Many options exist when it comes to exploring the fantastic world of video games. Home consoles, handheld devices, tablets, PCs and even smartphones are all able to play video games. Each of the primary platforms like Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (PS4), Wii U and PC offer their own eclectic mix of games, features and exclusive software. This guide will help you figure out which video game platforms are best for you.

      Which consoles are right for you?

Over time, gaming options have evolved and expanded to include a wide variety of choices. It is currently possible to play video games via five main devices: home console, handheld, tablet, smartphone and laptop/desktop computer (referred to as "PC" throughout this guide). The Nintendo Wii U, Microsoft Xbox One, and Sony PS4 fit into the home console category. PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 2DS are handhelds. Tablets and smartphones are tied to specific operating systems, meaning there are different titles to enjoy depending on whether you use Android or iOS.

You'll be able to explore each category to understand why iOS games can only be played on Apple devices, why Mario only makes his home on Nintendo's platforms and what unique features handhelds possess.

Home Console

Home Consoles

Home video game consoles are larger units you hook up to a TV, plug into an outlet and play in your living room, basement, bedroom or dorm room.

Each console comes with a controller, which all vary a bit in design. The similarities are that they all have analog sticks and buttons used to control your video game console. The Wii U is different, with analog sticks and buttons complemented by a touch screen.

Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are the three console developers. Although current home consoles on the market share similarities, they each sport unique features. The library of available games, controllers, online services like Xbox Live, and streaming services will impact the level of enjoyment you may feel with each console.

The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 stand out because they allow developers to build beautiful worlds that weren't possible with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. With better physics, soccer balls bounce on grass as if on an actual field. In other games, enemies are smarter, creating a more realistic challenge.

Today's popular games are usually available in both digital and physical formats, but some can only be downloaded digitally. How you prefer to buy your games will impact which devices better fit your gaming habits. If you want more shelf space, then downloading games is the way to go. If you like physical copies, then each home or handheld console will work for you.

Xbox One

Microsoft's latest console not only hosts exclusive game franchises like the Halo video game series, but features a number of multimedia options the entire family can enjoy.

A major feature that sets Microsoft's console apart from others is its robust Xbox Live service. You pay a monthly or yearly fee to become an Xbox Live Gold-level subscriber, which allows you to play competitive and cooperative video games online with friends, and access a whole host of other benefits — including free game downloads each month through the Games with Gold promotion.

What Microsoft's platform is most synonymous with, however, is its exclusive Halo video game series. Just like Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. or Sony's Uncharted series, Microsoft is the only place to play the sci-fi epic, and many more exclusive titles on the powerful console.

Plus, the Xbox One consistently adds more great games to its library.


Major features

Backward compatibility: The Xbox One is backward-compatible with a growing library of Xbox 360 games, including digital games and game discs. This means you can continue to enjoy many of your favorite games from Xbox 360, and still upgrade to the Xbox One. Plus, you'll get the chance to catch up on some of the classics that you may have missed.

Xbox Live Arcade: A hallmark of the Xbox brand, this is a digital storefront where you can download exclusive titles released only on Xbox Live Arcade, such as independently developed hits. These can be casual games you complete with your family, or challenging shooters where you aim for a high score against opponents from around the world.

Xbox Live: A subscription to Xbox Live enables you to play games like Halo or Call of Duty online, utilize apps like Hulu, receive free games and take advantage of exclusive sales.

Microsoft franchises: Enjoy some of the most popular exclusive game series like Gears of War and Halo, only on the Xbox One.

Motion controls: The Kinect — a device that senses motion and voice to control apps or play select games — is a great way to navigate your console. Tell your console to turn on, navigate to Netfilx with a one-word command and start watching your favorite film. All apps and games can be accessed and navigated with your voice.

The Kinect is offered with the Xbox One in a bundle. A cheaper console variation without the Kinect lets you decide if you want to utilize the Kinect technology in your living room. If you decide you want to add it later, the Kinect is sold separately.

Stream your gameplay: You can broadcast live gameplay sessions without moving off your couch, or share edited, customized videos of favorite gaming moments. Playing a game is no longer a solo experience, but a social one.

Other features and services

Xbox Snap: Use two Xbox apps side by side with Xbox Snap, the Xbox One's picture-in-picture feature. View a live sporting event, watch your favorite film on Netflix, or use a variety of other apps on one side of your screen while continuing your gaming adventures on the other.

Streaming services: Your entire family can enjoy the Xbox One by streaming TV shows via Netflix and Hulu, and other content via Watch ESPN or HBO Go. A number of other apps exist for streaming music, video chatting and much more (subscriptions sold separately).

