21 Best Handheld Retro Consoles: Compared and Reviewed

Handheld Retro Consoles

Nothing beats playing retro games while on the go. That’s why we’re here to bring you the best handheld retro consoles you need in your life.

See Also: Best Gifts for 13-Year-old Boys

What Are the Best Handheld Retro Consoles?

GPD WIN 2 Mini Laptop Amazon Customer Reviews
  • The most powerful handheld on the market
  • Sturdy, high-quality build
  • Can play almost every console ever made
Price: $1,129.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
RG351MP Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Crisp, clean emulation for up to PS1
  • Gorgeous metal shell for a truly premium feel
  • Comes with 2,500 games
Price: $172.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Evercade Premium Pack Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Brilliant, affordable console
  • Great selection of games
  • Actually legal
Price: $149.49 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Retroid Pocket 2 Android Handheld Game Console Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Can run later generations really well
  • Up to PS1 emulation is fast
  • Runs on Android
Price: $119.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
GPD XD Plus Foldable Handheld Game Console Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Runs the more powerful systems like Dreamcast and DS
  • It's Android, so getting emulators is easy
  • Solid design
Price: $229.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
RG351 Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Exceptional quality up to PS1
  • The Retro Game range has the best build quality
  • Can play some 2D Dreamcast games really well
Price: $119.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
RG350 Retro Game Console Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Emulates loads of different consoles...
  • ... and they actually run near 100 percent
  • Really well designed
Price: $95.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
RG350 Metal Shell Version Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Still the best emulator on the market
  • The metal shell feels more premium than the plastic version
  • Comes with 10,000 games (No, I haven't counted them)
Price: $119.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
RG280M Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Near full-speed PS1 support
  • Doesn't hurt your hands after a long session
  • Killer screen
Price: $79.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Retro CM3 Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Outstanding emulation
  • Outstanding screen quality
  • Raspberry Pi is great for emulating older systems
Price: $218.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Retroid Pocket 2 Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Plays up to Dreamcast
  • Very well designed
  • Android = more options
Price: $59.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
PocketGo Portable Handheld Retro Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Excellent selection of retro options
  • Crazy affordable
  • Looks stylish
Price: $169.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
MJKJ Handheld Game Console Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Big screen
  • Low price
  • That's pretty much it
Price: $55.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Retro Game Plus Console Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Great analog stick
  • Mostly full-speed emulation
  • Mid-range price
Price: $49.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Hyperkin SupaBoy Console Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Plays SNES carts
  • Works on the TV as well
  • Features SNES controllers ports
Price: $95.84 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
WOLSEN Old Arcade Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Killer coloring
  • Plays NES games without too many issues
  • Super affordable
Price: $33.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Goolsky X16 Handheld Game Video Game Console Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Great screen size
  • Solid button layout
  • Plays movies and MP3 files, too
Price: $78.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
My Arcade Pixel Player Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Pure nostalgic design
  • Decent screen
  • Mid-range price
Price: $32.04 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
New Nintendo 2DS XL Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Excellent library of 3DS and retro games
  • It has Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow on it!
  • MASSIVE screen
Price: $328.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Sony PlayStation Vita WiFi Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Stunning visuals thanks to immense power
  • Plays PS1 and PSP games via the PS Store
  • Isn't just an emulator console
Price: $371.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Sony Playstation Portable - PSP 3000 Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Vivid, large screen
  • Plays PS1 games perfectly
  • Also a games console
Price: $207.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. GPD WIN 3 Mini Laptop – Due June, 2021

    Pros:
    • The most powerful handheld on the market
    • Sturdy, high-quality build
    • Powerful enough to play almost every console ever made
    • Comes with a 1TB SSD and boasts 16GB of RAM
    Cons:
    • Really, really pricey
    • Isn't as powerful as desktops in the same price bracket
    • Price needs to be mentioned twice

    Imagine a Nintendo 3DS with the power of a gaming PC. That’s what the GPD WIN 3 Mini Laptop is. 

    Okay, sure, not many will be able to get past the price of the WIN 3, but this is a list of the best handheld retro consoles, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. 

    So, let’s talk power, and make sure you’re ready for this. The WIN 3 comes with an Intel Gen11 Tiger Lake-U i7-1165G7, which is perfect for something with a 5.5-inch screen, alongside 16GB of RAM and a super-fast 1TB SSD. 

    Those specs are just pure drip. The WIN 3 is the bling of retro. 

