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GOTY 2014: Handheld

Size isn't everything.

3. TxK (Llamasoft)

Jeff Minter and Llamasoft's lifelong quest to perfect the concept from Tempest came a little closer to its ultimate goal as the addictive, pulsating handheld gem TxK saw release on PS Vita early in the year. There is something appealing in that. This being the fourth time Llamasoft take on Dave Theurer's classic concept, adding small improvements and refinements while remaining true to the original experience.

Much can be said of the music, and paired with the psychedelic visuals it puts the player in what can be described as a trance (or gaming zen if you will) where all that matters is your crab, making your shots and timing that superzapper perfectly.

The game is a great fit on PS Vita as it offers precise controls and it looks sharp on the crisp screen of Sony's handheld. It's the kind of game you may think you're going to spend a few minutes with before you go to bed, but you end up spending an hour on without really knowing where the time went.

GOTY 2014: Handheld

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2. FTL: Faster Than Light - Advanced Edition (Subset Games)

It wasn't a huge surprise that FTL turned out to be a great fit on iPad, and as Subset Games launched the Advanced Edition of the game in the spring of 2014 they also launched one of the very best handheld games of the year. While mouse and keyboard is great, the touch controls of the iPad version may be even more intuitive and might also be a better representation of managing the systems of a space ship (we think).

Hugely addictive, the game offers a top-down chance to live the starship captain fantasy. Keeping your ship in one piece and your crew alive through waves of enemy attacks, scavenging and trading for resources to upgrade your ship in order to make it through the various procedurally generated dangers; this roguelite space strategy gem has it all. It offers a great challenge and the kind of nerve-tingling randomness that will make you dread and second guess every single decision you make. There's always a small Admiral Ackbar in the back of your mind yelling out "It's a trap!" whenever a distress call turns into an ambush.

The new Advanced Edition content offers greater variation and more story bits that make up the quilt that is your unique space adventure with FTL. It's the best version of the game thanks to the increased variety, and the touch controls work like a charm.

GOTY 2014: Handheld

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1. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft (Blizzard)

It's almost a little unfair for other handheld titles to compete against the behemoth that is Blizzard, but truth be told, Hearthstone is the best handheld game to come out in 2014. Launching on iOS last spring and on Android in December, the collectible trading card game is as addictive as they come. With a universe deep enough to play host to three lore heavy RTS titles and an MMORPG that has been fleshed out and expanded over the course of more than a decade, there is a story behind each card. This backstory that each and every card oozes with makes for something that's more captivating and engaging than your standard card duelling game.

During the year, Blizzard also launched the single-player expansion, Curse of Naxxramas, and a card expansion called Goblins vs. Gnomes. It may have come as a surprise to some, but Hearthstone managed to become a highly competitive game that spawned an e-sport scene of its own.

It may very well be that in spite of having seen World of Warcraft just close out its first decade and having the original Starcraft hang around as a mainstay on the Korean e-sports scene for well over a decade, Hearthstone will go down in history as the Blizzard game with the longest lifespan. There's tremendous potential here, and it's already an excellent game.

GOTY 2014: Handheld

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Honourable mentions:

GOTY 2014: Handheld
The elegant and intelligent design and puzzles of Monument Valley captivated us on mobile as we compared it to the art of M.C. Escher and the sometimes overlooked brilliance of Echochrome.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
Nintendo dusted off the old GBA adventures Ruby and Sapphire and gave them a proper makeover for Nintendo 3DS. While not offering something that's necessarilly brand new, ORAS built on a great foundation and saw us hunting for monsters once more.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
Ovosonico's debut title was the short and sweet little tale of Murasaki Baby. Unique design and innovative gameplay that made good use of the Vita's features without overusing them had us sold.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
The retro-scented Velocity 2X from Futurlab is one of our favourite new acquaintances on PS Vita this year. Offering stylised visuals and fast gameplay that combines platforming with shoot 'em up mechanics for one explosive gaming experience.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
Valiant Hearts: The Great War's harrowing tale of a set of individuals caught up in the events of World War I in one way or another was certainly one of the most memorable games of the year. In addition to console, the game also made its way onto Android and iOS devices where the simple puzzle platforming mechanics were a great fit.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
The beautiful fairytale that is Ubisoft Montreal's Child of Light made its way onto PS Vita a few months after its original release and it certainly qualifies as one of the premier handheld experiences of 2014.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
Gameloft are often faulted for their tendency to clone popular console concepts and bring them to mobile. However, one cannot fault them for Modern Combat 5: Blackout as it may very well be the best first-person shooter on mobile to date.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
The addictive nature of Sirvo's trendsetting puzzle game Threes is perhaps best exemplified by how blatantly the game was ripped off (most notably by 2048). It may not tingle all our core gaming senses, but the genius of the concept is more than enough to warrant an honourable mention.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
Mario and his friends are just as keen to swing a club in Mario Golf: World Tour as they are racing in karts or throwing parties. This game developed by the veterans at Camelot (Everybody's Golf) continues the tradition of great sports spin-offs featuring Mushroom Kingdom's finest.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
While all members of the Gamereactor family may not agree (Christian Gaca, we're looking at you), we still feel that Roll7's endless skater OlliOlli deserves an honourable mention on this list.
GOTY 2014: Handheld
Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight tickled all the right retro spots and was a quality addition to the 3DS line-up of games in 2014.

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