With retro game consoles getting bigger, faster, more powerful, more expensive… sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and just enjoy a classic game on one of the best mini retro handhelds.
It can be overwhelming thinking about stuff like operating systems or the duffle bag you will need to travel with something like a Steam Deck or AYANEO Air (both awesome, but not the most practical for portable retro gaming).
Plus, you wanna risk $1000 just to play Sonic at Starbucks? Me either!
Luckily for us, there are some much more affordable, practical, portable and pocketable options out there for carefree retro gaming.
Whether you’re into these mini consoles for novelty or you actually hope to play on them, we have a wide variety of options for ya.
So let’s jump right in! Here is our list of the best mini retro handhelds of 2022 (in no particular order):
The Funkey S is the smallest Game Boy Advance SP clone you will find. And we say that as a positive.
The incredible team behind this mini retro handheld is extremely passionate about their product, and have put in a lot of time to deliver something that looks, feels and play great.
The FunkeyS features incredible build quality, especially for a tiny handheld, and it’s way more comfortable to play than it looks.
And with its custom operating system and optimized game play all the way up to Playstation 1 (yes, really!), this thing is a heck of a lot of fun in a small package.
With a pricetag of only $70, this is gonna be one of the best mini retro handheld devices you can purchase in today’s gaming market.
The makers of the Thumby call it an “itty-bitty game system”, and that pretty much sums it up. This thing is tiiiiiiny. It literally is a keychain that can play retro games.
The Thumby looks like an original Game Boy, colors and all, and it has a Raspberry Pi Pico RP2040 Processor inside with a 72×40 Monochrome OLED Display.
Obviously, it’s not very powerful and it won’t be able to play Dreamcast on the 0.4 inch screen.
But it can play a handful of very simple games that come preloaded on the device. And you can also make your own games to load on to the console, if you have some Arduino C/C++ coding experience.
It’s the smallest retro handheld on this list, and clearly is intended for novelty collectors who just love cool retro consoles. And it’s definitely a conversation starter.
So if you like teeny tiny game consoles and have about $29 to spend… the Thumby is here.
If you thought the Thumby was cool with its Arduino C/C++ based games but want something a little more playable, let us present the Arduboy.
Much like the Thumby, the Arduboy is an open source device based on Arduino, and allows users to create and share simple games.
And there is an Arduino community online, so there’s actually a good selection of games to play… both original creations and remakes of some classic favorites.
This is a pretty cool console, not only for its miniature size (about the size of a credit card), but also to get into a fun niche community of Arduino coders.
You might discover some really unique game experiences that are not available on other devices on this list.
You can pick up an Arduboy for around $30 or the upgraded Arduboy FX that comes preloaded with over 200 games for about $60.
Playdate aims to be a unique retro style game console that offers a gaming experience unlike any other. And we would say they absolutely hit that mark.
It also features its own proprietary operating system that has user created gaming experiences, and you can even create your own.
The monochrome display will remind you of playing an original Game Boy with it’s sharp pixelated graphics and no backlighting.
The Playdate is ultra portable at around 3×3 inches… and its unique hand crank even tucks away.
This is one of the most premium (aka expensive) consoles on this list, but also one of the most unique.
Absolutely aimed at retro enthusiasts who like to collect cool retro style toys and those who enjoy unique game experiences that are not available anywhere else.
In 2021, the Chinese console maker Anbernic were in their heyday.
They were the makers of some of the most popular retro handhelds and had a reputation for superb build quality and awesome game performance.
And one of their strongest offerings to come in that golden era was the RG280V; a pocket friendly game console that could easily handle retro emulation all the way up to the 64 bit era.
With a button configuration designed for early retro consoles (no analogue sticks), this thing is aimed at things like Game Boy Advance, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis.. that sort of stuff. Which is my main todo list for retro gaming, honestly.
So fans of the earlier 8 bit, 16 bit, 32 bit will love this mini retro handheld, and it fits in the palm of your hand. So it’s gonna make a great fit in most pockets as well, making it a truly functional and portable console.
With a normal price of around $80 (I’ve seen them as low as $40), you cannot go wrong with the RG280V.
We also wanted to include the GKD Mini, which is similar in size and appearance. But it’s lesser OS gives us hesitation to recommend it next to the RG280V, which has several options now for really awesome firmware.
Don’t worry, we will hear from GKD at the end of this list, so not all is lost.
