You’ll be surprised how many handheld gaming consoles for kids there are out in the wild. Throughout Europe and America, there’s not many targeted towards the younger audience.
Yes, you have the likes of the Nintendo Switch Lite, but most of us don’t have $199 to splash out on a video games console that will most likely end up being torn to pieces.
Well, you’ve came to the right place. I have been reviewing handhelds for years, hundreds have came through my hands and i’m going to tell you which are the best handheld consoles for kids that won’t empty your wallet.
Majority of these handhelds featured in this article are from China, and this is because China have been going all out with releasing the best retro handhelds over the last couple of years, and there’s so much selection that there’s nowhere else to look.
These handhelds range from $30 to $100, each varying in quality and power. Because they are form China, expect them to take longer to ship, on average it takes 2 – 3 weeks to deliver.
So let’s take a look at the 5 best handheld gaming consoles for kids!
Table of Contents
1. Powkiddy V90
Reccomended Age: 5 – 7 Years Old
We’ve featured the Powkiddy V90 across the site before and I can tell you this is one of the best handheld games consoles for kids on the market under $30. It might not look great, or have the best build quality, but what do you expect from a handheld that costs the same as a round of drinks?
The Powkiddy V90 features a 3” LCD Display, four shoulder buttons, USB-C charging and it comes pre-loaded with a bunch of old retro games so you can play on it straight out of the box.
The 1000MAH battery inside will also get you a few hours of gameplay out of it too, it’s not the best, but it’s enough for those car journeys, or when grandma talks too much and your kid fancies catching some Pokemon instead.
The device itself is made to look like the classic Gameboy Advance SP from 2003. The plastic used is cheap, but durable enough to take lots of bumps and scratches.
Because of the lowish quality plastic used, the hinge can actually take a lot of beating too, and even when we put some force on the hinge it just bends instead of snapping which is good because.. Well, kids like to break things!
On the Powkiddy V90 you will find a very large, thick DPAD which is perfect for disgusting little crisp crummbed children fingers, the action buttons sit out of the shell nicely, and the reset button is very obvious making it easy to switch between emulators and games.
When you turn on the Powkiddy V90 you will be greeted with the not so nice operating system, but a kid will not know the difference between a good one and a bad one.
What makes the V90 a good choice for kids is that it’s easy to understand, simply select the games console you want to play, press A, and then you will find a wide number of pre-loaded games from Pokemon, to Zelda, to Kirby to Sonic The Hedgehog.
The Powkiddy V90 isn’t very powerful, and even though it has some of the best PS1 games installed it doesn’t play them very well, but everything older than that like Gameboy, Mega Drive, Game Gear and Neo Geo perform well.
Don’t expect to play the best Gamecube games on this thing, not even $150 handhelds can do that yet.
There will be slight screen tearing in some games, but the average kid will not notice it, because it’s so minimal.
And finally there is a headphone jack too, so you won’t have to constantly hear the annoying 8bit noises being blared out behind you in the car, chuck them some headphones and you’ll have a couple of hours peace.
Overall the Powkiddy V90 is a cheap and cheerful handheld that can play a wide number of old retro games, features okay build quality that can withstand a beating and it looks so good any young gamer will be thrilled to have it. It’s one of the best handheld gaming consoles for kids, and I even used mine still to this day!
Recommended Age: 5 – 6 Years Old
The Bittboy PocketGo has been around for years, and it was one of the first retro handhelds that we reviewed, and it’s the one that started our crazy addiction to this little things.
The PocketGo is another cheap, small handheld that can play a handful of your old retro games. Due to it being so old, it has a less powerful chip than the likes of the Powkiddy V90, meaning it can’t emulate PS1 games at all.
But that said it can play old your best SEGA Game Gear games and a wide number of Gameboy games too. Just like the V90 it is highly likely that this will come pre-loaded with games too, but it’s been a while since we have bought one so that may have changed.
The initial build quality of the Pocket Go is pretty good, it comes surrounded in a tough plastic that can withstand a lot of bumps and bruises. It’s so strong that even if a kid tried to snap it or twist it, it’s likely they wouldn’t succeed.
It’s easy to get use too, with the coloured face buttons a small 2″ display and a couple of shoulder buttons. It also comes with a charging cable too, so you won’t need to take batteries every time you go on holiday.
The operating system inside is very basic, it won’t intrigue the younger audience but it is somewhat easy to get around. Simply select the games console you want to play, and then dive into the games.
