10 Best Retropie Handhelds: Reviews and Buying Guide [2021]

raspberry PI handheld

There are a multitude of emulators on the market, but if you’re specifically looking for the best Retropie handhelds, we’ve got the list for you, just keep reading.

For your information, Retropie is a free software library that serves to emulate video games.

For years, we’d been wondering if there’s an easy and affordable way to create a gaming system. That’s made possible by Retropie and Raspberry Pi.

For less than $100, you can make your own emulator to play games from various platforms, including NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, and more.

“Just like dreaming of some girl you meet in High School, well Summer School, and then a couple years later your paths cross and you get to experience something you wanted to but didn’t get to”, that’s what a man says about playing retro games. Visit online retro game store for more interesting stuff!

It takes a few steps to build a Retropie system, but first, you need to know what to prepare for.

Besides a Pi computer, you will need Retropie and some additional accessories.

The first step is hardware assembly. You can look up some tutorials on Youtube because they’re everywhere.

Next, you’ll need to install Retropie and load games onto the system.

Although it sounds simple, many people don’t even bother trying. They’d rather buy a ready-made console.

If you’re one of them, there are quite a lot of choices actually. Here are some of them.

The Best Retropie Handhelds (Raspberry Pi Handheld Emulators) in 2021

1. Waveshare Game HAT for Raspberry Pi

raspberry Pi handheld

Handheld consoles offers fun and simplicity at hand. Buy one, it’s ready to play right after you remove it from the box.

There is no need to connect it to a TV set to make it work. Also, don’t worry about missing the AV or HDMI cable because it needs none. Just insert the battery, you can play right away.

This console is based on Raspberry Pi and that’s not the only great thing about this console. This platform can turn into a powerful gaming machine.

The product proves that through its ability to play games smoothly on its 3.5inch IPS display at 60 fps.

The device also has high compatibility with different versions of Raspberry Pi, including those mentioned in the title.

It’s powered by a 18650 lithium battery. It equals several hours of game time, but unfortunately, it’s not part of the package. You need to buy it elsewhere before playing games.

2. TAPDRA Raspberry Pi Zero Handheld Portable Game Console

TAPDRA Raspberry Pi Zero Handheld Portable Game Console, RETROFLAG GPi Case with Safe Shutdown, 128GB Fast Card with 14000+ Games, Customized Retropie Emulation Game Station

Have you seen first-hand a console with over ten thousand of games?

It sounds like lots of fun. The thing is it’s not just dream. This is one of the handhelds that can supply you with up to 14,000 games in total.

It’s hard to think how we’re going to explore such an extensive collection of games, but at least we know that something on this level exists.

The emulator supports various game formats, including GBC, SG, PS, NEOGEO, GBA, and MSX. It comes with a free 128GB micro SD card which stores all the games. There is also an option to load games or delete some if you need to free up some space.

As for the screen, it’s quite standard for a handheld emulator. It measures 2.8 inches diagonally, quite comparable to other handhelds that take on this form factor. The good news is the display is IPS, so quality should be terrific.

For operation, it requires 3 AA batteries, which unfortunately are not included in the package. Aside from the aforementioned specs, this device also boasts safe shutdown.

This is a feature to allow the device to turn off safely without risking all the stored data. All it takes is the power button to turn it off. 

In case you’re wondering about the full package, there are quite a lot of accessories in it, such as a Raspberry Pi zero board, a copper heatsink, DC power cable, and an SD card.

3. GamePi43 Accessories Kit for Raspberry Pi

Portable Retro Video Handheld Game Console

This is another retro game console to add to your collection. It has a few things in common with the previous model.

First of all, this handheld is based on Raspberry Pi. It also includes a micro SD card for memory expansion.

Meanwhile, the display measures 4.3 inches, easily among the largest especially when the form factor is put into the equation.

It also runs at 60 fps which makes a big difference to the overall experience. Another thing that stands out is the compatibility with various models of Raspberry Pi, such as +/2B/3B/3B+. The device runs on a 18650 lithium battery.

As interesting as it may sound, batteries are not included in the package, so the only to operate the device is by buying it separately.

There is battery life indicator built into the system. This way, you can tell when it’s about to run out of power.

