The 8 Best Handheld Gaming Systems

Updated December 11, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

8 Best Handheld Gaming Systems
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
In an age where almost every pocket contains a mobile device that supports a nearly limitless amount of games and apps, it’s essential that today’s handheld gaming systems bring something unique and compelling to the table. We put together this list of the best options currently available, though we have to warn you traditionalists – many of these are a far cry from the gray Game Boys of the past. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best handheld gaming system on Amazon.

8. At Games Sega Portable

With a variety of new titles available in this version, the At Games Sega Portable gives you the chance to explore multiple new worlds. At 5.5 inches across and 2.5 inches in height, it’s easy to use and fits perfectly in your hand.
  • download old games with sd card
  • 3 to 5 hours of battery life
  • audio quality is not great
Brand At Games
Model JVCRETR0098
Weight 11.2 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

7. Wolsen LCD Portable

The Wolsen LCD Portable doesn’t reinvent the wheel because it doesn’t have to. With 152 built-in classic games to choose from, this compact console will generate hours of fun for the entire family without breaking the bank.
  • av cable included
  • full color and sound
  • unable to save progress in games
Model pending
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. iWaWa Arcade

The iWaWa Arcade caters to players of all persuasions, offering dozens of games in a wide range of genres. It’s ultra-lightweight, making it an excellent option for use while travelling or for kids who are constantly on the go.
  • ideal for young children
  • small and easily stored
  • no output for headphones
Brand iWawa
Model pending
Weight 0.8 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. BD&A Power A Moga

The BD&A Power A Moga transforms your mobile phone into a handheld gaming system before your eyes. It comes complete with console-style grips and dual analog sticks, and its powerful battery even charges your phone while you’re playing.
  • bluetooth capabilities
  • two style options
  • only compatible with android devices
Brand BD&A
Model CPFA000353-01
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 4.4 / 5.0

4. E-Mods Retro Arcade

A bright screen, vivid sound and a simple button layout make the E-Mods Retro Arcade an entertaining experience at a phenomenal value. This little handheld allows you to reconnect with some nostalgic throwback games and works well as a gift or a stocking stuffer.
  • more than 160 games
  • connects to televisions
  • includes instruction sheet
Model E-MOD-RS-1GR
Weight 4.8 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

3. Nvidia Shield

If you’re on the prowl for high-quality gameplay and cutting-edge technology, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don't look into the Nvidia Shield. Compared to most systems, its combination of graphics and performance will blow your mind.
  • controller with ergonomic design
  • latest kitkat operating system
  • plays hd movie files
Brand Nvidia Shield
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Sony PlayStation Vita

The Sony PlayStation Vita is the ultimate gaming device for the modern era, combining extraordinary gameplay and crisp visuals with a super-connected broadband platform for streaming and more. You’ll have access to more than 1,000 PlayStation games.
  • two editions to choose from
  • 20 percent slimmer than original
  • intuitive button placement
Brand Sony
Model 3000726
Weight 15.5 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Nintendo 3DS XL

If any video game platform is associated with a tradition of greatness, it’s Nintendo. The Nintendo 3DS XL lives up to the storied legacy, with a bigger screen, enhanced control options and rapid processing power that fuels new functionalities.
  • built-in internet browser
  • innovative 3d screen
  • motion sensor for interactive play
Brand Nintendo
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

Why A Handheld System Over The Phone?

A few years ago I was standing in line at the post office (not something I would recommend doing without a good book on hand), and I caught myself observing the behavior of a child in front of me. The kid couldn’t have been more than two years old, and his mother held him in her arms. In his hands he held her phone, and at a certain point he turned it toward her and said, “Password. Password.” He wasn’t trying to get into the phone, he was trying to buy an app, and he needed his mother’s password to complete the purchase. He had navigated from the home screen all the way through to the point of sale on his own. I’m still not sure my father — an engineer by trade — could do the same.

As technology grows, it also uses the most basic pattern recognition infrastructure of the human brain to inspire its design, pushing to be as easy-to-use as possible, particularly for children. And getting sucked into that world from a young age can pose a number of dangers, especially as services like Facebook (and WeChat in China) seek to fulfill all of our needs — from social interaction to gaming — on a single platform.

In other words, when you hand your child your phone for them to use as a plaything, even if you expect them to confine their activities to the games and shows you have stored on it, they’re liable to be exposed to several aspects of the web, including social media.

In this day and age, the social media landscape is particularly toxic for children and teens, as cyber bullying and trolling allow for unparalleled and anonymous cruelty to rain down at a moments notice on the most innocent of youths. According to several surveys, anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of high-school-aged children report having been bullied online at some point in their lives. Considering the fact that bullying victims are often recalcitrant about their experiences, this number may be even higher.

If you want to provide your children with a fun and engaging way to stay entertained while they join you out in the world, there are few better things you can get them than a handheld gaming system. These devices allow children to enjoy any number of classic or modern games in an environment that’s insulated from the internet. Some devices do connect to internet marketplaces and other online exchanges, but these are almost always divorced from the social media landscape.

How To Choose The Best System For Your Child

Handheld gaming systems come in a lot of different styles. It can be difficult for parents who aren’t avid gamers to identify which are the ones their children would like the most. There’s no shame in that; you’re a little too busy providing your kids a home and a life to sink 120 hours into the latest immersive RPG.

The easiest way that you can make sure you get your child the right handheld system is to survey the landscape. There’s a good chance that your kid already has some kind of gaming system in the home, if not several. Make note of the brand name of whichever one they use most. If there’s a handheld gaming system by the same brand, then that’s likely your best bet. Your child will already be familiar with the brand’s menu systems, and some games might even work on both platforms, allowing your kids to take their household fun with them on the road.

Another important part of the survey is to see what their friends are playing. If you’re friends with the parents of your kids’ friends, you can enlist them for more information. If your kid’s best friend has a particular system and loves it, then your child likely wants the same system for themselves. The bonus in this case is that once they both have the same system, they can share and trade games, saving both sets of parents money on expensive title purchases.

One last thing to consider is the age of your child. Some systems are better known for producing more violent games than others. If you want to protect you children from that kind of exposure, you should opt for a game system targeted at a younger set. Nintendo is a great example of a brand that keeps it games — even the ones that contain mild violence — friendly for all ages without seeming lame to more mature players.

Ways To Maximize The Fun

Once you’ve decided on a handheld game system for your child, you’re going to want to make sure they have every advantage possible to enjoy it. The most important thing anyone needs to enjoy a gaming system of any kind is a suite of games. As we mentioned above, the children of other parents can be your friends here. Ask them what their kids have been playing if they own a handheld device. You can also look through the library of your kids’ console games and cross-reference it with the handheld games available. Often, the makers of popular titles will also create handheld offshoots of the same content, which children who love the original are sure to enjoy.

If the device didn’t come with a wrist strap, but one may be attached, definitely buy one. Either way, encourage your kids to use one, as it will prevent significant amounts of damage if — and when — they lose their grip on the system.

One last thing you should definitely look into purchasing is a high-quality pair of headphones. A lot of these games make a terrible racket, and when the action gets exciting the last thing your kid wants to hear is you asking them to turn the volume down. Instead, investing in a pair of isolating — or even noise-cancelling — headphones can take their experience to the next level. A lot of gaming headsets create a virtual surround sound environment, as well, which will completely immerse your child in the world of the game.

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Last updated on December 11, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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