Best handheld games consoles in 2024

Best handheld games consoles: Jump Menu

If you want to game on the go, then chances are that you’re going to be well served by picking up one of the best handheld games consoles. As much as we love some of the best gaming consoles like the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, and PlayStation 5, there is no denying that they’re pretty heavy and poorly suited for portable play.

Thankfully, there are now plenty of fantastic handheld alternatives on the market, ranging from those geared towards avid retro gamers to fully-fledged handheld PCs that allow you to play some of the best PC games while you are out and about. So much choice can seem a tad overwhelming, however, so we have endeavoured to put together this convenient list of our top picks for the best handheld games consoles that are available to buy right now.

We have carefully considered a wide range of criteria, including options for PC gamers who want to make the most of their existing libraries and cheaper products perfect for those on a budget. In addition to providing expert buying advice, we carefully monitor the latest products that we test to ensure that this list remains up to date.

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Best handheld games consoles in 2024

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The best handheld games console overall

A white Nintendo Switch OLED in a white dock on a wooden surface.

(Image credit: Future)
The best handheld games console overall

Specifications

Dimensions: 4 x 9.5 x 0.55 in / 102 x 242 x 13.9mm
Display: 7in
Weight: 14.88oz / 421.84g
Storage: 64GB
Battery life: 4 - 9 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Stunning OLED display  
+
Improved speakers and kickstand  
+
Bigger screen than original 

Reasons to avoid

-
Same aging hardware inside
-
Can perform poorly in some games
Buy it if

You play lots of Nintendo games: Nintendo designs its games to, for the most part, both look excellent and run well in handheld mode. If you play lots of Nintendo games, this should be your number one pick.

You want OLED quality on a budget: As handheld consoles with OLED displays go, the Nintendo Switch OLED is on the cheaper end making it great if your main concern is having an OLED screen on a budget.

Don't buy it if

You want better performance: The Nintendo Switch OLED doesn't feature any major performance improvements over the base model. Expect some third-party games, for example Mortal Kombat 1, to have performance issues.

The Nintendo Switch OLED is the best model in the company's current console line-up. While it boasts the same internal specification as the stock Nintendo Switch, the screen has received a substantial upgrade. It is now a larger 7-inch OLED panel that helps the best Nintendo Switch games really pop. 

With its $349.99 / £299.99 asking price, the Nintendo Switch OLED positions itself as much cheaper than many of the alternatives on this list, especially the handheld PCs. This lower price does have a tangible impact on performance, however, and I found that many recently ported games like Mortal Kombat 1 or Biomutant can really struggle to hold a consistent framerate. This was most noticeable while playing on a TV in docked mode, however, making it far easier to recommend if you're wholly concerned with portable play.

With this variant, you're also getting a greatly improved kickstand and upgraded speakers as well, which leads to a much better experience while playing in handheld mode. All of the original Nintendo Switch library is compatible with the Nintendo Switch OLED too and I've loved my time with the countless incredible exclusive experiences like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Splatoon 3.

The best budget handheld games console

A first person photo showing a bright blue Nintendo Switch light in use in a brightly lit room with green carpet.

(Image credit: Future)
The best budget handheld games console

Specifications

Dimensions: 3.6 x 8.2 x 0.55in / 91.1 x 208 x 13.9mm
Display: 5.5in
Weight: 9.76oz / 275g
Storage: 32gb
Battery life: 3 - 7 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Small and lighter than the OLED
+
Good value for money
+
Comfortable form factor

Reasons to avoid

-
Reading text can be challenging  
Buy it if

You're shopping for kids: The Nintendo Switch Lite is made of thick and durable plastic which is hard to damage. The fact the Joy-Cons are built-in also means they cannot be lost easily.

You're on a tight budget: The Nintendo Switch Lite is considerably cheaper than both the Nintendo Switch OLED and the original Nintendo Switch. Best of all, it plays all the same games.

Don't buy it if

You might play docked: Although portable play is the focus here, it is worth noting that the Switch Lite cannot be played on a TV like other models. Only buy this if you're sure you want to play in handheld mode all of the time.