Since it’s a handheld device, it also comes with a speaker in addition to a dedicated display.

The clarity is pretty good, and if it wasn’t the quality you expected, there is an option to plug in headphones through the earphone jack.

4. Raspberry Pi Zero and Zero W Case

Retro handheld game console

Compatibility is a concern when it comes to choosing a handheld based on Raspberry Pi. In this case, the console is compatible with Pi Zero and W.

Another thing you’ll appreciate about this machine is the ease of installation. It comes equipped with pogo pins and there is no soldering needed.

According to the product page, they are 4 simulators accessible to buyers. Just follow the link provided by the supplier to download the necessary files. Another awesome feature on this device is safe shutdown function.

Just like the simulators, you’re required to install scripts. They are available on the same URL as the simulators. Visit the Amazon link above for further information.

Now let’s talk about the display. Nothing really stands out, though. Despite the IPS quality, it comes with a less than 3-inch screen, 2.8 to be exact.

If you’re used to playing video games on large screens, this would probably bother you a lot.

Well, this is a common size for handheld emulators. Luckily, there are some products with larger screens, so you can upgrade if you want to.

Other features you can find on this device include a speaker, a 3.5mm audio port, brightness control, to name a few.

5. Waveshare GamePi20 Mini Retro Video Game Console

Mini Retro Video Game Console

The built into the system is another offering from Waveshare. It’s built on Pi Zero / Zero W / Zero WH.

One of the striking features of this handheld is the overly small screen.

At only 2.0 inches, the IPS display offers a resolution of 320×240. It’s easy to see why you would be disappointed at the console. Instead of upsizing from the previous model, it shrinks in size.

Well, every product is aimed at a different demographic.

Perhaps, there are people out there who actually enjoy playing games on smaller screens. Or it could be for portability. Whatever the case might be, the screen is highly functional and produces good image quality.

The console runs on a 14500 lithium battery which provides hours of game time.

Speaking of the design, we have to say this device looks quite distinct with the choice of material, placement of the buttons and colors.

It’s durable thanks to the use of a high quality material and solid build quality. Other features you have to check out are volume and backlight adjustments.

6. Game Boy Raspberry Pi – Portable Game Console

Game Boy Raspberry Pi

This Retropie system supports a variety of platforms, such as SNES, PS, MS, FDS, and GBA. It comes with a total of 6000 games.

That’s one of the strong points.

Consoles with thousands of games are always tempting to check out because their libraries are bigger than let’s say consoles with hundreds of games.

Hence, your chances of finding favorite games there are also more wide open.

All the games are fun to play not just by adults, but also kids.

There are a few items in the package, including a 32GB TF card which stores all the preinstalled games.

There is also a charging cable which you can connect to when the battery runs low.

7. Retro-CM3 Raspberry Pi Handheld Game Console

Can we turn back the hands of time and bask in childhood nostalgia once again?

We know it sounds unrealistic, but there are things that are not left in the past. In reference to gaming, it’s true that classic games have passed their prime.

However, it doesn’t mean we can’t play them today even if they seem outdated compared to modern games.

This Retropie handheld can take you back to when retro games ruled the world. Some would think that it’s rather expensive, but that’s the price you pay for a quality retro game player.

The good news is on sale right now. So, before the offer expires, you can consider buying one. It’s claimed to adopt Pi CM3 better than Pi Zero. It’s also loaded with a bunch of games. According to the product page, the console has over 10,000 games from a wide range of platforms, including the SNES, NES, MAME, CPS, PSI, GBC, and GBA.

Another awesome feature is eye protection. Staring at digital screens for long periods of time can lead to vision problems. Fortunately, manufacturers are aware of issues surrounding bad gaming habits.

This led to them creating products that not only provide enjoyment, but also help offset these negative effects. This console has that. Speaking of the display, it measures 3.2 inches, and incorporates IPS technology.

At a resolution of 480×320, image appears sharp and clear. You may expect a bigger display given the price, but a small one still comes with perks.

And then, the viewing angle ranges from -170°to 170°. There’s also a 3500mAh battery under the hood, which provides up to 6 hours of game time.

For those wondering about performance, CPU BCM2837 1.2GHZ 4 CORE ARM CORTEX-A53 is built into the system coupled with 1G of RAM.