    Those specs should be able to run the vast majority PC games – even more taxing titles like CyberPunk. That’s cool and all, but what about emulation? In short, there’s no stopping this beast. 

    As it’s built on Window architecture, that means we’re dealing with PC-based emulators. PS2, GameCube, Dreamcast, Wii U – the WIN 3 will be able to play everything and then some. I’ve seen The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild running on the WIN 2 mini and it’s just a mind-blowing visual. To think how far people will push the newer version is stupidly exciting. 

    The other thing to keep in mind is the WIN 3 isn’t just some cheap plastic toy. All the parts are solid and feel high-end. You won’t find a better, more powerful gaming handheld out there. 

  2. 2. Anbernic RG351MP – The Best RG35X On The Market

    Pros:
    • Crisp, clean emulation for up to PS1
    • Gorgeous metal shell for a truly premium feel
    • Comes with 2,500 games
    • Solid pricing for what it is and what it can do
    • Available in three colors - black, green, blue
    Cons:
    • RK3326 is great, but is now getting on a bit
    • advertized Dreamcast, PSP, and N64 emulation isn't great
    • Anbernic releases a new RG35x series handheld every few months

    If you’re new to retro mobile gaming, the RG351MP is without question the best portable handheld on the market today. 

    In terms of power, the RG351MP comes equipped with the now fairly old RK3326 chipset. Depending on how you slice it, this can be both a blessing and a curse. This chip can do the job excellently, and with Anbernic constantly iterating on its firmware, playing up to PS1 games will be a breeze. The problem we’re now starting to see with the RK3326 chipset is there isn’t much else that can be done with it. Sure, Dreamcast and N64 games can run on it, but with middling compatibility, an upgrade is starting to feel needed to excel the Retro Game Handheld series into a the future. 

    That all sounds rather doom and gloom but it’s important to remember the RG35x series of handhelds are currently the best in the business for what they do. If you’re after near flawless emulation across the board for up to PS1 systems, then you’re going to be impressed, because Anbernic has nailed how to make these older systems shine on a portable device. 

    Comparing the RG351MP with previous models, there are only really two things you need to know. The first is that the screen has been switched out from a 16:9 ratio to a 4:3. In any other world this would be bad, but given systems like SNES, Genesis, or PS1 were all mostly running on 4:3 screens, this change really fits with the design and looks striking in action. 

    The other change is instead of a plastic case, you’ve got an aluminum shell. This, of course, isn’t going to be for everyone – and a lot of customers will prefer to opt for the cheaper plastic shell version – but if you’re after something that feels as premium as they come, the metal shell feels and looks stunning. 

    To get a second opinion on how the RG351MP fairs, I caught up with Brandon Saltalamacchia from retro gaming site Retro Dodo to discuss who the RG351MP is aimed at and where it fits in today’s ever-crowded retro space. 

    “The RG351MP is a stunning device, the shell is crafted from aluminum, the buttons used are high quality and the brand new 640 x 480 display is a much needed upgrade allowing you to play your retro games in a far more natural aspect ratio,” says Saltalamacchia. “But it still features the old RK3326 chip which caps it at flawless PS1 gameplay which has been the norm for well over a year now.
     
    “This device is late to the party, and we only recommend snagging one if you don’t currently own an RK3326 handheld. If you can wait a few months, there will be far more powerful handhelds on the market for the same price.”
     
    In short, if you already own a recent RG351 model, the upgrades the RG351MP offers aren’t necessarily all that enticing. 
     
    If, however, you’re new to the scene and this is your first handheld, or you’re looking to upgrade from the RG350 series, you absolutely won’t go wrong with the RG351MP. It’s gorgeous both in design and in presentation, and for up to PS1 titles, you’ll struggle to find compatibility issues. That’s how good this pocket-sized beast is at what it does. 
  3. 3. Evercade Premium Pack

    Pros:
    • Brilliant, affordable console
    • Great selection of games
    • Actually legal
    Cons:
    • Games may not be to everyone's tastes
    • Needs to be successful in order for it to have a long lifespan
    • You have to pay for games (although this does mean we get more games)

    The Evercade retro console is something I and many others are extremely excited about.

    This console doesn’t exist in a grey area – it’s completely 100 percent legal. 

    That’s because the Evercade uses cartridges to play different officially licensed games. It’s essentially a modernized GameBoy!