With its affordable asking price of $199.99 / £200, the Nintendo Switch Lite is our top pick for those who are shopping on a budget. Its smaller form factor is perfect for portable play as it can be quickly shoved into a rucksack or even a large pocket when you're on the move. There are also a range of attractive bright colors to choose from including blue, pink, purple, grey, and yellow.

The design is constructed out of a thick plastic and, in our testing, proved more durable than the original Nintendo Switch model which is ideal if you're prone to dropping or scratching your systems. I take a Nintendo Switch Lite with me to the office every day in a small case in my rucksack and it looks practically good as new after about a year of ownership. Furthermore, the fact that the Joy-Con controllers are permanently attached to the system has the added benefit that they are impossible to lose while out and about. 

You're getting a slightly smaller screen here, but it runs at the same 720p resolution as the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch OLED, so there is no performance or visual downgrade. If anything, I think that the smaller size can help the image look a little sharper. 

So far, I've particularly enjoyed diving into retro fighting games like Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengers and Darkstalkers plus Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo from the excellent Capcom Fighting Collection - which lend themselves well to bursts of portable play. The one limitation of the Nintendo Switch Lite, however, is its complete inability to dock and play games on a TV when you're at home, so definitely bear this in mind before you buy.

The best handheld games console for PC gamers

A photo of the Steam Deck on a black desk. The edge of a gaming controller can be seen at the top of the image.

(Image credit: Future)
The best handheld games console for PC gamers

Specifications

Dimensions: 11.73 x 4.6 x 1.9in / 298 x 117 x 49mm
Display: 7in
Weight: 23.64 / 670g
Storage: 256GB
Battery life: 1.5 - 8 hours

Reasons to buy

+
 Excellent build quality  
+
 Great performance in most games  
+
 Lots of software support  

Reasons to avoid

-
 The software can be buggy  
-
 Not all Steam games work 
Buy it if

You want your Steam library on the go: The Steam Deck is the best way to play your Steam library out of the house, at home on the couch, or in bed. We don't recommend playing it in the bath, though, for obvious reasons. 

You want something cheaper than a gaming laptop: Even the top-end Steam Deck is far cheaper than a similar-spec gaming laptop, making it a more accessible and affordable way to get into portable PC gaming. 

Don't buy it if

You want something more compact: The sheer size of the Steam Deck can make it annoying to lug around. Consider an alternative like the Nintendo Switch Lite if you want something much smaller.

A powerful, portable gaming PC that can fit in your pocket is certainly an attractive proposition. While it can't really fit in your pocket thanks to its absolutely gigantic size, the Steam Deck does offer all of the power of a gaming laptop in a much smaller package. With its surprisingly modest starting price of $399 / £349 for the most basic model the Steam Deck packs in an awful lot of high-end hardware for your money.

It's available directly through Valve's Steam client and, regardless of the version you go for, runs Steam Deck Verified titles like Cyberpunk 2077 and Apex Legends smoothly. As this device is powered by a modified version of the Linux operating system, not every game from your Steam library will run flawlessly but there's a good chance that a sizeable chunk of titles you already own will be compatible straight out of the box.

Valve's first foray into the handheld hardware market isn't entirely perfect though, as our testing found that the battery life can struggle with more intensive titles. We found that a game like God of War really pushed the system to its limit, lasting just over an hour and a half while not plugged in. Given just how well many of the most demanding titles look and run on this device, though, this is a trade-off that we think is well worth making. 

The best handheld games console for retro gaming

A photo of the mint green Super Pocket lying flat on a white surface.

(Image credit: Future)
The best handheld games console for retro gaming

Specifications

Dimensions: 4.12 x 0.43 x 6.62 in / 104.65 x 10.92 x 168.15mm
Display: 2.8" IPS
Weight: 0.71 oz
Storage: N/A
Battery life: 4 hours

Reasons to buy

+
 Adorable portable design  
+
 Great controls and emulation  
+
 Works with Evercade cartridges

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen is small
-
Rear buttons can feel fiddly
Buy it if

You want to play Evercade games on a budget: With its extremely affordable price point, the Super Pocket is easily the cheapest way to play the wide library of Evercade games.

