For most students, summer means a break from class; however, for student nerds, summer is the time for E3 and Comic-Con to reveal the latest in video games and comic books respectively.

The former of the two revealed the Nintendo 3DS, the latest in Nintendo's handheld gaming devices, as Joystiq reported. With the 3DS, you get the latest in 3D technology and effects, but without those silly 3D glasses. It's some crazy "future is now" stuff.

But while the 3DS is going to put a 3D gaming system with Wii-level graphics in your pocket, it probably isn't going to be the cheapest hand-held gaming option. Luckily for college students looking to kill time between classes (and please, not during), cheap ways exist to get great portable games. Let's take a look at some slightly older (but still fun) options:
Nintendo DS Lite

Sure, the 3DS is going to blow the lid off of the original DS' graphics, but the Nintendo DS still has plenty of excellent games, from the most recent in the Pokemon series to the Zelda games. And since the DS Lite is slightly older than the DSi, which has a built-in camera, it comes slightly cheaper.

Here's a look at the price specs and a few benefits of owning a DS Lite.
  • The DS Lite can be purchased for $129.99 new, but used consoles abound for around $80.
  • The games, especially older titles, run cheap. Big-name Nintendo games such as Mario Kart DS and The Legends of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, can usually be found on Amazon's Marketplace or Half.com for $20 or less.
  • They play Game Boy Advance games. Although they seem like they were made light-years ago, those GBA games include plenty of remakes of classic NES, SNES and Sega Genesis titles. And those games run really cheap. A cursory look at Half.com's selection of GBA games shows that most of them are $10 or cheaper.

PSP 3000

The PSP's latest iteration, the PSP Go, relies solely on downloadable content. Instead of purchasing physical copies of new games, the PSP Go has no disc drive, so downloading is a necessity. So what does that mean? Used copies of PSP games become marginally cheaper! And that's not the only perk to the PSP.

  • A new PSP 3000 runs for $169.99 on Amazon, but used models run $130 and cheaper. Granted, that's still much more expensive than the DS Lite, but its graphics quality is equal to the PS2's.
  • Again, the games (especially older ones) can be found for really cheap. A new copy of LittleBigPlanet for PSP runs for $23 on Half.com, and many of the games on the site's PSP page run for less than $15.
  • What's more, the PSP plays movies. And the best part? The UMD format didn't go over at all, so movies are dirt cheap. Want a copy of "Robocop" to watch on your PSP? Three bucks. The complete first season of "Da Ali G Show"? Eight dollars. How about that U2 concert film "Rattle and Hum"? It's yours for a buck!

Vintage hand-held systems


And why stop with the newer stuff? There are more great hand-held systems from before the 2000s waiting to be played. Let's look at the affordable ones.

  • The Sega Game Gear was the big, forgotten competitor to the Game Boy. Like the Sega Genesis, it was a great system. You can find a Game Gear on eBay (often bundled with games) for less than $25. (Just be sure the system is in working condition before you buy it.)
  • Of course before the DS or even the Game Boy Advance, there were many models of Game Boy. There was the Game Boy Pocket, and the last model before the GBA, the Game Boy Color. On that machine, you could play hundreds of classic Game Boy games. Again, the system can be found on eBay for less than $25.
Evan Minsker's Thrifty Tech appears Tuesdays. Got a hot, cheap-tech tip, question or comment? Write to Evan via our email address, MoneyCollege@WalletPop.com.

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