The best retro handheld emulator in 2024

Finding the best retro handheld should be a simple task, as you can search high and low on the Internet for an answer. Sadly, you only get the same results for every magazine, all pointing to the same devices without telling you the reason. That’s why there is an increase in searching the best retro handheld in Reddit, because we appreciate hearing about others’ real-life experiences with products they are considering. Reading about how a product performed in various scenarios or how it held up over time can be invaluable in making a purchasing decision.

However, to find the best retro handheld emulator in 2024, I approach in a different way. I believe that I take as many hours as others in testing retro handheld, but to say one is better than another, you should make a comparison table. I called my version of comparison table a ranking list, where I specify and break down the main criteria of my grading system. As a result, it helps me be more transparent about my inner processes, as well as to help me be more consistent with my rankings.

As a lazy handheld man, if I need to write to give you the best retro handheld emulator, I am certainly jump in the conclusion quickly so any lazy readers like me can find an answer. So, first thing first, you can quickly take a look at my ranking list for the best retro handheld emulator.

I also recommend you to check my lists to find out the most suitable handheld device for your needs.

Not to discount myself, but my list of the best retro handheld emulator is mainly subjective. I also highlight other opinions in Reddit so you don’t have to waste time looking. For people who’re concerning about the legal issues of a retro handheld emulator, I wrapped up my thoughts in these articles:

Are you ready, as I am too lazy to write more for the opening.


Everything I recommend as the best retro handheld emulator

Anbernic Win600Anbernic RG35XX PlusMiyoo Mini PlusPowKiddy RGB30Anbernic RG353PSRetroid Pocket 3 PlusAnbernic RG405MAyn Odin ProValve Steam Deck
The best retro handheld gaming console

It is powerful enough to play anything up to PSP, Dreamcast, Gameboy, NES, SNES, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS. The Retroid Pocket 2S has a retro-purist 4:3 screen, which is the golden ratio for any vintage video games.

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The baseline for retro handheld gaming

Want a small handheld on-the-go, the RG35XX Plus is certainly the one you need. As the upgrade of the popular RG35XX, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is ready to tackle more demanding systems with its new power.

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My favorite vertical retro handheld gaming console

The Miyoo Mini Plus is clearly the most demanded product, simply because it is always out of stock. Personally, it is more comfortable to play for a longer session than the RG35XX, and its screen is lovely. The only handheld that I want to play when I have 5-10 minutes.

Buying Options

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The best Game Boy emulator

With a 1:1 HD screen, the PowKiddy RGB30 is a perfect retro handheld emulator for anyone who wants to play Game Boy and Game Boy Color systems.

Buying Options

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Best Linux retro handheld emulator

For anyone who hesitates to switch to Android emulator system, the Anbernic RG353PS still features the classic Linux OS.

Buying Options

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Strong challenger for the best retro handheld emulator

The Retroid Pocket 3+ is the main competitor of the Anbernic RG405M that I deem as the best retro handheld emulator. It has 16:9 screen which isn't my preference for retro games, but its ratio is really good for PSP games. Has better OS updates, so if you value this criteria, go for the Retroid.

Buying Options

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The best retro handheld gaming console

It is powerful enough to play anything up to PSP, Dreamcast, Gameboy, NES, SNES, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS. The Anbernic RG405M has a retro-purist 4:3 screen, which is the golden ratio for any vintage video games.

Buying Options

Get black version from Amazon

Get black version from Ebay

Get black version from AliExpress
The most powerful Android retro handheld emulator

The Ayn Odin (pro version) is the most powerful retro handheld emulator using Android system, period. However, its asking price can be too much for some people.

Buying Options

Get one from Amazon

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Powerful enough to emulate Wii U and Switch

While the Steam Deck isn't really an option to emulate retro games only, it is optimized to fulfill that task brilliantly. However, it isn't something you want to put in your jean's pocket.

Buying Options

Get Steam Deck 256GB from Amazon

The best retro handheld emulator – Retroid Pocket 2S

Retroid Pocket 2S

The best retro handheld gaming console

It is powerful enough to play anything up to PSP, Dreamcast, Gameboy, NES, SNES, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS. The Retroid Pocket 2S has a retro-purist 4:3 screen, which is the golden ratio for any vintage video games.