    The screen is super clear, the controls feel natural, and the emulation is on-point. 

    This premium pack even comes with three collection carts spanning Data East, Interplay, and Atari.

    The Evercade is the best investment on this list. It’s going to have support going forward, meaning there should be new carts coming out with even more games on. Plus you don’t have to worry about downloading ROMs. What’s not to love?

    I’ve since gone hands-on with the Evercade so if you want more in-depth thoughts, that article has everything you need to know. 

    As for all the different carts available, those are listed below: 

     

  4. 4. Retroid Pocket 2 Android Handheld Game Console

    Pros:
    • Can run later generations really well
    • Up to PS1 emulation is fast
    • Runs on Android
    Cons:
    • Can run later generations really well, if you're willing to put the time in
    • Build quality is okay
    • Generic thumbsticks

    The Retroid Pocket 2 is a brilliant console capable of a lot, but there is one serious caveat. 

    You see, this pocket monster will run the likes of Dreamcast games really well so long as you’ve got the patience to set up each game individually. 

    Thanks to RetroArch, the Retroid Pocket 2 can handle systems up to Dreamcast. For 8-Bit, 16-Bit, and PS1, you won’t need to worry too much about changing cores or selecting the right shader. They should all work without any major problems – it’s similar to the RG350 in that respect. It’s only when you start really pushing the console’s limits that things get technical. 

    For people who’ve been modding handhelds or using RetroArch for years, the idea of setting up each game from the N64, PSP, or Dreamcast generations isn’t a deal-breaker. It’s an annoyance, for sure, but it’s to be expected when we’re talking about affordable tech. The fact something in this price range can run these games is a miracle in itself. 

    All this comes down to is how comfortable you are messing around with RetroArch’s settings to get things running without an issue. It’s a lot of trial and error, which may put some off. Me personally? I’m okay with it. And the idea of playing Marvel vs Capcom 2 at a decent speed on a handheld is enough to sell me on this. 

    One final point, the build quality isn’t as strong as what we see in the RG351. It feels like plastic, which is fine in this price bracket, but it’s worth knowing before you hit buy. 

  5. 5. GPD XD Plus Foldable Handheld Game Console

    Pros:
    • Runs the more powerful systems like Dreamcast and DS
    • It's Android, so getting emulators is easy
    • Solid design
    Cons:
    • Pricey (but worth it)
    • Not small enough to fit in a pocket
    • Only comes in black

    The GPD XD Plus is my personal pick. It is easily one of the best handheld retro consoles ever made. 

    Power? The GPD XD Plus has it all and then some. It’s not as powerful as the GPD WIN 2, but then of course it isn’t. It’s not a pocket PC with a ludicrous price-tag to match. 

    With 4GB of RAM to power this beast, the GPD XD Plus utilizes Android as it’s operating system. The advantage of that means you can hop on the Google Play Store and download the best emulators for the job. RetroArch is the one-for-all emulator everyone needs, but having seen the Pokemon games on DS running at near-to-full speed, I’d also recommend grabbing DraStic. 

     In terms of build quality, the GPD XD Plus screams premium. It feels like a console that’s designed to beat the competition rather than something to be sold in dollar stores. 

    If you’re after a super powerful gaming handheld but pull a face at the crazy cost of the GPD WIN 2, the GPD XD Plus will fulfill all your retro gaming needs.

  6. 6. RG351 Retro Console – 64GB Card with 2500 Games

    Pros:
    • Exceptional quality up to PS1
    • The Retro Game range has the best build quality
    • Can play some 2D Dreamcast games really well
    • Upgraded CPU
    • New ArkOS is stunning
    • Comes with games
    Cons:
    • N64 and up emulation is hit and miss
    • No HDMI out
    • Sticks are fine

    The Anbernic RG351 Retro Handheld is how you do an upgrade. 

    The RG351 takes what people love about the RG350 and supercharges it. With an improved CPU this pocket-sized beast can run games up to PS1 with little-to-no issues. If you’re a PS1 player, you’re going to notice the difference the new CPU makes versus the RG350. 

    One of the biggest issues I had with the RG350 was just how ugly the operating system was. OpenDingux was an eyesore, but the new ArkOS is gorgeous. Rather than pixelated text, we now have stunning artwork to flick through. It’s such a huge improvement and really makes this product feel more premium than it has any right to be. 

