We have been testing, reviewing and celebrating handhelds for many years. Every type of handheld has passed our desks, from tiny 1″ devices all the way up to the latest handheld PC from Steam.
They come in many different sizes, prices and specs… so we know how hard it is to find one that fits your needs. To help you in your journey of finding your dream handheld we have put together this list of our favourites from the past couple of years.
Yes, we could have added older consoles, but we like to keep things fresh, and we also like to showcase new and wonderful ways to play your favourite games on the go.
So please, enjoy our list of the best handheld games consoles of the year.
All handhelds on this list have been tested personally by Retro Dodo staff.
1. Steam Deck
Did you have any doubt about the Steam Deck making an appearance on our list of the best handheld games consoles of 2023? We did not. Like… none at all.
Because from the moment we were introduced to the Steam Deck back in July of 2021, we knew that we would eventually be getting our hands on one and probably spending way too much time on it.
And when we did finally get it on our desk at Office Dodo: Zero disappointment.
This thing is a true achievement.
From the design of the device to the actual performance, we are talking a top of the line gaming PC in portable form. Everything we have been hoping for.
We have praised it in the past: It took the number one spot on the list of the 8 Best Handheld Gaming PCs Of 2023. We told you how to install emulators on it. We showed you the 10 Best Retro Games On Steam to play on it. Yeah, we can’t stop talking about it!
Valve has created a portable gaming console that encourages their users to stay directly connected to the Steam Store and purchase their games. It is smart, honestly.
And with a 4-core AMD Zen 2 CPU, an 8-core AMD RDNA GPU with 1GB video memory, 16GB of RAM, up to 512GB of storage and a 7″ 60HZ IPS display… those games are gonna play very well.
With a starting price of $399, that is not bad, at all.
Really, it’s kind of hard to find anything bad to say about this thing. Not that we have to. Actually… yeah… why try. This thing is incredible. We love it.
This list would be a farce without one of the most obvious entries to the best handheld games consoles of 2023: The Steam Deck.
2. AYN Odin Pro
With portable gaming PCs and dual Windows/Android type devices coming out left and right, we have started to look at each with a more critical eye.
So when we first heard about the AYN Odin on their 2021 Indiegogo campaign, we were hesitant to show too much excitement.
But dang, that was difficult. Because when you see the preview images of the device, it looks to be quite incredible.
With that iconic image of the full color spectrum of devices, it was hard not to get that same feeling we had as a child choosing our Game Boy Color.
And between the stats offered and the pleasing design of the device, we were ready to get one on our desk and see if it could live up to expectations (we were still playing hard to get, just a bit).
Lucky for us, and the many other gamers who supported the crowdfunding of the Odin Pro, the device more than fulfilled its promises. It kind of blew most of us away, actually.
The unboxing experience was a joy, as we encountered a device that felt much more premium and satisfying than we could have ever expected.
Both the size and the button layout make it feel like an alternate universe version of a Nintendo Switch (which is a good thing).
And the use of led lights behind the analogue sticks and side bars make it look that much more premium.
Visual flare and aesthetics aside, this thing also feels amazing. It has a satisfying weight to it, and the fit in your hands is one of the best we have experienced in a long time. So you are gonna want to play on this handheld for a long time.
But the most important test of any handheld gaming console is the game play. And for us, that is gonna be the retro games emulation on the Android operating system.
This thing can handle all of your retro gaming needs very comfortably. As we should expect from a device in 2023, it will run NES, SNES, GB, GBA, PS1, Sega Genesis, Sega Dreamcast, PSP, and many more without a hiccup. So there were no surprises there.
We were astonished to find that, through the “high performance mode”, we were actually able to play PS2 games on an affordable handheld games console in 2023. That is something you would only expect to see on a device with a price tag at least two times where the Odin currently sits.
So are we impressed with the AYN Odin Pro? AB-SO-LUTE-LY.
We called it “flawless” in our initial review back in February. And after having it on our desk for nearly 4 months now, we can happily report that our opinions of the device have not changed.