Performance is okay, there is the odd bug now and then, but sound quality is great, and there’s very little frame rate drops. Screen tearing is somewhat common, but again, kids won’t really notice it.
Recommended Age: 10+ Years Old
The RG280V is the most expensive on the list, and has only recently been released. This is one of the best retro handhelds out there for adults, let alone children.
The reason we are featuring it is because it’s a great starter handheld for children that are really interest in video games. It requires a bit of research to get it started and it allows the user to tinker around with the settings once turned on.
We’ll admit, for a kid this might be a little too much but if the kid is above 10 years old and doesn’t mind watching some YouTube videos to get it going, then it will last them for many years to come.
It’s built by a company called ANBERNIC who are the big dogs in China when it comes to handheld consoles. They’ve made the RG351MP which is rated our best handheld of 2021, and they’re making the upcoming RG552 which is a $150 Android based gaming handheld.
So if the kid loves the RG280V, there is plenty of options to upgrade and pull them into a more advance handheld.
It has superb build quality, an incredible little screen, four shoulder buttons, USB-C charging and 512MB of RAM allowing it to play PS1 games very well.
This is by far the best handheld games consoles for kids who want something pocket friendly, reliable, durable and who wants to be apart of the awesome retro handheld community.
Yes it’s a little pricey, but it’s an ANBERNIC product. Do take into consideration that these DO NOT come pre-loaded, you will have to install your own ROMs via an SD card. It’s fairly easy to do, but expect to take a couple hours out of your day to set it up.
This may be tricky for a child to do this, so we recommend an adult doing some research. That’s the only downfall with this thing, but it’s still one of the best handheld gaming consoles for kids anyway!
4. PocketGo V2
Recommended Age: 6+ Years Old
The Pocket Go V2 is the bigger brother of… you guessed it the Pocket Go, but over the last year or so the name has changed to PlayGo (we don’t know why, maybe Bittboy went bust?).
It has a similar design but comes with a much bigger screen, a bigger more comfortable form factor and an analogue stick which makes playing PS1 games that little bit easier.
In terms of power, it can only emulate up to PS1, and that’s the cap you’re familiar with in this article, because that allows the manufacturer to put the “cheaper” chipsets inside of these things.
If you want more power it’s going to cost you upwards of $100 (as of now).
The Pocket Go V2 is comfortable, sturdy and features a very basic user interface, again, similar to those on this list. Emulators are set out on the home page, and your ROMs are within those folders
Typically this unit does come pre-loaded, but we have heard at times from the community that they haven’t so it may need some “emulator knowledge” to install games on this thing, but we can assure you it’s fairly easy.
It’s basic, big, reliable and durable, all for an affordable price, plus the big screen may help keep the kids captivated for longer!
Recommended Age: 10+
The RG280M is the only metal handheld on this list, and it’s for children with a bit more… respect when it comes to valuable products. Yes, this will take a beating because of it’s metal shell, but it can probably also be used as a weapon due to it’s weight.
The RG280M is another one of ANBERNIC’s products, and like ANBERNIC, has superb build quality.
The reason we are featuring this on the list, and some may see it as a little bit “overkill” but due to its low number of sales ANBERNIC has significantly reduced the price, to a point where it’s a great deal.
It uses the very popular RKK3326 chipset which is very reliable and can flawlessly emulate PS1 games and even a few 2D N64 games, but don’t go expecting it to play GoldenEye, because it doesn’t.
It’s an all round perfect handheld, and because of the small size and portable nature of it, it can be chucked in heir bag and taken to school without worry of it breaking.
It comes with great battery life (5+ hours), an incredibly crispy screen at the perfect 4:3 ratio, an analogue stick and of course the vibrant coloured metal shell that just feels amazing. Oh, and don’t forget four shoulder buttons!
And because this is so advanced, the firmware can be changed into a more friendlier version, giving your kid a chance to really take it a part and tinker with the user interface, should they be into that.
It’s not the perfect starter handheld, but it’s definitely for someone who has had a lower quality handheld in the past and now wants something a bit more serious.
So there’s a look at our best handheld gaming consoles for kids, we’ve tried and tested every single one thoroughly, and you can dive into our YouTube channel which reviews handhelds almost every week for more information.
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A 31 year old British fella that’s had a Gameboy ever since he was a child. Brandon is the founder of RetroDodo and has created a YouTube channel with 260,000 subscribers dedicated to retro gaming products. He now wants to create the No.1 site to showcase the latest retro products from around the globe.