    While we’re on the subject, the RG351 still runs on a modified version of Linux, but this outing introduces RetroArch into Anbernic’s ecosystem. What that means in simple terms is instead of being locked into an emulator, there are now options to tweak performance per game. 

    Because of the introduction of RetroArch, that means the RG351 can now play Dreamcast, N64, PSP, and DS ROMs.

    I’d love to tell you they all run perfectly, but it’s all very hit and miss. 

    From what I’ve seen, games are playable, but it varies from game-to-game. Mario Kart 64 and Super Mario 64 are perfectly playable and run fairly well. But then if you throw a Kirby game at it, it falls flat on its face. 2D Dreamcast games work well, but 3D titles like Sonic Adventure or Crazy Taxi will suffer frame drops and audio cracks – that’s a similar case for PSP as well. DS games run, again, decently, but it’s all dependent on how CPU-heavy the individual game is. 

    The thing to keep in mind here is something at this price isn’t supposed to be able to run the new batch of consoles at all. The fact it can run some games really well is a testament to how scrappy and talented the folks at Anbernic are. As a comparison, my Xbox Series X struggles with some N64 and Dreamcast games, so of course the RG351 isn’t going to be pixel-perfect in that regard. 

    In short, if you’re looking to get a killer retro handheld for up to PS1 games, the RG351 is the easiest to recommend console out there. If you’re coming at this one expecting full-speed emulation for the Dreamcast generation, you’ll only be disappointed. If, however, you know its limitations and are ready to marvel at the fact some Dreamcast generation games will work, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 

    I’ve featured this handheld a lot. It’s even listed as one of the most awesome Christmas gifts for 13-year-olds. That’s how great it is. 

  7. 7. RG350 Retro Game Console – with 32GB Card and 2500 Games

    Pros:
    • Emulates loads of different consoles...
    • ... and they actually run near 100 percent
    • Really well designed
    • Affordable and powerful
    • Multiple color options
    Cons:
    • Can't play N64 games, yet
    • Menu is kind of ugly (but does what it needs to)
    • Name brand on the front is a big no-no

    The RG350 is the real deal, a stellar option for retro gaming fans. 

    But don’t just take my word for it. Kotaku loved it as well.

    In terms of what this pocket beast is capable of, it’ll emulate NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Genesis, Neo Geo, PS1, and a host of other systems you probably won’t use, but it’s still cool to have access to. 

    The most shocking is how well this device runs PS1 titles. PS1 requires a fair bit of power to emulate, so to have this much power in such a small space, while still keeping the price low, it’s a welcome surprise. 

    Where the RG350 differs from the more generic options, you know the types, is in how well put together it is. It feels like a proper machine rather than a lump of cheap plastic. I’ve also gotta give props to the implementation of the R1/R2 and L1/L2 triggers as buttons along the top of the case. That’s some smart design right there. 

    It’s a shame the RF350 can’t emulate N64 games yet, but considering how much it can play, and its price point, the RG350 is one of the best handheld retro consoles around.

  8. 8. RG350 with Metal Shell and 10,000 Games

    Pros:
    • Still the best emulator on the market
    • The metal shell feels more premium than the plastic version
    • Comes with 10,000 games (No, I haven't counted them)
    Cons:
    • Can cost more than the plastic version
    • Metal will always be cold at first
    • UI is still ugly

    The RG350 is currently my go-to emulator device. Delivering crisp visuals with near-perfect emulation, it’s too good to pass up. 

    My only real concern is the plastic shell. It feels mass-produced. That’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but it’s always been a point of contention. 

    That was, until this new version of the RG350 came along. Instead of the plastic, now we’ve got an aluminum alloy shell, and the difference is it now feels like and looks as good as it plays. 

    Sure, this is purely a cosmetic upgrade, but it’s great to see areas the console could do better in getting improved. 

    As it’s still the RG350 on the inside, in terms of what it can play, it’s NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance, Genesis, Neo Geo, and PS1. 

  9. 9. Anbernic RG280M

    Pros:
    • Near full-speed PS1 support
    • Doesn't hurt your hands after a long session
    • Killer screen
    Cons:
    • Latest RG351 is a better option overall
    • That box, man. That box...
    • Not everyone will love the smaller form factor

    The RG280M is one of the best value emulation handhelds there is. It is, in simple terms, an RG350, only downsized. 