PlayStation 4

Sony's goal for the PlayStation 4 is to focus on releasing a wide variety of games to play, including blockbuster titles and indie gems. While each console plays host to indie games, Sony has made it a priority to focus on the bite-sized, and often genre-bending adventures. The console also features a number of apps and new features.

The PS4 is the home of blockbuster franchises like Uncharted, Killzone, LittleBigPlanet and MLB: The Show.

These hits are complemented by an eclectic mix of downloadable games available on the PlayStation Network. You'll be able to find new gaming experiences, from ones the entire family can enjoy, to those better suited for binge-playing over the weekend.


Major features

PlayStation Plus: With so many video game options, it may be hard to know what to shop for. A PlayStation Plus membership lets you download a number of games for free (always available to you as a paying member). The offerings change monthly, so you get a taste of what's available, and find out what you like.

The membership also lets you play multiplayer games online, access cloud storage and other exclusive benefits. One membership works across your PS3, PS4 and PlayStation Vita portable console.

Share your gameplay: Once you start exploring your games, you'll be able to show off your most exciting moments with a simple press of the "Share" button on the DualShock 4 controller. You can share up to the last 15 minutes of your death-defying adventure, online soccer match, or whatever you may be playing to social media sites, Twitch and Ustream. Your friends — no matter how far away they live — will be able to see your gaming highlights.

Remote play: You don't have to stay rooted to the couch to continue your game's story. Play PS4 games on your PlayStation Vita over a Wi-Fi access point.

More gameplay with PlayStation Vita: Connect your PlayStation Vita to your PS4 to display unique content like radar, maps, football playbooks or alternate camera angles.

Play games while they download: Waiting for your new game to download before you can play it isn't fun. The PS4 mitigates this problem, allowing for select games to be played while they are being downloaded.

Other features and services

Update while you're away: You can set up your console to download updates while you're away, allowing you to jump right back into a game when it's time to play.

Streaming services: Like other home consoles and handheld devices, the PS4 lets you enjoy streaming TV shows and movies via Netflix, Hulu and other apps. PlayStation is the only family of gaming consoles on the market that can sync with your Spotify account so you can listen to your own custom soundtrack while you're gaming. Plus, you can even stay updated on video game news and stream music or live sports (subscriptions sold separately).

Nintendo Wii U

Nintendo's latest console, the Wii U should not be confused with the Wii. They're two completely different consoles, and the Wii U is unique thanks to its controller.

The Wii U GamePad features a 6.2" color touch screen that's intuitive, and easily accessible to any level of gamer. It also has buttons and two analog sticks, just like PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers.

As Nintendo's first high-definition (HD) console, you can enjoy the worlds of Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and other Nintendo franchises in an entirely new way.

The Wii U will add more exclusive games to its library, including Splatoon, Mario Party 10, Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, Xenoblade Chronicles X and Yoshi's Woolly World.

Major features

GamePad: You can control Nintendo's stable of popular characters like Mario and Link with the touch screen on the GamePad by swiping or tapping, or even by talking into a built-in microphone. Nintendo's controller doesn't completely deviate from traditional design — buttons and two analog sticks are also a part of it, so you can precisely control whatever it is you're playing.

Plus, you can take your Wii U gaming with you around the house because the GamePad has the ability to act as a second-screen device for select games. The added bonus of a headset jack means you can game wherever you'd like without disturbing others.

Nintendo franchises: Nintendo's popular stable of characters like Mario, Samus, Donkey Kong and Zelda are exclusive to Nintendo consoles. Hits like Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8 are already available on the Wii U, and bring the franchises to you in HD for the first time.

Backward compatibility: Play Wii games — both digitally downloadable and game discs — on your Wii U instantly with the Wii Menu app. Plus, transfer saved game data from the Wii to continue playing your old games where you left off, on the new console.

Use Wii controllers: You can still use your old controllers. Plug in your Wii remotes and classic controllers (controllers sold separately) for more options when playing both Wii and select Wii U games.

eShop channel: Download independently developed games, full-priced retail games, game demos, new content like extra missions or characters via this digital storefront. Store the games directly on your console, or on a flash drive.

In the eShop you will find the Virtual Console. This part of the digital shop lets you peruse downloadable classic hits from yesteryear. You will find games developed by Nintendo, Capcom and other popular studios for previous home consoles and handheld devices like the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis or Game Boy Advance.

