According to Peggy Hill, the busiest shopping day of the holiday season is already behind us. Congratulations to the three of you that got that joke. Yet just because Black Friday has already passed, it doesn’t mean that we are finished our holiday shopping, or that we have even started. I spent my Black Friday shopping for myself, so I have a lot to wrap up still. If you’re still wondering what to get someone, or even what to get for yourself, we’re gonna help you make that decision a little easier. Well, at least if you are in the market for a new video game console that is.
There are three big contenders for your money this holiday season: Nintendo’s Wii U, Sony’s PlayStation 4, and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Which one is right for you or for the person you are buying it for? We’re gonna try to figure that out a few different ways, in order of each console’s release date. So, without further adieu…
Nintendo released its latest home console just over two years ago, on November 18, 2012. The Wii U launched with few titles, and struggled to grab the market like its predecessor the Wii. However, two years after the console’s release, the Wii U is in an excellent position for someone to take home and unbox for the first time. It still lacks any heavy third-party support, but the console maker has been pushing out plenty of first-party software to keep you occupied.
- Price: $299.99
- What’s Included: Most retailers currently have a bundle that includes the 32 GB Wii U System, the Wii U GamePad, Super Mario 3D World, and Nintendo Land. Wii Remotes and Wii Remotes with Motion Plus can also be used as controllers for some games.
- Which Games to Buy: We recommend Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Shovel Knight, Pikmin 3, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, Super Mario 3D World, Bayonetta 2, and some eShop Gift Cards to put toward Virtual Console offerings.
- Who Should Play This: Everyone. Nintendo has a way of easing new gamers into their worlds while reintroducing its franchises to those who have been playing games since the NES. Almost every game that is put out for the system is accessible for any age, and anyone should be able to have fun across a number of titles.
- Fun Factor: With an emphasis on local multiplayer games, the Wii U is incredibly fun for groups of people sitting together on the couch. Nintendo has also figured out online play, making Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U great multiplayer games even without a pack of people surrounding the machine.
- Longevity: Nintendo has cemented a strong foundation of games to enjoy for first-time owners, and the addition of amiibo figurines are helping to add a tail to some of their older titles. The figurines also make for great stocking stuffers. In 2015, Nintendo has already confirmed brand new entries in both the Star Fox series and The Legend of Zelda, the latter of the two was just featured in demo form at this year’s Game Awards. Also confirmed for next year are Mario Maker, a game that allows players to create their very own Mario stages; Yoshi’s Woolly World which takes the traditional Yoshi game and adds a yarn aesthetic to the design; Splatoon, a multiplayer third-person shooter; Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Mario Party 10, and more. Also, another round of downloadable content is set for Mario Kart 8 in the spring, and at least one new character will be added to Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The Wii U should have a really fantastic 2015 and new owners should have plenty to play throughout the year.
Sony had a difficult time selling the PlayStation 3 and for years the company struggled in third place. With the PlayStation 4, everything changed. The PS4 launched at an affordable price and boasted the most powerful system on the market. In addition to a heavy roster of first-party studios, Sony have been integral in the push for independent developers to have a home on the console. Variety is the ecosystem within the PS4, and with games like Uncharted 4 on the way, Sony’s machine is a safe bet for gamers.
- Price: $399.99
- What’s Included: The package comes with the 500 GB PlayStation 4 console and one DualShock 4 controller. Retailers are currently offering both the standard console package in addition to a bundle that includes Grand Theft Auto V and The Last of Us. A new bundle has just been made available that includes digital vouchers for four games of choice, for the same $399.99 price.
- Which Games to Buy: We can personally recommend inFamous: Second Son, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Resogun, and Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty. Our friends have also been very supportive of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition, and LittleBigPlanet 3. The console also has a healthy stock of remastered games from the previous generation of consoles, and we would highly recommend The Last of Us: Remastered, Grand Theft Auto V, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, and Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition. There are also so many great digital releases that we would recommend a PSN gift card to get started on some digital only content.
- Who Should Play This: Gamers. The PlayStation 4 seems to have everything figured out and is a perfect all-around console for anyone looking to spend a lot of time on one machine. The console has heavy third-party support from every major third-party developer, and Sony’s acquisition of first-party studios provides console owners with a huge selection of titles that are exclusive to the console. Players who are dedicated to playing should feel right at home with the PlayStation 4.
- Fun Factor: The PlayStation 4 is a console first and everything else second. It supports media applications like Netflix and Hulu Plus, which both look outstanding on the platform, but this is a console built for gaming. There is enough variety between the AAA experiences and independent output to provide console owners with a lot of fun, challenge, and enjoyment.