This is a perfect combo for the ultimate performance. There’s more to discover from this powerful handheld emulator. You can head to the link above to read the complete specs.

8. New Powerful Raspberry pi Game Console GP430

There are many handhelds with competitive prices, so why should go for a top-tier one?

Well, price usually goes hand in hand with quality. The more you pay, the more you get. This product runs on Retropie and based on the Raspberry Pi CM3-Lite.

Retropie is a software library known for its ability to emulate classic games. Therefore, it’s the right decision to embark on your journey into emulation with this console.

It’s powered by a Quad-Core CPU,1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. It also comes with a 64G Micro SD Card for tremendous game support. There are over 15 thousand games internally. Unless your favorites aren’t included in this enormous list, there’s no reason to load more too soon.

There’s also an option to remove games if they start filling up the storage space. In terms of connectivity, this device has Wi-Fi and HDMI support. The latter allows for a quick connection to a TV.

Do you like watching videos on KODI? Apparently, this handheld console is also compatible with this media center software, which means you can watch video content at your fingertips.

Despite the TV out support, it comes with a 4.3inch IPS display, spacious enough to play games comfortably. To top it off, the upsize is followed by an increase in resolution.

Hence, you can rest assured that the sharpness remains great. Moving on to the audio system, there are 2 built-in speakers at the bottom. If that wasn’t enough or you don’t want to be bothered by external noise, it has an earphone jack to hook up your favorite earbuds to.

Another highlight of this product is the battery life. It’s a Li-Polymer 5000mAh, we didn’t expect less provided the powerful specs. As for the design, this handheld console keeps a clean look, but it also exudes class and elegance.

Along the tops are the shoulder buttons, all that we all know of, such as L1/L2, R1/R2. There’s also a cluster for A, B, X, Y buttons, a directional pad and other controls.

9. PiBoy DMG – Full Kit

This is another powerful emulator to play retro games. It’s based on a Raspberry Pi, can work in conjunction with the Pi Zero, Pi 3B, or Pi 4B. Gaming experience has a direct correlation with the performance of the system on which the games run.

That’s why to load games with quality close to the originals, a reliable system is needed. This product is an example of that. Don’t stress too much over the price tag. As said before, price is a good measure of quality. If you don’t hesitate to splurge, you’ll also gain a lot in return.

Now let’s talk about the features. This handheld console has broad system support. It can play games from the PSP, N64, and others seamlessly. This is not the average emulator.

Due to the DPI mode inclusion, games can run up to 60 frames per second. Surprisingly, this won’t interfere with the way the RPi performs. Meanwhile, the d-pad feels smooth. It has a nice hand feel just like the analog joystick. The control buttons are also comprehensive.

All the essential ones for a gamepad are included. To get a better picture, please take a look at the image above. That’s all the buttons you can find on the device along with their placement.

Another useful feature is active cooling, which helps prevent overheating. Any device that has built-in hardware produces heat during use. That’s why a good cooling system is paramount.

By the way, this product is sold partially assembly. You can pick your desired Pi by adding it to the cart. All options can be seen on the product page. For an unparalleled experience, better go straight for the full kit as it has the following features; Micro USB charger, 4500mAh Lipo battery, and RPi connector face plates.

What about the display, is it small or large?

It hits the sweet spot, 3.5″ LCD with a 640 x 480 resolution. It’s moderate in size with brilliant visuals.

There are more incredible features to look for in this handheld device, such as HDMI out, safe shut down, and shoulder buttons placed unconventionally in the back.

10. Handheld Retro Game Player Pi- Boy with Built-in 10000 games

The idea of having a 2-in-1 console appeals to many as it offers versatility. Such a console can be used at home and on the go. If you need an emulator with this trait, then we’d recommend this product.

The listing states that it can double as a regular console at home besides the obvious handheld design. It is not a rare concept for emulators, though. Even cheaper models also have this functionality.

As seen on the picture, it’s a handheld at its core with TV out support, so you can cast content on your TV. It’s based on the Raspberry Pi 3 model B, provides support for a number of systems, such as Lakka, Retropie, and Recalbox.

