10 of The Most Iconic Handheld Games Consoles Ever Made

FUN FACTS December 21, 2017 By Vincent

We live in an age where everything is portable, our music, data, work, and social lives all come with us in our pockets or bags and yet, there was a time when portability seemed so out of the norm that it became a selling point in itself. In terms of video games, portable gaming has always been at odds, with the home gaming experience.

1. Auto Race

Mattel was the first toy company in the world to create a wholly electronic non-mechanical handheld toy and in 1976 they released their Auto Race game that utilized cheap calculator parts to see you whizz past red LED lights representing individual cars.

Joe Haupt/commons.wikimedia.org

By today's standards, it is not particularly impressive but it marked the first move into handheld gaming and was rapidly followed by very similar, yet hugely successful, American Football and Soccer games.

2. Game and Watch

Nowadays Nintendo dominates the handheld console market and it can trace that success back to 1980 when it released the very first Game & Watch device. These had very simple LCD screens and had only one game on each.


This was the precursor to cartridge games where you could have many games on one system rather than having to buy a new console each time you wanted a new game.

3. Tomytronic 3D

The first attempt to create something akin to 3D visuals, this binocular-like headset used two LCD displays which you would view through the eyepieces and control via buttons on the top.

Joe Haupt/commons.wikimedia.org

It was an attempt to create something futuristic and very sci-fi looking but you rather ended up looking a bit odd.

4. Nintendo Game Boy

The handheld console that really revolutionized the market, the Game Boy had a small processor (even for the time) and a monochrome display but its use of cartridges and incredible battery life made it a smash hit and over 120 million have been sold.


As technology progressed so did the brand as the Game Boy Color and then Advance came along adding further stock to Nintendo's control of the market.

5. Sega Game Gear

Whilst Nintendo were focussing on cost and battery life, Sega thought they could trump them with out-and-out performance and, for something released in 1990, had an impressive processor and graphics capability but it ate through batteries like nobody's business.


It didn't get anywhere near to Nintendo's Game Boy in sales but in terms of technological progress for handhelds, it was a watershed moment.

6. Nokia 6110

In what started to signal the shift away from gaming only consoles dominating the market, Nokia developed a business focussed phone and was looking for new features to include when one of their engineer's discovered their brother was coding a version of Snake for computers and thought it would be good on the phone.


The phone was shipped with Snake and it became a so popular it was actually seen as a selling feature. As such later models would include a revamped version of the game and as the 6110 sold 30 million units.

7. Nintendo DS

Written off by many on launch due to its supposedly outdated clamshell design that looked very similar to Nintendos later versions of the Game and Watch in the 1980s, this console brought cheap and accessible gaming back with products specifically targeted at those who don't usually associate with gaming.


With dual screens, one with touchscreen capability, it brought greater scope to handheld gaming and opened up the market to a wider array of people.

8.Playstation PSP

Like Sega a generation before, Sony tried to take on Nintendo with better hardware and it was far superior with its 4.3-inch display and 32-bit processing capabilities and it sold a solid 80 million units but still didn't dent Nintendo's domination.


What marked it out though was its film playing capabilities as multimedia consoles started to become more prevalent.

9. Apple iPhone

Where Nokia had paved the way years earlier, people were now independently developing games for mobile phones but they became cumbersome and confusing to download as handset manufacturers, network providers and game publishers all wanted to control how they were distributed.


By creating the App Store, the innovation in simple, easy pay and download mechanics led to the modern mobile games industry today.

10. Nintendo Switch

It may be too early to really call Nintendo's latest console 'iconic' but all signs point that it is heading that way with sales already well exceeding their own targets as the company has gone with innovation yet again with a console that brings home and mobile gaming together.


A fascinating piece of hardware that effectively has three forms, it can be docked like a home console or taken with you in a handheld set up or a tabletop version that is somewhere in between the two.

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