Another year, another chance to watch Andy Murray choke at Wimbledon. It's a British tradition, you see: just like muddy music festivals; useless public transport; and soggy fish and chips.
Every year, we cling onto the vague hint of sporting success that Murray might bring; tuck into the strawberries; and scream and shout at the television like the fair-weather tennis fans that we are.
But, until the inevitable disappointment hits us like a Roger Federer volley to the nuts, we'll ride on the crest of this foolish wave of optimism and dig out the best of the current crop of handheld tennis games out of a sense of duty.Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition
Sega's had its ups and downs over the past decade or so, but the one thing you can rely on is the greatness of Virtua Tennis
. This excellent PS Vita version is no exception.
Although it was rather overlooked upon its initial release when the Vita launched back in chilly February, in the balmy light of summer this is a pixel-perfect port to cherish.
That's to say the visuals and playability are up there with the 360/PS3 versions, and it boasts the kind of intuitive controls that even your disinterested aunt's cat could figure out. All the single-player and multiplayer modes you could wish for make the cut (including online play), alongside an expansive career mode.
And unlike some titles released for Vita, the bite-sized nature of the gameplay makes it a perfect game to dip into when you feel like it.Mario Tennis Open
Ever since the N64 days, Mario Tennis
has been something of a surprise package, offering as much depth as irreverent enjoyment, despite its rather carefree stylings.
If you've kept up down the years, the fact that the latest instalment in this long-running series is another highly enjoyable slice of tennis won't come as a huge shock.
Yeah, the Nintendo-themed courts and character special abilities remain as wild and unpredictable as ever, but it's the motion-control influence from Wii Sports
that represents the big change here, with gyroscopic controls that allow you to change views on the fly and aim with precision.
Despite being the least serious and authentic title on this list, it's also perhaps the most interesting. 3DS-owning tennis nuts should be all over it. Like a rash. Or a prowling Pete Sampras. You choose.Virtua Tennis Challenge
(Xperia Play / Android / iOS)
By Sega - buy for Android / iPhone and iPad
If you're the kind of cash-strapped gamer who balks at the idea of shelling out more than the price of a chocolate bar for a tennis sim, then Sega has thoughtfully brought the Virtua Tennis
show to mobiles and tablets.
But, shorn of many of the features and production values that light up the full-fat Vita version (see above), it can feel like a bit of a letdown by comparison - but, at about a 12th of the price, are you surprised?
It's not all bad, though. Fire it up on the Xperia Play handset and it's a fair approximation of the Real Thing - if a tad chuggy. More likely, though, you'll be swiping and tapping your way to tennis-based glory on more powerful iOS and Android handsets, and powering down serves and volleys with aplomb.
What it lacks in depth and pinpoint control precision, it makes up for in intuitive ease and slick presentation. Don't expect too much, and you'll be more than happy.Stick Tennis
By Stick Sports - buy for iPhone and iPad
It's often better when sports games don't even try to be realistic, and they just go all out for raw, demented playability instead - like the still-awesome Sensible Soccer
From the maker of the similarly crude-but-compelling Stick Cricket
, Stick Tennis
is a game that demands instant reactions and an ability to swipe your finger where you want to hit the ball. Got that? Good. Get this.Real Tennis
By Gameloft - buy for iPhone
You can always rely on Gameloft to serve up a moderately playable 'cover version' of a successful video game, and Real Tennis
lives up to every possible preconception.
Before Sega decided to go one better and actually do the job properly (see above... again), this wasn't a bad option: perfectly decent production values, and all the modes you'd generally expect (including Championship and wi-fi multiplayer).
But, with its needless adoption of virtual D-pad controls, there's an inescapable fiddliness to the game that makes it wearisome next to the more intuitive recent offerings out there.Pro Tennis Volley
By Neon Play - buy for iPhone
A Flick Soccer!
-style approach to tennis sounds like a great idea. Instead of battling it out in traditional sets and matches, the idea in Pro Tennis Volley
is to try and flick your shot onto a designated target, with points awarded for greater accuracy.
But, while the idea has legs, Neon Play's attempt falls flat thanks to a flaky control system that rarely seems to read your input in the manner intended.Cross Court Tennis
(Android / iOS)
By Refined Games - buy for Android / iPhone and iPad
If Cross Court Tennis
were competing at Wimbledon, it might squeak through an early round or two, but it'll soon get found out by a seasoned pro.
On the plus side, however, developer Refined Games has sussed out a half decent tap-and-swipe control system, which make it a pretty playable entrant. The production values of this low-budget tennis sim leave it face down in the dirt, mind, looking up at the stars.
No wonder it's cross.Rafa Nadal Tennis
By Virtual Toys - buy for iPhone
Whatever budget went into this game very evidently ended up in the pocket of a certain Spanish superstar. With its 16-bit-era sprites, lamentable animation, and ill-suited control system, it has the look and feel of a feature phone port shovelled onto the iPhone on the off-chance of a few sales to rabid Nadal fans.
From the moment you fire up Virtual Toys's apologetic offering, you'll be counting down the seconds until you can switch it off and move onto something more interesting. Like watching re-runs of Big Brother
. Or shaving.TouchSports Tennis 2012
By Handheld Games Corp. - buy for iPhone
Remember the Actua Sports
series, with polygons so sharp they poked your eyes out? Well, Handheld Games appears to cling onto this charming ideal by producing a tennis game with a face that only a mother could love.
Without wishing to be too mean, TouchSports Tennis 2012
puts in a fair shift, with a decent stab at realism, tons of options, and numerous control methods to suit all the grumpy sods who want everything their own way.
Just as well I have an iPhone, though, as it utterly refuses to work on the third-generation iPad.