Why is that portable systems and puzzle games go together like peanut butter and jelly? Regardless of the reason, that's how it's been--for me, at least--since 1989, when the one-two punch of the GameBoy and Tetris were unleashed upon the world.
Despite the number of portable puzzlers that have flooded the market since then, I had a relatively hard time coming up with the following list. That's not to suggest any of the games below aren't really "favorites" of mine; rather, it's to suggest that, surprisingly, I just couldn't think of many others that could take their place. (Two that did come to mind but didn't quite make the cut: Orbital for the GameBoy Advance and the Professor Layton series for the DS and 3DS.)
So, which portable puzzlers impressed me enough to not only be remembered but be included in this post? I thought you'd never ask. Read on to find out.
1. ChuChu Rocket! (Sega, 2001)--Would I rather play the graphically superior Dreamcast version of this Sonic Team-developed game than this GameBoy Advance version, if given a choice? Probably, but this pixelated port is nothing to sneeze at. Both versions feature basically the same gameplay, after all, and both feature a slew of options. As such, I highly suggest every puzzler fan out there do what I've done: Get 'em both.
2. Guru Logi Champ (Compile, 2001)--If you like Picross, you'll probably like this import-only oddity, produced by the folks at Compile (makers of the Puyo Puyo games). And if you don't like Picross? You'll still probably like it, thanks to its wacky graphics, music and, most importantly, sense of humor. Unfortunately, this GameBoy Advance title isn't all that easy to come by these days, so your best bet is to download a ROM and play it via emulation. My advice: Give your morals a rest and do just that.
3. Magical Puzzle Popils (Tengen, 1991)--A whimsical, single-screen puzzler--made by Fukio Mitsuji, the man behind both Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands--for the Sega Game Gear that tasks players with making their way from the start of each stage to the red-haired princess at its end in as few steps as possible. Believe me, it's harder than it sounds.
4. Tetris (Nintendo, 1989 and 2006)--The original, bare-bones version of Tetris, released alongside the GameBoy more than 20 years ago, will always have a place in my heart. That alone earns it a spot on this list--or at least a brief mention. Nintendo's crack team of designers and programmers outdid themselves, though, when they made and released the magnificent, multi-mode Tetris DS in 2006. Here's hoping they attempt to top that effort on the 3DS at some point.
5. Zooo/Zoo Keeper (Ignition, 2003 and 2004)--On the surface, this game--called Zooo on the GameBoy Advance and Zoo Keeper on the DS, for some weird reason--is little more than a Bejeweled clone wrapped up in cute, animal-patterened paper. There are some differences, though--such as the ability to switch tiles while a move is in progress--that help set Zooo/Zoo Keeper apart. Plus, the bizarre story mode is way more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Note: I prefer Zooo to Zoo Keeper, as the former is quite a bit more difficult than the latter.
See also: Previous 'five favorites' posts