If you’ve ever played Tekken on a PSP, or the original Animal Crossing on a Nintendo 3DS, then your childhood vacations were probably filled with portable gaming. Before mobile gaming entered the scene, there were many handheld consoles you could choose from that focused solely on video games. But who says those days are over?
If you’re feeling nostalgic, or just curious as to what today’s handheld consoles look like, look no further. We’ve compiled the best new and old handheld consoles you can get today.
Latest Handheld Consoles to Check Out
The Nintendo Switch might be the most popular handheld console of today. With new Nintendo Switch games and accessories always on the horizon, there are a lot of reasons this handheld is worth the investment. For starters, this device will let you play anywhere — whether indoors or outdoors. Thanks to the detachable JoyCon, you can enjoy your games up close or on a bigger screen.
Along with its release came the latest Animal Crossing game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The best part? You can even get the Animal Crossing version of the Nintendo Switch, which comes with blue and green JoyCons.
Nintendo Switch Lite
The Nintendo Switch Lite is a more handheld-focused console compared to its predecessor. At first glance, it may look like a modern PSP. This handheld console comes in a variety of colors, with much more options to choose from than the original Switch.
Unlike the Switch, you can only play this device as a handheld. There are also significant differences in game options and battery life, among other things. But although it doesn’t come with the full capabilities of the Switch, it’s a more economic option that doesn’t compromise quality.
Nintendo 2DS XL
The Nintendo DS was one of the most innovative consoles of its time. It paved the way for dual-screen gaming, spawning the likes of beloved game series as Professor Layton or Ace Attorney. Even with the new Switch, Nintendo’s 2DS XL is incomparable.
In this latest release, the 2DS XL proves to be a better upgrade from its predecessor, the 3DS XL. Although it lacks 3D graphics, the 2DS XL comes with a faster processor, smaller bezels, and better battery life. Designed with portability in mind, the 2DS XL is also much lighter, making it easier to carry around.
Retroid Pocket 2
This interesting device is less of its own console and more of an emulator. Powered by Android, this lets you play your old favorite games easily. This clunky handheld console comes in a vintage casing that will make you feel nostalgic.
This console can run games from old handhelds like NES/Super NES, Gameboy/Gameboy Advance, and more. Plus, its Android system (RetroidOS) lets you run each emulator much more smoothly than other emulator consoles in the market. You may have to configure certain things so that you can run games from Sega Dreamcast or the PSP, but otherwise, it’s a great alternative.
NVIDIA Shield Tablet K1
The NVIDIA Shield K1 is more of a tablet than a console, but it’s another great alternative you should watch out for. As it is made by one of the most renowned gaming companies in the industry, it is optimized for gaming. Its outer design is built with grips on the side for a better gaming experience.
You can connect this device to GeForce Now and get your favorite PC games directly on the tablet. Running on Android 5.0 Lollipop, you get at least 11 GB of storage that you can use. It runs smoothly, with a decent enough frame rate (fps) for your daily gaming. As a plus, it even has a camera that you can use just like a normal tablet would.
Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros
As if things couldn’t get any more vintage, this retro crossover surprisingly works. The Nintendo Game & Watch is one of Nintendo’s newest consoles — but it looks like something straight out of the ‘80s. With a design similar to Gameboy Micro, Nintendo ports a classic video game into a rebooted device.
The Game & Watch is small, lightweight, and can run about three games. It fits snug into the palm of your hand and will give you a taste of nostalgia everywhere you go. The console can play Super Mario Bros 1 and 2, as well as the Gameboy Micro classic, Ball. Nintendo also recently announced a Legend of Zelda version coming out on the game’s 35th anniversary.
If you miss collecting and snapping cartridges onto consoles, then you should check out the Evercade console. The device itself is made to look vintage, from the colors to the finishes.
You can play all kinds of retro games with this handheld device. There might be a slight learning curve at the beginning due to the awkward positioning of the buttons. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll spend hours lost in this handheld console.
The colorful and new Tamagotchi On has introduced tons of new gameplay material for fans to uncover. It gives you all the nostalgia of the original Tamagotchi, but with more modern graphics. The concept is still the same — you hatch a pet from an egg and take care of it as it grows.
This edition comes in full color, and with several new upgrades. Its minigames can take you to various different locations, plus you can take care of generations of pets! Although this feels more like a toy than a console, this handheld game will surely keep you entertained for days to come.
Old Handheld Consoles You Can Still Find on Amazon
Sony PS Vita
Sony’s PlayStation Vita (PS Vita) was another unique handheld console of its time. It feels like a PSP but with a touch-screen (front and back!). The graphics in this device was one of the best among the popular consoles at the time. It had a touchpad on the back, front and rear cameras, and more. It was an innovative piece of tech that made us hopeful for future technology.
This console was home to many games that we know and love, such as Uncharted and The House in Fata Morgana.
When you think of retro handheld consoles, the Gameboy Advance is probably the first thing that comes to mind. This compact, lightweight device is the quintessential handheld console. If you had this, then you probably have a plethora of game cartridges lying around somewhere.
