Top 8 Handheld Gaming Emulators for Nostalgic Gamers

  • Studies show the popularity of handheld gaming emulators has been rising in the last couple of years. 
  • Tips on choosing the right handheld gaming emulator for your gaming style.
  • When choosing a handheld gaming emulator, consider the compatibility, performance, user interface, and game library. 
  • We review RetroArch, OpenEmu, RetroPie, My Boy!, My Old Boy!, Happy Chick, mGBA, and DraStic DS Emulator.

The magic of retro gaming is still triggering nostalgia in gamers, and many are longing to relive the magic of classic games from their childhood. There is an apparent re-emergence of the handheld gaming emulator that has once again hooked up gamers worldwide.

The charming classic games that can be played in a handheld gaming emulator are very attractive to a lot of the 80s and 90s gamers, but also younger ones. From the iconic Super Mario Bros to the fun Pokémon games, these retro gaming handheld units allow us to experience the games that shaped the 90s and revive our gaming memories.

So, if you’re thinking of getting a retro toy for yourself, we’re here to make your research easier. We’ve prepared a curated list of the top 8 handheld gaming emulators that will charm any tech-savvy nostalgic gamer.

Buckle up for a tour of the past and get to know the best handheld gaming emulator out there!

The Rising Popularity of Handheld Gaming Emulators

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It seems like everyone is getting on the nostalgia train to remind themself of their favorite childhood games. But what’s behind this rising trend?

First and foremost, handheld gaming emulators provide the perfect solution for gaming enthusiasts who are into the retro vibes of these devices. There’s something incredibly enticing about nurturing nostalgic feelings and revisiting classic games from the past, such as Space Invaders, Sonic the Hedgehog, or Super Mario Bros. With a retro gaming handheld, you can now carry your favorite titles wherever you go.

Handheld Gaming Emulator Popularity Studies 

Recent studies and statistics support the increasing demand for retro gaming experiences, and it started with a big boost of 33% increase in retro video game values during the Covid lockdown. A study on video game nostalgia shows that as the gamers and the medium grow together, the nostalgic experiences become stronger; hence, the people who used these devices in the past are likely to go back to them with pleasure.

The ones mostly attracted to retro gaming handheld devices are Gen X and the older portion of the Millennials, who represent a large portion of the full gamers spectrum. These nostalgic gamers are not just looking for the latest graphics and high-end consoles; they seek the simplicity and charm of retro games. The desire to relive those cherished childhood memories has given rise to a market flooded with a variety of handheld gaming devices and emulators.

Choosing the Right Handheld Gaming Emulator

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So, maybe you’ve heard of the cool Logitech G Cloud Gaming Handheld, Nintendo Switch, or other famous retro gaming devices, but searching for the best retro handheld game console may not be so straightforward. There’s no denying the growing fascination with handheld gaming emulators, but the choices are endless.

Choosing the right handheld gaming emulator can be a tricky task, but fear not, dear gamer, as we’re here to help you make an informed decision. When selecting a handheld gaming emulator, several factors should be taken into consideration, so let’s dig into it.


First and foremost, compatibility. Make sure the console supports the retro games you’re keen on playing and the platforms they originated from. You should also check its compatibility with your operating system.


Performance is another crucial aspect. Look for emulators that offer smooth gameplay and minimal lag. A powerful processor and sufficient RAM are essential for an optimal gaming experience.

User Interface

The user interface is often overlooked but plays a significant role in usability. Personalization options in a user-friendly interface with convenient controls can greatly enhance your gaming sessions.

Game Library

Last but not least, consider the game library available for the handheld gaming emulator. They usually come with a long list of games you can easily upgrade with your personal favorites.


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RetroArch stands out as a versatile and feature-rich handheld gaming emulator. It has great cross-platform compatibility that works on various operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and more. What sets RetroArch apart is its extensive library of supported games, covering a wide range of classic gaming platforms and consoles. Reliving the glory days of the Nintendo (NES), SNES, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, or even arcade machines won’t be a problem for the great RetroArch.

RetroArch is like a gaming time machine, allowing you to experience the golden era of gaming on the go. You can play old Pokemon games and relive the adventures of the legendary Zelda. It has everything you need in one place, and it runs fantastic, making it one of the best handheld emulators out there.


OpenEmu is a user-friendly and visually appealing handheld gaming emulator specifically designed for macOS. Its intuitive interface and sleek design make it a joy to use for retro gaming handheld enthusiasts. OpenEmu offers an extensive game library, covering a wide range of console systems, including Nintendo, Sega, Atari, and more. Users praise OpenEmu for its simplicity and smooth gameplay experience.

Positive reviews highlight that it’s a 5-star handheld gaming console, and one user described it as by far the best emulator and game library, having everything you need in a single piece of software. Another satisfied user said that it’s “emulation reinvented,” with a fantastic front-end and the ability to automatically download all of the engines as well. Users agree that OpenEmu looks great, plays great, and catalogs great.


RetroPie has become a popular choice for retro gaming enthusiasts seeking to create their own handheld gaming device using a Raspberry Pi. RetroPie has great customization options, allowing users to personalize their gaming experience. Also, RetroPie is compatible with a vast range of game consoles, including the classic Nintendo and Sega systems and many more.

RetroPie has huge community support and many successful RetroPie handheld gaming setup stories. One happy user said that it’s so easy to set up and exceeds all expectations. Another one commented that RetroPie has impeccable emulation and an incredible library, proving that RetroPie is a great choice for a customizable and immersive gaming experience.

My Boy! and My OldBoy!

My Boy! and My OldBoy! are highly popular handheld gaming emulators specifically designed for GameBoy and GameBoy Color games on Android devices. My Boy! and My Old Boy! emulators have fast and reliable performance. Gamers can play their favorite Game Boy titles in a smoother and more modern way. Apart from that, we’ll let you in on a little secret ― both emulators support cheat codes! This definitely adds an extra layer of fun and customization.

Their friendly interfaces are certainly one of the highlights for many users. In addition, the ability to customize controls and graphics settings is also a plus. A user wrote a review saying that My OldBoy! is the best GameBoy emulator for mobile/Android, and they also loved the level of customization. Another user said that they love this emulator because it runs better than the rest. In addition, the user mentioned that it has a really easy-to-use interface.

So, if you’re using an Android device and want to go back in time, these might be the right picks for you.

Happy Chick

Happy Chick is a comprehensive handheld gaming emulator that is surely becoming popular with retro gamers. And there is a good reason why. The Happy Chick offers a wide range of retro game consoles. Also, the interface is easy-to-use, so you won’t have an issue in finding your favorite games. Lastly, this handheld gaming emulator comes with a nice built-in game library, so you don’t have to search for ROMs separately.

In addition, there are multiplayer capabilities, which are pretty cool, too! A satisfied gamer said that it’s a great video game app for those who love Crash Bandicoot games, Spyro games,  Mario games, Lego, and Sonic Games.


mGBA is a handheld gaming emulator specifically designed for Game Boy Advance games. Designed with precision and accuracy in mind, mGBA provides an authentic and reliable gaming experience for fans of the emulator handheld. It has a great performance, offering smooth gameplay and fast emulation speed. Additional features like save states and cheat code support enhance the overall experience, allowing users to customize their gameplay and progress conveniently.

In a positive user experience, a satisfied gamer wrote that mGBA is the ultimate Gameboy Advance emulator, with others saying that mGBA is the best handheld emulator for GBA games.

DraStic DS Emulator

DraStic DS Emulator is a popular choice for playing Nintendo DS games on Android devices. This handheld gaming emulator has smooth performance and optimized emulation that make it an excellent option for retro gaming. DraStic DS Emulator supports enhanced graphics, allowing games to look better than ever before on your Android device. The emulator also offers various customization options, such as screen layout customization and controller customization, to tailor the gaming experience to your preferences.

Specific examples of popular Nintendo DS games that can be played using the DraStic DS Emulator include Pokémon Black and White, Mario Kart DS, and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. One user wrote that they used this emulator for over 4 years and that it’s the most reliable and user-friendly experience they ever had when it comes to DS Emulators.

Final Words

The top 8 handheld gaming emulators presented in this article offer a range of features and benefits for retro gaming enthusiasts. From the versatile RetroArch to the user-friendly OpenEmu and the popular RetroPie, these emulators give great performances and compatibility and feature extensive game libraries. With the comprehensive capabilities of Happy Chick or the accuracy and performance of mGBA, or the fun My Boy! and My Old Boy! To or the great DraStic DS, each listed emulator offers a unique gaming experience to accommodate personal gaming needs, wants, and preferences.

We encourage readers to explore these emulators and embark on an immersive retro gaming journey. Relive the magic of classic games from your childhood on portable devices, bringing nostalgia to life in the modern era. The joy and excitement of those beloved games can now be experienced anytime, anywhere. So, grab your favorite handheld gaming emulator, load up those cherished titles, and let the nostalgia-filled adventure begin!

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