The year 2022 is a good year to be a gamer, and whether your tipple of choice is the Nintendo Switch, the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X or something else entirely, there are a lot of great games to play and plenty of ways to play them. It’s hard to know which is truly the best gaming console, though.
A big part of that is because it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re after power in your gaming console, then you’ll likely want a Series X or a PS5. Those who on a budget will appreciate the Series S, and people who travel a lot tend to favor the Switch. To help you out, we’ve gone ahead and made a list of the best gaming consoles out there for you.
How We Chose the Best Gaming Consoles
Choosing the best gaming consoles is hard, because there are pros and cons to sift through. We’re sticking with the ones that’ll see you through for a good few years. That means we’ve put a big focus on the new gen of consoles over the older ones, and we’re looking at cloud and VR gaming too.
We considered several different elements:
- Pricing: Some consoles are dramatically less expensive than others.
- Availability: Tried buying a PS5 lately? It’s not easy.
- Power: Performance matters just as much as graphics.
- Portability: Not everyone games at home.
- Ease of use: While it’s one thing to pick up and play with a controller, it’s something else entirely to learn the ins and outs of a cloud system.
1. PlayStation 5 Digital Edition
Retailing for $399, the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition is the most accessible version of Sony’s next-generation console in terms of cost. But despite a price tag that’s $100 less than the standard PS5, the only tradeoff here is that it doesn’t have a 4K Blu-ray drive for playing physical versions of games and movies. However, it still comes with the same custom 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU (clocked at 3.5 GHz) and RDNA 2 GPU, which produces 10.36 teraflops of pixel-pushing power, along with 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and a custom 825GB SSD that promises lightning-fast load times.
Buy This If: You want the widest selection of the biggest third-party AAA games. You regularly play online with your friends.
Why: Sony has a strong portfolio of game franchises that it develops in-house, such as God of War and Spider-Man, but the real advantage for PlayStation consoles is that they almost always have the strongest lineup of third-party AAA games. The PlayStation 5 is shaping up to be no different, with Final Fantasy XVI already slated for future release as a PS5 exclusive. But there are plenty of exciting PS5 video games to enjoy.
The other reason to grab a PS5 is if you do a lot of online multiplayer gaming. Cross-platform online multiplayer is still not as common as you’d expect, which means that if you own an Xbox and your friends all have the PlayStation, there are a lot of games where you won’t be able to join. Since more people tend to buy the PlayStation than the Xbox, the safer move here would be to go with the PS5 if you’re not yet sure which gaming console your friends are likely to buy.
With the recent revamp of Sony’s PlayStation Plus to compete with Xbox Game Pass, owners of the digital console have access to more titles than ever before.
2. Xbox Series S
With the launch of the latest-gen Xbox console, Microsoft has decided to launch two different models. The Xbox Series S is the less powerful of the two, capable of up to 1800p resolution output at 60 frames per second instead of 4K, but with the same $299 price tag of the three-year-old Nintendo Switch. While this doesn’t support 4K resolution and only has 10 GB of RAM (compared to 16 in the Xbox Series X), it is still built on the same AMD Zen 2 CPU and RDNA 2 GPU that the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 use, which means that you’re getting all the same lighting effects and textures, just at lower resolutions (which, on a TV smaller than 75-inches, may not be as noticeable as you’d think).
Buy This If: You’re really hyped on cloud- and subscription-based gaming.
Why: For more than a decade, you’ve been sold on a future vision for cloud gaming where, as long as you have a screen, a controller and an internet connection, you can load up a game on any device you want and have a no-compromises experience. Many have attempted this and mostly failed, but with the launch of xCloud as part of Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft is close to delivering. Not only do you get unlimited access to hundreds of games for $15 a month, but you can stream many of them from your Xbox, smartphone, laptop or tablet in 720p resolution without having to download anything.
