The Best-Selling Handheld Game Systems of All Time Ranked

Girl lounging and gaming on Nintendo Switch handheld game systems Handheld Gaming Consoles

Handheld game systems let players take their gaming experience on the go or at least in the palm of their hands. It provides a more streamlined and open experience than the traditional home console. These best-selling handheld systems showcase the most successful implementations of this idea.

The best-selling handheld game systems of all time include platforms from a mix of companies like Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and many more. Players who want to find the ultimate systems to play their games on the go, including brilliant retro titles, should get one of the best-selling handheld game systems of all time.

1. Nintendo DS (2004)

Blue Nintendo DS
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

The dual-screen Nintendo DS took the world by storm as the highest-selling handheld console ever. It sold an astonishing estimated 154.02 million units in total across its lifetime. The touchscreen gaming device has some of the best platforming and role-playing games of all time, plus GBA backward compatibility with some versions, which justifies its top spot. 

2. Nintendo Switch (2017)

Nintendo Switch controller and dock
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons.

The Nintendo Switch gave Nintendo back the success it had a decade prior with the Wii and DS. The hybrid console may hook up to the TV, but players can take it anywhere. It has modern titles found in competitors, plus award-winning exclusive games like Breath of the Wild. It has sold around 132.46 million units and counting. 

3. Game Boy & Game Boy Color (1989, 1998)

Game Boy (L) and Game Boy Color (R)
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons (L and R).

It started here for Nintendo with one of the first dedicated handheld game consoles. The Game Boy had a monochrome aesthetic, but color was added with the Game Boy Color in 1998. The monumental, ground-breaking handheld sold around 118..69 million total units across both versions. 

4. Game Boy Advance (2001)

Game Boy Advance in Arctic White
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Nintendo kept the success going in its portable line after the Game Boy with its sequel, the Game Boy Advance. It played games on the level of the SNES with even sharper graphics, which led to an unsurprising estimated 81.51 million total units over its short lifetime. 

5. PlayStation Portable (2004)

Playstation Portable Slim
Image Credit: Truflip99, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Sony continued its foray into gaming with the powerful PSP in 2004. It had much higher power than the DS, and was capable of playing home console-like games. It sold around 81 million total units in the end. 

6. Nintendo 3DS (2011)

Nintendo 3DS handheld console in Aqua Blue
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Nintendo followed up on the excellent DS with its sequel console known as the 3DS. It boasted better power and the ability to see games with a 3D effect. It had a shaky launch at first, but soon recovered with an incredible library of titles like Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon and Super Mario 3D Land. It sold around 75.94 million units in total. 

7. Game & Watch (1980)

Game & Watch handheld gaming
Image Credit: The PViana, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Prior to Nintendo's ultra-successful NES and Game Boy, the company released handheld console Game & Watch. These toys featured a single screen with a clock, with such game available as Ball, Balloon Fight, and more. The collection of titles and variants sold about 43.4 million units in total. 

8. PlayStation Vita (2011)

PlayStation Vita handheld
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Sony’s second handheld gaming console failed to live up to the original hype. Exact sales numbers remain unknown, but estimates put it around 15 million units. It had a fantastic library of older PlayStation games from the PSP and PS1, alongside its own selection of console-exclusive games like Persona 4 Golden. 

9. Game Gear (1990)

Game Gear handheld
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

The Sega Game Gear marked the first handheld game system from the Sonic company, and it bested its competitor, the Game Boy, in every way but sales. It still sold an impressive 10.62 million units, helped by solid ports of Sonic the Hedgehog, Shinobi, and more. 

10. Steam Deck (2022)

Steam Deck handheld gaming
Image Credit: Liam Dawe/GamingOnLinux, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Valve, the game company behind the renowned Steam PC store, created its own handheld game system with the Steam Deck. This system plays many PC titles, including newer ones, and has excellent emulation potential alongside a solid enough control scheme. Exact sales numbers remain unknown, but estimates sit somewhere around 4 million units in total. 

11. WonderSwan (1999)

WonderSwan Color
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, CC0, Wikimedia Commons.

Bandai tried its hand at handheld game consoles with the WonderSwan. It featured a colorful and gorgeous design, with a cheaper price point and longer battery life than its competitors. It had remakes of older Final Fantasy games and other thrilling titles, which led to around 3.5 million units sold.

12. N-Gage (2003)

Nokia N-Gage Phone and handheld gaming
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, CC0, Wikimedia Commons.

The popular mobile phone creator Nokia entered the console scene by mixing a cell phone with a video game handheld. The N-Gage had a wild but successful design, which allowed it to make phone calls and play solid ports of games like Splinter Cell and Call of Duty. It sold around 3 million units in its lifetime.

13. Neo Geo Pocket & Color (1999)

Neo Geo Color
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, CC0, Wikimedia Commons.

