Best Handheld Emulator: Reviews and Buying Guide 2023
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There are many options for playing video games. You can play them on an official console or an emulator.
What is the best handheld emulator?
It’s a tricky question knowing that there are so many options out there.
An emulator is software installed onto a computer or other devices that imitate the platform of an official console. In other words, it allows someone to play video games on it.
Why are they popular?
Well, who doesn’t want the convenience of playing favorite games on a single device?
Some portable emulators have hundreds, even thousands of pre-installed games, and buyers don’t need to pay big bucks to access them.
Another reason why people love emulators is that they come with retro titles that are hard to find these days as they are no longer on the market.
Most portable emulators are small-sized and equipped with a dedicated screen and speaker, so there is no need to connect it to a TV set or a speaker before playing.
Retro handhelds vary in price and features. The expensive ones usually have a better display and build quality.
In addition, they also have a massive catalog of games.
Playing Retro Games is like dreaming of some girl you meet in High School, and then a couple years later, your paths cross, and you get to experience something you wanted to but didn’t get to.😃 Just a random Reddit Guy 😘
If you want to buy one, price should be a factor to consider given that it’s a marker for quality.
The more you’re willing to spend, the more you’d get from a console. Not just a high-resolution display, but you’ll also have an option to expand the memory in case you need to add more games.
If you are on the lookout for the best retro handhelds, we’ve rounded up some of the top portable emulators below.
The Best Handheld Emulators in 2023
1. PocketGo – Portable Handheld
Updated (July 2022): This product is currently unavailable. We recommend Credevzone RGB 10S, as the best alternative.
This stylish console allows you to play GBA/SNES games comfortably thanks to the well-crafted L&R buttons.
A quality console isn’t just one made of tough material, but it should also encourage a fun gaming experience. In this case, this product really delivers.
The buttons have a good hand feel. Besides, the design is also professional. It comes with an 8GB micro SD card and the newest firmware for better performance.
You can make use of the micro SD card to load more games into the device. The broad range of support systems is another thing that boosts its value.
Aside from NES, it also supports GBC, GBA, SMD, SMS, to name a few. Besides, it makes it easy to save and load games.
You don’t have to worry about losing progress which could deflate your interest in the game.
If the default brightness seems low to you, adjust it through the brightness setting. Go to the main menu and then press Select, followed by the R button.
And if there’s flashing on the screen, it’s probably due to an error in the SD card system. Or another possible cause is low electricity.
The solution is to recharge the battery. If this doesn’t work, try to upgrade to the latest firmware.
Is this retro game console worth it?
In terms of price to quality ratio, this device is probably still one of the best handheld emulators in the market today.
The range of game supports alone makes it worthwhile, not to mention that it also has a crisp 2.4″ IPS display.
It’s protected with tempered glass, too. The device runs on a 1000mAh battery, has a RAM of 32MB, and supports up to 128GB extra storage.
2. Retroid Pocket 2 – PS1 Support
Do you need a console with dual systems?
We believe this would pique your interest. It has support for retro classics and Open Android.
It’s also compatible with an array of platforms, including the GBA, PSP, PS1, FBA, and DS. The support extends to cloud gaming apps.
In terms of operation, the handheld comes equipped with a 4000 mAh battery, which allows for continuous use of up to 6 hours. It also has a screen saver feature to help preserve battery when it’s not in use.
Apart from the aforementioned features, it also delivers versatile connectivity with its 3-in-one connection support, which includes Wi-Fi, Mini HDM, and Bluetooth.
With all these, it’s easy when you need to cast content to a bigger TV screen.
The HDMI cable comes with the package, anyway. Just unbox and find it in the pile of items included in the box.
Another awesome feature is multiplayer support. Just enable the Bluetooth connection to use it.
3. Anbernic RG351P
If you don’t mind paying over a hundred for a console, this can be an alternative. One may argue that it’s too much spending on an expensive emulator.
Why not buy an original console, instead? Well, if an original console with retro classics is still for sale, we’re sure many would go for it.
But nowadays, it’s unrealistic to get your hands on one except for certain releases.
