The Best Retro Handhelds in 2022

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. At some point pretty much everyone thinks to themselves: “I’d like to try that thing I used to do long ago.” For those who grew up as gamers and find themselves wanting to play the games of their childhood, there’s no more practical option than retro handhelds.

Estimated reading time: 13 minutes

What is a Retro Handheld?

That’s a good question! Let’s delve into it a little…

Throughout gaming history, a prominent (until recently) section of the industry was focused around the idea of “handheld gaming”. For more of an overview on handhelds, you can check out our article on the history of gaming handhelds.

https://droix.co.uk/blogs/handheld-gaming-consoles-over-the-years/

To summarize the above article however, handheld gaming devices were small electronics that allowed you to enjoy substantial gaming experiences on the go.

As technology progressed, the all-consuming platform known as the “mobile phone” began to encroach on the territory of multiple gadgets and gizmos. Superseding the common user’s desire for cameras, MP3 players, and more.

This runaway technological singularity would eventually reach the domain of games. With mobile gaming functionally eliminating the segment, and becoming responsible for approximately 51% of the gaming industry’s revenue.

Gaming Industry Revenue Split 2020
Source: Visual Capitalist

The Rise of The Retro Handheld

The idea of retro handhelds grew in tandem with the popularity of “emulation” as a medium. While it is difficult to say exactly when they really exploded in popularity, most would posit that it was at some point in 2019, with the launch of ANBERNIC’s RG350 retro handheld.

This device was capable of playing games from a variety of platforms. From NES, MAME (arcade), and even Playstation 1 titles with very little difficulty.

Because of the mixture of high build quality, affordable price, (relative) ease of use, and the surprisingly respectable power, the retro handheld scene truly began to blossom.

Since that time, many more devices have made their way to the market. And as with any market, there are some devices that are good, and some that are not-so-good. So we at DroiX have put together a small list of what we consider to be the best retro handhelds on the market today.


The Best Retro Handhelds

Retroid Pocket 2 Plus

Iterating on the popular Retroid Pocket 2 handheld, the Retroid Pocket 2 Plus brings with it a number of improvements and firmly cements its position as one of the best retro handhelds on the market.

Featuring an improved Unisoc T310 SoC, alongside a larger quanity of RAM, the RP2+ can handle a greater variety of emulated games than its predecessor. Including various Sega Saturn and Dreamcast titles.

This retro handheld also features a newer version of Android — Android 9.0, over the previous model’s Android 6 (which was upgradable to Android 8.1).

While visually similar to the older model, this retro handheld features a new membrane for the buttons. Giving them a softer, springier feel — as opposed to the previously click-y feeling of the older model.

To learn more about the Retroid Pocket 2 Plus, please check out our Retroid Pocket 2 Plus review!

What we like!

  • New faster processor
  • Touch Screen
  • Newer Android version

What we don’t like!

  • Not user friendly for beginners
  • Takes a while to set everything up

Miyoo Mini

The Miyoo Mini is among the best retro game console out there with two cool selling points. The first is that it is very portable. It measures 2.55 x 3.68 x 0.70 inches (6.5 x 9.35 x 1.8 cm) and weighs 110 grams., its ideal if you want a quick pick up and play while out and about. The second important point, is that the price is excellent, it costs around half the price of similar retro handhelds.

The ARM Cortex-A7 dual core can be found inside the Miyoo Mini, it has a frequency up to 1.2GHz. The 128MB RAM takes care of the frontend and emulators which use less memory,. The amazing looking display is a 2.8″ IPS display with a 640×480 resolution, perfect for retro gaming!

The Miyoo Mini is capable of running up to the PS1 and it is where it starts to struggle with slow performance on many games. No is all lost, instead you can update the firmware to Onion OS which is an excellent replacement. It has a bunch of improvements including full speed PlayStation emulation, new menu theme and much more!

To learn more about the Miyoo Mini, you can read our full Miyoo Mini review.