Video game developer and publisher SNK tried to make a portable version of its hardware line. It led to some solid fighting entries in series like Samurai Shodown and King of Fighters, but it only sold a modest 2 million units in its lifetime. 

14. Atari Lynx (1989)

Atari Lynx handheld
Image Credit: By moparx, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Atari released its handheld gaming console around the same time as the Game Boy. The Lynx had better power and a much better screen, but it failed in the games department, with only 71 titles in total and no standout hits. Best estimates suggest it only sold somewhere around 2 million units. 

15. TurboExpress (1990)

NEC turbo express handheld gaming console
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

This handheld console tried to be the portable version of the TurboGrafx-16 (PC Engine in Japan). It accomplished this task pretty well, but its lack of an audience led to only around 1.5 million units sold worldwide. It failed in its attempt to beat the other competitors at the time. 

16. Sega Nomad (1995)

Sega Nomad, portable console
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Sega launched its sequel to the Game Gear with the Nomad. It impressed with its ability to play Genesis and Mega Drive games on the go, but its lack of visual appeal and wonky design held it back. As such, Sega saw it as a failure, with only around a million or so units in total.

17. Cybiko (2000)

Cybiko handheld gaming
Image Credit: I, Der Sascha, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons.

This fascinating handheld incorporated PDA elements into a gaming device. It felt so far ahead of its time, as players could chat with others afar and play mobile titles based on series like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

18. Analogue Pocket (2021)

Several Analogue Pocket systems
Image Credit: Analogue.

This retro game console takes inspiration – and even games – from the Game Boy family. It has other systems it plays as well, but its true success comes from its actual cartridge slot. It lets players play genuine GB and GBA games with a modern, comfortable console. Exact sales figures remain unknown, but it sold out several times.

19. Tapwave Zodiac (2003)

Tapwave Zodiac
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, CC0, Wikimedia Commons.

This mobile gaming system featured a left thumbstick, home button, and other features expected of a similar platform. It had some surprising games at launch, like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 and Madden NFL 2005, but the competing PSP’s launch stopped it at 200,000 units sold.

20. Playdate (2022)

Playdate handheld gaming console with crank
Image Credit: Louiemantia, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

The known sales figures for this underrated system set it at well over 50,000 units in total and counting. Its distinct yellow design and hand crank controls give it a retro feel but one unique to its own. It has a surprising number of short games made just for the system. 

21. GP2X (2005)

GP2X FX100 handheld console
Image Credit: Kozuch, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

This open-source, handheld video game only came out in South Korea. As such, its sales only reached around 60,000 units total. It acted like a mini-Linux computer with the ability to play games, watch videos, and listen to music. 

22. Tiger Telematics’ Gizmondo (2005)

Gizmondo handheld gaming console
Image Credit: Evan-Amos, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

This handheld failure sold a bit under 25,000 units in total. It tried to compete with Sony and Nintendo with its surprising ports of games like SSX 3, but it never took off with fans. As such, only about 16 Gizmondo games have ever been released. 

23. Evercade (2020)

Evercade
Image Credit: M0d3M, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Actual sales figures remain a mystery for the Evercade handheld platform, but the existence of sequels for it indicates it probably did well enough in its success. The Evercade focuses on unique, proprietary cartridges that feature games from famous publishers like Atari and Bandai Namco.

24. Game Gadget (2012)

Game Gadget
Image Credit: M0d3M, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons.

This open-source handheld console has a sleek design and appearance, not unlike the Sega Dreamcast. It used Linux as its operating system so that players could play retro titles. It also had official support for licensed Mega Drive games. It paved the way for the more successful Evercade after its estimated 20,000 units sold.

Author: Cody Perez

Bio:

Copywriter, experienced editor, website creator, PR associate, consultant

  • Expertise: Gaming, Pokémon, movies, TV shows, PR, and creative writing
  • Education: BS in Business Economics (specializing in Business Management), minor in Japanese from Tokyo International University
  • Helped lead or create websites, such as GameRevolution, VGR, RPGInformer, MangaInsider, FandomPost, POKUniverse, and more.
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  • Writer in the entertainment industry since starting in high school in 2011

Experience: Cody Perez started his career as a journalist and creative writer in the tech and gaming spaces in 2011 while in the middle of high school. Since then, he has produced thousands of high-quality, researched articles for some of the largest entertainment websites in the world, including IGN, Destructoid, Siliconera, Digital Trends, DotEsports, and many more. He also was the lead editor at GameRevolution, growing the site to reach its consistent, historical peak of 8 million MUV the entire time he worked there. Cody also helped launch various successful sites, such as VGR (2 million MUV in a year), POKUniverse, and RPGInformer.

Cody brings together his passion for tech and gaming to his work life, so he can enjoy his hobbies nearly 24/7. He has now taken his expertise and experience with subjects like gaming and Pokémon to Wealth of Geeks, where he is often found creating new lists and reviews, or editing older content to bring it up to the company standard.