Photo of Mark Lautenschlager

Mark Lautenschlager

Professional Video Game Expert

Best PlayStation Video Game & Best Portable Video Game

Featured On:

  • Computer America
  • Radio Shack
From handheld consoles to cell phones, even PDAs, portable gaming is everywhere. Waiting in the doctor’s office will never be the same again. The big question is whether you want to play games on a device you already have or to start carrying another gadget solely dedicated to games.

Most devices in this category will include some manner of support for multiplayer gaming, whether connecting directly with each other in a Wi-Fi environment or connecting with others around the world using your cell phone service provider’s network.

Each of these devices is entirely self-contained, with its own screen. This distinguishes them from the game controllers that include classic games like Asteroids or Pac Man built-in to the controller itself. Those require connecting to a TV in order to play, so while they might be transportable, they’re not portable.

Sony's best PlayStation portable video game and others will keep your kids busy for hours. These best portable video game systems are perfect for long road trips or when they need to wait for you after school.

Best Portable Game Systems by Mark Lautenschlager

The Best You Can Get

  • Sony PlayStation Portable

    Mark says: Sony’s PlayStation Portable, or PSP, is the most powerful game console you can stuff in your pocket. Although outsold by the Nintendo DS Lite, the PSP pushes its way to the top of the Best of the Best list by virtue of its unusually large, high resolution screen. PSP games look stunning on this large display.

    Sony introduced the UMD (Universal Media Disc) optical media format with the PSP, making it the only handheld game console to load games from a disc instead of a cartridge. The original plan was to emphasize the media capabilities of the PSP, perhaps even more than its use as a handheld gaming console. But the UMD format failed to catch on, and only a very few movies were ever released in that format.

    As with the DS Lite, the PSP has Wi-Fi capability for a wireless Internet connection and multiplayer gaming. The PSP can also download games using the Wi-Fi connection, and in fact some PlayStation games are downloadable to the PSP and run in emulation mode. Although the UMD format did not catch on for movies, the PSP is still an excellent media player, and it’s quite common for owners to download music and videos or movies to Sony’s Memory Stick Pro format, and plug that in to their PSP later for playback.

    • Largest screen of any handheld console, 480 x 272 (16:9 ratio)
    • Playback of movies or music files, in addition to gaming uses
  • Nintendo DS Lite

    Mark says: Nintendo released the DS in 2004, and in 2006 they produced the smaller and lighter DS Lite that featured a brighter screen than the original and the ability to connect wirelessly to their Wii game console. The DS and DS Lite have become the world’s best selling handheld game consoles, although still not approaching the number of Game Boy Advance and SP consoles sold. The DS Lite features dual screens, the lower of which is touch sensitive and is designed to be controlled by your finger or a stylus. The usual console controls are also available.

    The DS and DS Lite are compatible with previous generation Game Boy Advance games, but not original Game Boy or Game Boy Color games. Support for the new console has been excellent, though, and you will not suffer a lack of games from which to choose. The DS Lite also features head to head play with other DS Lite users, over the same wireless connection used to communicate with the Wii, as well as playing over the Internet. An increasing number of games are available in download format, to be received directly into the console.

    • Best selling handheld console of the current generation
    • Large number of available games
    • Dual screens, 256 x 192 resolution, folding clamshell design
  • Nintendo Game Boy Advance and Advance SP

    Mark says: Although Nintendo has moved on from the Game Boy Advance and Advance SP to the DS Lite, the Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance SP are commonly available both as new and pre-owned units. The huge numbers of these consoles that have been sold ensure that a large number of games are still available for them, and accessories are easy to find. The Game Boy Advance SP differs from the Advance only in form factor, with its folding clamshell design making it smaller to carry while protecting its screen. Both of them can play games designed for the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Head to head multiplayer support is available via link cables or wireless adapters.

    A smaller and sleeker variant, called the Game Boy Micro, lacks the backwards compatibility with older games, but given the number of games with native support for the Game Boy Advance platform, this is not a great concern.

    • Huge library of available games
    • Head to head game play supported via cable connection
    • Advance SP model offers convenient clamshell design
  • Palm OS or Windows Mobile PDA

    Mark says: From the earliest days of the PDA, when the Palm OS was virtually the only choice, to today’s powerful devices that run either the Palm OS or Windows Mobile, games have been a part of what PDAs do. Nothing relaxes you after an intense burst of calendar updating and email thumb typing like playing some Texas Hold‘em or Blackjack. Visiting any web site where software for these PDAs are sold will yield dozens of selections in the game category.

    Your PDA likely has a much higher resolution screen than a cell phone would, so your games will likely look better. More complex and sophisticated displays, combined with the PDA’s expanded memory and available storage, means games can be more involved, even saving your gaming session from one use of your PDA to the next.

