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Whether you’re a retro video game devotee or want to game on the go, there’s a video game console to meet your every need.
As of 2021, we are currently in the ninth generation of home gaming consoles. With the 2020 release of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X and S systems, gaming has taken bold steps into the future with improved graphics, performance, and online connectivity.
Or, that would be the case if not for a global chip shortage, the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on game development, and record-setting demand. Going into your local electronics store, you’d be hard pressed to find any ninth-generation game consoles for sale. Online shopping offers slightly better supply levels, but the newest consoles are still very hard to find for sale at their market value.
Despite availability concerns, the latest generation of gaming consoles has a lot to offer new and veteran gamers alike.
When it comes to buying a new gaming console, the biggest hurdle is availability. Because of sky-high demand and the ongoing global chip shortage, new gaming consoles are hard to come by. In particular, the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X remain the most challenging consoles to find at market price.
Other than what’s available, consider what kinds of games you and other members of your household love to play. The three main console makers, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, all offer wildly different game libraries focused on different kinds of gamers.
Many of these recommendations come from hundreds of hours of in-house use. For the products we couldn’t test ourselves, we researched expert sources like Wired, CNET, Wirecutter, Tom’s Guide, Insider, and Techradar, as well thousands of consumer reviews from online storefronts on Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and more. As for the consoles themselves, we evaluated them on their functionality, performance, library of games, and price.
We have our eye on upcoming consoles like the Analogue Pocket, Steam Deck, and Playdate. We will keep this list up to date as those consoles become available.
The fastest-selling Sony console to date, the demand for the Playstation 5 (PS5) has far outstripped the supply. One of the main reasons is the PS5’s awesome library of games. With exclusive titles like Demon’s Souls, Returnal, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade, the PS5 is home to the newest, most technically-impressive games.
The PS5 is also backwards-compatible with PS4 games, meaning access to the PS4’s frankly huge list of critically acclaimed titles.
In terms of technology, the PS5 is a very capable machine, with stunning graphics and fast performance, thanks to a strong graphics card, processor, and storage drive. The PS5 controller deserves special mention, as it is much improved, thanks to incredible haptics and USB-C charging.
The PS5 comes in two versions: a disk edition and a digital edition. The digital edition is slightly cheaper, but does not have a disk drive.
On paper, the Xbox Series X is the most powerful next gen console available. With 4K visuals, impressive frame rates, HDR support, advanced ray tracing, and a myriad of other technical specs, games on the Xbox Series X run like a dream.
For fans of first-person shooters, racing games, sports series, and simulation titles, the Xbox is the console to pick. With stunning titles like Forza Horizon 5, Microsoft Flight Simulator, all the popular sports franchises, and heavy-hitter Halo Infinite, fans of these genres will be happy with Xbox’s game library.
Xbox also offers an excellent value proposition in the form of Xbox Game Pass. This affordable subscription gives you access to a library of hundreds of rotating games from a wide variety of genres.
The major advantage the Xbox Series S console has over nearly every other new console on the market is that it isn’t sold out.
Unlike with the PS5 and Xbox Series X, you have a good chance of purchasing an Xbox Series S console for its very affordable market value. Combine its low price with an Xbox Game Pass subscription and the Xbox Series S console offers perhaps the best value of any console out there.
But enough about affordability: Is the Xbox Series S a good console?
Although it’s less powerful than its Series X and PS5 brethren, the Series S delivers an easy, convenient gaming experience for users not chasing cutting edge performance. It runs games at 1080p and 1440p resolutions wonderfully, and as long as you don’t mind its diskless form factor, it makes for a great console for most gamers.
Riding the line between current generation and last generation is the ever-popular Nintendo Switch. By far the best-selling console between Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony, the Nintendo Switch distinguishes itself in two ways: through its unique form factor and excellent library of exclusive games.
The Switch is designed as a hybrid console, one you can just as easily enjoy at home or on the go. Its hybrid design also extends to the controller, able to split in half easily to instantly accommodate two-player gaming sessions. Overall, its design works amazingly well.
On the games side, the Nintendo Switch has the most exciting library of games by far. With dozens of exclusive critically acclaimed titles like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and so much more, it’s worth getting a Switch system for the games alone.
Combine these Nintendo titles with great indie game offerings like Hades and Hollow Knight, and the Nintendo Switch offers the best catalog of games for players of all ages.
The Nintendo Switch Lite is essentially a travel-focused version of the original Nintendo Switch. The main difference between the two is that the Switch Lite cannot be connected to a TV or monitor: the only mode of play available is handheld. In addition, the Joy-Con controllers cannot be removed from the console, meaning no spontaneous multiplayer sessions.
However, for gamers specifically looking to enjoy their games on the go, the Switch Lite is an enticing option. It can play nearly all the same amazing games the original Switch can, has only slightly less battery life, and is available at a significantly cheaper price point. If gaming on the go is your top priority, the Switch Lite is the console for you.
The newest addition to the Nintendo Switch console family, the Switch OLED is a small but noticeable improvement over the original Switch for a small bump in price. The main change is to the screen: the Switch OLED houses a vivid seven-inch OLED display. Compared with the original Switch’s smaller LCD display, handheld gaming really pops on the Switch OLED.
Other changes are mostly to the design, with the OLED housing improved speakers, a much better kickstand, and an ethernet port on the docking tray. It also has 64GB of internal storage, compared to the original Switch’s 32GB. Overall, the Switch OLED is a great choice for fans of Nintendo who will be spending a lot of time gaming.
There have been a slew of retro throwback consoles released as of late. From Nintendo’s NES and Super NES Classic to Sony’s miniature Playstation Classic, retro gaming is having a serious moment. But the most well-executed retro home console might be the Sega Genesis Mini.
With 40 pre-loaded games (that’s double the amount offered on the Playstation Classic) including hits like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Phantasy Star IV, and Street Fighter 2, the Genesis Mini offers the chance to enjoy a wide variety of classic titles.
The design is also a wonderful recreation of the original console, with attention to detail throughout. Just don’t expect it to outperform any modern-day console.