With Christmas only a few weeks away now December has arrived, households across the UK are stretching their finances to buy presents and fund festive extravagances.
As always, one of the year’s most hotly contested retail market segments is the games console sector.
Improvements in home broadband speeds and the commensurate growth in online gaming have turned today’s consoles from passive offline devices to fully connected machines.
Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all have different answers to the question “which games console should I buy” – each with distinct USPs…
Nintendo’s track record of games consoles is decidedly patchy. For every perfectly judged SNES, there’s been an underwhelming Wii U.
Its latest generation Switch isn’t perfect, but the latest OLED model addressed many flaws from previous models, including a far superior seven-inch screen and a stronger kickstand.
The Switch has over 4,500 different titles – and they’re not all child-centric. You can play FIFA24, Hogwarts Legacy, The Elder Scrolls V and WRC, for instance.
That said, Nintendo has always specialised in cutesy cartoon titles. There are more Mario games than we could summarise in this article, including the highly rated Mario Kart 8.
Unlike the consoles below, the Switch can also be used as a handheld console. This makes it ideal for car journeys, holidays and visits to the in-laws on Boxing Day.
You had to be around in 1995 to understand what a bolt from the blue Sony’s PlayStation was, in a world then dominated by Commodore Amigas and Sega Mega Drives.
Good though these machines undoubtedly were, the PlayStation’s launch titles (Wipeout, Destruction Derby, etc) raised the bar for gamers around the world.
Despite some missteps along the way (notably the PS3’s user interface), the PlayStation has evolved into arguably the games console. Its fifth generation is superb.
The haptic DualSense controllers have been polished to perfection, while the user interface is far simpler than previous models, and there’s backwards compatibility with PS4 titles.
Microsoft Xbox X
While the PS5 has tech specs that would complement a PC, Microsoft’s jet-black Xbox X actually resembles a computer tower – or more accurately a server.
The controllers feel less tactile than Sony’s wondrous PlayStation handsets, lacking those intuitive symbols. Yet in every other regard, the latest generation Xbox X is a worthy rival.
Xbox has always been the home of Halo, and the latest Infinite title is a classic in the series. Unlike Sony or Nintendo, there’s full backwards compatibility with earlier Xbox games.
Significantly, Microsoft’s protracted pursuit of Activision Blizzard could see titles like The Elder Scrolls and Doom Eternal become Xbox-only one day.
4. Atari 2600+
Finally, if your household finances are being stretched to breaking point by inflation, allow us to present a more cost-effective option, wrapped up in a slice of nostalgia.
Unboxing an Atari 2600+ on Christmas Day will be a far more tactile experience than any of the plastic oblongs outlined above – this is the only console on sale with real wood on its façade.
Everything from the game cartridges to the CX40 joystick will elicit shivers of pleasure among anyone old enough to remember the first incarnation of this reborn 1970s console.
The 2600 and 7800 games on offer are laughably crude by today’s standards, with archaic graphics rendering its HDMI port somewhat moot.
Yet if you want simple and addictive games the whole family can pick up in minutes, including the iconic Combat, look no further for your festive entertainment.