Once upon a time, gamers everywhere dreamed of bringing their beloved video games on the go. With the advent of the Nintendo Gameboy, portable gaming devices became mainstream. Thanks to technological advances, many powerful handheld gaming consoles can now play all your favorite games through emulation.
If you’re looking for a device to help you play all your favorite video games on the go, check out these best handheld gaming consoles for emulation 2023 has to offer.
Tip: Similarly, do check out these 12 modern retro gaming consoles that are still worth buying today.
- 1. Best for Portability: Miyoo Mini
- 2. Best Screen: Anbernic RG503
- 3. Best Vertical Orientation Handheld: Anbernic RG353V
- 4. Best for Collectors: Analogue Pocket
- 5. Best Performance: AYN Odin Pro
- 6. Best Overall: Retroid Pocket 3+
- Honorable Mention: Logitech G Cloud
- Which Handheld Gaming Console Will You Choose?
1. Best for Portability: Miyoo Mini
Price: approx. $70
If you want something that will easily slide in and out of your pocket, the Miyoo Mini is one of the smallest emulation consoles. Despite its minuscule size, it still crams a 2.8-inch IPS screen. However, the device’s mediocre dual-core processor and paltry 128MB of RAM won’t play much beyond the 16-bit era. If you want an ultra-portable gaming console to kill time and aren’t trying to play the latest games, this machine is a fine choice.
Pros of Miyoo Mini
- Extremely portable: 3.5 inches (9cm) in size
- Decent screen (2.8-inch IPS screen)
- Good build quality (provided you opt for the V2/V3)
Cons of Miyoo Mini
- Small size makes button placement uncomfortable for play
- Multiple versions make it hard to distinguish
- Only 128MB RAM
- Limited manufacturing runs can make it difficult to source from third-party retailers
Related: Check out the best Gameboy Advance emulators for Android.
2. Best Screen: Anbernic RG503
Anbernic is one of the most prolific handheld gaming manufacturers and the Anbernic RG503 lives up to its brand’s reputation. Although the tech specs of this device won’t bowl anyone over, the impressive screen definitely earns its place on this list of the best handheld gaming consoles. All of our retro favorites look gorgeous on its 4.95-inch Samsung OLED screen, and the device can handle anything up to Dreamcast, PS1, or PSP games. Furthermore, Anbernic’s choice of a Linux-based operating system over Android champions ease of use over customization.
Pros of Anbernic RG503
- 4.95-inch Samsung OLED screen
- Durable build quality
- Linux-based operating system
- Decent Rockchip CPU
Cons of Anbernic RG503
- Only 1GB of RAM
- Limited compatibility with more modern consoles
- Chugging framerate with graphic-intense games
3. Best Vertical Orientation Handheld: Anbernic RG353V
If you prefer a handheld that adopts a vertical orientation a la the original Gameboy, Anbernic has you covered with the RG353V. The device offers a crisp display with sound color reproduction. With all the usual buttons and two analog sticks plus touch controls on the display offer a wide array of gameplay options, but the limited CPU and RAM limit what the device can actually handle. Also, there are two variations of this device, so read the technical specs carefully before purchasing.
Pros of Anbernic RG353V
- Vertical orientation
- 3.5-inch IPS touchscreen
- Good quality display that can be navigated by touch
- 2GB RAM
Cons of Anbernic RG353V
- Awkward analog stick placement
- RK3566 CPU limits what the device can handle
- Two very similarly named iterations, one of which you want to avoid
FYI: If you play retro games at home, you may also want to invest in a dedicated retro gaming controller.
4. Best for Collectors: Analogue Pocket
The Analogue Pocket is the first handheld gaming console from the company that made a name for itself by creating high-quality clones of our favorite classic consoles. This device, which takes design cues from the Nintendo Gameboy, relies on FPGA technology instead of emulation. The device is also designed to accept cartridges for Nintendo Gameboy, Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and Neo Geo Pocket (adapters required).
Pros for Analogue Pocket
- Premium design
- 3.5-inch LCD screen with 10x resolution of original Gameboy
- Can connect to Mac or PC through cable
- Uses original game cartridges
Cons for Analogue Pocket
- No software emulation limits compatibility
- Adapters sold separately for certain game cartridges
5. Best Performance: AYN Odin Pro
If you looking for one of the most powerful devices you can get your hands on, look no further than the Odin Pro from AYN. This handheld beast packs enough power to run everything from Gameboy Color to PS2 games without touching the emulator settings Also, because the Odin Pro runs Android 11, you can download your emulators, transfer your ROMs, and start playing.
Pros of AYN Odin Pro
- Excellent performance
- Snapdragon 845 CPU
- Impressive 8GB RAM
- High emulator compatibility
- Runs Android 11
Cons of AYN Odin Pro
- Could just buy any flagship Android device instead
Tip: If you want to bring your retro games to Android, set up the Daijishou emulator front-end on your smartphone.
6. Best Overall: Retroid Pocket 3+
We realize that aesthetics are primarily subjective, but many judge a book by its cover. The Retroid Pocket 3+ is a prime example of a handheld gaming console that doesn’t look like much on the outside but packs it in the inside. Its octa-core Unisoc T618 CPU and 4GB of RAM can handle titles through Nintendo Gamecube. Furthermore, the 4.7-inch touch display looks gorgeous whether you’re running 8-bit classics or games from the era of polygons. Given the price-to-performance ratio of this device, it’s no wonder why the Retroid Pocket 3+ tops our list.
Pros of Retroid Pocket 3+
- Powerful Unisoc T618 CPU
- 4GB RAM
- Excellent 4.7-inch touchscreen
- Can emulate games up to Nintendo Game Cube
Cons of Retroid Pocket 3+
- Boring design
- Can’t really fit in your pocket
Honorable Mention: Logitech G Cloud
Although the Logitech G Cloud (read our thorough review of the Logitech G Cloud here) is primarily designed for streaming games through Steam Link or Xbox Game Pass, its Android operating system makes it an option for emulation gaming as well. The device offers excellent ergonomics, a fantastic screen, and impressive battery life. However, it also costs significantly more than any other handheld gaming console on this list, so we only mention it as an option for gamers who are willing to shell out the cash for a versatile device.
Pros of Logitech G Cloud
- Great screen
- Excellent ergonomics
- Impressive battery life
Cons of Logitech G Cloud
- Too expensive for emulation alone
- Unable to run higher-end emulators e.g., AetherSX2 (PlayStation 2)
Which Handheld Gaming Console Will You Choose?
Finding a suitable handheld emulation device means you’re going to have to take stock of the features that are most important to you. There are a myriad of handhelds out there, which means there’s something for everyone. This list provides several excellent options for gamers of all ages and skill levels.
However, if you’re not willing to compromise on your wish list and there’s nothing that fits the bill, consider using your existing phone. Android devices typically have more emulation options, but some solid solutions exist for iOS users. Just pair your phone with a controller, and you’re ready to jump back into the golden age of gaming!
Image credit: Pexels
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