The handheld gaming market is seriously starting to pop, but what are the best retro handhelds? This is a question we get asked a lot, so we’ve put together a list showing off our favourite consoles that fit in the palm of your hand.
Now before we go anywhere, the handhelds we are talking about are emulators, handheld consoles that use ROMS to emulate old retro games, so there’s no 3DS or PSP being featured here.
Why are people interested in the best retro handhelds? Well it’s simple. Retro gaming enthusiasts want more old games in their pocket, and they don’t want the hassle of having to buy them, take extra cartridges or wait 20 minutes in a coffee shop to download them.
We’ve all purchased numerous copies of Pokemon Red, so why should we buy it again? You may even still have the cartridge but don’t want to carry around your giant Gameboy DMG everywhere with you to play it!
So here is the ultimate list showcasing the top 22 best retro handhelds so that you can get your dosage of nostalgia whenever and wherever you please.
The Retroid Pocket 2 is a new android based handheld that has quite simply, blown us away. As of now, it’s not officially released but you can pre-order here and your unit will be shipped towards the end of August.
For $85 this is one of the best retro handhelds to come out of China, and it’s proof that the Analogue Pocket has some cheaper, probably better competition.
We have only reviewed their engineering unit, but can confirm this alone is still a very good handheld. We will update this section of the article when we receive the final consumer unit (which is similar, it just has some firmware adjustments).
The Retroid Pocket 2 can emulate up to N64 and PSP games very well. Because it has an Android OS you can download emulator apps, normal android apps and even use their NetPlay feature to play coop with another Retroid Pocket 2 user.
It’s a well made handheld, it comes with four shoulder buttons, two analogue sticks, a Quad Core 1.5GHZ CPU, 1GB RAM and a large 4000MAH battery.
The 3.5″ IPS display (640 x 480) is incredibly bright, it’s saturated and crispy, something you need in a portable handheld like this. The team behind it also care about their customers, so support is just an email away.
This is smashing other handhelds out of the park, not only because it boasts a lot of power for the price, but because it actually feels like a finished product.
The Android OS helps with that, and playing ROMS on such a clean, comfortable device makes it hard for us to put this down.
It’s not perfect, it’s running Android 6 not 8, Dreamcast emulation is poor, and some say the left analogue stick should be below the D-PAD. But nonetheless, these flaws are easy to look past, because everything else is perfect.
The RG350P is our number 1 best retro handheld for a wide number of reasons. Coming in at $87.99 it’s not the cheapest console on our list but it’s certainly worth every single dime.
The RG350 was released in October 2019 and received most of its attention for the ability to play PS1 ROMs near perfectly all while having superb build quality.
But now, 9 months later they released this new handheld, with a few minor updates. These minor updates from the original RG350 makes this handheld feel incredibly polished.
The handheld feels great in the hand, it comes in a wide number of different variants, it has not one but two (Nintendo Switch) analogue sticks and a large 3.5″ display that’s bright, saturated and made of glass. The screen resolution is 320 x 240.
This is the alpha male of the retro handheld world, you can just tell that ANBERNIC have invested money and time into this handheld and that’s exactly what you want when you spend $80 on a Chinese handheld.
This product shows just how much this niche market demands a decent handheld, and their sales are going through the roof, for good reason.
For those of you that want something a bit more premium, as of February 2020, the new RG350M, a metal variant of the RG350 was released and it is our favourite Chinese handheld EVER.
It starts at $129.99 which is a little more expensive than the plastic version but boy, oh boy does this thing feel good.
It also has a higher resoltion screen of 640 x 480 making it even crispier than the RG350P. The internals are the same so this will still be able to emulate all of your retro games up to Playstation 1 by installing your ROMS.
The metal case makes it feel as if Nintendo themselves have made it. There’s grips on the back for extra comfortability and the added weight makes it feel far more premium than anything else on this list.
This is our favourite handheld yet, once you get metal, you won’t go back to plastic.
You can either buy the DIY kit to make it yourself if you have a spare Pi3 or Pi4 lying around, or you can go fully assembled like we did that comes pre-built and pre-installed with retropie.