Assuming this all sounds amazing to you, the Xbox Series S is the best gaming console for you, since it’s $200 cheaper than buying an Xbox Series X. You can still purchase and download all the next-gen Xbox games you want for local, offline gaming, but if streaming games from the cloud is what you’re really after, you don’t need that extra power anyways. In fact, you theoretically don’t even need the power of a $300 console for xCloud to work (and we envision a future where you can access this service through a Smart TV app), but for the time being, buying an Xbox Series S is the best and easiest way to tap into this technology.
3. PlayStation 5 Standard Edition
As mentioned above, the only real difference between the PlayStation 5 Standard Edition and its digital counterpart is that the former has a 4K Blu-ray disc drive. Everything else — the CPU, GPU, RAM, SSD and graphical output — is the same.
Buy this if: You can’t say no to the collector’s edition of your favorite games. You buy used games. You have slow internet.
Why: The most obvious reason for paying an extra $100 to get a PS5 with a disc drive is if you are the collector type who loves collector’s sets and physical versions of games in general. But whimsy aside, there are a couple of other, more utilitarian reasons why you might want a disc drive in your game console.
If you like to save money by purchasing used games, you’re going to need a disc drive for that. If you don’t want to bother with managing available storage space once you inevitably fill up that SSD, then having a disc drive is definitely for you. And if your home internet connection is not so quick, you might actually be able to drive to a store and purchase a game in less time than it would take to download it. Finally, if you have a bunch of physical PS4 games that you want to revisit (or play for the first time), the PS5 is backward compatible, so you don’t have to have an extra console connected to your TV.
As an added bonus, that disc drive happens to play 4K Blu-ray movies, which should please movie snobs who can’t unsee the inferior quality of a Netflix stream.
4. Xbox Series X
If we’re talking pure specs, the Xbox Series X has everything you want from a console without many compromises. Like the PS5, this console is capable of 4K resolutions and frame rates up to 120 fps. But on paper it is the more powerful of the two consoles, capable of 12 teraflops of graphical power compared to the PS5’s 10. And just like the Xbox Series S, you still have access to Xbox Game Pass, but with so much more horsepower.
Buy This If: You want the most technically impressive machine you can get your hands on.
Why: While the Xbox and PS5 both say that 120 fps gaming will only be supported at 1440p resolutions, some game devs already have their titles running at 120 fps and 1800p, so it’s possible the extra horsepower of the Xbox is being put to work here. And while it’s much too early to know how the Xbox Series X or Series X will perform with more demanding titles down the road, the beefier CPU and GPU of the Series X, along with the added RAM (16 GB vs. 10 GB), could potentially safeguard against any hiccups in performance.
Admittedly, paying a premium for some of these extra features is a risk. A more powerful GPU on paper doesn’t automatically translate to better graphics, and early games likely won’t push the Xbox Series X to its graphical limits. There also aren’t many TVs with a 120Hz refresh rate currently, which means that unless you’re planning to play on a computer monitor or an expensive 75-inch flat-screen, you might not get to take advantage of this until you buy your next TV. But eventually things will catch up, and while it may take some time for game developers and television makers to support all of the powerful features offered by the Xbox Series S, you’ll be ready and waiting once they do.
5. Nintendo Switch OLED
The Nintendo Switch OLED didn’t update the console in the way that many players were hoping for, but the new screen is definitely a plus for those who spend a lot of time in handheld mode. It’s not a necessary purchase if you’ve already got a Switch, but if you’ve not bought one yet or if you are eyeing a second one anyway, the OLED is a good shout.
Buy This If: You want the best-looking handheld experience for Nintendo games.
Why: The Switch is an excellent console, but it’s not all that powerful. Despite that, art direction on many of the best Switch OLED games, combined with the beautiful new screen, makes for an eye-wateringly good visual experience every time.
6. Nintendo Switch Lite
Like we stated earlier, Nintendo won a major victory in the gaming console wars by not even attempting to compete on specs or hardware. Instead, the Japanese company focused on making fun games that anyone can enjoy. You don’t need a bunch of expensive accessories, and there are 2,000 titles to play. Unlike the full Nintendo Switch, the Lite version of the console is handheld and designed to be played on the go. And with a super affordable price tag of just $199, it’s hard to beat the Switch Lite on price.
