The 6 Best Gaming Consoles of 2023

PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X, and more

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The latest console generation boasts excellent graphics, powerful specs, and lots of games. The three big dogs are Sony with the PlayStation 5, Microsoft with the Xbox Series X, and Nintendo with the Switch.

All three consoles fit into their particular niches, with the PS5 having an advantage in exclusives at launch, the Series X being power graphically potent on paper, and the Nintendo Switch being the ideal portable device.

Best Games

Sony PlayStation 5

4.3
Sony PlayStation 5

Courtesy of Best Buy

Sony’s PlayStation 5 represents a significant boost in visual quality over its predecessors, with more than five times the graphical output of the original PlayStation 4 and more than double that of the half-step PS4 Pro revision. The result is smooth, crisp, and ultra-detailed game worlds delivered in native 4K resolution at up to 120 frames per second on supported screens, with 8K content compatibility coming in the future. It also provides a much smoother play experience thanks to its speedy SSD storage, dramatically reducing load times.

Beyond the power boost, the new DualSense controller is an exciting innovation, packing in precise haptic feedback and adaptive, resistance-providing trigger buttons for a more immersive play experience. The PS5, available with or without a disc drive, also has a solid array of launch games, including excellent exclusives like Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Demon’s Souls. The rival Xbox Series X is a bit more powerful on paper and sports a more compact, entertainment center-friendly design along with other perks. Still, the PlayStation 5 provides more early reasons to invest in new hardware.

GPU: AMD Radeon RDNA 2 | CPU: AMD Ryzen | Storage: 825GB SSD | Optical Drive: Yes | Dimensions: 15.4"x4.1"x10.2" | Weight: 9.9 Lbs

"The PlayStation 5 provides added benefit beyond visuals with the NVMe solid-state drive (SSD), which delivers a tectonic shift in loading speeds compared to the PS4." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Sony PlayStation 5

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Best for Mobility

Nintendo Switch

4.5
nintendo-switch

Walmart

What We Like
  • Extremely portable

  • Great for local multiplayer

  • Relatively low cost

What We Don't Like
  • Graphics aren't as good as other consoles

  • Lackluster online service

  • No Ethernet port, Wi-Fi only

Upon its first reveal, the Nintendo Switch marketed itself as a mobile gaming system that could be played at home on your television and carried around and playable wherever you go. Nintendo’s innovative console makes playing on the go easy and comes with a disassembling controller with split-screen options to play with friends.

The Nintendo Switch has 50 third-party publishers in partnership for developing its future games. Hits like Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Mario Odyssey have given it a strong lineup. The Switch makes for an excellent system for parties with its mobile snap-off joy-con controllers–once out of its docking station, it acts like a tablet with its dedicated screen that can be shared with others through split-screen multiplayer games.

GPU: Nvidia Custom Tegra Processor | CPU: Nvidia Custom Tegra Processor | Storage: 32GB Internal | Optical Drive: No | Dimensions: 4"x9.4"x.55" | Weight: .88 Lbs

"Considering many consoles in the current lineup range from $200 to $500 depending on which version you pick, the $300 price tag of the Switch is both affordable and competitive." Zach Sweat, Product Tester

Nintendo Switch

Lifewire / Jordan Provost

Best Graphics

Microsoft Xbox Series X

4.2
Microsoft-xbox-series-x

Amazon

What We Like
  • Beautiful 4K graphics

  • Fast loading and menus

  • Most powerful console

  • Extensive backward compatibility

  • Runs quiet and cool

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks big exclusives

  • No rechargeable controller battery

  • Extra storage is expensive

The Xbox Series X is the most powerful home console ever created, powering up to 12 teraflops of graphical performance for hyper-detailed native 4K games at up to 120 frames per second on supported screens. Just as impressively, the super-fast custom SSD enables rapid loading of games and lets you swap between open games in mere seconds thanks to the unique Quick Resume feature.

Microsoft’s console is compatible with a wide array of past Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games but is currently lacking any big, new exclusives to warrant the $499 asking price.

"In terms of raw hardware grunt, it is the most powerful home console today, surpassing the new PlayStation 5 on that front as well, plus it has an array of user-friendly features that really stand out in use."Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Microsoft Xbox Series X

Lifewire / Andrew Hayward

Best for Affordable Gaming

Microsoft Xbox Series S

4.2
Xbox Series S
Amazon.
What We Like
  • 1440p next-gen gaming

  • Plays all Xbox Series S/X games

  • Backwards compatible

  • Tiny form factor

  • Great price

What We Don't Like
  • No 4K graphics

  • Underpowered for a next-gen console

  • No disc drive

  • Limited storage

  • Can't play physical discs from previous generations

If you have to pick just one gaming console from this list, the Xbox Series S is likely the most lucrative option for most people. It's an excellent low-cost alternative to the Series X, bringing much of the same experience, albeit with some limits. The console can tackle 1440p gaming at 60fps or 120fps, but not 4K. Storage is limited to 512GB, but you can expand it with the expansion card.

The real value of the console comes from its ability to play all the same games as the Xbox Series X. It's also backward compatible, giving you a wide range of games. The most cost-effective feature might be that you can use the Series S with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, giving you access to an extensive library of games for a monthly fee.