You want a small system perfect for retro games: When it comes to size, few handheld games consoles are more portable than the Super Pocket.

Don't buy it if

You want a larger system: If you're in the market for something larger, consider the other options on this list. The small size of the Super Pocket could make it a pain for those with bigger hands.

The Super Pocket performs impressively well while playing older titles which makes it our top pick if you want a handheld console for playing retro games. There are currently two versions of the handheld console on the market; the green and black Taito Edition and the yellow and blue Capcom Edition. 

Both versions include a unique built-in library of titles, focusing specifically on popular games from their respective publishers. I absolutely adore Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble from the Taito Edition in particular, but also have a big soft spot for Street Fighter 2: Hyper FightingFinal Fight, and the original Mega Man on the Capcom Edition. I played all of the games across the two libraries during my testing and was hugely pleased with the smooth performance given the cheap price and small form factor.

The 320x240px IPS screen is certainly going to pale in comparison to the far more premium displays found on others systems on this list, like the Nintendo Switch OLED’s much high resolution 720p display, but it's balanced out thanks to its 2.8” (~7cm) size. On the whole, games look fantastic and boast deep colors. There are even some decent display options (such CRT scanline filters and aspect ratios) that allow you to further to tweak their look to your liking in the software.

Easily one of the most desirable features of the Super Pocket, however, is the Evercade cartridge slot. This grants Super Pocket owners access to a growing library of affordable Evercade cartridges that can pack everything from classic Namco arcade games to modern indie titles like Micro Mages and Foxyland.

The best handheld games console for remote play

A photo of the PlayStation Portal handheld gaming device on a wooden table alongside some PlayStation themed lights.

(Image credit: Future/Rob Dwiar)
The best handheld games console for remote play

Specifications

Dimensions: 13.27 x 5.91 x 3.74in / 337 x 150 x 95mm
Display: 8in LCD
Weight: 18.66oz / 529g
Storage: N/A
Battery life: 6 - 9 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent streaming capabilities
+
Ergonomic and accessible design
+
Superb build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
LCD screen can show its limitations
-
Slow battery charging
Buy it if

You want another way to play your PS5 games: The PlayStation Portal lets you enjoy your PS5 without the need for a TV, offering a brilliant way to get more game time. This is perfect for when someone else is using the TV, or when you want to game in another room.

You want an ergonomic handheld: Having been designed around an established, excellent controller, the PlayStation Portal is one of the most comfortable and ergonomic handhelds right now. It has all the features of a DualSense controller and is also incredible from an accessibility perspective as a result.

Don't buy it if

❌ You want a device that can play games natively: The Portal is only for streaming from your PS5 and its games to you over the internet - if you don't own a PS5 or are looking for something to play games natively (or stream from the cloud) then the Portal is not for you.

The PlayStation Portal is a brilliant companion device for the PlayStation 5. It enables PS5 owners to access their games remotely by streaming them over Wi-Fi (or a tethered mobile connection), beautifully translating big-screen games on its small and portable screen.

What makes the Portal really shine is its slick design and varied feature set. This is effectively a PS5 DualSense controller with an 8-inch LCD screen squeezing into the middle. It maintaining the ergonomics, design, and features of the controller, sitting in your hands very comfortably and is easy to use if you're used to the layout. I'm also a huge fan of the excellent haptic feedback and adaptive triggers.

The screen is punchy and vibrant while the speakers are more than enough for most games. The downsides here are very minor and only extend to an irksome lack of Bluetooth support and the very slow battery charging speed.

While it's not a handheld console by way of playing games natively (or streaming from the cloud), it superbly serves a very specific niche - which is to provide PS5 players with another way to play their PS5 remotely. I've especially enjoyed my time playing PlayStation exclusives like The Last of Us Part 2 and Spider-Man 2 away from my TV, but have also spent plenty of time with A Plague Tale: Requiem, Grand Theft Auto 5, and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor.

