Technology is just great, isn’t it? Imagine if you went back to your childhood self, or just someone in the 20th century if you weren’t born yet, and you handed them a retro emulator. Every game from your childhood, from every console you remember, in the palm of your hand. Even the consoles you couldn’t get or the games your parents wouldn’t let you buy; you can play them anywhere you go. We’re all still children on the inside, let the kid out and have some good old-fashioned fun. Literally.
So, what even is an emulator? I’m glad you asked, o dear reader, this is going to get deep so if you’re just here for the list of best retro handheld emulators feel free to click here to skip to it.
Every kind of computer and operating system is unique. Even today, in 2022 65 million PCs were running Windows. Each of those computers has different computational and graphical architecture, different amounts of storage and memory. How does one OS run seamlessly on all these machines? Simple, it doesn’t. Microsoft and other vendors have different versions of Windows and its drivers for 64-bit, ARM and, in the past, 32-bit processors. All these work thanks to very low-level instruction sets made for every type of processor in your computer to provide the same service across many devices.
Things weren’t so simple in the past. Things weren’t always made to work together. Naturally at some point, someone wants to use software made for another computer on their own. Enter emulation. An emulator is a piece of software that allows you to simulate another computer within your own to allow you to run a program that was made for that computer. Wild, I know, but they’re not new.
Back in the early 90s there were multiple arcade emulators made to emulate a single game. Computers had become powerful enough to simulate more primitive consoles and games of the past. As console generations came & went and arcades began to die out, many classic games that weren’t ported to newer machines simply started to disappear. In the effort of resurrection and restoration console emulators began to appear.
Thanks in large part to the internet, they quickly took off. With every console that was released a community of people began work on how to emulate it on their PCs. Not without drama. Atari, Nintendo, and Sony have all considered legal action against emulation with Sony launching a lawsuit. Having soon after lost, it was set in precedent that the development of emulation software does not constitute copyright infringement, but is covered by fair use. Although, sharing of ROMs from games that you did not buy is still considered piracy.
Anbernic, formerly the Shenzhen Yang Li Ming Electronic Technology Co., Ltd, as we know it today was founded in 2017. They’re a Chinese company that creates handheld gaming consoles. There is a focus on retro handheld devices that can emulate older consoles. Despite their small size and relative lack of computational power, thanks to the progression of technology old games that would have once been difficult to run can be done with very little power at all on the little beauties we’re going to look at.
Today you can find the likes of Miyoo and Retroid making similar products each with their own spin. Let’s take a look at the Retro Gaming Handhelds of today and find out what are the best Retro Gaming Handheld Consoles.
The Best Retro Handheld Emulators: Relive the Good Times!
Get ready to travel back in time and experience the best of retro gaming with the coolest handheld consoles. These little powerhouses are here to bring back those childhood memories and deliver endless hours of fun. Let’s dive into the most exciting categories and discover the gems that will ignite your nostalgia!
The best retro handheld emulators
#1. AYN Odin 2
Design and Build Quality of the AYN Odin 2
The AYN Odin 2 marks a significant advancement in retro handheld emulators with its well-thought-out design and robust build. This device, with dimensions that strike a perfect balance between a compact form and ample screen real estate, ensures a comfortable grip for prolonged gaming. The diverse colour range, including options like Transparent Blue and Black, caters to various user preferences, making it visually appealing to a broad audience. Central to its appeal is the 6-inch IPS touchscreen, offering a full HD resolution that elevates the gaming experience with crisp, vibrant visuals. This choice of display not only enhances the visual appeal but also ensures compatibility with a wide range of gaming genres.
Performance Capabilities and Gaming Experience
At the core of the AYN Odin 2 is the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, paired with configurations of 8GB to 16GB of RAM, ensuring smooth and responsive gameplay across a diverse spectrum of games. This setup is particularly adept at handling both classic emulations and modern Android games. Storage options range from 128GB to a capacious 512GB, accommodating a vast array of games and applications.
