The Guardian’s reasoning for placing the Nintendo Switch in first place is simple: the fusion of handheld and home console combines the greatest parts of all of its past consoles into one.
Judging by library as opposed to technical capability, I think the DS is the handheld to beat. It had such a ridiculously broad range of titles. From “My Stop Smoking Coach” to “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars”.
Unfortunately, with “smart” phones having taken over the world from 2009, a lot of the “broader” entries in the DS library would now be free-to-play garbage on mobile platforms. Ironically, even with the accessibility of the eShop having removed a lot of the barriers that DS developers had to contend with (with even the humblest of titles requiring a physical retail release), the DS library still manages to be more diverse than what is currently available in the Switch eShop.
And I really miss miniaturised adaptations of larger scale console releases that were so commonplace in earlier generations.
Either way, I love all Nintendo handhelds. I never had a Game Boy, but I really, really wanted a GBC as a kid, and I loved GB/GBC games much more so than GBA. The 3DS is a piece of magic that hasn’t been replicated since. I loved gaming in 3D on the go, and am sad to see 3D lose favour with the masses. Each system has their place, and I love a small-scale GB/GBC/GBA title every bit as much as a AAA blockbuster on Switch.
Honestly I really do think the Switch is the greatest handheld of all time, the Switch Lite specifically, because everything about it feels like the ideal handheld to me. It’s the perfect size, it has a wonderful shape that is very to the point with no gimmicks and great functionality, and it’s capable to the point where it can play just about anything you would want to play.
My Runner up would easily be the Game Boy Advanced, specifically the GBA SP, as that was an amazing handheld for it’s time, but the difference between that during it’s heyday and the Switch shows off the big difference between these consoles. Back then the handheld version of a game had to be a unique game designed specifically to work on the handheld console. Even though the GBA was a very capable machine in it’s time, it was sort of like using an enhanced SNES in the PS2 era. This meant ports and games in general had to work with a far more primitive design than what was the standard for the home consoles at the time. It wasn’t until the Vita that we saw a real attempt at trying to bridge that gap between the home and handheld games, but even then the hardware just wasn’t quite there to really make it work all the time.
The Switch is the first console where the difference between the handheld and home console versions is mostly cosmetic, where there is a wide variety of games that you can find among other home market platforms available for you to play on the go. There is really no such thing as a handheld specific game anymore thanks to the capabilities of the Switch, and because of that we have the biggest and most diverse library we could hope for on the platform. Like no matter what your interests are, there is a great deal of games that will appeal to you. I simply enjoy playing games on my Switch Lite, there is just something about simple right sized approach to a handheld that makes a lot of games really enjoyable.