RG552

The RG552 is a high-performance retro handheld that ushers in a new generation of retro gaming.

The RG552 is the first entry in the “fourth generation” of retro handhelds by ANBERNIC, an experienced manufacturer of many retro gaming handhelds.

Unlike it’s predecessors, the ANBERNIC RG552 pushes linux-based firmware to the wayside. And is the first handheld in ANBERNIC’s RG family to feature a native android operating system (Android 7.1, for those curious).

This pairs well with the increased performance. The RG552 makes use of a more powerful RockChip RK3399 SoC. This six-core processor coupled with 4GB of RAM allows the RG552 to handle far more systems than before, while also cementing superior performance on consoles that its predecessors were shaky with (Dreamcast, N64, etc.)

The centerpiece of the device is it’s large, colourful, high resolution display. Coupled with touch-screen functionality, it’s a natural fit for the Android operating system.

This retro handheld is also feature-rich compared to its predecessors, including the presence of a HDMI output, the ability to switch between Android and Linux based operating systems via microSD card, and even keymapping functionality via an optional update.

All in all, the Anbernic RG552 is an excellent retro handheld that does not deviate too far from the familiar appearance and feel of the RG351MP and co. While providing superior performance over the lot of them.

To learn more about the ANBERNIC RG552, we encourage you to check out our ANBERNIC RG552 review! Please also check out our RG552 starter guide to help you get started with this awesome handheld.

What we like!

  • Extremely high-quality display.
  • Feature-rich
  • Can handle more games than the RG351 family.

What we don’t like!

  • Price/Performance ratio could be better.
  • Ergonomics could be better.

RG351MP

The RG351MP is perfect for those who only care about PS1 games and earlier.

What is it?

The RG351MP can be considered the swan-song of the third generation of ANBERNIC retro handhelds, combining multiple well-received traits into one singular unit.

The first of these two traits is the signature 4:3, 640×480 display of the RG351V. This aspect ratio allows for pixel-perfect scaling of the vast majority of retro titles. Because back during the period that most of the platforms that this handheld can emulate were released, 4:3 aspect ratios were the norm.

The second well-received trait is the metal shell of the RG351M. While metal shells do make the unit very slightly heavier, they provide an overall “premium” feeling to the unit.

The final feature carried forward from older versions is the dual-microSD card design. Instead of requiring everything to be present one one microSD card, it is possible to split the operating system and game collections onto separate cards, making it easier to manage.

The SoC used in the RG351MP is the RockChip RK3326, meaning that up until the 5th generation of consoles, performance is near-perfect across the board. Once the 5th generation is reached, only Playstation 1 emulation is mostly issue-free. Other platforms are mostly unplayable (Dreamcast/Saturn) or only playable on a game-by-game basis (N64).

Curiously, PSP emulation is also surprisingly stable (comparable to the N64).

To learn more about this grand finale for the 351 handhelds, check out our RG351MP review, or buy an RG351MP from DroiX today.

What we like!

  • A crisp, 4:3 display allows for pixel-perfect scaling of the vast majority of retro platforms.
  • Premium, weighty feeling metal shell.

What we don’t like!

  • No internal Wi-Fi means you will need a dongle.
  • It’s a little late – with the next “generation” of handhelds being just around the corner.

RG351V

The RG351V is unique among its brothers thanks to its vertical form factor.

The ANBERNIC RG351V is the third entry in Anbernic’s third generation of retro handhelds. With its most immediately striking trait being it’s unique form factor (compared to the RG351P and RG351M).

Unlike its contemporaries, the RG351V adopts a vertical layout. With a 640×480, 4:3 display situated above the controls. This grants a different sense of ergonomics which may or may not sit right for some people depending on their preferences.

Like the RG351P and RG351M, the RG351V features the same Rockchip RK 3266 SoC. So it is capable of playing much of the same titles. However, the 4:3 display allows it to make fuller use of the screen in general, as it is more compatible with a wider range of retro consoles.

