Consoles may come and go, but games are always here to stay, thanks to emulators that function like any outdated gaming platform. An emulator can be downloaded for free; for instance, the best SNES emulator apps. Many players still want a handheld emulator, though, because of the nostalgia of having a physical console.
In fact, a handheld emulator can resemble the console it mimics in terms of features and looks. That makes the retro gaming experience as authentic as what is offered by the official platform which is probably obsolete or hard to find now.
If you want to purchase a handheld emulator, you’ll find plenty of options online. Sifting through all those is challenging, so we’ll share with you what to look for before you buy and the best options currently available on Amazon.
Inside This Article
- Emulator Features to Check Before You Buy
- 21 Best Retro Handheld Emulators
Emulator Features to Check Before You Buy
Great looks or a low price alone will not lead you to the best handheld emulator. You’ll have to know the technical aspects of the product to be able to make a wise choice. Below are what you should check:
1. Supported Platforms
The best emulators should be versatile; they should be powerful enough to function as a GBA emulator, a DS emulator, or better a PSP emulator all at once. So, if you want to play games originally released for the GBA, NES, SNES, DS, N64, Sega Saturn or Dreamcast, Gamecube, PSP, or PS1, make sure the handheld emulator you are getting supports them.
Now, here’s the good news for you. Playing the classics from different consoles is possible because there are handheld emulators that mimic multiple platforms.
2. Game Catalog
A handheld emulator can come with built-in retro games or let you add your game ROMs or files. If you’re buying the former type, go with one that has a hundred to thousands of games in its catalog. A budget or midrange emulator nowadays can even feature 3,000 or more games.
If you prefer just the classic games you are interested in, look for a handheld emulator with a big or expandable storage capacity.
3. Storage and Saving
Storage is important not only for adding game ROMs but also for saving your progress. That is if the handheld emulator you’re about to purchase supports save and load states.
When it comes to handheld emulator storage, 16GB of internal memory is already enough to store hundreds of games. Go for that or the 32GB if you want more. Additionally, an expandable one which we’ve mentioned previously is better, so you can insert a memory card to save more content.
4. Aspect Ratio
We’re putting more emphasis on the emulator aspect ratio here compared to resolution because the former is how the emulated game matches how it is displayed by the original platform. To explain, you can have a retro game rendered in high resolution but if the emulator has the wrong aspect ratio, you’ll see black bars on the sides, which may negatively affect the game experience.
To get the aspect ratio right, keep in mind that 3:2 is better for GBA and PSP emulators, 4:3 for PS1, SNES, and NES emulators, and 16:9 for emulators of newer consoles. This only applies when you are looking for an emulator dedicated to a specific console because many all-in-one emulators already let you choose from an array of aspect ratios within the settings.
5. Multiplayer Support
Games are best enjoyed with others. If you agree, then you should be looking for a handheld emulator that supports online or local play and Bluetooth for extra controller support. The said features are usually present in midrange to high-end releases.
6. Battery Life
Last but not least among the features to check is the battery life. While handheld consoles of the past are not like gaming phones today that can run nearly all day, some emulators mimicking the gadgets have battery capacities suitable for long hours of retro gaming.
Four-hour battery life is already decent for a handheld emulator but you can get versions with a six to 10-hour capacity if you have the budget for it.
7. Miscellaneous Features
There are handheld emulator features some gamers are particular with and that includes the analog stick or shoulder button controls and TV docking mode. You can get these as well in high-end models. With regards to the first two, both provide control that is similar to PlayStation and Xbox consoles while the last is for the big-screen experience inspired by the portable and dockable Nintendo Switch.
21 Best Retro Handheld Emulators
Let’s now take a trip down memory lane as we showcase the best handheld emulators for retro gamers. Whether you are looking for a premium or budget-friendly option or something with a specific feature, there’s one for you from our list. Below are our top picks which you can purchase on Amazon:
The RG350M from Anbernic is arguably the most popular handheld emulator in this list, with the model and its latest iterations often sold out on Amazon.
There is no surprise to that because the RG350M boasts unique features. Firstly, the emulator has two analog sticks, on top of having a directional pad and shoulder buttons. That configuration resembles that of a PS1 controller so it is great for playing PS1 games.
Secondly, apart from the PS1, it can mimic older consoles, including the Game Boy Color and Advance, Neo Geo, Famicom, and Super Famicom. Moreover, it has 2,500 built-in games for you to enjoy.