In benchmark tests, the Odin 2 demonstrates impressive results, highlighting its ability to handle high-demand gaming scenarios without lag or interruption. The integrated Qualcomm Adreno 740 GPU enhances this experience by rendering high-quality graphics, making the games not only playable but also visually stunning. Read our full AYN Odin 2 review here which includes in-depth benchmark comparisons.
Why Choose the AYN Odin 2
The AYN Odin 2 stands out as a versatile and powerful choice for gamers looking for a seamless blend of retro and contemporary gaming in a handheld format. Running on Android 13, it offers a familiar and flexible platform with access to a broad range of games and applications. The device’s WiFi 7 and Bluetooth 5.3 capabilities ensure fast and reliable connectivity for both online gaming and multiplayer experiences.
The inclusion of a substantial 8000 mAh battery translates to extended playtimes, a critical factor for avid gamers. Combining these features with its impressive processing power and high-quality display, the AYN Odin 2 is well-suited for gamers who demand a high-performance, versatile handheld gaming device that bridges the gap between nostalgia and modern gaming technology, making it the best retro handheld emulator choice.
#2. Retroid Pocket 4 Pro
Design and Display Features of the Retroid Pocket 4 Pro
The Retroid Pocket 4 Pro emerges as a contemporary retro handheld emulator, thoughtfully designed for both ease of use and aesthetic appeal. It presents a compact and lightweight form, measuring 7.2 x 3.1 x 0.9 inches and weighing just 269g, making it ideal for gamers on the go. The handheld is available in a variety of captivating colours such as 16 bit, Black, Crystal, Ice Blue, and Watermelon, offering personalization options to suit different tastes. A standout feature is its 4.7-inch IPS touchscreen display, boasting a resolution of 750×1334. This screen size and quality ensure that games, whether retro or modern, are displayed with clarity and vibrant colours, enhancing the overall gaming experience.
Hardware Performance and Gaming Capabilities
Internally, the Retroid Pocket 4 Pro packs a powerful Dimensity 1100 CPU, featuring a mix of high-performance and efficiency cores, and a Mali G77 MC9 GPU, which together provide a smooth and responsive gaming experience. With 8GB LPDDR4x RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage, expandable via micro SD card, it offers ample space and speed for game storage and quick loading.
The Retroid Pocket 4 Pro demonstrates solid performance in benchmarks, with its sophisticated hardware handling various gaming titles effortlessly. Its WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 capabilities ensure fast and stable online connectivity. Additionally, the 5000mAh battery provides a good balance between size and battery life, allowing for extended gaming sessions.
Why Opt for the Retroid Pocket 4 Pro
The Retroid Pocket 4 Pro is an excellent choice for gamers seeking a versatile and powerful handheld emulator. Its ergonomic design, combined with the large, vivid touchscreen, offers a comfortable and immersive gaming experience. The powerful hardware ensures that both classic emulations and contemporary games run smoothly, making it a suitable option for a wide range of gaming preferences.
The device’s connectivity features and expandable storage further enhance its appeal as a portable gaming solution. Ideal for gamers who enjoy a mix of retro and modern gaming on the move, the Retroid Pocket 4 Pro stands out as a reliable, high-performance handheld gaming device deserving to be included as the best retro handheld emulator.
The best budget retro handheld emulators
#1. Miyoo Mini Plus+
Introducing the Miyoo Mini Plus+ – a retro handheld emulator that’s perfect for the budget-conscious gamer seeking a delightful gaming experience without breaking the bank. With its affordable price tag, this little gem offers tremendous value and hours of fun.
Unbox the Miyoo Mini Plus+ and prepare to be amazed! Inside the package, you’ll find a user-friendly guide (available in both Chinese and English) to help you get started on your gaming journey. The console comes in four vibrant color options: Grey, White, Transparent Black, and Transparent Purple. It sports a captivating 3.5-inch IPS display that brings your games to life, all while fitting comfortably in the palm of your hand. The package also includes a generous 64GB micro SD card for storing your favorite games, as well as essential accessories like a screen protector, wipes, a USB Type-C cable for convenient charging, and even a Micro SD card reader.
