In the world of gaming, there is a special charm in going back to the classics. The nostalgia of playing retro games can transport us to simpler times and remind us of the joy we experienced during our childhood. While many people still cherish their old gaming consoles, the advent of handheld retro game consoles has made it easier than ever to enjoy those timeless classics on the go. In this article, we will explore what handheld retro game consoles are, their benefits, how to choose the best one, and provide you with a list of the top 12 best handheld retro game consoles available in the market.
What is a Handheld Retro Game Console?
A handheld retro game console is a portable gaming device that allows you to play classic video games from previous generations. These consoles typically come preloaded with a variety of retro games, eliminating the need for physical game cartridges or discs. They often mimic the design and feel of the original consoles, providing an authentic retro gaming experience in a compact and portable form.
The Benefits of a Handheld Retro Game Console
Handheld retro game consoles offer several advantages for gaming enthusiasts. Firstly, their portable nature allows you to enjoy your favorite retro games anytime, anywhere. Whether you’re commuting to work, waiting for an appointment, or simply relaxing at home, you can easily slip a handheld retro game console into your pocket or bag and have instant access to a vast library of classic games.
Another benefit is the convenience they provide. Unlike traditional gaming consoles, handheld retro game consoles do not require a TV or external power source. They are self-contained devices with built-in screens and rechargeable batteries, allowing you to play games directly on the console itself. This makes them perfect for gaming on the go or during travel, without the need for additional accessories.
Furthermore, handheld retro game consoles often come with built-in save states, allowing you to pause and resume games at any point without worrying about losing progress. This feature is particularly useful for games that lack save points or passwords, ensuring that you can pick up where you left off without any hassle.
How to Choose the Best Handheld Retro Game Console
When selecting a handheld retro game console, there are a few key factors to consider. Firstly, you should evaluate the console’s game library. Different consoles come with varying preloaded games, so it’s essential to ensure that the console you choose has a collection of games that align with your preferences. Some consoles also offer the ability to add more games through external memory cards or online downloads, providing greater flexibility.
Next, you’ll want to assess the display quality of the handheld console. Look for consoles with vibrant and crisp screens that faithfully represent the original graphics of the retro games. A high-resolution display can significantly enhance your gaming experience and make the games more enjoyable to play.
The controls and ergonomics of the console are also crucial factors to consider. Ensure that the buttons and joysticks are comfortable to use and responsive. Many handheld retro game consoles aim to replicate the feel of the original controllers, so finding one that suits your hand size and gaming preferences is essential.
Additionally, battery life is an important consideration, especially if you plan on using the console for extended gaming sessions. Look for consoles with long-lasting batteries or ones that offer the option to replace batteries easily. This will ensure uninterrupted gaming enjoyment without constantly worrying about running out of power.
Lastly, consider the overall build quality and durability of the console. You want a handheld retro game console that can withstand regular use and occasional bumps or drops. Reading reviews and researching the reputation of the manufacturer can give you insights into the reliability and longevity of the console.
12 Best Handheld Retro Game Consoles in the Market
1. Miyoo Mini:
The Miyoo Mini is a compact handheld gaming device that was released in late 2021. We obtained our unit in January 2022 and were impressed by its retro Gameboy-like design. The small size and subtle Gameboy DMG features give it an authentic feel.
In terms of specifications, the Miyoo Mini is equipped with a 1.2GHz CPU, 128MB RAM, a 2.8″ IPS display with a resolution of 640 x 480, and a 1900mAh battery. While these specs may not sound extraordinary on paper, the modern chip inside allows the device to emulate PlayStation games quite well.
The handheld features four mini flared shoulder buttons on the back, which work effectively. The screen offers crisp visuals due to its high resolution, although it has a slight hazy appearance that doesn’t impact gameplay significantly.
The firmware of the Miyoo Mini is simple but user-friendly. Even a child would have no trouble quickly accessing games and adjusting settings on the go. Overall, it stands out as one of the top mini handhelds on our list. It delivers impressive performance, resembles a miniature Gameboy, and is built to be durable. As one of Miyoo’s initial branded handhelds, it suggests that the brand may be worth keeping an eye on in the future, such as their rumored upcoming Miyoo P60.
Update: In March 2022, Miyoo released a “Plus” version called the Miyoo Mini Plus. It shares the same specifications but offers a larger screen, bigger battery, and more comfortable shoulder buttons.
The RG405M is a new handheld gaming device from ANBERNIC, which can be considered an evolved version of their popular RG353M model.
This handheld stands out with its metal shell construction, providing a premium feel that ANBERNIC has become known for over the years.
