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Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

Jonathan Lester
Games consoles, Handheld, Top Ten

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

In Search Of Perfection, our earlier article, detailed the logic behind finding the best handheld console that there's ever been - in terms of both power, influence, games, features and good old fashioned practicality. However, I also freely admit to mercilessly teasing you with the results.

So here we go. The ten best handheld consoles of all time... so far. With pictures.

10: Game Gear

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

We love the Game Gear. We do. God knows that we all enjoyed playing or lusted over SEGA's chunky clunker with its limited game selection and utterly hilarious battery life. Love it as we might, however, there's no getting over the fact that it was absolutely terrible in every single way.

Sorry, but it was.

9: Pandora

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

This bespoke portable Linux emulator/ultraportable/pocket PC is an open-source beast. It will emulate practically anything you throw at it thanks to its insane hardware capabilities, touch screens and ever-evolving firmware.

Oh, and it costs as much as a PS3 and an Xbox 360 put together. And it's now out of production since every PCB has to be custom made, which is why you haven't got one. That, and and the fact a you'll need to nab a fistful of ROMs, you perfectly normal person who just wants to play Earthbound on the train, what of it? criminal. The jury's still out on the legality... as well as the ethics.

8: Neo Geo Pocket Colour

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

This neat little machine had everything except games, which were in heartbreakingly short supply over on British shores. A high-resolution screen, good battery life and competitive RRP made the unassuming Neo Geo Pocket Colour a serious contender back in the day, but sadly one that was doomed to obscurity. It always comes down to software support in the end.

7: Nintendo 3DS

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

Hurry up, Nintendo. Hurry up and make more games so that I can put the 3DS further up the list. And update it with some new jigsaw puzzles and Streetpass games while you're at it.

Hurry up, Nintendo. Because the Vita is coming and you're about to get caught with your trousers down at this rate. And spanked. Hard. Like the naughty little underachievers you are.

6: iPod Touch

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

While I disqualified the iPad due to the fact that it's not technically a gaming device, I'm not sure the same can be said of its little brother. The iPod Touch lets players immerse themselves in thousands of varied games, many of which retail for thirty times less than anything the other consoles have to offer. And they're not thirty times less fun!

The touchscreen may be annoying, but developers are continually finding new and innovative ways to improve or completely circumvent it. Watch this space.

5: DSi/DSi XL

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

The DSi and XL threw a few new features into the basic DS Lite model, including an online marketplace, SD card, cameras and media functionality. All of which were completely useless in the smartphone age, but hey, it's nice to have them.

By far the best new innovation, however, was the matte surfaces. No more fingerprints, and a classier look to boot. We'll never know why Nintendo went back to the shiny, slimy bullshit.

4: PSP

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

Sony's inevitable foray into portable console territory met wth mixed success... but the console itself was brilliant. Groundbreaking. And a bit fragile. Despite quickly becoming a mess of fingerprints, chips and scratches, the PSP is a complete entertainment package boasting incredible graphics, multimedia clout and games that rival full-fat console releases.

Sad that Sony's software support wasn't up to scratch. Quality was fantastic, but a little more quantity would have worked wonders.

3: Game Boy

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

They don't make 'em like they used to. Believe it or not, the original firestarter is still a perfectly valid bit of gaming kit - and it literally defined handheld gaming forever. Regardless of future advancements, we'll always look back at the Game Boy as a beautiful machine and a bona fide pop culture icon in its own right.

What more is there to say?

2: Game Boy Advance SP

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

The Game Boy Advance was a revelation. But the SP version was a revolution. Cliches aside, its backlight finally allowed us to take our handheld gaming away from fixed light sources. The screen was enormous and detailed to match. And it was about the size of a well-stuffed wallet (though mine is admittedly full to burst with receipts and Giros rather than hard currency). Unless you're saddled with enormous hands, the SP is practically everything you could want from a handheld.

A huge selection of some of the best portable games ever made almost propelled the GBA SP to the very top of the charts. Countless classics were pioneered and honed by the system... but if it's games you're after, there's one legendary piece of hardware that's even better still...