Don’t be fooled by its affordable price—the Miyoo Mini Plus+ packs a punch when it comes to performance. Powered by an impressive ARM Cortex-A7 dual-core CPU running up to 1.2GHz and supported by 128MB of RAM, this little console is ready to handle your gaming adventures with ease. The included 64GB micro SD card provides ample storage space for your game library, ensuring you’ll never run out of entertainment. Its 3000mAh Li-polymer battery keeps the fun going for up to 8 hours, depending on your gaming intensity. Read our in-depth review of the Miyoo Mini Plus+ here.
Embrace the Miyoo Mini Plus+ as your go-to gaming companion, offering hours of excitement at an unbeatable price. It’s time to level up your gaming experience without breaking the bank! Get ready to immerse yourself in a world of retro handheld emulation with the Miyoo Mini Plus+. Game on!
What we like!
- Amazing price
- A bit larger than the original model and more comfortable to use
- Stock firmware is basic but useable
- Custom firmware transforms this into an amazing retro handheld
What we don’t like!
- Some games will not run at full speed, but the majority do.
- Can be hard to get hold of due to limited production
#2. Anbernic RG35XX Plus
Design and Ergonomics of the Anbernic RG35XX Plus
The Anbernic RG35XX Plus is a sleek and compact retro handheld emulator, crafted for enthusiasts of classic gaming. Its dimensions, approximately 4.61 x 3.19 x 0.87 inches, and a weight of 186 grams, make it an ideal companion for gaming on the go. Available in colours like White, Grey, and Transparent Black, it offers a range of choices to suit different personal preferences. The device features a 3.5-inch IPS display, boasting a resolution of 640×480, which is perfect for the retro gaming aesthetic.
This size and resolution balance ensures that classic games are displayed with the clarity and authenticity they deserve. The ergonomic design of the RG35XX Plus, with its thoughtfully placed buttons and controls, enhances the gaming experience, making it comfortable even during extended play sessions.
Technical Specifications and Performance
Under the hood, the Anbernic RG35XX Plus is powered by an H700 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, clocked at 1.5GHz, providing a solid balance between power and energy efficiency. This is coupled with a dual-core Mali G31 MP2 GPU, ensuring smooth graphic rendering for classic games. The device comes equipped with 1GB LPDDR4 RAM, sufficient for running retro games without lag. Storage options include either a 64GB or 128GB card, providing ample space for a vast library of classic titles.
The inclusion of WiFi 2.4 and 5G and Bluetooth 4.2 allows for convenient connectivity. The 3300mAh Li-polymer battery offers up to 8 hours of gameplay, ensuring that players can enjoy prolonged gaming sessions without frequent recharging. Read our full Anbernic RG35XX Plus review here for the lowdown including benchmark tests and comparisons.
Why Choose the Anbernic RG35XX Plus
The Anbernic RG35XX Plus stands out as an excellent choice as the best retro handheld emulator in the budget range. Its compact and lightweight design, combined with a high-quality display and ergonomic controls, offers a comfortable and enjoyable gaming experience. The device’s upgraded processor and RAM from its predecessor mean improved performance and smoother gameplay. With its sizable battery life, gamers can indulge in their favourite classic titles for extended periods.
Moreover, the RG35XX Plus supports a broad spectrum of classic gaming emulators, making it a versatile choice for those who cherish a wide range of retro games. Its blend of performance, portability, and nostalgic appeal makes the Anbernic RG35XX Plus a compelling option in the retro handheld emulator market.
The best price vs performance retro handheld emulators
#1. Anbernic RG ARC
Design and Display of the Anbernic RG ARC-S and ARC-D
The Anbernic RG ARC-S and Anbernic RG ARC-D are designed with a nod to classic gaming aesthetics, offering a fresh perspective for retro handheld emulators. Both models boast a comfortable size of 7.5 x 3.14 x 2.2 inches and a manageable weight of 242 grams, ensuring a balance between portability and ergonomic ease of use. The ARC-S is available in Transparent Black and Blue, while the ARC-D offers Black and Grey options, catering to diverse style preferences. At the heart of their design is a 4.0” IPS display, rendering a resolution of 640×480 that is perfectly suited for the pixel art and graphics of retro games. This display quality ensures a clear and immersive visual experience, vital for enjoying the nuances of classic titles.
