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What was the best non-Nintendo Handheld system?

Which of these was the best?

  • Lynx

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Game Gear

    Votes: 2 4.4%
  • Neo Geo Pocket (including NGP Color)

    Votes: 2 4.4%
  • WonderSwan (including WS Color)

    Votes: 1 2.2%
  • PlayStation Portable

    Votes: 25 55.6%
  • PlayStation Vita

    Votes: 15 33.3%
  • Other (specify)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    45

freedomseekr

life is noise
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handhelds.png

Portable gaming has been around for a while, but it's hard to deny the era of the traditional handheld console is more-or-less over and with the closure of the eShop for Nintendo 3DS, the era of these devices will end come next March. New devices are still being made, yes, but outside of the Switch, the majority of new devices is based on pre-existing operating systems like Android, Linux or Windows with an intent to be either used as an emulation device or as a way to play PC games on the go.

But from the early 1990s to the mid-2010s, other handhelds tried to encroach on Nintendo's territory as the reigning king of the portable gaming market. And while Nintendo wasn't the first hardware manufacturer to offer a handheld with swappable cartridges - that honor would go to MB's Microvision, which had released a full decade prior to the Game Boy - they have kept a steady presence on it from 1989 until... well, now, I suppose. These handhelds would often challenge Nintendo directly on grounds they perceived as easily won - primarily graphics - and while maybe winning the battle for a bit, they'd ultimately end up losing the war.

This thread is about these plucky little devices that went David-vs.-Goliath style against Nintendo and are probably remembered most fondly today.

Yes, I'm aware there's more than these six but I think these are the most well-known and people have the most attachment to them, if you want to list the N-Gage, there's the "Other" option. Also no, I won't list the TurboExpress or the Genesis Nomad since they're handheld devices that play home console games and not standalone systems.
 
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Does the Steam Deck not count? I'm having an absolute blast of a time with it, playing all sorts of stuff old and new. A delightful device (once you look past many bugs) with tons of games and great emulation capabilities too. And because I'm a fool, I have a gigantimax backlog of PC games that I can now play in a fresh new way without double dipping for the pleasure.

If we exclude that because it hasn't got an exclusive library of games, then I'd say the PS Vita for me. It is my favorite handheld form factor to date, has a perfect (!) d-pad, and despite popular perception it has a huge library (many of which aren't "exclusive" to it anymore), on top of which you also get access to so many great PSP titles as well as a few PS1 classics. Great device, fun to play on, and so easy to drop in a bag to take with you compared to Switch or Deck. The PSP was a great device too, fantastic library and it felt like it came from the future back then, but I think PSP games just play better on a PSV.

I don't really have any experience with those other handhelds, so I don't have that wide a perspective :x
 
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freedomseekr

freedomseekr

life is noise
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Does the Steam Deck not count? I'm having an absolute blast of a time with it, playing all sorts of stuff old and new. A delightful device (on you look past all the bugs) with tons of games and great emulation capabilities too.
I mean, it's great that you're having fun with the Steam Deck, but this is mainly about older handheld systems that used a dedicated delivery format and I purposely excluded the Steam Deck for that reason.

And my vote went to the PSP. Like, I love the Vita and it would be tied for first place... but I played the PSP way more and even if I'm not a fan of all its titles, it has a wider range of original games on top.
 
I mean, it's great that you're having fun with the Steam Deck, but this is mainly about older handheld systems that used a dedicated delivery format and I purposely excluded the Steam Deck for that reason.

Yeah, I just noticed the fine print there and the Deck falls into a similar categorization I suppose.
 
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PixelKnight

Chain Chomp
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Vita. Still my favourite portable hardware. PSP had more games but UMD let it down, whereas by the time Vita rolled around, it could also play a large portion of the PSP library, plus PSOne games, it had the memory available to have tons of digital games on there and there was a healthy variety of indies coming through too, PS+ had me trying out loads of stuff too. Of course, the Vita library itself of boxed games wasn’t great (although I could pick a handful of favourites). But I still found it to be a wonderful complement to a 3DS.
 
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Vanillalite

Moblin
It’s the PSP unless you roll in the fact that you can play digitally a lot of the PSP games on the Vita.

As another poster said. The PSP actually had the games.
 
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Irene

Tears of the Kingdom hype generator
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I had a PSP for a period of time and loved it. Not only for being able to remote play PS1 titles, but also for LocoRoco.
 

fiendcode

Bob-omb
PSP easily but I'm sad at NGPC's lack of votes.

I'd also asked about, uh, mobilized home consoles like TG16 (Express) or Genesis (Nomad). Should those count? edit: or not, see they were mentioned in the OP.
 
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I'm going to stick up for the Game Gear and say it's potential was lost mostly on its pitiful battery life and the poor ports that didn't account for the lower resolution (here's looking at you Sonic). I had a blast (with it plugged in) playing the Mickey/Illusion games, Ax Battler, Columns (Tetris' cooler but shallower cousin), Alex Kidd (loved my master system adapter), Shinobi, Fantasy Zone, Wonder Boy, and my personal favourite:

 
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Clov

Welcome to the True Bean's World
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She/Her
It's gotta be the PSP. It felt like the only true competition Nintendo faced in terms of handhelds. Great library too! I had a ton of fun playing Metal Gear Acid despite how disappointed people were in those games at the time. Echochrome was also really neat! And though it wasn't the best idea, it was a fun novelty having a handheld that read tiny discs. I still remember the sound of that little motor so distinctly!