The RG405M is powered by a Unisoc T618 2GHz CPU, a MaliG52 GPU, 4GB of RAM, and features a 4″ IPS display with a resolution of 640 x 480. It also boasts a 4500mAh battery, along with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 capabilities.
Despite its powerful specifications, the RG405M maintains a portable form factor that easily fits into your pocket.
For those curious about its emulation capabilities, the RG405M can handle a wide range of games.
The RG405M PS2 Emulation is capable of emulating a variety of game consoles, including PSP, Dreamcast, Gameboy, NES, SNES, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS. It can also emulate some PS2 and Gamecube games, although not all of them. Our tests with God of War and Kingdom Hearts on PS2 showed some frame rate drops, but it was still enjoyable to play.
However, it’s important to note that the RG405M isn’t powerful enough to play every single PS2 game. With its combination of power, Android operating system, and high build quality, the RG405M is considered one of the best retro handhelds on the market, priced at $179.99. As a user, I highly recommend it for playing larger games on the go.
3. The Steam Deck
The Steam Deck is often regarded as one of the best portable gaming PCs and is unquestionably the best retro handheld emulator available. Priced at $399, it offers unparalleled power that surpasses even $1000 gaming PC handhelds.
The Steam Deck has a large community of users who are eager to assist those interested in using it for emulation, making it accessible to a broader audience. Steam provides frequent updates, instant product shipping, a robust customer service team, and a nearly flawless product experience.
Although it is bulky and has poor battery life, the Steam Deck can still provide an enjoyable experience for emulating retro games. By installing EmuDeck and adding your ROMs, you can emulate various retro consoles, including Dreamcast, Gamecube, and most PS2 games. It’s a versatile gaming machine that can play both the latest AAA games and harder-to-emulate retro consoles, making it a reliable choice for years to come.
The Steam Deck benefits from an abundance of guides and community content, making it easy to use for users of all levels of experience. It’s important to consider its size, weight, and battery life as its current limitations.
4. The Retroid Pocket 3+
The Retroid Pocket 3+ is an updated version of the Retroid Pocket 3, offering a slightly larger size and improved features. Priced at $149, it stands out for its affordability and ability to emulate most retro games up to and including Gamecube.
The GoRetroid team upgraded its hardware, incorporating an Octa-core T618 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a stunning 4.7″ touch-screen display. These impressive specifications, combined with its slim and comfortable design, make it one of the best affordable retro handhelds on the market. The Retroid Pocket 3+ is easy to use out of the box, featuring a simple launcher that installs all necessary emulators with a single click.
This makes it an ideal choice for beginners in the retro handheld space. It requires minimal tinkering with emulator settings to get games up and running, allowing users to enjoy most retro games immediately. However, it’s important to note that the Retroid Pocket 3+ is limited to Gamecube games and cannot emulate more recent consoles.
The GoRetroid team’s marketing decisions, releasing a better version shortly after the original launch, were deemed unethical and have led to dissatisfaction among some customers. For a more detailed review of the Retroid Pocket 3+, you can refer to our official thoughts on the matter.
5. Analogue Pocket
The Analogue Pocket, released in 2021, has become one of the most highly anticipated handheld gaming devices, surpassing even the OLED Switch. This modern-day Gameboy offers a unique twist.
Known for their high-end products like the Super Nt, Analogue has ventured into the handheld gaming scene using FPGA technology instead of emulation. FPGA technology aims to replicate the original hardware as closely as possible, ensuring flawless gameplay unlike traditional emulation methods that may encounter issues.
The build quality of the Analogue Pocket is superb. It features a 3.5″ LCD display with a pixel density of 615 PPI, protected by Gorilla Glass. The buttons are responsive and durable, enhancing the overall gaming experience.
Initially, it may feel strange to insert old cartridges into a brand new handheld, but it quickly becomes natural. The stunning screen, coupled with the new AnalogueOS, allows users to navigate menus and adjust settings effortlessly within seconds.
Despite some struggles with customer satisfaction during the pre-order process, Analogue has truly created an outstanding product. Priced at $219, it is, in my personal opinion, one of the best retro gaming products of 2021. While it is primarily limited to Gameboy games, the use of adapters enables players to enjoy SEGA Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and Neo Geo games on the Analogue Pocket.
The PlayDate is a unique handheld gaming device that has captured our attention during testing. As one of the first gaming websites to try it out, we were impressed by its innovative use of a crank as a part of the gaming experience.
