Handheld gaming is one of the most convenient ways to entertain yourself on the go. Sure, you can use your mobile phone to jump into some casual gaming sessions, but the best handheld gaming system is the most efficient way to experience everything the industry has to offer on the go. Nintendo has something of a monopoly on all of the greatest handheld devices at the moment, with a wide selection of fantastic systems and games to enjoy while out and about — or even in another room of your home.
Nintendo also has some of the best games available right now. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and much more, there’s a game on Switch for every taste and an even bigger library across the Nintendo 3DS XL and 2DS XL. Though greats like the PS Vita and PSP have all but faded away, Nintendo has kept up the charge to bring us ways to enjoy ourselves even when we’re stuck at home or on the go.
1. Nintendo Switch Lite
The Nintendo Switch Lite is the portable-centric model of the traditional Switch. It cannot be used with a special dock to be displayed on a TV screen, but it’s a fantastic option for handheld gaming — in fact, it’s the best out there right now. It’s an all-in-one unit that doesn’t require Joy-Con controllers or a stand, but it will play most of the Switch games on the market with a bright, 5.5-inch touch screen and battery life of three to seven hours, depending on the game.
It’s much cheaper than the regular Switch, and it comes in a variety of colors: Turquoise, Gray, Coral, and Yellow. It’s also hardier and more reliable than a full-sized unit, in that it has fewer moving parts that need to be replaced if it takes a spill. Plus, if you have a Switch library that you want to play on the go with a smaller, sturdier unit, then this is the model to go with — especially if you need to buy multiple systems for a larger family. It’s a solid all-around choice that’s well worth looking into, even if you’re just starting out with Nintendo’s library of handheld Switch titles.
2. Nintendo Switch
The original Nintendo Switch is a handheld powerhouse that can be transformed into a home console should you prefer to use it that way. It offers a gorgeous 6.2-inch touch screen, four to nine hours of battery life when played off of its dock, and includes to Joy-Con controllers that may be detached for motion control play. You can swap from handheld to gaming on your television in a snap, just by placing the device in its TV-connected dock.
It’s a larger system than the Nintendo Switch Lite, but it’s overall a more powerful option that’s perfect for smaller families who like crowding around the living room or single users who enjoy a more deluxe setup for their portable gaming needs. With an expansive library that includes platformers, RPGs, visual novels, shooters, and more, you can’t go wrong with the OG, unless you don’t have enough pocket space. That’s where the Lite comes in.
3. Nintendo 3DS XL
Before the Nintendo Switch debuted, Nintendo was hard at work refining its dual-screen handheld series, the Nintendo DS. Years after the system came out, Nintendo added 3D viewing capabilities, a bigger and better set of screens, various clamshell decorations and more games. Though the system is no longer in production, it remains one of the easiest ways to enjoy Nintendo’s lengthy line of titles dating back to the original Nintendo DS release. And you can grab one in a variety of colors and patterns.
These systems feature StreetPass, which allows your 3DS XL to exchange game data like personalized Mii characters with others when you walk by them. From Netflix apps to camera support, this handheld flips closed when you’re not using it and opens up with a viewing angle that projects full 3D. It’s an intriguing riff on the classic DS, and every bit worth buying, even if you already have a Switch.
4. Nintendo 2DS XL
The Nintendo DS line may have peaked with the 3DS XL, but the Nintendo 2DS XL was an impressive feat all its own. While it lacks the 3DS capabilities of the 3DS XL, it features an attractive clamshell design and two screens that are much larger than the traditional DS setup. It’s also the cheapest of the DS lineup (aside from the original cake slice-like Nintendo 2DS).
It features lengthy battery life and can play any DS title (without 3D support, of course). Also, it’s extremely lightweight. It even includes the near-field communication (NFC) reader, which lets you scan in amiibo figures for use within compatible games. If you aren’t’ looking to break the bank on a handheld system, this is a great and affordable option.