- Longevity: The PlayStation 4 is only just entering its second year, and Sony has historically kept a ten-year life cycle for its platforms. New owners should have something to play for years to come. Just this past weekend, Sony held the first ever PlayStation Experience in Las Vegas, Nevada, which housed a lot of new announcements and showcased upcoming software for the console. A fifteen-minute gameplay video for Naughty Dog’s highly anticipated Uncharted 4 showed the series’ most impressive entry thus far. Early in the year, players will have first-party offerings such as The Order: 1886, a third-person cover shooter set in Victorian London that pits the player against werewolf-like creatures, as well as Until Dawn, a horror game that puts the player in control of a teen vacation getaway gone wrong where a serial killer tries to murder everyone in the cabin one by one. Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky looks to be one of the next years biggest science-fiction adventure titles that will debut on the PlayStation 4, and Capcom has just announced Street Fighter V which will remain console exclusive to the PS4. Every week there are new indie games being added to the PSN or announced. Next year will bring console owners Axiom Verge, Shovel Knight, and Grim Fandango Remastered to name a few.
When the Xbox One was first announced, the console had a strong focus on every form of entertainment besides gaming. Since its unveiling, Microsoft has changed the console’s messaging and pushed heavily on what games the console is offering and how friendly it is for independent developers. There has been an increase in third-party partnerships, as well as a huge push from Microsoft’s first-party development teams and the console is in a nice space right now to make it stand out as not only a great gaming console, but a great entertainment console for more than just gamers to enjoy.
- Price: Currently reduced to $349.99, regularly $399.99 (without Kinect). Also available for $449.99, regularly $499.99 (with Kinect).
- What’s Included: Retailers are currently offering a console bundle that includes the 500 GB Xbox One console with one controller and copies of both Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Unity.
- Which Games to Buy: We can recommend some of the system’s launch titles which include Killer Instinct, Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Additionally, we’d recommend some of the latest releases from this year including Titanfall, Sunset Overdrive, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection which remasters each of the main entries in the series for the modern console and allows chapter selection for those looking to relive the best moments of the previous game. Our friends have also recommended Super Time Force, Fantasia: Music Evolved, and Forza Horizon 2, as well as a lot of the remastered games from last generation including Grand Theft Auto V, Sleeping Dogs: Definitive Edition, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, and Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition.
- Who Should Play This: Gamers who want more than just games. The Xbox One is certainly packed with a lot of great titles to play, and Microsoft’s first-party offerings are only getting stronger. Exclusive titles like Sunset Overdrive and Killer Instinct provide entertainment that can’t be found on any other platform. However, the Xbox One boasts a hefty offering of entertainment solutions. With the ability to connect the system to a cable box, Xbox One owners can use the console for everything in the living room and not just games. The Xbox One’s Snap feature allows players to multitask and leave a small window open in the corner of the screen for watching movies or television in the background, as well as talking through Skype and other online services.
- Fun Factor: The Xbox One was designed to be the one console that you need in your entertainment center for all entertainment needs. Its uses exceed those of just a gaming console, and offer entertainment for everyone in the household whether they use it for games or something else.
- Longevity: The Xbox One has just entered its second year on the market and already has an exceptional library of both first and third-party content. Upcoming games like Halo 5: Guardians and Fable Legends which are exclusive to the console will continue to set the console apart and provide owners with something they won’t be able to play anywhere else. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a deal with Square Enix to bring the sequel to last year’s Tomb Raider exclusively to Xbox One for a time. Additionally, the team at [email protected] is helping to bring in more and more indie games such as Cuphead and Massive Chalice. Also, Microsoft is famed for regular updates to the Xbox 360 which improved its functionality over its lifetime, and already in its first year on the market the Xbox One has seen updates to the software that have made it better than it was at launch.
I can’t tell you which one to buy, because each console has its own benefits, but hopefully by reading what is listed out above you should have a better idea on where to start looking this holiday season. I think that any of these consoles will make a great addition to the home, it just depends on what you or the person you are gifting it to is looking for. With 2015 shaping up to be one of the best years in video games, right now is the perfect time to get into one of these console ecosystems, and luckily each one already has a lot of great content ready for enjoyment.
I’m curious to hear which one you will decide on, so let us know in the comments below where you landed. Also, stay tuned for our guide to buying a handheld console this holiday season as well, where we will break down both the PlayStation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS.