Holiday Gift Ideas: Which Handheld Gaming Device Should I Buy?
Handheld gaming has never been as popular as it is now. Millions of people all over the globe game exclusively on portable devices and today's platforms are a far cry from the simple monochrome Game Boy from yesteryear. This holiday season companies are virulently marketing their products and at first glance every one of them are absolutely fantastic.
With such a large amount of choice when it comes to mobile gaming, making the right decision on a new handheld can be tough. In addition to traditional gaming companies, gaming on Apple's and Google's mobile operating systems has really taken off. In today's entry of our Holiday Gift Idea series we'll be letting you know if it's the right time to purchase a particular device, or whether it's safer to wait until next season.
3DS Series (2DS, 3DS, 3DS XL)
2DS: $129.99, 3DS: N/A, 3DS XL: $199.99
Nintendo pretty much defined the handheld with its original Game Boy and it still has a huge stake in the market. Its current model, the 3DS series, has really come into its own this year with the success of Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby along with the success of popular indie titles on its eShop.
While the Nintendo 3DS is probably the least technologically sophisticated entry on this list, it is by far the most successful. Over 40 million units of the handheld have been sold since its release in 2011. While the original model seems to be no longer available for new purchase, the 2DS which opts for a slate form factor and lacks the 3D features, and the 3DS XL are still flying off the shelves. The titles available for it are great, and like all first-party Nintendo games are available on the 3DS series only, so if you or you loved ones are fans of Pokemon, Zelda, Mario, and others, this is the only way to take them on the go.
Is now a good time to buy?
This is a tough choice. While some of the best titles to date for the system have been released in the last 6 months, there is a refresh of the design coming out within the next year. The "New Nintendo 3DS" will feature additional shoulder triggers, a small analog stick, better 3D, NFC. and microSD support, and most importantly a faster CPU which some games will require to play.
If you can't wait for some Nintendo fun, I would purchase the 2DS, and wait until the New 3DS comes out to make the big purchase. The 2DS can play everything that the 3DS can and can be found on sale all over the place.
Sony's handheld suffers from the same problems its predecessor had. Sony's direction concerning the Vita, both in marketing and software are awkward and confusing leaving people scratching their heads and leaving their Vitas to gather dust. Luckily 2014 has been kind to the system with quite a few great titles being released for it and finally finding its niche as, well, a niche machine.
For fans of both indie and Japanese games, the Vita is the handheld to have. With games like Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD and Velocity 2X, the Vita caters to those who may not find their favorites on another portable device. In addition to its proprietary software titles, the device can also download from the PSN Store's selection of PlayStation Classics which adds decades of titles to the Vita's repertoire. In addition to all that, the PlayStation Vita also can be used to remote play games from a PlayStation 4 over Wi-Fi or the internet.
Is now a good time to buy?
With no new models announced, an increasingly impressive game line-up, and Sony's re-commitment to the system, now is a great time to take the dive and purchase a PlayStation Vita. While the system may not have the recognizable mascots of Nintendo, gamers will find the console to have a much more diverse line-up than the 3DS. However, take care when purchasing titles for the Vita, because their quality also varies much more wildly than Nintendo.
Android and iOS
Google (hardware manufacturers vary) and Apple
Price varies from $50-$800+
These two platforms are being lumped together because the majority of titles made for one get a release on the other. While a couples years ago the gaming scene on mobile was not nearly up to par with the dedicated gaming handhelds, it has made up for lost time. Some of the most unique and widely praised games of the year such as Framed, 80 Days, The Banner Saga and more were released on these two platforms. With developers now maximizing the potential of the touchscreen for controls, iOS and Android offer by far the most varied tactile gaming experience.
Is now a good time to buy?
If you're looking to get into gaming on Android now is a great time. While there are a ton of Android devices out right now, we recommend the Nexus 9 (starting at $399.99,) or the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet (starting at $299.99,) both have huge high resolution screens, and the SHIELD in particular makes gaming an absolute pleasure.
While the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus make gaming great with their much bigger screens, we recommend the iPad Mini 2 ($249.99,) if you're just looking for a device to game on. The iPad Mini 2 is $100 cheaper than the iPad Mini 3 and is exactly the same besides the Touch ID sensor. The device has a large enough screen to see and touch with precision, while still being small enough to hold comfortably for extended periods of time.
Let us know your choices!
We want to hear if this guide helped you, or if you have a different opinion! Let us know what your favorite device for this holiday season is!