Other features and services

MiiVerse: When you first boot up your Wii U it will ask you to create a virtual avatar (or character). It can resemble you, your favorite pop-culture characters, or anything else you dream up. This avatar can then be used in the MiiVerse, an online community.

While exploring the online feature, you can share messages with other players. This might be a request for help with a game you're stuck in, or a picture of Mario you draw with the touch screen. No matter how you interact with MiiVerse, you'll always have a way to converse or share with other community members.

Streaming services: Your Wii U isn't just for games; the entire family can stream TV shows via Netflix, YouTube and Hulu apps, browse the Web and also control your TV. Your GamePad also doubles as a TV remote.

PC Gaming

Check out our PC Gaming Buying Guide to learn more about gaming on your desktop or laptop, and what kind of accessories (like gaming mice and keyboards) will make your PC gaming experience most enjoyable.





Wii

Last-Gen Consoles

The previous generation of consoles is referred to as "last-gen." This includes the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS.

Software support eventually slows down and stops for last-gen consoles and handhelds but that doesn't mean you shouldn't consider adding them to your living room.

Not only are they better suited for the budget-conscious, but you may have plenty of games to choose from when shopping for your next gaming experience.

Plus, when it is time to upgrade, some of the newer consoles like the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U let you play your old games, instantly increasing your game library.

Here's a quick overview of unique features each of the last-gen consoles bring to the table.


Nintendo Wii

Nintendo's popular motion-controlled console is home to a huge collection of titles developed by Nintendo featuring characters like Donkey Kong, Mario, Link and many more. These are great games for the entire family to enjoy thanks to the intuitive motion controls the Wii uses.

Wii remotes and controllers are compatible with the Wii U, and all of your Wii games and game saves can be transferred to the new console if you decide to upgrade.

PlayStation 3

PlayStation 3

Shoot, create and explore in a wide array of PS3 titles, including Naughty Dog's Indiana Jones-esque tomb-raiding adventure, Uncharted, and the cutesy, fun-for-the-entire-family LittleBigPlanet.

Connect to your PlayStation Vita and play select games on the portable device via Remote play.

Xbox 360

Xbox 360

On Microsoft's extremely successful console you will find a variety of games in varying genres that are readily available to buy in stores, and also download from the Xbox Live Arcade service.

The console's a great option if you want a multimedia machine able to stream music, movies, live sports and YouTube videos. Some of the different streaming apps available for download include Netflix and Hulu.

Handheld devices

Handheld Systems

Lower-priced hardware and games make portable systems a great option for the budget-conscious or on-the-go gamer. The unique features of handheld devices provide many ways to enjoy a narrative adventure, or a puzzling quest.

Both Sony and Nintendo lead the way in the portable console market. The 3DS, 2DS and PlayStation Vita consoles feature rechargeable batteries, Wi-Fi capability and a unique library of games built specifically for those who play while commuting.

Instead of game discs, handhelds use tiny, plastic cartridges. Games can also be downloaded from Nintendo and Sony's virtual stores.

When you buy a handheld device, everything you need to get started will be in the box. Some consoles even come packaged with a game.

Nintendo 3DS

Nintendo is no stranger to taking advantage of different technologies when creating a console, and the aptly named 3DS is no exception. The console's most unique trait is its two screens, one a 3D display (that can be turned on and off) that allows games to be viewed in 3D without the need of special glasses. And plenty of creatures and characters are ready to pop out of your screen, including Pokémon, Kirby, Yoshi and Mario.

The other screen doesn't display games in 3D, but is touch-enabled. This means you can control your games with swipes and taps, or you can use the analog nub and buttons on the device.

Major features

Vast game library: A large number of titles are at your fingertips, with the 3DS boasting an enormous library of games available via retail stores, eShop and Virtual Console. Its backward compatibility also lets you play DS games (without 3D features).

eShop: Download blockbuster titles, independent releases and games made by smaller development teams that find creative ways to use the handheld device's many unique features.

In the eShop you will find the Virtual Console. This part of the digital shop lets you experience the games of yesteryear, the ones you grew up with as a kid. Games from Nintendo's first handheld, the Game Boy, the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Game Gear are available for download for a much cheaper price than new games.

StreetPass: Connect with others simply by carrying around your handheld. When your 3DS is in sleep mode it will gather other players' Mii characters (and also send yours out). Each new Mii will help you complete games in the Mii Plaza software by giving you puzzle pieces, fighting as warriors and much more.

