All of the major platforms played host to so many memorable titles in 2011, so narrowing down a definitive top ten like we did last year simply wouldn't suffice. Instead, we've provided a rundown of our top picks for each system. There aren't many shopping days left before Christmas, but any of the following would make a great last minute gift.
Whatever your opinion of Nintendo's latest handheld's 3D capabilities, or its games library as a whole, we can always rely on the Big N to support its platforms with top drawer first-party releases. Mario Kart 7 is a prime example of this, capturing the magic of its predecessors to keep the long-running series in pole position.
Mario Kart 7 took advantage of the 3DS's graphical capabilities to convey a greater sense of speed and perspective, and the addition of StreetPass support and new online features made this a multiplayer classic. At the end of the day, you can't go wrong with Mario Kart.
> Read our review of Mario Kart 7
Whenever Nintendo rolls out new hardware, Mario is guaranteed to feature in the subsequent 'game of the year' charts. In this instance, the portly plumber has cropped up twice since Super Mario 3D Land turned out to be another definitive outing for gaming's most celebrated mascot.
Super Mario 3D Land lifted the blueprint used by the likes of Super Mario Galaxy and brought it to the 3DS intact. It was perhaps the first game to use the system's 3D capabilities as an integral part of the gameplay experience, rather than a novelty inclusion. Not only is this one of the best handheld games of 2011, it's one of the greatest Mario offerings of all time.
> Read our review of Super Mario 3D Land
It's hard to imagine a game more worthy of a 3D makeover than The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Nintendo's N64 masterpiece is widely considered to be one of the greatest console titles ever released, and this 3DS remake more than did it justice.
The gaming giant was faced with the impossible task of improving perfection, but the inclusion of superior touch-screen controls, the gyroscopic sensor, a hint system, and additional challenges only enriched the experience. Ocarina of Time remains one of the greatest experiences the medium of video gaming has to offer.
> Read our review of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
The best thing about iOS gaming is that the platform is equally capable of handling insanely addictive casual titles as it is high-end cinematic behemoths. Jetpack Joyride belongs to the former category, providing hours of superlative one-touch platforming.
Halfbrick Studios' latest offering is a fun-filled marathon backed by tight controls, and fuelled by impressive power-ups. A broad range of upgrades, challenges and achievements adds depth to this simplistic affair, and thus Jetpack Joyride has both longevity and playability on its side. This one's an absolute blast!
While Jetpack Joyride exemplifies the high quality casual fare available on the App Store, Infinity Blade II shows off the flipside of the coin. Chair Entertainment's stellar sequel is the perfect showcase for what the iPhone and iPad are capable of.
Infinity Blade II is cinematic enough to grace the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, but unlike its predecessor, it isn't all about eye candy. In response to fan feedback, Chair introduced greater explorative freedom, expanded RPG elements to the mix and polished up the fighting mechanics. The result pushed the boundaries of iOS gaming and set the standards for future high-end App Store titles.
> Read our review of Infinity Blade II
Tower Defence games have been another great iOS success story, and Anomaly: Warzone Earth is among the best the App Store has to offer. Chillingo's sci-fi themed PC port turned the genre on its head by placing the player in the role of the attacker. It's one of the best looking strategy games you'll find on any handheld platform, plus there's enough strategic depth to satisfy General Patton.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is as well suited to brief sessions as it is lengthy campaigns, and with a variety of gameplay modes and budget pricing on its side, you'll get plenty of bang for your buck. This just might be the best £2.49 you ever spent.
With its successor on the horizon, the PSP may be fast approaching retirement, but it still fired a few big guns in 2011 to go out with a bang. The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky was a surprise hit from niche developer Nihon Falcom that proved the Sony handheld can pull off a JPRG better than any other platform.
The Legend of Heroes is a portable remake of a seven-year-old title, but Falcom breathed new life into the game, spinning a memorable tale that is as accessible as it is strategically complex. This one will delight both JRPG diehards and newcomers alike.