An expensive emulator like this surely has premium features to offer. In this case, it includes a built-in 64GB SD card. It also has 2500 titles with no repetitions.
Another thing that might tempt you to buy is the extensive system support. FBA, CPS1, CPS1, N64, GBA, GBC, MD, FC, you name it. There is a lot that this emulator supports.
Design-wise, it takes a simple approach with its 3.5-inch screen. Isn’t it a bit too small for something this pricey?
In its defense, it results in a more compact device, which appeals to many gamers.
It has a resolution of 320×480 with incomparable visual clarity. It’s also tempered-glass enabled, which ensures endurance against scratches.
As you can see in the picture, the corners have L1/L2/R1/R2 buttons. Not only do they add extra functions, but they are also built to last.
4. EASEGMER – Portable Game Player
There’s no need to go overboard with your purchase if you’re on a limited budget. Since this doesn’t cost a fortune, we’re sure you can afford one.
It has dimensions of 6.2 x 3.6 x 0.4 inches, a tastefully-designed exterior, and is constructed using high-quality ABS.
For the record, ABS is one of the go-to materials for handhelds as it’s known for having superior properties. It’s hard and has good impact resistance.
The number of games amounts to 500. It’s not the largest library to see in an emulator, but still a lot of games to play. If you always try to beat a game, all these titles will keep you occupied for days or even weeks.
As for the display, the full-color TFT screen measures 4 inches diagonally, comes with multilayer protection against scratches and shocks. Additionally, it’s also designed to be easy on the eyes.
For the price, you should be content enough with an 800mAh capacity, but at least it’s not the disposable type. Once the power has depleted, just plug in the cable to recharge.
Price-wise, it comes off as either compelling or unconvincing. Compared to some products out there, you might be surprised that there are emulators that cost this low.
But, is it worth it after all? Well, being cheap usually means it’s a pared-down version with only basic features included.
Let’s see how the price plays out in this product. First of all, it has 333 games instead of thousands like those of more expensive emulators.
Secondly, it supports SFC, FC, and GBA. That’s what the advert states. Pricier models usually list out upwards of ten consoles. And then, it weighs just 6oz.
Apparently, being cheap also translates to a more compact design, which is a good thing if you’re not fond of bulky handhelds.
Despite the portability and 3-inch display, it can actually be connected to a TV set. There’s an AV output cable in the package.
Moreover, the battery has a capacity of 800mAh, is able to deliver up to 5 hours of gameplay.
Overall, though it may strike you as a poor man’s retro game player, it gets the job done.
6. Great Boy – Portable Games for Kids
This is another affordable console you can consider buying. With a total of 380 titles, it’s far from a huge library, but if you’re new to emulation, this can be your introduction to the technology.
Speaking of the form factor, we’ve seen many that sport this look. While it doesn’t try to deviate from others in the looks department, it still has distinct features.
To start with, it has a 3.5-inch screen with a protective film on it to boost scratch resistance. It’s also easy to hook up to a TV screen using the provided AV cable.
This can come in handy if you prefer to play on larger screens. This console also delivers a steady stream of power thanks to the rechargeable battery.
Before it completely shuts down, you can connect it to a power outlet.
That said, playing while charging isn’t the best idea. Besides, a 2-hour span isn’t too long of a wait for recharging, right?
The form-factor on this one is quite conventional, but there are elements that feel special. The rounded clusters of controls are one of the examples.
If you want to have an emulator that looks different from the rest, this is perfect for you. It comes preloaded with 520 games from across platforms, such as the FC, SMC, SEGA, GBA, and more.
Aside from various game formats, it’s also able to load videos in equally diverse formats, including 3GP, MPEG, RM, FLV, AVI, etc.
This handheld console boasts more than just an emulation function. It can turn into an e-Book reader and a music player.
As far as gaming is concerned, the features are quite comprehensive as well. It supports a TF card of up to 32GB.
The expandable memory allows you to save more content. Feel the joy of playing on the go on its 2.7inch TFT display.
This device is very compact, suitable for gaming on the go.