Take a look at the Retroid Pocket 2S

PROS

  • Best value for the money
  • Retro-purist 4:3 screen is great
  • Build quality is good for the price
  • Hall sensor stick helps in the long run
  • PS Vita D-Pad style
  • Actually pocketable
CONS

  • Still not a good Nintendo DS experience

New year and the new retro handheld emulator comes as the best retro handheld emulator. This time I will call the name of the Retroid Pocket 2S, as it is a steal for its nearly identical performance as the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus, while being “pocketable” as its name implies.

Retro gaming has seen a resurgence in recent years, with enthusiasts seeking to relive the golden age of video games. Handheld emulation devices have become increasingly popular, offering a convenient way to carry a vast library of classic games in your pocket. For that purpose, the Retroid Pocket 2S should stays in everyone’s collection.

Design: Retro handheld emulator involves in only a few designs, and the Retroid Pocket 2S doesn’t want to be a pioneer in the new design. It remains mostly the same as the predecessor, but has a few changes with separated D-Pad and concaved analog sticks. Overall, the best thing that I can say about the Retroid Pocket 2S is it is actually pocketable, and for me, that is the most important thing.

Display: The Retroid Pocket 2S uses the same 3.5-inch IPS screen at 640 x 480 resolution, with 4:3 aspect ratio. This is said to be the gold standard for retro games, as most home consoles up to PlayStation 2 use the same 4:3 aspect ratio. The Retroid Pocket 2S will play games fully pixel-perfect, and it can upscale the resolution a little bit.

Gaming experience: The gaming experience with retro handheld emulator mostly depends on the design, because they all use the same emulators for different systems. Holding and using the Retroid Pocket 2S feels great because of the D-Pad upper placement, which resembles the classic PlayStation Vita (and I regarded it as one of the best handheld gaming consoles). The front-facing speaker is also a plus, as most handhelds with horizontal form factor will place speakers bottom-facing, and I don’t really like this position.

On software side, the Retroid Pocket 2S runs Android 11. With Daijisho frontend, you can expect to quickly search and run your retro games, as well as enjoy retro achievements online.

Performance: The Retroid Pocket 2S runs an UNISOC T610 chipset, which is nearly match the performance of the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus. As a result, it is capable of emulating GBA, SNES, PS1, N64, Dreamcast, NDS and PSP perfectly. And for the price you spend on this handheld, you can even make it to run a few GameCube and Wii games. At the current limitations on retro game emulation, I think the Retroid Pocket 2S does its job beautifully at less than $99.

Battery: The Retroid Pocket 2S has a 4000-mAh battery, and it is one of the best you can buy on the market. If you plan to play only retro games, you can expect to draw out up to 6-7 hours from this handheld.

Value for life: The Retroid Pocket 2S is currently the best retro handheld emulator for its value, not for its raw performance. Because retro gaming market stays where it is, I think raw performance isn’t really the most important thing to notice, instead I would want a budget retro handheld that can pull out most of its potential. That’s why I choose the Retroid Pocket 2S, because even the Odin that costs double the price of the Retroid Pocket 2S can’t do justice for every PlayStation 2 title.

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A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

The baseline for retro handheld gaming – Anbernic RG35XX Plus

Anbernic RG35XX Plus

The baseline for retro handheld gaming

Want a small handheld on-the-go, the RG35XX Plus is certainly the one you need. As the upgrade of the popular RG35XX, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is ready to tackle more demanding systems with its new power.

Take a look at the Anbernic RG35XX Plus

PROS

  • Cheap, available, many colors to select
  • Retro-purist 4:3 screen is great
  • Mini HDMI is a plus, but not by much
CONS

  • Lacks of dedicated custom firmware
  • Vertical shape brings hand-fatigue easily

The Anbernic RG35XX Plus is the upgrade of the popular RG35XX in terms of performance, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, and better battery life. The best part is that the Anbernic RG35XX Plus starts at the same price as the original device, and I want to call out the new baseline retro handheld emulator for everyone.

Design: The Anbernic RG35XX Plus features a Game Boy Pocket imitation design, which is completely the same as the original RG35XX. The design is a bit taller than the Miyoo Mini Plus, but overall it’s small, pocketable and lightweight. It is really meant for bringing everywhere.

Display: Every portrait retro handheld emulator to date is using the same 3.5-inch IPS screen at 640 x 480 resolution, with 4:3 aspect ratio. While you may find the same screen to be no-brainer and tedious, I prefer retro handheld brands keep it that way, so I can easily replace a new screen whenever anything bad happens.

