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The 10 Best Handhelds of All Time

Handheld video game consoles have revolutionized the way we experience gaming on the go. From the early days of monochrome screens to the high-definition displays of today, these portable gaming devices have brought endless entertainment to millions of gamers worldwide. In this article, we will explore the ten best handheld video game consoles that have left an indelible mark on the gaming industry.

With the announcement of PlayStation’s upcoming “Project Q” handheld, we’ve got portable consoles on our minds. Here is our list of the 10 best handhelds, subjectively ranked by popularity, game line-ups, and how much they influenced gaming culture.

Photo Credit: Engadget

10. Atari Lynx

The Atari Lynx, released in 1989, boasted color graphics and an ergonomic design. It featured games with impressive visuals for its time, including “California Games” and “Ninja Gaiden.” Though the Lynx faced tough competition in the Game Boy (released the same year), it remains a cult favorite among retro gaming enthusiasts.

Photo Credit: Time Extension

9. Neo Geo Pocket Color

Although short-lived, the Neo Geo Pocket Color, released in 1999, showcased impressive graphics and a strong lineup of games. Its compact design and outstanding D-pad made it a joy to play titles like “SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium” and “Metal Slug: 1st Mission.”

Photo Credit: Push Square

8. PlayStation Vita

The Sony PlayStation Vita, launched in 2011, offered console-like gaming experiences on a handheld device. Its OLED display, touch controls, and extensive library provided a wide range of gaming options. Games like “Uncharted: Golden Abyss,” “Persona 4 Golden,” and “Gravity Rush” showcased the Vita’s capabilities.

Photo Credit: IGN Nordic

7. Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS, released in 2011, brought glasses-free 3D gaming to the handheld market. With an extensive catalog that included titles like “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D,” “Pokémon X and Y,” and “Super Mario 3D Land,” the 3DS became a beloved console among Nintendo fans. If it didn’t give half of us motion-sickness, it might be higher on the list.

Photo Credit: Time Extension

6. Sega Game Gear

Released in 1990, the Sega Game Gear was a color handheld console that rivaled the Game Boy. Its vibrant display, backlit screen, and graphical capabilities set it apart. Despite its shorter battery life, the Game Gear offered an impressive library of games, including “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Shinobi.” Despite the amazing screen, it wasn’t the Game Boy killer – probably because it ate batteries like M&Ms.

Photo Credit: Nintendo Life

5. Game Boy Advance

The Game Boy Advance, launched in 2001, brought 32-bit gaming to the handheld market. With a vast library of games that included classics like “Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire,” “The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap,” and “Metroid Fusion,” the GBA solidified Nintendo’s dominance in the portable gaming scene. We also got the first flip-fold Game Boy in the Advance SP. And then of course, the smallest Game Boy in the short-lived Micro – which you couldn’t play if you were over 20 because it would give you premature arthritis.

4. Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)

The Sony PSP, launched in 2004, showcased stunning graphics and immersive gameplay on a vibrant widescreen display. It boasted a robust library of games, including popular franchises like “God of War,” “Metal Gear Solid,” and “Grand Theft Auto,” making it a must-have for gaming enthusiasts. Who could forget the first time they tried the thumb slide joystick? So smooth.

Photo Credit: YouTube

3. Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS, launched in 2004, introduced dual screens, touch controls, and a stylus, providing unique gameplay experiences. Its expansive library catered to a wide range of players, offering titles like “Brain Age,” “Animal Crossing: Wild World,” and “New Super Mario Bros.” The first true 3-dimensional gaming experience in the palm of your hand.

Photo Credit: CNET

2. Nintendo Switch

Combining the versatility of a handheld and a home console, the Nintendo Switch, introduced in 2017, became an instant hit. With its innovative design and ability to seamlessly transition between handheld and docked modes, the Switch provided gamers with a unique gaming experience. Notable titles like “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and “Super Mario Odyssey” elevated the console’s popularity. While there is usually a 6-year gap between new Nintendo main consoles, the Switch has proved popular enough that it will likely last well past the 6th year in the spotlight.

Photo Credit: Ars Technica

1. Nintendo Game Boy

Released in 1989, the Nintendo Game Boy is an iconic handheld console that introduced portable gaming to the masses. With its monochrome display, durable design, and an extensive library of games, including the legendary “Tetris” and “Pokémon” series, the Game Boy set the standard for handheld gaming. There’s just no beating it, even all these years later. Picking one up today gives everyone an instant connection to gaming history (and there are plenty of classic games that are still a good time to play).

Handheld video game consoles have provided countless hours of entertainment to gamers around the world. From the pioneering days of the Game Boy to the versatile Nintendo Switch, each console on this list has made a significant impact on the gaming industry. These handheld devices have evolved over the years, pushing the boundaries of portable gaming and creating memorable experiences for players of all ages. Where will handhelds take us next?

Station Manager of LTN Radio and co-host of the "Nerd History Podcast" & the "Two Words Podcast". Matt is a third-generation radio station manager who has done pretty much every job in the radio industry. Matt is the father of two boys and a little girl. It's probably the best thing about him.

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