1: DS Lite

Top Ten Tuesday | The Best Handheld Consoles Of All Time

Here it is: the best handheld game console ever made.

I don't make this statement lightly. The DS Lite's improved clamshell design set the benchmark for Nintendo's future lineup, perfectly blending form and function. Its battery lasts between fifteen to nineteen hours on a single charge. And, deliciously, its backwards compatibility makes the DS Lite perfectly capable of playing every exceptional game that the Game Boy Advance had to offer as well as its own sprawling catalogue of smash and sleeper hits.

No, it doesn't have downloadable games via Wi-Fi. Or media functionality. But in an age of ubiquitous smartphones, who really needs 'em? Instead, the DS Lite offers portability, versatility and loads of great games. It's the best handheld console, ever.

Though I based this article on some pseudo-scientific testing, this list is naturally entirely subjective. Want to weigh in on the debate? Need to know why the Game Boy Colour didn't make an appearance? Lay waste to the order or point out some influential retro gems? Get involved in the comments!

Add a comment10 comments
SlyPie  Oct. 4, 2011 at 17:32

ehh am I missing something but my DS Lite has wifi.

JonLester  Oct. 4, 2011 at 18:04

You're right, it does, and it's another string to the bow. What it doesn't have is DSiWare and the requisite SD card slot.

condracky  Oct. 4, 2011 at 18:06

"it doesn't have downloadable games via Wi-Fi."

Darn, beaten to it.

Last edited by condracky, Oct. 4, 2011 at 18:07
ODB_69  Oct. 4, 2011 at 21:29

Game Gear?? Awful whereas the Atari Lynx was years ahead of competitors at the time but was limited by the amount of games. Did someone forget about this handheld?

misterel1  Oct. 4, 2011 at 21:34

GB Micro - beautifully designed peice of kit, backlit, metal chassis, tiny, just hopelessly overpriced (and overshadowed by the DS Phat) at launch.

Last edited by misterel1, Oct. 4, 2011 at 21:35
Late  Oct. 4, 2011 at 23:25

I totally agree that the DS Lite is #1 - though for me the main reason is something I'll not post for fear of appearing to promote piracy.

I'm not a massive fan of handheld gaming, so can't really justify forking out for any of them - but if the games were effectively free then it would of course become a different proposition.

RiKx  Oct. 5, 2011 at 09:55

Battery life on the lynx was even worse than the gamegear. As was software support (its was too late in the day for Atari). Didn't it have the same chipset as an Amiga in it IIRC? I still have mine tho the only game i really loved on it was california games lol! Oh and chips challenge - but i also had that on the CPC.... ;)

ODB_69  Oct. 5, 2011 at 10:38

Tbf I always used mains on my Lynx I (better than Lynx II) but I don't get what you mean about software support? As in lack of titles? Agree if so...however there were some quality games (Rygar was my fav with Desert Strike being up there too) however at a time when Nintendo were at the top with a non colour handheld and then the (at the time) mighty Sega's (**** poor) Game Gear as competition it still outclassed them both in the graphics and power it just lacked the games and the marketing. Had try brought out the off rumored TV tuner it would have had a better chance at taking off like it deserved!

RiKx  Oct. 5, 2011 at 11:39

Yeah i did mean lack of titles. I used my mains lead also as i did with my game gear but that makes them more 'handhelds' (probably the point) than true portable gaming, Maybe that's why the GB was so popular the fact that you could take it with u and it lasted the day on 4 AA's?! (that and the universal appeal of tetris?!). My lynx 2 lasted about 1/2 hr on bats i think and GG about hr. Had all the 'popular' handhelds of the time at one point or another, - mush swapping at school :D I'm gonna youtube rygar as i don't remember that. I destroyed a wall once because of super marioland lol frickin lives cap!!! ;)

codfish787  Jun. 23, 2013 at 03:23

I think that the Gameboy series was the best set of handhelds ever. As a kid from the 90's, it was this series that really launched me into gaming. I would sit for hours on end with my gameboy color playing pokemon. Besides, it leaves a legacy that we probably will never see again. For kids who grew up with today's consoles will never experience the thrill of playing with a friend via cable. (_;)

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