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Gaming is changing. Gone are the days when being a gamer meant having to buy an expensive and powerful computer or a console to plug into your TV. These days, there are plenty of excellent gaming systems that you can easily chuck in a backpack and take on the go or use in the car on a long road trip. Below, our favorites of the bunch.
There’s no doubt about it — if you want the best handheld gaming system out there (and have little concern about the price of the device), then the Nintendo Switch is king. For starters, the console is very versatile; it can be used on the go (both alone or with a second player), and at home on a big screen with the aid of a dock and HDMI cable. On top of that, there are a number of excellent games available, including Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Zelda fans, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Smash fans, Let’s Go Pikachu for Pokemon fans, and so on. There's truly something for everyone when it comes to the Switch, and a vibrant 6.2-inch screen with 1280 x 720p resolution means you'll enjoy crisp graphics.
At $299, the Switch is one of the pricier devices on our list, though it’s still not that expensive compared to full-size gaming consoles or PCs. The regular kit comes with the console, a dock, left and right joy-cons (in either blue and red, or gray), two joy-con straps, a joy-con grip, an HDMI cable, and an AC adapter. With joy-cons attached, the Switch console measures 9.41 × 4.02 × 0.55 inches and weighs 14 ounces.
Looking for a portable device but not that concerned with having the latest and greatest model? The Nintendo 2DS is likely the one for you. The gaming system may not have all the stellar titles available on the Switch, or the sleek design of the Nintendo 3DS XL, but it’s still an excellent device with plenty of great games. In fact, every title you can play on the Nintendo 3DS XL — all those in the Zelda, Mario, and Pokemon franchises — you can also play on the Nintendo 2DS. While you can play solo, you also have the option of multiplayer or co-op play.
The Nintendo 2DS measures 5.7 x 0.8 x 5 inches and weighs just 9 ounces. Two touchscreens — one 3.53 inches and the other 3.02 inches — give you plenty of room to follow even the most action-packed games. As far as battery life goes, Nintendo claims that you can play for three and a half to five hours of 3DS games, or five to nine hours of older DS games.
The Nintendo Switch is a great device, but it’s not quite as portable as some other options out there — like the Nintendo 3DS XL. This console benefits from a clamshell design, which allows it to be folded up into a very small and portable form-factor that measures just 3.7 × 6.3 x 0.8 inches. While you can’t play Nintendo Switch games on the 3DS XL, there are plenty of Mario games, as well as titles from the Pokemon series, and so on. In other words, all the franchises you would expect on a Nintendo device, you’ll find.
This 3DS XL also has a cool 3D display, which can be switched on and off at will. Two screens — an upper and lower — measure 4.88 inches and 4.18 inches, so you can easily follow your character's adventures. Note that an AC adapter is sold separately, but if you happen to own a DSi, 3DS, or 2DS, the included cable will those consoles will work. You can pick up a 3DS XL in black, galaxy, or SNES classic (which looks like a retro Super Nintendo).
Despite the looks of it, Nintendo gaming devices aren’t the only options on the market. If you already have a PlayStation device in your living room and prefer to stay within that ecosystem, then the Vita is definitely the way to go.
There are a number of things that make the PlayStation Vita a great device — but like with any console, it all really boils down to available games. Many top-tier developers have long been building titles for PlayStation devices, so on the PlayStation Vita you’ll have access to games — more than a 1,000 — like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Metal Gear Solid. On top of that, if you do own a PlayStation 4 you can use Remote Play, which allows you to stream your PS4 games straight to your PlayStation Vita device as long as you’re on the same Wi-Fi network. The Vita measures 8.1 x 7 x 2.5 inches and lasts for four to six hours of use on a single battery charge.
The Nintendo 2DS XL strikes a fine balance between the best features of the standard 2DS and the 3DS XL. The device has a fold up clamshell design that renders it just 3.4 × 6.3 × 0.8 inches when closed and two XL screens that are 82% larger than its 2DS predecessor. In order to save money, the device forgoes 3D mode — a cool but unnecessary feature. Thankfully, as you would expect from a console in the DS series, the Nintendo 2DS XL can still play all the same titles as the other two devices. The console comes in two color combinations: black and turquoise and white and orange.
If you're looking to play the games you grew up on, then consider the Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player. The device looks a little retro for sure, but the best thing about it is the old-school titles it can play, like the original Mortal Kombat, Sonic the Hedgehog, and more.
The Sega Genesis has a 2.8-inch LCD screen and comes equipped with a number of series like Pac-Panic and Phantasy Star. Just keep in mind that since it’s built for nostalgia, you won't be able to play any new titles on the device — the games it ships with are the ones you’ll be limited to playing. Still, at less than $50, the Sega Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player is an amazing option.