This makes its playable straight out of the box, but be warned this is an expensive handheld, because well… there’s basically a small PC inside. The DIY kit starts at $89.95 but you’ll need to supply everything, and the assembled kit costs $179.95.
Because it’s packed with power it can handle anything you chuck at it, PSP, N64, Dreamcast, no problem. It even has WiFi and Blueooth allowing you to connect to the internet, or even stream games from your PC directly to the PiBoy DMG.
This is a handheld for those of you with no budget and for those of you that like tinkering around with RetroPie.
The RK2020 was released in June 2020 with the ability to emulate PSP, N64 and even Dreamcast games fluidly, with very little interuptions.
It comes with a 3.5″ display, four shoulder buttons and a whopping 1GB of RAM. It’s a power hungry handheld and it will only cost you a measly $65.
When we opened it up, and turned it on we were amazed with the beautiful UI, easy instructions and impressive gameplay. This is one of the first handhelds to be able to power Dreamcast out of the box, but where it excels in power it disappoints everywhere else.
The build quality is disappointing, the analogue stick sucks, and the shoulder buttons are loose, so they move around slightly when playing.
But the major downfall is that the RK2020 actually stole the firmware from the ODROID Go advance (number 4 on our list), without their consent. So the team behind the OGA sent them some emails and legally the RK2020 now has to ship WITHOUT firmware.
So when you turn it out of the box, it literally doesn’t work. You then have to go out and find firmware that works with this handheld, making it an unfinished product, so we can’t really advise buying this.
But we are placing it 3rd because of the power you get for $65. We also believe that this firmware problem will be sorted within the next few months, so hopefully it works out of the box.
If you’re into the best retro handhelds then you have most likely heard of Bittboy, a small chinese company making some great handhelds, they are one of the only companies who create new versions on a regular basis and who are really making the competition work in terms of quality.
The Bittboy Pocket Go V2 is their latest handheld, and without doubt is worth being in our top 10 best retro handhelds list.
The Bittboy Pocket Go is an affordable handheld coming in at just $59.99, a lot cheaper than most of its competition, It’s an incredibly small handheld, and very thin too, but it has the build quality similar to that of the original Gameboys.
It can play most of your ROMS perfectly, yes, even PS1 emulation!
It features a 3.5″ 320 x 240 IPS screen that screams saturation and we love it, and having such a beautiful screen on such a pocket sized retro handheld makes it a pleasure to use.
It comes with a 2000mah battery, SD card slot, four shoulder buttons and a headphone jack (bonus points). The Bittboy Pocket Go V2 is one of our best retro handhelds for quite simply being one of the best built handhelds in this price range.
It feels like an official product, made by Nintendo themselves. Pocket sized Playstation for $55? We’ll take two.
Recently the Bittboy team came out with a Metal Pocket Go following on from the RG350M success. The great handheld now feels even better.
The quality isn’t as good as the RG350M but this completely upgrades the Bittboy into a premium handheld that we can’t help but absolutely love.
If you’re looking for a slim, portable handheld with a metal shell that can handle everything up to PS1, then this is the handheld for you.
2020’s first proper handheld is here and it’s dang impressive. The ODROID GO Advance is a handheld that not only do you need to build yourself, but you also need to install the OS, retro gaming software and flash the drive before you even turn this thing on.
It’s one of the most powerful handhelds on the list, it features a 1.3 GHZ Quad Core processor allowing it to run PS1, PSP and even Nintendo 64 games very well.
But you guessed it, the lack of face buttons, and it only coming with two shoulder buttons makes playing these newer games quite awkward. It’s a large handheld, with a similar size to that of a large smartphone, because it has a beautiful big 3.5″ LCD Display that’s an absolute pleasure to play on.
Even though it can play anything you handle at it, and the fact it has an incredible small price tag at $55 that doesn’t stop the company from cutting a lot of corners.
The buttons are very low quality, the analogue stick is sloppy and the whole set up process is something we wouldn’t wish upon our worse enemies. It had so much potential but Hardkernel’s lack of research made this just shy of perfect.
