Best Handheld Game Consoles in 2023

The past few years have seen a revival of the handheld game console, thanks to the convenience of on-the-go gaming and streaming technology, and no doubt that’s due to its success. nintendo switch In 2017. Now there are a lot of options: switch and steam deckprefer indie console panic playdate and analog pocket, and mobile streaming devices such as razor edge And logitech g cloud, Here are the best dedicated handheld game console options, and why they’re worth considering.

Phones and tablets already do a good job of playing a lot of great games, or streaming games from consoles or the cloud. Dedicated devices may provide unique features, exclusive games, or additional power to perform tasks that your phone cannot. It almost feels like a throwback to the mid-2010s era Nintendo 3ds And playstation vita,

nintendo switch The best and most affordable portable game systems have been around for years, and remain CNET’s clear top pick. At $300 (or $350 for our favorite model), it can play a huge variety of Nintendo games and indie games, it can dock with TVs and even play some fitness games. but valve’s steam deck offers a unique proposition for those with deep pockets: It’s big, and it can double as a full-fledged gaming PC. a year laterIt’s still great (and arguably even better than before).

For those who miss the retro game handheld game BoyYou may want to consider putting yourself on a waiting list to order analog pocket Or panic playdatetoo, but both of those systems are more niche – and more indie/retro targeted – than the Switch and Steam decks.

We’ll explain below.

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The Nintendo Switch is now over five years old, but Nintendo has indicated that there’s no real successor coming right now. A Pro model had been rumored for some time, but in the meantime the current Switch is extremely capable, packed with great games (including plenty of indie offerings), and pretty affordable considering its handheld/TV-connected dual function. The Switch has become a great source of retro games (Game Boy, NES, SNES, Genesis, N64 and more) through the subscription-based Switch Online service.

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The Switch with an OLED screen, which will be released in October 2021, is the best Switch and our recommended choice. The more vivid and larger display looks great, its rear kickstand works better for tabletop gaming, and both of these upgrades are well worth the extra $50. The original Switch (or V2 version), at $300, works similarly and is still fine, and sometimes comes in special editions and holiday game bundles. The smaller, handheld-only Switch Lite is a great value at $200 for someone who just wants a basic portable game system, but it lacks the ability to connect to a TV, and its controllers don’t detach. This makes it less versatile for families, and means you can’t replace the controllers if they break.

Read our Nintendo Switch review.

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Valve’s big and mighty Steam deck is a marvel. It can play a wide variety of PC games surprisingly well, and is the dream portable for any hardcore Steam fan or anyone with a large library of PC games. The Steam Deck can be pricey for large storage levels, but for what it’s capable of, it’s not a bad deal. The ability to play PC games or stream cloud-based games, and the ability to connect to a monitor, keyboard, or other accessories, puts the Steam Deck in a category of its own. A year later, it’s still great and worth getting now (though we don’t know when the second generation Steam Deck will be announced).

Read our Steam Deck review.

Scott Stein / CNET

The Pocket looks like a completely revamped Game Boy, and it is, in a sense. Analog’s gorgeous handheld can play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges perfectly, and Sega games using an adapter (Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, and TurboGrafx-16 adapters coming soon) Can also play gear games. It has a high-resolution color screen and USB-C charging, and a separately sold dock for TV Play. One of the most exciting updates to the Pocket is its support for FPGA cores that can replicate classic game hardware and play ROMs. There’s no game store to buy games: If you want to tinker with the FPGA there is a system to play Pocket Classic cartridges or other games in amazing quality. Indie gaming channels like also have a growing library of Pocket-compatible software that can even be loaded onto a microSD card.

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Read our Analog Pocket review.

The small, yellow, black-and-white screened Panic Playdate looks like a weird Game Boy with a mechanical crank on its side. But this system, created by the indie game company that developed Untitled Goose Game, sports its own short season of 24 indie-developed games, which come with purchases and appear over time as weekly gifts. The Playdate has Wi-Fi and can download games from sites like or sideload other indie-developed titles, but you’ll have to learn to love the experiences you find. So far we’ve loved playing on it, but alas, the Playdate doesn’t have any backlighting – you’ll have to find a lamp instead. A recent update added a new on-device app catalog where games can be purchased separately, but the Playdate price is also going up to $199: for the same price, you can get a Switch Lite.

Read our Panic Playdate review.

Lori Grunin / CNET

Should I just be using my phone or iPad instead?

Tablets and phones are quintessential game consoles: The iPad has tons of games on the App Store, and hundreds more on Apple’s subscription-based Apple Arcade. The iPad can also pair with Bluetooth game controllers. iPhone and Android phones also have a lot of games, obviously, and there are a number of great game controller cases available, including Backbone and Razer Kishi.

Phones and tablets also offer other advantages, including the ability to cloud-stream games on a growing number of services, including Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate and PlayStation Plus.

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The handhelds listed above have other advantages: unique game libraries, the chance to connect to a TV and play with others, and the ability to play high-end PC games or classic game cartridges.

Should I wait some more?

The Nintendo Switch Pro, a long-rumored upgrade to the Switch, may eventually offer 4K gaming and perhaps upgraded controllers, though the existence of such a device remains entirely speculative. Odds are that Nintendo will instead continue to slightly improve the Switch through new models every couple of years, the same way it continues to upgrade its Nintendo DS and 3DS line over time.

The Steam Deck has been on the market for just over a year, but it’s unclear if and when Valve will want to upgrade it with a better processor or new features. And right now, Microsoft and Sony are staying out of the handheld gaming picture.

Razer’s Android-based gaming tablet, the Razer Edge, shows where a wave of new gaming tablets could emerge to become the steam deck of the mobile world. The Edge is more of an Android device with a controller attached, and there isn’t much better than a controller you can buy for your phone right now.

Logitech’s streaming-only G Cloud Handheld is a similar proposition, but its controls are tied to the device itself. These handhelds could point to how more console/PC accessories may pop up as home handhelds to stream games away from the TV, but for now you can use your phone or tablet and game controller. better to do. thing.

My kids alternate between iPad gaming and the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is without a doubt the best kid’s console out there, with the most family-friendly game library and best parental control settings. Still, be prepared to be aggrieved through the process of buying multiple copies of the game and creating multiple Switch Family accounts.

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