2020 was a big year for the gaming console – both PlayStation and Xbox released their next-generation consoles, and the Nintendo Switch has welcomed a wide range of new games to its repertoire. Additionally, a lot of big game developers have released some highly anticipated titles such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
With all these exciting developments in the gaming world, the question is this: which gaming console is the best? Which ones are worth your money, and which ones should you skip?
Let’s take a look.
Best Gaming Console in 2021
The PS5 is the latest installment in Sony’s PlayStation dynasty, and it’s shaping up to be a heavy hitter. The elegantly designed casing hides a custom system on a chip (SoC) that Sony developed with help from AMD.
It sports an 825 GB solid-state drive (SSD) that promises to nearly eliminate loading times, offering a faster, more seamless gaming experience than what has ever been possible before.
The GPU is capable of up to 120 frames per second in 4K resolution, allowing for beautiful graphics unhindered by lag, as well as hardware built for ray tracing. Ray tracing will allow for more realistic lighting in games, making your favorite games look even more real.
Sony also designed a custom audio engine for PS5, dubbed the Tempest Engine. It uses binaural audio technology to make your experience clearer and more realistic. You can watch the console’s full reveal presentation here.
The PS5 was released on November 12, 2020, for gamers in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, North America, Singapore, and South Korea, and on November 19, 2020, for the rest of the world. Two variants of the console exist; the base model features an Ultra HD Blu-ray compatible disc drive, while the Digital Edition does not.
The Digital Edition is meant to be a lower-cost option for gamers who prefer to digitally download their games. The base model is currently available for $499 USD, and the Digital Edition is available for $399 USD.
If you can get your hands on a PS5 despite the limited supply, it’s hands down the best video game console in 2021 and beyond.
Alongside this incredible console, Sony has launched a full range of accessories to make your gaming experience more comfortable and high-tech than ever before. The console comes with the new DualSense controller, the successor to the popular DualShock.
The controller features a new haptic feedback system with adaptive triggers; this means that, through changing the resistance, drawing a bow will feel different than pulling the trigger on a gun, and so on.
The controller has a built-in microphone so that you no longer require a different piece of equipment to chat with your friends while you play. It also features a USB-C port for charging and an audio jack.
PlayStation has also released the Pulse 3D wireless headset – the headset comes with the Tempest Engine integrated, so you can fully take advantage of PS5’s revolutionary audio technology.
A charging station for the controller, HD camera, and media remote is also available. If you don’t want to shell out for the new accessories just yet, don’t worry – the PS5 is backward compatible with most existing controllers and accessories that were released for the PS4, including PS VR headsets.
Available Games For PS5
The PS5 launch is surrounded by the release of a lot of highly anticipated games. The console comes pre-installed with a game called Astro’s Playroom, which appears to be made to demonstrate the capabilities of the DualSense controller. Other launch titles include Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Borderlands 3, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Sackboy: A Big Adventure.
On top of all of the incredible games being released with the console at launch, PlayStation has announced that it will be releasing the PS Plus Collection – a package of some of PS4’s best games available to those with a PS Plus subscription. The package includes beloved games such as:
- Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 (Zombies Chronicles Edition)
- Detroit: Become Human
- Fallout 4
- Final Fantasy 15
- God of War
- Hollow Knight (Voidheart Edition)
- The Last Guardian
- Monster Hunter: World
- Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Some games that are being released for the PS4 soon are offering free upgrades to the PS5 version. Sony has stated that they will support any developer offering this service; so far, confirmed titles in this list include:
- FIFA 21
- Madden NFL 21
- Destiny 2
- Cyberpunk 2077
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
You can watch PlayStation’s game release showcase here.
Though the era of the PS4 seems to be coming to an end with the release of the PS5, the console is still a good option for beginner gamers who missed out on PlayStation exclusives from the last generation.
The console was released in 2013 as competition for the Xbox One and features the highest-end hardware that was available at the time. Its APU could theoretically peak at 1.84 teraflops, making it incredibly powerful for the time.