    I do need to stress this, when you get your device, ignore the box. It’s simply horrific and makes it look like it’s a dollar shop kid’s toy. Once you’re in, though, that’s where this thing comes to life. 

    The build quality is exceptional, and the ergonomic design feels natural. The bottom corners rest really well when you’re gripping the console. Don’t you just love handhelds that don’t hurt you? 

    As for the emulation power of this device, it’ll run all the lower-powered consoles (SNES, Genesis, and so on), but PS1 emulation is this thing’s killer selling point. It runs PS1 games at near full speeds while easily maintaining the expected framerates. It really is glorious to see in action, and the screen on the RG280M really helps. Just keep in mind this is a one-stick console. So anything needing two analogues may run into trouble. 

    The only downside is the shorter battery life, which isn’t bad by any means, but it doesn’t hit that sweet six-hour spot. 

    If you’re looking to play retro games on a crisp screen, with great speakers and awesome PS1 support, the RG280M is for you. 


    VideoVideo related to anbernic rg280m2020-03-04T11:26:41-05:00
  10. 10. Retro CM3 (Raspberry Pi 3 Console)

    Pros:
    • Outstanding emulation
    • Outstanding screen quality
    • Raspberry Pi is great for emulating older systems
    • Highly customizable
    Cons:
    • Pricey
    • Thumbstick isn't concave
    • Black is a bit generic?

    The Retro CM3 is one of the best emulator consoles on the market, and you really need to consider it for your next purchase. 

    This console is built using the Raspberry Pi 3 card. Like Android, Raspberry Pi is my go-to when it comes to emulation. There is a lot of power in the Pi that’s perfect for emulating older systems. 

    As for what this can run, up to PS1 is the answer. I should note, it plays this stuff with ease as well. Think of a game, it’ll play it at full speed without any hitches. I’m sure there are exceptions somewhere, but I haven’t come across them. 

    It’s not just the power that makes this such a killer console. The screen quality is exceptional. Your games will glean. 

    My only complaint is the thumbstick isn’t concave, but given that’s my main issue, it says a lot about how great this thing is. Sure, it’s a little pricey, but given the power and build quality, the cost is worth every penny. 


    VideoVideo related to retro cm3 (raspberry pi 3 console)2020-03-09T07:38:15-04:00
  11. 11. Retroid Pocket Android Handheld Game Console

    Pros:
    • Plays up to Dreamcast
    • Very well designed
    • Android = more options
    Cons:
    • Pricier than the more basic offerings
    • The yellow console isn't a nice as the white or blue versions
    • The 3.5-inch is screen is great, but isn't huge

    The Retroid Pocket Android Handheld Game Console is a great option for emulating Dreamcast games. 

    It’s an Android system, which at this point in time, all handhelds emulators should be. Android opens up the system to excellent software, meaning you can get near full speed emulation. 

    While this console will play Dreamcast games at high speeds, it also plays PS1, N64, PSP, MAME, as well as all the 8-Bit and 16-Bit consoles. Again, more Android consoles, please! The breadth of possibilities is too good to pass up. 

    Elsewhere this console has a killer screen along with two well-designed analog sticks. 

    It is pricier than the more basic offerings on this list, but given the extra power this console boasts, the price increase is more than justified. 

  12. 12. PocketGo Portable Handheld Retro

    Pros:
    • Excellent selection of retro options
    • Crazy affordable
    • Looks stylish
    Cons:
    • Not as powerful as pricier machines
    • PS1 emulation isn't perfect
    • Needs a larger memory card

    The PocketGo Portable is a great option if you’re on a budget. 

    It’ll play NES, SNES, Master System, Genesis, and Gameboy games up to Gameboy Advance, as well as PS1 and MAME. 

    Don’t expect perfect emulation, nor will the PocketGo be on par with the RG350, but for the incredibly low price, ROMs run well enough for it to be considered one of the best handheld retro consoles around. 

    It comes equipped with an 8GB micro SD card, which while only enough for one or two PS1 ISOs, it’s plenty of space for ROMs from older consoles. Although I would still upgrade the storage if you’ve got a huge catalog of games you’re looking to turn into ROMs. 

    In terms of screen quality, again, it’s not as crisp as the RG350, but, also again, it is but a fraction of the price.

    What it all comes down to is how much are you looking to spend? For the price, the PocketGo is an absolute steal. Just keep in mind because of the lower price point, there will be other retro consoles that eclipse the PocketGo when it comes to power and future compatibility. 

