It's a recurrent conversation in all three of the console catch-alls: someone's just getting into the platform, and they want to know what they really need to get. Which specific console model? What about extra storage? Extra controllers? Subscription plans? And most importantly: which games?
Rather than keep repeating that conversation, I thought it might be useful to create a single thread that's an easy, up-to-date reference for all newcomers. Whether you're looking at a PlayStation 4, an Xbox One, or a Switch, this'll be the place to get answers before you buy a new console.
Which PlayStation 4 should I get?
There are a lot of PlayStation 4 bundles with different games and paint jobs, but fundamentally you have three options: the original, Launch model; the revised Slim model; and the somewhat more powerful Pro model. In terms of features and power, the Launch and Slim models are identical. The Slim is a bit quieter and a bit smaller. If you're buying a new unit, you'll probably get a Slim. If you're buying used, there aren't really any significant drawbacks to the Launch unit. The Pro model is a bit more complicated.
Should I get a PlayStation 4 Pro?
Our community's response to the Pro model has been mixed. Some people have been really happy with it, while others have felt like the upgrade wasn't necessarily worth the extra cost involved.
Here's what you get with the Pro model: better performance in a small number of specific games, including occasional support for 4K resolutions; the ability to remote play at 1080p instead of 720p; a general "boost mode" that makes the console's upgraded specs available to all games, although not all games will utilize them.
Here's what you don't get with the Pro model: better performance in all or even most games; faster loading times; a UHD Blu-Ray player. Likewise, you don't need the Pro model for HDR support; the Launch and Slim models also support HDR in the games that use it.
Most (but not all) of Sony's major first-party games take advantage of the Pro's upgraded specs to some extent. It's more noticable in some games than others, and not every game takes advantage in the same way. Some up their resolution, some stabilize their framerate, some add extra visual bling, and some let you decide between those things in broad terms.
Should I get PlayStation Plus?
You'll need a PlayStation Plus subscription to play multiplayer games that are not subscription-based or free-to-play. So, if you're looking to play games like Call of Duty or Rainbox Six: Siege, then you'll need to get PlayStation Plus. However, if you're looking to play games like Fortnite or Warframe or Final Fantasy XIV, then you may not need PlayStation Plus.
PlayStation Plus also gives away a selection of five or so PlayStation 4 games each month. You get access to them for as long as you're subscribed to PlayStation Plus. You lose access to them if you unsubscribe. There's a fresh crop of games each month, but the quality of those freebies can vary quite a bit month-to-month.
PlayStation Plus is required to backup game saves to the cloud. You have 100 GB of cloud storage space.
What is PlayStation Now?
PlayStation Now is another subscription option for PlayStation 4. It gives you access to a library of PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 games to play on your PS4. The PlayStation 4 games can be downloaded to your console, or you can stream them. The PlayStation 3 games are only streamable. The games in this service tend to be a bit older, but the selection of PlayStation 4 games has been steadily growing. How well the game streaming works depends on the quality of your internet connection. (But yes, it does actually work.)
Multiplayer games you get through PlayStation Now do not require PlayStation Plus in order to play online, whether streamed or downloaded. However, PlayStation Plus is required to synchronize save games between streamed and downloaded copies of the same game.
Do I need to get extra storage?
Probably not, unless you're a hoarder. New models come with a 1 TB HDD, and that seems to be enough for most people. If you need more space, you can connect external hard drives to the system. Upgrading your console's drive to a SSD doesn't seem to make a dramatic difference in load times.
What headphones should I get?
The community consensus here is that the Sony Gold headphones are a very good choice for wireless headphones. They connect with a USB dongle. The older model of Gold headphones that fold up seem to be less durable than the newer model Gold headphones that don't.
What about PlayStation VR?
PlayStation VR is the only option for VR on console, and it's the least expensive VR option aside from Google Cardboard. If you're interested in PlayStation VR, it is strongly recommended that you get a PlayStation 4 Pro model.
Over the long term, reactions to PlayStation VR have been mixed. Nearly everyone who has tried it has been impressed by their first experiences with the hardware. However, the depth and long-term engagement of PlayStation VR has been a concern for some. Similar to the PlayStation Vita, however, people who like PlayStation VR tend to really like PlayStation VR.
What are the can't-miss PlayStation 4 games?
PlayStation 4 has broad third-party support from developers around the world. There are a wealth of indie and AAA games on the PlayStation 4. The most popular recommendations are:
- The Last of Us Remastered
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- God of War
- Marvel's Spider-Man
- Until Dawn
- Persona 5
- Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
Which Xbox One should I get?
There are a lot of Xbox One bundles with different combinations of games and extras. Fundamnetally, there are three different models: the original, Launch model; the revised Xbox One S model; and the enhanced Xbox One X. Unlike with the PlayStation 4, all of these models are different in meaningful ways.