8. GoolRC – Flip Portable Mini Console
You may get the impression that it’s trying to go against the tide design-wise.
It’s understandable knowing handhelds that sport flip designs are quite rare.
We’re specifically talking about emulators, not original releases like the Nintendo DS and 3DS. If you think about flaunting your not-so-easy-to-find emulator, this is the right choice.
Now, let’s jump right into the specs. There’s a 3-inch full-view HD IPS display on the inner side of the flip device. It features a flip mechanism in which you can fold in half for easy storage.
This also slides into the pocket easily in this form. Basically, it’s the epitome of a compact.
There’s also a 16GB TF card included with a whopping 2000 games. This console is sold in 2 color choices, red and yellow.
As for the build quality, ABS is all over it, so quality isn’t a cause for concern.
Other essential specs to check out include a 1020mAh rechargeable battery, Type-C support, 3.5mm headphone jack.
9. Baoruiteng Anbernic RG350M – Open Linux Tony System
This handheld emulator has premium written all over it judging by top-of-the-line features.
We can start with the 3.5-inch display. It’s nowhere near the biggest, but not necessarily a shortcoming.
Most of us would take a high-definition IPS display any day over a large one with low resolution.
It’s also protected with tough tempered glass to boost scratch resistance. Besides, the display is designed to not be harsh on the eyes.
Choosing a low-quality screen may tire the eyes out more quickly. It also packs an ample 2500 mAh battery for an uninterrupted gaming experience.
You can play games for up to 6 hours on a single charge. The game library is also massive with 2500 titles in total.
Others don’t even hit the 1000 mark, yet this product conveniently offers over 2 thousand games to play. They fall under different systems, such as the NEOGEO, FBA, SMS, GBA, GBC, POCKET, PCE, and more.
Moreover, a 32G TF card comes with the package. It makes sense considering the vast catalog.
Want to play on TV? The TV-out support can make it happen.
10. NEXADAS – 4000 mAh Large Capacity Battery
Updated (July 2022): This product is currently unavailable. We recommend RG 351V, a similar product from MJKJ here as the best alternative.
If quality is the most important thing in choosing an emulator, then open your purse.
This product is quite expensive, but it has the quality to back it up. With such an interesting, it will easily stand out among other offerings.
There are a number of systems supported, including the FBA, DS, GBA, MAME, PSP, and N64. It also has a save state feature, which serves to keep track of progress.
With this, you can play from the last saved point, not starting all over each time you lose a game. And then, it is also Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and HDMI enabled.
This is a nice array of connections that take versatility to the next level. For example, to play in multiplayer mode, you can activate Bluetooth.
To transmit video game signals to your TV, use the HDMI support.
In terms of screen-on time, it has a built-in 4000mAh battery that can provide up to 5 hours of use.
11. RG300 – Open Linux System
In general, handheld emulators come in horizontal and vertical orientations. This one belongs to the latter. It’s all a matter of preference, though.
If you prefer consoles that are elongated vertically, this can be an option.
Here are some of the highlights. First, it contains 10000 retro games, all are original and with no reps. It also supports the open Linux system.
As for the platforms, it’s compatible platforms like the FC/NES, SFC/SNES, MD, SMS, GG, PS1, CPS1, GBA, and more.
The graphics are also rendered amazingly on its 3-inch HD display, not to mention that the protection is top-notch thanks to the tempered glass coating. It makes the screen scratch and impact resistant.
Additionally, the battery is large. Under moderate usage, the 1800mAh battery can deliver up to 6 hours of game time.
There are more features worth checking out, such as PC compatibility, quality speaker, and L/R keys.
12. PocketGo S30
Updated (July 2022): This product is currently unavailable. We recommend this powerful RG 552, as the best alternative.
This should be a part of your collection if you’re a diehard PocketGo fan.
It is based on the SNES, one of the best retro systems ever.
It’s one thing to buy a console because of the design. It’s another thing to like it because of the games.
In this case, it makes an appropriate choice for those who grew up playing SNES games because the console is optimized for that. It’s powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz all-winner A33 processor with Mali400 MP2 for graphics.