Lastly, the handheld emulator has a 640×480-pixel resolution, 16GB internal storage, and a 2,500mAh battery that is good for six hours, which all hit the passing mark.
The RG350M will give you the bang for your buck with its features not commonly available in competitor emulators.
This handheld emulator from TrophyRak is an Amazon Best Seller because it looks like a companion console of the Famicom, also supporting multiplayer and TV modes. To add, you can get it for less than $20, the lowest price among the emulators in this list.
To elaborate, the emulator has a red and white color scheme like the Famicom and comes with a controller meant to be used by the second player. Moreover, it features 500 classic games that can be shown on a bigger screen when connected to a TV.
Having a 5-inch 1920×720-pixel touchscreen, Android OS, 6,700mAh battery that lasts seven to 10 hours, and the charm of a flip phone, the GPD XD Plus is the best premium handheld emulator pick on Amazon.
The GPD XD Plus’s other notable features are its firepower for running multiple games smoothly and wireless connectivity. To elaborate, it uses a PowerVR GX6250 processor and 32GB flash memory. Also, you can surf the web from the emulator to access the Google Play Store and download and play your retro or contemporary games.
The Bittboy PocketGo is also a top budget-friendly pick, coming at less than half the price of high-end versions on Amazon and with good storage features.
To elaborate, the emulator lets you save and load your progress in any 8- or 16-bit game from more than 10 consoles, including the SNES, GBA, and GBC. Furthermore, its RAM is 32GB and expandable up to 128GB via an SD card you can load with your games. PocketGo is powered by a 1,000mAh battery that is good for four hours of play.
PocketGo can be considered pocket-size, coming at 12.3×5.6×1.4cm with a 2.4-inch IPS display.
The HigoKids Handheld Game Console is a great way for youngsters to enjoy retro games. Unlike many children’s toys, this has a reinforced colored ABS housing that withstands impact when thrown. Additionally, it is a smooth-functioning emulator that comes at a low price.
The handheld emulator is loaded with 182 games from the 80s and 90s. It renders those on its 3.5-inch screen that can be backlit on a TV.
The Retroid Pocket is another great handheld emulator for long hours of gaming because of its 4,000mAh battery. That’s a power that can be likened to what mobile phones today offer.
On top of that, it runs Android, which makes it like a smartphone. In fact, you can use Android cloud gaming apps like Steam Link and Moonlight on the handheld emulator.
In terms of form factor and games, the Retroid Pocket integrates an analog stick, a directional pad, and A, B, X, and Y buttons for playing N64, PS1, PSP, GBA, DS, and other supported games.
Made to emulate the SNES and Super Famicom, the Hyperkin SupaBoy’s main selling point is its switchable aspect ratio. For example, you can change that to 16:9 from 4:3 or vice versa. For a mid-range or high-end handheld emulator, its 4.3-inch screen is already a hit.
The Hyperkin SupaBoy also matches premium versions in terms of power. It has an advertised 10-hour battery life and is rechargeable.
This handheld emulator from MJKJ has 3,000 preloaded retro games from various genres in its arsenal. Furthermore, you can add your games to it via a 32GB SD card.
With variety also comes versatility because the emulator is not only for playing classic games. It doubles as a multimedia player and eBook reader with a built-in speaker.
Additionally, the MJKJ handheld emulator adopts a 3-inch IPS screen with tempered glass and a 1,800mAh battery that lasts about six hours.
This product from Baoruiteng offers almost the same features the previously discussed handheld emulator has, although the catch here is its vertical orientation and look. That alone might be a convincing factor as it resembles the popular Game Boy console.
The Baoruiteng Handheld Game Console is a midrange emulator with 3,007 games from retro consoles up to the PS1. It also has a 3-inch 960×480-pixel tempered glass screen and a 1,800mAh battery that lasts about six hours.
This handheld emulator from CredevZone looks modern yet can run almost any retro game with NES, SNES, Game Boy, GBC, GBA, and PS1 support. Additionally, it has more than 650 preloaded games and several save and load state slots for your game progress. A Recent Run List is also available for resuming games in an instant.
The CredevZone Handheld Game Console is also a hybrid device because it can function as an MP5 player. In fact, watching movies is great on the emulator, thanks to its 4.3-inch screen.
If you are a hardcore retro gamer, 3,000 games might not be enough. Why not double or triple the selection, you ask? HLF did that to its handheld emulator, adding 9,600 games to it.
