You can play some great games on your smartphone, but most of the best true video games don’t come in that format. If you want to log some serious game time on a handheld device, you can find plenty of modern and retro favorites on the various popular handheld gaming systems.
While browsing to find the best system for your needs, make sure you note the size of the system, battery power and processing speed — three important factors that seriously affect your overall experience. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best options, so you can find the one that’s right for you.
Best Overall: Nintendo Switch
More than just a handheld gaming system, the Nintendo Switch gives you multiple ways to use it. Take it with you on the go, hook it up to a television to use like a traditional game system or set it up on a tabletop to play with a friend. Battery life varies from model to model, with consumers praising newer models for lasting up to nine hours — one of the reasons it earned five stars from more than 90% of reviewers.
This hybrid game system also offers a sizable touchscreen for great viewing on the go, which is particularly handy since the Switch also lets you watch videos on Hulu. It also gives you a variety of multiplayer options, thanks to technology that allows it to link with up to eight additional Switch systems.
Best Value: Nintendo 2DS
This device has got the classic style of the Nintendo DS from years ago but with the power and gaming capabilities of modern handheld gaming consoles. The budget-friendly Nintendo 2DS is light on cost but heavy on fun, and reviewers praise its kid-friendly perfection, especially for younger kids not obsessed with the newest thing. It features a battery life of four to seven hours, a durable design and a big, bright screen that makes it easy for gamers of all ages and skill levels to use.
Best Quality: Playstation Vita
Ask gaming enthusiasts about the Playstation Vita, and you’re sure to hear about how it's one of the best handheld gaming systems out there. It's not the newest option, but it is renowned as one of the best. The Vita boasts a feature-rich design that includes a touchpad on the back and a multi-touch screen in the front, along with motion sensors, rear- and front-facing cameras, and plenty of hardware power that stands up to the rigorous library of games you can play. As a bonus, you can also use it to stream games from your PS3 or PS4 for continual play.
Best Emulator: GPD XD Plus
Interested in playing classic games from older consoles like Game Boy or NES? With an emulator like the GPD XD Plus, you get the power and portability you need to tweak your gaming system for just that purpose. "It plays all the games I love," says one happy gamer. You can also use the GPD XD Plus to watch videos, listen to music and shop online. It boasts an eight-hour battery life and a 5-inch touch screen in addition to its intelligent Quad Core CPU.
Best Nostalgic Console: Atari Flashback Portable Game Player
Ready to play classic games on a handheld gaming system designed by the trailblazing company responsible for some of the most popular early video games? The Atari Flashback Portable comes loaded with 70 Atari games, including Frogger, Pitfall, Pac-Man and Space Invaders. Compact and wallet-friendly, this device is popular with reviewers who adore this blast from the past: "It brings me back to my younger days when I thought video games couldn't get any better. I love this thing."
Best 3D Effects: Nintendo 3DS XL
If you’re looking for a handheld gaming system with three-dimensional, stereoscopic effects, the Nintendo 3DS XL is the option for you. In addition to cool effects, it features a face tracker feature that enhances the display to give you the most realistic images based on the angle you're viewing the screen. It also has a sizable touch screen, fast processing and a vivid display. Reviewers praised the controls for being very responsive, even with a light touch, and touted the reverse compatibility as a definite selling point.
Best for Original NES Games: Retro-Bit RDP 2-in-1 Portable Handheld Console
Wish you could still play those old NES game cartridges? You’re in luck because the Retro-Bit RDP 2-in-1 Portable Handheld Console allows players to use Genesis, SNES and NES game cartridges on the go. This portable handset features a lightweight design, up to eight hours of play and a travel-friendly footprint. Reviewers praised the clear screen and responsive, feel-good buttons.
Best Gaming Phone: ASUS ZS600KL ROG Gaming Smartphone
Want a smartphone that does more than surf the net and make calls? Consider the ASUS ZS600KL ROG Gaming Smartphone. Made expressly for Android game lovers, this smartphone breaks the gaming mold with a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset, 6.6-inch display, 120 Hz refresh rate and dual-front facing cameras. You get tons of RAM, a dual camera and a battery with industry-leading power in a smartphone that delivers gaming performance like no other. Reviewers described this high tech device as a powerhouse packed with features and a vivid screen with colors that pop.
Best Gaming for Music Lovers: Apple iPod Touch
Handheld gaming systems that multitask aren’t always easy to find, but when you have the Apple iPod Touch, you get a powerful chip, sleek color options and the ability to play games and more. This handheld gaming device delivers 32 GB of space, an 8-megapixel camera, a 4-inch Retina touch screen and industry-leading software that lets you do everything from explore augmented reality to stream games to play your favorite tunes. Reviewers love it for their pre-phone-age kids.
Best Handheld Gaming for Kids: Jamswall Handheld Game Console
Keep your kids happy and entertained without spending a mint on a handheld gaming system that could get lost or broken. The Jamswall Handheld Game Console is inexpensive, but it comes packed with 400 retro games for good times galore. It also comes with a gamepad that hooks up to your television to allow two players to play at once. The rechargeable battery lasts up to five hours, and the easy-to-use design makes it an ideal option for younger players who are just getting started. Reviewers raved over the sturdy construction and the degree of fun, especially for its ridiculously low price.