A new Android-powered micro-console is seemingly announced every two seconds. By the time you've finished reading this paragraph, three more Ouya Inc. competitors will probably be seeking funding on Indiegogo.

It is an insane epidemic. Just trying to keep up with all these different Android-powered consoles is a Herculean AND Sisyphean task. I mean, really, do you know the difference between Ouya and Unu? Or what separates the GamePop from the PlayDroid?

I made that last one up, so I'll know you're lying if you just said "yes".

Thankfully, we're here to make sense of this somewhat absurd trend, and to help you get a handle on the situation before all these plastic boxes become obsolete and are buried in the New Mexico desert.


Ouya

Ouya

What is it?

Ouya is a Rubik's Cube-sized Android-powered console which you can hook up to your TV and play video games on. Nice and simple.

Ouya could be held responsible for this entire fad. The company behind it raised a whopping $8.5 million on Kickstarter, and opened the floodgates for dozens of copycat micro-consoles.

What games does it play?

Ouya does not play nicely with Google Play. Instead, it has its own digital marketplace with its own selection of games.

It's largely filled with Android ports that have been tweaked to work with Ouya and its controllers, like League of Evil, Ice Rage, Final Fantasy III, and Inferno+. You can also play retro games on it, through various emulators.

There are a few Ouya-exclusive titles, like madcap bow and arrow battler TowerFall and the super-silly The Amazing Frog. And Ouya Inc. is spending lots of cash on securing new exclusive games.

Every game on Ouya is free to try. That mostly just means that you download a free demo and can pay to unlock the full thing.

You can also sideload stuff onto the console, if you're feeling brave. That way, you can use unsupported apps, like Netflix.

What's the controller like?

A little cheap and tacky, to be honest. Luckily, it's relatively easy to hook up a PS3 controller or an Xbox 360 pad and use that, instead. Most games - and all the good ones - support all three controllers.

When's it out and how much does it cost?

Ouya is out now in the US and UK. It costs $99 or £99.

Who's it for?

Those who want to play SNES games on their TV. People who want to play fun local multiplayer games. Those who want to see what all the TowerFall fuss is about. People who like delving through stacks of weird, crap, experimental, amateur, or brilliant indie games.


GameStick

GameStick

What is it?

It looks like a USB thumb drive, but it actually goes in your TV's HDMI port. Then, hook it up to the included Bluetooth controller and you can play Android games on your telly.

It's the smallest micro-console on this list. If it were any smaller, we might have to coin the term 'nano-console'. It was a more modest success on Kickstarter than Ouya, with GameStick attracting donations of $600k.

What games does it play?

GameStick doesn't play nicely with Google Play, either. Instead, it has its own store with its own games. The launch line-up will largely comprise Android games that have been ported to the console and tweaked to work with the controller.

It will have some fun timewasters like The Other Brothers, Death Worm, Nimble Quest, and Ski Safari. But GameStick manufacturer PlayJam is really pushing those console-style games, like Shadowgun and Riptide GP.

You know, those games that are quite fun on a phone but as soon as you put them on your TV you are hit by the painful pang of regret that you should have just bought an Xbox 360.

What's the controller like?

A big, chunky flat thing in Wii white. I found it desperately uncomfortable to use when I played with a developer kit, but PlayJam says that the final controller will be a lot nicer.

You will apparently be able to use other controllers with the GameStick, according to the company.

When's it out and how much does it cost?

It's out on September 30th in the US and UK, and it will cost $79 or £79.

Who's it for?

People who think Ouya is too big. People who think Ouya is too expensive. Those who want to play typical Android games on a TV. Crazy people. People who appreciate a console's portability (and no doubt loved the GameCube's handle).


Green Throttle

Green Throttle

What is it?

It's essentially a Bluetooth controller that works on pretty much any Android device. The idea is that you'll use the included HDMI cable to plug your phone or tablet into your TV, thus turning your Nexus into a games console.

How does this device differ from the landfill-sized mountain of Android controllers that already exist? Well, this one has its own app marketplace, interface, and games, which makes it feel more like an holistic console experience.

What games does it play?

Absolutely terrible ones. I'm not even joking - playing almost any game on the Green Throttle store is like getting kicked in the teeth by an angry donkey. These are lazy, amateur, student-level App Store scraps that fill you with pain and despair.

There are a few ports, like retro blaster Gunslugs and comedy RPG The Bard's Tale. But things like Dead Trigger and Modern Combat, which would really benefit from a pair of proper analogue sticks, are incompatible with Green Throttle.

Green Throttle Games is making and commissioning more games for its platform, but its first big release (9 Lives: Casey & Sphynx) was a flop.

What's the controller like?

Eh. It's okay. We said: "It's a slightly cheap and tacky knock-off of the Xbox 360 controller. The triggers are a little squishy, the bumpers are a little clicky, the face buttons are a little plasticky, and the less said about the D-pad the better."

But it's perfectly playable on, and it's a lot better than the average Poundland pad you get on Android.

When's it out and how much does it cost?

It's out now in the US, priced $40. There's no date yet for the UK launch.

Who's it for?

People who hate video games and like to waste money. Those who want to get in on this micro-console fad without paying much cash.


GamePop

GamePop

What is it?

GamePop is a free Android-powered console, where you pay a $6.99-a-month subscription fee to get complete access to a huge library of games.

Well, the GamePop Mini, which looks like a matchbox, is free. The pro GamePop, which looks like an Ouya with one corner cut off and is apparently more powerful under the hood, is a whopping $129.

What games does it play?

There's an overwhelming focus in GamePop's library on casual, kid-friendly games from developers like TinyCo, Creative Mobile, and Animoca. It will have Jetpack Joyride and Candy Crush Saga and all the other monster free-to-play hits.

