How to Choose the Best Game Console for Kids and Families

Whether you are looking for a game console for the family home or are leaning towards something more portable for your kids, there are a lot of different options out there. A great change from even a few years ago is how many more child-friendly games are available for all platforms.  While first-person shooters get most of the advertising budgets, all platforms have really entertaining games available for children six and up.

November 2017 Update
Here’s our quick opinion: On the console side, you won’t go wrong with either the PS4, XBox One X, or Nintendo Switch. All have great games available to keep your child (and you) entertained.  Your decision should take into account if you have any old games from a previous generation console, and how much you wish to spend.

On the handheld and portable side of the house, the best choices in our opinion are the Switch or a Fire Tablet for more casual gaming.

With this huge variety, we have focused on the most popular and reputable platforms, and tried to keep it simple with basic details and the key pros and cons. You can click the quick links below to jump to each section, or settle in and go through the list:

Home –  Best Game Console for Kids

Xbox One S

Xbox One S

The Xbox One S is a slimmed down and pumped up version of the aging XBox One. With 4K Blu-ray, 4K video streaming and HDR, the console offers amazing specs for a very reasonable price.  Younger children can enjoy games such as Minecraft and Roblox. Aimed at a more advanced gaming audience, the Xbox One is more suitable for older kids, but would be a good investment as children grow and progress with their gaming and media use.   Younger children can enjoy games such as Minecraft and Roblox which are nearly open-ended in nature.

Release date: June 2016
Ages: 6+

Pros:

  • Best bang for buck console
  • Hugely popular
  • 4K resolution (only an advantage if you have a 4K TV)
  • Backwards compatible with all Xbox One games
  • Compatible with Kinect for Xbox One

Cons:

  • Not as powerful as some other options. Check out the XBox One X if that is important to you.
  • Not ideal for very young children.  Children 6 & up will be fine.

Full details

 

Xbox One X

Xbox-One-X - great console for kids

The Xbox One X is the newest member of the Xbox family. It’s really a beauty and has enough horsepower to make sure your purchase won’t be obsolete for years to come.

There are games available for most every aged child.  For the younger gamer, there’s Minecraft and Roblox which are fan-favorites than can entertain almost endlessly.  As the gamer gets more mature, the whole catalog of the XBox One is available, along with many XBox 360 games from the past.  Civilization V and Portal are great non-shooter gamers to look at.

Release date: November 2017

Ages: 6+

Pros:

  • Marked play improvement in some games
  • 4K resolution and HDR bring beautiful visuals to your gaming
  • So quiet you barely hear it in the room
  • Backwards compatible with all Xbox One games
  • Compatible with Kinect for Xbox One
  • 4 Times as powerful than the XBox One S (according to Microsoft)

Cons:

  • More expensive than XBox One S
  • Not all games will see an improvement

Full details

 

PlayStation 4 Pro

PlayStation 4 Pro

As one of the world’s most powerful games consoles, the PlayStation 4 Pro is one to beat in the current console wars. At the higher end of console pricing, and with some pretty advanced hardware it really is difficult to challenge the system. The Pro is also the best setup for integrating Sony’s virtual reality addon –  Playstation VR. As with the Xbox One X, the PS4 is better suited to older children and is definitely the best game console for kids if you are looking for a machine that will remain current and cutting edge for a  number of years to come.

Release date: November 2016
Ages: 7+

Pros:

  • Most powerful console on the market
  • Compatible with Playstation VR
  • Very large and growing game selection
  • 4K resolution (only an advantage if you have a 4K TV)
  • Best value for money and console longevity
  • Best option for kids into ‘serious’ gaming

Cons:

  • At the higher end of console prices
  • Media options not as strong as Xbox

Full details

 

PlayStation 4 Slim

Playstation 4 Slim

A slimmed down and lower spec version of the Pro, the Playstation 4 Slim is a highly recommended option for kids, especially if you are on a budget. While the PS4 Slim does not support 4K resolution, this is only a disadvantage to those who have a 4K TV. The Slim is also a cheaper way to get set up with Sony’s virtual reality addon –  Playstation VR. With a huge catalogue of games, media and internet integration the Slim is a strong all-rounder, and definitely the value pick for casual gaming families.

Release date: November 2016
Ages: 7+

Pros:

  • Excellent value for the price
  • Compatible with Playstation VR
  • Enormous game selection
  • Good media and internet integration
  • Good option for kids who will not use the console a lot

Cons:

  • Lower spec console
  • Not 4K

Full details

 

Nintendo Switch

An excitingly innovative console from classic game-maker Nintendo, the Nintendo Switch is an amazingly fun mix of handheld and home console. Targeted at a younger audience the Switch allows players to play on a handheld device, then ‘Switch’ to the TV by slotting the device into the home console… To really understand, I recommend watching the video above. Cool huh! Encouraging multiplayer and social gaming the Switch is a great option for kids looking to play with their friends and take their games on the go.