It also comes with a 3.5 inch 480×320 IPS display that delivers a stunning view. Meanwhile, the RAM amounts to 512MB, ample enough to run retro titles.
In addition, it packs a 2600 mAh battery which nets hours of gameplay.
There are several items included in the box if you decide to get one. Apart from a manual, you can expect a microSD card and a charging cable.
13. Powkiddy X15 – Android Handheld Game Console
As a buyer, we all want a product that offers the most value for money.
This seems to be one to punch above the price point. It’s indeed expensive, but it also comes equipped with a 5.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels for improved detail.
The design is unapologetically striking and cool with black crystal keys all over the body.
By the way, the purpose of buttons on an emulator is for operation, but this goes beyond physical control. The display also has a touch function, which means you can switch between physical and virtual control without missing a beat.
It supports multiplayer mode, so anytime you feel bored playing alone, invite some friends to play with you.
It has tons of other functions. It can play music, take pictures, and read E-books.
14. Hanheld Game Console X40
Updated (July 2022): This product is currently unavailable. We recommend Credevzone X7, as the best alternative.
The color scheme of this handheld is reminiscent of another console.
Despite the striking similarity, there are differences.
To start with, the display is undeniably huge at 7.1 inches. Pictures don’t do it justice, anyway. It will easily tower over others when you put them side by side.
If you’re keen on the idea of playing on a larger screen but not related to TVs, this portable device can make it happen.
It includes 22800 games and supports memory card expansion to store more data. This is assuming the internal 16G memory isn’t enough.
As for the battery life, it should last for hours since a 3000 mAh capacity is large even if the display is just as large.
And like other handheld consoles, it also has other functions, which include movies, photos, music, etc.
15. Credevzone X12 – Portable Multimedia Player
It’s likely that the countless choices out there would overwhelm you.
To avoid confusion, focus on the features you expect the most from an emulator.
Like if you want a large display, get one with a screen measuring 3.5 inches at the bare minimum.
This product specifically has a big 5.1-inch screen. And then, it includes over a thousand games, most of which are in English.
Do you need to install more? Provided that it’s loadable, feel free to add more games if you will.
8GB is the storage provided internally. It can still be expanded using a TF card up to 32GB.
Updated (July 2022): This product is currently unavailable. We recommend this nice RG350, as the best alternative.
Gaming consoles vary in features and number of preloaded games. This handheld portable game console has 3000 in total.
While it’s not as packed as the previous console, 3000 is a lot of games to play.
They fall under different categories, such as action, racing, strategy, adventure, arcade, shooting, etc.
In case you want to play more, use the TF card slot to expand the storage. It can support up to 32 GB.
As for the display, the 3-inch screen produces decent colors for gaming.
It has a resolution of 960×480 and offers up to 4 hours of playtime.
Sure, there are other devices with better displays, but for the price, it’s hard to criticize much. Besides, its capability goes beyond playing games.
You can use the same exact device to read e-books, play music, browse pictures, and watch movies. It’s a good bargain after all.
17. Retro FC
Updated (July 2022): This product is currently unavailable. We recommend this mini handheld, as the best alternative.
This classic game console has only 168 games, but it shouldn’t keep you from buying because it’s pretty affordable.
Some devices have thousands of games, but do you really have the time to play them all?
If you want an emulator just to remind you of the old days when you played your favorite 8-bit games, this is more than enough.
You can play the games on the console or display them on TV because it has TV support for a real gaming experience.
The unit is lightweight and fits in the pocket. You can carry it wherever you go.
There is a rechargeable battery inside. A full battery can get up to 6 hours of play.
To properly connect it to a TV, the device needs to be turned off first. After that, switch to the Audio/Video channel on the TV screen.
18. HigoKids Retro Classic Handheld Game Console
Compared to other handhelds, this has a decent price. It’s not the costliest, but can’t be considered cheap, either.
Would it live up to your expectations? Let’s see.
First of all, the whole construction is made of ABS. This material is used widely for gaming consoles because it has numerous advantages.
Apart from having strong impact resistance, it’s also not prone to scratches and high temperatures.