It was capable of reading Blu-ray discs three times faster than the PS2, but it was only capable of outputting 4K resolution with multimedia, not games. It was also the first console to feature the Rest Mode, in which the console places itself into a low power state, allowing players to immediately resume what they were doing when they wake it back up.
This console was the most high-tech available on the market for quite a while, and it plays host to a lot of well-loved games.
The PS4’s primary controller is the DualShock 4, the controller that the PS5’s DualSense is based on. The DualShock 4 is the most optimized controller in the DualShock series, featuring concave analog stick caps, microtextured handgrips, and the infamous touchpad, which can detect up to 2 simultaneous button presses.
The DualShock 4 is also compatible with the PS5, so don’t go throwing it away just yet.
The PS4 was also the first console to be compatible with a VR headset, the PlayStation VR. The headset features a 1080p display panel, a control box for 3D audio, and video output that can broadcast a player’s perspective, making it ideal for YouTubers and streamers.
The headset was released in 2016 and is also compatible with the PS5. PlayStation has yet to say if they intend on creating a new VR headset for the PS5, so for now, the PlayStation VR headset is the only VR accessory available. It is available for $399 USD.
Available Games for PS4
The PS4 was host to a full dynasty of incredible games. Currently, there are over 3000 games in the PS4 library; many of these will be compatible with the PS5 as well. The console hosted big franchises such as Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, and Bioshock.
Big titles for the PS4 include:
- 7 Days to Die
- Age of Wonders: Planetfall
- Alien: Isolation
- Amnesia: Rebirth
- Ark: Survival Evolved
- God of War
- The Last of Us 2
- Nier: Automata
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
- Dark Souls
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Horizon Zero Dawn
Many of these games will be available in the PS Plus Collection for PS5, but if you’re a beginner or just unable to get the newest console yet, the PS4 is a good place to start playing these iconic games.
3. Xbox Series X
PlayStation isn’t the only console beginning a new era this year; Xbox has its own next-gen console on the market. It’s called the Xbox Series X, and while it looks significantly more modest than the PlayStation 5, you shouldn’t underestimate its power.
The console sports a whole host of high-end technology – support for up to 8K resolution and 120 frames per second, as well as ray-tracing technology for beautiful, high-end graphics.
The console also sports a high-speed solid-state drive (SSD) that promises to reduce loading times and rendering speed. The system on a chip (SoC) boasts 12 teraflops of power, making it the most powerful Xbox console ever released.
It also supports 3D Spatial Audio, a system similar to PS5’s Tempest Engine that uses advanced audio algorithms to immerse you in-game audio.
The casing of the Xbox Series X is also unique; it features three integrated airflow channels to cool the internal components and reduce the amount of noise that the console makes while it is running.
It also features a newly engineered heat sink for reliability and a split motherboard to control temperature and increase output. Overall, the Series X is all performance, no-frills.
The Series X was also released with a lower-end model, dubbed the Series S. It uses the same CPU as the Series X, but features a reduced GPU, memory, and internal storage. It also lacks an optical disc drive, making it a more affordable, lite version of the Series X.
Both consoles were released on November 10, 2020, worldwide. The Series X runs for $499 USD, while the Series S is available for a modest $299 USD.
Xbox Series X Accessories
The Xbox Series X features a full line of new accessories to match the high-tech new console. Microsoft has updated the beloved Xbox One controller. The design is meant to fit comfortably in a wider range of hand sizes; the baseline for the design are an 8-year-old’s hands. The grips are more sculpted, and the triggers are smaller, rounded, and textured so that they won’t slip under your fingers. The D-pad has also been redesigned and optimized with a more circular, concave look that accommodates a range of motions and finger placements. The controller in its standard format requires 2 AA batteries, but a rechargeable battery pack is available as a separate accessory.
Both the Series X and Series S are compatible with a new 1 terabyte Seagate Storage Expansion card via a dedicated expansion port, allowing you to add storage to your console at will. The card currently sells for roughly $250 USD and is available at most retailers.
Available Games for Xbox Series X
The Xbox Series X sports a more modest launch lineup than the PS5, but there are still some interesting titles being released with the console. It shares games such as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Borderlands 3 with the PS5, and adorable puzzler Evergate with the Nintendo Switch.