Gaming experience: Playing on a Game Boy clone is certainly nostalgic, but don’t forget that current retro handheld emulators are using 4 shoulder buttons in the back. As a result, you should expect hand fatigues when playing with them, no exceptions.

What you should care about is the Anbernic RG35XX Plus doesn’t have a dedicated custom firmware yet. You can install Garlic 2.0 on the RG35XX Plus, but it is only in alpha state, and there are still more works needed to be done.

With the RG35XX Plus, you can use Wi-Fi to get retro achievements or update over-the-air for new custom firmware. There is a mini HDMI output that is not included in other retro handhelds at this price point, and if you want to export the video on TV, you can only choose the RG35XX Plus.

Performance: The Anbernic RG35XX Plus features a brand new quad-core processor with 1 GB of LPDDR4 RAM. Its integrated GPU isn’t limited by the stock OS, so it can unleash its full potential with more demanding systems. I consider it as the baseline retro handheld emulator because of its raw specs, as nothing cheaper can achieve such performance.

Battery: The Anbernic RG35XX Plus finally matches the Miyoo Mini Plus with a swappable 3300-mAh battery at higher capacity. At the moment, it seems the only thing the RG35XX Plus falls short of is its custom firmware.

Value for life: The Anbernic RG35XX Plus is the baseline retro handheld emulator, meaning it is the most valuable retro handheld at the cheapest price. If you plan to buy any retro handheld emulator that costs more than the RG35XX, make sure the difference in money can justify the upgrade.

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A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

The best budget retro handheld emulator – Miyoo Mini Plus

Miyoo Mini Plus

My favorite vertical retro handheld gaming console

The Miyoo Mini Plus is clearly the most demanded product, simply because it is always out of stock. Personally, it is more comfortable to play for a longer session than the RG35XX, and its screen is lovely. The only handheld that I want to play when I can spare 5-10 minutes.

Take a look at the Miyoo Mini Plus

PROS

  • Cheap, available, many colors to select
  • Retro-purist 4:3 screen is great
  • Wi-Fi is available
  • Onion OS is unmatched
CONS

  • Vertical shape brings hand-fatigue easily
  • No HDMI output

If the ceiling that you want to pay for your retro handheld emulator is around $80, the Miyoo Mini Plus is certainly the best budget option you can buy. While it doesn’t have as plenty power as the Anbernic RG35XX Plus or many different RK3326 variants, like the PowKiddy RGB20S, its stable Onion system is the reason why many people can’t put it off.

Design: The Miyoo Mini Plus is based on the smaller Miyoo Mini that imitates the Game Boy Pocket. It expands on both the height and width of the original Miyoo, and as a result, I find the size and form of the Miyoo Mini Plus to be actually playable.

Display: Again, it is the same 3.5-inch IPS screen at 640 x 480 resolution, with 4:3 aspect ratio. However, on the subjective opinion, I feel the thinner bezel of the Miyoo Mini Plus makes its far more premium and attractive than the Anbernic RG35XX Plus. It should be my imagination, but I encourage you to try and look for yourself.

Gaming experience: The Miyoo Mini Plus is a bit smaller than the Anbernic RG35XX Plus, but theoretically both will share the same gaming experience. Any design flaws on the RG35XX remain on the Miyoo, too, as well as any strengths.

The only reason why I consider the Miyoo Mini Plus as the best budget retro handheld emulator is because of its custom firmware – specifically Onion OS. Developed by the community, the operating system is truly the reason to help retro gamers immerse in games. It has amazing guidelines (and I also wrote a lot in my Miyoo tutorial), regular updates that can further unlock the handheld’s potential, and a great community behind. If you’re a lazy retro handheld man, the Miyoo Mini Plus will be your safest bet.

Performance: The Miyoo Mini Plus runs only a dual-core processor, paired with 128 MB of RAM. It is far less desirable than these recent cheap RK3326 devices, like the R35S and R36S, not to mention there will be a R33S that mimics the same design of the Miyoo Mini Plus at only half the price. I really think the Miyoo Mini Plus is living based on the community, and once the community ceases supporting, it would be the end of the retro handheld.

Battery: The Miyoo Mini Plus has a swappable 3000-mAh battery, which is more than enough to keep it playing for up to 5-6 hours.

Value for life: If you don’t want to tinker with dual-SD card setup, or bear wth the lack of a proper custom firmware, the Miyoo Mini Plus is simply the best budget retro handheld emulator.

