If your kids are at the age where you’re considering buying a game console, now might be the right time. Whether you want the immersive virtual reality of the Sony PlayStation or the portability of the Nintendo Switch, today’s consoles offer more realism, interactivity, and flexibility than ever before. The question still remains: Which console is best for your family’s needs?
Best for Families with Young Kids:
Nintendo Switch/Switch Lite
With games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Super Mario Party, and Ring Fit Adventure, as well as cool activity packs such as the Labo Toy-Con Variety Kit, Nintendo maintains its position as the best option for families to use together. The Switch works both as a stationary console that plugs into your TV and a portable gaming device with two built-in controllers and a touchscreen. The recently released Switch Lite, on the other hand, uses the same games as the Switch, but it’s strictly a portable station that’s designed only for gaming on the go. While the Switch library does offer its share of mature games, the consoles include parental controls so you can help your kids regulate their use. Check out the Best Nintendo Switch Games for Kids.
Best for Tweens and Families:
Microsoft Xbox One S and Sony PlayStation 4
These may be the basic systems from Microsoft and Sony, but they’re still very powerful and run all of the games that you can get your hands on. One of the big advantages is that you can often find these machines bundled with a few games to play along with the system. Xbox One S is a better choice for families who already own a lot of Xbox games, as it will play some Xbox 360 titles. If you’re tired of discs cluttering things up, consider the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition console which stores all your games in the cloud. The PS4, by contrast, provides access to older PS3 games through its digital store and its PS Now service.
Of course, violent games such as Resident Evil 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Wolfenstein: Youngblood are available for each, but so are family-friendly titles such as The Lego Marvel Collection, Madden NFL 21, and The Jackbox Party Pack 7. Plus, both systems contain parental controls with customizable family settings to control screen time and purchase limits, as well as content filters to block inappropriate games for kids.
Best for Tweens, Teens, and Serious Gamers:
Microsoft Xbox Series X, Microsoft Xbox Series S, Sony PlayStation 5, Sony PlayStation Pro, Sony PlayStation VR
If your kids are really passionate about games, then these machines are the best — if not the only — choices. At the high end of the price range and advanced features are the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5, which are ultrafast and provide super-realistic graphics.
Microsoft unveiled two systems in November 2020: the Xbox Series X, and the smaller Series S. While both can play the latest titles, the Series S was designed to be all-digital — without a disc drive — while the Series X was designed to be the most powerful game console ever made. Both benefited from Microsoft’s dedication to backward compatibility, meaning any game bought for any Microsoft console can be played on either machine. Check out our favorite Xbox Series X/S Games for Kids.
Sony’s most powerful system to date, the PlayStation 5, launched in November 2020, as well, becoming one of the most sought-after systems that holiday season. It could play both PlayStation 4 games and the latest releases for the system, and could present visuals in 4K resolution, meaning players received jaw-dropping visuals as they played the latest releases.
Keep in mind that, though there are plenty of games for each console designed for tweens and younger, the vast majority of Xbox and PlayStation games are intense and mature. But there are still plenty of titles to get players’ hearts pumping, whether it’s the manic rhythm of Just Dance 2021, the off-road racing of Dirt 5, or the stadium-rocking noise of FIFA 21.
Sony has the edge for virtual reality with its PlayStation VR headset designed to work with the PS4 and PS4 Pro. PSVR provides a totally immersive, virtual reality game experience. There’s a number of impressive games for the headset, like the anti-bullying-themed Concrete Genie, the colorful and entertaining links of Everybody’s Golf VR, and the soaring adventure of Falcon Age.
For more game suggestions, take a look at our list of Thought-Provoking and Nonviolent Games for Tweens and Teens, Nonviolent Games for PS4, Nonviolent Games for Xbox One, and the best video games for teens.