What your favorite gaming handheld growing up? Here’s our list of gaming handhelds close to our hearts.
We barely bat an eye to the concept of gaming on the go these days. Smartphones have become the de-facto gaming device for many people. At the same time, devices such as the Nintendo Switch and the upcoming Valve Steam Deck allow us to take their traditional console and PC gaming on the go.
But there was a time when gaming on the go wasn’t as convenient. Even just a little over a decade ago, we’d have to use dedicated hardware just to game on the go. And even then, we’d still have to accept some compromises. Despite these limitations, or maybe even because of them, we can’t help but have fond memories of these gaming handhelds we used to play games on.
With this in mind, we here at Variable have decided to put a list of six of our favorite handheld gaming systems.
Ah, the Game Boy—the console that pretty much every ’90s kid had.
It’s a far cry from today’s gaming handhelds, but it provided users with hours and hours of entertainment—as long as your battery permits, of course. It’s also the reason why most of us know that most remotes have AA batteries, just in case our Game Boy’s running on low.
But what made Game Boy appealing was that it allowed players to connect with its link cable. It made for a fun experience during its launch, but the launch of Pokémon introduced competition, as it made use of the link cable to trade and battle other Pokémon trainers.
Game Boy Advance
Now, we could just write one long entry for Game Boy, but there’s something to be said about the Game Boy Advance. For one, it’s the first in the Game Boy models to have a landscape feature, which allowed for a wider screen—a predecessor of the handhelds we have today.
For many titos and titas, it was released at the turn of the millennium, so memories with the GBA might be limited. But who can forget playing hours on end (again, Nintendo made these Game Boys to last) titles like GBA Legend of Zelda games, Golden Sun and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance?
Nintendo remains the king when it comes to handheld gaming consoles. But for a short period of time, the big N’s throne was challenged by Sony and their original PlayStation Portable, or PSP.
When it came out, the PSP represented the first time a gaming handheld had true 3D rendering capabilities. Prior to that, gaming handhelds, such as the GameBoy Advance, were focused primarily on 2D graphics.
That said, the PSP still compromised in some areas, primarily in the fact that it only had one analog stick, unlike the 2 usually used for 3D games.
Despite this limitation, developers flocked to the PSP, providing it with a vast library of games. These ranged from portable iterations of popular franchises, such as God of War, Monster Hunter and Metal Gear Solid; ports of popular PlayStation games, such as Persona 3 and Final Fantasy VII; to unique and creative experiences like Patapon and Loco Roco.
Of course, Nintendo eventually clawed its lead back with the DS and 3DS, but even for a while, Sony showed that it too could compete in the handheld space.
Game & Watch
Before even the Nintendo GameBoy, there was the Game and Watch. These small, handheld games are as far from what we would recognize as modern handheld gaming as could be.
Not only is does each device play only one game, but the games themselves are also quite limited. Game and Watch games used only the most basic of LCD displays that simply turned elements on and off, passing those as “animation.”
Yet despite the limits of the technology, the games themselves were pretty fun. Admittedly, it was in part because we had no other options, but even back then, Nintendo’s penchant for simple but addicting gameplay was already evident.
Old Nokia phone
Cellular phones today are legitimate gaming devices in their own right. But that wasn’t always the case. It used to be that being able to play a game on your cellphone was already a novel thing, and that game was Snake.
Back at the turn of the millennium, the most popular phones were those made by Nokia. All Nokia phones, such as the popular 5110 and the near bullet-proof 3210, came with Snake.
The game itself is quite simple, players control a constantly moving, pixellated snake. All players had to do was eat food around the field and avoid hitting the walls, or themselves. Complicating things is the fact that eating food makes the snake longer, increasing the chances of its head hitting itself.
This steady, organic progression difficulty made for quite an addicting game, one that could occupy a lot of time and drain a lot of batteries.
It looks like Tetris, it moves like Tetris and it sounds like Tetris, so it’s gotta be Tetris, right?
For most of us who grew up with fond memories of Tetris, chances are you’re remembering Brick Game, a clone of the original Tetris games. The game even plays in the same 10×20 grid used in Tetris, so you’re not alone in thinking that it’s the actual game. It’s also ridiculously simple, just like Tetris, so once you load the game, it’s off to the races with trying to clear as many lines as you can.
P.S. If you’re lucky, you might have played a model preloaded with other games, so you also grew up playing Battle City.
So there you have it, our Variable list of favorite gaming handhelds. Which one’s your favorite on the list? Do you have a handheld console that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below!
Ralph Gurango contributed to the feature.
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