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A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

The best Game Boy emulator – PowKiddy RGB30

PowKiddy RGB30

The best Game Boy emulator

With a 1:1 HD screen, the PowKiddy RGB30 is a perfect retro handheld emulator for anyone who wants to play Game Boy and Game Boy Color systems.

Take a look at the PowKiddy RGB30

PROS

  • 1:1 screen is unique
  • HD resolution is higher than most others running 480p
  • Small and pocketable
CONS

  • The screen is not the best for other common systems

The PowKiddy RGB30 is a creative retro handheld emulator with its square 1:1 screen, which is really suitable for the Game Boy and Game Boy Color era that uses 10:9 screen.

Design: The PowKiddy RGB30 uses horizontal form factor with upper-placement D-Pad buttons, so it is the best design for a retro handheld emulator. It is pocketable, but the dual analog sticks can stuck with your jeans’ pocket, so don’t try to put in in a slim fit’s pocket.

Display: Currently the PowKiddy RGB30 is the best screen for a $100 retro handheld emulator. It has a square screen in HD resolution (720 x 720), and I never think I really need the HD resolution for retro games until I try one. Due to the native aspect ratio for GB and GBC systems is 10:9, which is close to 1:1 more than 4:3, the PowKiddy RGB30 is the most suitable for anyone who wants to relive the Game Boy memory.

Gaming experience: At the moment, the PowKiddy RGB30 is supported by ArkOS custom firmware. ArkOS is a multiple-device system, and if you’re the type to exchange retro handheld emulators, you really should get used to ArkOS. Chances are you will encounter a different product that is compatible with ArkOS.

However, I recommend you to try JELOS custom firmware for the PowKiddy RGB30.

Performance: The PowKiddy RGB30 uses the RockChip RK3566 processor, and it is perhaps the most affordable retro handheld emulator using this chipset. It has more than enough power for arcade, GB and GBC systems, and you can even try it with Nintendo 64, Dreamcast and even PSP.

Battery: The PowKiddy RGB30 is packed with a 4100-mAh battery, which is even slightly bigger than the Retroid Pocket 2S. Running only Linux system means the PowKiddy RGB30 can draw out at least 10% more playtime than the Retroid device.

Value for life: You can usually find the PowKiddy RGB30 as cheap as $80, and for the discounted price of the device, you can’t find any other handhelds that share the same raw performance as the RGB30. Moreover, the PowKiddy RGB30 features the unique 1:1 screen in HD resolution, so I think of it not only as the best Game Boy emulator, but also as the best display on low-end retro handheld emulator.

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A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

The best classic Linux retro handheld emulator – Anbernic RG353SPS

Anbernic RG353PS

The best Linux retro handheld emulator

For anyone who hesitates to switch to Android emulator system, the Anbernic RG353PS still features the classic Linux OS.

Take a look at the Anbernic RG353PS

PROS

  • Classic Linux-based system
  • Retro-purist 4:3 screen is great
  • No touchscreen, so no ghost touching
CONS

  • Not really pocketable
  • Bottom-facing speakers

If you’re looking for the best Linux experience, either because you hear others said Android is terrible or because you just hate touchscreen, you should buy either the Anbernic RG353PS (for horizontal form factor) or the Anbernic RG353VS (for vertical form factor).

I personally think the Anbernic RG353PS will be a better choice, because its landscape form factor is more suitable for most genre of games. The Anbernic RG353VS usually gives hand fatigues when playing intense action games.

Design: The Anbernic RG353PS is a solid retro handheld emulator, thanks to its size and weight. Both the button pressing and the durability are generally better than any PowKiddy devices, so if you’re afraid of breaking your handheld soon, you so go with Anbernic. Also, there are more transparent editions, which are my personal favorite options. Come on, don’t tell me you don’t have at least one transparent 2DS in your collection.

Display: The Anbernic RG353PS is for people who want a classic retro handheld gaming experience, so it has the same 3.5-inch IPS screen at 640 x 480 resolution, with 4:3 aspect ratio. If you don’t think the strange square screen of the PowKiddy RGB30 is for you, the Anbernic RG353PS is your best bet.

Gaming experience: You can try either the ArkOS or JELOS for the Anbernic RG353PS, the same as the PowKiddy RGB30. Honestly, the most important difference is the screen, and the Anbernic RG353PS is pixel-perfect for home consoles like NES, SNES, PS1, and N64.

