What is the Best Video Game Console for Families?

What is the Best Gaming System for Kids?Unless they were a gamer themselves, it is doubtful that very many parents have ever said, “What this family really needs is a video game system.” But even if you have never uttered those words your kids probably have. So what video game console is best for families the Playstation 4, Xbox One, or the Nintendo Switch console?

All 3 video game systems are great, but unless you have your heart set on a certain video game title that is only available for a specific console you have a decision to make when it comes to what is best for your family. And let’s be honest when most people ask what is the best video game console for your family, what most people are really really asking is what is the best gaming system for families with younger kids. We feel that the Nintendo Switch console is the easy winner when it comes to the best video game console for families.

So let’s tell you why we feel this way.  Then at the end of this article, we will give you some recommendations for families with older kids and specific types of gamers.

Kid/Family Friendly Games

If you look around for video games for the various systems you will notice that there are a ton of family-friendly games for the Nintendo Switch. That is not to say that the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 don’t have family-friendly games, but most of those games are also on the Nintendo Switch. One example would be the Lego video games, which appear on all 3 consoles.

Where the Nintendo Switch gets a leg up is with its own exclusive games. There is a multitude of E and E 10+rated games for the whole family including Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening, Luigi's Mansion 3, Pokémon Shield, and Pokémon Sword along with favorites that appear on other consoles like Minecraft and NBA 2K20.

Nintendo currently offers the following Switch Console Options/Bundles:

Nintendo Switch with Neon Blue and Neon Red Joy‑Con - HAC-001(-01)
87,577 Reviews
Nintendo Switch with Neon Blue and Neon Red Joy‑Con - HAC-001(-01)
  • 3 Play Styles: TV Mode, Tabletop Mode, Handheld Mode
  • 6.2-inch, multi-touch capacitive touch screen
  • 4.5-9+ Hours of Battery Life will vary depending on software usage conditions
  • Connects over Wi-Fi for multiplayer gaming; Up to 8 consoles can be connected for local wireless multiplayer
  • Model number: HAC-001(-01)
Nintendo Switch with Gray Joy‑Con - HAC-001(-01)
87,586 Reviews
Nintendo Switch with Gray Joy‑Con - HAC-001(-01)
  • 3 Play Styles: TV Mode, Tabletop Mode, Handheld Mode
  • 6.2-inch, multi-touch capacitive touch screen
  • 4.5-9 plus Hours of Battery Life Will vary depending on software usage conditions
  • Connects over Wi-Fi for multiplayer gaming; Up to 8 consoles can be connected for local wireless multiplayer
  • Model number: HAC-001(-01)
Nintendo Switch w/ Gray Joy-Con + Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Full Game Download) - Switch
3,397 Reviews
Nintendo Switch w/ Gray Joy-Con + Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Full Game Download) - Switch
  • This bundle includes the Nintendo Switch console, dock, Joy Con (L) and Joy Con (R), 2 Joy Con straps, 1 Joy Con grip, HDMI cable, AC adapter, and a full game download code for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
  • Includes original Nintendo Switch model hac-001, battery performance ranges from 2.5 - 6.5 hours. For more information, see support.Nintendo.Com/Switch/battery
  • Esrb rating: everyone with comic Mischief

Split Screen & Co-op Games

A result of the differences between the games that are available for each console you will find that there are fewer family-friendly games that are split-screen or co-op where 2 or more people can play at the same time.

While some of these games exist for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, you will notice a much larger number of the popular games for these systems will require you to play online if you want to play with a friend or family member.

3 Modes/Ways to Play

Wii U GamePad
Wii U GamePad

When compared to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 the Nintendo Switch is the clear-cut leader in terms of portability and flexibility in how you can play games. The Wii U, which was the predecessor to the Switch, had its game pad, which reminded a lot of people of a tablet, but you couldn’t take the game pad on the road to play games unless you brought the Wii U console along to. In other words, the game pad was simply an accessory to the console. It wasn’t the console.