We were VERY lucky to get a unit from their first batch, they’re so slow at making these things that their second batch isn’t until May 2020, and by then, there will be even more competition.
The RG280M was released in July 2020, and is the smaller, more portable little brother to the RG350M. It comes with a crispy 2.8″ display, a 1GHZ dual core processor, and 512MB’s of RAM.
This pocket rocket can power everything up to PS1 and because of its 320 x 480 display, Gameboy Advance games scale perfectly.
Because it has the same internals as the RG350 including the battery, this thing lasts up to 6 hours on one charge because it only has to power the small screen. 6 hours, of gaming… lovely!
The only downfall is that this thing costs $20 cheaper than the RG350M, which would be a no brainer! But nonetheless a perfectly crafted metal handheld, that sits high on our list.
Released in May 2020 this is one of the most unique handhelds on our list. The Evercade is a cartridge based retro handheld that’s designed to bring back the nostalgic feel of buying cartridges.
The Evercade starts at £49.99, it’s a console out of the UK and the average cartridge comes with 10 – 20 games and will costs you £19.99.
The Evercade team use the real ROM files from the developers. Popular games such as Pac Man, Earthworm Jim and Centipede are amongst the few that have been chosen for the handheld.
The lineup isn’t perfect, we’d certainly like to see some SEGA and Nintendo games amongst the collection but that will never happen as they all have their own handhelds and licenses,
But what is good is that the Evercade are continuously launching new cartridges, so your collection can keep growing and growing.
The GKD 350H is the first handheld to be released in 2020, and with all of the competition out, it has come to the party fashionably late, but there’s a reason for that.
Also known as the Game Kiddy 350H this beast has a 1.5GHZ CPU capable of running PS1 ROM’s perfectly well. Even better than the RG350 in fact.
Because it’s late it has managed to add this new processor, and because of that, it makes it the most powerful best retro handheld under $100.
It comes with a 3.5″ IPS Display, two shoulder buttons, an analogue stick and most importantly a comfortable curved shell helping you to play hours on end.
The design however isn’t our favourite, it’s quite simply, lacks four shoulder buttons and the speaker grill is lost within your hand when playing.
Oh and don’t get us started on the Micro USB port, it’s 2020 and no USB-C. Ouch. However what it lacks in design, it makes up for in pure emulation power, and because it’s a cheap handheld, this is one that will last you the whole year without needing to upgrade it. But still, not enough power for N64 or PSP emulation.
If you’re wanting Nintendo 64 emulation or even want to play PSP games on a whole new handheld, then the Gameboy 1UP is for you.
Just make sure you take out a small loan, because this thing starts at around $200. The Gameboy 1UP makes is one of our best retro handhelds for a number of reasons.
Primarily it’s because it can smash out any Nintendo 64 game you could every dream of, and with very little frame rate drops or crashes.
It’s also one of our best retropie handhelds too because this thing is running on a Raspberry Pi 3 allowing it to power even the best PSP games out there. It comes with 6 ABXY buttons, four shoulder triggers, a big 3.5″ screen, and 3000mah battery to keep you going.
It is a mighty handheld and one you might need some strong biceps for because it’s that big.
Two features which we absolutely love about this retro handheld is one, the fact you can build it yourself if you wish, and two the fact you can plug it into your TV via HDMI, and plug in up to four controls in order to use this as an actual retro console. Mario Kart anyone? This is the ultimate party handheld.
The GPI Case is for those of you that like to do it yourself. Created by a company called RetroFlag, their aim is to bring retro gamers into the RetroPie handhelds community by providing you with a DIY Gameboy Kit. All you need to do is go out and buy a Raspberry Pi 3, stick it in, install some software and then you’re ready to go.
The shell is made to look like an original Gameboy, it’s slightly more compact and comes with a tonne of extra buttons to work with your emulators.
The screen is incredibly good too, with full brightness you’ll have no problem seeing it in bright light or in the evening. Some say it’s slightly overpriced at $70 but we disagree, you’re buying the experience, and it’s a great introduction into building your own handheld.
Yes, the Raspberry Pi will set you back a bit, but you can bet you’ll have one of the best retro handhelds are that actually means something to you, because you put blood, sweat and tears into it.