Designed for gamers who want to explore games in different ways, the PlayDate provides a platform for indie game developers to release their games on a weekly basis. The device features a lightweight yet durable shell and a small black and white screen that is super reflective but not backlit, reminiscent of the Gameboy DMG era.
While some may find the screen inconvenient, we believe it adds to the nostalgic charm of the handheld. The real magic of the PlayDate lies in its games. With a great lineup and the release of two new games every week, players can download up to 24 games onto their device via WiFi.
Although the PlayDate’s form factor and somewhat uncomfortable crank make it less suitable for extended play sessions, we find ourselves continuously drawn to it during short breaks or commutes. It’s an awesome handheld that pushes the industry forward, earning our utmost respect for companies like Panic.
7. Funkey S
The Funkey S made its appearance in last year’s best retro handheld video and has retained its position this year as well. Personally, I love this miniature handheld and hope to see more devices like it on the market in the coming year.
For those unfamiliar with the Funkey S, it is the world’s smallest clamshell handheld, designed by a dedicated team of handheld enthusiasts. Priced at just €65, it serves as a great gift or a small treat for oneself, especially during the holiday season. But what can it do?
To our surprise, it can emulate a wide range of retro games, including PlayStation 1 titles. Imagine playing Crash Bandicoot on a device that fits on your keychain—it’s truly remarkable. The team behind Funkey S has even developed their own operating system, ensuring seamless navigation through menus, easy saving of states, and the option to load up game art for better organization.
While it may not be ideal for long gaming sessions, the Funkey S is perfect for passing the time at a bus stop or train station. It has been built with care and durability in mind, so there’s no need to worry about accidental damage. The super bright display enhances the viewing experience on the tiny 1.5″ screen.
We eagerly anticipate the emergence of more companies like Funkey S, driven by a genuine passion for handhelds and committed to providing excellent customer support and high-quality products. The Funkey Team has created an adorable handheld with a variety of color options, and we can’t help but hope for the release of mini Gameboy Advance and other consoles in the future.
8. The Retroid Pocket Flip
The Retroid Pocket Flip is a clamshell retro handheld created by GoRetroid, the same company behind the Retroid Pocket 3+. It is one of the first affordable clamshell handheld emulators available in the market, fulfilling the demand of many enthusiasts. This device is capable of emulating Gamecube games and some small PS2 games with the right emulation settings. It features a 4.7″ Touchscreen HD display, T618 CPU, Mali G52 GPU, 4GB of RAM, 5000MAH battery, WiFi, and runs on Android 11.
Setting up the Retroid Pocket Flip is straightforward, as it automatically downloads the emulators for you (excluding the ROMs) using the Android OS. GoRetroid has developed its own UI/app that organizes your games in a Nintendo Switch-like library, making navigation and organization convenient. Being Android-based, you can also install your favorite Android games and explore game streaming, although the success of key bindings can vary.
Playing Gamecube, PSP, DS, and Dreamcast games smoothly on this device is enjoyable, making it a great recommendation for fans of clamshell designs. However, there are some minor issues to note. The analog sliders are not the best and have poor R3/L3 feedback. Additionally, there is an issue with the sleep mode, as it tends to drain the battery significantly overnight. It is advisable to turn off the sleep mode when the device is not in use.
Overall, the Retroid Pocket Flip is a well-made handheld device that offers comfort, a pleasant screen, and the ability to emulate most retro games. However, it may struggle with running many PS2 games.
9. The RG353M
The RG353M handheld by ANBERNIC is known for its affordable high-end devices. Despite facing challenges with previous releases in 2022, the RG353M has emerged as one of their best handhelds to date. Encased in a metal shell, it utilizes the RK3566 CPU, allowing it to emulate Dreamcast games flawlessly.
The RG353M runs on either the Android or Linux operating system and features 2GB of RAM, a 1.8GHz processor, a 3.5″ touchscreen display, and a 3500MAH battery that provides over 5 hours of battery life. The standout features of this device are its exceptional build quality, crafted from a block of metal, and its ability to play all Dreamcast games without issues.
In addition to Dreamcast emulation, the RG353M can also emulate Gameboy Advance, N64, PS1, and most PSP games. However, it may struggle with larger, high-end PSP games. With its powerful hardware, sturdy metal construction, crisp screen, user-friendly Linux OS, and comfortable hall joysticks, the RG353M stands out as one of the best retro handhelds available.
10. The Evercade EXP
The Evercade EXP, launched in late 2022, has seen significant improvements compared to the original Evercade handheld from 2020. Instead of relying on emulation applications, this device uses cartridges, allowing users to collect games, trade them, read manuals, and experience the nostalgia of blowing dust out of cartridges. The library offers over 300 games from developers like Bandai Namco, Capcom, ATARI, and Intellivision, providing an authentic way to explore old games without resorting to downloading ROMs from questionable websites.