With the Switch, Nintendo has taken the concept of the GamePad it had with the Wii U to the next level. With the Nintendo Switch, the beefed-up looking tablet isn’t an accessory to the console IT IS THE CONSOLE.  While at first glance the Nintendo Switch might seem like a glorified tablet this powerful little console offers versatility that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 simply cannot match.

With the Nintendo Switch you know have 3 ways to play.

TV Mode

If you want to play video games on your television all you need to do is place the console (the part that looks like a tablet) into the charging dock and it can connect to your TV. This is the way most people think of playing with their video game consoles, but with the Nintendo Switch, you can do so much more.

Handheld Mode

Nintendo Switch in handheld mode

Many families will have their video game console set up on the television in their family room. So what happens if the parents want to watch television and one of the kids wants to play a video game? Thankfully the Nintendo Switch has you covered if this happens at your house.

All you need to do is to remove the console from the dock and attach the Joy-Cons (controllers) and you have a handheld gaming system. With its’ battery life of over 6 hours, a 6.2 inch high definition screen, speakers, and headphone jack the Switch doesn’t take a step backward just because you are playing it in handheld mode.

Tabletop Mode

Nintendo Switch in tabletop mode

In addition to the handheld mode, there is the tabletop mode. Using the Switch in tabletop mode is very easy to do. First, you disconnect the joy-cons (controllers) from the sides of the console. Next, you use the integrated kickstand to prop the console up in an upright position on a tabletop. you can disconnect the joy-cons from the console.

So if the handheld mode is great so why would a person want to switch to tabletop mode?

The handheld mode is terrific if you are the only person playing or watching the screen. However, if someone else wants to see the screen or if you want to play a multiplayer or split-screen game being able to prop the Switch up on its’ kickstand so everyone will be able to see the screen is the way to go.

You might think that a person should just play in TV mode if they want to play multiplayer or split-screen games, but the Switch was made with portability in mind. With that said, Nintendo wanted to design the switch to allow the users to be able to play these games when they are not at home.

Connecting Multiple Consoles – Welcome to the Party

Another exciting thing you can do with the Nintendo Switch is to connect multiple consoles to play a game together with your friends. Depending on the game being played you can connect as many as 10 consoles together with 1 or more persons being able to play on each console. One thing to note is that each console you want to connect needs to have its’ own copy of the game you want to play together.

Here is an example of two consoles being connected to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe together.

Online Gaming

There was a time when playing video games was something you did at home by yourself because most of the games were 1-player. Only a small minority of games were multiplayer and that almost always meant 2-player games.

Since that time, video games and video game systems have come a long way. Instead of playing a game buy yourself now a huge percentage of games are multiplayer and are able to be played online with others. This functionality makes video games much more social and allows kids to communicate with their friends while playing online.

Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all allow online gaming with their consoles, but you need to pay a fee (buy their service) in order to play games online.

Microsoft’s service for the Xbox One is called Xbox Live Gold. You can read more about it and see the current price here.

Sony’s PlayStation Plus service for the Playstation 4 is very similar to that of the Xbox One. You can read more about it and see its’ current price here.

The service for the Nintendo Switch is called the Nintendo Switch Online Membership. The price for a one-year subscription for this service is substantially lower than the price for Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus. You can learn more about the Nintendo Switch Online Membership and see its’ current price here.

When it comes to online gaming there probably isn’t a clear cut winner between the 3 gaming systems. Just know that it is something each of them offers and something that the vast majority of people will subscribe to.

Parental Controls

If you have kids and you are looking for the best gaming system for kids you need to be aware of the parental controls that are available to keep your children safe and make sure that they are using the video game console in ways you approve of. The 3 modern video game systems that we are looking at have great parental controls available.

By creating a Microsoft account for each member of your family you can personalize each family member’s online experience based upon the age-appropriate limits you decide to set. You can decide what, when, and how much your kids can play. You can also control what your kids can do online and what they are allowed to spend in the Microsoft Store. Not only will these settings protect your child as they use the Xbox One, but they will also carry over to any Windows 10 device they might use and protect them there as well. You can learn more about the parental controls for the Xbox One here.

