The best handheld game consoles are all you need to play games on the go, saving you space at home. You can pack up these consoles and take them with you if you need to. They are perfect for people who have only played games at home and want to try something new. In 2023, there are more handheld options than ever before, so you’re sure to find one that works for you.
We love what the PS5 and Xbox Series X can do, but they are only for use at home. When you’re not near a TV, this is when the best handheld game consoles come in handy. They let you play wherever you want, filling in those times when you can’t get to a TV. On the other hand, we’re also putting together a list of our favorite gaming consoles.
Even though the best smartphones have a lot of great games, we prefer the more hands-on feel of a handheld system. The D-Pad and face buttons on a touchscreen just can’t compete with physical feedback. With Xbox Cloud Gaming, you can play console-quality games on your phone or tablet and control them with the best Xbox Game Pass streaming accessories. This makes it easier than ever to play games on the go.
Best Handheld Games Consoles In 2023
1. Nintendo Switch OLED
In 2023, the best handheld game console is the OLED model of the Nintendo Switch. Even though the hardware hasn’t changed since the base model was released more than five years ago, the new screen makes a huge difference when gaming on the go. The OLED looks very clear and helps the best Nintendo Switch games’ colors stand out in a way that the standard LCD can’t.
The Nintendo Switch OLED, which costs $349.99, £309.99, or AU$539.95, is not the cheapest handheld. But it does have one of the largest and most varied game libraries, and there are more improvements to quality of life than just a better screen.
The Nintendo Switch OLED has a bigger 7-inch screen, better speakers, and a much better kickstand. You also get 64GB of storage, which is twice as much as the rest of the Switch family. Still, we think you should think about getting one of the best SD cards for Switch so you don’t run out of space. Most of the improvements are for handheld play, so if you plan to play mostly on a TV with the Switch docked, you’re better off with the standard Nintendo Switch.
2. Nintendo Switch Lite
If you don’t have a lot of money, the Nintendo Switch Lite is by far the best handheld game system for the money. At $199.99/£199.99/AU$329.95, which is $60/£60/AU$105 less than the base model, you get the same experience in a smaller, more comfortable package than the Nintendo Switch.
We found that using the Nintendo Switch Lite in handheld mode got much easier as time went on. That’s partly because the phone is smaller and lighter, with a smaller 5.5-inch screen. Since you’re keeping the same 720p resolution, there are more pixels per inch, which makes games look sharper. Except for games with a lot of text, which might make you have to squint a bit more than you’d like.
The Nintendo Switch Lite also doesn’t have the Joy-Cons, which are the console’s controllers that can be taken off. Instead, there are controls built into each side of the system. These controls are in the same places as the left and right Joy-Con. This change makes the D-pad easier to use and more comfortable to hold than the split one on the old model. This handheld could be right for you if you want something smaller and sleeker at a low price.
3. Valve Steam Deck
Even though the Steam Deck is more like a pocket-sized PC than a dedicated handheld games console, it has everything you need to play games on the go. This is because this small but powerful machine has enough power to play hundreds of games from your Steam library without streaming or a dedicated gaming PC. Some of these “heavy hitters” are Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Death Stranding, and Elden Ring, to name a few. This means that you can play games like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Death Stranding, and Elden Ring right in the palm of your hand.
These are just a few of the games on the platform that have more complex graphics. Now, to make up for it, your resolution is going down. The 7-inch IPS display on the Steam Deck has a resolution of 1280 x 800, which is not quite Full HD. But the small screen size and the fact that many of the verified and “great on Deck” games run well on the system mean that it doesn’t really matter. During our testing, we were more often blown away by how well things worked than disappointed.
Also, the Steam Deck is a lot cheaper than a lot of other handheld PCs on the market. The most basic model starts at $399 or £349. You’ll get 64GB of eMMC storage and a simple case. You will be better off with the $529/£459 or $649/£569 options, which instead use 256GB and 512GB NVMe SSDs to load games faster and better. At the moment, it can be bought in places like the US and the UK directly from Valve’s Steam client and a few other stores. Plans to launch in Australia are still in the works, and there are no official prices yet.
4. Evercade EXP
You can think of the Evercade EXP as an improvement on the company’s first handheld device that was based on old games. Even though this device has WiFi, the main way to get games for it is through old-fashioned cartridges. Most of the games you get are collections of full catalogs from older systems like the Intellivision, various Atari consoles, and the Commodore 64. Depending on the size of the games, these cartridges can have anywhere from two to twenty games on them.
The Evercade EXP comes with 18 games from Capcom right out of the box. These games include some all-time greats like Mega Man, Strider, and Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting. You can also buy more than 380 games for the console. It’s a great handheld for playing old games because it has a 4.3-inch IPS screen (800 x 480p), mini HDMI out, USB-C charging, WiFi, and about four to five hours of battery life.
Games come in beautiful boxes with full-color manuals and high-quality cartridges. It’s like if you bought records instead of streaming music. You can expect to pay $149.99, £129.99, or AU$229.99 for the console. This is just a little more than the original handheld model, but the specs and performance are much better.
BEST HANDHELD GAMES CONSOLE – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is the Nintendo Switch better as a console or a Handheld?
Everything comes down to what you like. In handheld mode, the screen is 720p, but when it’s docked via HDMI, it changes to Full HD (1080p). Given that the hardware can sometimes have trouble with games like Bayonetta 3, it may be best to dock in some situations. For lighter games, like indie games, playing on a handheld console may be better.
What is the best handheld console for beginners?
If you’ve never used a dedicated handheld console before, we recommend the Nintendo Switch Lite. The system costs less than the full-size Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch OLED, and its base is made of plastic instead of metal. The main difference between the Nintendo Switch Lite and the other Switch systems is that the Switch Lite can’t dock to a TV.