The build quality of the Evercade EXP is impressive, featuring an impeccable D-PAD and two action buttons below it, enabling TATE mode gameplay. The handheld’s user interface showcases the library of games, including pre-loaded Capcom titles. With its comfortable shoulder buttons and rounded, long aesthetic, it provides an enjoyable gaming experience for extended periods. While the decline in licensing agreements restricts the availability of certain retro games, there are still plenty to keep users engaged. The Evercade EXP is an excellent choice for those seeking a nostalgic touch and the opportunity to collect and trade cartridges with friends while supporting retro developers in an official manner.
11. The Miyoo Mini +
The Miyoo Mini + is the larger version of the original Miyoo Mini handheld and was released in March 2023. It retains the same specifications but features a slightly larger 3.5″ screen that maintains the retro 4:3 aspect ratio. In response to customer feedback, the shoulder buttons have been upgraded to enhance comfort. The device is equipped with a dual-core 1.2GHz CPU, 128MB of RAM, and a 3000mAh battery, providing approximately 5-6 hours of gameplay.
However, the Miyoo Mini + faces significant stock availability issues. The manufacturer, Miyoo, has a history of inadequate production, resulting in continuous stock shortages. Limited quantities released on their online store are quickly snapped up by scalpers and customers. This scarcity makes it challenging to recommend the handheld if readers are unable to purchase it.
Despite the stock availability concerns, the Miyoo Mini + is a compact handheld that can emulate retro games up to and including PlayStation 1, making it a convenient option for gaming on the go.
12. The AYN Odin Pro
The AYN Odin Pro, a handheld gaming device released in early 2022, initially launched on Kickstarter and greatly exceeded its funding target, surpassing $1,000,000.
Fortunately, we were among the fortunate few who backed the project early, granting us early access to the device. The AYN Odin Pro is an Android-based handheld equipped with a Snapdragon SD845 processor, an Adreno 630 GPU, and 7GB of RAM. On paper, it is a powerful handheld capable of emulating GameCube, PSP, Dreamcast, and even PlayStation 2 games with great success.
After testing the AYN Odin Pro for a couple of weeks, we were amazed by its sheer performance. We didn’t need to adjust any settings to run PS2 games smoothly. A simple press of the “high performance” button allowed us to enjoy games at a consistent 40+ FPS.
Thanks to its use of Android 11, the setup process was remarkably easy. This feature played a significant role in placing the AYN Odin Pro at the top of our list. Traditional retro handhelds can be frustrating to set up, but not this device.
All you need to do is log in to your Google account, download your favorite emulators from the Play Store, install ROMs on an external SD Card, and you’re ready to go. The AYN Odin Pro can handle all your favorite retro games, from Crash Bandicoot on PS2 to Zelda on GameCube and even your best Sega Saturn titles.
Priced at under $300, this handheld is an absolute beast, making it the best “mid-range” retro handheld on the market. It has revolutionized the industry, causing concern among other manufacturers like ANBERNIC, Powkiddy, and GoRetroid.
In fact, you may have come across it in our article on the best handheld gaming PCs because it can also run Windows, offering a completely different experience!
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Handheld Retro Game Console
To maximize your enjoyment of a handheld retro game console, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Take breaks and limit your gaming sessions to avoid eye strain and fatigue.
- Explore the console’s settings to customize the display, sound, and controls to your liking.
- Experiment with different game genres and titles to discover new favorites.
- Consider purchasing additional accessories like screen protectors or carrying cases to protect your console and enhance your gaming experience.
- Join online communities and forums to connect with fellow retro gaming enthusiasts and share recommendations and tips.
Handheld retro game consoles provide a convenient and nostalgic way to experience the magic of classic video games. With their portability, built-in games, and authentic design, they allow gamers to indulge in retro gaming wherever they go. By considering factors such as game library, display quality, controls, and battery life, you can choose the best handheld retro game console to suit your preferences. So, grab your favorite retro console, immerse yourself in the world of timeless classics, and relive the joy of gaming from decades past.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Can I add more games to a handheld retro game console? A: Some handheld retro game consoles offer the ability to add more games through external memory cards or online downloads. However, not all consoles have this feature, so it’s essential to check the specifications of the console you are interested in.
Q: Are handheld retro game consoles suitable for children?
A: Handheld retro game consoles can be enjoyed by anyone including children.