Best handheld game console in 2022

There has been a welcome revival of portable gaming systems in recent years. Even though phones and tablets already do a great job of playing tons of great handheld games, dedicated devices can provide unique features, exclusive games, or extra power to do things your phone can’t. It almost feels like a throwback to the mid-2010s era Nintendo 3DS and playstation vita.

The nintendo switch has been the best and most affordable portable gaming system for years, and continues to be CNET’s top pick: at $300 (or $350 for our favorite model), it can play a wide variety of games Nintendo, independent games, it can connect with a TV and can even play fitness games. But that of Valve steam bridge offers a unique proposition for those with deeper pockets: it’s big and can serve as a full-featured gaming PC.

For those who miss retro game consoles like the game boyyou might consider putting yourself on the waiting list to order the Analog pocket Where Panic Playdatetoo, but neither system comes as highly recommended as the Switch and the Steam Deck.

We will explain below.

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The Nintendo Switch is now five years old, but Nintendo has indicated that no real successor is coming at this time. A Pro model has been rumored for some time, but in the meantime the existing Switch remains extremely capable, full of great games and quite affordable given its portable/tethered-to-TV dual functionality.

The OLED-screened Switch, released last fall, is the best Switch and our recommended choice. The snappier, larger screen is fantastic, its rear kickstand works better for tabletop gaming, and both of these upgrades are worth the extra $50. The original Switch (or the V2 version), at $300, works the same and still performs well. The smaller, portable-only Switch Lite is a great $200 choice for anyone who just wants a basic portable gaming system, but it can’t connect to a TV and its controllers won’t come off. This makes it less versatile for families and means you can’t replace controllers if they break.

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Valve’s big and powerful Steam Deck is a marvel: it can play a wide variety of PC games surprisingly well, and it’s the dream laptop for any die-hard Steam fan, or anyone with a large library of games. pc. The Steam Deck can get expensive for the larger storage tiers, but for what it’s capable of, it’s not a bad deal. Wait times for pre-orders are pushed back a few more months, but more and more people seem to be getting theirs. The ability to play PC games or stream cloud-based games, and connect to a monitor, keyboard, or other accessories, puts the Steam Deck in a class of its own.

Read GameSpot’s review.

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The Pocket looks like a totally redone Game Boy, and it is, in a way. Analogue’s beautiful handheld can perfectly read original Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges, and can even play Sega Game Gear games using an adapter (the Atari Lynx, Neo Geo adapters Pocket and Turbografx-16 will be available soon). It has a high-resolution color display and USB-C charging, and there’s a dock sold separately for TV playback. But the Pocket doesn’t play emulations or ROMs, and there’s no game store to buy games. This is strictly a system for enjoying real physical cartridges of incredible quality, although there is a growing library of Pocket-compatible software in indie game chains such as itch.io which can also be loaded onto a MicroSD card.

Read GameSpot’s review.

The tiny, yellow-screened, black-and-white Panic Playdate looks like a weird Game Boy with a mechanical crank squirting out of its side. But this system, made by the indie game company that developed Untitled Goose Game, plays its own little season of 24 indie-developed games, which are included with purchase and appear over time as weekly freebies. The Playdate has Wi-Fi and can download games or download other independently developed titles from sites like itch.io, but you’ll have to learn to love the experiences you discover. We’ve loved playing on it so far, but alas the Playdate doesn’t have a backlight – you’ll have to find a lamp instead.

Read GameSpot’s review.

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Should I just use my phone or iPad instead?

Tablets and phones are extremely valid game consoles: the iPad has tons of games on the App Store, and dozens more on Apple’s subscription-based Apple Arcade. The iPad can also be paired with Bluetooth game controllers. iPhones and Android phones have tons of games too, obviously, and a number of great game controller cases are available, including the Backbone and the Razer Kishi.

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

The handhelds listed above have other benefits: unique game libraries, the ability 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 for anything else?

The Nintendo Switch Pro, a long-talked about upgrade to the Switch, could eventually offer 4K gaming and possibly upgraded controllers, though the existence of such a device is entirely speculative. Chances are that Nintendo will continue to slightly improve the Switch via new models every two years, the same way it has continued to upgrade its Nintendo DS and 3DS line over time.

The Steam Deck just arrived earlier this year, but it’s unclear when and if Valve will ever choose to upgrade it with better processors or new features. And for now, Microsoft and Sony have stayed out of the portable gaming picture.

My children alternate between games on the iPad and the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is arguably the best console for kids, with the most family-friendly game library and the best parental control settings. Still, prepare to be annoyed with buying multiple copies of games and the process of creating multiple Switch family accounts.