Tears? Yes, unfortunately the software isn’t the easiest to install, but a few Google searches and you’ll be fine.
We struggled on where to place the Powkiddy V90. It’s a handheld that was released in June 2020, and is one of the first clamshell consoles to come out of China.
The primary reason we have rated it so high is the fact that it’s one of the only handhelds on the list that comes pre-loaded with thousands upon thousands of games, including Zelda, Pokemon, and many, many Mario games.
The clamshell design is neat too, it makes it portable and brings back memories of playing on our original Gameboy Advance SP back in the 2000’s.
It has a bright 3″ IPS display, comes with USB-C charging and only costs $39.99, making it an affordable handheld for your best retro handhelds collection.
This is in no way a perfect handheld, as it struggles to emulate PS1 games. Anything below that for example, Gameboy, Mega Drive, SNES, NES and Famicom will play flawlessly.
This is why you would buy the Powkiddy V90, it’s an easy, play out of the box handheld, that can emulate everything from original Gameboy up to Mega Drive, all at an affordable price.
This is the handheld console that is very hard to get hold of. Ever since it was revealed in 2018 it seems that they only produce a small quantity every couple of months, and to get hold of one you’ll need to be fast on that buy it now button when they come back in stock.
The DigiRetroBoy is number one in our best retro handhelds list for a number of reasons.
Firstly, its one of the only handhelds that can play official Gameboy Advance cartridges, you may be like us who have a couple of Pokemon Cartridges and Mario games lying about your flat, now is the time to use them again, in one of the best retro handhelds on the market.
Secondly, it can emulate GBA, GBC, GB, NES, SMS, GG and PCE ROMS using its included SD card adapter that goes into a GBA cartridge that then goes into your DigiRetroBoy.
It emulates your ROMS smoothly on its 3″ display, it comes with a turbo functionality, cheat support, GBA link cable support, shoulder buttons, Micro USB charging point, brightness settings and a 1,000MAH battery that will last you at least 3 – 4 hours of game time.
The only downfall is its $100 price tag. But we think it’s completely worth it, it’s comfortable, looks nostalgic, has a lovely bright screen and comes with an authentic GBA cartridge slot.
It’s basically like the Metal Gameboy we recently reviewed, without the metal and the $250 price tag.
The people behind this product don’t seem to exist, over the past year they have never replied to one of our emails, so I can’t imagine the support on this thing is any good, and the fact it’s always out of stock after 10 people purchases it really annoys us! This thing is great, so make more!
The Retro Game 300 is an handheld that was released in the summer of 2019, a fairly new handheld that felt like an old Gameboy and play emulators brilliantly.
It is the smaller and cheaper brother of our number 1 slot, the Retro Game 350. It’s for those that prefer a vertical form factor, and don’t want PS1 emulation. If that’s you, don’t get the 350 and get this instead, it’ll save you a good $40-$50.
It can emulate Gameboy, SNES, NES, Game Gear, Sega Mega Drive Mini games, Neo Geo, GBA and a whole lot more. The only old school emulation it can’t play is, N64, PSP, PS1 and Dreamcast, because its older and less powerful than it’s bigger brother.
But it comes with a very comfortable form factor, as the triggers on the back pop out of the shell which helps with long form gameplay, the screen is great, D-PAD responsive and the buttons… ok. Apart from the times new roman font inside… we hate those buttons. Worth a pick up if you have a budget of $50!
This is possibly the most expensive product on our best retro handhelds list, coming in at $150 for the ClockworkPi Gameshell.
This product is for those of you that like to get your hands dirty, this is a modular retro handheld that you have to build yourself. Provided is instructions, buttons, parts, cables and more all ready for you to play with like a kid at Christmas.
Inside the ClockworkPi Gameshell you are greeted with a Quad-core Cortex-A7 CPU, Mali GPU, WI-FI & Bluetooth on-board, 1GB DDR3 Memory, 16GB MicroSD, Micro HDMI output and GPIOs.
