Looking for handheld video games? They’re pretty perfect if you or your kid are on-the-go, and they make it so that you don’t have to be tied to a TV screen and couch. While video gaming tends to have a negative connotation among some parents, there are some benefits to playing video games — with scientific data behind them! — such as boosting creativity and constructive play, developing problem solving skills, and improving hand/eye coordination. If you appreciate what video games can do, check out our list of the best handheld games for adults and kids. Having the ability to game no matter where you are can open a whole new world of gaming.
Our list of the best game systems for kids is going to focus on the newest handheld game console, the Nintendo Switch. The Switch has a built-in screen for on-the-go gaming, or you can attach it to a TV. The controllers can stay attached to the built-in screen, or you can pop them loose and use them like regular controllers. We’ll also focus on handheld gaming systems with preloaded games or that can play old games. All of them will be guaranteed fun for today’s kids … even if the blocky graphics on the older ones look like something out of your childhood.
Best Nintendo Switch Handheld Video Games
Before you can play Nintendo Switch games, you’ll need the handheld game console for the Switch. (It’s crazy how that works, right?) With this Switch hardware, you’ll also receive the popular Mario Kart 8 game, so you can starting playing immediately.
Who knew when Nintendo debuted the Mario character in 1981 as part of the Donkey Kong game that Mario would grow into the most popular video game character of all time and still be going four decades later? Of course we all should have seen it coming. Mario’s moustache is glorious after all. (Try taking your eyes off it. We dare you.) This Mario title has three classic Mario games for Nintendo Switch in one package.
Super Mario Odyssey is a fun two-player Nintendo Switch game that allows players to explore the Mario universe. Older kids may not be too interested in helping a friend named Cappy prevent the wedding of the dastardly Bowser, but young kids will be able to play for hours.
For kids who like to show off their creativity, this game allows them to create their own courses. There’s even occasional downloadable updates to the software to unlock more fun. For kids who like to say, “I’m bored,” this game has dozens of different ways to play, so you’ll know they’re lying.
Yes, we agree that the title of this Nintendo Switch game is unnecessarily redundant. If Super Mario is involved, it’s always a gaming party. This game has been overhauled to make it work in a special way with the Joy-Con controllers in the Switch for a little extra fun in this version versus older versions.
In this game, Mario must save the kingdom from a menace who uses origami to perpetrate evil deeds. We’re going to go out on a limb and guess that you did not know an origami master could be a menace. Well, with this game title for the Switch, now you know better. You’re welcome.
This title has Ultimate in the name, so you know it has to be good. It builds on the past versions of Super Smash Bros., adding new characters for the perfect — no, the ultimate mix of past and present for fans of this franchise.
Sometimes, Luigi deserves a bit of love too. Mario shouldn’t get to have all of the fun, after all. In this title, Luigi — he’s the one with a green hat — saves Mario and other characters with the help of some ghosts. Why ghosts? Why not? When you’re in as many games as Mario and Luigi are, ghosts are bound to become involved at some point.
Did you know Donkey Kong had a whole family? (Kind of makes you feel guilty for chasing him with a mallet way back when.) In this game for Switch, you can help Donkey Kong and the entire family solve challenges, battle enemies, and overcome obstacles.
Sure, everyone is in love with the irresistible Baby Yoda right now. But when it comes maximizing the cute factor when playing with Switch handheld game systems, you’ll have to settle for the Yoshi character in this game. (Spoiler alert: Yoshi is pretty damn cute too.) There are plenty of adorable costumes for Yoshi to wear while the little dinosaur works through its adventures.
Pokemon has been a crazy popular gaming (and TV and movie and collectible toys) franchise for decades. So not making a Pokemon game for the Switch would be one of the dumbest business decisions of all time, right up there with New Coke. Fear not! This Pokemon game for Switch lets you collect ’em all on your handheld game console.
It’s a Pikachu game, therefore, it’s going to be a highly popular choice for your kids. Pikachu is beyond adorable, after all. What does the game play entail? Does it matter? All you need to know is that it’s Pikachu.
With this game, you can create adventures for the Pikmin, who are plantlike creatures that need your help for overcoming obstacles and finding food. Each little Pikmin creature has its own strengths and weaknesses. Play as a team with another person or compete head to head in completing the story mission. (No, these are not Pokemon. They’re Pikmin. We’re sure the similarities in the names are just a coincidence.)
Sonic the Hedgehog is a highly popular video game character. (It’s not quite Mario, but no character is). Although Sonic got its start on the Sega Genesis, it’s now available for the Switch, allowing for play on Nintendo hardware. This Sonic game features classic experiences from original Sonic games with some modern updates.