In fact, it has become one of our goto games consoles whether we have ten minutes or four hours to kill.
So if you are looking for a premium gaming handheld that sits in that sweet spot of an affordable price and an impressive ability to play tons of retro systems with ease, the Odin Pro might be the console for you.
The future looks bright for AYN. And with a recent tease of a new AYN Loki Handheld, we can see them claiming spots on our lists of best handheld games consoles for years to come.
Read our full review: AYN Odin Review
3. Nintendo Switch OLED
Well here is something you don’t see from us a lot: a Big 3 game console being reviewed and receiving the Dodo stamp of approval.
When we say the “Big 3”, of course we are talking Playstation, Xbox, and… Nintendo. The company that we love to hate. And hate to love.
Why? Well… mostly because of their weird relationship with gaming influencers (or lack thereof).
But obviously those three titans of gaming produce the most reliable and replayable gaming consoles you will find.
So is the Nintendo Switch any different? Absolutely not. It is easily one of the best gaming consoles ever created. Ever.
With over 107 million units sold, the Nintendo Switch is quickly climbing its way to the top of the list of best selling games consoles of all time (it’s at number five right now).
So let’s talk about the elephant in the room: The Switch Pro.
You’ve all heard it… we are gonna get an announcement any day now about the Switch Pro that’s gonna do this and gonna do that.
Well we never got it. And people are still talking about it.
What we did get is the Nintendo Switch OLED model.
Are we happy about it? Not entirely. Is that all they gave us? Yeah.
Was it what we wanted? Not entirely. But is it still pretty cool? Yeah.
But seriously… if you stop thinking of it as not the Switch Pro, what exactly is the Switch OLED?
It is an upgraded iteration of the Nintendo Switch, with a significantly improved screen and some minor quality-of-life improvements to the overall system.
To be clear, the insides barely changed at all. It’s gonna play exactly the same. So docked users should not even bother considering the upgrade, unless you really want that LAN port that they added to the dock.
Pretty much all of the changes are for the handheld users of the console.
It’s got an improved kickstand, better audio, and the most obvious difference: that screen.
As the name suggests, the star of the show here is the new 7-inch OLED screen, with significantly reduced bezels, sharper output, vibrant colors, and deep blacks.
For those unfamiliar: traditional LCD screens output light at every pixel. Even the black ones. So the screen has an overall glow, even if the image on screen is entirely black.
But the way that OLED works is it does not output light in the areas that are black. So this results in high contrast images on screen and if the image on screen is black, you might think the thing is off!
So are these few changes significant enough for those waiting for a Switch Pro? Absolutely not.
But again, you have to look at it like this: Nintendo took what was already one of the best consoles of all time and made it better. What’s not to appreciate about that?
So to that end… The Nintendo Switch OLED model is absolutely one of the best handheld games consoles of 2023, and we absolutely have no regrets saying so.
There was once a time when we considered Anbernic to be at the top of the mountain when it comes to retro games consoles coming out of China.
The company was once known for its superb build quality, near perfect console design, and some of the best emulation performance out of any device made specifically for retro games.
And we can say that, without a doubt, where ANBERNIC hit their pinnacle was in the RG351MP device.
What can we say about this perfect gaming console?
Well, the thing is a beauty. Beautiful to look at. Beautiful to hold. Beautiful game play performance. Really, it is just the perfect example of an RK3326 chipset device for retro game emulation.
It’s gonna play NES, SNES, GB, GBA, Sega Genesis, Sega Dreamcast, PS1, Arcade, PSP, and quite a few others very very well.
Anything up to 64-bit will be pretty much flawless (some 64-bit stuff will be hit and miss, but that is to be expected on any sub $150 device).
It has two analogue sticks, which you may or may not make use of with the console selection for the device, but it’s always nice to know they are there.
They are full size analogue sticks, recessed into the device for easy pocket/bag storage. And they have the L3 and R3 click as well.
And one of our favorite features is the aluminum metal shell. That oh so satisfying weight and feel of a premium gaming device. It feels safe. It feels warm. Well technically, it feels cold. But you know what we mean.