Buy This If: You love Mario, Tom Nook and Zelda but aren’t a hardcore gamer. If you’d rather go fishing and hang out with your friends then slaughter your enemies on the battlefield, the Switch Lite is the gaming console you want.
Why: The Switch Lite is a great option for the more casual gamer who typically plays solo during their downtime. It’s a great distraction at the end of a long day or while you’re traveling, and it was the perfect console for the quarantines of 2020. Even though it doesn’t have all the same features as the full Nintendo Switch, you can play all 2,000 titles on the Switch Lite. Plus it comes in cool colors, so there’s that.
Unfortunately, the only way co-op gaming with your friends is fun is if you can throw it up on the TV, which means that you’ll need the full-sized switch to maximize the joy of wrecking them in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
7. Nintendo Switch
The Nintendo Switch is without a doubt the most popular gaming console of the last several years, and it has a huge appeal that spans all demographics. The Nintendo Switch retails for $299.99, although price gougers often sell it for closer to $400 on sites like eBay, Amazon and Walmart. However, for Switch fans, there’s nothing better than an extended gaming session with your friends. And with Nintendo’s impressive roster of characters (the entire Mario and Luigi family, Tom Nook and the Animal Crossing gang and the Zelda universe), there’s so much to love about the Switch.
Buy This If: You love Nintendo games and want to play them on your TV. You have kids and want to introduce them to the joys of gaming with multiplayer all-ages titles.
Why:The Nintendo Switch might be way less powerful than the last two generations of Sony and Microsoft consoles, and it might not be as cheap or portable as the Switch Lite, but we love the Switch for one simple reason: versatility. If you want to game in bed, you can do that. If you want to game on your TV, you can also do that. And because such iconic games as Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild are made by Nintendo, the only way you’re ever going to play them (legally) is on a Switch.
But it’s also a great console for gaming with friends IRL thanks to games like Super Mario Party, Mario Kart and Overcooked. Owning the bigger Switch means that you instantly have two controllers thanks to the split design of the Joy-cons, and if you also buy a Switch Pro Controller (which you totally should because it’s amazing) then you have three. But the only way couch co-op gaming with your friends is fun is if you can throw it up on the TV, which means that you’ll need the full-sized switch to maximize the joy of wrecking them in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
8. Meta Quest 2
The Meta Quest 2 is the world’s most approachable VR headset. At only $300, it’s the same price as a Nintendo Switch, but with much more immersive gameplay. You can sink deep into virtual worlds, rely on your own body for maneuverability and even exercise with a set of lightsabers and your favorite beats. While there are more powerful VR headsets available, none are as affordable or as easy to start playing as the Meta Quest 2.
Buy This Is: You don’t want to spend $1,000+ for a VR headset (and that’s not including the computer needed to run it). Or if you want a completely wireless VR experience. Or both.
Why: There’s a misguided idea that VR gaming has to be expensive. While it typically is, the Meta Quest 2 makes it affordable and provides all the processing power you need through the headset itself. As a standalone device, all you’ll need is a smartphone to download the Oculus app and set up the headset.
From that point on, you can download VR games to try out. There are plenty of free titles, and Meta has a surprisingly forgiving return policy if you don’t enjoy a game or you find it gives you motion sickness. If you later decide you want a better VR experience, you can upgrade the Quest 2 with a lot of aftermarket products and even sync it with Vive Base Stations for full-body tracking.
9. NVIDIA GeForce Now
If you haven’t been paying close attention the last couple of years, a big shift is taking place in the gaming world. Just as video games moved from running on arcade machines to living room consoles, they’re now moving to cloud servers. While there is still no perfect cloud gaming service and they’re all works in progress to varying extents, NVIDIA’s GeForce Now is currently the best cloud gaming service due to the fact that you can stream games in 1080p on multiple platforms (mobile, PC, TV) and there’s a free-to-use subscription tier.
Buy This Is: You want to stream your existing game library to other devices. You want to play Fortnite on your iPhone (it’s the only way).
