Many options are available when it comes to exploring the world of video games. Whether you play on a home console, handheld device, PC or other device, you have an eclectic mix of games, accessories, features and exclusive software to choose from. This guide will help you figure out which video game platforms are best for you.
What Console Is Right For You?
Over the years, gaming has developed a wide variety of options to cater to all kinds of different playing styles and preferences. Most people play video games on one or more of five main devices: home console, handheld console, tablet, smartphone, and laptop/desktop computer (referred to as "PC" throughout this guide). Also, there are two main ways content is delivered to your gaming device: physical software and digital game downloads.
This guide will explore the many options you have when purchasing a gaming system and games. From consoles like the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, to handheld consoles like the Nintendo 3DS, we'll explore the unique features and help you choose from the many possibilities.
Home video game consoles are typically 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 vary in design. The similarities are that they all have analog sticks and buttons used to control your video game console. The Nintendo Switch is different in that the controller can transform from one to two controllers, or from an analog controller to a motion-activated controller.
Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are the three main console developers. Although current home consoles on the market share similarities, they each sport unique features you can explore below.
The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One stand out because they allow developers to build beautiful worlds that weren't possible with previous consoles. 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. The Nintendo Switch, however, is unique because it transforms from a home console to a handheld and back again with ease.
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. Digital games give you the benefit of downloading ahead of the launch date, so you can start playing right at launch, as well as saving you shelf space and a trip to the store. If you like owning a physical copy or collecting SteelBook cases, all the consoles have physical game options as well.
When creating the PS4 and PS4 Pro, Sony focused on delivering stunning game quality and a wide variety of games, including virtual reality titles, 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.
An upgrade to the PlayStation 4 Pro offers a dynamic 4K gaming experience with enhanced resolution, HDR, and smoother frame rates. Games that already look extraordinary on a PS4 will look richer and more detailed on a PS4 Pro because of its more powerful GPU and faster CPU. You can also stream movies, TV shows and videos with 4K-compatible apps.
Both consoles pair with PlayStation VR, a preeminent virtual reality headset. Step into immersive worlds and experience games, both new and favorites, in a way you never have before.
Major PS4 Features
PlayStation 4 franchises: The PS4 is the exclusive home of blockbuster franchises like Uncharted, Killzone, LittleBigPlanet and MLB: The Show.
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 PS4, PS3, and PlayStation Vita portable console.
PlayStation Now: Stream a growing catalog of more than 500 PS4 and PS3 games to your PS4 or Windows computer with this subscription service.
PlayStation Entertainment: Experience your favorite entertainment on your console with PlayStation Vue, Music and Video. PlayStation Vue is a subscription TV service that gives you access to your favorite shows, sports and more. PlayStation Video is a great place to rent and buy movies and more. Plus, with PlayStation Music, you can sync your Spotify account to your PlayStation console while you game, even controlling the music from your tablet or smartphone.
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.
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).
More gameplay with PlayStation Vita: Connect your PlayStation Vita to your PS4 to display unique content such as radar, maps, football playbooks or alternate camera angles.
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.
The Xbox One S not only hosts exclusive game franchises like the Halo video game series, but features a number of multimedia options for the entire family. Completely compatible with all Xbox One games, the Xbox One S simply has a sleeker design, and is 40% smaller than an Xbox One. It features HDR gaming and the ability to watch movies in 4K UHD with either a 4K Blu-ray player or streaming capabilities.
Major Features of Xbox One S
4K UHD video: Watch UHD Blu-ray Discs and stream 4K video in stunning 4K Ultra HD on your Xbox One S. Experience the full potential of your HDR-enabled 4K HD TV.
High Dynamic Range gaming: The more realistic images created by HDR technology allow you to immerse yourself in the game.
Xbox Play Anywhere: Play your favorite games across Microsoft platforms. Start a game on your Windows computer, move to the TV with your Xbox One S, and then go back to your PC again later. This feature gives you increased flexibility on how and where you play certain games.
Backward compatibility: Don't worry about not being able to play your favorite Xbox 360 games; the Xbox One is backward-compatible with a growing library of games. Upgrade stress-free — not only can you keep playing your older games; you can also catch up on some of the classics that you may have missed.
Microsoft franchises: What Microsoft's platform is most synonymous with is its exclusive games. Among these are the Forza, Halo and Gears of War video game series. Just like Nintendo's proprietary Super Mario Bros. or Sony's Uncharted series, Microsoft is the only place to play many exclusive titles on the powerful console.
Other Features and Services
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. Another 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.
Motion controls: The Kinect, a device that senses motion and voice to control apps or play certain games, is a great way to navigate your console. Tell your console to turn on, navigate to Netflix, or start a game with simple vocal commands. 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 use the Kinect technology. If you decide you want to add it later, the Kinect is sold separately.
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.
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.
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).
With their newest console, Nintendo, a perennial family favorite, has blurred the lines between console and handheld gaming. Featuring multipurpose Joy-Con controllers and an easy-to-use docking system, the Switch is meant to conform to your family's busy life and be played anywhere.
