Ask what to play on, not what to play

By Steven Kent

Game consoles are like theme parks. Disneyland, Six Flags, Universal Studios, and your local state fair all have roller coasters, kiddie rides, and overpriced hotdogs. Although some rides are bigger, faster, and scarier than others, all three parks have whatever you might want to do.

The question is — what do you want to do the most? That’s also how it goes with game consoles.

The Disney of games: Nintendo Switch OLED – $349

Who cares if other theme parks have mascots? Disney has Mickey Mouse.

OLED Model

In the game world, Microsoft and Sony don’t bother with mascots; they let their hardware speak for itself. But not Nintendo. Turning on your Switch is like stepping into the outer reaches of some Mario world.

Everything is bright and happy, and Mario’s mascot influence is everywhere. You don’t need to play a Mario game to feel his presence; the interface, the color schemes, and even the controls scream, “Mario was here.”

The Switch has two things going for it — total portability and Nintendo games. If you want to play Pokémon, Zelda, or Mario games, you’ll only find them on Switch. They’re among the best games anywhere.

Nintendo may make the best-made games on the market. However, it only publishes one or two top-tier games a year. Thank goodness for the Nintendo eShop! The Switch has all the classics and a nearly endless supply of less classic games.

The other plus is that Switch is the Swiss Army knife of game consoles. It plays like a PlayStation or an Xbox — just hook it up to your TV. You can also turn it into a tabletop game by sitting the Switch on its stand. On the go? Ditch the stand, and the Switch becomes a portable game system.

That portability is a big deal. Instead of playing stripped-down mobile games on the road, you can continue your quest for Master Sword or some legendary pocket monster.

The Six Flags of games: Sony PlayStation 5 – $499.99 (with disc drive) / $399 (digital)

For the hard-core crowd, Sony’s PlayStation 5 is the best videogame console ever made. It’s the GOAT!

PlayStation 5 Console

When it comes to processing power, the PS5 and Xbox Series X are too close to call. The games look great on either of them and play perfectly, too. Even though their chips and circuits may match up, their controllers are vastly different.

The latest Xbox controller is pretty similar to the one on the Xbox before it. That’s not the case with PS5’s new DualSense controller. Sony added dual actuators that make it really shake in your hands for improved “haptic feedback.” The DualSense controller also has buttons and triggers that tighten and loosen depending on what you are doing.

Those buttons may sound like a gimmick, but they add a new layer of detail to your games. Triggers, gas pedals, and brakes all feel the same as other gamepads. With PS5, brake triggers can speed up as your car drives faster.

The Universal Studios of games: Xbox Series X – $499 (Guru’s top pick)

Xbox Series X isn’t only backward — it’s also forward-compatible.

Backward compatibility means you can play just about any Xbox game ever published on Xbox hardware on your Series X. That’s thousands of old and new games. Despite being old, Series X spiffs them up so that they look better than ever by upping their screen resolution.

As for forward compatibility, you can play Series X games on your old Xbox One. However, the quality isn’t as good. Forward compatibility isn’t the only experiment Microsoft is trying with Series X. Have you heard about Game Pass? It’s a Netflix-like subscription service that gives players access to a library with over 100 games.

Along with Xbox Series X, Microsoft has released an all-digital Series S console without a disc drive. Series S is backward compatible, but you must purchase Series S games online from Xbox Marketplace.

Series S is a Series X without a hard drive. It’s less powerful than the Series X. However, Series X is more expensive. But it’s worth the money if you play a lot of games.

The county fair of games: Steam – Free download

Another console you might consider is your PC, Macintosh computer, iPhone, Android, or iPad. Steam is a free-to-use storefront and game delivery system that turns these devices into game consoles. More people play games on Steam than on the PS5, Switch, or Xbox Series X. Steam also has over 5,000 games — more than all the consoles combined.

As both a game platform and a virtual game store built into one application, Steam offers a one-stop gaming experience. Once you install it on your device, go to the Steam Store and choose what to play.

Steam doesn’t carry Mario or Pokémon games because Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony mostly release their bigger games on their consoles. However, it does offer hits like Sonic Frontiers and Minecraft Dungeon.

Although the games aren’t cheaper on Steam, the service does have games and demos that you can download for free.

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