Performance: The Anbernic RG353PS packs a RockChip RK3566 processor, but it has only 1 GB of RAM instead of 2 GB in the Anbernic RG353P. However, I find 1 GB of RAM is plenty enough for a Linux environment, and the Anbernic RG353PS can do the same justice as its Android brother. You will lack the capability to use Android apps, but honestly who wants to use YouTube on a 3.5-inch retro handheld?

Battery: At 3500-mAh, the battery capacity of the Anbernic RG353PS is more than enough to keep it for 4-5 hours. The manufacturer even said that it can draw out up to 6 hours from this handheld, but I think it is only for the easiest systems.

Value for life: The Anbernic RG353PS is usually a bit more expensive than the PowKiddy RGB30, so unless you really want the “retro-purist” 4:3 aspect ratio and Linux experience, I suggest to get either the Retroid Pocket 2S or the PowKiddy RGB30.

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A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

The best PSP emulator – Retroid Pocket 3 Plus

Retroid Pocket 3 Plus

Strong challenger for the best retro handheld emulator

The Retroid Pocket 3+ is the main competitor of the Anbernic RG405M that I deem as the best retro handheld emulator. It has 16:9 screen which isn’t my preference for retro games, but its ratio is really good for PSP games. Has better OS updates, so if you value this criteria, go for the Retroid.

Take a look at the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus

PROS

  • Better screen for PSP games
  • Design is really my taste
  • Resemble the Nintendo Switch Lite, so it is generally good
CONS

  • Just plastic shell
  • Not pocketable

It depends on the user preference to favor 16:9 or 4:3 screen, however, if you want a “remastered” PlayStation Portable experience, the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus is your best emulator.

Design: It copies the design of the Nintendo Switch Lite, which is actually a good sign of “good design”. Why? It is wiser to imitate something that is familiar to most users, than to make something new like the Retroid Pocket Flip. I must say that I really enjoy playing with the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus, just like how I often reach my Switch Lite for playing Nier Automata, instead of the original model. But I don’t really like the side position of its volume buttons. Why don’t make the exact same design as the Switch Lite?

Display: The Retroid Pocket 3 Plus features a 4.7-inch IPS screen at 1334 x 750 resolution, so it feels like a better HD resolution than most 480p handhelds out there. As a result, you will find the screen of the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus clearer, brighter and sharper, thanks to its high pixel density. Also, the native PSP uses 30:17 aspect ratio, which is closest to 16:9, so if you mainly target PSP emulators, you should go with the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus.

Gaming experience: Playing on the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus is quite like playing on the Nintendo Switch Lite, although the Retroid device is a little smaller. It is the good design that will be on-going for the upcoming Retroid Pocket 4, and I think you can’t go wrong with the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus.

With the bigger screen, it seems the Android experience is much better than the Retroid Pocket 2S. But again, I don’t really use my retro handheld emulators for anything not related to retro games.

Performance: The Retroid Pocket 3 Plus packs an UNISOC T618 processor, which is currently the most powerful chipset for retro handheld emulators under $150, which is my definition of ceiling for up to PS2 emulation. It seems the new Retroid Pocket 4 will bring my dream a little bit closer, but as it’s just coming soon, the Retroid Pocket 3 Plus is still the king.

Battery: The Retroid Pocket 3 Plus has a massive 4500-mAh battery capacity, which is more than enough for trying more demanding systems. Sadly for a bigger battery, the lack of a safe fast charging will take you longer time to charge the device.

Value for life: The Retroid Pocket 3 Plus is a valuable PSP emulator, as it can play the whole library at full speed, plus 2X upscaling. It has more power to tackle a few GameCube, Wii and PS2 games, though the experience is nowhere near “great”. The Retroid Pocket 3 Plus also acts as a great streaming handheld via Moonlight, thanks to its native HD 16:9 screen.

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A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

The best 4:3 handheld emulator – Anbernic RG405M

Anbernic RG405M

The previous best retro handheld gaming console

It is powerful enough to play anything up to PSP, Dreamcast, Gameboy, NES, SNES, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS. The Anbernic RG405M has a retro-purist 4:3 screen, which is the golden ratio for any vintage video games.

Take a look at the Anbernic RG405M

PROS

  • Great value for emulating anything up to PSP, Dreamcast and Nintendo DS
  • Retro-purist 4:3 screen is great
  • Build quality is good for the price, has metal shell
  • Hall sensor stick helps in the long run
  • Actually pocketable
CONS

  • Too expensive for the value
  • Still not a good Nintendo DS experience

The Anbernic RG405M is no longer my top choice, as the Retroid Pocket 2S does almost everything at literally half the price. However, for many people (me included), the bigger screen of the Anbernic RG405M is still the attraction that’s hard to ignore.

