Best Handheld Game Console in 2023

The previous few years have seen a revival of handheld recreation consoles, because of the comfort of on-the-go gaming and streaming know-how, and little question partly because of the 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 below are one of the best devoted handheld recreation console choices, and why they’re price contemplating.

Telephones and tablets already do a effective job of taking part in 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 looks like a return to the mid-2010s period of the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.

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

For many who miss retro recreation handhelds just like the Sport Boy, you would possibly contemplate placing your self on the ready record to order the Analogue Pocket or Panic Playdate, too, however each of these programs 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The Nintendo Swap is over 5 years outdated now, however Nintendo has indicated that no true successor is coming proper now.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 a number of indie choices), and fairly reasonably priced contemplating its handheld/TV-connected twin perform. The Swap has additionally change into a unbelievable supply of retro video games (Sport Boy, NES, SNES, Genesis, N64 and extra) through the subscription-based Swap On-line service.

The OLED-screened Swap, which was launched in October 2021, is one of the best Swap and our advisable decide. The extra vivid and bigger show seems unbelievable, its rear kickstand works higher for tabletop gaming, and each of those upgrades are price the additional $50. The unique Swap (or the V2 model), at $300, works equally and can be nonetheless effective, and sometimes is available in particular editions and vacation recreation bundles. The smaller, handheld-only Swap Lite is a superb worth decide at $200 for anybody who simply desires a fundamental moveable recreation system, nevertheless it lacks any potential to connect with a TV, and its controllers do not detach. This makes it much less versatile for households, and means you’ll be able to’t substitute the controllers in the event that they break.

Learn our Nintendo Swap evaluate.


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Valve’s huge and highly effective Steam Deck is a marvel. It might play all kinds of PC video games surprisingly properly, and is the dream moveable for any hardcore Steam fan, or anybody who has an enormous 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 nasty deal. The flexibility 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 unbelievable and value getting proper now (we do not know when a second-gen Steam Deck will likely be introduced, although).

Learn our Steam Deck evaluate.


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The Pocket seems like a completely remade Sport Boy, and it’s, in a way. Analogue’s beautiful handheld can play authentic Sport Boy, Sport Boy Coloration 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 alleged to be coming quickly). It has a high-res coloration display and USB-C charging, and there is a individually bought dock for TV play. One of the thrilling updates to the Pocket is its assist for FPGA cores that may replicate traditional recreation {hardware} and play ROMs. There is not any recreation retailer for getting video games: Pocket is a system to play traditional cartridges or different video games in superb 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 evaluate.


The tiny, yellow, black-and-white-screened Panic Playdate seems like a bizarre Sport Boy with a mechanical crank sprouting from its aspect. However this technique, made by the indie recreation 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 may should study to like the experiences you uncover. We have liked taking part in on it up to now, however alas, the Playdate would not have any backlighting — you may should discover a lamp as a substitute. A current replace has added a brand new on-device app catalog the place video games will be bought individually, however the worth of the Playdate can be going as much as $199: for a similar worth, it’s also possible to get a Swap Lite.

Learn our Panic Playdate evaluate.


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

Tablets and telephones are extraordinarily legitimate recreation consoles: The iPad has tons of video games on the App Retailer, and a whole lot extra on Apple’s subscription-based Apple Arcade. The iPad can pair with Bluetooth recreation controllers, too. iPhones and Android telephones have tons of video games as properly, clearly, and various nice recreation 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 Go Final and PlayStation Plus.

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

Ought to I anticipate 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 totally speculative. Odds are that Nintendo will as a substitute simply maintain barely bettering the Swap through new fashions each couple of years, much like the way it saved upgrading its Nintendo DS and 3DS line over time.

The Steam Deck has been in the marketplace for simply over a yr, nevertheless 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, reveals the place a wave of recent gaming tablets might emerge to change into the Steam Decks of the cellular world. The Edge is extra Android machine with controller connected, nevertheless, and is not significantly better proper now than a controller you can simply purchase on your cellphone.

Logitech’s streaming-only G Cloud handheld is the same proposition, however with its controls connected to the machine. These handhelds may very well be pointing to how extra console/PC equipment might pop up as house handhelds to stream video games away from a TV, however proper now you are most likely higher off utilizing your cellphone or pill and a recreation controller to do just about the identical factor.

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

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