A History of Nintendo Handhelds

Few gaming hardware makers brandish comparable lineage and legacy to Nintendo’s, and that goes double for its handhelds. While it’s true the likes of Sega, Sony, Microsoft, and others have all given Nintendo home consoles a run for their money (and often succeeded), when it comes to handheld gaming Nintendo’s dominance has gone consistently unchallenged since the dawn of the Game Boy and even prior. While some competitors have found success in tandem with Nintendo’s efforts (Sony’s PSP comes to mind), none have managed a full dethroning, and as such for over 20 years serious portable gaming has been a Nintendo-dominated affair.

Such lasting valor is no simple feat, and the history of the Kyoto-based company’s handheld devices is a long and expectedly complicated one. As such, we thought it appropriate to lay it all out clearly, in a way that’s easy to consume and understand. Beyond simple lineage, there are a number of key movers and shakers, particular game releases and killer apps, spinoffs that didn’t quite work out as planned, and even entirely new form factors such as 2005’s Nintendo DS and 2017’s hybrid Nintendo Switch.

Below is a comprehensive overview of Nintendo handhelds’ past, present, and if you read between the lines, very solid indications regarding their future. The Wii U was Nintendo’s lowest-selling major home console to date – with yesteryear in mind, why not just turn your home console into a handheld? That’s exactly the mindset behind Nintendo Switch, and if the storied past of Nintendo’s handheld consoles are anything to go by, embracing portability in the face of extinction will ultimately prove to be a very wise move.

Note that you can click the infographic to view it in full-screen.


Infographic text, data, and layout by GameRevolution Contributing Editor Griffin Vacheron. Graphics by Evolve Media Editorial Graphic Designers Ana Caloca and Yahid Rodriguez.