Augmented reality: Select games, apps and Augmented Reality (AR) cards let Mario and company visit your world and interact with objects around the house like your kitchen table, cupboards or family members. Simply set down an AR card, point your 3DS camera at it and watch it come to life.

Other features and services

Two cameras: Aspiring photographers can take 3D photographs and share them with friends.

SpotPass: Your software and game content updates automatically when your 3DS is in sleep mode, so it's ready to play when you are.

Nintendo 2DS

If 3D gaming isn't your thing, the value-priced 2DS might be more your style.

Although named the 2DS, this handheld device plays all of the 3DS games, just without the 3D feature.

The entry-level device features a slate-like design instead of the clamshell one used for the 3DS, but still contains the console's best features — an extensive game library, backward compatibility with the Nintendo DS, Wi-Fi capability, local multiplayer, a sleep mode and much more.

PlayStation Vita

Instead of just having a single touch screen, the Vita also has a touch panel on the rear of the console. Not only does it keep fingers from obscuring your view of what you're playing, it also adds new ways to zoom in with your scope, control terrain in a level and much more.

Aside from providing new control schemes, the Vita also connects with your PS3 and PS4, enriching your overall PlayStation experience.

The Vita's storage space can be expanded by purchasing memory cards to give you more room to store your games, movies, music and more.

Major features

Dual analog joysticks: Two analog sticks, as well as traditional buttons, give you more precision when saving the world.

PlayStation Network: Browse and then download digital titles off of the PlayStation Network (Internet connection required; games sold separately).

Cross-buy: When you buy a cross-buy game for a Sony console, you will receive a code to download the very same game for free. For example, when you select PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 games, you can also download a PlayStation Vita version of the game. Some Vita games will let you download a PlayStation 4 version of the game.

Cross-buy games with the cross-save feature let you continue the daring rescue you started on your Vita during your commute on your PS4 when you get back home.

PlayStation Plus (sold separately): With so many video game options, it may be hard to know what to shop for. With a PlayStation Plus membership, you can download a number of games for free (always available to you as a paying member). The offerings change monthly, so you can get a taste of an eclectic mix of games and find out what you like.

The membership also lets you play multiplayer games online, access cloud storage and other exclusive benefits. One membership works across your PS3, PS4 and PlayStation Vita portable console.

Remote play: Play select PS4 games on the Vita over your Wi-Fi network. If it's a sunny day outside, you don't have to stay inside glued to the couch and TV if you'd like to get some fresh air.

Other features and services

Streaming services: If you like to consume other media, the Vita contains a number of entertainment apps, including Netflix, Crunchyroll, NHL GameCenter LIVE (subscriptions sold separately) and Facebook.

Backward compatibility: Classic PlayStation One titles downloaded to your PS3 can also be played on the Vita.

Tablets & Smartphones

Other Gaming Devices

Tablets and smartphones

Their multifunctionality makes tablets and smartphones a source of an ever-growing library of games for the casual and hardcore gamer.

Each smartphone and tablet uses a specific marketplace: iOS App Store, Google Play, Amazon or Windows. All four marketplaces offer an amazing mix of games, and their own exclusive titles. You can find gift cards for each marketplace at your local Best Buy store or online so you have funds to quickly download the next exciting game.

Tablets also do more than just play games; they can be used with compatible home consoles and games as a second screen or as a means for your friends to hop into a game with you. For example, the Amazon Fire TV utilizes select Kindle devices for cooperative play. A companion app for use with the Watch Dogs video game lets those with a smartphone or tablet actively hinder an opponent's progress in a multiplayer mode.

Nvidia

Nvidia Shield

The portable Nvidia Shield handheld device can be played anywhere, but it also plugs into your TV when you want a bigger screen for all the action. It utilizes the Android market, and requires you to download your games via the Internet.

Streaming Media

Streaming media devices

Devices like the Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV have ushered in a new way to enjoy streaming media — and video games. The Roku 3, Amazon Fire TV and PlayStation TV are all media devices with a healthy amount of games ready to be downloaded and played using hand gestures or traditional controllers. Amazon even has an in-house studio developing exclusive games for the Fire TV.

PlayStation TV is slightly different from the others because it is focused more on gaming, and has the cability to play PS3 and Vita games. Music and movies can be streamed via the PlayStation Store, Music Unlimited and other apps.

Home Console

Accessories

When you buy a home console or a handheld device, what's included in the box ensures you have everything needed to get set up and start playing. Your next step is to purchase a game, but there are other accessories you may want to think about adding to your gaming setup to enhance your overall experience.

