I tried these new retro handheld game consoles, and they’re the perfect hit of nostalgia

Mega Man Pocket Player Pro
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best handheld gaming consoles have advanced significantly over the years, but there’s still something quite nostalgic about a dedicated handheld that plays one game and one game only.

Before the Nintendo Switch, the Steam Deck and even Nintendo’s original Game Boy, it was quite common to purchase an inexpensive handheld game console that allowed you to play one game — or perhaps, even a few different variations of that same game. These days, though, you have plenty of choices when it comes to gaming on the go among the best Nintendo Switch Games or the best Steam games if you’re playing on Valve’s new Steam Deck OLED.

Still, sometimes it’s nice to go back to a time when you could only play a single game with a much cheaper handheld like McDonald’s Chicken Nugget Tetris that’s a bit more durable than your Switch or Steam Deck. My Arcade just released its new line of Pocket Player Pro handhelds, and if you’re looking for a gift for that older gamer in your life or even some inexpensive retro gaming on the go, these new little consoles might be just what you’re after.

From Pac-Man to Street Fighter to Tetris and even Mega Man, there are a wide collection of dedicated handheld Pocket Player Pro devices. It’s also worth noting that all of these games are officially licensed, and My Arcade has designed each handheld to capture the essence of these classic, retro games.

I’ve been testing out a few of the company’s new Pocket Player Pro handheld consoles for the past week  and to be honest, I forgot just how fun it can be trying to master a single game as opposed to staring at my backlog wondering what to play. Here’s how all these new little handhelds stack up along with which one was my favorite to play on.

Batteries not included

A picture showing the battery compartments on the My Arcade Pocket Player Pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Just like with My Arcade’s Atari GameStation Pro mini console, the company’s Pocket Player Pro handhelds don’t feature a rechargeable battery. Instead, just like with the original GameBoy, they each take four AA batteries. However, this time around, they power a 2.75-inch full color screen that’s slightly larger than the GameBoy’s display but smaller than the Game Gear’s screen which required six AA batteries.

Although some would likely prefer a single, rechargeable battery, I feel that having two AA batteries on either side of each Pocket Player Pro handheld gives them a nice weight in your hand. This also makes it easy to swap out batteries on the go where you might not have access to a power outlet or the time needed to recharge your handheld.

The battery compartments make the My Arcade Pocket Player Pro easier to hold

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Each Pocket Player Pro handheld also has its own unique design and color scheme. This one pictured above is light blue on the back and navy blue on the front as it’s designed to resemble Mega Man’s iconic suit. Besides bulging out at the back, the handheld’s grips feature several lines to help give you a better grip. Each device also comes with a lanyard pre-installed as they are designed to be played on the go after all.

Similar functionality but slightly different designs

Several My Arcade Pocket Player Pro handheld consoles on a table

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

My Arcade sells a total of nine different Pocket Player Pro handhelds. While the company sent over the Tetris, Street Fighter, Mega Man and Ms. Pac-Man ones for me to check out, there’s also an Atari, Galaga, Data East and Space Invaders one, too.

Each handheld has a 2.75-inch screen, adjustable brightness and a single, front-facing speaker (just like the GameBoy) with volume controls. There are some slight differences between them and the games that are meant to be played vertically like Space Invaders, Galaga and Pac-Man have their screens in landscape orientation. The other Pocket Player Pro handhelds have horizontal screens in portrait orientation.

A picture of the opening animation on the Street Fighter II Pocket Player Pro

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Another big difference between these various handhelds is the number of buttons they have. With the Super Street Fighter II Pocket Player Pro pictured above, it has six buttons like on a Sega Genesis controller as this is the best way to play this classic fighting game. Meanwhile, the Mega Man handheld has two buttons and the Pac-Man ones don’t have any buttons at all.

The number of games on each handheld is slightly different, too. Of the ones I’ve tested, the Mega Man Pocket Player Pro had the most games with six entries from the series while the Pac-Man handheld has just one. I do like the fact that the Street Fighter II Pocket Player Pro has both Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers and Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition.

While I’ve played a bit of Street Fighter 6 with the 8BitDo Arcade Stick for Xbox, I’m by no means a seasoned Street Fighter player. Still, I enjoyed playing a few rounds of Street Fighter II here and there throughout my day. I like how quickly the Pocket Player Pro boots up and even though all of these handhelds have a circular D-pad. I was able to pull off a few Hadoukens without much difficulty. The buttons on the right hand side have a decent amount of travel to them and were quite responsive during my testing.

Nostalgic handheld gaming but with a few modern conveniences

Playing all of My Arcade’s different Pocket Player Pro handhelds really took me back to when I was a kid before I got my first GameBoy. You see, my Dad had me start with single-game handhelds from Tiger Electronics before he finally let me get a GameBoy and then a Game Gear. It was only after I showed that I could responsibly play on those two handhelds that I was allowed to use some of the money I had saved up to get a Super Nintendo.

Although the Pocket Player Pro requires four AA batteries, there’s also a USB-C port at the bottom if you want to power it off of the wall or even with one of the best portable chargers. Having a color screen on a device like this is another big upgrade compared to the single game handhelds I played growing up. 

At $40 each (at My Arcade's website), these Pocket Player Pro handhelds aren’t the cheapest, but they aren’t too expensive either. Sure, you could save up a bit more and get a device like the Nintendo Switch Lite instead, but that kind of defeats the purpose. 

I’ve carried a Pocket Player Pro with me in my bag all week and I haven’t been worried about it getting roughed up as they are all very solidly built. With a more expensive handheld, though, I would be concerned and would need a case and screen protector too.

The holidays are behind us, but a Pocket Player Pro could make a great birthday gift for older gamers who grew up playing these retro games at the arcade. At the same time, they could also make a great first starter console for your kids, especially if you want to introduce them to gaming without spending a fortune or having to hand them one of the best phones. Personally, I plan on letting my son try out all of these handhelds as I know they’re durable enough and I won’t have to mess around with the best parental control apps on my smartphone.

I know most people may not appreciate these little single game handhelds the way that I do, but I see them as a great way to preserve these classic titles while giving younger generations a chance to see how we played before smartphones and the Nintendo Switch.

More from Tom's Guide

Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home. 

  • Zenith0616
    Looks like Tiger Electronics in the modern age. Also can't help but laugh and the Mega Man's design choice. B is for Button-Bashing a Bot's Balls.
  • mtthwmrtn777
    The article is very thorough and made me really excited about these retro handhelds. But unfortunately the article features links to everything else under the sun, except for a single link to where someone could actually find this product if they wanted to buy it.