How to choose a gaming handheld

The easiest way to choose a gaming handheld is to think about the kinds of games that you would want to use it to play. If you’re interested in playing Nintendo published titles on the go, like Super Mario Odyssey or Mario Kart 8, then you’re going to need to choose the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Switch OLED, or Nintendo Switch Lite as these are the only platforms where such games are available. 

Likewise, if you want access to the latest PlayStation games and already own a PS5 with an expansive library, the PlayStation Portal is going to be your best bet. Do bear in mind, however, that the PlayStation Portal is a streaming-only device that requires a constant internet connection. If you need a device that can be played offline, consider the other options on this list instead.

If you want to play more PC-oriented games such as Counter Strike 2, Valheim, or Signalis,  then a portable PC such as the Steam Deck or Steam Deck OLED is going to be the best choice. You should also consider a Steam Deck or Steam Deck OLED if you’re most concerned about performance, as it features dramatically higher specs than the Nintendo Switch while maintaining a similar portable form factor. While all of the options on this list are able to play retro titles, a dedicated retro handheld such as the Super Pocket could be the perfect option if you’re more concerned with playing older games and don’t want to break the bank. 

The Super Pocket offers an incredibly portable way to play retro games on the go, with a robust in-built library of titles right out of the box. It also offers compatibility with Evercade cartridges, allowing you to experience even more games down the line.

Best handheld games console - FAQs

Is the Nintendo Switch better in docked or handheld mode?

Your experience with the Nintendo Switch will largely come down to personal preference. If you're out and about a lot, then handheld mode may be the way forward with the console. Even so, having the flexibility to play docked when you're at home can be a great added bonus. Obviously, with a Nintendo Switch Lite, you won't have the flexibility to enjoy the console docked, but you can still enjoy the same great games. 

Are handheld games consoles more affordable?

Handheld consoles are fantastic if you're looking to save money and still get a high-quality gaming experience, but that doesn't always mean they are cheaper than a home console. If you're on a strict budget, the Nintendo Switch Lite or the Super Pocket are very budget-friendly. If you're after more powerful hardware, however, the price will start to climb and you may end up paying a similar figure for a handheld as you would for a home console like the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X.

What's the best handheld console for kids?

If you're looking specifically for a dedicated handheld machine for kids, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a great option. Its small size and robust design is very well suited to little hands. It also lacks the ability to remove the controllers, meaning there are fewer things to break or lose.

How we test the best handheld games consoles

Each of the handheld consoles on this list has been tested rigorously by a member of the TechRadar team. Our testing takes into account factors like the system's price and any unique features. We also test a range of games and software that suit the handheld in question. For example, we tested the PlayStation Portal with a range of popular PS5 titles including Marvel's Spider-Man 2, Helldivers 2, and The Last of Us Part 2. For the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite, we tested top Nintendo Switch games including Mario Kart 8 and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in addition to a range of graphically demanding ports such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Xcom 2.

While testing the Steam Deck, we assessed its performance and compatibility with a wide a range of Steam Deck Verified games from indie hits like Hades and Hotline Miami to huge  adventures such as God of War. When it comes to the Super Pocket, we tested the built-in library in addition to an Evercade cartridge featuring games such as Burger Time and Sly Spy.    

To take the example of Nintendo Switch OLED and Nintendo Switch Lite, that involved playing some of the most recent Nintendo Switch games in portable mode. In the case of handheld PCs like the Steam Deck, rigorous testing of our Steam library was involved including tests to determine how compatible popular titles were and how well they ran on the handheld.

Want more recommendations? See our picks for the best gaming console this year. For more Nintendo recommendations, see our ranking of the best Nintendo Switch games.

Dashiell Wood
Hardware Writer

Dash is a technology journalist who covers gaming hardware at TechRadar. Before joining the TechRadar team, he was a print journalist writing articles for some of the UK's biggest gaming magazines such as PLAY, Edge, PC Gamer, and SFX. Now, when he's not getting his greasy little mitts on the newest hardware or gaming gadget, he can be found feverishly devouring the latest Nintendo Switch otome.

With contributions from