The RG351V also features a welcome return of the twin-SD-card system that was seen in the RG350 generation. Enabling you to separately manage your firmware and game collections with ease.

Like the 351M, it also features built-in Wi-Fi, eliminating the need for a USB wi-fi dongle.

Overall, we find the RG351V to easily be one of the best retro handhelds available. Thanks to its combination of an affordable pricepoint.

To learn more about this incredible retro handheld, we encourage you to check out our RG351V review! Additionally, take a look at some of the best RG351 custom firmware to really enhance your experience with this device!

What we like!

  • 4:3 display is perfect for retro gaming.
  • Two microSD card slots!
  • Built-in Wi-Fi eliminates need for dongle.

What we don’t like!

  • Missing a second analogue stick. Non-essential, but a shame all the same.

GameForce Chi

The Gameforce Chi is an interesting alternative to the

What is it?

The GameForce Chi is the brainchild of a newcomer to the retro handheld scene, aptly named “GameForce” – this unusual looking handheld hit the market in mid 2021.

Although met with positive reception, it was unfortunately overlooked due to the market already being heavily saturated with a variety of RK3326 handhelds at the time. There simply wasn’t much room for it to make significant headway.

But that’s not to say it’s any less than its competition! In terms of performance, the GameForce Chi is the same as any Rk3326 handheld in performance. Enjoying near-perfect speeds in anything PS1 and earlier. With N64 and PSP emulation being shaky, and Saturn/Dreamcast and beyond being mostly unplayable.

The GameForce Chi also features a high-quality 480p IPS display with a 4:3 ratio, making this retro handheld perfect for faithfully emulating all the classic games.

To learn more about this retro handheld, check out our review. You can also buy a GameForce Chi from DroiX today!

What we like!

  • Visually distinct, playful design.
  • 4:3 display!
  • Officially supported by EmuELEC.

What we don’t like!

  • Lack of buttons… No L3/R3 or volume wheel/rocker.
  • Arrived in an already saturated market

Retroid Pocket 2

The Retroid Pocket 2 makes an excellent budget Android gaming handheld.

What is it?

The Retroid Pocket 2 is an uncommon handheld in many aspects. First of all, it is one of the few handhelds of its release window to feature the Android operating system, instead of the traditional proprietary, or open-source Linux-based retro handheld.

Second, it deviates away from the RockChip SoC and instead uses a Cortex-A7. Although the real-world performance is strikingly close to that of the RK3326, with no significant advantages or disadvantages worth noting.

Because the device runs Android, you will already have access to a number of mature, optimized emulators straight out of the box. With more that can be added at your leisure (note however that the Play Store is disabled by default, as it can be a resource-hog on low-spec devices).

One extra cool thing that the Retroid Pocket 2 can do is stream games via Steam Link or similar applications, allowing it to technically “play” games well above its weight (with the caveat being minor input delay).

The Retroid Pocket 2 also comes in a host of different colours, making it an excellent gift for siblings, as each can have their own unique appearance.

Check out our review, or buy one today!

What we like!

  • Android! Has access to a wide variety of emulators out-of-the-box.
  • Variety of colours, makes a great gift for multiple people at once.
  • Retroid OS is useful for retro gaming novices.

What we don’t like!

  • Lack of digital buttons – this is mostly our preference however.
  • Android UI can be a little sluggish.

Past Entries

In this section we’ll look at older entries which have been put aside to make room for newer and better retro handhelds. But make no mistake, if you can find them, they’re still great handhelds of their own!

RG300X

What we like!

  • A double-whammy of nostalgia, with evocative colours and a separately reminiscent form.
  • It’s the first ANBERNIC handheld with a (mini-)HDMI output in quite some time.

What we don’t like!

  • Chipset is slightly outdated.
  • Glossy finish means its a fingerprint magnet.
  • Start/Select LEDs are somewhat unecessary.

What is it?

