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7 Great Handheld Game Systems for Mobile Gaming

Great games aren’t just for the big screen. We break down the best handheld consoles for gamers on the go, featuring heavy hitters like Nintendo and Apple.

handheld consoles
Staff, Courtesy of Apple

The broader video game industry tends to focus on the latest, biggest games for powerhouse consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X. But the truth is, mobile gaming is the biggest, most popular, and most profitable gaming sector by a very wide margin. It makes sense: The device you have on you all the time is the one you are most likely to use, whether that means sending messages or playing video games.

Smartphones may be able to do it all, but dedicated handheld gaming systems offer a superior gaming experience, with better controls, graphics, and games.

The Best Handheld Game Systems

      What to Look For

      As with most gaming consoles, the main thing to consider before shopping is what kinds of games you like to play. A console (handheld or not) made by Nintendo is going to offer widely different games than one made by Google or Apple. Keep in mind what types of games you enjoy, and what kinds of games you would like to take with you on the go.

      Aside from games, below are a few technical specifications to keep an eye on:

      • Storage: Just like a phone or a laptop, handheld game systems have a limited amount of storage space available. We consider 64GB a good baseline for built-in storage. Systems with expandable storage via microSD card are hugely convenient for long-term ownership.
        • Screen: There is a wide variety of screens across handheld game systems, but we consider a screen between 5 and 8 inches perfect for clarity and portability. Most retro-focused systems will have very small screens, however.
          • Weight: While a few extra ounces of weight may not seem like a big deal, a heavier handheld game system may be fatiguing for kids. Keep an eye on weight when shopping for younger gamers.

            How We Selected

            Many of these recommendations come from hundreds of hours of in-house use. For the products we couldn’t test ourselves, we perform intensive research, reviewing content from expert sources like Wirecutter, The Verge, CNET, Tom’s Guide, DigitalTrends, and others, as well as thousands of consumer reviews from online storefronts like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart. As for the products themselves, we evaluated them on functionality, design, and price.

            We hand-selected some of the best handheld gaming systems around: to give you a better gaming experience on the go.

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            1
            Best Overall
            Nintendo
            Switch Lite

            Key Specs

            Screen 5.5-inch LCD touchscreen
            Storage 32GB, expandable with microSD
            Weight 0.61 pounds
            2
            Best Switch Console
            Nintendo
            Switch OLED

            Key Specs

            Screen 7-inch OLED touchscreen
            Storage 64GB, expandable with microSD
            Weight 0.93 pounds
            3
            Best Premium
            Apple
            2021 iPad Mini

            Key Specs

            Screen 8.3-inch LED touchscreen
            Storage 64GB
            Weight 0.65 pounds
            4
            Best Budget
            Amazon
            Fire HD 8

            Key Specs

            Screen 8-inch LED touchscreen
            Storage 32GB
            Weight 0.78 pounds
            5
            For Games and Entertainment
            Apple
            iPad 10.2-inch

            Key Specs

            Screen 10.2-inch LED touchscreen
            Storage 64GB
            Weight 1.07 pounds
            6
            Most Powerful
            Steam
            Valve Steam Deck

            Key Specs

            Screen 7-inch LCD touchscreen
            Storage 256GB, expandable with microSD
            Weight 1.7 pounds
            7
            Best for Emulation
            CNMF
            Anbernic RG351P

            Key Specs

            Screen 3.5-inch LCD
            Storage 64GB
            Weight 0.75 pounds
            8
            Best for Arcade Enthusiasts
            Blaze Evercade
            Handheld Premium Pack

            Key Specs

            Screen 4.3-inch LCD
            Storage N/A
            Weight 0.2 pounds
            9
            Best for Retro Nintendo
            Nintendo
            Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros

            Key Specs

            Screen 2.36-inch LCD
            Storage N/A
            Weight 0.28 pounds
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