Design: Now let’s talk about the design and quality of the Anbernic RG405M, as it is one factor of my ranking list. The Anbernic RG405M uses a metal shell (as you can guess from letter ‘M’ in its name), which gives it premium feel. It’s hard to talk about the durability, but from both my experience and others on Reddit, the RG405M will last for a long time.

The analog sticks feel good (they resemble the Switch a lot, plus Hall sensor so no drift), the buttons feel good. I must say the experience is the best. However, the quality of the buttons are not that great. It gets scratched up pretty badly after a few game sessions, and paying that much to get a damaged device is very unwanted.

Display: The Anbernic RG405M features a 4-inch screen with retro-purist 4:3 aspect ratio, which is suitable for a lot of retro games that I like to play. 4:3 screen gives you less black bar, and for me that is a selling point. Playing it side-by-side with the RG505, and I enjoy the ratio more than the OLED screen.

Gaming experience: The Anbernic RG405M is generally the same as other retro handheld emulators. It is pocketable and small, which is really necessary because I intend to bring it everywhere I go. The Anbernic RG405M has a 4-inch screen, and for me, the 0.5-inch difference is truly different. Like I don’t think it will be that much a difference, but playing side-by-side with other regular 3.5-inch retro handhelds, and I prefer the big one.

You need to use Gamma OS on the Anbernic RG405M, to provide a much more enjoyable experience than stock Android, especially on the most demanding games. It is basically the same as Retroid drivers, so Retroid users don’t need to care about porting Gamma OS over their handhelds.

Performance: The Anbernic RG405M packs an UNISOC T618 processor, but for the price of the Anbernic RG405M, it is so close to get the Odin Lite. Maybe if one day when the retro handheld market is stable with full PS2 emulation at $150, then I will think it’s worth the money to get a premium device. Up until that day, you should stick with the best value models.

Battery: The Anbernic RG405M shares the same 4500-mAh battery capacity, and generally smaller screen eats less energy. Again, it is supposed to have fast charging, but I really don’t recommend you to try, because there are so many reports of bad behaving after faster charging.

Value for life: The Anbernic RG405M is intended for people who want to pay extra for the premium. Although I don’t have problems with that, I buy limited editions of the handhelds that I love, I still think you should keep the money and wait for a better device. With the upcoming Retroid Pocket 4, it seems we will finally have the perfect retro handheld emulator sooner than we thought.

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A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

The best budget PS2 and 3DS emulator – Ayn Odin Pro

Ayn Odin

The most powerful Android retro handheld emulator

The Ayn Odin (pro version) is the most powerful retro handheld emulator using Android system, period. However, its asking price can be too much for some people.

Take a look at the Ayn Odin Pro

PROS

  • More power for full Wii, 3DS and PS2 emulation
  • Great battery life
  • Has both USB-C and HDMI video outputs
  • Good D-Pad buttons
CONS

  • Still not the “perfect” handheld for PS2

The Ayn Odin is the very first handheld from Ayn Technologies, designed to work flawlessly with most retro games at the moment. This handheld targets directly at retro gamers segment, thanks to its Android OS build.

Design: It’s proved for a long time that both Ayn Technology and Retroid are under the same umbrella, so it isn’t a surprise to see a very similar design in the Ayn Odin Pro. However, the Odin Pro is big, even bigger than the Nintendo Switch Lite, so it isn’t pocketable. But the big size is usually better to grip and hold for a long time.

There are 2 mappable buttons in the back of the Odin Pro, which is quite similar to the current modern controllers.

Display: The Odin Pro features a 6-inch Full HD screen at 16:9 aspect ratio, so it would be the perfect resolution for PS2 emulation. With the high pixel density at 368 PPI, the Odin Pro looks and feels a lot different than anything below $200.

Gaming experience: The Odin Pro is at the moment the best retro handheld emulator that can play nearly full the PS2 and 3DS library. If you get the Odin Lite at $200, you will get similar PS2 performance to the Pro, but it doesn’t have playable 3DS experience.

Performance: The Odin Pro has a Snapdragon 845, paired with Qualcomm Adreno 630 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. Its GPU is quite dedicated to help with performance of most GPU-intensive PS2 games, but the CPU is still not “perfect” for full PS2 library.

