It’s quite a cool weekend for handheld gaming if you’re into the Steam Deck, but portable gaming has quite the incredible history. Nintendo, Sega, PlayStation, and more have been putting together handheld gaming devices for decades and produced some stellar gaming libraries to go with them. With that in mind, on this week’s Shack Chat, we discussed our favorite handheld gaming devices of all time. Check it out below!
Question: What is your favorite handheld portable video game device?
New Nintendo 2DS XL - Ozzie Mejia, Senior Portable Editor
Putting the game libraries aside, because that's a whole different argument, I loved the shape of the New Nintendo 2DS XL the most in terms of handhelds that felt good in my hands. The clam shell felt like it fit snugly in my palms, the screen was perfectly clear, the battery life was healthy, and it had everything I could want.
Even as a kid, the Game Boy felt like it was too bulky and the later iterations never really felt comfortable. The 3DS had its issues for various reasons, but Nintendo got it right on the last pass.
Nintendo DS Lite - Donovan Erskine, 2000s nostalgia enthusiast
The Nintendo DS Lite was pretty much the coolest thing I owned as a kid. My cousins all had one, and we would spend endless hours screwing around in Pictochat and sharing games with each other. As a Pokemon fan, games like Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon SoulSilver were defining titles of my DS Lite experience.
The physical design of the DS Lite was also something to admire. The game’s GBA port was convenient and served as an excellent way for me to revisit older games in my collection. It was also the perfect size, allowing me to carry it around in my pocket. I rarely left the house without my DS Lite. It’s not just my favorite handheld, it’s one of my favorite gaming devices, period.
The Atari Lynx – Blake Morse, Gonna take you for a ride
I know I’m a bit of a wild card here, and I don’t want people to think that I dislike any of Nintendo’s handhelds. That’s not the case at all. Everything Nintendo has a special place in my heart of hearts. But I had to show the Atari Lynx some love here.
I grew up loving the Bally/Midway/Williams suite of arcade games, and the Lynx had a ton of astoundingly decent ports of titles like A.P.B., Toki, Double Dragon, Rampage, and Xenophobe. It’s also the only console I’ve ever personally seen with a left-handed mode option that flipped the screen calibration and put the d-pad on the right and buttons on the left.
I actually still have a healthy amount of my games and just recently purchased a new console after having lost mine somewhere along the way. I would be remiss if I didn’t take an opportunity to shine a little light on the Lynx.
Nintendo 3DS - Sam Chandler, Living in a three-dimensional world
Though I did enjoy my time with my DS Lite, the 3DS was a pinnacle of my pure-handheld gaming experience. My excitement for this system was based on the fact it featured a 3D screen using a technology never seen before - and it actually worked!
I remember being blown away by how the games just popped, specifically, Ocarina of Time. Getting to see my favorite Zelda game in a new way, and easier-to-use controls, was a highlight for me. I would love to see Nintendo incorporate the 3D technology into the Switch.
Nintendo Game Boy - Chris Jarrard, Old
There have been many other devices to come after it, but none that surpass it. The original Game Boy may as well have been magic to a young impressionable doof like me. I didn’t care about the monochrome output or the near-impossibility of using the thing in poor lighting conditions.
It had Tetris, the greatest version of Tetris ever released, and that’s all it needed to be worth the purchase. I still have my original unit and it still works. I wish I could say that about most of my body parts.
Nintendo Switch - Bill Lavoy, Co-EIC
Without question my favorite handheld gaming device is the Nintendo Switch. I’ve put hundreds of hours into Animal Crossing: New Horizons alone, which is more than any other handheld device I’ve ever owned.
It’s really the first time I felt like a handheld device could offer me the quality of experience that I expect, and the first time a handheld device made me want to play games on it instead of my PC or console.
Nintendo New 3DS XL - TJ Denzer, Senior News Editor
I love a lot of portable gaming history between the Game Boy, Game Gear, PlayStation Portable, and more. However, the portable that has stayed close to me throughou the years is the Nintendo New 3DS XL. It wasn't the start of the good things, but it stays by me for a very distinct reason.
It's the DS's final form, and it's the one that can do it all. DS cards? Playable. 3DS? Playable (and enhanced on games like Super Smash Bros. 4). Virtual console full of Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, NES, and SNES games downloadable? Check (for now). Plus it continued to carry on the excellent and comfortable design the DS had already carried for years with the biggest screens, best battery life, and best overall performance.
As you can see in the photo above, I still keep my New 3DS XL nearby at all times. It's my dedicated Kid Icarus: Uprising device until they figure out how to put that game on something else. Outside that? It's just a dang good overall performer.
Game Boy Color - Steve Tyminski, Stevetendo show host, Retro Guy!
