The $99 Powkiddy is exploding on TikTok — what’s up with this handheld console?

powkiddy rgb 20s
(Image credit: Powkiddy)

If you’ve been on gaming TikTok lately, you might have heard of a product called the Powkiddy RGB 20S. This $99 console looks like a Game Boy and claims it can play just about any retro game, from the NES all the way up through the PS1 and the Nintendo DS. And, if nothing else, it’s an excellent illustration for why you shouldn’t take game consoles recommendations from TikTok too seriously.

I have to assume that the target audience for the RGB20S is on the younger side, and might not be familiar with the spate of cheap knockoffs that has plagued the market ever since the dawn of console gaming. The Powkiddy RGB20S appears to be one such console — and if you have a smartphone, then frankly, you already have a better handheld gaming device.

To cover the basics, the Powkiddy RGB 20S looks like a slightly smaller, squatter Game Boy, except with more buttons. It's available on Walmart for $99 (opens in new tab)and Amazon for $129 (opens in new tab), but that doesn't mean you should but it.

@powkiddyus (opens in new tab)

♬ Miss You (Sped Up Version) - _ (opens in new tab)

The rectangular device features two analog sticks, a D-pad, face buttons and navigation buttons on the front, as well as four shoulder buttons on the back. The front buttons are actually arranged in a smiley face — in much the same way that crocodiles look like they’re smiling when they devour their prey, one would assume. On the sides, you can insert one microSD card for the OS, and one microSD card for storage, and this is where we start running into trouble.

The Powkiddy RGB 20S is an open-source Linux machine. As such, there are no physical cartridges to buy, and no digital game store to patronize. Instead, the Powkiddy website advertises that the system can handle “mainstream simulators,” which is the company’s way of sidestepping the word “emulators.” The company assumes that every game you play on the system will be a pirated copy, and it’s probably right.

We’re not going to debate the ethics of pirating retro games in this piece. However, producing an entire console just to illegally distribute other companies’ games is somewhere between “cavalier” and “unscrupulous,” depending on your view. (We also wonder how Sony would feel about Powkiddy promoting a screenshot of PS1’s Spider-Man in one of its user reviews.)

Beyond that, the Powkiddy site simply doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. There are five user reviews, all of which appear to be fake, while the product’s full official name is “POWKIDDY RGB20S 3.5-Inch 4:3 IPS OGA Screen Open Source Handheld Game Console RK3326 Special Back Button Children's Gifts.” When a company writes a product description for a search engine algorithm rather than an end-user, that’s usually not a good sign. The Chrome tab for Powkiddy’s site flashes “We miss you!” every time you check another window, like a jealous ex.

The silliest thing about this whole situation, though, is that if you have $99 to spend on a mobile gaming accessory, you can already get a much better one: the Razer Kishi V2, for example, or the Backbone One. These devices will turn your existing smartphone into an impromptu handheld console, complete with a much bigger screen and better-arrayed buttons. You’ll have access to legitimate games via the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, not to mention cloud gaming via Xbox Game Pass and Nvidia GeForce Now. Even if you insist on using emulators, there’s plenty of good stuff out there for Android. (iOS is a bit more difficult, but still feasible.)

In any case, we don’t know why the Powkiddy RGB20S has gained so much traction on Gen Z’s favorite social media platform. But whatever its benefits may be, TikTok is excellent at spreading misinformation, and gaming is just as susceptible to bad advice as public health or politics. If you need a handheld gaming console, we recommend a Nintendo Switch, a Steam Deck or a controller mount for your phone.

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