games / Columns

The 8 Ball: Top 8 Handhelds Systems

June 13, 2017 | Posted by Marc Morrison

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. The topic was originally going to be about E3 predictions but with E3 already going on, that kind of makes it moot. So instead, I’m here to talk about handheld systems and which are the best ones. The only system that really isn’t acceptable here is the Switch, because while it can be handheld, there is still the whole docking mechanic, so you can also play it on a TV. With that said, let’s begin:

#8: TurboExpress

The TurboExpress remains a great, boxy looking console. It had a great screen (at the time), and was an impressive bit of technology, considering it could play regular TurboGrafx 16 games. The two issues with the console was the thing was a battery hog, worse than even the Game Gear. And also, the speaker had a tendency to blow out, so finding TurboExpress’s that have their sound working on eBay can be a bit of a challenge. The most notable claim to fame was being the “secret device” in the movie Enemies of the State, which is pretty great.

#7: Game Gear

When you think of a handheld system, the system should ideally be able to go in a pocket. Not so with the Game Gear, as the thing was a beast. Aside from the battery issues, requiring 6 AA’s to function for about 5 hours, the Game Gear was a decent system. I have fond memories of playing Sonic Triple Trouble or the Power Rangers game on it, for far too much time. Also, the TV Tuner was a very cool addon for the system, provided you could actually find it in a store and it was not expensive.

#6: Playstation Vita

I know there are some die-hard Vita fans out there, and while the system itself is a quality device, Sony’s lack of support and boneheaded choices kind of doomed it. The biggest knock against it was the proprietary memory cards which the system never really got around to solving. A 32GB memory card is $70 on Amazon, but a 128GB SD card can be found for around $45, if you really hunt. Also, the system just became a dumping ground for crossplay titles, instead of having its own real identity. Still, the Vita does have some good games for it (Persona 4 Golden) that can make it worthwhile, especially if you don’t want to mess with a PSTV.

#5: Sega Nomad

The Nomad suffers from the same problems as the TurboExpress and Game Gear, with it having an odd shape and requiring too many batteries. The reason it’s higher on this list though is because it could play regular old Sega Genesis games and that was rad. The thing was compatible with every Genesis title, so it was akin to having a Genesis in your bag, wherever you go. Really, there’s nothing more that needs to be said, the Nomad was just a cool device.

#4: New 3DS

Honestly, from the DS on I kind of checked out of the Nintendo handheld ecosystem. It’s not that the consoles aren’t great, or that the games aren’t unique, I just don’t have a lot of situations to play handheld games, especially when a lot of the franchises don’t really appeal to me. I still pick the 3DS here, particularly the “New” variant due to the SNES virtual console stuff (half-assed as ever), the integrated second analog stick, and it just being a faster version of the old 3DS. I think it still costs too much money, but the New 3DS is the current champ for handheld gaming.

#3: PSP

The PSP was the last handheld I actually bought, and I have two models, an original launch model, and a 2000 Silver model, which I think is the “best” version of the system, though that depends on who you ask. The PSP had a more standard memory format than the Vita, more exclusive/higher profile games, and honestly, was a much more comfortable system for me to game on. Plus, once the system got cracked open from homebrew people, it became a much more powerful and useful system.

#2: Gameboy Advance SP

Like I said last week, the Gameboy Advance SP, Nintendo took the functionality of the original GBA, fixed the design problems (like the screen) and made it better. Games had to be resized for it, but the GBA was basically a portable SNES in your pocket, as evidenced by titles like Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2, and Metroid Fusion, to name just a few. I was honestly moving away from Nintendo as a handheld game maker even then, but I did love my GBA SP and carried it around for a while, even if it was usually just to play Tetris.

#1: Game Boy

I love the original Game Boy, even to this day. Who cares if it only had four dark black, light black, light grey, and dark grey, it essentially started the handheld gaming market, even if it wasn’t technically the first handheld on the market. Fronted by the pack-in title of Tetris, the Game Boy went on to have an extremely long history (compared to most handhelds) and started franchises like Kirby and Pokemon, as well as introducing characters like Wario, the Game Boy started a lot of stuff for Nintendo that is still going on to this day. It wasn’t exactly “pocket-sized”, but it was a lot more compact than a Game Gear at the time and had a pretty long battery life to boot. I think I went through like five Game Boy’s as a kid growing up, either they broke, or lost them, etc. Still, it’s the most well-known handheld system by far.

For comments, list which handheld systems you’ve liked.

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Top 8 E3 Announcements

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The 8 Ball (Games), Marc Morrison