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Ranking The Best Handheld Game Consoles Of 2024 (All Tested)

I have been reviewing handheld game consoles professionally for over six years, and the first handheld that I owned was the Game Boy Color back in 1999.

Suffice it to say that I know a fair bit about these impeccable devices; heck, the website you are reading today was founded on the principle of informing retro gamers about handheld emulators.

With the introduction of new tech and more competition entering the market, it means that for us as consumers, there’s a wide selection of handheld game consoles to choose from, many that focus on modern video games, and many more that focus on retro gaming.

But from the hundreds of handhelds I have had the privilege of testing, which are my favourites, and what are the best on the market right now?

Best Under $100

Currently on the best affordable handheld emulators on the market, with enough to power to play your N64, PS1 and Dreamcast games flawlessly.

Best Overall

Steam Deck OLED

At an incredibly affordable price the Steam Deck OLED is the best all-rounder offering great AAA game performance and access to emulation.

Best Build Quality

Analogue Pocket

The Analogue Pocket uses FPGA technology to play your retro handheld cartridges, wrapped in a premium shell with a high resolution display.

This list is a mix of modern handhelds and retro consoles that focus on emulation, because I believe some of the best handhelds to have been released in the last few years are from companies you may likely have never heard of.

1. Nintendo Switch OLED

Pros

  • A superb console for co-op play.
  • Joy-Cons are a unique way of exploring games.
  • Access to Nintendo’s incredible library.
  • The OLED display is beautiful.

Cons

  • Limited access to AAA games.
  • Game library lacks graphically impressive games.
  • Battery life could be better.
  • Lack or retro game library/emulation.
  • Release Date: October 2021
  • Price: $349
  • Available at: Nintendo and Amazon.

Since launching this handheld, Nintendo has sold over 8,000,000 units of their newer OLED model. This model features a much better screen alongside some smaller upgrades, such as a more durable kickstand.

The Nintendo Switch OLED is an unmissable console and sits at the top of this list for many reasons, even if it’s not perfect.

Firstly, we have to start with the stunning 7″ OLED screen that packs a punch, is incredibly bright, and screams with saturated colours. It’s a noticeable upgrade from the original Switch.

In a time where handhelds are packed with more power than a normal gaming PC, the Nintendo Switch OLED stands strong thanks to its invaluable library of exclusive games, and the fact that you can use the Joy-cons to play games with friends at home, or on the go.

It’s certainly not going to impress you graphically when playing AAA games because the Switch doesn’t have the power to do so, but that’s not why you purchase a Nintendo Switch. You buy one to play fun games on the go with friends and family.

It’s also designed in a way that’s thin, incredibly portable, and easy to understand, plus it’s incredibly versatile too.

2. Steam Deck OLED

steam deck oled

Pros

  • Easy To Understand User Interface
  • Access To A Massive Library of Games
  • Competitively Priced
  • Plenty Of Buttons Which Can Be Mapped

Cons

  • Battery Life
  • Not The Most Visually Pleasing Device
  • Not Very Portable

One of the most interesting handheld consoles on this list is the Steam Deck OLED. It has been able to price itself very competitively thanks to the fact that Valve can earn money upon software sales alongside sales of their handheld, giving them an unmatched competitive advantage.

The Steam Deck OLED is a close-to-flawless device that gives you access to your Steam Library on the go, packed with great performance, a beautiful OLED display, and enough buttons to keep an octopus happy.

Compared to the original, the OLED model has a bigger battery, weighs less, has a new display, and boasts faster download speeds too, which is useful because as we all know games are only getting bigger and bigger by the day.

Although the Steam Deck looks like King Kong’s big toe and is almost as long as a skateboard, it performs incredibly well with most PC games at a decent resolution too.

It does chip at the battery life a little, however, coming in at around 6 – 8 hours of gameplay from a single charge, but you can tweak settings and fan performance to adjust those timings slightly.

Valve have created an incredible handheld PC that dives deep into their library, with the ability to emulate retro games too thanks to EmuDeck, opening this handheld up to all types of gamers.

