Best Handheld Game Console in 2023 #GeekLeap

The previous few years have seen a revival of handheld sport consoles, because of the comfort of on-the-go gaming and streaming expertise, and little doubt partially as a result of success of the Nintendo Swap in 2017. There are tons of choices now: the Swap and Steam Deck, indie consoles just like the Panic Playdate and Analogue Pocket, and cellular streaming gadgets just like the Razer Edge and Logitech G Cloud. Listed here are the perfect devoted handheld sport console choices, and why they’re value contemplating.

Telephones and tablets already do a high quality job of enjoying tons of nice video games, or streaming video games from consoles or the cloud. Devoted gadgets can present distinctive options, unique video games or additional energy to do issues your cellphone cannot. It virtually seems like a return to the mid-2010s period of the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.

The Nintendo Swap has been the perfect and most inexpensive moveable sport system for years, and continues to be CNET’s clear high decide. At $300 (or $350 for our favourite mannequin), it might play an enormous number of Nintendo video games and indie video games, it might dock with a TV and may even play some health video games. However Valve’s Steam Deck provides a singular proposition for these with deeper pockets: It is massive, and it might double as a full gaming PC. A yr later, it is nonetheless nice (and arguably even higher than earlier than).

For individuals who miss retro sport handhelds just like the Sport Boy, you would possibly contemplate placing your self on the ready checklist to order the Analogue Pocket or Panic Playdate, too, however each of these techniques are extra area of interest — and extra indie/retro focused — than the Swap and Steam Deck.

We’ll clarify under.

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The Nintendo Swap is over 5 years previous now, however Nintendo has indicated that no true successor is coming proper now. A Professional mannequin has been rumored for some time, however within the meantime the present Swap stays extraordinarily succesful, stuffed with nice video games (together with numerous indie choices), and fairly inexpensive contemplating its handheld/TV-connected twin perform. The Swap has additionally grow to be a incredible supply of retro video games (Sport Boy, NES, SNES, Genesis, N64 and extra) by way of the subscription-based Swap On-line service.

The OLED-screened Swap, which was launched in October 2021, is the perfect Swap and our beneficial decide. The extra vivid and bigger show seems incredible, its rear kickstand works higher for tabletop gaming, and each of those upgrades are value the additional $50. The unique Swap (or the V2 model), at $300, works equally and can also be nonetheless high quality, and sometimes is available in particular editions and vacation sport bundles. The smaller, handheld-only Swap Lite is a good worth decide at $200 for anybody who simply desires a fundamental moveable sport system, however it lacks any means to connect with a TV, and its controllers do not detach. This makes it much less versatile for households, and means you possibly can’t change the controllers in the event that they break.

Learn our Nintendo Swap overview.


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Valve’s massive and highly effective Steam Deck is a marvel. It might probably play all kinds of PC video games surprisingly properly, and is the dream moveable for any hardcore Steam fan, or anybody who has a giant library of PC video games. The Steam Deck can get costly for the bigger storage tiers, however for what it is able to, it isn’t a foul deal. The power to play PC video games or stream cloud-based video games, and to connect with a monitor, keyboard or different equipment, places the Steam Deck in a category of its personal. A yr later, it is nonetheless incredible and value getting proper now (we do not know when a second-gen Steam Deck might be introduced, although).

Learn our Steam Deck overview.


Scott Stein/CNET

The Pocket seems like a very remade Sport Boy, and it’s, in a way. Analogue’s beautiful handheld can play authentic Sport Boy, Sport Boy Shade and Sport Boy Advance cartridges completely, and may even play Sega Sport Gear video games utilizing an adapter (Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket and Turbografx-16 adapters are imagined to be coming quickly). It has a high-res shade display screen and USB-C charging, and there is a individually offered dock for TV play. Probably the most thrilling updates to the Pocket is its help for FPGA cores that may replicate basic sport {hardware} and play ROMs. There is no sport retailer for getting video games: Pocket is a system to play basic cartridges or different video games in wonderful high quality, if you wish to tinker round with FPGA. There’s additionally a rising library of Pocket-compatible software program in indie gaming channels like that may be sideloaded to a microSD card, too. 

Learn our Analogue Pocket overview.


The tiny, yellow, black-and-white-screened Panic Playdate seems like a bizarre Sport Boy with a mechanical crank sprouting from its facet. However this technique, made by the indie sport firm that developed Untitled Goose Sport, performs its personal tiny season of 24 indie-developed video games, which come included with the acquisition and seem over time like weekly presents. The Playdate has Wi-Fi and may obtain video games or sideload different indie-developed titles from websites like, however you will should study to like the experiences you uncover. We have cherished enjoying on it to date, however alas, the Playdate would not have any backlighting — you will should discover a lamp as a substitute. A current replace has added a brand new on-device app catalog the place video games may be bought individually, however the value of the Playdate can also be going as much as $199: for a similar value, you may as well get a Swap Lite.

Learn our Panic Playdate overview.


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Ought to I simply use my cellphone or iPad as a substitute?

Tablets and telephones are extraordinarily legitimate sport consoles: The iPad has tons of video games on the App Retailer, and tons of extra on Apple’s subscription-based Apple Arcade. The iPad can pair with Bluetooth sport controllers, too. iPhones and Android telephones have tons of video games as properly, clearly, and a variety of nice sport controller instances can be found, together with the Spine and the Razer Kishi.

Telephones and tablets additionally provide different benefits, together with a capability to cloud-stream video games on a rising variety of providers together with Microsoft Sport Move Final and PlayStation Plus.

The handhelds listed above produce other benefits: distinctive sport libraries, an opportunity to connect with a TV and play with others, and the potential to play higher-end PC video games or basic sport cartridges.

Ought to I await one thing else?

The Nintendo Swap Professional, a long-rumored improve to the Swap, might finally provide 4K gaming and maybe upgraded controllers, though the existence of such a tool is fully speculative. Odds are that Nintendo will as a substitute simply preserve barely enhancing the Swap by way of new fashions each couple of years, just like the way it stored upgrading its Nintendo DS and 3DS line over time.

The Steam Deck has been available on the market for simply over a yr, however it’s unclear when and if Valve will ever select to improve it with higher processors or newer options. And proper now, Microsoft and Sony have stayed out of the hand held gaming image.

Razer’s Android-based gaming pill, the Razer Edge, exhibits the place a wave of latest gaming tablets might emerge to grow to be the Steam Decks of the cellular world. The Edge is extra Android machine with controller hooked up, nonetheless, and is not significantly better proper now than a controller you can simply purchase to your cellphone.

Logitech’s streaming-only G Cloud handheld is an identical proposition, however with its controls hooked up to the machine. These handhelds could possibly be pointing to how extra console/PC equipment might pop up as residence handhelds to stream video games away from a TV, however proper now you are in all probability higher off utilizing your cellphone or pill and a sport controller to do just about the identical factor.

My youngsters alternate between iPad gaming and the Nintendo Swap. The Swap is undoubtedly the perfect child console, with probably the most family-friendly sport library and finest parental management settings. Nonetheless, be ready to get aggravated at shopping for a number of copies of video games and trudging by means of the method of making a number of Swap household accounts.

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