The HLF Multi-Function Retro Game Console works as a Neo Geo, SFC, CPS, Game Boy, GBA, and GBC emulator to be able to play its massive catalog. Also, it can double as a Sega console, which is unique because a handheld or software-type Sega Saturn emulator is hard to find nowadays.
The emulator can instantly save and load your game progress in up to six slots anytime. To support its games and data backups, the unit has 48GB of memory when the internal and TF card capacities are combined.
Appearance-wise, HLF’s handheld emulator resembles a PSP with a 5-inch screen.
If you’re a retro audiophile, you’ll appreciate Haihuang’s handheld emulator. The device adopts a built-in speaker that supports lossless music and headphones.
Apart from working as a CP1, CP2, Neo Geo, SFC, GBC, and GBA emulator with hundreds to thousands of built-in games, it can double as a multimedia player and eBook reader. Video resolution is up to 720p HD and memory is up to 64GB when a TF card is used. The emulator also supports TV output.
This handheld emulator by LKTINA looks like a Nintendo Switch and PSP hybrid, adopting the same colors and form, respectively.
In terms of games, it has thousands of preloaded classics, including retro titles played on the NES, Game Boy, GBA, GBC, and SFC. The emulator also has quick button shortcuts for its save or load states.
In terms of hardware, the LKTINA Handheld Portable Game Console features a 4.3-inch 480×272-pixel screen and a camera for taking videos and photos. It also has an interface for connecting to a TV.
You already have a hint on what platform 8-bit Old Arcade supports based on how it looks. If you guessed NES, then you’re right. The handheld emulator can even disguise itself as an NES controller because of its appearance.
8-bit Old Arcade already has up to 200 games preloaded in it, so there is no immediate need to download ROMs. Moreover, it is easy to power and hooks up with a TV. All you need is a USB cable or three AAA batteries, and the provided AV cable, respectively.
The Goolsky X16 handheld emulator is also a great pick, versatility-wise. It supports GBA and NES games in 29 languages. Also, you can connect it to your computer for adding games or a TV for a bigger screen.
The emulator’s screen is already huge to start with, measuring 7 inches. You can watch high-resolution videos and browse photos or even read eBooks on it.
In terms of storage, it has 8GB of internal space. You can extend that to 32GB via a TF card.
Everything about My Arcade Pixel Player screams pixels. In fact, the emulator’s cool housing shape and the games it plays are inspired by and are in pixels, respectively.
The handheld emulator has 308 built-in retro games from sports, racing, puzzle, and other genres. It can play the classics in color on its 2.75-inch display.
Chaonatech’s handheld emulator is the most compact and sleek model in this list because of its glossy black square-shaped housing. It is also one of the most budget-friendly options on Amazon.
The emulator can mimic 8-bit consoles and has 333 games from the fighting, puzzle, arcade, adventure, and sports genres built-in. Furthermore, it is HD and compatible with TVs.
Flip consoles, just like flip phones, are “in” once again with the emulator type resurfacing on Amazon. This model from GoolRC is one that packs the necessary features in a compact form: Game Boy-like controls and a 3-inch HD screen.
The handheld emulator is open-source, so it can run games from various retro consoles. Furthermore, there are 2,000 preloaded games in it but you can add more through a 16GB TF card.
The Hawiton Handheld Game Console combines ergonomic controls and good aesthetics. Its unique features include a 360-degree rocker and “breathing” lights on its back.
The device emulates multiple consoles, including Game Boy, GBA, GB, GBC, SFC, CPS1, and CPS2. Moreover, there are 1,576 retro games built into its memory. You can insert a TF card in the emulator for your games.
The handheld emulator connects to a TV via an AV cable for a widescreen experience.
The Mus Run emulator is another device music lovers and gamers will enjoy. It can play music for 70 hours and games for up to five hours. Additionally, it has 3,000 classics preloaded but you can add any Game Boy, GBA, GBS, SFC, and other supported games of choice.
The Mus Run emulator integrates a 5-inch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio and stores up to 16GB in its internal memory.
The Great Boy handheld emulator has the shape of an iPhone 4. That said, it is compact and sleek.
Looks alone are not the only reason for you to try the device. The emulator also comes with 380 classic titles, a gamepad for retro gamers who are more comfortable with a separate controller and can be linked to a TV for those who want to play on a big screen.
Choose Your Handheld Emulator Now
The best handheld emulator can give you the same retro game experience that popular classic consoles offer. It allows you to relish your past gaming adventures or try something new from the niche genre. So, choose one now from our list as there’s surely an emulator that matches the games you want to play, the way you want to play them, and the unique perks you’re looking for.