplay. This is not to say that they're not going to get boring or repetitive as well, but it's much less likely. When it comes to handheld gaming, there are four buttons on the right, a D-pad, analog sticks, and usually a menu that allows you to customize a character or buy upgrades or access more information within the storyline. (There's actually a storyline too). 

I prefer the challenge of these complications. Partaking in a boss battle and having to dodge, fight back, and heal is much more fun than tapping a couple of things on a screen. Frankly, handheld games just take more skill and that makes them more interesting.

Social Gamers and Mobile Gamers

Think about how mobile gamers or social gamers are often undermined as fake gamers. Why? Because mobile games were never considered real games that took actual skill and thus those who played them were not considered real gamers. I'm not going to argue the semantics of whether social and mobile gamers are real gamers or not, but there is some basis to the claim. Mobile games just don't take as much multitasking skill or hand-eye coordination or good reaction time as do regular games. That's not to say all mobile games are pathetic in terms of skill level, but most of them are and how many people are actually playing the ones that require some skill in comparison to the amount of people that play ones that don't require any skill?

The Diversity of Handhelds

Think about all the types of games that can be put on a handheld game because of the buttons, analog sticks, and D-pad. There can be hack n' slash games. There can be more diverse puzzles. There can be proper shooters. 

Mobile games don't have that luxury because there is an extreme limit to what they can do. If it's not able to be tapped on the screen itself, it isn't going to happen; handheld games are allowed to do virtually whatever they want because of their extra buttons.


Mobile games are short. They're either multiplayer based games that basically go on forever because of the infinite number of other people playing, or they end because there's very few levels or the gameplay is all the exact same thing. This makes you quit the game very quickly (does anyone remember Doodle Jump? Doodle Jump is a prime example of extremely repetetive gameplay that makes the game very short). 

While not all handheld games are going to be long, it's much easier to find one that is. There's more to do. There's more levels. Even after completing a main story there's a least exploration to be had. Handheld games are made to be full fledged games after all.

For example, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies was a rather long game for the DS. The main story took around 60-80 hours not including extra exploration or any of the DLC content. That's much longer than most mobile games.

Screen Size and Play-ability

Phones are getting bigger, but that doesn't mean the screens are very large. (If you prefer a smaller phone that will actually fit in your pocket like I do, this becomes an even bigger problem).

When playing a game, I like to be able to see what is actually happening. I don't want to have to squint to find that one item or bring the phone right up to my face to be able to see. 

Handheld consoles actually take this into account. The screens aren't humongous like a TV, or even a tablet, but they are bigger than that of a phone which makes it much easier to see.

It's also worth noting that because the buttons you need to press are on the side of the screen already present, they don't have to take over the screen as they do on the phone creating even less room for actual gaming. Just look at the Clash of Clans screen pictured left. Imagine how much nicer and less cluttered that would look if on a console. On a DS, all the money, XP, notifications, and character information could be presented on the bottom screen, leaving the top screen free to actually play the game. It would just look prettier and smoother, with less nonsense filling up every corner of the display.

Not everyone has a smartphone

Contrary to popular opinion, many people do not have a smartphone. How are they supposed to play all of the smartphone games that have pushed aside handheld gaming? Spoiler alert: they're not. They're still just sitting on the sidelines, waiting for handheld gaming to come back so they can play on the go.


A lot of kids nowadays have a smartphone, particularly in America, but many still do not, especially the younger ones. Many parents don't feel the need to give their child their expensive phone that they need for work and their personal life so their child can play one simple game.

People who are simpler

Although advertisements convince people they need to buy the latest phone every year, many people do not buy into that agenda; there are plenty of people who still have flip phones and sliding phones that don't have Google Play or the iOS store to play all these super popular mobile games.

Even if some people have a touch screen, it could be an older model that makes running games -- or apps in general -- harder. Processing systems do tend to get slower as time goes on after all.