I have been asking for, demanding, begging for… pretty much any approach necessary to convince Anbernic to give me a metal shell of my personal favorite console the RG351V. But I think that ship has sailed.
Anbernic really established themselves as the leader in retro gaming devices with the release of the RG350. And had only been on an upward trajectory since the release of that device in 2020. But they absolutely peaked with the RG351MP.
Until proven otherwise, we have all but given up on Anbernic and believe that their best days are now behind them.
But we would like to remember them as we once knew them: the king of retro games emulation consoles.
And Anbernic’s crowning achievement is the RG351MP…
Our favorite RK3326 device, the easiest recommendation for an affordable games console, and one of our absolute favorite emulation consoles of all time.
Read our full review here: RG351MP Review
5. Analogue Pocket
Many of the devices on this list are multi-talented gaming consoles that aim to do a lot.
And that is awesome. A Swiss-army-knife console certainly has its place (obviously has a bunch of places on this list).
But you know what is equally as important in the gaming market: the specialist. Yes, a console made for one very specific reason.
And the Analogue Pocket is a purposive device made to play Game Boy games directly from original game cartridges.
There is no emulation here. Through FGPA technology, the Analogue Pocket essentially is a Game Boy, as far as the game cartridge knows.
Yes, FGPA technology means that everything inside the Analogue Pocket should perform identical to the original Game Boy hardware.
Maybe we overdid it when we said “one very specific”. Because really.. the Analogue Pocket still covers a lot of bases.
It can play original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance carts…
And through the use of their own proprietary adaptors, the console can also play games from Sega Game Gear, Atari Lynx and Neo Geo cartridges.
So that is actually quite a lot. But you get the idea.
And let’s just state the obvious: this thing is gorgeous.
I mean, take a look at that gigantic display. It is a 3.5” LCD display with a ppi of 615. It displays the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color games at a 10x upscale. Crispy.
There are a few things Analogue is known for: superb build quality and a focus on aesthetics. Those qualities are not absent here at all.
A lot has been said about the device since its rocky first shipment (that saw several covid-related delays). Some good, some bad. But overall, the opinions seem to be unanimous…
It’s a bummer that they are so darn difficult to get your hands on. But if you are lucky enough to get the preorder.. these things are stunning. The screen is insane. And it plays the original game carts flawless, as you would expect.
The Analogue Pocket has taken its sweet time to finally start showing itself in person, and it took even more time for people to settle in with it and form their final opinions.
But it is safe to say that it is now thought of as one of the absolute best handheld gaming devices we have ever seen.
And it is for that reason that we had zero doubts that it would make an appearance on our list of the best handheld games consoles of 2023.
With the slow rollout of the presales, it might make an appearance on the 2023 list too.
Read our full review here: Analogue Pocket Review
6. Retroid Pocket 2+
You may remember that the Retroid Pocket 2 happened to be one of our favorite retro emulators of 2020. So much so that we gave it the #1 spot on our list of the Top 10 BEST Retro Handhelds Of 2020.
We loved just about everything about the device. The incredible form factor that fits absolutely perfect in your hands. The Android operating system that gives a ton of flexibility and options. The incredible game play on everything up to 64-bit era.
And all of that for about $80!
That device held a spot at or around the top of our personal favorites list for nearly two years…
Even as other Chinese console makers released their best attempts to match what the Retroid Pocket 2 could do, over and over again.
Few were able to come anywhere close, besides maybe Anbernic.
But sadly, the day did come when someone was finally able to knock the Retroid Pocket 2 off of its throne. And you know who did it? GoRetroid did!
That’s right, in early 2022, we got our hands on their upgraded Retroid Pocket 2+. And oh boy oh boy… this thing is awesome! Which is why it’s on this best handheld games consoles list!
As the name suggests, this is the pro version of the original console, made all that much better with a much more powerful Unisoc Quad-core Tiger T310 chipset, a touchscreen (eliminating our main complaint about the first iteration), and now running on Android 9.
These changes, plus a few other quality-of-life modifications have resulted in a near perfect gaming device for retro games up to the 64-bit era.
