A Moms’ Guide To Handheld Video Games

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Handheld video games. For some parents they are genius inventions that make long trips with kids possible. For others, they are a dreaded last resort. Still, when you’re traveling there are always long flights and stretches of driving. There are unforeseen delays and cancelations and traffic jams. And in those situations, a device that will absorb your kids and make an hour or two go by quickly can be a welcome thing.

Plus, handheld video games do much more than just play games. Kids can use them to watch movies, listen to music and even text their friends, which means They don’t need to ask for your phone/tablet/e-reader; you get to keep it!

For those of you looking to buy a handheld gaming console, here are four handheld gaming systems to consider and key details to help you decide which one is the best fit for your family trips.

The System: Nintendo 3DS XL

Nintendo's latest handheld video gamesThe Price: About $300

The Details: The cool thing about this handheld are the stereoscopic 3D effects you can use without the need to use 3D glasses or any additional accessories. Additionally, it offers features that allow kids to download and play games originally released on older versions. You can also download apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Youtube.

Nintendo pre-loadss this console with an online shop, a social networking service, an internet browser and a messaging application that enhances usability, but that parents might want to keep an eye on.

The 3D mode drains battery considerably faster —important to consider when traveling. But parental controls let you restrict the use of a 3D mode, which is recommended for kids 6 and under. You can expect a maximum of three-and-a-half hours of playtime in 3D mode and more than five hours without it.

Some Games: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (10+) Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (10+). There are also Lego, puzzle, and art games, and variations on Pokémon and Mario Brothers.

The System: Play Station Vita

Sony's latest Playstation handheld video gamesThe Price: About $250

The Details: This Sony handheld video game came out a few months after Nintendo’s 3DS and these are the two hot consoles right now.

This one has a 5-inch touchscreen, two small joysticks and front and shoulder push-buttons, providing for some versatility in play. It supports Bluetooth and Wifi as well as 3G wireless.

Kids can stream or download favorites like Minecraft from a large library. They can also use this device to listen to music or watch films stored on a memory card. It has both back and front-facing cameras and kids can chat with friends via Skype and other apps. They can also download Netflix, Hulu Plus and Youtube. Back home, you can use it to play your PS4 games, via your Wifi.

The battery lasts for 4 hours, but keep in mind streaming can use more power than playing things already uploaded to it.

There are some games for younger kids, but most are aimed at a 10+ audience. Think of this as the console for your tween that your younger child might borrow.

Some Games: Thomas Was Alone (E, Platformer). Mousecraft (E, Puzzle).

The System: Nvidia Shield

the Nvidia handheld video gamesThe Price: About $600

Nvidia Shield is the most robust console on the list—and the most expensive. Its most unique feature is mobile streaming of your PC video games. Yup, install an Nvidia graphic card on your computer and play any game you have on it on your handheld.

It runs on the Android OS, so if you can download the game to your Android phone, you can use it with this console. Just be warned that the touchscreen is pretty clunky, which can take the fun out of some games.

Hardware includes a pretty impressive console, 5-inch HD touchscreen and a battery that can last you up to 6 hours. It doesn’t have a camera though. And it’s larger and heavier than other portables. You can’t just put it in your pocket when you aren’t using it.

Some Games: Common Sense Media lists the best Android games for ages 2 through 14. We also have a list of apps that get high approval ratings from parents.

The Game: GameBoy Color

classic Gameboy handheld video gamesThe Price: A new one sells for up to $400 but used ones can be had for $40 or $50.

The Details: This handheld video game dates from 1998. You read that right; if this console went to Europe it would be old enough to drink. It made this list for a few reasons.

Nostalgia is one. Only 90’s kids will remember this handheld and they are starting to have their own families. This is a reminder for them to pass on the fun they had with it in a retro cool way.

The screen is small, but the whole console is easy to tuck into a backpack or back pocket, making it the most portable of the bunch. You can’t listen to music and watch movies on this one, or text your friends—which some parents might view as a plus.

Since all it does is play games, its battery life is unbeatable. It uses 2 AA batteries that can last up to 30 hours. So you can buy a pack of batteries and travel across the country without worrying about where will you recharge your device.

Some Games (If you succeed to acquire them): Conker’s Pocket Tales (E), Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX (E).


You can always put a limit on screen time for these handheld video games —set one knowing your kids will run over—and then go back to 20 Questions or some other road game. But having the digital option can be just the thing sometimes.


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a moms' buyers guide to handheld video games for kids. #kids #videogames #buyingguide

Dominik Schwab is the founder of FatalDose. He’s also a skydiver, adventure addict, and fan of video games. When he isn’t chasing some adrenalin rush (real or virtual),  you can find him in a quiet corner writing about his latest adventures.

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