I do have to give some credit to the Vita here. I love the hardware; powerful for the time with a beautiful screen! And some real analog sticks, on a portable! There's some great games on it, but it was much more limited than the PSP's library sadly. And those memory card prices... ridiculous! I still ended up playing mine a bit longer than a lot of people, thanks to some Limited Run titles. In the end the last two games I played on it were VA-11 HALL-A and The House in Fata Morgana. I gave it a great send-off, at least!

I do need to at least mention Wonderswan and Neo-Geo Pocket Color, which both have really cool libraries of exclusives! I wish NGPC was less expensive to collect for, but WonderSwan stuff is relatively cheap... for the most part!
 
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My favorite non-Nintendo handheld console is the WonderSwan line.
Language barrier diminish the value of its game library due to the notable presence of games which require (japanese) reading skills but what's there is still quite enjoyable (the puzzle game genre is especially notable: Flash Koibito-kun, Engacho!, Tane wo Maku Tori, Gunpey, Mr. Driller, XI Sai Little/Devil Dice, Tetris).
WonderSwan sort of feel like the grandfather of the "PlayStation Portable" line, to the point there were also Sony franchises on it (Arc the Lad and Devil Dice), a new quirky game from the developer of Parappa The Rapper, Klonoa whose mascot platformer debuted on PS1 had its first handheld appearence on WS, and Final Fantasy games (and more) from Squaresoft during a time it was publishing exclusively for PS1.

Objectively the best non-Nintendo handheld is the PSP and it's not even close with the other options.
Special mention to the Neo Geo Pocket with it's special feeling of "arcades in the pocket" thanks to both hardware (clicky mini stick) and software (excellent "8 bit" version of SNK arcade franchises).
 
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ezr__

Rattata
Here is Kelsey Lewin's full game collection which included a full WonderSwan collection for those who are interested:

 
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RavenDuroi

Rattata
I don’t have much experience with more niche handhelds, so I’ll have to give it to the PSP. The Vita was a decent piece of hardware but I mainly used it as a PSP with a better screen, so I can’t really give it the same credit for its library.
 
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JoshuaJSlone

Koopa
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Easy victory for PSP. It's the only one that both didn't shoot its own foot and attracted the attention of more than fifty people.
 
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Red Monster

Rawr
Moderator
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I had a PSP for a period of time and loved it. Not only for being able to remote play PS1 titles, but also for LocoRoco.
Not only LocoRoco!

The PSP had a ton of great games and I spent a lot of time with it. Lumines is an all-time great puzzle game. WipeOut had a couple really good racing games on the system. Tony Hawk's Underground 2 got an absolutely mind-blowing PSP port. Rhythm games like DJ Maxx and Rock Band Unplugged worked really well. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is one of the best games in the entire series.

I miss the PSP.
 

lexony

Paratroopa
Founder
PSP. It was the cool must have device when I was a kid. At some point everyone had a DS, because well its the DS, but when talking in school the PSP was much more hyped.
 

Nmanic

Shriekbat
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He/Him
This isn't really the same discussion, but as far as right now, a ps Vita with CFW is probably my pick for the best non-nintendo handheld.

My vita has a huge library of PS1, PSP, vita and GBA games. Plus, the OLED screen is gorgeous. So it gets my vote
 
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PixelKnight

Chain Chomp
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PSP easily. It was an RPG gold mine.

Not only LocoRoco!

The PSP had a ton of great games and I spent a lot of time with it. Lumines is an all-time great puzzle game. WipeOut had a couple really good racing games on the system. Tony Hawk's Underground 2 got an absolutely mind-blowing PSP port. Rhythm games like DJ Maxx and Rock Band Unplugged worked really well. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is one of the best games in the entire series.

I miss the PSP.

PSP. It was the cool must have device when I was a kid. At some point everyone had a DS, because well its the DS, but when talking in school the PSP was much more hyped.
I missed the PSP chat last week, nooo! :D

Yeah it was stunning at the time.

Random PSP memory- I still remember juuuuust squeezing FFVII onto the tiny memory card I had at the time (a 2GB one?), and watching it download with my fingers crossed. It all felt so wild to me then that a PS1 game could fit on a portable in the early days of PSN, and it feels wild to me now that such tiny memory cards existed given the size of the games. I eventually bought a much bigger one. By the time the Vita rolled around I bought the biggest one I could afford and never looked back.

So many good rpgs on PSP too. Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is one I really got into, I liked the combat system. Also Tactics Ogre, FFT, the remaster of Star Ocean 2.
 

Sumio Mondo

Lynchian
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So many good rpgs on PSP too. Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is one I really got into, I liked the combat system.
Such a good game. Very overlooked gem because it was released at the end of the PSP's life but one of the best games Atlus has ever put out.
 


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