So you’re thinking of buying your kid a new games console this Christmas. Or – much more likely – you’ve given in to your child’s constant moaning that they really need the latest gaming system.
But with so much choice these days where do you start?
Wouldn’t it be better if you knew more about what you’re buying for your son or daughter?
The console your child wants is most likely the one his or friends are all playing. If everyone at school is talking about the new PlayStation 4 or Xbox One or 3DS games, that’s probably the system they’re going to want.
But which is really the best system for your child, your family… and your budget?
In this post, we’re going to take a look your Christmas console buying options and compare each console in terms of kid-friendly games, family features, prices, online subscription costs and more.
A note about adult game content and children
If your child really wants a specific console or game but unwraps something different on Christmas morning, you could have a very unhappy bunny on your hands. But that doesn’t mean you have to give in and buy something unsuitable for their age.
Talk to your son or daughter about games. Pay attention to the age ratings on games, even if other parents don’t. And try getting involved with your kid’s favourite hobby – you might end up having a lot of fun together.
Now, on with our Christmas console buying guide.
Christmas 2015 console price guide
A console isn’t exactly the cheapest Christmas gift. So if you need to control that Xmas budget – and you’re not alone if you do – price is a good place to start in choosing a games console.
Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – around £250-300
Xbox One (XBO) and PlayStation 4 (PS4) are the most popular home consoles around right now; so there’s a good chance your boy or girl is after one of these. Unfortunately, they’re also the most expensive, with bundles ranging in price from around £250 to £300. The pricier bundles generally include games included or more storage.
The good news is, these consoles are going to stick around for another five years or so. Unlike Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, which are set to be replaced by a new system (the mysterious ‘NX’) in the next couple of years, PS4 and XBO are a great long-term investment.
Nintendo Wii U – around £200-£250
The Nintendo Wii U home console is a little cheaper than PS4 or Xbox One.
Wii U is also a lot less powerful than PS4 and Xbox One and it’s set to be discontinued much sooner. But it has a brilliant range of family-friendly games, as we’ll see later. You can see the lowest-priced bundles in our Wii U deals section.
Nintendo New 3DS, 3DS and 2DS – around £80-£150
The home of Pokemon and other kid favourites, Nintendo’s 3DS/2DS handheld console family continues to be popular with youngsters. In actual fact, it’s the most popular handheld console across the world. With a 3DS or 2DS, kids can take their games anywhere with them – and prices are low!
With so many different models available, there is a bewildering range of options available – check our 3DS and 2DS pages for a guide and the lowest bundle prices.
Legacy consoles: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
If you’re looking for a low-budget home console, the PS4 and Xbox One’s predecessors are still available at low prices. There are hundreds of great games for these older consoles, and prices start as low as £140. Check out our PS3 deals and Xbox 360 deals.
Which is the most kid-friendly console?
People have certain perceptions of different games consoles as being “for kids” or “for grown-ups.”
Nintendo’s colourful games are often thought of as being “kiddie,” and, therefore, best suited to children. Meanwhile, Xbox and PlayStation are known for “mature” games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty.
However, this is largely a myth. There are Call of Duty titles, and other 18-rated games on Nintendo Wii U. And there are great kid-friendly games on PS4 and XBO, like Little Big Planet 3 and Rayman Legends.
So it’s not the consoles that are kid-friendly or not – it’s the games. If you don’t want your kids to play violent or adult-themed games, check the age ratings and parents’ content notes on all the games they ask for.
Here are some of the best child-friendly games available.
PlayStation 4 kids’ games
- Little Big Planet 3 – A creative platformer where kids can design their own games.
- Knack – As Knack adventures and collect relics, he transforms into a giant wrecking machine.
- Hohokum – Explore a beautiful, colourful, slightly trippy world full of puzzles to solve.
Xbox One kids’ games
- Ori and the Blind Forest – An enchanting adventure with a lovable hero.
- Project Spark – A game where you can build any game. Kids can explore their imaginations.
- Minecraft: Xbox One Edition – The digital version of Lego and just as loved. Also on PS4.
Nintendo Wii U kids’ games
- Mario Kart 8 – Racing fun with Mario characters for up to 4 players in the same room.
- Splatoon – A cartoony, critically-acclaimed team shooter where you only shoot ink!
- Lego City Undercover – Wii U’s exclusive Lego game makes Grand Theft Auto child-friendly.
3DS / 2DS kids’ games
The vast majority of games on 3DS are age-appropriate and designed to be enjoyed by children. Tale your pick!
Look out for online subscription costs
So you’ve shelled out for the console. Bought a few games at £25-50 each, with more to come no doubt. That has to be the end of your outlay, surely?
Nope. If your kids want to join their friends online, you might need to buy a subscription too – depending on which console you go for. Here’s our quick guide.
Xbox One (around £40/year) – Requires Xbox Live Gold subscription for online play. ‘Games with Gold’ occasionally gives you free games.
PlayStation 4 (around £40/year) – Requires PS Plus subscription for online play. Subscription includes free monthly games.
Nintendo Wii U, 3DS and 2DS (free) – There’s no charge to play online with Nintendo’s consoles. However, the service is much less advanced with no system-level voice chat or game invitations.
It’s decision time…
So that’s our parent’s guide to buying a console this Christmas. I hope it’s broadened your knowledge on things like hidden subscription costs, parental controls and what each console gives you and your kids for your money.
Ultimately, any of the current consoles can give your kids (and you) hundreds of hours of fun. So just pick the one you can afford, that your kids are excited about, and keep an eye on which games they’re playing.
If you think we’ve missed something, or you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments. Happy Christmas gaming!