  13. 13. MJKJ Handheld Game Console

    Pros:
    • Big screen
    • Low price
    • That's pretty much it
    Cons:
    • Feels cheap
    • TV function may or may not work
    • Misleading advertizing

    I was in two minds about mentioning the MJKJ Handheld Game Console on this best handheld retro consoles guide. It has a lot of problems, but…

    Let’s get the bad out of the way first, shall we? It feels cheap and is a little too light for my liking, the TV Output function isn’t guaranteed to work, and using Street Fighter IV and Bayonetta on the images to promote it when there’s no way this thing is going to run those games is very dishonest. 

    This handheld will run 8-bit and 16-bit games. It won’t run them as well as the GPD, RG350, or PocketGo, but it still runs them well enough to not feel short-changed.

    So, why is this even here? It’s the screen. That’s the reason. 

    The 4.3-inch TFT screen is reminiscent of the PSP, and games look great on it. Plus the majority of the lower-priced handhelds only feature a small screen. Having a much larger one to play the likes of Pokemon or Sonic on is sure to make a lot of people happy. Just be sure you understand what you’re buying and where the issues lie before you hit that all-important buy button. 

  14. 14. Retro Game Plus Console

    Pros:
    • Great analog stick
    • Mostly full-speed emulation
    • Mid-range price
    • Excellent speakers
    • Six-hour battery life
    Cons:
    • PS1 emulation isn't perfect
    • Some don't like see-through cases
    • 128MB isn't enough for anything higher than PS1

    The Retro Game Plus Console is surprisingly powerful given the mid-range price. 

    It’s not the most powerful console on this list in terms of which consoles it can emulate, but having seen several videos of this beast in action, it’s great at what it can do, and can emulate some of the trickier SNES and Genesis games at full speed. 

    As for which consoles the Retro Game Plus can emulate, we’re talking the 8-Bit and 16-Bit generations (so SNES, Genesis, Gameboy Advance, and so on), which it’ll run without many issues. It also features support for PS1 titles, though they don’t run as smoothly as the other consoles. They run well enough, but given how well the Retro Game Plus runs 16-Bit games, I’d say that’s the main focus here. 

    I’m also super impressed by the analog stick. Getting an analog stick onto a handheld console isn’t the easiest of things to manage, just ask Nintendo with the 3DS, but it feels surprisingly comfortable and moves naturally. 

    The Retro Game Plus also manages to hit that sweet spot of six-hours playtime. 

    For the mid-range cost, and for fans of the 8-and-16-bit eras, the Retro Game Plus is one hell of a tempting prospect. 

  15. 15. Hyperkin SupaBoy

    Pros:
    • Plays SNES carts
    • Works on the TV as well
    • Features SNES controllers ports
    Cons:
    • Struggles with the more complex SNES games
    • Only plays SNES games
    • You'll need physical carts to get the most out of this console

    Got a load of Super Nintendo games around the house? Why not put them to use with the Hyperkin SupaBoy?

    This pocket-size handheld plays all your physical SNES games. Just grab a game, insert it into the handheld and play. It’s as simple as that. 

    What’s also really cool is this console can hook directly up to your TV. It’s a handheld and a home console in one. 

    There are also two ports for SNES controllers, meaning you can have a truly old-school experience with modern hardware. 

    The only drawback of this console is it doesn’t play everything at full speed, which is a bit of a sticking point for a console that only plays SNES games. Most games will work without issues, but when FX-chip enabled games enter the mix, results vary from title to title. 

    That said, the appeal of being able to play physical games and play them on the TV should the need take you, is too hard to pass up.

  16. 16. 8-Bit Old Arcade

    Pros:
    • Killer coloring
    • Plays NES games without too many issues
    • Super affordable
    Cons:
    • Only plays NES games
    • A small amount of consoles have battery issues
    • More costly systems outperform

    After an affordable way to play NES games? The 8-Bit Old Arcade is for you. 

    Let me just get this out of the way first: Because of the low cost, it’s unfair to compare the Old Arcade with the pricier, more powerful systems. It’s like comparing a bicycle with a car, they’re two different beasts. 

    That said, when keeping the price in mind, the Old Arcade is perfect for those on a budget. 

    It plays the majority of NES games at full speed, and the coloring on the console is a nostalgic delight. 

