What is the best game console?
With the resurgence of Nintendo and the emergence of game streaming, there’s rarely been such an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choosing the best game consoles available to buy right now.
Along with a wide variety across manufacturers, the introduction of “Pro” and “Lite” versions of consoles have given consumers a greater choice than ever before.
These new versions of existing consoles have also arrived alongside the introduction of new categories. Lightweight game streaming is now offered with the likes of Google Stadia and GeForce Now, while the success of game subscription service Xbox Games Pass has given players more flexibility.
Streaming services might well be the future, but there’s still nothing like the thrill of getting your hands on a bit of gaming console kit. Read on for our roundup of the best game consoles available, including an alternative option for the PC-heads out there.
- Best PlayStation game console for 4K: PS4 Pro
- Best value PlayStation game console: PS4
- Best Xbox game console for 4K: Xbox One X
- Best value Xbox game console: Xbox One S
- Best budget game console: Xbox One S All-Digital Edition
- Best Nintendo game console: Nintendo Switch
- Best game console on-the-go gaming: Nintendo Switch Lite
- Best game console for streaming: Nvidia Shield TV
- Best mini game console: Nintendo Classic Mini SNES
- Best game console alternative: Gaming PC
Related: PS5 vs Xbox Series X
1. PS4 Pro
The best (and only) 4K PlayStation experience
- Most powerful PlayStation experience
- Gorgeous 4K and HDR graphics
- Enhancements for PS4 and PSVR games
- Can get loud
- Not worth it without 4K TV
The PS4 Pro was Sony’s first foray into 4K gaming and, wow, was it a mighty first step. The transition came at a time that allowed new console owners to experience the gorgeous God of War and stunning Assassin’s Creed: Origins shortly after.
The combination of a stellar lineup of games and remarkable forward-facing graphical technology makes the PS4 Pro a true contender for one of the best game consoles you can buy right now.
While the console offered some stunning visuals for games made to take advantage of the new tech, the PS4 Pro also offered visual improvements to some existing games – greatly extending its benefits.
With PS5 set to push the PlayStation formula even further, the PS4 Pro placed the company on a great footing with the success of its generation-leading exclusives.
- Read our full PS4 Pro review
The best bang-for-your-buck Sony console
- Unrivalled game library
- Super affordable
- Comfortable wireless controller
- Support for all of the best video streaming apps
- Lacks 4K support
- Approaching end of life cycle
- PlayStation Now poor value compared to Xbox Games Pass
While the PS4 Pro pushed the boundaries of this console generation, the jump didn’t make sense for everyone – especially for those without a 4K TV – enter the PS4 (Slim).
With the new Slim model, Sony ever-so-slightly refreshed the original design – with a cleaner and more rounded look for the new default PS4.
The PS4 offers all the gaming excitement of PlayStation’s epic game library but without the increased price of the new Pro model. The console remains a great choice for those wanting in Sony’s ecosystem without breaking the bank.
- Read our full PS4 review
3. Xbox One X
The 4K Microsoft powerhouse
- Gorgeous 4K visuals
- Quiet running
- Improves performance in some games
- Quality of graphics enhancements vary by game
- Small and slow hard disk
- Relatively high price
In the middle of this generation of consoles, Sony had the PS4 Pro while Microsoft dished up the Xbox One X – a console with titanic graphical performance and rival for the top spot among the best game consoles.
The Xbox One X provided 4K and HDR visuals for its games in a package that Microsoft touts as “the world’s most powerful console”. Similar to the PS4 Pro, the One X also offered improvements for past Xbox One games rather than just newer optimised ones.
Microsoft managed to top its Sony rivals when it comes to noise too. While the Xbox One X fans run fairly quiet on average, the Sony-equivalent seems to be preparing to take off – often in the most random of scenarios.
With Sony seeming to be focusing on SSD speeds for the PS5, the Xbox Series X looks like it could carry over the Xbox One X mantle of being the most powerful console in the world – an exciting time for power-hungry Xbox fans.
- Read our full Xbox One X review
4. Xbox One S
The best value Xbox console you can buy
- 4K game upscaling
- It’s a cheap UHD Blu-ray player
- Improved, grippy controller
- No native 4K for games
The Xbox One S is one of the most-affordable and bursting-with-value best game consoles on this list – a console which comes closest to achieving Microsoft’s living room focused vision for the original Xbox One.
Putting aside the gaming for one moment, the Xbox One S acts as a fantastically cheap 4K Blu-ray player – offering value against dedicated disc players even if it didn’t play games too.
For games, it does a great job for its low price. You’ll get pleasing 1080p visuals and, even, 4K upscaling to give high-end TV owners a bit of a boost.
The Xbox One S is far from matching the performance of the One X and lacks its native 4K benefits, but the combination of solid current-gen gameplay and a useful 4K disc drive make it a great value proposition.
- Read our full Xbox One S review
5. Xbox One S All-Digital Edition
A stellar Xbox Game Pass machine
- 4K game upscaling and HDR compatible
- Great for Xbox Game Pass
- Super affordable
- 4K video streaming
- Middling performance
- No native 4K for games
- No disc drive
While the Xbox One S offers great value in its own right, the Xbox One S All-Digital Edition modernises the traditional console formula with little damage to your wallet.