Why: It’s almost impossible to get your hands on a PS5 or Xbox Series X right now. A gaming PC that can properly support the new generation of AAA games is prohibitively expensive. But with GeForce Now, you can run those same games for little more than the cost of the games themselves. The way GeForce Now works is that you must own or buy all the games you play through the service, but it links up with the Steam, Epic and UPLAY stores so that you verify that you own the PC version of the game before you install it to the GeForce Now servers. That means that you could stream games you already own on much better hardware than your own. And if the game isn’t supported by the service in the future, or GeForce Now eventually shuts down, you aren’t left with nothing to show for it.
10. Microsoft xCloud
Offered as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, Microsoft’s xCloud is the cloud gaming service with the most long-term potential. However, whether or not it reaches its full potential hinges on whether or not Microsoft can follow through on its promises to build the service out in the coming years. For now, xCloud is only compatible with Android devices, and because it’s only focusing on streaming to mobile devices, it streams at 720p. But the end goal for Microsoft is to have this service up and running on TVs, PCs and at 4K resolutions.
Buy This If: You don’t want to pay $500 for a console and want unlimited access to hundreds of games for one monthly fee.
Why: The biggest draw for xCloud is the fact that you have access to 200 games (several of which are current-gen AAA titles that can take advantage of server-grade hardware) for $15 a month. Considering you don’t have to buy a console, you could potentially save hundreds of dollars over a five-to-seven-year span by going this route if you’re a serious gamer. Microsoft is fully invested in pushing its cloud-based technologies forward (Windows Azure is among the biggest and best server infrastructures around), while explicitly stating that it sees cloud gaming as the future. With games such as DOOM Eternal, Control, Forza Horizon 4, The Witcher III, Nier: Automata and Dragon Quest XI S, there’s enough here already to warrant giving this service a try.
11. Google Stadia
Google Stadia promised the world when it was first announced in 2019. Not only did Google pitch a vision of lag-free, 4K HDR game streaming, but it had some of the biggest game studios supporting the platform and would be deeply integrated with YouTube so that you could hop into a game with your favorite content creators and pro gamers. More than a year after its launch, about the only thing Stadia has delivered on is offering solid 4K HDR game streaming on a number of devices including phones, tablets, laptops and TVs. That in and of itself is an achievement (even if it uses a whole lot of bandwidth), but that doesn’t amount to much if the game selection is thin. Still, it has its merits.
Buy This If: You want to play a functional version of Cyberpunk 2077.
Why: Considering that Cyberpunk 2077 is barely playable on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, and with the PS5 and Xbox Series X in short supply, the best way to check out Cyberpunk 2077 as it was intended is through Google Stadia. Sure, you could buy the PC version, but unless you already have a rig with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 card, you’re going to be spending $2,500 to get the full experience. And when it comes to these services, Stadia probably has one of the smaller libraries, even if it offers Cyberpunk 2077 and a handful of other recent AAA titles. Alternatively, you can spend $9.99/month for a Stadia Pro subscription to get access to 4K HDR streaming and a handful of free games. Sure you’ll have to pay full price for Cyberpunk 2077, but you won’t be paying $2500.
12. Amazon Luna
Once Google jumped aboard the cloud gaming train, Amazon had to follow. Amazon Luna is the product of that experiment, and, while it comes with a fantastic controller design, the actual experience of using Amazon Luna leaves a bit to be desired. It has a great interface and a lot of room to grow, but any game that requires split-second decision making and response times might not be the best fit.
Buy This If: You’re heavily invested in Amazon and want to try cloud gaming, or you only enjoy turn-based RPGs and visual novels.
Why: Amazon Luna isn’t terribly expensive. The Luna Controller is only $70 and feels a lot like an Xbox controller, although the buttons are a bit stiffer. You can subscribe to different gaming channels instead of the whole package, so you only spend a few dollars a month to access the games you want. The downside to all this is that cloud gaming is still in its early stages, and the slow response times and input lag make racing games, fighting games and even the Genesis version of Sonic the Hedgehog nearly unplayable.