Because it is Android, you can also install Netflix, Youtube, Tinder, Instagram, Candy Crush, or Fruit Ninja if you wanted.
And even with all of the amazing upgrades, this thing still comes in at under $100! ($99. So that means you can have this thing AND a cheeseburger from McDonalds. No pickles, no onions, please.)
So we are happy to say that the Retroid Pocket 2+ is very easily the best retro handheld for under $100. And we do not imagine anyone taking that spot anytime soon.
With a strong team like GoRetroid, we have all the faith in the world that whatever will come next from them will not be rushed to market, and will be yet another top of the line device. So the future looks exciting for retro gamers.
For the time, the Retroid Pocket 2+ claims a well deserved place on our list of the best handheld games consoles of 2023.
Read our full review here: Retroid Pocket 2+ Review
7. Miyoo Mini
One of the most popular devices within the Game Boy community lately is the Miyoo Mini. And it is easy to see why.
For those of us who are in love with the vertical form factor of the original Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, and Game Boy Color… this thing feels right at home in that family.
But obviously a lot smaller. This thing is literally the exact same size as a deck of playing cards. So we are talking maximum portability, maximum pocketability.
And it has quickly become the best emulation handheld device under $100. It’s actually about $60usd. So 100 minus 60… that’s like an extra $60! *nailed it*
But how does it play? Well… well. Good. Great even. Taking a look at the button configuration, you can start to draw conclusions about the type of retro consoles you will be playing on this device: NES, SNES, GB, Sega Genesis, Arcade, Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket.
This thing is everything you will ever need to play retro games up to the 32-bit era. Which is more than enough for many of us retro gaming fans, especially on the go.
And with the recent release of the v2 model, any complaints we had about the OS, screen haze, and the fit of the buttons being arguably too tight within the console have all been ironed out.
Which makes us believe that the team behind the Miyoo Mini are listening to the feedback of the users. Something we wish other companies would do.
For a sub $100 device that you will feel comfortable throwing in a bag and not worry if it takes a hit or two… and with the amount of gaming you can do on it…
The Miyoo Mini has really stepped onto the scene and became the easiest device to recommend to anybody on a budget who wants reliable game play performance on a device you would be happy to hold in your hands and look at for hours at a time.
We are very happy to see the progression of these affordable emulators, and glad to see a device like the Miyoo Mini take a spot on our list of the best handheld games consoles of 2023.
Read our full review here: Miyoo Mini Review
8. Funkey S
If the likes of the Miyoo Mini were more what you were looking for, why not go even smaller. Like WAY smaller… May we present: the Funkey S.
Another teeny tiny device, this time inspired by the Nintendo Advance SP, and by far the smallest on our list.
Of course, miniaturization of games consoles is nothing new to the scene. We have seen it done in devices like the Game Gear Micro or the Pocket Sprite.
But these mini devices are almost always novelty and almost always unplayable.
But we are happy to say that the Funkey S breaks that mold. Smashes it entirely.
The operation system is straight forward and extremely easy to use. And you will be blown away by the capabilities of a device at this size.
You can play… are you ready for this… PLAYSTATION games on this thing. And a community driven project has also given us a fully playable Super Mario 64. Excuse me?!
We are also happy to see that the company behind the Funkey S is quite active on social media and happy to communicate with their audience.
So no more mysterious developers hiding in the shadows that feel entirely out of reach… you can literally message them on Instagram and expect to hear back from them.
It gives us that much more reason to want to support the project, as we feel more invested in the people behind it.
So we are incredibly happy and honored to give them a spot on our list of the best handheld games consoles. It is a wonderful little device that packs a big punch. And we love it.
Read our full review here: Funkey S Review
Professing the title of the “most powerful portable pc on the market” is a bold claim.
But we are happy to confirm that the ONEXPlayer has not left those promises unfulfilled.
When we first wrote about the announcement of the ONEXPlayer back in May of 2019, we mentioned stats like the 8.4″ HD IPS display, Tiger Lake i7 CPU, Windows 10 operating system, 15300mAH battery, and an integrated fingerprint scanner.