Hardware Performance and Connectivity
The internal specifications of both models are tailored for efficient and enjoyable gaming. The Anbernic RG ARC-S and ARC-D are powered by the RK3566 Quad-Core 64-bit Cortex-A55 processor, clocked at 1.8GHz, and paired with a Mali-G52 MP2 GPU. This combination delivers smooth and consistent performance across various emulators and games. The ARC-S comes with 1GB of LPDDR4 RAM, while the ARC-D steps up with 2GB, offering enhanced multitasking capabilities.
Both models feature 16GB internal storage for Linux OS and additional slots for micro SD cards, allowing expansion for game libraries. The Anbernic RG ARC-D further distinguishes itself with an additional 32GB eMMC for its Android OS. Connectivity options include 2.4/5G WIFI and Bluetooth 4.2, enabling online gaming and file transfers. A 3500 mAh battery in both units supports extended play sessions, a key factor for mobile gaming. Read our full Anbernic RG ARC-S & AR-D review here for in depth comparisons with other models.
Choosing Between the RG ARC-S and RG ARC-D
Deciding between the Anbernic RG ARC-S and RG ARC-D as the best retro handheld emulator hinges on the user’s specific gaming preferences and needs. The Anbernic RG ARC-S is an excellent choice for gamers who prefer a straightforward, Linux-based retro gaming experience. In contrast, the RG ARC-D, with its higher RAM, additional storage for Android, and touchscreen feature, offers a more versatile gaming experience and broader emulation support. The touchscreen on the ARc-D adds convenience and accessibility, particularly beneficial for certain game genres.
Both models provide a robust retro gaming experience, but the extra features in the Anbernic RG ARC-D make it a more suitable option for gamers seeking additional functionality and a wider range of gaming possibilities. Whether it’s for nostalgia, casual gaming, or exploring a vast library of classic titles, the Anbernic RG ARC series caters to a variety of retro gaming enthusiasts.
#2. Anbernic RG405V
Design and Display Characteristics of the Anbernic RG405V
The Anbernic RG405V is a retro handheld emulator that stands out with its thoughtful design and impressive display. The device measures approximately 5.7 x 4.13 x 1.3 inches and weighs 282 grams, striking a balance between portability and a substantial feel in hand. It is offered in unique colour variations including Grey, Transparent Purple, and Wood Grain, catering to diverse aesthetic preferences.
The RG405V is equipped with a 4-inch IPS touchscreen, boasting a resolution of 640×480, which excellently suits the visual demands of both classic and contemporary games. This display size enhances user engagement with games, offering vivid colours and clear graphics that elevate the overall gaming experience.
Hardware Specifications and Performance Analysis
Under the hood, the Anbernic RG405V is powered by the Unisoc Tiger T618 processor, a 64-bit octa-core chipset that includes 2x A75 cores at 2.0GHz and 6x A55 cores at the same frequency. This processor, combined with a Mali G52 GPU, ensures smooth performance across a range of gaming titles. The device is equipped with 4GB LPDDR4X RAM and 128GB of eMMC storage, expandable via micro SD card, providing ample space for games and ensuring efficient operation.
In benchmark tests like Geekbench, 3DMark, and Antutu, the Anbernic RG405V demonstrates solid performance, comparable to other devices using the same chipset. These tests validate the console’s ability to handle various gaming demands with ease, making it a reliable choice for gaming enthusiasts. Learn more about it in our full Anbernic RG405V review here.
Why the Anbernic RG405V is a Worthy Choice
The Anbernic RG405V stands out as an ideal option for gamers who value a mix of retro and modern gaming experiences in a handheld format. Its powerful internals supported by the latest Android OS, ensure a seamless and versatile gaming experience. The device’s connectivity features, such as WiFi and Bluetooth, enable easy access to online gaming platforms and multiplayer experiences. Additionally, the inclusion of a 5500 mAh battery provides prolonged usage, a key advantage for gamers looking for the best retro handheld emulator.