The Nintendo Switch combines different elements of previous Nintendo consoles. Connect your Switch to the TV for a traditional console experience, or take it from the dock and play on the go in handheld or table-top modes. You can even connect multiple Nintendo Switch systems together to enjoy face-to-face multiplayer competition.
The Nintendo Switch features popular Nintendo-exclusive games such as Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Splatoon and more.
Major Nintendo Switch Features
Joy-Con: These innovative controllers can be slipped into a grip to mimic a more traditional controller, or attached to a strap to use more like a Wii-mote. Plus, you can opt for a GameCube-style Pro Controller to use instead.
Nintendo franchises: Nintendo's popular stable of characters like Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda are exclusive to Nintendo consoles. Favorite franchises come to life on the Switch in games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and more.
eShop channel: This digital storefront allows you to download independently developed games, full-priced retail games, game demos, and new content like extra missions or characters. 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.
amiibo figures: Just tap your amiibo gaming figure to the designated spot on the Joy-Con controller and get cool new extras. Your amiibo figures may unlock new in-game characters, game modes or other perks. Some games even let you level up or customize your character using an amiibo.
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.
Digital games allow you to purchase, download and play right from your couch. They are available for most console and PC games, and have a variety of benefits.
Digital games could give you more time to play on release day. If you have a game you are very excited to play and you pre-order the digital version, it may become available for download prior to the release date. While you still couldn't play it until it releases, you'd save time and get to the action sooner with a preinstallation.
When you buy digital games from Best Buy, you'll always have access to your games through your gaming system dashboard or Digital Library. This library is accessible from your console or any other console you'd like to play on, including those of your friends and family.
Digital game downloads also can frequently offer bonuses, extra missions or other special content you don't get with a physical game.
Small, light, and easy to take on the go, handheld systems are a great option. Lower-priced hardware and games make portable systems a great option for the budget-conscious as well. The unique features of handheld devices provide many ways to enjoy a narrative adventure or a puzzling quest.
Nintendo leads the way in the portable console market. The New 3DS XL and 2DS 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, these handhelds use small, plastic cartridges. Games can also be downloaded from Nintendo's virtual store, the eShop.
Nintendo is no stranger to taking advantage of different technologies when creating a console, and the aptly named New Nintendo 3DS XL is no exception. The console's most unique trait is its two screens, one of which is a 3D display that allows games to be viewed in 3D without using special glasses, and that can be turned on and off. 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 New Nintendo 3DS XL Features
Vast game library and backward compatibility: A large number of titles are at your fingertips, with the 3DS XL boasting an enormous library of games available via retail stores, eShop, and Virtual Console. Its backward compatibility also lets you play DS games, but without 3D features.
amiibo figures: Just tap your amiibo gaming figure to the designated spot on your New Nintendo 3DS XL and get cool new extras. Your amiibo figures may unlock new in-game characters, game modes or other perks. Some games even let you level up or customize your character using an amiibo.
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 (NES), and Sega Game Gear are available for download for a much cheaper price than new games.
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.
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 out yours). Each new Mii will help you complete games in the Mii Plaza software by giving you puzzle pieces, fighting as warriors and much more.
If 3D gaming isn't your thing, the value-priced 2DS might be more your style.
Although named the 2DS, this handheld device will play 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.
The previous generation of consoles is referred to as "last-gen." This includes the Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3, PlayStation Vita 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 them.
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 XL and Xbox One let you play some or all of your old games, instantly increasing your game library.
Here's a quick overview of some unique features each of the last-gen consoles bring to the table.
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.
On Microsoft's extremely successful console you will find a variety of games in varying genres that are readily available to buy in stores or download from the Xbox Live Arcade service.
The console is 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 (subscriptions sold separately).
Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo's first high-definition 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.
Instead of having just a single touch screen, the Vita also has a touch panel on the rear of the console. Not only does this 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.
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 also accessories you may want to think about adding to your gaming setup to enhance your overall experience. These include extra controllers, charging stations, memory devices, carrying cases and much more.
Here's something to keep in mind when shopping for accessories: some are made by first-party companies (the companies that develop the consoles, like Nintendo), and others are third-party products (made by other companies such as Logitech).
A major difference between the two is price. For example, a controller developed by Sony or 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 are an important part of each video game home console, and also may be worth considering for use with your PC, iOS and Android devices. When you buy a home video game console, you will always receive one controller.
Home console controllers
Each console requires additional controllers if more than one person is going to play during multiplayer game modes.
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.
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 to wear 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 PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
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.
Many home consoles can utilize a camera. For the PS4, the camera is required for most PlayStation VR games.
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 (subscriptions sold separately). When watching a video, you can pause or fast-forward simply by saying the word.
Shop PS4 console camera:
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 can find 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 designed 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 clearance, refurbished, previously owned consoles, headsets or controllers is a way to get the gaming gear you really want at a lower price.
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 could net you a Best Buy gift card to help you upgrade to a new console or get gaming accessories you're missing out on.
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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 Associates are there to answer questions and help you choose the best devices and accessories for your needs.
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