(Pocket-lint) - The Nintendo GameBoy came out in Japan 30 years ago in April and launched in the US on 31 July 1989. But with Sony finally closing the chapter on its own handheld gaming exploits and the Nintendo 2DS and 3DS on their final descent, the days of dedicated portable games consoles look to be over. 

Yes, there is the superb Switch to ensure we can continue to game on the go, while handheld gaming will continue on smartphones, of course. However, small form factor games machines could soon be a thing of the past. They are destined to be playthings of retro fans and collectors alone.

There's no need to feel glum though, handheld gameplay has provided many great memories over the years and nobody can take them away from us.

Here then are our favourite portable consoles that made us beam from ear to ear.


Nintendo GameBoy

The true daddy of all handheld consoles, the Nintendo GameBoy effectively defined the category on its launch in 1989. It also brought Tetris into many more lives for the first time, including our own. It wasn't the first version of the game, but lordy was it the most addictive and popular. We can even hear the music now as we write.

Many versions of the GameBoy were released in later years, including the GameBoy Color, but the classic, chunky, greyish original will always live on the longest in our hearts.

James Case

Sega Game Gear

A year after the GameBoy arrived, Sega launched a rival machine that was superior in almost every way except one, very important aspect. Because its 3.2-inch backlit screen was full colour, battery life was atrocious. A GameBoy could last for up to 15 hours of play on four AA batteries, while the Game Gear struggled to last more than three hours on 6 AAs.

Nonetheless, those who had a Game Gear loved it, with almost full versions of games ported from the Sega Master System fitting on its tiny cartridges. The handheld's version of Sonic The Hedgehog was amazing for its time and hardware restrictions.


Galaxy Invader 1000

There were 100s of one-game handhelds released in the early 1980s but few are as fondly remembered as Galaxy Invader 1000. The bright yellow machine was licensed from Tandy - which had its own variant, Fire Away - but we'd be willing to bet more still have CGL's version of the game still lurking in their lofts.

The game itself was simple, a slimmed down cross between Space Invaders and Galaxian, and the screen used fixed LEDs where the invaders and your ship appeared in just a few positions. But, it was as addictive as any arcade machine around the time and a real treat for kids when they found one under the tree at Christmas.


Neo Geo Pocket Color

The Neo Geo Pocket Color was a short-lived machine, only surviving for a couple of years at the turn of the millenium. However, it was a real favourite of hardcore gamers at the time - especially those who loved the shoot 'em ups and beat 'em ups from SNK.

The colour version followed a monochrome Neo Geo Pocket, but adding the better screen did not seemingly impact on battery life. Some even claim they got a couple of days of constant play out of theirs.


Nintendo GameBoy Advance

Nintendo really upped its game with the GameBoy Advance. It was a 32-bit machine, so blew several competitors out of the park, including the Neo Geo Pocket Color, on its launch in 2001. It was also compatible will all GameBoy and GameBoy Color games, so had a large library already available when it first hit stores.

As the hardware was comparable to a SNES, games like Mario Kart: Super Circuit became instant favourites. You can even still see some of its best tracks in the latest Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Nintendo Switch.

Evan-Amos (Wiki Commons)

PC Engine GT

Also called the TurboExpress in the US, the PC Engine GT never made it to the UK or Europe unless you imported one. It was basically a handheld version of the TurboGrafx-16 games console and could play the exact same game cards as the larger unit.

It was very advanced for its time, having been released in 1990. There was even a TV tuner built into the unit so you could use it as a portable set. However, it was also hideously expensive, priced at $249 (£189) on launch - equating to almost $480 in today's prices with inflation.

Jesse S (Flickr)

Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)

Sony's first real foray into handheld gaming came in the form of the PlayStation Portable, otherwise known as the Sony PSP. It was first released in Japan in 2004 - coming to the UK and US a year later - and provided a superb, on-the-road gaming experience. This was mainly thanks to its 4.3-inch LCD screen and versions of big PlayStation hits, such as WipeOut and God of War.