For kids who are fans of the Zelda games, this game tells a prequel story of the Zelda universe. You can play as a few different characters, learning various combat styles. There’s plenty of fighting that will appeal to older kids in this game. (We didn’t say it would appeal to you.)
If you don’t understand Fortnite, join the crowd. However, this particular bundle may make some sense, as it includes characters like The Joker and Poison Ivy from the Batman universe. So even if you don’t know what the hell you’re doing in the game, you’ll have some familiar characters to keep you grounded.
First things first. L.O.L. Surprise! is definitely not made for parents. But some kids tend to love it … so it’s like a lot of things in modern pop culture. Your kids don’t have to know you have no interest in this or that you don’t really know what it is. Buy this Switch game for them, and they’ll think you’re the coolest parent on the planet. (This feeling is guaranteed to last for at least 10 seconds in the kids’ minds, so savor it.)
Full disclosure: My kids are obsessed with playing Animal Crossing. I don’t get this game, but that’s probably why my kids like it so much. In the game, build your own communities of animals with plenty of personality as they go through life’s daily troubles and accomplishments.
If puzzle games are your kids’ favorites, this is the ultimate in puzzle games, combining the blocky puzzles of Tetris with the round creature puzzles from Japan’s Puyo Puyo. It is weird? Absolutely. So this guarantees your kids will love it.
If modern games have you wishing for simpler times — with far blockier graphics — this Space Invaders Nintendo Switch game is the choice. It includes the classic Space Invaders game feel, along with new graphics and sounds for new gameplay options. With this game in hand, dad (or maybe grandpa) can amuse the kids with tales of his prowess as a video gamer with pockets full of quarters from back in the day.
Have you ever taken the kids to a fair or a carnival, and two seconds later, they discover the arcade? Roughly $50 later, you may or may not have won a plastic comb and a fake spider, while the 5-foot stuffed animal continues to hang in the game’s booth. Use this Nintendo Switch game to give the kids their carnival games fix for a lot less money. (Buy them a giant stuffed animal for $10 at the local department store and save even more.)
When you want a Switch game the entire family can play, well, Family Feud has “family” right in the name, so we’re guessing this one will work. You can team up to play against a computer generated family or you can split into teams for a head-to-head game. Trust us: You’ll come to enjoy whipping that goody-two-shoes computer generated family in no time.
Some of us are blessed with height, athletic prowess, and great dribbling skills, making us incredible basketball players. Some of us — slowly raising my hand — are not. So the next best thing is becoming a virtual basketball star with this title for the Switch. Fair warning: Playing this game doesn’t pay quite as well as being an NBA star. But it’s still fun.
You know what video games need? More noise, more mayhem, more large objects crashing into each other, and more destruction. Unless you play this Monster Truck game for Switch, that is. Then we’re guessing you’ll hit your mayhem quotient.
Just Dance for Nintendo Switch doesn’t quite have as high of a potential for generating TikTok worthy embarrassing Dad dance moves as the game being played in front of the TV on a full size console does, but we’re sure Dad will find a way to give the cringe worthy moves the old college try anyway.
Video games don’t have to be all lasers, fighting, and ear splitting noises that require plenty of headache medicine (i.e., wine). This game lets kids explore their creative side through virtual cooking … all without having to appear on some terrible Chef Junior TV show that could scar the child for life.
Best Handheld Game Systems
This handheld Switch Lite is a scaled down version of the Switch, so you can save a bit of money, if desired. The Switch Lite can play Switch games, but the Lite doesn’t have removable controllers like the Switch. Depending on the dependability of your kids, having controllers that they cannot lose may be a good idea.
Handheld gaming consoles like the Switch are fine, but sometimes, you just want to go back to the classic gaming options (and show your kids how good they have it now). Nintendo still makes the 3DS XL handheld console that was originally released in 2012, and it runs all original DS games. It’s not the blocky graphics and beeps and boops of 1980s and 1990s games, but it’s still old enough to potentially blow their minds.
Super Mario Bros. fans will love this handheld game, which has a built-in screen and preloaded games from the Super Mario universe. The controls on this handheld game system will remind you and your kids of Nintendo gaming systems from the past. (Well, not your kids. They have no idea. Yes, it sucks getting old.)
This pocket sized Neogeo game has 40 preloaded games that are reminders of the classic arcade style games from the 1980s and 1990s. Each game console has a 3.5-inch LCD screen built into it, or you can connect the console to your television and play on the big screen (with crappy graphics, of course, but that’s part of the charm).
Maybe video games aren’t your thing. Maybe you’ve banned them completely at your home. No judgment here. (Your kids might end up describing this ban to a therapist in a few decades, though.) So if you’re going to ban video games, you better have some other cool toys ready to go. We have multiple toy guides to help you find the perfect option for your kids.