Though it comes with physical buttons, the screen is also touch sensitive. In games that support the feature, you can use virtual control in place of the buttons. There’s a lot that this compact device has to offer, including internet and programming on top of games.

It’s sophisticated enough to allow you to run 50 different simulators, suitable for around 40,000 games. There’s a 3.5-inch HD IPS screen on the front which serves image equivalent to 60fps quality. It features a 480×320 resolution, which is also a decent spec for a display this size.

And in the event that you want to play from the comfort of your home, this handheld can convert into a home console thanks to the HDMI output.

You can continue playing games on TV this way. Other than that, the sound quality is good mainly because it utilizes a two-channel stereo speaker.

You can also take advantage of the 3.5mm audio jack for listening through headphones.

Another superb feature is support for controllers. Want to take your gaming experience to the next level? Hook up your controller and invite friends to play with you.

The battery life is also fantastic. It packs 9000mAh battery, so you can shake off your worries about running out of power.

That’s our picks for top 10 Retropie handhelds available in the market. Other honorable mentions include this E & M ELECTRIC & MAGIC handheld and this Waveshare handheld. Just because they’re mentioned the last doesn’t mean they are inferior in quality.

Nearly all have a premium price tag, which is quite telling of the quality. Just make sure to read the specs to find out if one lives up to your expectations.

Each product has different specs. It’s not just about having a huge game library. A quality emulator goes beyond that.

A HD display, comprehensive control buttons, a powerful processor, all make up a good emulator. These features vary from product to product, so don’t miss all the important details before you make a purchase.

FAQs – Retropie Handhelds Recommendation

1. Are the ROMs included in the SD card?

For consoles with a free SD card, ROMs are usually installed onto it. The bigger the storage, the more ROMs it can hold. However, the number of games goes hand in hand with price.

With that in mind, if you want a console with a huge catalogue of games, you’ll need to spend more.

2. What game system does a console support?

This varies across products, but the information is usually stated on the description page. You can find it in between the specs. It’s a commonplace for a console to support multiple platforms.

It’s emulation after all in which the purpose is to imitate the behavior of another platform. In this case, that platform is an old gaming system, like NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, etc.

3. Are Retropie handhelds expensive?

Consoles that are based on Raspberry Pi are moderately priced. You’re lucky to find one that costs under a hundred bucks.

Many of them are above this mark. It’s a good idea to spend more on a console because it means you’ll have access to more features.

4. Does it include an SD card?

Consoles with thousands of games are likely to include a free SD card. The games are stored in the memory, too.

Bigger capacity means better chances of adding new games. Basically, there’s more flexibility in it including removal of the existing games.

5. My console features safe shutdown, what is that?

It’s a mechanism to turn off a console using the power switch instead of doing it through the system. What benefits does it have?

Well, this feature saves data automatically, so there is no need to worry if you accidently turn it off because nothing is at stake.

6. What to do if the buttons don’t work?

This problem may or may not caused be hardware defect. It could be caused by incomplete system installation. Find out if there are additional drivers that you have to install in order to make the buttons work.

Remember that every product is different. Please read the product description carefully to spot this type of information. If it does require you to install extra drivers, find the instructions on how to do it correctly.

Final Thoughts: Raspberry PI Based Handheld Consoles

Clearly it’s easier to buy the best Retropie handheld than to create a gaming system using software. However, some people choose the latter for the sake of experience. Not only does it take more effort, but it may also cost more although Retropie handhelds are very diverse. Some cost less than developing a system, while others are on the higher end in price.

If you have the time to buy all the tools needed for its creation, then go for it. Otherwise, buying is a good idea as this saves you time. However, it’s still important to choose a quality product since there are many to choose from.

Raspberry Pi based consoles vary in features. You need to make sure the one you buy fits all your requirements. For example, a console may come with a 32GB SD card. Ask yourself if this capacity is enough or not. If not, don’t worry because there are products that have much bigger storage.

Another example is supported platforms. Consoles can be vastly different when it comes to system support. Find out if the one you choose includes formats you want to be supported. The extent of support will also affect the number of games a console has.

Don’t be surprised when a console with extensive system support has over ten thousands of games. While it sounds too good to be true, it’s a possibility.

Give a Comment

twenty − 6 =