You'll also get some paid games with your subscription package.

There's also talk of putting games that are made for iOS on the box, using BlueStacks's virtualisation technology. We haven't seen any examples of iOS-only apps on GamePop yet.

What's the controller like?

I don't know. There definitely IS a controller - it comes as part of your subscription fee - but BlueStacks has yet to show it off. There's also talk of using your phone as a controller. If you think this all sounds a bit vague, you'd be correct.

When's it out and how much does it cost?

GamePop should be out in the winter, apparently. As we said, the GamePop Mini will be free and the GamePop will cost $129. Whatever the case, though, you'll be spending $6.99 a month... for a minimum of 12 months. No prices or dates for the UK, mind.

Who's it for?

Kids. Parents. Those who think the Netflix business model might work well for games. People who think games consoles just have far too many corners these days.


Mad Catz Mojo

MadCatz Mojo

What is it?

Mojo is an oddly shaped Android-powered micro-console from third-party controller manufacturer Mad Catz.

Its claim to fame is that it's truly open. Unlike with Ouya and GameStick and everything else, you can shop in Google Play (and the Amazon Appstore) on Mojo. Oh, and it will play anything from those shops.

That means there's no gatekeeper. Furthermore, Mad Catz will launch the console with about 18 billion games.

What games does it play?

Like we said, you can play anything from Google Play on Mojo. Developers will obviously need to patch in controller support, but you can use the Mad Catz pad to control a virtual finger cursor in touch-only games.

Thinking about it, though, that sounds like the most annoying thing in the world.

Seeing as games like Dead Trigger and Riptide GP 2 already work with Xbox and PS3 pads, there's a good chance that similar games will work on Mojo without any work from the developers.

What's the controller like?

It looks like one of those third-party Xbox controllers. Maybe one made by, errr, Mad Catz? Yeah, the firm has a history of making solid and largely successful controller knock-offs for proper consoles, so the Mojo pad should be good.

When's it out and how much does it cost?

It's out later this year. We don't know the cost, but you can expect it to be a little pricey. Why? Because Mad Catz isn't selling the games, so it won't take a cut of the sales. As such, it needs to make its cash back when it sells the console itself.

Who's it for?

Those who want access to loads of games. People who appreciate good controller design. Austin Powers fans. Those who expect their games consoles to do double duty as doorstops. Or skateboard ramps.


Nvidia Shield

Shield

What is it?

A bulky handheld games console from graphics card maker Nvidia. It boasts a 5-inch LCD screen, a powerful Tegra 4 chip, and complete access to Android's Google Play shop.

What games does it play?

Ultimately, anything on Google Play or the TegraZone. Obviously, though, games need to be updated to work with Shield's controls. Still, there are quite a few games that do work, including Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Dead Trigger, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and Crazy Taxi.

It also works with emulators. You know, for retro games. And its feisty Tegra chip means better performance than the last great emulator phone, the Xperia Play.

You can also stream games from your PC to your Shield, if you have the appropriate hardware. Being able to play Skyrim on a handheld sounds like fun, but you need to be within wi-fi range of your PC for it to work.

What's the controller like?

Pretty good, apparently. Reviewer Damien said that Shield's pad is "quite possibly the best control arrangement ever incorporated into a handheld games console".

He said that "the Xbox 360 layout feels familiar, but the designers have included better buttons, a superior D-pad and twin analogue sticks which offer an impressive degree of control".

When's it out and how much does it cost?

It's out now in the US, where it costs an eye-watering $299 (about a hundred bucks more than a PS Vita or 3DS). No UK date or price yet, I'm afraid.

Who's it for?

Someone who thinks the PS Vita is just too damn cheap. Those who want to play their PC while sitting six feet away from it. Emulator obsessives. Hardcore Android gamers who are sick of touchscreen controls. People with really big pockets.


Wikipad

Wikipad

What is it?

A 7-inch, Tegra 3-powered Android tablet, flanked by video game controls. You can slide the screen out if you want to use it like a normal tablet.

What games does it play?

Anything on Google Play, the TegraZone, or - surprisingly - PlayStation Mobile. Wikipad Inc. also maintains a huge list of games that work on the controller, including Cordy, Max Payne, The Respawanbles, and Sonic The Hedgehog 4.

What's the controller like?

Jon Jordan played with one at GDC 2013. He said: "I was surprised by the high build quality of the frame and various inputs such as the joypads and shoulder buttons". Sounds good.

When's it out and how much does it cost?

Wikipad is out now in the US, where it costs a respectable $249 (it's a full Android tablet, after all). It'll be available in the UK on September 27th, where it will cost £249. Whoever's doing the currency conversion for these micro-consoles is doing a terrible job.

Who's it for?

People who get confused and think Wikipedia has made an Android tablet. People who like the look of Nvidia's Shield but wish they could just rip the phone bit off when they want to use Twitter.


Unu

Unu

What is it?

A pearly white Android tablet that you can hook up to your TV. You then get a Wii Remote-style "Air Mouse" and Bluetooth controller to interact with games and apps from your sofa.

What games does it play?

No idea. In the promotional materials, we can see Angry Birds Space, Dead Trigger, and Beach Buggy Blitz. It probably just hooks up to Google Play.

What's the controller like?

We haven't touched one, so we can't really comment. The Air Mouse should enable you to play games without any controller support. Whether it's any good, however, is anyone's guess.

When's it out and how much does it cost?

No idea and no idea.

Who's it for?

The last human on the planet who doesn't have a tablet yet. Whoever these strange and exotic people are who want to play Android games on their TV. People who think 'Ouya' is a good name.