There are a total of 218 games in the unit that you can play on the 3.5-inch HD display.
It’s slightly larger than the typical 3-inch display used in many handheld consoles.
Speaking of the design, the first you’ll notice is the ergonomic body.
It’s more comfortable to hold a console with this type of design. Besides, the controls also offer a good grip. They feel firm, but at the same time not too floaty.
And there’s a backlight to create a unique atmosphere while playing games.
If you’re not too satisfied with the speaker quality and want to hear the sound more clearly, the device has a headphone jack to connect to any stereo headset.
What is the best handheld DS Emulator?
Two of the emulators that can play Nintendo DS games are the RG351MP and GPD XD Plus.
However, these handhelds are quite expensive when compared to those that emulate older systems. They do, however, avoid the hassle of manual setup.
You can also buy a DS Light and a flash card. Another reason a ready-made machine falls short in DS emulation is that it frequently lacks a touch function.
One limiting factor is the demand for more processing power. Even when it is present, the lack of challenging input detracts from the overall experience.
We believe you will enjoy playing on the original device more.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a used DS Lite for less than $50. This is an excellent option for DS fans on a tight budget.
What is the best handheld N64 emulator?
We’ve included some in this article, such as the RG 351V and RG 351P.
There are more options on the market. Old NES consoles are almost always included in the list of supported systems, so you actually have a lot of options besides the aforementioned.
Simply scroll through the list to find out which classic systems a product supports.
What is the best handheld PS1 Emulator?
Newer games require more processing power.
So, in order for a handheld to handle the workload, it must also be advanced enough, which directly affects the price.
Consider the RG351MP, Retroid Pocket 2+, or Powkiddy Max 2 if you need a PS1 emulator.
More FAQs – Retro Gaming Handheld Emulators
1. Can I save game progress on a handheld emulator system?
It depends. For a more expensive device, it’s totally possible, but if you use a low-cost version, this option is probably not available.
If a console does offer this option, learn how to save and load games.
2. How much does a retro handheld cost?
Handheld emulators come in a range of prices. One can cost as low as $15 to over $100.
Higher prices mean better specs. If you’re willing to invest in an expensive emulator, it can give you a top-notch gaming experience.
The display, sound quality, game library, everything else should be better than cheaper alternatives.
3. What games can a handheld emulator console play?
A cheap emulator is usually limited in features. It can play several classic games of various categories.
But the best handheld emulators that usually come with higher prices can play extensive video game systems, such as NES, SNES, SFC, FC, MD, SMS, NEOGEO, PS1, CPS1, CPS2, and much more.
The number of games may also vary. Some contain over a thousand titles, while others have fewer than 200.
It’s all up to you to decide which one works best for you.
4. Can I play games on a larger screen?
Actually, yes. Some consoles have TV support, which means you can connect them to a TV set. Just read the description if TV support is included.
There’s usually a specific cable to transmit an audio and/or visual signal. Read the instructions on how to connect because if you do it wrong, nothing would show up on TV.
It might require you to turn off the device and take other additional steps.
5. Can I play in multiplayer mode?
Check out in the box if there is an extra controller included.
The independent controller shows that you can play in two-player mode. Even for cheaper controllers, this option is often available.
Hence, you can invite friends and family to play with you.
Retro Handheld Emulators: Final Thoughts
The slew of emulators flooding the market makes it difficult to choose. To get the best handheld emulator, start with what you consider the highest priority.
If you want a cheap emulator, then sort them out by price. This way, you can exclude more expensive products.
If you expect high-end features like a quality display and incredible build quality, then don’t be too tight on the budget.
By paying more, you’ll get a well-rounded device that not only has an excellent display, but also a vast library of games. You will also be pampered with extra features like a movie player, music player, and more.
However, the main function of an emulator is to play games, so make sure to check out all the games.
Some have more, but they aren’t necessarily the best for you. Just tailor it to the needs and budget.
If you have the money to purchase a premium console and have the time to explore the games, then why not?
Many of those games come from older consoles.
They will certainly take you back to that era when classic games were the most exciting thing ever.
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