One of the main features of this product is that it’s using the Linux Mainline OS meaning it’s highly customisable and you can download and play games created by the Linux community, or if you’re techy, you can even make your own!
Hardware wise this thing is superb. You get a choice between two backshells, one with a literal lego design on the back allowing you to add shoulder buttons and you can choose between red and yellow front face plates.
When assembling the unit this is when you have the most fun with what we are calling one of the best retro handhelds around. And once you’ve completed the building process this product becomes sentimental and a great addition to any retro handheld collection.
The LDK Horizontal is one of the newest handhelds in this best retro handhelds list and it’s one of the few that comes with an analogue stick.
The LDK Horizontal costs approximately $70, so it’s not super cheap but it’s not going to bust the bank. A lot of you have been asking us which is better, Bittboy Pocket Go VS LDK Horizontal?
That’s a tough one, both are incredibly similar in size, they play the same ROM’s and they have a similar design, but the LDK is slightly more powerful.
It comes in Yellow, Transparent and a charcoal black that is also slightly transparent. It uses the OpenDingux OS, it comes with a 2.7″ TFT screen which is probably a bit overkill, but it’s fine (the screen not the size).
Build Quality wise it’s okay, it uses a very cheap plastic as a shell, and then uses a very high end screen and RAM, which confuses us as we would’ve liked them to add a well designed shell to meet its internal standards. If they did that, then we could’ve seen this at Number 3, or even 2 in our best retro handhelds list.
The LDK Horizontal can emulate Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Famicon, Super Famicon, Sega Mega Drive, Sega Game Gear, & PS1 games. All perfectly well apart from 3D PS1 games such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro, we wouldn’t advise downloading it, as it doesn’t even play them well when we add the frameskip option.
We here at RetroDodo have a strong love for the Gameboy Color, it was our first games console that allowed us to really share our love for gaming with friends and family.
It was one of the best retro handhelds of its time and was the console that let us trade Pokemon with our friends using a link cable making the moments even more special.
But the one thing that the Gameboy Color lacked was a bright screen, we all remember the classic car ride where you’d use the road lights to see what you were doing, right?
Well if you can’t afford to add a backlight to your GBC or don’t know how to install it you can now buy the GB Boy, a fake Gameboy Color with a backlight display already built in.
Plus, it can play Gameboy and Gameboy Color games using its built in cartridge slot which plays those games perfectly, in full visibility. The build quality is fairly average, cheap buttons, a cheap shell but it does the job.
It starts at $50 which admittedly you can get an original Gameboy Color for the same price but again the OG has no backlight screen.
And if that wasn’t enough, if you start up the GB Boy without a cartridge inside you’ll see 66 pre-loaded games. But don’t get excited, most of them are your traditional fake games, but you do get a handful of well known titles such as Mario, Tetris, Donkey Kong, Alladdin, Contra and more.
Oh, and it uses x2 AA batteries, just like its older brother. This is a great handheld and gift for Gameboy Color lovers.
Do you fancy spending $250 on a wannabe Nintendo DS? Then read on.
This is the GPD XD one of the most expensive handhelds of our best retro handhelds list and that’s because it can handle every ROM you chuck at it, it comes with a giant 4″ touch screen display, x2 analogue sticks, and it runs on an Android operating system allowing you to download Android apps too.
Imagine a 3DS with the ability to play any old school retro game you could ever think off, and even the latest games such as Fortnite? That’s the GPD XD.
A clam shell games console built for those that want a serious handheld to chuck in their backpack. With its 4GB RAM and 2.7GHZ processor this will play most ROMS in silky smooth frame rate.
The only downfall to this handheld is the mighty price tag, which as you know is the same as a Nintendo Switch and the fact it collects every single fingerprint you could every imagine, but thats us being picky and wanting a shiny new handheld all the time.
The Gameboy Zero is a handheld you are familiar with but probably never heard of. Designed in the UK by a small business called GBZ Mods the Gameboy Zero is on our best retro handhelds list due to its nostalgic feel and modern technology that goes inside of it.
This handheld is using a Raspberry Pi 3 for its internals, so you know this thing will be able to run all of your emulators and more.