GPU: AMD Custom Radeon RDNA 2 | CPU: AMD Custom Ryzen Zen 2 | Storage: 1TB SSD | Optical Drive: Yes | Dimensions: 5.9"x5.9"x11.9" | Weight: 9.8 Lbs

"Load times were negligible in each of the games I played, which is expected from a system with super-fast NVME SSD storage." Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Microsoft Xbox Series S
Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen.

Best Handheld

Nintendo Switch Lite

4.2
Nintendo Switch Lite

Courtesy of Walmart

What We Like
  • Great price

  • Ultraportable size

  • True D-pad rather than buttons

What We Don't Like
  • Only offers 720p

  • No motion controls

  • No TV hookup option

The Nintendo Switch Lite is a cheaper, more portable option for gamers who want to experience all the best Nintendo titles on a budget. It ditches the dock and Joy-Con from Nintendo's original Switch, establishing itself as a handheld-only device. It comes in multiple colors, like bright turquoise or banana yellow.

There's a much lower entry barrier at two-thirds the price of a standard Nintendo Switch, but it comes with a few sacrifices. Most notably, the Switch Lite doesn't dock to a television, meaning you can only play games in handheld mode. The lack of a built-in kickstand severely limits local multiplayer, but there are a handful of improvements over the OG Switch as well.

The form factor feels better in the hands, and the smaller size makes it easier to take with you on the go. There's an actual directional pad that works better than the OG Switch's directional buttons, especially for platformers or fighting games. These upgrades make the Switch Lite perfect for anyone who plays exclusively in handheld mode and's looking for a better option on the go.

GPU: NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor | CPU: NVIDIA Custom Tegra processor | Storage: 32GB Internal | Optical Drive: No | Dimensions: 3.6"x8.2"x.55" | Weight: .61 Lbs

"Despite being stripped of some of the Switch’s more unique features and strengths, the Switch Lite is a perfect console for gamers on the go or those who prefer handheld." Zach Sweat, Product Tester

Nintendo Switch Lite

Lifewire / Zach Sweat

Best Re-Release

Nintendo Super NES Classic

Nintendo Super NES Classic

​Nintendo

What We Like
  • Classic nostalgic games

  • Supports HDMI out and powered by USB

  • Includes two controllers

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to find in stock

Gamers rejoiced when news dropped that Nintendo would be re-releasing updated classics of its former consoles like the NES and Super NES Classic. The Super NES Classic resurrects the glorious gaming era of the 1990s with 21 games, including Starfox 2.

With the original look and feel of the 16-bit home console (only smaller), the Super NES Classic is a timepiece for when gaming was reaching its peaks. Some of the best two-player games of its era are included and ready to play, such as Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II Turbo. Defining games such as Megaman X, Earthbound, Kirby Super Star, and Super Mario RPG return, too.

Any gamer wanting to relive their youth or introduce new gamers to a simpler time when the Internet was first starting should get the Super NES classic. Included are two wired Super NES Classic controllers for multiplayer action.

GPU: Mali-400 MP | CPU: ARM Cortex-A7 | Storage: 512GB Flash Storage | Optical Drive: No | Dimensions: 10"x2.68"x8" | Weight: 2.12 Lbs

What to Look for in a Gaming Console

Price

The newest gaming consoles can be pricey, but you don’t have to spend much for an exciting gaming experience. For instance, Nintendo’s mobile gaming system, Switch, is more than $100 cheaper than many of its competitors. You can also find great deals on classic systems.

Compatibility

If you’ve previously owned a gaming console, you should consider buying a new one compatible with the library of games you’ve likely collected. For example, your PS4 won’t play games from older Sony consoles, but you can still access hundreds of older PlayStation titles using the PS Now streaming service. On the other hand, Xbox One has much better backward compatibility, not to mention a digital redemption scheme that lets you download newer versions of your existing games for free.

4K or VR support

How important is it to you to be able to play your favorite games in true 4K? If your answer is “very,” you’ll want a console that supports 2160p, like the Xbox One X, but if your answer is “not really,” you can settle for something else. The same goes for virtual reality, as not all systems will support it.

FAQ
  • Do you need a stable internet connection to use these consoles?

    While gaming consoles are reliant on an internet connection for much of their functionality, having a stable connection isn't entirely essential. However, not connecting your console will severely hamper its features and your overall enjoyment. Besides not being able to play with your friends online, you won't be able to get updates for your console or games, purchase or download games digitally, or have access to the multitudes of free games that typically become available over the course of a console's lifetime.

  • Can you upgrade your consoles?

    Modern consoles do have a limited capacity for upgrades, but this is usually restricted to storage and aesthetics. Unfortunately, there is no way to install granular upgrades like you would see with a gaming PC, but you still have the option to increase your storage space or swap its color for something more palatable.

  • Why can't you find a Playstation 5 or Xbox Series X anywhere?

    Since their launch, both of these consoles have been red-hot commodities and nearly impossible to find. Some of the blame can be placed on scalpers buying up available stock and reselling it at a disgusting markup. However, the larger problem that has been plaguing these consoles is an overall shortage of the chips that are used in the manufacturing of these consoles. There was a massive demand for these parts in 2020, and that is likely to continue through this year while supply catches up with demand.

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