Much like the Xbox One, PS4’s parental controls give you control of spending limits and works alongside the available Family Management and Play Time controls to help keep young players safe on both PS4 and PlayStation Network, which is the term that Sony uses to refer to the PlayStation Store, PlayStation Plus, and the available entertainment options. You can learn more about the PlayStation 4 parental controls here.

Nintendo Switch’s parental controls are very similar to the others. They allow you to control what, when, and how much your kids can play. Plus, Nintendo has a free app that allows you to easily monitor and change the parental control settings from your smartphone. You can learn more about the parental controls for the Nintendo Switch here.

Below is a video that shows you more about the parental controls for the Nintendo Switch and what you can do with the free app:

What About Streaming Video?

The Nintendo Switch was designed to first and foremost be a gaming console. When it was launched it did not support streaming video services like Netflix or Hulu.

The Xbox One, PlayStation 4 as well as the previous Nintendo consoles the Wii and Wii U supported streaming video services. So it felt like a big deal to learn that the Switch didn’t support streaming services – especially given its’ portability. For example, with the Wii U if mom and dad wanted to watch one show and one of the kids wanted to watch something on Netflix all kid needed to do was take the Wii U GamePad and they could watch Netflix while the rest of the family got to watch what the wanted as well.

However, upon closer examination, the Switch’s inability to support streaming video services didn’t really seem like that big of a deal.  Most homes have either a smart television or a smart DVD or Blu-ray player to access these services. Plus, you can also access these streaming services on smartphones, computers, and tablets. So it isn’t as if people won’t be able to access these services another way if the Switch doesn’t support them.

That being said, Nintendo recognized that some people have expressed disappointment that the Switch doesn’t currently support these streaming services. In late 2017 Nintendo added support for Hulu so hopefully the ability to stream Netflix and other streaming services isn’t far behind.

Recommendations

Even though we think that the Nintendo Switch is the overall winner when choosing the best video game system for families we know that certain situations might make another game console be a better fit for your family.

So let’s take a look at some specific situations and see what is best.

Best For Families With Younger Kids: Nintendo Switch/Switch Lite

If you have younger kids the choice is pretty easy. Nintendo’s lineup of family-friendly games and familiar characters, like Mario and Luigi, makes the Nintendo Switch a can’t miss choice.

Both the Switch and Switch Lite and portable and easy to take on the go. However, assuming that you intend to connect the console to the television to play games, the Nintendo Switch is the way to go since the Switch Lite can’t connect to your TV.

If you have a couple of kids and would like to get each of them their own console you might want to look at the more affordable Switch Lite, which comes in four fun colors: turquoise, gray, yellow, and coral.

Best For Families Playing Together: Nintendo Switch

If you want to play together as a family the Nintendo Switch is hands down the easy choice. This is especially true if you have younger kids. Whether you want to play party games like Super Mario Party and 1-2-Switch, or fantastic multiplayer games like the New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and the upcoming Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury, or popular sports games, the Nintendo Switch has you covered for family members of all ages.

Since it is a lot more fun to play together when the console is connected to your television the Nintendo Switch is the clear option here.

Remember that the Switch Lite CANNOT connect to your television. So if you want to look forward to family game nights in the family room playing games on a big-screen television stick with the regular Nintendo Switch.

Best For Portable On the Go Gaming: Nintendo Switch Lite

When looking at all of the “Big 3’s” (Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch) game console offerings, only the Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite were designed with portable gaming in mind.

Yes, over time some there were some PlayStation and Xbox consoles that were released were smaller than the others, but they still need to be hooked up to a screen in order to play them. So in terms of portability, what these smaller Xbox and PlayStation consoles really offered was being easier to carry to other locations.

While it is true that the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite can both be used for on the go gaming, the Switch Lite is the #1 choice when looking for a portable gaming option. The Switch Lite’s smaller size and weight to a minimum is a big plus for people who like to bring their Switch with them wherever they go. Then when you add in the fact that the Switch Lite is typically has a price that is about $100 lower than the Switch, the Switch Lite becomes even more attractive.