The Launch model is the base model for the platform. It will play all Xbox One games at their baseline of performance. It is the only model that includes a Kinect port if you (unlike Microsoft) still care about the Kinect.
The S model is slightly more powerful than the Launch model. It's smaller and lighter. It supports HDR and has a 4K UHD Blu-Ray drive; however, it does not support 4K resolutions for gaming. Unless you're getting a screaming good deal on a Launch model Xbox One, there's really no reason to not get an S instead.
The X model is significantly more powerful than the Launch model. It supports HDR and has a 4K UHD Blu-Ray drive, and it supports 4K resolutions for gaming at 60 fps. It is easily the most powerful console on the market.
What improvements do you actually get from the Xbox One X?
All Xbox One games can benefit from the better hardware of the Xbox One X, including backwards compatible Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. Additionally, a number of games, both first-party and third-party, are "Xbox One X Enhanced" games, meaning that extra effort has been put into them to make them run at 4K with higher framerates and with extra visual bling. Generally, these games look more like their PC counterparts.
Should I get Xbox Live Gold?
You'll need an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play multiplayer games. Period.
Xbox Live Gold also gives away a selection of five or so Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games each month. You get access to them for as long as you're subscribed to Xbox Live Gold. You lose access to the Xbox One games if you unsubscribe; you get to permanently keep the Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. There's a fresh crop of games each month, but the quality of those freebies can vary quite a bit month-to-month.
Xbox Live Gold is not required to backup your game saves to the cloud. The Xbox One offers unlimited, free cloud storage for all users.
What's Xbox Game Pass?
Xbox Game Pass is an additional subscription for the Xbox One that gives you access to a large library of games to download. Significantly, it also includes day one access to all Microsoft first-party games as part of your subscription, including major releases like Gears of War, Crackdown, and Halo.
Recently, Xbox Game Pass has also begun to include day one access to high-profile third-party indie games.
Do I need to get an Elite controller?
The consensus on the Elite controller seems to be that if the Xbox One is your primary console then the Elite controller is a great accessory to have if you don't mind the price. If you're unhappy with the default controller, one suggestion is to order one of Microsoft's custom controllers with rubberized grips. One nice feature of the Elite controller is the ability to remap stick clicks (R3 and L3) to the grip buttons.
What are the can't-miss Xbox One games?
The Xbox One has broad support from Western developers and publishers. It has mixed support from Japanese developers. It has a wide array of indies and AAA releases. The Xbox One X versions of major third-party games are likely to be the best-looking, best-performing versions of those games you can get on console.
As far as specific exclusives go, let's be honest: don't buy any games, just get a year of Xbox Game Pass. That'll give you access to all the Halos and Forzas and Gears of Warses plus anything else you might be interested in now and in the future. You'll be happy for a long time with just an Xbox Game Pass.
Which Nintendo Switch should I get?
All Nintendo Switch models are fundamentally the same. You can get different bundles with different games and color variations for the console and dock, but there aren't any differences in features, storage, or compatibility between the different SKUs. Pick which one you like best.
Should I get Nintendo Switch Online?
You'll need a Nintendo Switch Online subscription to play multiplayer games that are not free-to-play. So if you want to play games like Mario Kart or Smash Bros. Ultimate or Splatoon online, you'll need to get Nintendo Switch Online. If you're mostly interested in games like Fortnite or Arena of Valor, you may not need Nintendo Switch Online.
Nintendo Switch Online also gives you access to a small library of NES games running in a top-notch emulator. They run great, but if you're interested in them, you've probably played them already. However, Nintendo Switch Online is inexpensive enough that it might be an easy pick-up just in case.
Nintendo Switch Online is required to backup your game saves to the cloud. As of right now, Nintendo Switch Online's cloud saves are the only way to backup game saves on the Switch.
Do I need to get extra storage?
More than likely, yes. The Switch has 32 GB of on-board storage, and if you buy a lot of digital games, you'll likely blow right through that. However, the Switch's storage is easily and inexpensively expanded with microSD cards. All sizes are supported.
Do I need to get a Pro controller?
You can play the Switch in handheld and docked mode without any additional controllers, so you won't need to buy a Pro controller to play on your TV. However, many of the members of our community like having the Pro controller for a more traditional console-like experience in docked mode. For a cheaper alternative to the Pro controller, PowerA makes some decent third-party options.
What are the can't-miss Switch games?
The Switch has its usual best-in-show first-party support and a robust selection of third-party indie games. It does not have most of the major AAA third-party releases that you'll see on other platforms. A number of first-party Wii U games have been ported from that console to the Switch for people who didn't get a Wii U (i.e., everyone). The most popular recommendations are:
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Splatoon 2
- Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battles
- Hollow Knight
- Picross S
- Stardew Valley