The pre-installed emulators and user-friendly setup make the RG405V a great choice for those seeking a plug-and-play experience, while also offering customization possibilities for more tech-savvy users. With its combination of performance, convenience, and portability, the Anbernic RG405V is well-suited for both casual and serious gamers looking for a comprehensive handheld gaming device.
#3. Retroid Pocket 3 Plus+
The Retroid Pocket 3+ is a formidable rival to the Anbernic RG505 in the handheld gaming console market. It impresses with its smooth performance, effortlessly running PS1 and Dreamcast games, and even handling titles from newer systems. The retro handheld emulator offers a sleek frontend and screen overlay for convenient screen mapping, adding extra value and support to the gaming experience. Additionally, it boasts a comfortable design that allows for enjoyable gaming sessions, a vibrant display with appealing colors, and an included frontend for emulators. However, the placement of the SELECT & START buttons is notably inconvenient, affecting the overall user experience.
In terms of design, the Retroid Pocket 3+ closely resembles its predecessor, the Retroid Pocket 3, with its compact dimensions and weight. It features a 4.7-inch touchscreen with a rotated 750×1334 resolution, standard gaming controls, volume rocker, home button, and left/right shoulder and trigger buttons. The device houses a powerful Unisoc Tiger T618 processor, Mali G52 MC2 GPU, 4GB LPDDR4x RAM, and 128GB internal eMMC 5.1 storage. Running on Android 11, the Retroid Pocket 3+ offers a range of emulators pre-installed and is accompanied by a user-friendly frontend for easy setup.
In terms of performance, the Retroid Pocket 3+ delivers commendable results. Benchmark scores indicate that it performs on par with the Anbernic RG505, thanks to their shared processor. The handheld can handle a variety of emulators, including Dolphin, AetherSX2, M64Plus FX, Citra, and PPSSPP, with varying degrees of success. While some games run flawlessly, others may experience frame rate drops or performance issues. Nevertheless, the Retroid Pocket 3+ offers a solid gaming experience overall and is a worthy contender in the retro handheld emulator market.
What we like!
- Comfortable to hold for long gaming sessions
- Nice bright display with good colours
- Included frontend for emulators
- Great screen mapping software and overlay
What we don’t like!
- Worst placed SELECT & START buttons in the history of gaming controls.
To learn more check out our review here or the YouTube video above.
Best Retro Handheld Emulators Technical Specifications
|CPU & GPU
|RAM & STORAGE
|AYN ODIN 2
|Snapdragon Kyro 64bit 1x GoldPlus @ 3.2Ghz, 4x Gold @2.8Ghz, 3x Silver @2.0Ghz
128GB/256GB/512GB UFS 4.0 + MSD
|6″ IPS touchscreen, 1920×1080
|Dimensity 1100 4*[email protected] 4*[email protected] GHz
G77 @ 836Mhz
128GB UFS 3.1 + MSD
|4.7″ IPS touchscreen 16:9 750×1334
|H700 quad-core ARM Cortex-A53, 1.5GHz frequency
Dual- core G31 MP2
64GB or 128GB card
|3.5-inch IPS full viewing angle, OCA full lamination/ 640*480
|ANBERNIC RG ARC-D
|RK3566 Quad-Core 64 bit Cortex-A55, Main frequency 1.8GHz
|16GB RAM, 128GB or 256GB (storage)
ARC-D: 32GB eMMC (Android)
|ARC-D: Linux & Android 11 (Dual Boot)
|Unisoc Tiger T618 64-bit octa-core 2*[email protected]+6*[email protected]
128GB eMMC 5.1 + MSD
|4″ IPS touchscreen, 640×480
Best Retro Handheld Emulators Benchmark Comparison
|AYN ODIN 2
|RETROID POCKET 4 PRO