    The only downside here is some people have reported the battery doesn’t stay in place. Not everyone has that issue, but it’s worth checking when you get your new toy just in case.

  17. 17. Goolsky X16 Handheld Game Video Game Console

    Pros:
    • Great screen size
    • Solid button layout
    • Plays movies and MP3 files, too
    Cons:
    • Sits in the mid-range price bracket
    • Should be cheaper
    • Only plays 8-Bit and 16-Bit titles

    While some would label this a cheap knock-off, don’t. Some of the best emulator consoles out there are knock-offs. 

    The Goolsky X16 Handheld is a fine product so long as you’re aware of what you’re buying. 

    First off, this console can smoothly handle 8-Bit and 16-Bit games. There is support for other consoles, but I’ve not heard any stories of anyone getting those working. 

    In short, if it’s retro you’re after, this handheld will do that job without too many issues. Just don’t expect support for DS or Dreamcast games any time soon. 

    Where this thing rocks is in the design. It’s sleek, and has all the buttons (and then some) you need for the perfect retro experience. 

    Much like the PSP it’s based on, this console also plays movies and MP3 files. For kids, it’s a solid choice for an inexpensive gift.

  18. 18. My Arcade Pixel Player

    Pros:
    • Pure nostalgic design
    • Decent screen
    • Mid-range price
    Cons:
    • Emulation isn't consistant
    • A and B buttons are the wrong way round
    • Most-likely won't work on your TV

    The My Arcade Pixel Player is pure style, capturing the 8-Bit era effortlessly. 

    That chunky design is sure to look killer next to modern consoles. 

    As far as emulation goes, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Some games feature screen-tearing, some don’t. For a lot of people, that’ll be a straight-up deal-breaker, understandably so. 

    It’s a shame because the Pixel Player is a really cool looking console with a decent screen and a low-ish price. But given the plethora cheaper handhelds can run NES games much better, the Pixel Player is easy to pass on. 

    Oh, and the TV output the product claims to have isn’t always present in every console. Still, it does look nice, though. 

  19. 19. New Nintendo 2DS XL

    Pros:
    • Excellent library of 3DS and retro games
    • It has Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow on it!
    • MASSIVE screen
    Cons:
    • Support is dying out
    • Need to purchase new games (instead of ripping your own)
    • Isn't that many SNES games available in the eShop

    Love old Nintendo games? The 3DS is a cave full of 8-Bit and 16-Bit delights. 

    Super Mario Bros., Pokemon, Zelda, Sonic – the 3DS has all the classics purchasable via the Nintendo eShop. 

    As with the Sony consoles, platform holders know how to emulate the older systems better than third party programs, resulting in a near 100 percent recreation. 

    I’ve played through Pokemon Yellow and Pokemon Crystal on the 3DS and both are exactly as I remember them, Pokemon-spawning glitches and all. 

    If you’re picking up a 3DS, go straight to the New 3DS XL. The screen is larger, it’s got a (terrible) thumbstick, and it’s got more horsepower under the hood. 

    Plus, you know, there are all the brilliant 3DS games to play on it as well as the retro treasures.

  20. 20. Sony PlayStation Vita WiFi

    Pros:
    • Stunning visuals thanks to immense power
    • Plays PS1 and PSP games via the PS Store perfectly
    • Isn't just an emulator console, you've also got a smorgasbord of indie treasures
    Cons:
    • Isn't made any more
    • Therefore support ended a while ago
    • You'll need to pay for games (instead of ripping ones you already own)

    Although Sony isn’t making any more PS Vita consoles, it’s still one of the best handhelds on the market. 

    The PS Vita has the single best screen in gaming. I’d wager it still beats the Nintendo Switch it’s that clear. 

    When it comes to retro, the PS Vita removes the need for ripping your own games thanks to the PlayStation store. There you’ll find paid-for PS1 and PSP games – all of which will run perfectly on the PS Vita. 

    Because the PS Vita is a Sony console, that means its emulation of older Sony titles is the best out there. There’s no question about it, the PS Vita runs PS1 and PSP games perfectly. 

    It’s a pricey option, for sure, but given this thing also plays Vita-specific games (including a treasure trove of indie titles), you’re getting more than just a portable emulator. 

  21. 21. Sony Playstation Portable – PSP 3000

    Pros:
    • Vivid, large screen
    • Plays PS1 games perfectly
    • Also a games console with a smattering of awesome titles
    Cons:
    • Support ended years ago
    • Really easy to hack
    • Need to pay for games from the PS Store (rather than ripping your own)

    The PSP 3000, even today, is a delight. 

