Let’s be honest, a few years ago many of us thought phones and tablets would leave no room for handheld game systems in the future. Now, the future is here and, for sure, mobile gaming is on the rise. It is already the biggest and still the fastest growing segment of the video game industry. In fact, half of all game revenues is expected to come from the mobile segment this year.
But is dedicated portable gaming dead? Surely not. A single new console release was enough to convince us that handheld game systems do have a future and remind that they are still more convenient for gaming than phones or tablets which are not designed specifically for games. We’re naturally going to start our list of the best portable gaming systems with that console.
Combining home and handheld game console options, the Nintendo Switch brings a breath of fresh air to portable gaming as a whole and probably sets a new trend in the industry for years to come.
Isn’t that what we dreamed of – playing one of the best current-gen games at home on a large TV screen and then continuing the same adventure on the road, with all progress saved and all fun assured? The dream comes true thanks to Nintendo’s innovative solution. All you need to switch the play modes is to pull the system out of the docking station or, the other way round, simply put it back.
Pros of using Nintendo Switch
- The only console inherently combining home and handheld options.
- At least two games widely renowned as some of the best in years are Switch exclusives: Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Super Mario Odyssey.
- Unlike previous Nintendo consoles, the Switch has full support from third-party publishers.
- A high-quality touchscreen display.
- A disassembling controller and split screen multiplayer option for gaming with friends.
Cons of using Nintendo Switch
- Compared to handheld consoles rather than the home ones, the Nintendo Switch is pretty pricey.
- Supply chain issues. It looks like Nintendo wasn’t prepared for such success by the console, which resulted in significant shortage.
New Nintendo 3DS XL
A larger variant of the New Nintendo 3DS is still compact enough to take it anywhere you go and enjoy plenty of excellent handheld games.
Pros of using Nintendo 3DS XL
- A step up compared to its predecessors due to improved CPU performance, a brighter screen, enhanced controls, and better camera.
- A vast library of games from notable developers. The console is still supported by Nintendo, and thus new titles are to come.
- A face-tracking 3D screen.
- Built-in amiibo compatibility, allowing you to port characters from the Wii U handheld game console.
- A motion detector for interactive play.
Cons of using Nintendo 3DS XL
- Compared to the previous models, battery life hasn’t significantly improved, offering 3.5 to 6 hours of gameplay without charging.
- An AC adapter is not included in the box.
Sony PlayStation Vita
The successor to the PlayStation Portable entered the market as a powerful handheld game console, providing high-quality visuals and promising range of games. However, the support from top-tier developers and even Sony itself didn’t last long.
Pros of using PlayStation Vita
- A large 5-inch screen and quality visuals.
- A lightweight, slim yet solid design.
- A plethora of Japanese games.
- Its selection of Western indie games is quite impressive too.
- Original PS and PS Portable titles are also available, providing a retro gaming experience.
Cons of using PlayStation Vita
- The PS Vita is short of AAA titles, and top-tier developers including Sony itself don’t pay enough attention to the console anymore.
- Heavy focus on the Japanese market.
- An expensive memory card (up to $90 for the 64GB option) is needed for downloaded content, updates, and saving files.
New Nintendo 2DS XL
The sixth handheld game console in the Nintendo 3DS family is arguably the best budget pick for undemanding gamers, providing most of the features of the New Nintendo 3DS XL at a lower price.
Pros of using New Nintendo 2DS XL
- Retains most features of the more expensive New Nintendo 3DS XL model, including an updated processor, amiibo support, and enhanced controls.
- Aside from a couple of New 3DS exclusive titles, has almost the same wide range of games.
Cons of using New Nintendo 2DS XL
- Plays 3D games and videos in 2D only.
- Despite a generally sturdy design, the console’s hinge tends to wiggle a bit when the device is open.
New Nintendo 2DS
As an entry-level device of the Nintendo 3DS handheld game systems family, the Nintendo 2DS is best suited for kids and can keep them occupied for hours without challenging the family budget.
Pros of using Nintendo 2DS
- The cheapest handheld game console on the list.
- Despite an unappealing design, the device is still comfortable to hold and play.
Cons of using Nintendo 2DS
- The console only has a mono speaker, and headphones are required to enjoy stereo sound.
- Isn’t compatible with New Nintendo 3DS exclusive software.
- Compared to advanced consoles of the 3DS family, the Nintendo 2DS doesn’t provide the same enhanced controls and built in NFS reader.
- The device’s slate form exposes both screens to scratches.
Let’s be honest once again, the range of current-gen portable gaming systems is not really impressive. Aside from Sony and Nintendo, nVidia has also tried to enter the market, but its Shield Portable and Shield Tablet K1 devices are out of stock for a long time despite not being officially discontinued. Sony PlayStation Vita also doesn’t have proper support from the manufacturer, and Nintendo is still dominating the market. However, its almost solo effort is enough to keep portable gaming alive. We can also expect other companies to support the trend started by the Nintendo Switch and gradually blur the line between gaming at home and on the go.