The best handheld game consoles are perfect for any gamer who wants to get the most flexibility out of their gaming space. Instead of being tied to a desk, sofa, and home console, you can take your screen with you wherever you go and continue your session whenever you’re on the go.
As much as we love the PS5 and Xbox Series X features, they’re not very convenient if you’re a frequent traveler. As busy people, we know that sitting and playing games in the right place is a luxury. That’s why the best portable gaming consoles fill that gap perfectly to get some time in the game without relying on being tied down to one of the best gaming TVs or monitors.
With games like Xbox Cloud, you can now play games that were previously only available on some of the best gaming consoles on a smaller form factor PC. This could mean one of the best phones is connected to some of the best Xbox Game Pass streaming accessories or a dedicated tablet, as you’ll find below. This is our top pick in 2023.
The Best Handheld Game Consoles in 2023
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The Nintendo Switch OLED model takes first place in the ranking of the best handheld game consoles of 2023. While the hardware remains the same as the base model over five years ago, the new screen plays a critical role in gaming on the go. The OLED display looks incredibly crisp and helps make the colors in the best Nintendo Switch games come out in a way that a standard LCD can’t match.
Priced at $349.99 / $309.99 / AU$539.95, the Nintendo Switch OLED isn’t the cheapest handheld. But it has one of the largest and most diverse gaming libraries, and there are more quality-of-life improvements than just a better screen.
The Nintendo Switch’s large seven-inch OLED display is paired with better speakers and a vastly improved kickstand. You also get 64GB of onboard storage, which is double that of the rest of the Switch family. We still recommend considering 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’re planning on using your gaming TV with a connected device in the first place, you’d be better off opting for the standard Nintendo Switch.
If you’re on a budget, then the Nintendo Switch Lite is the best choice for your handheld game console. Priced at $199.99 / $199.99 / AU$329.95, $60 / $60 / $105 less than the base model, you get the same experience in compact and more ergonomic design than the Nintendo Switch.
We have found that the Nintendo Switch Lite has become much more comfortable to use in handheld mode over time. This is partly due to the lighter, more compact design, which includes a smaller 5.5-inch screen. Here you keep the same 720p resolution, so there are more pixels per inch and games look sharper to the eye. Save for exceptions, like text-based games, which may require you to squint a little more than you’d like.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is also getting rid of the Joy-Cons, the standard console’s detachable controllers. Instead, there are controls built into each side of the system that mimic what you’ll find on the left and right Joy-Cons in terms of placement. This change brings a D-pad that is more ergonomic and comfortable in the hand than the split version on the old model. If you’re looking for a compact and sleek laptop at a budget price, this laptop might be for you.
While the Steam Deck looks more like a pocket PC than a dedicated handheld gaming console, it has all the hallmarks of what you need to play when you’re out and about. That’s because this small yet powerful machine has enough power to play hundreds of games from your existing Steam library without the need for a dedicated gaming PC or streaming. These heavy hitters include Spiderman: Miles Morales, death threadAnd Elden ring and these are just a few, so you get a complete home console in the palm of your hand.
These are just some of the more graphic-demanding games available on the platform. Now, to make up for this, you get a hit on resolution. The Steam Deck’s seven-inch IPS display has a resolution of 1280 x 800, so you won’t get Full HD here. However, given how well many of proven and “excellent deck play” (will open in a new tab) system startup, coupled with a modest screen size, it hardly matters. In our testing, we were more likely to be impressed than disappointed by performance.
What’s more, the Steam Deck is significantly cheaper than many portable PCs on the market. Pricing starts at $399 / £349 for the most basic model. This gives you 64GB of eMMC storage and a simple carrying case. You’ll be better off with the £529/459 or £649/569 options, which use 256GB and 512GB instead of NVMe SSDs for better and faster game loading performance. It is currently available in regions such as the US and UK directly from Valve Steam Client (will open in a new tab) and select retailers. Launch plans in Australia are ongoing, with official pricing yet to be released.
You can think of the Evercade EXP as an evolution of the company’s original retro-focused handheld. Now, things remain the same with this device, as although there is Wi-Fi on board, the main way to get games for the system is through outdated cartridges. You basically get compilations of complete, fully licensed catalogs of old hardware like the Intellivision, various Atari consoles, and the Commodore 64. These cartridges can include anywhere from two to 20 games, depending on the size of the included titles.
By default, Evercade EXP includes 18 games from Capcom, including some classic all-star titles such as mega man, stridersAnd Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting. There are also over 380 games available for purchase for the console. Equipped with a 4.3-inch IPS screen (800 x 480p) with mini HDMI output, USB-C charging and Wi-Fi, and four to five hours of battery life, this is a great laptop for retro gaming.
The games come in carefully crafted boxes with full color instructions and premium cartridges. It’s like having your music on vinyl instead of streaming. You can expect to pay $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$229.99 for a console that’s only slightly taller than the original handheld model, yet has vastly improved specs and performance.
The Logitech G Cloud does something you won’t find on many dedicated handheld game consoles, and it’s entirely dependent on streaming services. Whether you prefer Xbox Cloud Gaming over Xbox Game Pass or want to use Nvidia GeForce Now to stream some of the best PC games, this fully featured Android machine is ready to play anywhere Wi-Fi is available.
Visually, the Logitech G Cloud is the closest thing we’ve ever seen to an Xbox portable console. This is reflected in the color scheme, joysticks, D-pad, and face buttons, which seem to be a nod to the Xbox One and Xbox Series X. Basically, the Logitech G Cloud is an Android tablet powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G processor, which is good news. processor. First of all, the touch display is a seven-inch Full HD (1080p) 60Hz IPS display, so you can make the most of this compact device’s resolution.
The only real downside to the Logitech G Cloud is the lack of any form of data connection or SIM card support. This means you can’t just connect to 4G or 5G to stream your games, meaning you’ll be relying heavily on the power of public Wi-Fi when you’re out and about. However, there are workarounds, such as a Wi-Fi tethering from one of the best iPhones or the best Android phones. However, this inclusion would be a big plus.
Best Handheld Game Console – Frequently Asked Questions
Is Nintendo Switch better than console or handheld?
It all comes down to personal preference. looking at a 720p screen in handheld mode, but it scales to Full HD (1080p) when connected via HDMI. Given that the hardware can sometimes struggle with more demanding games like bayonetta 3, in some cases you may be better off docking. For lighter games, such as indie games, it may be preferable to play from handheld devices.
Which handheld console is best for beginners?
If you’re just getting started with a dedicated handheld console, we recommend the Nintendo Switch Lite. The system is cheaper than the full-sized Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch OLED, but has a more durable plastic base. The Nintendo Switch Lite can play all the same games as other systems in the family, with the only difference being that it cannot connect to a TV.