What is my favorite portable gaming console? Nintendo has a knack for coming up with some of the better handheld systems and it helps that I am a big fan of the big N. That being said, if I had to pick a favorite portable system, I would have to go with the Game Boy Color. The Game Boy Color has my favorite Pokémon game, Silver, on the system. It also has some pretty good Legend of Zelda games and the Game Boy generation had some good Mario and Kirby games too.
One of the main reasons I’m giving the nod to the Game Boy Color is that it was one of the first systems I bought with my own money. I can remember going to the local K B Toys with my money, that I saved up, and bought the purple Game Boy Color. My brother eventually got the clear purple Game Boy Color and we played all kinds of games together. I have a few honorable mentions with fun memories.
I can remember playing the Game Gear at my dentist and then wanting one, bringing my DS to Game Stop for Pokémon events/rare Pokémon, and getting a PSP to play Darkstalkers. That said, with recent events, I’ll be able to play Darkstalkers on Switch!
Game Boy Advance - Dennis White, Community Manager
Game Boy Advance hit the sweet spot for me between comfort and an amazing game library. I put so many hours into Advance Wars while sitting in the library after school. Metroid Fusion, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, & Fire Emblem also come to mind. I also had the lil’ light attachment that made me look like a bigger nerd, but I did not even care. Mega Man Battle Network hit such a sweet spot with me too. Good times were had!
Game Boy Advance SP - Asif Khan, Shacknews Luminary/Lola’s Assistant
There are some amazing handheld video game devices out there, but nothing hits the perfect balance of form factor, software support, and industrial design like the Game Boy Advance SP. It was the first portable game device I ever owned, and was a tremendous upgrade from the original Game Boy Advance.
Easily pocketable, great backlit screen, and it played Tetris like a beast. I would argue that this is one of the greatest consumer electronics products ever created, and rivals many of Apple’s successful products when it comes to balancing hardware and software in an amazing package.
Game Boy Color - Morgan Shaver, thinks purple was the coolest color option
The most beloved handheld for me is the Game Boy Color. It was such a dramatic shift from the visuals the Game Boy was capable of producing to the vibrance of the Game Boy Color. The Game Boy Color also had a number of sweet external color options to choose from. I owned the clear purple one and brought it with me absolutely everywhere.
Some of my favorite games were played on Game Boy Color too such as Pokemon Silver and Crystal, as well as Pokemon Pinball. There was also Tetris DX and The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. You could even play Donkey Kong Country and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on the Game Boy Color, which I thought was pretty rad.
And for me personally, the Game Boy Color came out at such a pivotal point in my life when I was first discovering a love of video games that I’ll always have a nostalgic attachment to it, regardless of the arguably better handhelds that came after it like the Game Boy Advance SP, which I also owned and loved.
These were our picks for our favorite portable handheld gaming devices, but what about you? Did Game Gear capture your heart? Were you a PS Vita fanatic? Let us know in the Shacknews Chatty comment section below!
Shack Staff posted a new article, Shack Chat: What is your favorite handheld portable video game device?
Probably Gameboy Advance/SP for the sheer hours I put into it.
Lately I've spent the most time with the Analogue Pocket, but overall? Probably the DS Lite.
The library for that thing was just insane, and it was just a fantastically neat, almost Apple-like device.
Of course, the 3DS is a solid successor, too, being compatible with all it's games and bringing it's own classics as well.
The tradeoff is that it gives up GBA compatibility, but I was lucky enough to have a launch one with the bonus Ambassador GBA games, so a lot of my favorites like Metroid are on it.
I can't pick just one.
Pocketability - GBA SP. Terrific form factor that's probably still my favorite in the hand.
Legacy library - New 3DS XL. Access to an immense library with one of the best selections of JRPGs and some of Nintendo's best ever.
Overall - Nintendo Switch. Combines the quality and breadth of Nintendo's Gamecube era with the sheer volume of all of their teams targeting one platform, plus indies and JRPGs on top of that
DS Lite is clearly the prettiest though, borrowing heavily from the translucent plastic of the old Macbooks
Coleco Head To Head Football: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5c/Coleco_Head_To_Head_Football_by_Coleco%2C_Made_In_USA%2C_Copyright_1979_%28Handheld_Electronic_Game%29.jpg
Or possibly, Mattel Football 2: https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/SrQAAOSwZLxh9sa6/s-l640.jpg
The only handheld gaming devices I've owned are a 2ds and a 3ds so I guess by default it's the Nintendo DS. Loved final fantasy iv DS and enjoyed Zelda's phantom hourglass. Pretty sure I own chrono trigger for the DS too and have no memory of playing it. 😞
Gameboy Advance SP was peak handheld gaming for me. Advance Wars 1 & 2, Castlevania Aria of Sorrow, Metroid Fusion, and an excellent Link to the Past port, amongst others. I was in high school, so popping it out between classes or when riding the bus was awesome.
As an adult, portable gaming just doesn't interest me as much. I don't do much travel, and when I do. I'm usually driving. So if I'm going to game, I want a giant fucking screen and proper beefy controls.