The best handheld games consoles can allow you to enjoy new experiences without being restricted to a desk or sofa. In 2023, there are more options than ever for dedicated systems built for portability across all major platforms. Whether you’re interested in streaming or a dedicated port for on-the-go action, these are our top picks available right now.
As much as we love the likes of the PS5 and the Xbox Series X, they aren’t hugely mobile. You can’t play them on the go, and taking them on a trip or over two a friend’s house can be a hassle. That’s where the best handheld games consoles can shine, letting you play anywhere you want, filling those gaps where you aren’t near a television. Alternatively, we’re also rounding up our top picks for the best gaming consoles as well.
While there is an abundance of great games you can play on the best smartphones, we’re fans of the magic of a handheld console. A touchscreen D-Pad and face buttons just can’t beat physical feedback. Though, thanks to Xbox Cloud Gaming, you can now also use your phone and tablet to access console-quality games and control them with the best Xbox Game Pass streaming accessories, making it easier than ever to play games on the go.
Best handheld games consoles in 2023
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The Nintendo Switch OLED model takes the top spot as the best handheld games console in 2023. While the hardware has stayed the same as the base model from over five years ago, the new screen makes all the difference when gaming on the go. The OLED looks incredibly sharp and helps make the colors pop in the best Nintendo Switch games in a way the standard LCD can’t compare.
Priced at $349.99 / £309.99 / AU$539.95, the Nintendo Switch OLED isn’t the cheapest handheld. But it does have one of the largest and most varied game libraries, and there are more quality-of-life improvements than just the better screen.
The Nintendo Switch OLED’s larger seven-inch display is coupled with better speakers and a vastly improved kickstand. You’re also getting 64GB internal storage, double that of the rest of the Switch family. We would still recommend considering one of the best SD cards for Switch, so you don’t run out of room. Most of the improvements are geared around playing handheld, so if you’re planning on primarily using a gaming TV with the device docked, you’re better off going for the standard Nintendo Switch.
If you’re on a budget then the Nintendo Switch Lite is easily the best bang for your buck handheld games console. Priced at $199.99 / £199.99 / AU$329.95, a full $60 / £60 / AU$105 cheaper than the base model, you’re getting the same experience in a compact, and more ergonomically pleasing design than the Nintendo Switch.
We found that the Nintendo Switch Lite was much more comfortable to use over time in handheld mode. That’s partly due to the lighter and smaller build, which includes a slighter screen of 5.5 inches. You’re keeping the same 720p resolution here, so there are more pixels per inch and games appear sharper to the eye. Save for exceptions such as text-heavy games, which could require you to squint a little more than desired.
The Nintendo Switch Lite also does away with the Joy-Cons, the standard console’s detachable controllers. In their stead are controls built into each side of the system, emulating what you would find from a left and right Joy-Con in terms of placement. This change brings a D-pad that is more ergonomic and natural in hand than the split version on the older model. If you’re after a smaller and sleeker experience at a budget price, this could be the handheld for you.
While the Steam Deck is more of a pocket-sized PC than a dedicated handheld games console, it has all the hallmarks of what you need to play when out and about. That’s because this small but mighty machine has enough grunt under the hood to natively play hundreds of games from your existing Steam library without needing a dedicated gaming PC or streaming. Such heavy hitters include Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Death Stranding, and Elden Ring to name a few, so you’re getting the full-fat home console experience in the palm of your hand.
These are just a few of the more graphically demanding titles available on the platform. Now, to compensate, you are taking a hit in resolution. The Steam Deck’s seven-inch IPS display is 1280 x 800, so you’re not quite getting Full HD here. However, considering how well many of the verified and ‘great on Deck’ games (opens in new tab) run on the system, coupled with the modest screen size, it hardly matters. In our testing, we were more often greatly impressed than frustrated in terms of performance.
What’s more, the Steam Deck is considerably cheaper than many handheld PCs on the market. Rates start at $399 / £349 for the most basic model. That gives you 64GB of eMMC storage and a basic carrying case. You will be better suited by the $529 / £459 or $649 / £569 options, which utilize 256GB and 512GB NVMe SSDs instead for better, faster performance when loading games. It’s currently available in regions such as the US and the UK directly from Valve’s Steam client (opens in new tab) and select retailers. Plans to launch in Australia are ongoing, with no official pricing being released yet.
You can think of the Evercade EXP as an evolution of the company’s original retro-focused handheld. Now, things are kept appropriately old-school with this device, as while there is WiFi onboard, the main way you’ll get games for the system is through old-fashioned cartridges. You’re mostly getting compilations of entire fully-licensed catalogs from older hardware such the Intellivision, various Atari consoles, and the Commodore 64. These cartridges can include anywhere from two games up to 20, depending on the size of the titles included.
Out of the box, the Evercade EXP includes 18 games from Capcom, which bundles in some all-star classics such as Mega Man, Strider, and Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting. There are more than 380 games you can buy for the console, too. Armed with a 4.3-inch IPS screen (800 x 480p) with mini HDMI out, USB-C charging, and WiFi, and about four to five hours of battery life, it’s a great handheld for retro games.
Games come in carefully crafted boxes, with full-color instruction manuals, and premium cartridges. It’s like having your music on vinyl instead of streaming. You can expect to pay $149.99 / £129.99 / AU$229.99 for the console, which is only a touch above the original handheld model while boasting significantly improved specs and performance.
The Logitech G Cloud does something you won’t find on many dedicated handheld gaming consoles, and that’s relying entirely on streaming services. Whether you’re dedicated to Xbox Cloud Gaming through Xbox Game Pass or want to take to Nvidia GeForce Now to stream some of the best PC games, this fully-featured Android-based machine is equipped for play wherever Wi-Fi is available.
Visually, the Logitech G Cloud is the closest we’ve ever seen to an Xbox handheld console. That’s reflected in the color scheme, sticks, D-pad, and face buttons which seem like an homage to the Xbox One and Xbox Series X. Essentially, the Logitech G Cloud’s an Android tablet powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G, which is no slouch of a CPU. Above all the touchscreen display is a seven-inch IPS Full HD (1080p) at 60Hz, so you can make the most of the resolution on this compact machine.
The only real downside of the Logitech G Cloud is that it lacks any form of data connectivity or SIM card support. That means you can’t just connect to 4G or 5G to stream your games, which means you will largely rely on the strength of public Wi-Fi when out and about. There are workarounds, though, such as Wi-Fi tethering from one of the best iPhones or best Android phones. Still, this inclusion would have been a major plus.
Best handheld games console – Frequently asked questions
Is the Nintendo Switch better as a console or a handheld?
It all comes down to personal preference. looking at a 720p screen in handheld mode, but that’s upscaled to Full HD (1080p) when docked via HDMI. Given that the hardware can sometimes struggle with more demanding games, such as Bayonetta 3, you may be better off docking in some circumstances. For lighter gaming experiences, such as with indie titles, handheld play may be preferable.
What is the best handheld console for beginners?
If you’re just starting out with a dedicated handheld console, then the Nintendo Switch Lite our recommendation. The system is cheaper than the full-fat Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch OLED, while featuring a sturdier, plastic base. The Nintendo Switch Lite plays all the same games as the other systems in the line-up, with the major difference being that it cannot dock to a TV.