While you may like to play games on your home console or powerful desktop computer, these aren’t exactly portable machines. If you want to play games wherever you are, you will need something more user-friendly. Sure, you can just play on your phone, but there are many portable gaming systems that provide a much better experience.
What to look for in a portable gaming system
Whether it’s an emulator or official cartridges, there are a few things to consider when choosing your system.
Library: The library is the most important part of any gaming system. Sometimes this library will be accessible through the use of official cartridges or downloads. Other times, it will be through third-party emulators and ROM. Cartridges and official downloads tend to be the easiest way to acquire games, but ROMs can provide a much larger catalog of games to play at the cost of being more complicated and, depending on how you buy your ROMs, legally gray.
Compatibility: If you’re following the emulation path, you’ll need to know which systems your new handheld can safely emulate. Some emulators have trouble with certain titles, so keep your expectations under control.
Manufacturing quality: While you can’t expect anything crazy in terms of build quality for under $ 100, there’s no excuse for build quality to be downright bad. The build should match the price you paid, and any system you buy should be fun to play (because if not, what’s the point?).
Battery life: All game sessions must end, and if you are playing on a handheld, this may have come from a dead battery. Obviously, more is always better, but it is important to note that the battery life will be affected by the games you play. (Basically, more intensive games burn faster in the battery.) Most modern handhelds (and everyone on this list) use rechargeable batteries, so let’s be sure to note the estimated battery life of each system, at least when the manufacturers provide one.
For the largest and simplest library: Nintendo 2DS XL
If you don’t want to worry about old dusty cartridges or deal with the inherent complications of emulators and ROMs, then the 2DS XL is the way to go. While the specs are by no means impressive, it is a Nintendo console, and Nintendo knows how to create incredible games on undernourished hardware. The 2DS XL shares the same hardware as the New Nintendo 3DS (yes, that’s the real name, the New 3DS is a more powerful version of the original 3DS) but without the 3D screen. So you can play any 3DS game on the 2DS XL, but it’s important to note that games that make heavy use of the 3D effect (which are few in number) may not be fully playable.
Even with this limitation, there are still a lot of games to play on the 2DS XL. Original titles like Super Mario 3D Land and Kirby Planet Robot to full remakes of classic titles like Star fox 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The 2DS library is full of quality games. And that doesn’t even mention third-party versions like Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Knight shovel.
The 2DS library does not stop at the recent release either, it fully supports any DS cartridge (which alone doubles the games library) and, with access to the eShop – the digital showcase of Nintendo – 2DS can also play classic titles from systems like the NES, SNES, Game Boy and even non-Nintendo systems like the Sega Genesis. The libraries available for each of these systems are not massive, and some systems are obviously missing (namely the Game Boy Advance), but it’s still a good selection of retro titles.
As for the 2DS XL itself, this is what you would expect from the DS range. A clamshell design that makes it ideal for portability, two screens that are small enough (the top screen measures 4.88 inches and the bottom is 4.18 inches) to make the 240p screen passable, 3.5 to 7 hours of autonomy, and a beautiful and colorful exterior.
Overall, if you want an uncomplicated system, the 2DS XL is the way to go. It’s one of the most expensive systems on this list, just scratch the line under $ 100, but hey, at least, it comes pre-installed with Mario Kart 7 out of the box. And who doesn’t love Mario Kart?
To play Old-School ROMs: PocketGo V2 and RG350
If you’re ready to take the ROM route, then the Bittboy PocketGo V2 is your best bet at the price. It is designed to play any game from the pre-PlayStation era, which includes iconic systems such as SNES, Game Boy Advance and Sega Genesis. And, the MicroSD card slot (which supports cards up to 128 GB) makes it easy to load ROMs onto your system. The screen measures 3.5 inches and displays a 240p image (which, considering the games you will be playing, is more than adequate).
If you want a little more power, RG350 is the logical step. It has a design similar to PocketGo V2, with the ability to emulate PlayStation 1 games as well (with all systems that the PocketGo V2 can). Unfortunately, it doesn’t support other fifth-generation consoles like the Sega Saturn or the N64, but for PS1 fans, this is a hassle-free upgrade. Identical to PocketGo V2, it supports MicroSD cards up to 128 GB. In addition, the screen is identical to that of PocketGo V2.
The prices for these two systems are less than $ 100 (the RG350 costs about $ 10 more than the PocketGo V2), but they both come in two different sets whose price varies, which may include accessories such as bags and 32 GB MicroSD cards. One aluminum version of PocketGo V2 is also available if you want something more premium, but that increases the price to around $ 110.
To play real Game Boy Advance: Revo K101 cartridges
The Game Boy Advance had fantastic games, but if your old GBA bit the dust (or can no longer handle the non-backlit screen), then the Revo K101 is the easiest way to play with those old cartridges again. Functionally speaking, the Revo K101 is essentially a Game Boy Advance clone, but with a rechargeable battery, an adjustable backlit screen, a MicroSD card slot (if you prefer ROMs rather than cartridges) and the possibility of output to A television. The build quality won’t surprise you, but it’s enough to make the K101 a viable handheld. The screen measures 3 inches and displays a 480p image.
The Revo K101 is available under different names from different manufacturers, and you will probably have trouble finding an original model because production has been stopped. The one we specifically linked to is the Goolsky Q9 – one of the easiest re-releases.
To play real Game Boy Advance cartridges
An NES that you can integrate into hand luggage: Retro Champ
There are many ways to play the most iconic games offered by the NES today, but what about the most specialized titles? These are only found in their original format: the cartridges. And if you have a collection of those sitting in storage or proudly displayed on a shelf, then the Retro championship will allow you to replay them. (And to be clear, the Retro Champ only supports gaming with cartridges.)
The Retro Champ allows NES and Famicom cartridges to be inserted and read on the handheld itself or on a TV with an HDMI cable. (Some wireless controllers are even available). The Retro Champ’s screen measures 7 inches (resolution is not provided, but it’s not like you need a high-resolution screen for these games), and you can expect the Retro Field lasts about 3-5 hours on a full charge.
On top of that, there is not much more for the Retro Champ, and there is no need for it. If you want to revisit this generation of games in a portable and authentic way, then the Retro Champ is the best option.
For even older games: Evercade
If you want to dive deep into the early days of the game, then the Evercade is the system to buy. It’s a fantastic little system able to run cartridges filled with retro games. Just buy one of the game cartridges outside the Evercade site, and you’re ready to play. You can even connect your Evercade to your TV with an HDMI cable to play on the big screen.
You can play games from great developers like Atari and Namco, while having a glimpse of some relatively smaller developers like Reciprocal and Data east. There is a good selection of games available, so if you are passionate about this generation of games, you will have a lot to work on.
As for the system itself, it’s pretty good for the price. The design is colorful and all the entrances are solid to use. The battery lasts about 4 hours, so you will need to recharge it between game sessions.
For even older games