The next-generation PlayStation and Xbox were released in the fall of 2020, and if you aren’t already thrilled for a particular model, it’s a tough time to determine what to buy. Which games you want to play, what level of graphics performance you value, how you play online, and even which system is available to buy all factor into selecting which console is best for you.
Supply difficulties have plagued both new console lines since they released, but in 2023, it’s growing easier to find them frequently at major outlets. Supply still isn’t ideal though, and even secondhand PlayStation 4 and Xbox One last-generation systems are selling for exorbitant rates on online auction sites like eBay. Although there are hundreds of wonderful titles to play on those last-gen consoles, we don’t think you should pay more than $200 for a used machine. However, those previously owned systems are frequently selling for $300 or more at this writing, and new last-gen consoles aren’t being built.
Sony PlayStation 5
The PlayStation 5 arrived in November 2020, and most retailers have been regularly sold out of both the $500 PS5 and the $400 PS5 Digital Edition ever since. With the PlayStation and Xbox platforms delivering equivalent visual capabilities (at least on paper) at similar pricing, the reasons to buy a PlayStation over an Xbox hinge primarily around the games you want to play and how you want to play them.
The PlayStation 4 featured more top-rated exclusive titles than the Xbox One. Earlier, most of them were available just on the PS4, whereas the Xbox One’s exclusives were sometimes available on the PC, too. Nonetheless, PlayStation has broadened its PC distribution strategy, and titles such God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Death Stranding, Horizon Zero Dawn, a collection of Uncharted games, Returnal, and even the 2022 remake of The Last of Us: Part I have received or are receiving high-profile PC editions. You may still expect the successful exclusives to get sequels on the PlayStation 5 first, although few are available so far, and most of them will still arrive on the PlayStation 4, as well.
Chosen exclusive games for each platform
The PS Plus subscription service includes membership options in the form of three tiers: PlayStation Plus Essential, Extra, and Premium. The standard subscription, PlayStation Plus Essential, starts at $60 per year, with annual costs rising to $100 and $120 respectively for Extra and Premium. Members of any tier with a PlayStation 5 console gain access to a collection of 19 games—including some major titles—but this catalog is only offered until May 9, 2023. That’s inaddition to online play, the regular two free games a month (of different quality), and special discounts on some titles during specials. You keep the free games as long as you have a PS Plus subscription, but you lose access to them if you cancel, even if you’ve already downloaded them. Individuals that subscribe to the more expensive PlayStation Plus levels, Extra and Premium, receive access to additional game catalogs.
Microsoft Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S
The newest Xbox released in November 2020. Whilst it’s been difficult to find the $500 Xbox Series X, it’s been slightly simpler to find the $300 Xbox Series S. With the Xbox and PlayStation platforms delivering identical visual capabilities (at least on paper) at similar pricing, the reasons to acquire an Xbox instead of a PlayStation hinge primarily around which games you want to play and how—that, and Xbox Game Pass.
Last generation, the Xbox One didn’t have as many highly acclaimed exclusive games as the PS4 did, but it still had a decent library of titles you couldn’t acquire on PlayStation. The Series X and Series S will continue many of those brands, including Halo, Gears of War, Doom, Wolfenstein, The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and more, and many of their succeeding titles will also premiere on Game Pass on day one. Microsoft is also in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard, the firm behind brands like Diablo, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, and Call of Duty, yet Overwatch 2 still debuted on many platforms, and subsequent games like Diablo IV will follow suit. Microsoft has also confirmed that future Call of Duty editions will not be exclusive to Xbox platforms
Most versatile console: Nintendo Switch, Switch OLED Model, or Switch Lite
Unlike a PlayStation or an Xbox, the Nintendo Switch isn’t trying to be the center of your entire TV setup. It can’t perform anything in 4K, and it doesn’t provide many streaming video apps. But it continues to do the thing that Nintendo systems do best: play terrific, family-friendly, genre-defining Nintendo games from classic franchises like Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon. And if earlier Nintendo systems haven’t given gamers much to do in between Mario games, the Switch offers a wide library of compelling independent titles and offbeat experiments like cardboard robots and fitness gadgets.
The base-model Nintendo Switch (and the later OLED Model) can operate both as a home console and as a portable device like Nintendo’s 3DS. It consists of a little tablet with controllers attached, and you can connect it to your TV via a dock or use it as a handheld—the games look and play the same either way. The Switch is not as powerful as the PS4 or Xbox One S—to say nothing of the forthcoming PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S consoles—and it provides graphical quality somewhere between that of a PS3 and a PS4. However Nintendo has discontinued the 3DS and 2DS, making the portability and selection of Nintendo-designed and developed games on the Switch unlike that of any other device you can buy today.
It’s also very well supported by independent developers, which have contributed multiplayer games like Ultimate Chicken Horse, Overcooked, and TowerFall; challenging platformers and action games like Celeste, Hollow Knight, and Dead Cells; and unique experiments like Baba Is You and Untitled Goose Game. None of these games are specific to the Switch, but the Switch is the only device that makes it easy to play anything on a train, on a plane, or in bed.
The Switch’s mobility and its detachable Joy-Con motion controllers allow it to perform some weird things. A number of the Switch’s multiplayer titles, such as Nintendo Switch Sports, Super Mario Party, and Snipperclips, make use of the motion controllers, targeting lovers of Wii-style party games. For action-heavy single-player titles, Nintendo also offers the more traditional (and great) Switch Pro Controller.
Don’t buy the Switch for streaming video. It now has just a handful of streaming video apps: Hulu, Funimation, Pokémon TV, Crunchyroll, Twitch, and YouTube. The Switch has a few hidden charges, too. The Joy-Con controllers are tiny and awkward to handle, even with the supplied comfort grip, so you may want to purchase a Switch Pro Controller if you plan on playing with the Switch connected to a TV. Unless you’re dedicated to buying physical game cartridges for most releases—keep in mind that many of the Switch’s greatest third-party games are available solely via download—you also need a microSD card, because the Switch has just 32 GB of internal storage. A 128 GB card provides you enough space for quite a few games without adding too much to the cost, while a 256 GB card is large enough to store dozens of titles.