For most people who play them, video games are a wonderful hobby. They provide countless hours of entertainment and a great way to relieve some of the stress that inevitably accumulates during the day. Some play casually while others devote a lot of their spare time to it. And then there are the professional players who earn their livelihood in this way.
Put all these people together, and one thing is for sure – video games are incredibly popular. This also means they are a big business. For example, the industry’s revenue for 2018 is estimated to be around 138 billion dollars.
And while there are several ways to enjoy video games, such as on your smartphone or PC, gaming consoles continue to hold an incredibly prominent place. And this is what this article will focus on.
What Is a Gaming Console?
Call it a gaming console, a video game console, or a home console – you are referring to the same thing. It is an electronic device whose primary purpose is to allow its user(s) to play video games. When talking about the history of gaming consoles, people will refer to generations. Currently, the eighth generation of consoles is in its prime, and three companies dominate the market – Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
The reasons to get a gaming console are simple – it’s the way to enjoy the very best of what this industry has to offer. Now, PCs can be more powerful than consoles, But quite a few games won’t come out for the PC. On the other hand, smartphones are certainly convenient but their size will always be a limiting factor. Therefore, a gaming console hooked up to a good TV is still the gold standard for providing the most enjoyable gaming experience.
What to Look for in a Gaming Console
Considering how popular video games are, it might be a bit of a surprise that there aren’t even more gaming consoles out there. The general trend is for each generation to be dominated by two or three consoles, and that is what we have now. Still, you do have different options, and there are certain factors to consider before making a choice.
Video Game Library
Games are the be-all and end-all of any console. Other features are nice, but it’s the quality of its games that will ultimately decide how much enjoyment you’ll get out of any given console.
Nowadays, many games will be available on more than one platform. However, there will always be exclusives – those games you can only enjoy on one console. And it is these games that are often the deciding factor when it comes to choosing the right gaming console for you.
As technology advances, video games follow. That is why we are at the eight generation of consoles and counting. Each new console comes with more powerful hardware than the ones before, and the results are immediately visible.
You can see this with the graphics, performance, etc. The sheer power of a console isn’t the only factor to consider, but it is an important one.
Back in the day, all that gaming consoles did was run games. You inserted a CD or a cartridge and played. But then came support for music CDs. Some more time passed and you could use them to watch movies. Now, when the internet is integral to most consoles, the list of additional features they can offer is nearly limitless.
When you buy a gaming console, the price you pay is just the first step. In the long run, it’s the games that will set you back more. But despite of that, the cost of the console itself is still a factor.
When we were making this list, one factor clearly stood out – the games. Shiny graphics and added features are all well and good, but we are talking about gaming consoles. This means the video game library is the first thing we looked at.
This is also the most difficult factor to quantify. After all, the choice between two games often comes down to personal taste. Still, we looked at the general consensus regarding the games each console has on offer and made our choice on that basis. Specifically, this came down to exclusives. We felt that console-specific games were the biggest factor, and the list reflects this.
The hardware specs were second in line. Nicer graphics won’t turn a bad game into a good one, but they will make a great game even better. So, we did take the power of each console into consideration.
As this list focuses on gaming, the added features a console could offer weren’t as important. They were a nice perk but not the focus of our attention. Similarly, the price wasn’t a deciding factor. Saving some money is great and we appreciate it, but gaming is a continued investment – you will need to buy new games every so often, meaning the price of the console becomes less relevant as time passes.
The Best Gaming Consoles to Buy Right Now
We already mentioned that three companies had the dominant position on the market, so it’s no surprise that their consoles will make up this list. Still, you have some interesting choices to make.
PlayStation 4 Pro
- Resolution: 4K
- HDR: Yes
- Added Features: Numerous
- A more powerful version of the PS4
- Amazing library of games, particularly the exclusives
- Requires a 4K TV to achieve full potential
If you look at some of the previous console generations, you’ll see that the manufacturers often made subtle improvements to their products. They would release a smaller console, it would be quieter or produce less heat, and things like that. Nice perks but nothing major. For all intents and purposes, you had the one console.
But that changed with the current generation when both Sony and Microsoft decided to release a major mid-generation upgrade to their consoles. And it is this enhanced version of Sony’s PlayStation 4 that we believe is the best gaming console you can get right now.
Dubbed the PS4 Pro and released in November of 2016, this console featured significantly improved technical specs. It uses the same games as the basic PlayStation 4, but those games will look and run better. Coupled with an amazing video game library (we’ll talk more about it further on), the PS4 Pro is guaranteed to deliver memorable video game experiences in spades.