Nintendo Game & Watch
We included the Game & Watch in our list of the Best Handhelds Under $100, and we still think that these are absolutely perfect portable gaming devices for those who do not need a giant library of games to choose from.
Yeah, having thousands of games is a blessing in 2022. Our childhood selves would not believe that would ever be possible. But our adult selves sometimes miss the simplicity of having just a couple games at our disposal.
Having one or two great games takes away that Netflix effect, where you spend more time browsing your library than actually choosing something.
So fans of early Nintendo classics will be totally fulfilled with either of the 2020 and 2021 Game & Watch releases: Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary Edition and The Legend of Zelda 35th Anniversary Edition.
Both mini retro handhelds feature a couple classic games that can keep you occupied for hours and easily fit in your front pocket.
Sounds kind of perfect to me!
At the time of its release, the Pocket Sprite was the world’s smallest gaming device.
Since that time, the Thumby has actually taken that (super tiny) crown. But let’s not forget the original teenie tiny game console. And this one is actually kind of playable!
With its 1 inch screen (yeah dude), the Pocket Sprite is actually a fully functional emulator and can play stuff like Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear quite well!
It even comes with built in wifi to allow you to transfer games to it.
The Pocket Sprite comes in a few different colors, and they even released a couple limited edition metal shell variants that have become hard to find.
This is another novelty gift for gaming fans who love unique collectibles, but if you actually intend to play games on this one… it’s possible. If you have very very good vision.
If you are a part of the retro handheld scene, you’ve heard quite a bit about the Miyoo Mini in the past year.
The Miyoo Mini has quickly become the most popular retro console within the Game Boy community, due to its original Game Boy inspired aesthetics.
And the size is optimal for gaming enthusiasts who want something truly pocketable, but big enough to actually play regularly.
The Miyoo Mini has seemed to perfect the formula and if you can manage to get your hands on one (they are sold out quite often), you will surely be very happy with your purchase.
Any complaints that users initially had about firmware or screens were totally corrected over time, and now the Miyoo Mini stands as one of the absolute favorite gaming consoles for everything from 8 bit to 32 bit.
It can handle more, but the button configuration is made for those consoles that do not need analogue sticks.
We absolutely love the Miyoo Mini, we were so happy to see a quick v2 released with small improvements and two new color options. And we can only see things going up from here for Miyoo.
And for that reason, we consider the Miyoo Mini the number one for mini retro handhelds.
The retro handheld scene is growing at an exponential rate. It seems like it is literally every single day, we get a new leak of something.
New console this, new teaser that, preorder available now unless you wanna wait for the upgraded model which was already announced yesterday. It’s getting wild out here.
If you’ve been keeping up, there are a few exciting mini consoles on the horizon that will likely earn some spots on future “best” lists here on RetroDodo.
The first upcoming device comes from the company that we love to hate. ANBERNIC’s upcoming “Mini Handheld” has been having all kinds of leaks on Discord and Twitter lately.
It all started with a short video of a prototype, then we eventually got official images and blueprints from the guys over at Anbernic.
The unnamed Anbernic mini device seems to be aimed at the current Miyoo Mini fanbase.
But it is not unlike Anbernic’s RG300 console which came out a few years ago, just with some big hardware upgrades and build quality improvements.
Anbernic has been at the top of the charts when it comes to build quality in the last 2-3 years, but we have seen business and design choices fall short lately. Which is why we are more hesitant to support their upcoming consoles until we see the proof in the pudding.
It’s too early to say, but this new vertical mini console does look promising, and it surely will make a lot of fans of pocketable game consoles very happy.
I just hate those darn triggers. *shruggy shoulders emote* *facepalm emote*
GKD Mini Plus
Perhaps one of the most exciting upcoming game consoles is the new GKD Mini Plus, which was announced just last week.
This new mini retro handheld makes some big improvements to its performance with the RK3566 chipset, features new color options, and even comes with a detachable analogue stick peripheral.
So this thing is a convertible!
We mentioned earlier in this list that the original GKD Mini has a poor operating system. It seems that GKD has been working on making big improvements to that OS and it is likely we will also see some third-party ones offered in the future.
With its beautiful design, powerful chipset, and competitive price (around $75)… we see the GKD Mini Plus making a big statement this holiday season in the gaming market. And we cannot wait to get our hands on one!
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.