10 Games That Are Best To Play In Portable Mode

10 Games That Are Best To Play In Portable Mode

The Nintendo Switch has always been marketed as the hybrid console to play at home or on the go, bringing the best of both worlds to the hands of players everywhere. While it’s always great to pick up a controller and do a little gaming grind from the comfort of the sofa, playing in portable mode has its advantages too.

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Playing on the big screen will never go out of style, but some games simply offer a better experience when played in handheld mode. It’s great to have a collection of games right in the player’s pocket, but some titles require a more intimate and attentive experience that might go unnoticed on the larger display.


Any Traditional JRPG

From the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series to more contemporary titles like I Am Setsuna and Octopath Traveler, traditional JRPGs simply feel like they play better in portable mode than on the big screen. This might be because so many gamers who grew up with Nintendo’s RPGs had them in their pockets for so many years, but there’s just something about it that feels right.

Perhaps it’s a feeling of control, the ability to read stats and abilities better up close, or simply a habitual activity many have grown accustomed to, but the typically turn-based titles typically flow better when on the go. Random encounters always seem like they’re better handled in increments.

Nintendo Online NES Collection

Nintendo Switch NES Cover Resized

There are few more hallowed gaming traditions than curling up in front of a TV in a cool, dark room illuminated only by the pixels scampering their way across the screen. Nintendo’s 8-bit classics are practically the support beam of the gaming industry as fans know it today, and having them all together in a player’s back pocket is something the gamers of yesteryear could only dream about.

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While their 16-bit cousins in the SNES collection are equally portable, the simpler designs and lower graphics look and feel much sharper in handheld mode. Since so many NES titles are of the pick-up-and-play variety, they’re practically ideal for the gamer on the go.

Pokémon Series

Going back to the previous statement about JRPGs, the Pokémon franchise has been on handheld consoles for so long, it’s only natural that the more modern entries in the series would look and feel more at home in a portable setting. Since the original titles began the franchise on the Gameboy and took the world by storm, it makes sense that both the developers and players have been keeping the series true to form.

Still, seeing the hundreds of cute Pokémon making the jump to the home console is something of a novelty. Even so, long-time veteran trainers might not be able to break the habit of playing in portable mode.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley title on sky view with hills

While it might seem odd to say that this relaxing PC title works better in a portable version, any Switch-owner can certainly testify that having this 16-bit farming RPG in a more intimate setting makes it all the more enjoyable. Handheld mode offers a touch more precision and control when planting a virtual garden, picking crops, or just fishing from the docks.

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There isn’t too much of a difference in docked mode, but the title itself feels like it was designed to be a handheld experience much like the Harvest Moon titles on the Gameboy Color. Granted, the game is much more than a farming simulator, but the core features of the gameplay are objectively better in the palm of a player’s hand.

Hollow Knight

Artwork of the Knight wandering around.

Just about any Switch Metroidvania will be marvelous in handheld mode, especially those with retro-inspired graphics, but Hollow Knight is a special case. Easily one of the most enjoyable titles in the genre, the game will have fans sucked into the twisting, turning paths of Hollownest long after they’ve turned off their TV screens.

Portable mode makes the dark fantasy experience all the more intricate as the player holds the world in their hands while the Knight might roll out his trusty map. Bringing the game closer to the player allows them to better take in more details, hidden paths, and much-needed treasures for their treacherous journey.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Pass Course DLC Cover Image With Mario And Luigi

Mario Kart has always been a popular gaming experience, especially with friends. While it will always be a pillar of console gaming, having the series on the go and more accessible to more racers is what gives the Switch version a major advantage. By giving the title a portable option, the grand prix party doesn’t have to be locked to the home console.

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Since the series has practically always been a near-perfect party title, having it in a more convenient setting without bringing the whole gaming setup is certainly a plus. In the end, the biggest factor the game has going for it is bringing more players together for another night of racing down Rainbow Road.


Hades game

Most dungeon-crawlers on Switch, specifically isometric ones, are great in handheld mode, but Hades is easily a standout title. Since true portable hack-and-slash titles are a bit of a novelty, with a few ports being the exceptions, fans of the genre are sure to take a headlong dive into the bowels of the underworld.

The game can easily be played in spurts, making it great for taking it in portable mode. Since dying and reviving is a huge part of the game’s mechanics, it’s easy to play on the go and stop when needed without having to worry about losing much progress.

Diablo Series

If gamers are looking for something deeper to scratch that mobile-questing itch, they can never go wrong with the Diablo games. A giant of the RPG genre, the series is a staple for any fan of hack-and-slash, fantasy, or isometric video games. Ripping and tearing through hordes of monsters and minions is great on console, but taking it in mobile mode is just as satisfying.

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As previously stated, top-down action games are great in handheld mode, allowing the player to pull their focus into the winding paths of each dungeon and tomb. Getting lost in a dungeon-crawler like Diablo is as enjoyable on PC or home console, but having it ready to go at any time is a huge advantage for fans of the genre.


Frisk and Toriel are in Toriel's home by the fireplace

To say that Undertale is a fan favorite game with a huge cult following would be a gross understatement. Beginning its career on PC but making it to consoles, the fanbase for Toby Fox’s masterpiece RPG has only expanded. Bringing it to a portable console, however, only further improved the experience.

The combat in the game is a bit unusual, with some encounters requiring movement precision and focus to avoid projectiles. While it’s a plus to see that on a big screen, there’s more control in handheld mode for better accuracy. Either way, players are in for a treat, so long as they know how to play nice with the NPCs.


The Switch is no stranger to war-based strategy games such as the Fire Emblem series, but Wargroove is a horse of a different color. It’s a fantasy RPG that takes heavy influence from the Advance Wars series, a set of strategy games for the Gameboy consoles, and it carries a visual style that reflects it. As much fan service as it provides, looking at the small sprite-work soldiers can be taxing on the eyes.

Simply put, this is a game that was made for handheld mode. Seeing the battle grids on the big screen is great, but handheld mode allows for better focus and manipulation. Couple that with the turn-based mechanics and it could practically pass for one of the traditional strategy titles seen on the Gameboy Advance.

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About The Author

Zach Gass
(806 Articles Published)

Zach Gass is a writer from East Tennessee with a love for all things Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel. When not writing for Screen Rant, Zach is an active member of his community theatre, enjoys a variety of authors including Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkein, and is a proud and active retro-gamer.

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