Xbox One X
- Resolution: 4K
- HDR: Yes
- Added Features: Numerous (including backward compatibility with some Xbox and Xbox 360 titles)
- The most powerful console at the moment
- Great games
- Added features
- Just like with the PS4 Pro, you need a 4K TV to see the console at its best
The story of the Xbox One X is nearly identical to that of the PS4 Pro. It is a beefed up version of Microsoft’s basic eighth generation console. It released in November of 2017, a year after Sony’s counterpart, but Microsoft used that time to further improve the hardware. The result is a console which is currently unrivaled in terms of sheer power.
Just like the PS4 Pro, it can use 4K (or Ultra High Definition) resolution and comes with HDR capabilities. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is a feature that makes colors look incredibly vivid. As mentioned, it’s quite similar to the Pro but a bit more powerful.
The only potential downside is that it requires an equally advanced TV to maximize its potential. Otherwise, some of its capabilities will be wasted. 4K TVs are no longer the rarity they were a few years back (the number of such TVs sold in 2018 is estimated to be around 100 million), but they are still not the standard. It’s important to note that the exact same applies to the PS4 Pro, signaling yet another similarity between the two. But all in all, the Xbox One X is an amazing package.
- Resolution: 1080p in TV mode / 720p in handheld mode
- HDR: No
- Added Features: Hybrid console, other features not as numerous as with the previous entries
- A combination of a home and portable console
- Nintendo first-party games
- Lacks many games that are available on the PlayStation and Xbox
- Much less powerful than the PS4 and Xbox One
When you look at the PlayStation and Xbox, those consoles are made to lock horns with each other. But rather than throwing its hat into that ring, Nintendo seems to have taken a different approach. Instead of being a direct competitor to the more powerful consoles, the Switch seems perfectly suited to be a companion device.
This is down to two reasons. The first is that you can use it as a portable device, allowing you to enjoy your games on the go. The second is that you will have certain games that will never come to other platforms (such as the Super Mario and Zelda franchises). The Switch lacks the power and the extensive third-party game libraries of the other consoles but makes up for it with its unique approach.
PlayStation 4 (and PS4 Slim)
- Resolution: 2K
- HDR: Yes
- Added Features: Numerous
- The best-selling console of this generation
- Great exclusive games
- Not as powerful as the Pro version
Launched in November of 2013, the PS4 immediately showed that its exclusive games would be among its strongest features. Fast forward to today, and that remains the case. We can illustrate this with a recent example.
The 2018 edition of the Game Awards was one of the biggest events in the gaming industry. At that occasion, the game of the year award went to God of War, a PlayStation exclusive.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is also among 2018’s best games, and you can’t play it anywhere except on the PlayStation. In previous years, the same was the case with Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, and many more.
The video game library clearly resonated with the fans, allowing the PS4 to sell more than 81 million units as of July of 2018. We do not have the exact sales numbers for Xbox One because Microsoft has stopped releasing them, but it is clear Sony has the upper hand in this regard.
Xbox One (and Xbox One S)
- Resolution: 2K for Xbox One; Limited 4K support for Xbox One S
- HDR: No for Xbox One; Yes for Xbox One S
- Added Features: Backward compatibility and many more
- A lot of good games
- Numerous added features
- Lags behind the Xbox One X in terms of power
The original Xbox One came out in 2013, and the S variant succeeded it in 2016.
We mentioned several times that the PlayStation had outstanding exclusive titles. And of that there is no doubt. But, this does not mean that Xbox is without exclusives. Nor does it mean that those games aren’t successful. Far from it, as a matter of fact. Halo is a hugely popular franchise that is tied to Microsoft. As are Gears of War and Forza, to name but a few.
Just like its more powerful version we covered previously, the Xbox One S is a versatile console with plenty of upsides. And in many cases, the choice between PlayStation and Xbox is simply a matter of which games you personally prefer.
SNES Classic Edition
- Resolution: Custom
- HDR: No
- Added Features: None
- An easy way to enjoy retro games
- Extremely limited in all aspects
The last entry on our list is something completely different – a mini console for retro games. Obviously, it cannot compete with any of the other consoles in terms of power. It simply features a select number of games, 21 in total, from the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) era.
It is clear that this console is exclusively intended for old-school fans of Nintendo. The SNES Classic relies on nostalgia and will be an amazing trip down memory lane for many. It is extremely limited in its use, but you can’t really beat it if you want to relive the fun you had with the SNES back in the 1990s.
Play Your Way
You can go for PlayStation or Xbox. You also have the basic and enhanced versions of those consoles to choose from. As an alternative, the Switch offers an experience unlike any other. There is even a little something for retro gamers. Whichever you prefer, these consoles will deliver. Just pick the one which matches your style and make sure you have a comfortable seat in front of the TV – these gaming consoles will take care of the rest.