Those are just some of the fancy-shmancy terms they threw at us. But to those of us who do not really understand what a lot of that means.. it means you are gonna be able to play most PC games from your Steam Library at impressive ease.
And obviously, a bunch of great options for emulation as well!
One of the best features of the ONEXPlayer is just how comfortable it is in the hands. Both the placement and the responsiveness of the buttons are near perfect.
Yes, it is a big boi… but that is to be expected when you are pretty much holding a laptop in your hands.
With that giant screen pulling us in, we quickly forgot we were holding anything at all.
If the size of the device intimidates you, maybe the ONEXPLAYER Mini would be more up your alley?
But we are very happy to say that the ONEXPlayer is a gorgeous, powerful handheld device that can hold its own against the likes of the Steam Deck or the AYN Odin. And that is saying a lot.
10. AYA Neo Next
Like the Steam Deck or the ONEXPlayer, the AYA Neo Next gaming console aims to be a leader in portable PC gaming.
But where Chinese developer AYANEO stands apart from the pack is in their pursuit of exquisite devices that push the boundaries inside and out.
With a stats list including AMD Ryzen 7 5825U CPU, AMD Radeon Vega 8 GPU, 16GB RAM, 2TB storage and a 7″ IPS display… we would have to say they are reaching that goal.
All packed in a beautifully designed device that is much smaller than its competition. We previously compared it to the size of a Nintendo Switch.
With the original iteration, the AYA Neo, and the upcoming AYA Neo Air… AYANEO is really solidifying its position in the market as one of the most premiere game console manufacturers. And we are 100% onboard with them.
It is exciting times for portable PC gaming, and AYANEO is a name we expect to see on many future “best handheld games consoles” lists. So why would this list be any different? The future is now, people!
We love the PlayDate for one very important reason: It reminds us of the good ol’ days.
Yes, this cute and ultra portable gaming console holds some of that magic of an original Game Boy or Neo Geo Pocket. And we celebrate it.
From the time of its announcement way back in 2019, we had our eyes and ears open for as much information as possible.
Needless to say, there was one incredibly unique feature of the device that stood out: the crank.
This beautiful gaming device, designed by Teenage Engineering, features a small hand crank which opens up some pretty unique game play features for game developers.
Oh, and speaking of developers, did we mention that they have their own dedicated development kit to create games for the console? How cool is that?!
Yes, you too can be a game developer and make your own games to play on the PlayDate. So if you have any interesting ideas for that hand crank, start developin’!
Let’s just get the messy stuff out of the way now…
Yeah it’s quite pricey at $179.99usd (plus shipping).
And no it does not have backlight in the screen… so you’re gonna have some trouble seeing anything without some strong lighting.
And the thing is pretty small, so it is not the most comfortable console we’ve ever played on.
But if you can look past those flaws, this is obviously one of the most unique gaming consoles ever created.
And for any retro gaming enthusiast, this is a pretty fun little toy to pick up and play some original games created by small independent artists from around the world.
We have flip flopped our opinions on the device a few times, but ultimately we settled on appreciation of the mission of the device.
By supporting PlayDate you are supporting new ideas. You are supporting retro gaming. And you would be doing yourself a favor to add one of the most unique gaming consoles to your personal collection.
So for those reasons, we can recommend the PlayDate and do consider it one of the best handheld games consoles of 2023.
We are very excited to see the future of the device and what comes next for PlayDate, a company we will be keeping our eyes on.
Read our full review here: Playdate Review
And that’s our list of the best handheld games consoles. Each has been tested by Retro Dodo staff, so you know you’re getting authentic advice from handheld enthusiasts. Thank you for reading.
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Anthony has been a video game lover ever since he can remember. He became a fulltime nomad in 2018, living throughout most of Asia. He focused his passion in retro gaming and began creating a game for the Game Boy Color while living in Nara, Japan during the 2020 pandemic. He is now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he spends most of his time gaming, going on long walks and meeting as many stray dogs as possible.