As the next generation of video game consoles approach, it’s the opportune time to grab one from the current era at a low price. With incredible libraries of games that continue to grow and prices that are more affordable than ever, you’ll want to pick up one of these consoles soon to make it worth your money.
After years spent playing each system and carefully weighing the pros and cons of each, we’ve decided that the PlayStation 4 Pro is the best gaming console of 2020. While the Xbox One X offers more powerful hardware, the PS4 Pro has similar capabilities and the most high-fidelity games, including an incredible number of exclusives.
In case you haven’t heard, most of the consoles listed at this moment are about to become obsolete. Xbox will release the next-gen Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S on November 10, 2020 for $499 and $299 respectively. The PlayStation 5 will be released on November 12 at $499 for the standard console, or $399 for the digital-only version. You should wait to snag these new consoles if an Xbox or PlayStation is what you want on Black Friday this year.
The Nintendo Switch has not announced a new version, however — so you can buy it now without fear it’s about to become obsolete.
The best gaming console: PlayStation 4 Pro
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: It’s the best version of the most popular console and has the highest number of high-fidelity games.
Sony PlayStation 4 Pro
The PS4 Pro is the best version of the PlayStation 4.
Who it’s for: Everyone.
Why we picked the PlayStation 4 Pro:
The PlayStation 4 Pro is the best version of the most popular game platform available today. With 4K, HDR 10 compatibility, and the PlayStation 4’s exclusive game library, it is currently the best plug-and-play gaming platform.
Most games are available on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Though both platforms have popular exclusive franchises, the PlayStation 4 (Pro or standard) sees more exclusive games each year. The PS4 also has access to a small number of less well-known indie games and beloved niche titles, such as Japanese role-playing games like Persona 5 and Final Fantasy XIV, that the Xbox One does not have. The Xbox One X is technically more powerful — but it lacks must-have exclusives. There’s just not as much unique content to play on the competitor.
This is especially true in 2020, with PS4 receiving some of its most generation-defining exclusives in its final act. Persona 5 Royal and Final Fantasy 7 Remake set a new gold standard for RPGs, while Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part II offer some of the most compelling narrative experiences in gaming today. Those four titles alone make the PS4’s library one of the strongest out there.
Picking up a PlayStation 4 also opens the door for a PlayStation VR, which, as we’ve noted before, is the most affordable premium VR headset available. Microsoft, meanwhile, has confirmed that VR support will not come to the Xbox One X, nor will it likely come to the next-generation Xbox Series X. On the other hand, PlayStation VR will still be supported on the PS5, as will a growing selection of PS4 games. This means titles purchased for the PS4 likely won’t have to go in storage after the PS5 launches, even if you trade your old console in.
While some people can’t take advantage of the PlayStation 4 Pro’s advanced features, namely HDR support, the improvements it provides to even un-optimized games make it the most technically impressive way to play the largest number of games on a console. Most major games offer some form of support for the system, whether it be improved frame rate, 4K resolution, HDR support, or all three.
The best gaming console for 4K: Xbox One X
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Important note: The Xbox One X is officially out of production as Microsoft gears up for the Xbox Series X and Series S release.
Why you should buy this: It’s the most powerful game console available right now
Xbox One X 1TB
The most powerful home console ever made runs games and media at 4K HDR better than anything else available.
Who it’s for: Players who want to play games and watch movies at the highest possible image quality.
Why we picked the Xbox One X:
Sony led the charge on the mid-generation console update with the PS4 Pro, but by taking its time, Microsoft gave us the better hardware in the Xbox One X. It offers the same 4K Blu-ray and HDR video playback as the Xbox One S, while also bringing that visual enhancement to games. Microsoft wasn’t exaggerating when it told us the Xbox One X is the most powerful home gaming console ever sold, at least until the PS5 and Xbox Series X launch.
The PS4 may have a stronger gaming library than the Xbox One, but the Pro’s improvements are only noticeable in games that have been specifically enhanced for it. The Xbox One X has proven far better at using its extra horsepower to improve the visuals of all games on the platform, whether they are specifically enhanced or not. Microsoft is also doubling down on investing in first-party studios, such as Obsidian Entertainment, and has several upcoming games from Ninja Theory like Hellblade 2 that you won’t find on PS4.
