Times have changed since the days when a Game Boy was your only option for mobile gaming. Today, we not only have portable gaming consoles, but also tablets, e-readers, and even our cell-phones, each offering a unique plethora of gaming goodness. Few of us can afford to buy them all, and even if you could, who would want to carry all that luggage around? So which device is best for you or your child’s gaming needs?
Examples: iPad, Nexus 10, Kindle Fire HD 8.9”
Price Range: $300 and up
Recommended Age Range: 2 and up
These are the priciest option initially, but also offer the cheapest games (many for $5 or less) and largest library, not to mention the widest range of functions outside gaming. The only problem with a tablet other than price is that it lacks buttons and joysticks, which the 3DS and PS Vita both offer in addition to their touch screens. As a result, the tablet games tend to be more shallow, so older gamers may quickly grow bored of them. This is a plus when dealing with very young kids between 2 and 6 years old, however, because the simplicity of the games, paired with the intuitive nature of a tablet’s touch screen controls, makes them easier to understand and enjoy. Tablets also offer a wide range or learning tools and educational games perfect for young kids.
Mini-Tablets and E-Readers
Examples: iPad Mini, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire, Nook
Price Range: $159 and up
Recommended Age Range: 2 and up
These are very similar to tablets, just smaller and less expensive. Many of the same games and features available on standard tablets are also available here, but e-readers like the Kindle Fire and Nook have a noticeably smaller library of games, and often needing their own specific versions that come out months later according to CNET. I wouldn’t recommend an e-reader to fill your gaming needs, but it you’re looking for an affordable media device that also has a decent selection of cheap and simple games (and you don’t already own a smart phone), it’s a good choice.
Price Range: $170 – $200
Recommended Age Range: 6 and up
The 3DS has a great selection of games for slightly older kids as well as adults, and it’s one of the best options for pure gaming. Nintendo offers extra features like a camera and web browser, but they are far inferior to those of a tablet like Apple’s iPad. The games are more expensive ($30-$40 new), but I find them to also be much more involving and longer lasting than most tablet games, and it’s also worth mentioning that the 3DS can play all games from the original DS console, most of which can now be purchased at a heavy discount. The console itself is much more affordable than a tablet, costing about $170 for a classic 3DS and $200 for the larger 3DS XL. The extra money for the XL is advised if smaller screens hurt your eyes, but be aware the console will likely no longer fit in a standard pocket.
Sony Playstation Vita
Price Range: $250 – $300
Recommended Age Range: 10 and up
The PS Vita is just as good an option as the 3DS for pure gaming, but Geek.com says it’s targeted to a more mature audience. I find the games tend to be more complicated and/or violent and also cost a little more than 3DS games (about $40 new). The graphics are superior to most 3DS gamesaccording to Geek.com, but this is not likely something a child under 10 will notice or care much about. The console itself costs somewhere between a 3DS and a tablet, offering features similar to both. It functions better as a media device than the 3DS, but still nowhere near as well as a tablet, so I recommend mainly buying this for gaming.
Some Recommended Tablet Games
Slingshot birds across the screen to knock down structures built by evil pigs. It may sound weird, but this is always a popular choice with kids, and the addictive gameplay can entrance adults as well.
Slide your finger across the screen to slice up flying pieces of fruit. Another addictive game popular among younger and older gamers alike.
Cut the Rope
Use your finger to cut different ropes in an effort to feed candy to an adorable monster. This is a physics puzzle game that offers plenty of challenges.
Some Recommended Nintendo 3DS Games
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Pretty much any Mario game will usually offer a good time for players of all ages. This newest game offers a pleasant mix of new and old Mario charm, and even has multi-player co-op support for playing with friends.
Pokémon Black Version 2 or Pokémon White Version 2
Collect, train, and battle hundreds of different types of monsters in a quest to be the best. The Pokémon games are always popular and offer near-endless hour of fun for all ages.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask
The Professor Layton games are puzzle and brain-teaser collections that usually revolve around solving some sort of mystery. The puzzles can get pretty tough, but they’re great for building thinking and problem-solving skills. This game is better suited to the 8+ age range.
Some Recommended Playstation Vita Games
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
A collection of 2 classics from the Metal Gear Solid series of stealth action games. This bundle is a great deal that just about any PS Vita owner will appreciate.
Uncharted: Golden Abyss
An action-adventure game full of exciting movie-like gun fights and plenty of explosions. The Uncharted franchise is among the best-selling on the Playstation 3, and this portable version brings all the fun and excitement into the palm of your hand.
LittleBigPlanet PS Vita
A fun side-scrolling and creation game that’s more kid-friendly than many of the Vita’s other offerings, though it remains immensely enjoyable for older players as well. This is also one of the better options for multiplayer on the Vita.