With the plethora of home video game consoles currently on the market, it can be difficult to decide which console best suits your needs. Each console has its own unique strengths that could make it an enticing addition to your home, based on personal preference. Here are the key features which will help you determine the best video game console to purchase.
Once you’ve decided which console you’re going to get, check out our list of gamer gift ideas for every platform. You’ll surely put a smile on the face of the gamer on your holiday shopping list.
The Big Three
There are currently three traditional major home consoles on the market right now—the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. All three take varying approaches to many of the features sought out by console shoppers today. Let’s take a look at a few common questions you may ask yourself when considering a new console and see how they stack up.
Do you prefer single-player experiences, or are you looking to join a thriving online community? While each console has a healthy selection of solo experiences, they all offer an online service for multiplayer fun. The PlayStation has PlayStation Network, Xbox has Xbox Live, and Nintendo Switch has Nintendo Switch Online.
PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo all offer their online service at a subscription fee. They each provide access to some of the most popular online multiplayer gaming experiences today.
If online multiplayer gaming is at the top of your list of priorities, you may want to consider which platform your friends are playing on. While games like Fornite, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and Minecraft support cross-platform play, there are still many games that don’t.
Local Multiplayer and Family Gaming
While the Nintendo Switch may not offer as robust online service as PlayStation and Xbox, it has a much stronger collection of unique local multiplayer selections. The Nintendo Switch is designed to be played together. Detachable joy-cons and great titles like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Party make it easy to play side-by-side with your family and friends.
Nintendo’s history of developing family-friendly software also makes the Nintendo Switch a strong candidate if you are looking for a console for the whole family to enjoy. It’s true that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have a number of E-rated family titles as well. In comparison however they are arguably outdone by Nintendo’s deep line-up of AAA titles that play well for all ages.
Power and Performance
Are you looking for the most powerful, graphically intense home console experience available today? The competition for this title is currently a two-horse race between the Xbox One X and the PlayStation 4 Pro.
Both Sony and Microsoft have released mid-generation upgrades in the form of these two souped-up consoles. Overall, they stack up fairly well against each other, although with a few noticeable differences:
The Xbox One X has a slight edge in overall power. It boasts 6 teraflops of processing power and 356GB/s of memory bandwidth. Compared to the PlayStation 4 Pro, it has just a little extra under the hood.
Both consoles are capable of 4K HDR gaming. Xbox One X however also has a built in 4K Blu-ray player, meaning that it can play 4K movies from a disc. The PlayStation 4 Pro on the other hand, can only stream 4K content.
While the Xbox One X may have an edge when it comes to hardware specifications, the difference is marginal. Either console will offer outstanding performance when paired with your 4K TV. The PlayStation 4 Pro’s biggest strength lies in its impressive library of console-exclusive software. We will look at game libraries in greater depth a little later on.
Gaming on the go with the Nintendo Switch
When it comes to options for taking your gaming console with you on the go, Nintendo has all the bases covered. The Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite offer premium gaming experiences on the go. The Nintendo Switch connects to your primary TV through its “docked” mode, and converts to a portable simply by lifting the console out of the dock. In its undocked “handheld mode” the Nintendo Switch can be played wherever your travels may take you.
Nintendo Switch Lite
On the other hand, the Nintendo Switch Lite is specifically made for gamers on the go. It is lighter and more portable than ever. The Nintendo Switch Lite is a dedicated handheld device so you won’t be able to play games on your TV. Furthermore, it sells at a lower price point than the Nintendo Switch and the controller is now integrated into the Lite’s body—so you won’t be able to detach them.
It may seem funny to consider old games when selecting a new console, but nostalgia can be a key influencer when selecting a new console. Not to mention that library of previous generation titles that you just don’t want to let go of.
Currently the Xbox One S / Xbox One X are the only consoles to support backwards compatibility. While not every past title works, they support a growing list of hundreds of games from the Xbox 360/original Xbox days. Popping in your original disc will entitle you to play these games. Having owned them digitally on Xbox Live will also add them to your current library.
Sony does offer a decent library of older (and some newer) titles on its streaming PlayStation Now service, which requires a paid subscription. Recently, Sony has added the ability to download some of the titles on PlayStation Now to your PlayStation 4. Prior ownership of these titles however does not entitle gamers to use them under PlayStation Now. Paid access remains necessary to play them. Microsoft also has a similar program in Xbox Game Pass. Xbox Game Pass does not allow you to stream games but does allow players to download the games offered by the paid subscription.
Are you concerned with monitoring how much time your children spend playing games, or what kind of content they can access? Each console has strong features when it comes to parental controls.
The Nintendo Switch features an app which you can download to your cell phone. Via the app you can monitor play time, and even set automatic system interruptions when gamers exceed time limits. The app will also let you control age-restricted content based on pre-set age categories or custom options.
Additionally, the Nintendo Switch family of consoles features a PIN authentication system that allows for easy restriction on in-game messaging and online interaction. Your pin can also lock access to shopping via Nintendo’s online store.
Parents can access PlayStation 4’s parental controls within the system menu. They can restrict online network features and internet browsing and set age rating levels for games and Blu-ray/DVD discs. Adults may also impose monthly spending limits on the PlayStation online store.
Xbox One offers a similar approach, with age-restricted content and online accessibility monitored and managed through the console dashboard. Xbox One also features the “Ask a Parent” feature, which will notify parents for approval when their child wishes to make a purchase in the Microsoft Store.
Sony and Microsoft share much of the same game library when it comes to titles developed by cross-platform studios such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. These “third-party” publishers tend to release their games on both respective consoles. However, Sony is currently finding much success with additional games exclusive only to the PlayStation 4. Look at recent titles such as Death Stranding, Shenmue III, and Concrete Genie. Not to mention highly anticipated upcoming releases such as The Last of Us: Part II and Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Many consider the heft of Sony’s exclusive offerings to outshine their competition at Microsoft by a healthy margin. That isn’t to say that Microsoft doesn’t have at least a few notable titles of their own. Xbox One notable exclusive include Gears 5, Crackdown 3, Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves.
On the other hand, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t get many of the biggest biggest multi-console blockbusters such as Call of Duty: Modern WarFare, Borderlands 3, or Red Dead Redemption 2. What you will find however are some of the most regarded and well-reviewed console-exclusive titles in recent memory.
Nintendo Switch features some of the most highly rated games of 2019, in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Super Mario Maker 2, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Luigi’s Mansion 3. Not to mention other Nintendo franchise favourites such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, and The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild. Furthermore, upcoming titles in the works include Metroid Prime 4, Bayonetta 3, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Nintendo Switch may not be the optimal choice for those who want to play all the latest cross-platform first-person shooters that often tend to come to Microsoft and Sony consoles only, but it boasts a very strong catalogue of its own exclusive titles. These are beloved franchises that have endured the test of time. They make a strong case for anybody who has a history with Nintendo consoles.
Take the next step
By now you probably have a very good idea of which console best suits your personal preference. Whether you prefer the top shelf power and performance of the Xbox One X, the awesome PlayStation 4 console exclusive library of games at Sony, or the unique dual functionality of the family-friendly Nintendo Switch, there’s a lot to love regardless of which console you elect to make your own.