This includes extra controllers, charging stations, memory devices, carrying cases and much more.

Something to keep in mind when shopping for accessories: some are made by first-party companies (the companies who develop the consoles, like Nintendo) and others are third party ones (made by companies like Logitech).

A major difference between the two is price. For example, a controller developed by Microsoft or Nintendo will usually cost more than a third party's controller. You may choose different controllers for friends to use during cooperative adventures, or buy extra ones that have special features like backlit or programmable buttons.

Controllers

Controllers are an important part of each home console, and also may be worth considering for use with your PC, iOS and Android devices. When you buy a home console, you will always receive one.

Home console controllers

Each console requires additional controllers if more than one person is going to play during multiplayer game modes.

Shop console controllers:



PC controllers

You can use your keyboard and mouse with nearly every PC game, but a controller might work better. Bonus: If you own a wired Xbox 360 controller, it plugs right into your PC's USB port for use with select PC games.


Tablet and smartphone controllers

iOS and Android devices have seen their controller market grow, with different companies offering them for select games. Multiple buttons give you more control than the touch screen — and your fingers won't obscure your view of the action.

Rechargeable Batteries and Controller Charging Stands

Changing out AA batteries can be a hassle. Rechargeable batteries, along with charging stands or cables, cut out battery waste and give you a quick way to recharge your controllers.

Shop batteries and chargers:

Headsets

If you want more than a basic headset for online gaming, there are a lot of options to choose from. If you're an audio aficionado, then surround sound headsets with selectable sound modes for specific media will let you hear a pin drop or an enemy sneaking up behind you.

Other headsets have sound modes tailored specifically to different media. Choosing the right setting means explosions will really rumble, or that you'll fully appreciate the dialogue in your favorite TV series.

If you plan on wearing a headset for extended periods, you'll find that the leather, mesh and foam materials found in higher-end headsets are more comfortable than the basic ones that come with your Xbox One or PlayStation 4.

Headsets are not only made with different materials, but also sport different types of microphones. If your household is noisy, a noise-canceling headset will work well for you.

Those who want ultimate freedom of movement will want a wireless headset. Accessories like the Xbox One headset adapter will even let you use a headset you already own.

Camera Devices

Each current home console utilizes a camera. The Wii U's is integrated into its GamePad, while the PS4 camera is sold separately. The Xbox One can be purchased with a Kinect in the box, but the camera is also sold separately.

With the PS4 and Xbox One cameras, you can use voice commands in games and apps, play motion-based games and much more. Navigating to your Hulu or ESPN app is as simple as naming the app. When watching a video, you can pause or fast-forward simply by saying the word.

Early versions of the Xbox One console included the Kinect camera with console purchase, but Microsoft now allows you to buy consoles without a Kinect. If you'd like to add motion and voice control to your Xbox One experience you can buy one separately.

Shop console controllers:

Game Capture Devices

If you ever run through a level without taking any damage, or pull off that Hail Mary touchdown pass, a game capture device will let you record that moment and send it to all of your friends.

Explore Other Accessories

There are many video game accessories to browse online or in store. From screen protectors to racing wheels, carrying cases to fighting game controllers, you'll find so many ways to enhance your gaming experience.

  • Racing wheel controllers allow you to experience more realistic driving in select racing games by giving you an actual steering wheel to turn left and right.
  • Fighting game controllers mimic the large buttons and joysticks found on arcade machines. These controllers make it easier to pull off fighting moves.
  • Portable accessories include a mixture of items including screen protectors and carrying cases for keeping your video games and handheld devices protected and organized.
  • KontrolFreek accessories will help you control your games by changing the length and feel of your controller's analogs and directional pad.
  • Gaming chairs are meant to be comfortable, and some even have speakers built into them to help you feel closer to the action.

Refurbished Consoles and Accessories

Shopping for refurbished, previously played consoles, headsets or controllers is a way to get the gaming gear you really want for a lower price.




Trade-In Service

If you've exhausted everything there is to do on your current console, or just want to try out something new, explore online or in-store trade-in services available through Best Buy.

Trading in your current gear will net you a Best Buy gift card that will help with your upgrade to a new console, or gaming accessories you're missing out on.

Gaming Forums

Have more questions? Visit our video game forums to have our experts and other forum members answer your questions.






Shop Online or In Store

Find video game consoles and accessories on BestBuy.com. Your local Best Buy store also has a selection of home consoles and portable devices for you to explore. Plus, our friendly Blue Shirts are there to answer questions and help with choosing the best devices and accessories for your needs.


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