Top 25 Handheld Adventure Games

Although the PC is usually considered the main home for adventure games, the DS managed to be a powerhouse for adventure games. And now it looks like that tradition will continue on the 3DS and maybe even the Vita with the release of Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. We decided to take a look back at the best adventure games to ever grace a handheld gaming system. Lookout for some recently famous series and many hidden gems.

Our Adventure Hub:
-Top 25 Classic Adventure Games
-Top 50 Modern-Day Adventure Games
-Top Ten Best PC Adventure Games
-Top 25 Console Adventure Games
-Top 10 Detective Adventure Games
-Top 30 IF/Text Adventures
-Top 10 Scariest Adventure Games
Best Visual Novels
Best Free/Casual/Online Adventure Games

999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

999 received critical acclaim, with several near perfect scores emphasizing its well written story, remarkable presentation, and addictive gameplay.  Nine people have been abducted by a mysterious kidnapper who uses the alias “Zero.” They find themselves on a ship— possibly a replica of the RMS Titanic and are told that they have nine hours to escape before the ship sinks beneath the waves. Zero is running the “Nonary Game” – a game “where you will put your life on the line.” The group is forced to split up into various subgroups and explore “numbered doors,” behind which lie Zero’s puzzles. Zero promises that escape lies behind a door numbered 9. The characters must work together despite suspicions of each other to advance, as well as to discover Zero’s motive and identity. Emphasis is placed more on the characters, their motives, and the mystery of the situation than on the puzzles themselves.

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Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

It is the sequel to the Nintendo DS title, 999, and is created by the same staff.  Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is nothing short of a masterpiece. Riveting from beginning to end, it sets a new standard for interactive storytelling, and demands an emotional investment from the player that ultimately pays off with one of the most satisfying endings in recent video gaming memory. Unless you have yet to experience its prequel 999, there is simply no excuse for you not to play this game. The game contains full voice acting (English and Japanese in the North American version and only Japanese in the European version), and is rendered in 3D models, rather than 2D sprites like its predecessor. Though the story is self-contained, it contains several references to 999.

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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

Ghost Trick is one of the best adventure games on the DS and any fan of the genre should give it a try. It has a great story with great characters delivered in a very unique package. The premise of the game is fairly interesting: you start off dead and have to use your soul to possess and manipulate objects to accomplish goals. At first you are just trying to find out who you were and why you were killed, but as the story progresses you start uncovering bits and pieces of a bigger plot with national security implications (I kid you not). This game is from the creators of the Ace Attorney series, so people familiar with those games will probably see similarities here, mostly a good story with quirky characters, wrapping humor around a fairly tragic situation.

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This is not just a game; it is a story. A work of art. This game is for all the souls out there who long to interactively satisfy a DARK aesthetic. The artwork is beautiful, and the music is haunting. The atmosphere of Theresia overall is one of dim nostalgia and painful, inexplicable longing. Beauty, darkness, psychological twists, and a meaningful story. If you’re part of the cult obsession with Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GC), then you’ll love Theresia.

“What is Theresia?” This is what the game asks you outright, and what it wants you to understand. At first, this seems a purely practical puzzle. But as the game goes on, and you wind deeper and deeper into the character’s mind, the question starts to become more abstract. Less than halfway through the game, you know WHAT Theresia is… and yet you find yourself unable to stop contemplating it; unable to truly satisfy the underlying question.

There are two halves to the story; Dear Emile and Dear Martel, the latter of which can only be accessed after completing Dear Emile. Each story revolves around a protagonist who awakens with no memory of who they are, where they are or how they got there. Both Dear Emile and Dear Martel are incredibly twisted: Dear Emile because of psychological reasons, and Dear Martel for biological ones. I’d say Dear Emile’s was the more warped of the two and Dear Martel had more of a sense of regret to it. The endings will make you go “wait…what the HELL was that?” Dear Emile’s story is almost an aftereffect of what goes on in Dear Martel, and it’s very exciting to play for the first time just to see how they intertwine.

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Flower, Sun, and Rain

Flower, Sun and Rain is an intriguing mystery adventure very much in the vein of Groundhog Day, created by the twisted mind of Suda51. You play a detective charged with locating and defusing a bomb by solving thought-provoking puzzles with a wealth of bizarre outcomes. Solving the mystery of what is happening to him and his surroundings is necessary before he eventually goes insane. Originally released on the Sony PlayStation®2, Flower, Sun and Rain was never available outside of Japan and has been high on wish lists of every Suda51 fan since Killer7 was unleashed on the western market in 2005. This updated Nintendo DS version features all the creative quirks that made the original a hit and uniquely utilises the touch screen to solve mysteries, offering players a more intimate experience. An addictive soundtrack, plenty of brain-teasing puzzles and a gripping story packed full of twists and humorous moments help make Suda-san’s title a must-try.