Battery: The Odin Pro has a massive 6600-mAh battery, which is plenty enough to keep the big beast on feasting retro games. It actually supports fast charging, and you need the fast charging to keep up with such battery.

Value for life: The Odin Pro has gyroscope and hall-sensor joysticks, and these things add up to higher price. I don’t intend to use gyroscope that much, and hall-sensor joysticks can be found on the Retroid Pocket 2S that costs only $90, so well, I don’t think it’s good time to get the Odin Pro, unless you really want the best PS2 emulator on budget.

Instead of that, the Retroid Pocket 4 Pro is upcoming for the new year, and it has an only $199 price tag. It seems to be a better deal than the Odin Pro.

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A means all games are playable, B means most games are playable with a few exceptions, C means most games are only playable with frameskip, D means only the easiest games are playable, F means all games are unplayable

Powerful enough to emulate Wii U and Switch – Steam Deck

Steam Deck

Powerful enough to emulate Wii U and Switch

While the Steam Deck isn’t really an option to emulate retro games only, it is optimized to fulfill that task brilliantly. However, it isn’t something you want to put in your jean’s pocket.

Take a look at the Steam Deck

PROS

  • The most powerful handheld that can emulate any retro game
  • Also the best price/performance, the best budget PC handheld
  • Is made by Valve
CONS

  • It is too bulky for my style
  • Screen isn’t as good as other PC handhelds

“Finally, yet another blog praising the Steam Deck as the best retro handheld, I’m going to unsubscribe.” Wait, wait, wait. Let me explain for a few paragraphs.

Running through my list up until now, I guess you still not satisfied with the performance of above retro handheld gaming consoles, right? You want a retro handheld emulator that can do PS2, Wii U and even Nintendo Switch some justice. Then, the most budget, and to me, the best one you can get is the Steam Deck, hands down.

Design: While the design of the Steam Deck is nowhere near portable enough, it is a functional design that is intended for competitive gaming sessions. As you can see, the newer Steam Deck OLED is out, with little changes in design.

Display: The Steam Deck features a 7-inch HD screen at 16:9 aspect ratio, which is fully compatible for every retro system. It is nothing fancy in the world of handheld gaming PCs, but for the retro handheld market, it’s big and crispy enough.

Gaming experience: The Steam Deck has many emulator options right on Steam, with the exception of Dolphin that is removed after legal issues with Nintendo. However, it is easy to add non-Steam applications, and you can rely on the Steam Deck hardware detection to map buttons for every possible retro system.

Performance: The Steam Deck boasts a quad-core processor, but it is a custom AMD chipset no less, so it is capable of emulating Wii U, Switch and even PS3. That’s what you want to hear when you pay that much for a retro handheld emulator, right?

Battery: The Steam Deck can play retro games continuously for 8 hours, even when its battery is not a strength for modern gaming. Even when you try more demanding emulators like Wii U or Switch, you can expect to draw at least 2-4 hours with the Steam Deck.

Value for life: The Steam Deck is cheaper at the moment, thanks to the new release of the Steam Deck OLED. Even if you don’t care about retro emulation, the Steam Deck serves as a decent handheld gaming PC at its price point.

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Retro handheld emulator ranking list

The ranking list is fundamental to help me be more transparent about my inner processes to choose the best retro handheld emulator. I also made another ranking list for the PC handheld. The ranking list is actually an idea that I came up with when reading a list from an air purifier reviewer, then I thought why don’t I implement it into my actual “ranking list”.

The ranking list not only evaluates every handheld I’ve played, but also gives me a foundation to reflect its current ranking, especially when one handheld receives software updates. It’s my method of indicating which handheld is the best.

At the moment, I give only 5 grades for each handheld, which are:

  • A: This is the handheld you should buy. Recommended by the lazy handheld man, of course.
  • B: The grade means the handheld is “very good”, albeit few weaknesses that you should know about.
  • C: Average in the grand scheme of things, anywhere from β€œpassable” to β€œgood”.
  • D: They are β€œbad”.
  • F: Don’t buy it.

Before you jump further in this list, please bear in mind that the positions are not set in stone. First, there is unit variation, and I give reviews based on the “best tested unit”. Second, software updates can improve gaming experience. Furthermore, I’m but one man, and I will make mistake. So expect changes.

Ranking list is currently being updated, please wait for it to come back