At some point the video game industry diverged in a pretty major way, throwing developers apart and seemingly moving in different directions altogether. For example, you had people creating titles for largely stationary hardware, like PC’s and video game consoles (which tend to be more powerful, obviously) and those that saw the rise of handheld gaming as the next step forward. Now, everything’s starting to merge back together, where games that were once only found on immoble consumer machines making the jump to mobile platforms, one port at a time. Sometimes it even seems as if we’re headed for a future where virtually any title you want could be accessed through cloud gaming services, thus allowing any sized console to supply the action (at least in theory).
Anyway, out of the mad race to dominate the handheld market, a number of really excellent products have emerged. That brings us to this point, right now, and the myriad miniscule consoles that are currently out there. The question of course is which is the best one? Hopefully, after reading through this you’ll know exactly what to be on the lookout for. Here they are, presented in no particular order, we’ll leave it up to you to decide which one is the best…
Nintendo 3DS XL
When it comes to fun games, legacy software and all around great design, Nintendo is hard to match. They’ve consistently stuck to their guns, pleased fans and avoided all the largely unnecessary hyping that many other competitors love to engage in, even managing to forge their own niche and maintain a sense of business integrity at the same time. This is why it’s absolutely no surprise that many feel the 3DS is probably the best handheld console out there right now. Of course, the XL is just a larger version of its predecessor, but not too large, mind you; they arrived at a very nice and ergonomic size in the end. The fact that it comes loaded with a virtual console as well as the ability to tap into an array of streaming web apps like Netflix certainly doesn’t hurt anything either. Naturally, most people probably get one so they can tap into Nintendo’s awesome library.
Then of course there’s the somewhat magical PlayStation Vita to consider. Not only is it a graphical powerhouse, apparently capable of playing certain PS3 and earlier titles , but it also provides cross-play functionality for the PS4 as well. When you factor in that it’s a breeze to use any of its apps or streaming services, check out a great ported console title and then use it as a second screen of sorts, how can you not get excited about it? Sony even took the basic Vita design, stripped it down entirely, removing all sorts of features and only tapping into its streaming capabilities to bring us the incredibly cheap and awesome PlayStation TV. For a certain type of gamer who prefers more realistic-looking graphics and more action-oriented gameplay, the Vita’s library is definitely more of a draw.
Nvidia Shield Portable
The seemingly obscure Nvidia Shield console is produced by the same folks who are known for making excellent video game cards for PC gaming. Even though many might have a knee jerk reaction to veer away from it, doing so would be a mistake because it’s actually a very affordable and powerful little machine with lots of great uses. Many will immediately dig its 720p multi-touch display as well as its ability to wirelessly stream content from a PC. Naturally, its library is also pretty awesome, with stuff like Half Life 2 or Portal in there to keep things interesting and they also make it apparent that you can load up emulators to play other retro titles as well. Being able to use streaming web apps like Netflix or Hulu Plus certainly doesn’t hurt anything either. Arguably, one of the coolest tricks the Nvidia Shield can pull off is pairing it with AR drone, allowing you to not only control its movement but also use the screen to get a direct first person flying experience.
Perhaps the real truth here is that there is no BEST handheld console (at least not yet, anyway). Each one of the three examples above do different things as well as provide access to the same sorts of web apps we all use regularly. It basically all boils down to how you plan on using it vs. what type of game library you prefer. Those with a penchant for colorful arcade-ish action will gravitate toward Nintendo’s 3DS XL while those with a need for more modern graphics will undoubtedly look at the Vita or Nvidia Shield Portable. At any rate, regardless of which one you ultimately choose, they’re all excellent.