I don't want to live on my phone

My phone has become my life. I need it for work. I need it for my personal life. I need it to schedule appointments. With all I can do on the internet, and the vast number of apps I can download, I spend a good number of hours on my phone. But I don't want it to completely take over my life. 

I would like to put my phone back into my pocket, or purse, or backpack more often than I currently do. If I were focused on gaming on my phone, this would never happen. My life would be completely consumed by a small little screen with way too many scratches on it.


I believe mobile gaming has taken too much control when handheld gaming is the better option. Handheld consoles have bigger screens, the games are more complex. Living on my phone sounds like a terrible way to live, and not everyone has a smartphone, contrary to popular opinion.

So while you don't have to agree with me (you can think handheld gaming is the bane of the video game universe and mobile gaming is life), just think about handheld gaming in comparison to mobile gaming. Should handheld games be dying while mobile gaming takes the reins? Are there no perks to handheld gaming that should allow it survive in the midst of the mobile gaming rise?

Do you disagree with my points as to why handheld gaming is better than mobile gaming or do you have additional points you would like to add? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Published Nov. 22nd 2015
  • DoubleVendetta
    I've been bouncing a piece on mobile gaming around in my head for a couple of weeks now, and here you go writing this, which basically gave me the perfect setup. ;) Thank you madame. You have triggered my tranformation. RESPONSE PIECE MODE: ACTIVATE!
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    While I enjoy handheld gaming much more than mobile, I have to play devil's advocate for the sake of it.

    Your first argument - simplicity - is flawed. While simplicity on paper is a terrible premise, it does get sales. The reason why is that most people who work 9-5 jobs typically don't have time to play handheld titles - even when on the go. As a result, many people who would like to play handheld titles tend to wind up playing them at home, effectively defeating the purpose of an on-the-go console like the 3DS or PS Vita. Add on to that the fact that most players of mobile games are looking for arcade-y titles that use little to no mind power and you have your reason for kicking aside the handheld market.

    The second argument (social/mobile vs gamer) is also flawed. The reason here is simple: these people don't (and probably shouldn't if they do) consider themselves gamers. They are as much gamers as people who get together on weekends to play Snakes and Ladders are gamers. It's simple, it's fun, and it's not skill intensive. I have a strong doubt people who play Candy Crush or Angry Birds sleep poorly at night knowing they failed to get a combo or high score.

    Third flawed argument is length. Length is a subjective term as it applies to rather the duration to beat the game on average, or how long it takes for the user to stop playing it. If the latter is your measure, then mobile games are infinitely superior since in most cases *cannot be beaten*. They are (as previously mentioned) arcade style games, and so the challenge is not to beat the final boss, but rather to continue building your score.

    Screen size is arguable. My Galaxy Ace II x (old ass phone, I know) can fit into my pocket, and it's screen size is larger than a standard 3DS and as large as a PS Vita. 3DS XL can compete, but that would fall under the "too big for the pocket" clause you have. A game like Clash of Clans is certainly cluttered, but that is more of a failure in game design as opposed to the failure of the device as placing the same buttons onto a console would yield incomprehensible controls unless moved to a PC (which defeats the argument entirely, as it proves that handheld gaming is a failure).

    "Not everyone has a smartphone". No, they don't. However, a majority of people have phones that are capable of running most app games regardless. Unless you have a flip phone (which is rare) then you can probably get a phone that runs most games with any standard plan. Considering the rate of which kids are starting to travel around with phones that their parents use to keep in touch with them, it's no wonder that the console market is vastly undersold. People would rather buy a single expensive device than buy two expensive devices and only use one for half of its functions.

    "I don't want to live on my phone." Sadly, this is the only valid argument. Unfortunately, it's also the most subjective one in the article. I don't think many people in this world care about that anymore. Convenience outweighs morality in this case.

    As I said at the start: I prefer handheld gaming over mobile gaming. However, based on your arguments alone I can play devils advocate pretty easily. But hey, that's my job here. :P

    RR-sama out!

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