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Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Just what the DS ordered! The totally original noir art style just looks great on the DS. The story and characterization is top notch. The game unfolds like a film noir. And holding the DS like a book really is a nice touch and allows for a portrait style presentation of the characters. This game moves at it’s own pace, and if your not ready to play patiently and enjoy everything it has to offer, then stay away. BUT – for those of you who want something a little different with graphics that those around you will just have to see; then, Hotel Dusk is the game for you. Do not underestimate Cing. This game should definitely be in the Top 5 and should be apart of everyone’s collection. A keeper, for sure!

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Last Window: The Secret of Cape West

Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was one of the greatest sleeper hits of the current handheld generation, combining a unique visual style with an excellently written story that was expertly localized. The game made excellent use of the capabilities of the DS, from its microphone to its screen; even its sleep mode was utilized in puzzle solving. It was hailed – rightly so – as one of the best graphic adventures this generation had to offer. When Cing announced plans to continue the storyline with Last Window: The Secret of Cape West, it was a graphic adventure fan’s dream come true. One again, Cing delivers with a great adventure that feels like a contemporary cop movie with just the story elements.

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-Professor Layton series-

The Layton series waltzed into the gaming scene and offered an ingenious blend of Point and Click Adventure gameplay and logical puzzles to solve. Figuring out that adventure gamers would appreciate the logic puzzles more than other types of gamers is one of the most intelligent design decisions of the past generation. Plus, the worlds crafted in the Laytons series by Level 5 works so well, hand-in-hand with the adventure and puzzles found within. The entire series is full or artistry, magic, elegance, superb storyline, and charm. These are the individual games in the series:

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

The game follows the adventures of the titular Professor Layton and his young prodigy Luke. As the game begins the duo has been summoned to the village of St. Mystere where the patriarch of the village has recently passed away. Before he died he hid a large treasure and the Professor has been brought in to find the treasure. As you search for the treasure you’ll also solve a murder and uncover the major secrets that have been hidden in the sleepy hamlet. Along the way are 130 puzzles, which are the heart of the game.

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Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

It begins with the Professor and Luke traveling to meet Layton’s mentor, Dr. Schrader, who has sent the pair a letter detailing his procuring of the Elysian Box, a chest rumored to kill anyone who tried to open it. Upon walking into his apartment, he is found lying on the floor, dead, with the box missing. The only clue he left behind was a train ticket for the high-class Molentary Express without a mentioned destination, which they promptly catch to begin their investigation to find out more on the fate of Dr. Schrader, and the whereabouts of his diabolical box. During their search, they encounter 153 additional puzzles, which are improved over the first game in the series.

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Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

The game starts upon Luke receiving a letter purportedly sent by himself, ten years into the future, only a week after an accident in which Dr. Stahngun’s failed demonstration of a time machine caused himself and the Prime Minister to vanish. He and Layton travel to a desolate part of town to investigate a clock shop, but upon walking out, find themselves to have been thrust forward into the future London, ten years from then. In their efforts to find the truth of their unwound future, they are forced to solve 168 new puzzles, and to remember a forgotten past. Oh yeah, and they meet themselves in the future. Guess who’s the villain of the future? Professor Layton himself.

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Professor Layton and the Last Specter

Layton and the Last Specter is the last Layton games on the DS. However it is, chronologically, the first game in the series.It starts when Layton is called by an old friend named Clark to the mysterious, dark, and foggy town of Misthallery, where legends exist of a great, shadowy giant who protects the region whenever a special flute is played to summon him. However, recently, the figure has turned against the village, and it is up to the Professor, a young boy of the village named Luke Triton who is heavily involved in the legend of the Specter (we’re supposed to be meeting him for the first time), and Layton’s new assistant Emmy Altava, to figure out why the specter is wreaking havoc in the town. Together, they investigate the village and the Last Specter, and, while doing so, solve another 170 puzzles.

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Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask

Miracle Mask was the first Layton game for the 3DS and it was the best-selling 3DS launch game in Japan. The art style is pseudo-3D. Professor Layton and Luke follow Jean Descole to a place known as Monte d’Or in search of a powerful mask said to have created the city. Professor Layton is forced to recall his past in order to uncover the secret of the mask in the present. The truth is hidden deep within the Miracle Mask.

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[Continue to the next page for the Phoenix Wright series and 12 other awesome adventure games]

Written by Menashe Kestenbaum

Menashe is the Owner of Enthusiast Gaming and its many sites. He currently runs the full Enthusiast Gaming network, develops games, and writes about the video game industry. To read more of his articles, visit Gaming Enthusiast and Nintendo Enthusiast regularly. You can contact him at