Best Handheld Game Console in 2023

The previous couple of years have seen a revival of handheld sport consoles, due to the comfort of on-the-go gaming and streaming know-how, and little doubt partially because of the success of the Nintendo Switch in 2017. There are tons of choices now: the Switch 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. Here are the most effective devoted handheld sport console choices, and why they’re value contemplating.

Phones and tablets already do a superb job of enjoying tons of nice video games, or streaming video games from consoles or the cloud. Dedicated gadgets can present distinctive options, unique video games or further energy to do issues your telephone cannot. It virtually looks like a return to the mid-2010s period of the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.

The Nintendo Switch has been the most effective and most reasonably priced transportable sport system for years, and continues to be CNET’s clear prime choose. At $300 (or $350 for our favourite mannequin), it will probably play an enormous number of Nintendo video games and indie video games, it will probably dock with a TV and might even play some health video games. But Valve’s Steam Deck provides a singular proposition for these with deeper pockets: It’s massive, and it will probably double as a full gaming PC. A 12 months later, it is nonetheless nice (and arguably even higher than earlier than).

For those that miss retro sport handhelds just like the Game Boy, you would possibly think about 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 Switch and Steam Deck.

We’ll clarify under.

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The Nintendo Switch is over 5 years outdated now, however Nintendo has indicated that no true successor is coming proper now. A Pro mannequin has been rumored for some time, however within the meantime the prevailing Switch stays extraordinarily succesful, stuffed with nice video games (together with a lot of indie choices), and fairly reasonably priced contemplating its handheld/TV-connected twin perform. The Switch has additionally turn into a implausible supply of retro video games (Game Boy, NES, SNES, Genesis, N64 and extra) by way of the subscription-based Switch Online service.

The OLED-screened Switch, which was launched in October 2021, is the most effective Switch and our advisable choose. The extra vivid and bigger show seems to be implausible, its rear kickstand works higher for tabletop gaming, and each of those upgrades are value the additional $50. The authentic Switch (or the V2 model), at $300, works equally and can be nonetheless superb, and infrequently is available in particular editions and vacation sport bundles. The smaller, handheld-only Switch Lite is a good worth choose at $200 for anybody who simply needs a primary transportable sport system, however 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 may’t substitute the controllers in the event that they break.

Read our Nintendo Switch evaluation.


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Valve’s massive and highly effective Steam Deck is a marvel. It can play all kinds of PC video games surprisingly properly, and is the dream transportable 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 nasty deal. The potential 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 12 months later, it is nonetheless implausible and price getting proper now (we do not know when a second-gen Steam Deck can be introduced, although).

Read our Steam Deck evaluation.


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The Pocket seems to be like a very remade Game Boy, and it’s, in a way. Analogue’s attractive handheld can play authentic Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges completely, and might even play Sega Game 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 colour display screen and USB-C charging, and there is a individually offered dock for TV play. One of probably the most thrilling updates to the Pocket is its assist for FPGA cores that may replicate traditional sport {hardware} and play ROMs. There’s no sport retailer for purchasing video games: Pocket is a system to play traditional 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. 

Read our Analogue Pocket evaluation.


The tiny, yellow, black-and-white-screened Panic Playdate seems to be like a bizarre Game Boy with a mechanical crank sprouting from its aspect. But this technique, made by the indie sport firm that developed Untitled Goose Game, 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 might obtain video games or sideload different indie-developed titles from websites like, however you may should study to like the experiences you uncover. We’ve cherished enjoying on it to this point, 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 could be bought individually, however the value of the Playdate can be going as much as $199: for a similar value, you may also get a Switch Lite.

Read our Panic Playdate evaluation.


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Should I simply use my telephone or iPad as a substitute?

Tablets and telephones are extraordinarily legitimate sport consoles: The iPad has tons of video games on the App Store, and a whole bunch 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 numerous nice sport controller circumstances can be found, together with the Backbone and the Razer Kishi.

Phones and tablets additionally provide different benefits, together with a capability to cloud-stream video games on a rising variety of companies together with Microsoft Game Pass Ultimate 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 aptitude to play higher-end PC video games or traditional sport cartridges.

Should I watch for one thing else?

The Nintendo Switch Pro, a long-rumored improve to the Switch, might ultimately 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 Switch 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 12 months, 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 turn into the Steam Decks of the cellular world. The Edge is extra Android system with controller connected, nonetheless, and is not a lot better proper now than a controller you might simply purchase in your telephone.

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

My youngsters alternate between iPad gaming and the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is unquestionably the most effective child console, with probably the most family-friendly sport library and greatest parental management settings. Still, 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 Switch household accounts.

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