For those who haven’t made the jump to 4K, both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One S are great consoles with large game libraries. You will be able to play the vast majority of new and upcoming games, including a few exclusive franchises like Halo, Gears of War, and Forza. This even includes some high-quality exclusives in 2020 like Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Plus, if you are, or were, an Xbox 360 owner, a very large number of the last-gen console’s games are now compatible with the Xbox One (including the Xbox One X), which could expand your game library and keep at least some of your old games in rotation.
The best portable game console: Nintendo Switch
Why you should buy this: You want a full console gaming experience — but on the go with unmatched first-party support.
The Nintendo Switch truly bridges the gap between home consoles and handhelds.
Who it’s for: Everyone
Why we picked the Nintendo Switch:
Nintendo sidestepped the current console arms race by changing not how you use your console, but where. The Switch is a hybrid device that plugs into a TV like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but also works as a handheld.
While it doesn’t quite have the oomph to play the latest 4K, 60 frames-per-second releases for Xbox One or PS4, the Switch can play Doom (2016) at a smooth 30 FPS anywhere you want, and that’s more than good enough for a lot of gamers. In addition to contemporary titles like the Wolfenstein II port, the Switch is a fantastic venue for reviving modern classics, such as Skyrim, L.A. Noire, and Dark Souls Remastered.
More than just a clearance house for lightly-aged AAA titles, the Switch also offers an ever-growing catalog of fantastic first-party games like Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as well as excellent indies such as Stardew Valley, Celeste, and Dead Cells. Add in some old school Nintendo nostalgia with a growing list of NES and SNES games through Nintendo Switch Online, and the Switch is a well-rounded console.
If you plan on only using your Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, the Nintendo Switch Lite makes for a great option at a slightly lower price point. It lacks the television docking support of the standard system, but features a smaller size and a slightly better battery life than the updated Switch console that launched in 2019. It’s compatible out of the box with nearly every Nintendo Switch game, as well, and is perfect for games like Pokémon Sword and Shield.
The Nintendo Switch is also a great companion console for people who already own a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X. It can do things its competitors can’t and offers many appealing titles that will never appear on a PlayStation or Xbox.
Best retro game console: SNES Classic Edition
Mike Epstein/Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: It has 20 of the best games ever made for only $80.
SNES Classic Edition
The SNES Classic Edition is a love letter to gaming’s golden age.
Who it’s for: Nintendo fans old and new, and those who grew up with video games.
Why we picked the SNES Classic Edition:
The 16-bit era saw Nintendo at the peak of its creativity, releasing popular, acclaimed games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Metroid alongside cult hits like Earthbound. Third-party companies didn’t take a backseat, with Square Enix’ Final Fantasy VI and Konami’s Super Castlevania IV among the best games of all-time.
With the plug-and-play SNES Classic Edition, you can experience all over your favorite classic Super Nintendo games as you remembered them. There’s even a CRT filter option mimicking the look of your old television.
With the addition of a save-state feature, playing old Nintendo games on the SNES Classic is significantly less frustrating than it was 25 years ago, and when you’re ready to sit down and game with a buddy, classics like Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting give you a chance to compete for bragging rights.
The SNES Classic Edition is also the only way to play Star Fox 2, outside of the Nintendo Switch Online service, a game Nintendo canceled just before its original release date. To unlock it, you just need to beat the first level of the original Star Fox, but it will be very tough to pull yourself away once you start playing.
4K, HDR, and buying game consoles
Two of our recommendations, the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X, support high-resolution gaming that can take advantage of emerging display standards, 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR). Some people don’t have a 4K TV, and fewer still have quality HDR support, which is broken down into its own sub-categories.
Given that there’s a relatively small selection of games for each console that take full advantage of these features, you don’t have to buy a new 4K TV. That said, it is recommended that you begin considering it as the upcoming next-generation of consoles will take full advantage of 4K HDR all the way up to even 8K support. Do keep in mind that no game console requires you to own a 4K or HDR-compatible TV, so you can buy that new console and hold off on buying the TV until you’ve done more research, found games you feel are worth upgrading for, or are otherwise ready to commit.
If you do decide to purchase a new TV for the sake of the console, you should look for a 4K TV that runs at 60Hz and supports HDR 10, as opposed to HDR “Premium.”