3. Retroid Pocket 2S

retroid pocket 2s

Pros

  • Incredibly Affordable
  • Android 11 OS
  • Very Easy To Setup
  • N64 & Dreamcast Emulation

Cons

  • Does Not Come Pre-Loaded
  • Screen Bezels Too Big
  • Long Shipping Times (2 Weeks+)
  • DPAD & Stick Layout

The Retroid Pocket 2S is one of my favourite retro handhelds, created by the Chinese company GoRetroid, which are also known for making other popular handheld emulators.

What makes this handheld so great is the fact that it starts at just $99 and can emulate a wide range of retro games, from the classic NES games to Game Boy games, PlayStation 1 games, and even a handful of Dreamcast games too.

It’s crazy to me that you can have Nintendo 64 games and Dreamcast games in your pocket in 2024, all wrapped in a high-quality shell with a touch-screen 720p display, HDMI out, Bluetooth, WiFi, and 4000MAh’s of battery.

The initial setup is easy too because GoRetroid has made a custom Android setup page that takes you through the process and automatically installs the correct emulators for you, so it’s ready for you to install your own ROMs within a couple of minutes of getting it out of the box.

Not only that it, but it has flared analogue shoulder buttons, a PS Vita-like DPAD, Hall analogue sticks, and front-facing speakers to give you a comfortable gaming experience.

It’s one of GoRetroid’s best handhelds to date and they’ve priced it perfectly, opening up high-end emulation to an audience that wants affordable handhelds.

4. Game Kiddy Pixel

Pros

  • Incredibly Portable
  • Durable High Quality Metal Body
  • PS1 Emulation In Your Pocket

Cons

  • Small Battery Life (1300MAH)
  • Expensive Due To Metal Shell
  • More Powerful Devices On The Market For The Same Price

This is one handheld that you likely have not heard of because it’s incredibly niche… and incredibly small. This is the Game Kiddy Pixel, a mini retro handheld made of metal.

The Game Kiddy Pixel is a handheld that has seriously impressed me, not only because it’s built by a company that has had a poor history building handhelds, but also because it’s one of my most used handhelds of the year – this thing comes everywhere with me!

Their history aside, the Game Kiddy Pixel feels like a matchbox. It features a 2.4″ IPS Display, USB-C charging and an easy-to-understand user interface that neatly introduces your ROM files.

It’s been designed with unique LED lights on the side too which gives it a “Gundam” modern look which makes it unique in the market that it sits in.

Specs-wise, it’s not going to knock your socks off, but it can emulate retro games up to and including the PlayStation 1, so you’ll have no problem going back through your favourite retro games if they’re not power-intensive.

I found myself playing a lot of Game Boy games and Neo Geo games on here because text does get hard to see when you move towards newer consoles. The PlayStation 1 is playable, but it’s pretty hard to read text, so choose your games wisely.

If you want one of the best mini handhelds on the market, it’s this one.

5. ASUS ROG Ally

asus rog ally handheld

Pros

  • Visually Well Designed
  • Impressive Power Output
  • 120Hz Refresh Rate

Cons

  • More Expensive Than Steam Deck
  • Average Battery Life
  • Janky User Interface
  • Release Date: 2023
  • Price: $599 – $699
  • Available At: ASUS.com or eBay

The ASUS ROG Ally launched in 2023 with its pure aim of stealing the Steam Deck market, and although it’s close to impossible to beat the Steam Deck in quantity, ASUS certainly turned heads with the launch of this powerful and well-designed handheld PC.

It’s more powerful than the Steam Deck, it’s lighter, it doesn’t look like King Kong’s big toe, it features Windows 11 which can be used in many ways and most importantly… LED analogue sticks, heck yeah!

The comfortability of this device is great too, far better than the Steam Deck. Holding it in my hands, it feels like it’s been designed for me personally. The buttons feel premium and the speakers at the front pack a punch, making it a pleasure to play on for long periods.

The 7″ display is beautiful too, packing a 1080p resolution at 120hz! It’s one of the first great features you will notice once you turn it on, and ASUS deserve all the respect for adding such a stunning, bright, crispy screen.

ASUS are now one of the leading handheld manufacturers thanks to this product, and I believe we’ll see them innovate aggressively in the space over the next 10 – 25 years.

If you’re looking for one of the best handheld gaming PCs that’s powerful, comfortable and well-designed, then the ASUS ROG Ally is worth looking at.

