Entertainment writer. Loves games, movies, and comics. Also loves talking in the third person
There’s nothing like sitting down, curling up in your blanket, and playing a great game on your handheld console. No matter what console you prefer, they all have fantastic games to choose from, and they’re a ton of fun.
With so many good handheld consoles, each with its positive and negative attributes, it’s hard to put one over the other, but we still did it anyway. Here are the best handheld consoles ranked by sales.
Nokia is known for its indestructible phones, but they also tried their hand at a handheld console. What’s interesting about their console, the N-Gage, is that it’s also a cell phone.
The N-Gage was truly ahead of its time, with mobile gaming being as big as it is now. Unfortunately, it had tough competitors to deal with, releasing the same year as the Game Boy Advance SP.
The N-Gage would fail to compete with Nintendo, but still managed to make it on the list of best handheld game consoles; Nokia’s N-Gage sold 3 million units. Games available to play on the console included Bomberman, Call of Duty, and WWE Aftershock, with the WWE game being exclusive to the N-Gage.
A console that was exclusively sold in Japan, the WonderSwan was Bandai’s venture into the handheld console world. The first version of WonderSwan released in 1999, and the graphics were in black and white.
The WonderSwan Color was released a year later and allowed players to see the full colors of their games. A third model of the WonderSwan, the SwanCrystal was released in 2002, and it would be the last WonderSwan console the world would ever see.
Image Source: https://digimonbasic.altervista.org/?section=content&id=
The WonderSwan was directly competing against Nintendo’s Game Boy Color, which had incredible games available. But the WonderSwan had games of its own, including Digimon Adventure and Fire Pro Wrestling for WonderSwan.
WonderSwan’s game catalog most likely helped it sell more consoles, with a total of 3.3 million WonderSwan handheld consoles sold.
Released 7 years after the debut of the PSP, the Vita was the next step into Sony’s voyage into handheld consoles. The Vita had features that the original PSP didn’t have, one of these being a touchscreen.
Like the other handheld consoles, the Vita had tough competition from Nintendo, with the Nintendo 3DS releasing around the same time.
Just like the Nintendo 3DS had great games, so did the PS Vita. These games included Uncharted: Golden Abyss, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, and Dead or Alive 5 Plus.
Reports differ, but most reports put the PS Vita selling around 10 million units. Although it didn’t quite make the impact the PSP did, 10 million copies is still a big number.
Sega’s Game Gear was released in 1990, and this bad boy had an 8-bit processor to go along with it.
Game Gear was the first handheld console for Sega who had recently found success with their Sega Genesis home console. The other interesting feature of this console is that it had a color screen, so the player could see all the colors the games had to offer.
The Sega Game gear had several exclusives from popular franchises including Mega Man, an X-Men game, and Sonic games; it’s not wild to assume that exclusives like these helped the Game Gear sell more copies.
During 2009 and 2010, it seemed like the public was obsessed with 3-D. Films such as Avatar, Jackass 3-D, and Monsters vs Aliens, were released in 3-D. Around the same time frame, Nintendo would release the 3DS, which as you can tell by its name, allowed players to game in 3D.
Although the 3-D was hit and miss, the rest of the hardware was great, and the 3DS was a fun console to play on.
Backed with a great catalog, the Nintendo 3DS sold 75 million units. Some of the games included Super Smash Bros, New Super Mario Bros 2, Pokemon X and Y, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
The 3DS also had numerous iterations including the Nintendo 3DS XL, and the New Nintendo 3DS.
Sony’s first handheld console, the PSP, was released in Japan in 2004, and to the rest of the world in 2005. The PSP was a great handheld device, but it could do other things than just play games.
You could play music on it, watch movies, or go on the web. All it’s missing is the ability to text and make calls, and it’s essentially a phone.
The PSP, with all its versatile abilities, managed to make a splash in the gaming industry, and it sold 80 million units, making it one of the best handheld game consoles in terms of financial success.
The PSP had incredible games such as Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, God of War: Chains of Olympus, and Tekken: Dark Resurrection.
The Game Boy Advance was released early into the 21st century and was the next evolution of Nintendo handheld consoles. Like the previously released Game Boy Color, the Advance had color as well as a 32-bit microprocessor.
Another model of the Game Boy Advance, the Game Boy Advance SP released 2 years later, and you could see the eventual climb towards the Nintendo DS.
It wouldn’t be a Nintendo console without great games, and the Game Boy Advance featured several remakes and re-releases of classic Nintendo titles. Some of these included Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and Donkey Kong Country.
But it also had its original titles like Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire and Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga. These games helped the Game Boy Advance sell 81 million units.
This console needs no introduction considering it’s the most popular handheld console today. What sets apart the Nintendo Switch from previous handheld consoles is that you’re able to play it on your TV, or right in your hands in a seamless transition.
Featuring joy-cons that allow for motion control and a touch screen, the Nintendo Switch has an endless amount of great features.
Apart from the hardware, the Nintendo Switch’s game catalog also knocks it out of the park. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mario Kart 8, and Super Smash Bros. are the best-selling games for the console, with all of them selling over 20 million copies.
Even though the Nintendo Switch’s lifespan is far from over, financially, it’s already one of the best handheld game consoles; selling 84 million units.
Decades before the Nintendo Switch, there was the Game Boy, Nintendo’s second-ever handheld console. It didn’t have a color screen, but it didn’t need one; the graphics were clean and charming.
It also only had two buttons (if you don’t include the start and select buttons), and an 8 bit CPU. The Game Boy was succeeded by the Game Boy Color, almost 10 years after the former’s debut.
We can’t mention the Game Boy without mentioning Pokemon, with the franchise’s first installment debuting on the console.
Beyond Pokemon, other notable titles include Super Mario Land and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. All of these titles and more helped the Game Boy and Game Boy Color sell a combined total of 118 million units.
In first place, zooming ahead of all other handheld consoles is the Nintendo DS. First released in North America in 2004, the Nintendo DS combined features from previous consoles and put them into one.
It had the same flip-open design as the Game Boy Advance SP, except the DS was much wider and bigger. And it included two screens instead of one, with the bottom one being a touchscreen.
The console was backed up by incredible games such as New Super Mario Bros, Mario Kart DS, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.
The first two DS models were also backward compatible with the Game Boy Advance making the console’s library even bigger. In terms of sales, the Nintendo DS is the best handheld game console of all time.
Although this list of best handheld game consoles is dominated by Nintendo, there are plenty of other great consoles such as the PSP and the Sega Game Gear to look at.
With phones essentially becoming gaming consoles themselves, we wonder what the future holds for portable gaming.
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