The Xbox One SAD Edition (as it was called by some early on) had a bit of a disastrous launch. The disc-drive-sporting Xbox One S had been discounted across the board, while the new All-Digital Edition launched at a similar price – a baffling move.
Since then, the disc-less console has enjoyed the similar offers and discounts – making it the cheapest current-gen Xbox you can buy.
The lack of a disc drive really lets Xbox Game Pass (Microsoft’s supremely successful game subscription service) come into its own on this model. You still get a hard drive for those games you would purchase but, if you want pick-up-and-play gaming at a jaw-droppingly low overall price, the All-Digital Edition and Game Pass combo is an absolute winner.
Related: Best Xbox One games
6. Nintendo Switch
Nintendo’s premiere console
- Gaming whenever, wherever you want
- Bright and colourful screen
- Versatile Joy-Con controllers
- Some truly incredible games
- Overpriced accessories
- Expensive games
The Switch brought Nintendo’s quality gaming IP to a unique form-factor that allowed for the great portable experience of the Nintendo DS and preceding Game Boys as well as the at-home communal experience of the hugely popular Nintendo Wii.
From the genre-redefining The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to classic co-op games like the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Super Mario Party, the Switch offers a wide array of child-friendly games alongside some exclusives that will blow the minds of all ages.
Nintendo didn’t just create a hybrid of two things it does well though; it looked outside of its remit. The Nintendo Switch now offers one of the best indie game experiences available and often leaves fans crying out “Yeah, but when’s the Switch version?” after any game announcement.
- Read our full Nintendo Switch review
7. Nintendo Switch Lite
The best portable game console
- Design is robust, attractive and easy to use
- Boasts a fantastic library of games
- Increased battery life compared to original Switch
- Certain Switch games aren’t supported
- Local multiplayer is far harder to achieve without docking
While the original Switch merged two of Nintendo’s form-factors, there remained some portable holdouts who were wondering when the next DS would come. The Nintendo Switch is great, but, for pocket portable fans, it might still be a little weighty and expensive.
Nintendo solved these problems with the Switch Lite. The Nintendo Switch Lite brought the great games of its older sibling to a smaller, more child-friendly and cheaper model – with bright colours and a kid-proof housing.
The Switch Lite may remove some of the communal joys of the full version and limit support for Joy-Con-focused games but, for the price, it’s hard to knock this on-the-go champ.
- Read our full Nintendo Switch Lite review
8. Nvidia Shield TV
Great for game streaming
- 4K and HDR visuals look incredible
- Cinema-quality audio
- Redesigned remote
- GeForce Now cloud streaming could be a game-changer
- GeForce Now has limited games
- No app for Now TV
With the new Shield TV, Nvidia offered a slender and gamer-friendly option for streaming stick fans.
The streaming stick offers all the on-demand TV and movie watch options you want with crisp quality output while also packing in games.
For gaming, you can access Nvidia GeForce Now on the device – Nvidia’s take on Stadia that lets you play certain games from your PC library via streaming. Our experience with this service saw it work great with the games it did offer. Unfortunately, Nvidia has had some trouble with developers withdrawing from the platform.
Along with streaming over the internet via GeForce Now, you can also use GameStream to stream games from your home PC to the Shield TV – a more Wi-Fi/Ethernet option for those with internet woes – as well as the ability to play games traditionally reserved for Android smartphones.
- Read our full Nvidia Shield TV (2019) review
9. Nintendo Classic Mini SNES
A mini game console with time-honoured classics
- Great collection of games
- Beautifully made
- Two controllers in the box
- Rewind function great for tricky games
- Cable likely still not long enough
- Game performance shaky for some
Much like game streaming, the best game consoles list wouldn’t be complete without some nostalgia – especially given recent releases of several retro consoles revamps.
From the wonderful selection, we’ve gone with the Nintendo Classic Mini SNES – with an honourable mention going to the Sega Mega Drive Mini and a slightly less enthusiastic shoutout to the PlayStation Classic.
Following on from the success of the Nintendo Classic Mini NES, the SNES Mini brought the likes of Punch-Out!!, Star Fox and Super Mario Bros 3 to a new generation.
Its selection of games offered quality over quantity in an affordable package that also modernised the format with the genius “Rewind” function.
- Read our full Nintendo Classic Mini SNES review
10. Gaming PC
An alternative to the traditional game console
- Customisable and upgradeable
- High frame rates
- Best-in-class gaming visuals
- Massive library of games
- Less streamlined UI
- Upgrading can be intimidating
For the sake of covering all the bases of gaming hardware, we’ve decided to sneak gaming PCs onto this best game consoles list and, while we know they aren’t strictly game consoles, a lot of gaming hardware manufacturers would definitely like them to be.
The likes of the MSI Trident A offer similar hardware design language to that of a console while offering many of the benefits of a PC system – from a mammoth selection of games to unrivalled visuals (with the right internals) to the benefits of upgradeability.
HP and Corsair have also got into the console-like gaming PC hardware with their smaller offerings. While pricing comes in at a premium for these devices, traditional gaming PC benefits remain along with the lack of a mammoth case sitting underneath your desk.
- Read our full MSI Trident A review