That said, the Switch Lite doesn’t have the ability to play in TV mode (it can’t be connected to or played on a television). So you need to be okay with that limitation if you buy a Switch Lite. If you need a game system that you can play on the television, but still can easily be taken with you when you are away from home the slightly larger Nintendo Switch is still a great choice.

To make the Switch Lite even better it comes in the following fun colors:

Best Console for Serious Gamers: PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X

If you or your kids are serious gamers you probably looking at a PlayStation or Xbox console since those consoles tend to attract gamers who are into more competitive gameplay. If you or your child are one of these competitive gamers the new PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles are the ones you should be looking at.

The PlayStation 5 (both the regular PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition) and the Xbox Series X are the most powerful consoles that Sony and Microsoft have ever made. Both consoles are capable of amazing 4K gameplay, showing you every little detail and effect that a 4K television or monitor can provide, which is very important for serious gamers.

If you aren’t sure if you should get an Xbox Series X or the PlayStation 5 you could ask your friends or your child’s friends, and see which console the majority of them have and consider choosing that one.

Another way to choose between PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X is to look at the exclusive games for each console. There are a lot of games that are available on both consoles, but each console also has a list of games that are exclusive to that console and if you want to play any of those exclusive games you will need to get the console that has these exclusive games. If you want to see what games are exclusive to each console you can check out this site.

If, in the end, you decide that you want one of the new PlayStation 5 consoles make sure that you understand the difference between the PlayStation 5 and the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition. The Digital Edition will only allow you to use digital copies of video games. If you are not sure how you feel about that you might want to check out our article that discusses physical video game copies vs. digital copies.

Should you decide that going with an Xbox is the better choice for you make sure that you get the Series X and not the Series S. The Series S isn’t as powerful and isn’t capable of 4K gameplay like the Series X.

Best for Tweens and Teens: Xbox One S and PS4

Yes, Microsoft and Sony have just released the next-generation versions of their Xbox and PlayStation video game systems, but they are still selling the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 consoles. Both consoles are great places to start for tweens and teens who are just getting started with video games and are a more casual gamer. Plus, if your kids are a bit younger you will be happy to know that both systems have parental controls that allow you to control screen time and purchase limits, as well as content filters to block inappropriate games.

One huge bonus about the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles is that they are both priced significantly less than the more expensive Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. That said, these consoles are Xbox One and PS4 are still very powerful and continue to be supported by Microsoft and Sony respectively. New games continue to be released for both consoles.

One argument for getting an Xbox One S would be its backward compatibility. In addition to all the games that were made specifically for the Xbox One, the console can play over 600 Xbox 360 and Xbox games. So if you like to collect old games or have a bunch of old game discs laying around the library of games for the Xbox One S is massive.

If all your kid’s friends are playing on PlayStation consoles you might want to lean toward getting a PS4 (either the PS4 Slim or the PS4 Pro would be fine choices). That said, the backward compatibility for Sony consoles is much less. If someone who owns a PS4 enjoys playing older “classic” games they will need to subscribe to the PS Now service, which gives you access to stream and play more than 800 PS2, PS3, and PS4 games. The good news about the PS Now service is that if you won’t have to worry about the clutter of having a mountain of old game discs laying everywhere, but you will be trading that clutter-free feeling for a monthly fee. You can learn more about the PS Now service here.

Best For Families Who Like to Play Older “Classic” Games: Xbox One S & Xbox Series X

What this really has to do with is backward compatibility and Xbox is the clear choice here. With literally thousands of Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games being backwards compatible, theXbox One S and Xbox Series X have an incredible number of games for you to choose from. Just stay away from the Xbox Series S console as it doesn’t have an optical drive and therefore won’t be able to play these old game discs.

If you or your child is a pretty serious gamer or if you have a 4K television you might want to opt for the Xbox Series X otherwise you should be just fine with the Xbox One S.

Subscription Services for Classic Games

It is also fair to point out that Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all have subscription services that will allow you to play games online without the need for owning the game or having a disc. These subscription services are:

While these subscription services all require a recurring membership fee, they are a great option for people who don’t want the clutter of having a bunch of old game discs laying around or for people whose game console doesn’t offer backward compatibility (like the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation).