There are few games more unique than the Patapon titles. The rhythm-strategy franchise was always stylish, fun and infectious, and this PSP iteration dances to much the same beat. Patapon 3 was a commendable attempt to build on the series framework, adding multiplayer options and revamped gameplay.
Pyramid and Japan Studio drummed up another winner with this one, delivering some of the most pleasing audio-visual presentation ever seen on the PSP. Its charm and charisma will have you hooked from the off, and the volume of achievements and challenges will ensure that this is more than an ephemeral experience.
> Read our review of Patapon 3
Final Fantasy IV was always one of the better early releases in the epic saga, and the PSP's Complete Collection is the definitive version of the game. Offering polished visuals, traditional gameplay mechanics and enough bonus content to get lost in for weeks, this was both a Final Fantasy fan's dream and a great introduction to the Square Enix franchise.
The diehards are still awaiting that long-rumoured remake of Final Fantasy VII, but this will more than suffice in the meantime. Maybe the PlayStation Vita will be the platform that plays host to Cloud's return?
Android is gradually gaining ground on iOS as a gaming platform, and the backing of developers like Kairosoft can only help its cause. Following in the footsteps of the studio's exceptional Game Dev Story, Grand Prix Story had players manage a racing team.
Everything from researching tech to managing pit crew was included in the game, yet it remained as accessible and fun as any other Kairosoft title. Grand Prix Story was initially released as a timed exclusive for Android, but it has since made a welcome pit stop on iOS.
There are some impressive high-end games available for Android from studios such as EA and Gameloft, but there are times when the needs of mobile gamers are far more basic. As casual titles go, Cut the Rope is ideal for taking the sting out of a long bus journey or waiting room stint.
Zeptolabs's iOS port is everything a physical puzzler should be - easy to pick up, yet incredibly challenging to master. If you can forgive some jarring difficulty spikes and the unimaginatively literal name, you won't regret being roped into this one.
Gameloft took its time porting its iOS shooter sequel N.O.V.A 2 to Android, but it was certainly worth the wait. The studio's Halo homage remains the best mobile shooter on the market, in terms of visuals, gunplay and multiplayer support.
Whether running on the Xperia Play backed by physical buttons, or the Samsung Galaxy S2 with its impressive graphical capabilities, N.O.V.A 2 is a great fit for a variety of Android devices and an improvement on the iOS original. It may not be one of the most original titles ever conceived, but it's certainly done its bit to push the boundaries of the mobile FPS.
> Read our review of N.O.V.A. 2
Windows Phone 7
The Windows Phone 7 platform is another emerging contender in the mobile sector, and with Xbox Live integration becoming ever extensive, its influence is sure to grow. Full House Poker supports greater Xbox 360 connectivity than almost any other game on the Microsoft handsets, allowing players to transfer their winnings between systems.
Full House Poker is your quintessential Texas hold 'em simulation, with the added draw of avatar support, a comprehensive interface and a progressions system. Microsoft and Krome Studios dealt a winning hand with this one.
Southend Interactive's platform-puzzler Ilomilo is arguably the closest thing to a fully-fledged Xbox Live title to hit Windows Phone 7. Backing up stunning 3D visuals with compelling gameplay and charm, the game has players guide odd looking creatures across 32 obstacle-filled mazes.
Ilomilo is the title Windows Phone 7 owners had been waiting for since Microsoft first announced its intentions to make its handsets into a gaming platform.
Porting Kinectimals to Windows Phone 7 was a shrewd move on Microsoft's part. The platform's touch-screen interface and accelerometer support are a good fit for the motion powered pet-rearing sim, and the handsets proved more than capable of doing the game justice visually. On top of that, there's the added bonus of being able to carry your virtual companion with you wherever you go.
Xbox Live integration sweetens the deal further, enabling players to unlock new Kinectimals in the console edition and transfer data between platforms. Whether you're an animal lover or just looking for a game that plays to your Windows Phone 7's strengths you can't go far wrong with this one.
What do you think of our handheld game of the year choices? What are your favourite portable releases of 2011? Add a comment to the space below!