I went hands-on with the Tetris McNugget, and it's now my favorite handheld

McDonald's McNugget handheld sitting on white desk next to copy of Tetris for Game Boy
(Image credit: Future / Phil Hayton)

Against all odds, I managed to get hold of the McDonald's Tetris McNugget handheld, and it’s now one of my most prized possessions. Not only does it make up for the fact I can’t rely on Happy Meals for a dopamine boost anymore, but it captures the essence of what made fast food toys so great in the first place. Did I mention it comes with stickers? It comes with stickers.

The McDonald's Tetris McNugget isn’t going to replace your Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch, but I reckon it’s earned a place at the best handheld table. Perhaps I’m biased since I love daft gimmicks, and the Nuggety LCD game checks all of the novelty boxes in that regard. That said, while it only costs 30 Chinese Yuan (around $4) and looks like an ergonomic nightmare, the plastic portable is surprisingly playable. In truth, my biggest gripe with the delicious looking device is the fact it’s only available in China, and my local restaurant now dishes out cardboard toys with its happy meals. The Horror.

Does the McDonald's Mcnugget hold up against the original Tetris on your childhood Game Boy? Hell no, and it’s not remotely supposed to. In fact, if that question crossed your mind, you’re probably taking the portable far too seriously. So, while you read this hands on, I want you to unclench your jaw, relax those shoulders, pretend it's the mid ‘90s again. Trust me, it’ll do you some good to forget about frame rates and gaming PC performance for a bit.

What's in the box?

The fact you’re reading this means the McDonald's Tetris McNuggets survived its journey from China to the UK in one piece rather than four, and even its packaging arrived unscathed. That means I’m able to unbox this food shaped baby just like someone picking it up in person from the fast food chain, something I consider to be an integral part of the experience.

If, like me, you’re partial to a McNugget meal, you’ll instantly recognise the Tetris handheld’s dinky box. There’s no mistaking the portable’s McDonald's DNA, and I can almost smell that indescribable scent of fried food just looking at it. That could be a good or a bad thing depending on your pallet preferences, and while I’m not a complete sucker for the capitalist conglomerate’s menu, I wouldn’t say no to some fries right now. 

Upon cracking open the handheld's perforated box lid, you’ll immediately find the McNugget in a plastic bag not unlike a Happy Meal toy, accompanied by an incredible sheet of letter stickers and familiar faces. I guess my only beef with the box contents is the fact they forgot the dips, but if we’re being honest, that omission is an authentic part of the modern McDonald's ordering experience.

As a side note, I admittedly ended up getting way too distracted during this unboxing, as I could stop gushing over the adorable wee characters inside. When I say I'm this close to getting a tiny tattoo based on these stickers, I truly mean it. And hey, it’d make for a great way to celebrate Grimace’s birthday (as that’s happening right now). 

Deep fried details

Closeup of Mcnugget handheld buttons

(Image credit: Future / Phil Hayton)

Now that I’m done contemplating terrible life decisions, let’s pay some attention to the portable itself. I wouldn’t say the McNugget handheld is aesthetically pleasing, and it risks looking more like the sad piece of cheese on a Fillet O’ Fish than a piece of chicken. Ultimately, it’s that familiar beige and its boot shape that’ll help your brain process what you’re looking at, which once again, is a testament to the fast food chain’s influence on our minds.

In the hands, the McNugget has that classic Happy Meal plastic feel, but just like those freebies from yesteryear, there’s still a sense of quality present. This is also reflected in the handheld’s four directional and singular rotational button, producing a relatively satisfying click when pressed. We’re not talking about Omron levels of switch quality, but whatever’s going on beneath the batter avoids feeling mushy.

For whatever reason, the McNugget wields both an on/off switch round the back and another power button on front. If both fail to provide the handheld with juice, you’ll want to check its included AAA batteries, which also live on the back underneath a screw cover. Those of you who’ve ever fished out their childhood Game Boy from the attic only to find corrosion eating its innards will know to take cells out while portable’s aren’t in use. But, for those of you who aren’t familiar with that blight, this is your sign to take note.

Battered blocks

Close up of Mcdonald's Mcnugget handheld with Tetris game on screen

(Image credit: Future / Phil Hayton)

Turning on the Mcnugget for the first time feels like an emotional sensory contradiction, especially if you’re into Tetris. The sounds produced by this food shaped oddity both filled my heart with nostalgia and assaulted my ears with a shrill version of the block game’s theme on loop. You thankfully can defend yourself from the digitised eldritch horrors of uncanny Korobeiniki by using the handheld’s mute button, but it will stop once you start playing.

As for gameplay, I’m genuinely surprised by the version of Tetris this weird portable provides. It’s far from perfect, and the monochrome LCD screen will only furnish your eyes with 2-bit visuals. Yet, I actually found myself playing it for more than just a few minutes, and didn’t encounter any weird shenanigans in relation to unregistered presses or glitches. Simply put, the game runs pretty well on the McNugget, and I’ve played worse, and more expensive, handheld games throughout my life (looking at you, Tiger).

Remarkably, the Mcnugget ever saves your high score – a feature that didn’t even make it to the Game Boy until Tetris DX in 1998. Look, I know storing some numbers on an eprom isn’t that impressive, but you’re talking to the kid who played Final Fantasy 7 on the PS1 without a memory card, so I always appreciate any sort of data retention.  

Overall McDonald's Tetris McNugget handheld impressions 

Mcnugget handheld next to copy of Tetris for Game Boy

(Image credit: Future / Phil Hayton)

It may look like cheap tat on the surface, but the McDonald's Tetris McNugget handheld is an incredible treat. Naturally, it’s going to appeal to collectors who like freakish little devices to sit on their game room shelves, and mine's going to sit right next to my Monster Munch game from the ‘90s that’s shaped like a bat. Yet, this promotional toy boasts both strange style and substance, as it’ll provide you with a perfectly playable puzzle distraction. I’d love to see this nifty nugget get a worldwide release, as I think there are a few of you out there that’ll appreciate both the gag and nostalgia drenched experience the portable provides. 

How we tested the McNugget handheld

Using my experienced fingers and thumbs, I played multiple rounds of Tetris using the McNugget handheld's built in game. I also used my extensive knowledge of deep fried food to provide perspective on the novelty aspect of this device while fighting off McDonald's fries cravings.

Looking for handheld accessories? Check our our best Steam Deck dock picks and hook the portable up to your monitor or TV. Alternatively, check out the best PC controllers if you're looking for a reliable gamepad.

Phil Hayton
Hardware Editor

I’ve been messing around with PCs, video game consoles, and tech since before I could speak. Don’t get me wrong, I kickstarted my relationship with technology by jamming a Hot Wheels double-decker bus into my parent’s VCR, but we all have to start somewhere. I even somehow managed to become a walking, talking buyer’s guide at my teenage supermarket job, which helped me accept my career fate. So, rather than try to realise my musician dreams, or see out my University degree, I started running my own retro pop culture site and writing about video games and tech for the likes of TechRadar, The Daily Star, and the BBC before eventually ending up with a job covering graphics card shenanigans at PCGamesN. Now, I’m your friendly neighbourhood Hardware Editor at GamesRadar, and it’s my job to make sure you can kick butt in all your favourite games using the best gaming hardware, whether you’re a sucker for handhelds like the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch or a hardcore gaming PC enthusiast.