The RG300X is an oddity of a handheld that got released in between the RG351V and the RG351MP. Being the first retro handheld in some time to make use of the Ingenic JZ42770 chipset. Something that had been used in the previous generation of ANBERNIC handhelds.

With the older chipset comes a drop in performance compared to the 351 family. While Playstation 1 emulation is pretty much perfect, anything from the same generation or newer is non-functional.

The lower performance comes in tandem with a lower price-point, making at more cost-effective gift for a geek or gamer in your life.

An extra cool feature of the RG300X is the ability to – through a mini-HDMI port – output the device’s display to a larger TV or monitor. This is a feature that was unfortuantely absent throughout the 351 generation.

To get more information on this retro handheld, check out our review. You can also buy one today from DroiX!


RetroFlag GPI Case

RetroFlag GPI Case Frontal View
RetroFlag GPI Case – Frontal View

What we like!

  • A highly nostalgic design that is instantly recognizable from a glance.
  • The DIY nature of the unit makes a nice short tech-y project for both young and old.
  • The cartridge system is really cool!

What we don’t like!

  • Not all that powerful.
  • Nostalgia does not overcome a lack of ergonomics – there is a reason the design was moved on from in future iterations.

What is it?

The RetroFlag GPI Case is unique among the other offerings here. It is, in and of itself, not a gaming handheld. Rather, it is a shell designed to be used with the Raspberry Pi Zero and Raspberry Pi Zero W. Which are two very small single-board computers used in a variety of applications.

One such application happens to be gaming. The Raspberry Pi Zero line is powerful enough to handle platforms up until the 16-bit era. Beyond that however, things quickly become unplayable.

The defining feature of the RetroFlag GPI case is easily its design. And any gamer even slightly versed in the history of the medium should be able to immediately identify it as a homage to the Game Boy. It’s even powered by AA batteries!

To assemble the unit (as it does not come pre-assembled), you connect the PCB with the Raspberry pi in the “cartridge” of the unit. You can then insert and remove it, much like you could in a real game boy. It is not a complex process, requiring no more than a small phillips-head screwdriver.

If you’re interested in purchasing a RetroFlag GPi Case, you can buy one from DroiX as either a standalone case, or a pre-assembled unit complete with a Raspberry Pi Zero W.


Recap

Check out all the best retro handhelds featured in this article below!

ModelProcessorDisplayOperating SystemPurchase Link
Retroid Pocket 2 PlusUnisoc Tiger T310; Quad-core @ 1.8GHz640x480p; 4:3; 3.5″Android 9.0Buy Now
MIYOO MINIARM Cortex-A7 dual core @ 1.2GHz640x480p; 4:3; 2.8″Custom (Linux based)Buy Now
ANBERNIC RG351MPRockChip RK3326; Quad-core @ 1.5GHz640x480p; 4:3; 3.5″EmuELEC (Custom)Buy Now
Gameforce Chi RockChip RK3326; Quad-core @ 1.5GHz 640x480p; 4:3; 3.45″EmuELEC (Official)Buy Now
RetroFlag GPiVariable (Depends on Raspberry Pi used)320x240p; 4:3; 2.8″Variable (RetroPie, Lakka, etc.)Buy Now
Retroid Pocket 2Cortex-A7; Quad-core @ 1.5GHz640x480p; 4:3; 3.5″Android 6.0 + RetroidOSBuy Now
RG300XIngenic JZ4770; Dual-Core @ 1.0GHz, Dual-Core480×320; 3:2; 3″ OpenDinguX Buy Now
RG552Rockchip RK3339 @ 1.8GHz; Hexa-Core1920×1152; 5:3; 3.36″Android 7.1 + BatoceraBuy Now
The Best Retro Handheld – Table

benjamin
Mild-mannered support agent by daylight; even milder-mannered tech blogger under cover of night. Fond of gaming, virtual reality, and sleeping; not necessarily in that order.
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Looking for nostalgia in the palm of your hand? Check out this list of best retro handhelds and replay all your favourite classic games today!..Read full article

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