6. Evercade EXP

evercade exp

Pros

  • Cartridge Collecting Is Nostalgic
  • Build Quality
  • TATE Mode
  • Bringing Back Physical Media To Trade

Cons

  • Needs More Popular Licensed Games
  • Cartridges Can Get Expensive
  • Screen Brightness
  • Clicky/Loud Buttons

The Evercade EXP is a handheld dedicated to bringing back physical cartridges. Blaze Entertainment, the company behind this incredible device, are on a mission to bring retro games back to physical media in a unique modern way.

With over 400 games to choose from this handheld brings a new way to experience cartridges, all packaged in a unique widescreen handheld with a nostalgic D-PAD, a 4.3″ Display (800×480), HDMI out to connect it to a TV, WiFi and up to 5 hours of battery life.

Evercade have even created a custom operating system that’s very easy to understand and beaming with colours, making it great for kids and adults of all ages.

It comes pre-loaded with 18 Capcom games straight out of the box too, but I do recommend picking up some great Evercade titles alongside it because slotting in a cartridge feels oh-so nostalgic, and they even come with manuals!

Because the carts come in cases, you can store them in your games room or office like the good old days, sourcing games using their spine for information.

The only negatives I have about this handheld are the fact that the screen isn’t super bright, making it a little awkward to play on in direct sunlight, and secondly, my partner will agree that the buttons are very clicky, making it an impossible handheld to bring to bed with me when I want to explore the catalogue for 20 minutes before I sleep.

Other than that, it’s a great handheld that brings retro gaming back to life, and although it’s not perfect, it’s one of my favourite handhelds thanks to the collectible and tradable nature of their library.

7. Playdate

playdate

Pros

  • One Of The Most Unique Handhelds Ever
  • The Crank Is So Much Fun
  • Incredible Battery Life (Lasts Days)
  • Great Indie Games To Explore Monthly

Cons

  • Screen Is Impossible To See In The Dark
  • Expensive For What It Does
  • Can Get Uncomfortable After Long Play Times

I never expected the handheld industry to launch a device with a crank, but it has. This is why I love innovation in the space because the Playdate is simply an incredibly adorable way to play games and is unlike anything I have ever seen before.

It uses a unique e-ink-like display that can last up to 14 days on standby or 8 hours on a single charge. This allows the PlayDate to stay incredibly small and adds a unique look to its games, even if it’s only visible under light.

The crank is one of the ways to play games, and each of the games has been designed to specifically use this part of the handheld. For example, there’s a fishing game that makes it feel like you’re using a real rod, a game that slows down or speeds up time depending on how fast you spin it, and an elevator game that you use the crank to go up and down with.

Playdate launches a new “season” of games that you can download and/or buy every couple of months, just like a battle pass that you see in modern games, and each game has been developed by indie developers across the globe.

It’s always nice seeing a notification on my PlayDate (thanks to the built-in WiFi) that shows me there’s a new game I can check out. Just like Sony and Microsoft, there is a store that you can access to buy games.

It’s an incredibly unique handheld that offers a wild way to play games created by small passionate teams, just like the Evercade. It won’t change the gaming industry forever, but it will bring a huge smile to your face upon unboxing.

8. Analogue Pocket

analogue pocket donkey kong

Pros

  • Superb Build Quality
  • Access To Emulator Cores
  • High Resolution Screen
  • Minimal Operating System

Cons

  • High Price Tag
  • Always Out Of Stock & Sells Out Fast
  • Analogue’s Launch Ethics

The Analogue Pocket launched in mid-2021 and due to the hype it sold out almost instantly, enraging fans who have wanted one for a long time. And the way Analogue handled it wasn’t good either.

They didn’t comment on stock, nor did they comment on the fact that they made their products easy to scalp, with thousands of handhelds being immediately listed on eBay for 2x the price.

Their launch ethics aside, the Analogue Pocket is one of my favourite handheld consoles to date thanks to the incredible build quality and the beautiful 3.5” LCD display with 1600×1440 resolution… that’s 10x more pixels than the Game Boy.

Originally, Analogue launched the device to play Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games, and with the addition of adapters, it could also play Neo Geo, Game Gear and ATARI Lynx cartridges too.