It starts quite pricey coming in at $250+ but rest can be assured this unit is being built by professionals.
It’s using the Kite Circuit Sword CM3 AIO, the Raspberry Pi Module (not the latest Pi 4, that has recently been revealed), 32GB Micro USB Pre-Built with the OS, a 320X240 backlight DPI LCD screen, glass lens and a 4000mah battery that’ll keep playing for hours on end.
The reason we like this is because you get modern technology built into an old nostalgic Gameboy DMG shell, which makes you feel like you’re getting the best of both worlds.
With its addition of two buttons you can smash through majority of emulators, such as SNES, NES and so on. It’s a great handheld for those wanting to play any old school game on an old school console.
The RetroGame is similar to No.2 on our best retro handhelds list, which is the Bittboy Pocket Go. But this console, also known as the Revo K101 is a superb handheld that has been on the market for a few years now and it’s still going strong competing with some of the newer handhelds.
It has many similar features to the Gameboy Micro, firstly the size and secondly the cartridge slot. Yep, just like to the DigiRetroBoy at No 1 this thing can play official GBA games using the cartridge on the back.,
With the cartridge slot you also get a TF Card adapter in the box, which is basically a SD card slot in a GBA cartridge that you can load up with a bunch of ROMS.
While we’re on the subject of ROM’s the RetroGame can emulate Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Color, Gameboy, NES, SNES, Sega Mega Drive, Neo Geo, Game Gear and Sega Master System.
It has pretty good build quality too, the RetroGame can certainly take a beating, and it’s something we could trust giving to a child if needed.
It comes with shoulder buttons, colour ABXY pads and a 3″ screen that too be honest, is nothing special but it does the job! The RetroGame is slightly overpriced seeing as its a 3 year old console, coming in at $55, we’d like to see it at $35 but hey, it’s still an ace product that will keep you coming back to play for hours on end.
This is one you’ve most likely never heard of, but now that you have, you wish you never did… because you’ll want one, really, really badly.
This is the Multi Game System, a must add product to our best retro handhelds list because not only does it look incredible, but it can play a wide number of retro games in big handheld fashion.
The MGS is designed and created by one guy, so getting hold of this unit it a pain in the backside, we’ve even offered to buy one mid conversation with the designer and we haven’t heard back from him in weeks, not even a reply with the cost of a unit, so if you want one, you might have to wait some time. Even his website is dead!
Moving past the problems of getting one, this unit looks superb. It’s thick, weighs the same as a Nintendo Switch, has 6 action buttons, two shoulder buttons and an analogue stick.
You can play all kinds of ROMs from Neo Geo to the classic Pokemon Yellow on Gameboy. You can change button layouts, brightness, you can use headphones and even pimp the shell yourself with paint.
This could be the ultimate handheld, but it’s just a shame there’s not a team of people behind it to get it into customers hands. One day, we’ll have one. One day!
We didn’t want to add two Bittboy products to our best retro handhelds list, but we did The original Bittboy which you are seeing here is very different to the Bittboy Pocket Go.
This is the handheld that has really started to kick-start the market into producing higher quality products. Think of it as the King of Emulating Handhelds, the prestigious one that everyone respects. It brought quality to the market, and most importantly it brought a name that customers can trust and go to for ACTUAL support.
If the Bittboy Pocket Go is a little too big for you then the Bittboy has that old school Gameboy feel in a much more diddy package.
It can play all of your ROM’s apart from PS1 and most of the time it comes with a SD card pre-built with games, even if that is a little naughty to do in this market. It has a beautiful bright 2.4″ screen, sleek gloss buttons and a sturdy well cut shell to keep it all in tact.
Bittboy has already updated this product 4 times since launch two years ago, whatever the customers want they shall receive. We remember purchasing their V1 years ago and it didn’t even have a SD card slot, then just a few months later they listened and wallah, it turned this thing into a superb console that has to be in our best retro handhelds list.
It’s fun, it’s small, it’s cheap and its great to take with you on trips away, or if you want to smash out some Mario while you’re on the bus.
The Bittboy brand is doing great, they’re trying hard and they are continusouly evolving. We respect that.