Conclusion

So if you are looking for a video game console that promotes the family playing games together and helps eliminate disputes over the television the Nintendo Switch is the hands-down choice for most families. You can click here to learn which Nintendo Switch console is best for you.

Here are some popular Nintendo Switch console options. One of these options is a bundles that includes one or more free games:

Nintendo Switch with Neon Blue and Neon Red Joy‑Con - HAC-001(-01)
87,577 Reviews
Nintendo Switch with Neon Blue and Neon Red Joy‑Con - HAC-001(-01)
  • 3 Play Styles: TV Mode, Tabletop Mode, Handheld Mode
  • 6.2-inch, multi-touch capacitive touch screen
  • 4.5-9+ Hours of Battery Life will vary depending on software usage conditions
  • Connects over Wi-Fi for multiplayer gaming; Up to 8 consoles can be connected for local wireless multiplayer
  • Model number: HAC-001(-01)

Nintendo Switch with Gray Joy‑Con - HAC-001(-01)
87,586 Reviews
Nintendo Switch with Gray Joy‑Con - HAC-001(-01)
  • 3 Play Styles: TV Mode, Tabletop Mode, Handheld Mode
  • 6.2-inch, multi-touch capacitive touch screen
  • 4.5-9 plus Hours of Battery Life Will vary depending on software usage conditions
  • Connects over Wi-Fi for multiplayer gaming; Up to 8 consoles can be connected for local wireless multiplayer
  • Model number: HAC-001(-01)

Nintendo Switch w/ Gray Joy-Con + Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Full Game Download) - Switch
3,397 Reviews
Nintendo Switch w/ Gray Joy-Con + Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Full Game Download) - Switch
  • This bundle includes the Nintendo Switch console, dock, Joy Con (L) and Joy Con (R), 2 Joy Con straps, 1 Joy Con grip, HDMI cable, AC adapter, and a full game download code for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
  • Includes original Nintendo Switch model hac-001, battery performance ranges from 2.5 - 6.5 hours. For more information, see support.Nintendo.Com/Switch/battery
  • Esrb rating: everyone with comic Mischief

Here are some popular Nintendo Switch Lite options.

Nintendo Switch Lite - Turquoise
63,458 Reviews
Nintendo Switch Lite - Turquoise
  • Handheld Nintendo Switch gaming at a great price
  • For every member of your family, there’s a member of ours
  • Optimized for personal, handheld play, Nintendo Switch Lite is a small and light Nintendo Switch system
  • Features a sleek, unibody design with fully integrated controls and a built-in plus Control Pad
  • Compatible with all physical and digital Nintendo Switch games that support Handheld mode

Nintendo Switch Lite - Gray
63,458 Reviews
Nintendo Switch Lite - Gray
  • Handheld Nintendo Switch gaming at a great price
  • For every member of your family, there’s a member of ours
  • Optimized for personal, handheld play, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a small and light Nintendo Switch system
  • Features a sleek, unibody design with fully integrated controls and a built-in plus Control Pad
  • Compatible with all physical and digital Nintendo Switch games that support Handheld mode

Nintendo Switch Lite - Yellow
63,458 Reviews
Nintendo Switch Lite - Yellow
  • Handheld Nintendo Switch gaming at a great price
  • For every member of your family, there’s a member of ours
  • Optimized for personal, handheld play, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a small and light Nintendo Switch system
  • Features a sleek, unibody design with fully integrated controls and a built-in plus Control Pad
  • Compatible with all physical and digital Nintendo Switch games that support Handheld mode

Sale
Nintendo Switch Lite - Coral
63,458 Reviews
Nintendo Switch Lite - Coral
  • Handheld Nintendo Switch gaming at a great price
  • For every member of your family, there’s a member of ours
  • Optimized for personal, handheld play, Nintendo Switch Lite is a small and light Nintendo Switch system
  • Features a sleek, unibody design with fully integrated controls and a built-in plus Control Pad
  • Compatible with all physical and digital Nintendo Switch games that support Handheld mode

Last update on 2021-07-30 at 13:42 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API