    As with cell phones, your gaming can be as discreet as you wish to make it. Multiplayer support is not as ubiquitous as it is with cell phone mobile games, but it is not unusual, especially given how many PDAs have phones built-in.

    • Larger screen of a PDA makes games look better
    • Support of the PDA’s touchscreen, in many games
    • Stable platform for running third party applications encourages more sophisticated games
  • Cell phone

    Mark says: Almost all current generation cell phones will play video games. It does require that the phone have Java or BREW support, so if you’re not certain whether yours does you will need to check with your service provider. Adventure games, strategy games, games of chance, even multiplayer roleplaying games can all be found on the modern cell phone. Even though the small screen size on cell phones limits what games can do graphically, that only seems to inspire the creativity of game designers.

    Using your cell phone to play mobile games has the advantage of being discreet. Unless you give it away by cheering that good hand of poker, those around you won’t be certain whether you’re texting someone, checking email, or playing a game. Of course, I am not for a minute suggesting that I have ever been stuck in a meeting so boring that only playing a game on my cell phone could save my sanity. Nothing like that has ever happened to me.

    It is also quite common to find multiplayer support in mobile games designed for your cell phone. Be certain to check with your service provider first, so you aren’t unexpectedly charged for activity not covered under your plan. In many cases, you will get your games directly from your wireless service provider, but there are quite a lot of independent sites offering mobile games as well.

    • Compact design permits discreet game play
    • Uses a device that you are already carrying
    • Excellent multiplayer support

You will be happy with any of these

  • Nintendo DS Lite

    Mark says: Moving to the top spot on the Best of the Rest list is the Nintendo DS Lite. I have two reasons for considering the DS Lite to be the best value in a Portable Gaming System. First, the vast numbers of them being sold and the long history of Nintendo’s commitment to handheld gaming combine to ensure that many new games are being created for the DS Lite, and that is not likely to change any time soon. The value of this console is increased by its expected longevity. My second reason for moving the DS Lite to the top of the Best of the Rest list has to do with the variety in titles available for it. Not only games, but unique programs like Brain Age, about which it is unofficially claimed that playing it regularly will improve alertness and mental agility. As seems to be the case with all Nintendo consoles, there are more games appropriate to the younger game player available for it. If you’re considering a Portable Gaming System for a child of elementary school age, the DS Lite gets a strong recommendation in that case.

    • Best selling handheld console of the current generation
    • Large number of available games
    • Dual screens, 256 x 192 resolution, folding clamshell design
  • Sony PlayStation Portable

    Mark says: In the top two slots of my Best of the Rest, I have the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS Lite, just as I did on my Best of the Best list. Their positions are reversed, because I consider the DS Lite to be a better value as a Portable Gaming System, and I will explain why in a moment. Regarding the PSP, its relative value will increase if you also intend to use it as a Portable Media Player, in addition to being a Portable Gaming System. Since I am ranking the latter, however, the PSP moves to number two. You might choose differently, if you want to watch movies between your games.

    • Largest screen of any handheld console, 480 x 272 (16:9 ratio)
    • Playback of movies or music files, in addition to gaming uses.
  • Cell phone

    Mark says: The cell phone jumps two positions as we move from the Best of the Best list to the Best of the Rest list. What makes the cell phone such a great value as a Portable Gaming System is price. Not to say cell phones cost less than handheld game consoles, but it is a virtual certainty that you have already purchased one. As was previously noted, virtually every modern cell phone has support for Java or BREW, the two most common software platforms for running programs like mobile games.

    • Compact design permits discreet game play
    • Uses a device that you are already carrying
    • Excellent multiplayer support
  • Nintendo Game Boy Advance and Advance SP

    Mark says: Because Nintendo is now selling the DS Lite handheld console, the remaining Game Boy Advance and Advance SP consoles are available for extremely reasonable prices, and many pre-owned ones can be purchased as well. A low cost of acquisition, combined with the still-large library of games and available accessories, make the Game Boy Advance and Advance SP solid values in handheld consoles.

    • Huge library of available games
    • Head-to-head game play supported via cable connection
    • Advance SP model offers convenient clamshell design
  • Palm OS or Windows Mobile PDA

    Mark says: Palm OS and Windows Mobile PDAs slide to the bottom of our list when considering the Best of the Rest. If you already own the PDA, the cost of adding games is no more than any other program you might buy for it. However, the high cost of the PDAs themselves does have an impact on my judgment of their relative value. They’re good, but perhaps not a good deal.

    • Larger screen of a PDA makes games look better
    • Support of the PDA’s touchscreen, in many games
    • Stable platform for running third party applications encourages more sophisticated games

Related Articles

With the best PlaySation portable video game selections, our experts help you find the one that fits your family needs. These best portable video game selections are perfect for long car rides or long waits in the doctor's office. Always the best price, these portable game units from Playstation and Nintendo are prescriptions for fun.