A year later, Analogue launched a huge update to their device, allowing you to install emulator cores, opening up the device to a wide range of consoles thanks to their FPGA technology and SD card slot. This totally transformed the device.

You can even buy a dock for the Analogue Pocket that can connect to your TV just like a Nintendo Switch and hook up a Bluetooth controller – this thing is basically a portable console.

Analogue also released a wide range of limited editions (unfortunately before fulfilling customers’ orders that waited for an entire year) which look great. There’s a Glow in the Dark edition alongside a multitude of “transparent” editions.

The Analogue Pocket is perfect for those who love to collect cartridges or have access to cartridges. It works naturally with this hardware thanks to FPGA technology (no emulation); heck, this thing even has an original Game Boy trading cable if you want to keep it authentic.

Analogue’s products are close to flawless and I believe what they have created here is their best work. I play on my Pocket multiple times a week and it’s a fantastic handheld to have… if you can find one for sale that is.

9. AYANEO 2S

AYANEO 2S

Pros

  • Beautifully Crafted
  • Bezel-less Display
  • Incredibly Powerful

Cons

  • Average Battery Life
  • Buggy Parts In The OS
  • Not The Easiest To Setup

AYANEO are fairly new to the handheld industry but are already shaking up a storm thanks to their premium handheld Windows PCs that are jam-packed with impressive specs.

We interviewed the CEO Arthur Zhang who has a huge passion for creating the best handheld game consoles possible, and my favourite has to be the AYANEO 2S.

It’s one of the most beautiful portable PCs I have ever seen; it has a face filled with glass that wraps around the buttons, a stunning 7″ bezel-less display and an AMD Ryzen 7 7840U processor that can power most AAA games well.

It’s also one of the most comfortable handhelds I have ever reviewed, with lovely ergonomics on the back, large soft shoulder buttons, LED analogue sticks, and bouncy action buttons/D-PAD.

AYANEO have created their own OS too; some areas of it need work, but it’s easy to organise your Windows and Steam games alongside quick access to the handheld’s settings, making it easy to control CPU/GPU output and fan speed.

A handheld of this calibre requires lots of power, so the battery life isn’t the best. But, what do you expect from a device that can play AAA games at 60fps? The battery life lasts around 3 – 6 hours, depending on what you are playing.

It’s one of AYANEO’s finest products and is designed with minimal techniques in mind. Because AYANEO are releasing many new handhelds throughout the year, this AYANEO 2S is priced competitively below $1000, making it a great snag in my opinion.

10. Logitech G Cloud

logitech g cloud

Pros

  • Becoming More Affordable
  • Super Simple User Interface
  • Good Battery Life

Cons

  • Terrible Shoulder Buttons
  • Requires Fast Internet Connection
  • Audio/Speaker Quality

A handheld that many would deem as “old” has made its way onto this list, likely to the surprise of many of you, but it’s for good reason, and that’s because Logitech keeps reducing the price, making it a great alternative to these giant, physical portable PC’s.

The Logitech G Cloud is a handheld games console that focuses solely on cloud streaming, so it’s not packed with any great specs. Instead, all you need is a faster internet connection and access to a cloud gaming service like Xbox Game Pass, Steam or PlayStation’s Remote Play.

From the outside in, the Logitech G Cloud is designed in a fun, bright manner with fat buttons and a large 7″ display, consumed by a slim shell thanks to not having to have any big CPU/GPU parts.

The analogue sticks aren’t the best, but every other button is designed well and located in an organic manner. There are even some nice ergonomics to the grips alongside thick shoulder buttons too.

Once you turn it on, you’ll realise how simple of a device this is. It’s based on a custom Android OS designed by Logitech, showcasing all of the apps you need to jump straight into games, making it easy for gaming noobs and enthusiasts.

It makes the handheld feel friendly; even the setup process is custom-made, making it even easier for newcomers. The only downfall is that it’s not really a “portable” device; you will always need to be connected to WiFi to use it.

You can’t take any of your games with you if want to play on the go which I know many of you will be disappointed with. I got the best use of this as a “home console”, playing it in bed or when my partner is using the TV for example.

Logitech have slowly been decreasing the price over the years and have recently priced it under $300, which makes it a great beginner handheld for those wanting to access their consoles and PC’s library in handheld form!

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