It wasn't without fault though, with some original consoles sold sporting dead pixels on the screen (we had to replace two of them ourselves). And the odd-shaped Universal Media Disc (UMD) games were a pain to store because of their size. Also, don't get use started on the PSP Go with its slide out keypad.

Blake Patterson (Flickr)

Atari Lynx

Atari dabbled in the handheld market back in 1989 with the Lynx and while it was no looker, its full colour display and 16-bit hardware made it the geek's choice of device.

Unfortunately though, poor overall sales meant that game support was nowhere near as prolific as its rivals. Like the Game Gear, the Lynx also had poor battery life, with six AA batteries lasting up to five hours at most. Still, we loved ours and some of Atari's own arcade conversions played brilliantly on the Lynx.


Nintendo Game & Watch

Before Game & Watch, Nintendo had dabbled in a TV games machine and coin-ops, but the small, handheld single-game devices changed everything. They were simple, with the first generation at the turn of the 80s sporting just one monochrome LCD screen and basic controls. But later down the line came dual-screen versions in clamshell cases - an idea the Japanese gaming giant would return to for the DS and 3DS many years later,

The Game & Watch version of Donkey Kong was perhaps the best known of the latter models, especially as Nintendo developed the original arcade game. The range also hosted early appearances of Mario too.

Joe Haupt (Wiki Commons)

Tomytronic 3D

Of all the handheld games of the early 1980s, the Tomytronic 3D system was by far the most bizarre. But, maybe it was just ahead of its time, because it was effectively a VR headset that gave you a three-dimensional view of a specific game.

There were several in the series, including Shark Attack and the one we remember most, Space Attack. Long term play could cause a headache, but we didn't care when we were kids as it was a sign of the future. A strangely prophetic one, at that.


Nintendo DS

With the GameBoy brand waning, Nintendo stepped up in 2004 with a truly innovative handheld games console, the Nintendo DS. Its DNA still lives on with the 2DS and 3DS because the idea of having a lower touchscreen and upper play area still resonates today.

A cracking selection of launch titles, including Super Mario 64 DS, ensured that people had plenty to play on it from the very start. And accessory manufacturers were pleased as the DS stylus was always going missing, so replacements were in high demand.


PlayStation Vita

Sony's follow-up to the PSP was (is) a superb machine, with the original model sporting an excellent 5-inch OLED touchscreen. Uniquely, there was also a touchpanel on the rear, although we never found a game that used it adequately enough.

A second model, affectionately dubbed the PS Vita Slim, swapped the OLED panel for LCD but was lighter, thinner and had a more universal charging port. Both could also be linked to a PlayStation 4 to remotely play games on the smaller screen around the home. Will be sorely missed now it has been discontinued.


Nintendo 3DS/2DS

Pretty much the only still standing members of such high regarded company are the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS models we use today. First released in 2011, the 3DS was the first handheld games console with a glasses-free 3D screen. It meant games could show depth and look more immersive.

Unfortunately, the 3D on the first versions were often criticised as moving the console while playing tended to ruin the effect, even to the point where it became painful to view. But later models improved the technology. Plus, non-2D versions, in the shape of the 2DS and current Nintendo 2DS XL, arrived for those who'd rather not have the stereoscopic tech at all.


Nintendo Switch

We see the Nintendo Switch as a revolutionary handheld console. Obviously it's not as powerful as a fully-fledged console like the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, but for portable gaming, it reigns supreme. 

A great line-up of games including the likes of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,  Super Mario Odyssey and many more besides, make the Switch incredibly appealing. As does the ability to dock the console to play on the big screen. 


Nintendo Switch Lite

The Nintendo Switch Lite isn't just a smaller version of standard Switch, it also works as a replacement to the DS family of consoles too.

A weight reduction and design change mean it's still powerful and great for gaming on the go. If you don't mind ditching the ability to dock to game on your TV then the Switch Lite is a viable option. 

Writing by Rik Henderson.