    Not only does it have an absolutely killer selection of games available for it, the PS1 emulator is lush. 

    As with the more powerful PS Vita, all the retro games are downloaded via the PlayStation Store, which, sadly, means you need to pay for them. 

    I used to have a PSP back in the day and the PS1 support is killer. It’s all so darn smooth. If you’ve yet to play Final Fantasy VII before the remake comes out, while on the go, you’re in for a treat. 

    Don’t get me wrong, I love modern consoles, but there’s something about being able to play PS1 games on the PSP that’s all kinds of magical. It’s a really comfortable console, too. I’ve not once had any hand cramps while playing. Unlike the 3DS… 

    Okay, the PSP may be retro console in and of itself, but if you’re a PS1 gamer, being able to play those games on the go is too good to pass up.

Why You Should Buy - The RG350

Out of all the consoles I've had hands-on time with, the RG350 is my current pick of the crop. 

It just does everything you could want, you know? And it does it with such style. 

With thousands upon thousands of games, I can't test everything on my RG350. But what I have played runs exactly how I remember it. Even the PS1 titles work without any major issues, which, given the lower price of the console, is astounding.

I have no idea how Anbernic managed to juggle the cost with power, but they did, and the result is currently the hottest handheld on the market. 

The UI may be ugly and a little cumbersome, but as soon as you load a ROM, and the screen's quality takes center stage, you'll fall in love with this little device. 

Is Hacking a Console Legal?

In short, no. It's not. And whatever that guy on some message board told you, it's still very much illegal. That said, it's a little more complex than most would make out. 

Let's first take a look at Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which states:

"...it unlawful to circumvent technological measures used to prevent unauthorized access to copyrighted works," before listing off video games and software as two areas that are protected by law. 

What that means in laymen's terms is it is considered illegal to modify software. In the case of emulation, that'd be the console's operating system. 

So, we can all agree it's illegal. However, when platform holders do prosecute, it's rarely the person downloading a hack to modify the console's software. It's normally the person who created the hacking software or those freely distributing it. 

Does that mean you won't get in trouble? No. You could. And as a responsible person, it's my job to make you aware of the facts. Conversely, it's your choice as to whether you completely ignore my advice. Free thinking and all that. 

Is Downloading ROMS Illegal? 

Short answer: Yes. Very. But as with the above, it's not quite as simple as that. 

Nintendo has actually answered whether it's illegal to directly download a Nintendo ROM from a website. Here's what the house of Mario said: 

"There is a good deal of misinformation on the Internet regarding the backup/archival copy exception. It is not a 'second copy' rule and is often mistakenly cited for the proposition that if you have one lawful copy of a copyrighted work, you are entitled to have a second copy of the copyrighted work even if that second copy is an infringing copy.

"The backup/archival copy exception is a very narrow limitation relating to a copy being made by the rightful owner of an authentic game to ensure he or she has one in the event of damage or destruction of the authentic. Therefore, whether you have an authentic game or not, or whether you have possession of a Nintendo ROM for a limited amount of time, i.e. 24 hours, it is illegal to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the Internet."

I know. Legalese is the worst. When I worked for IGN, I got in trouble for discussing hacking and ROMs. At that time, the legal team informed me making a back up of a game I own is legal, but downloading a game from the Internet, even if you own it, is illegal

Basically, I can back up my games, but I can't download a back up of someone else's copy of the same game, because that person's copy isn't my game. 

Again, it's always best to play it safe when it comes to copyright law. If in doubt, don't do it. 

However, historically, as with hacking, it's the sites distributing the ROMs that companies go after. This isn't to say a company won't come after you, and the risk isn't worth it, but those are the facts. Make of them what you will.

One Quick Note: Factor in Shipping Time

This may seem obvious, but if you're buying for anyone other than yourself, you really need to factor in shipping this year. 

More and more people are shopping online right now to avoid rushing into stores. The downside of this change is shipping services are having to work extra hard to make up for the demand. 

The end result is shipping can take a little longer than it usually would, so be sure to check the delivery date when you're at the checkout, and if you can, buy anything you want as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment. 

This year, you really don't want to leave anything until the last minute. And if you must, grab Prime for priority shipping. You can thank us later. 

See Also:

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