Release date: March 2017
Ages: 5+

Pros:

  • Unique blended concept of handheld and home console
  • Great option for mobile and home gaming
  • Designed for multiplayer and social gaming
  • Best for families and younger kids

Cons:

  • Lower hardware spec than other modern consoles
  • Game selection currently limited compared to other consoles

Full details

 

Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition

Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition

A sibling of the Amazon Fire TV, the Fire TV Gaming Edition offers all the bells and whistles of a Fire TV built especially for gaming and fun. Boasting some pretty impressive specs and over 800 games, the Fire TV is a surprisingly great value gaming option. With the built-in mic you can instantly search your games using just your voice, even find TV shows, movies, music, and apps. This is all part of Amazon new technology, Alexa, the cloud-based voice service, to check sports scores or the weather, play music, and more—instantly.

Release date: October 2015
Ages: 5+

Pros:

  • Great option for cheap and high quality gaming
  • Complete home media options (Netflix, Hulu and much more)
  • Two free games included
  • Voice search
  • Bang for your buck best game console for kids

Cons:

  • Not as popular as other mainstream consoles
  • Limited game options
  • Not good if kids want to play latest and greatest games

Full details

 

Handheld –  Best Game Console for Kids

Nintendo Switch

 

Nintendo 3DS XL

Nintendo New Galaxy Style New Nintendo 3DS XL Console

Touted as “the best portable gaming buy around right now”, the Nintendo 3DS XL takes all of the best parts of the older 3DS model and super sizes them. With the unique clam-shell design the 3DS is extra durable and with improved battery life it makes the device a great travel companion for car trips and holidays. All of this with the the immersive 3D experience the 3DS is renowned for, this is the device to beat for portable game consoles.

Release date: July 2012
Ages: 5+

Pros:

  • Immersive 3D interface
  • Large selection of games
  • Durable design
  • Strong battery life
  • Excellent educational game offerings

Cons:

  • Not as graphically advanced as other devices (Vita/tablets)

Full details

 

Nintendo 2DS

Nintendo 2DS

The Nintendo 2DS is an entry-level version of the Nintendo 3DS, sporting all the same hardware, the main (and obvious) difference is that the device does not have a 3D interface. With compatibility with all the 3DS and DS games their is a large library of options for kids looking for fun, light and educational games. At $70 less than the 3DS this device is a great option if you are looking to spend a bit less.

Release date: October 2013
Ages: 5+

Pros:

  • Very good price point for device
  • Large selection of games
  • Strong battery life
  • Excellent educational game offerings

Cons:

  • Not 3D (the 3D is very cool)
  • Not as graphically advanced as other devices (Vita/tablets)

Full details

 

Playstation Vita (PS Vita)

PlayStation Vita
The PlayStation Vita (officially abbreviated PS Vita) is a much more advanced gaming option than the DS range. With a multi-touch touchscreen, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and optional 3G the device is at the more ‘serious’ end of handheld gaming. With similar controls and games to the Playstation console (they are both made by Sony) the device may be a better option for older kids who are looking for ‘serious’ gaming.

Release date: December 2011
Ages: 7+

Pros:

  • High spec handheld hardware
  • Familiar controls and interface for Playstation users
  • Remote play with PS4
  • Better for kids into ‘serious’ gaming

Cons:

  • High-end price for handheld console
  • Smaller selection of educational titles

Full details

 

Tablet

Kindle Fire HD

The other option you may also want to look into is whether a tablet (our pick is the Fire HD or Fire Kids Edition) may be a better option than a dedicated console. This is a particularly good choice if you have a need for a tablet outside of gaming and can let your kids use it as ‘necessary’. Depending on what your needs and budget are, the first decision will most likely be whether to go Android or Apple. This is a whole conversation in itself, but if you do decide to go Android, you can get some ideas from one of our recent posts: 6 of the Most Popular Android Tablets for Kids.

 

So, have you made a decision? Or, have you already made a purchase and decided what the best game console for kids is? Let us know how you decided and share any thoughts you had in the comments below.

 

Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, JD Hancock.

3 Comments

  1. I fine it dumb for judging consoles for being a older generation. I own a ps1, ps2, N64 and a gameboy color. Their still fun even tho their old.

  2. hi there this is the master chief best gaming i have had comadore 64 nintendo 64 wii wii u nintendo dsi 3ds 3ds xl 2ds new 3ds xl xbox xbox 360 xbox one ps vita sence our gaming consoles are on board space ships in deep space puts the gaming consoles under hugh strees levels not like planet earth gaming gaming console you wont take it back too a retail game store for long time

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