One of Nintendo’s classic consoles, this 32-bit device came out as a portable SNES. Although its screen may seem small in comparison to today’s consoles, it still ran a considerably good set of graphics. Plus, its battery life was perfect for long hours of gaming. If you want to relive your childhood, then you should check this out on Amazon.
Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)
The PlayStation Portable (PSP) was one of Sony’s attempts at handheld gaming after the release of the PS2. Its design is not far from today’s Nintendo Switch Lite. With a sleek design and multiple colors you can choose from, this was the star of the early 2000s.
Memorable games include Tekken, the Patapon series, Mario and Pokemon Pearl. The graphics almost felt like PS2 graphics — quite a feat in those days. Although the load times weren’t great, it is still a great option that you can still find in stores today.
The Hyperkin SupaBoy is one of the relatively newer consoles on this list, but still a classic. Released in the 2010s, this handheld device looks just like the Super Nintendo controller. That being said, this device is a great way to play old SNES games seamlessly.
Its only drawback is that some games run smoother than others. Still, it’s a great alternative to Nintendo devices that you can check out on Amazon.
The Nintendo DSi is another great handheld console that you probably remember from the early days. If you close your eyes, you can probably already hear the boot-up sound from this console.
The DSi was a game-changer for handheld consoles with its SD card support and camera. It also allowed for internet connection thanks to its Opera browser tie-in. This also paved the way for the reduction of cartridge consumption worldwide. If you want to remember the good old days, then getting this on Amazon is the best way to start.
A device and a game all in one, this cute, compact game was once a pinnacle of handheld consoles. You have one task: keep your pet alive. This egg-shaped device fits right into your pocket and will vibrate or make a sound whenever your pet needs looking after.
Although the new and improved Tamagotchi On is more fit for the modern gamer, nothing beats the classic. If you’re looking for that vintage, black-and-white, 8-bit gaming experience, you can check out the original Tamagotchi on Amazon today.
Retro Video Games to Play
Long before Pokemon Go had us hammering to go outside, the first-generation Pokemon games kept us company on boring days inside. Everyone knows these beloved creatures by now, but something about playing the original game just hits different.
Collect Pokemon, and fill your Pokedex with new types. You can live out your dreams of becoming a Pokemon trainer and evolve your favorites. This beloved series is a childhood classic and is only fitting that you play it on a handheld console.
Legend of Zelda
Putting it into the perspective of today’s Breath of the Wild, the Legend of Zelda franchise has come a long way since its first release. Link’s adventures have spawned so many games that it is near-impossible to place a linear timeline of its story.
Since it was made in the ‘80s, the game is available on nearly all of the major Nintendo consoles. Even today, you can check out Hyrule Warriors for the Nintendo Switch.
This fighting game is a lot of fun to play on the PSP. Although the Tekken series centers mainly around the Mishima family, each playable character comes with their own unique storyline in the game. You can see this in the cinematic cutscenes you can access in the game.
Although it seems like you’re just mashing buttons, there is a method to the madness that is Tekken. It’s a great game to play on the go with your console, perfect for passing the time outside.
Games like Animal Crossing are hard to come by. It’s a fun game to just relax and spend time on. You create and maintain a town of your own making, and invite villagers to live in. Part of Animal Crossing’s appeal is its heavy customizability. You can create your own clothes from scratch and decorate your house. The cute characters and beautiful graphics will draw you in. With a handheld console, you can enjoy this game even while lying down and relaxing.
This pair of beloved brothers have been a big part of our childhood. Mario is one of the classic games that you’ll find in the market. You will also find any Mario game in a number of consoles — handheld or otherwise — in various forms. Aside from the classic Super Mario game, there is also Mario Kart, Mario Party, Luigi’s Mansion, and more.
The Mario series is a staple, especially with Nintendo consoles. And it has survived the test of time for a good reason — there are tons of potential for replayability.
If you want something to challenge your brain, then the puzzles in Professor Layton may just be the thing you need. Centered on the English detective, the Professor Layton series is filled with elaborate mysteries and fun challenges. Together with a trusty assistant, Professor Layton must investigate alleged vampires, secretive towns, and much more.
This is the perfect game to play on the Nintendo DS, especially as its design allows for dual-screen optimization. Join Professor Layton’s miscellaneous adventures and exercise your problem-solving skills with this fun game.
Much like the Professor Layton series, Ace Attorney requires a lot of critical thinking. In this game series, you play Phoenix Wright, an attorney that gets into a lot of unusual cases. To prove your client innocent, you have to look out for inconsistencies in witness testimonies and pair them with the right evidence.
Ace Attorney is a great game to lose yourself into, with great graphics and unique plotlines.
Final Thoughts: What Is the Best Handheld Console?
Handheld consoles might be making a comeback. And that just means that we get more of the kind of gaming we experienced when we were younger. With new technology on the rise, there’s no doubt that handheld console gaming will improve greatly as time goes by.
If you want the authentic, retro gaming feel, then the best handheld console for you may be Sony’s PS Vita. It still holds up as a great device for gaming and will certainly make you feel nostalgic. On the other hand, if you want the premium handheld console gaming experience, then the Nintendo Switch is the best option you can get. It supports a ton of new games coming out, as well as has the crisp, modern-day graphics that older consoles just don’t have. Either way, any device you choose will definitely boost your handheld gaming experience.