The most anticipated game that was supposed to be released for it was the Xbox Exclusive Halo Infinite, but the game has unfortunately been delayed until sometime next year. Other launch titles for the Xbox Series X and S include:
- Cuisine Royale
- Mortal Kombat 11
- Bright Memory
- Tetris Effect: Connected
- Manifold Garden
- Observer: System Redux
- The Falconeer
- Watch Dogs Legion
The Xbox Series X and S are also backward compatible with thousands of games that were already in their library, dating all the way back to the original Xbox.
They’ve introduced a program called Smart Delivery, which is very similar to the PS5’s upgrade program. The idea is that, once you purchase a compatible game for the Xbox One, it will be available automatically on the Xbox Series X.
Xbox is not just a gaming console, but a complete entertainment system, making it the best gaming console for families.
4. Nintendo Switch
Though Nintendo’s beloved hybrid console is a few years old now, it’s still a big name in console gaming. The console was released in March 2017, and its claim to fame is its ability to switch between being a TV-based console and a handheld console with ease.
When the console sits in its HDMI-connected dock, it functions much like the previous Wii console, supporting games on a TV screen. When it’s taken out of the dock, it becomes a portable console much like a PS Vita or Nintendo DS, with the controllers mounted on the sides for easy access.
A fully handheld model called the Nintendo Switch Lite was released 2 years later in September 2019; it retains all its capabilities except the docking function. The console remains a blockbuster even with production difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic – it is currently available for $299 USD, and the Switch Lite is available for $199 USD.
The lack of 18+ titles from Switch’s flagship titles makes it the best gaming console for kids. Plus, it’s easy to carry and can be played without a TV.
Nintendo Switch Accessories
The controllers, called Joy-Cons, are wireless and can be attached to the console, to each other in a grip, or held individually in the hands for all sorts of different purposes. Each also has the ability to function as a mini controller on its own, making them perfect for multiplayer games such as Mario Kart.
Unfortunately, the controllers have been associated with a malfunction known as Joy-Con Drift, where the analog sticks begin to sense input even when the player is not touching them.
Nintendo offers a free repair program for this issue, fortunately, and there are various methods for prolonging the life of your Joy-Cons. The controllers are available in a host of bright color combinations, and sets can be purchased separately from the console for $79 USD.
If you’re looking for a more heavy-duty controller, Nintendo also offers the Pro Controller for the Switch. The design echoes more classic console controllers such as the Xbox One controller, but it also integrates Nintendo’s signature motion controls. The Pro Controller is wireless, and available separately from the Switch for $69 USD.
Nintendo also offers accessories such as charging stations and grips for Joy-Cons, a Poké Ball controller for Pokémon fans, and a variety of carrying cases and other accessories. By far the most popular Switch accessories, however, are amiibo, collectible figurines that allow players to load exclusive content into various games.
Amiibo figurines are available for various games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Splatoon 2. Amiibo figures have various benefits such as new characters, game modes, outfits, and other perks, depending on the game and figurine used.
By virtue of it being an older console, the Nintendo Switch has over 3000 compatible games. Games are available in either physical game cartridges similar to those used in the Nintendo 3DS, or digitally through the Nintendo eShop.
Its primary launch title was the highly anticipated Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the game remains one of the console’s most popular releases. Other highly popular Switch games include:
- Super Mario Odyssey
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Splatoon 2
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons
- Octopath Traveler
- Stardew Valley
- Super Mario Party
- ARK: Survival Evolved
- Doom Eternal
Nintendo has expressed an intent to continue releasing content for the Switch at a steady rate, and we can expect many more good games and game updates in the future. There has already been a talk of a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the highly acclaimed Animal Crossing: New Horizons receives regular updates. You can see a full list of Nintendo Switch games here.
As an added bonus, players with a Nintendo Online subscription receive access to a library of emulated games from vintage Nintendo consoles such as the NES and SNES. These titles include classics such as The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros, and Kirby Superstar.
When is the next Nintendo Switch coming out?
The Nintendo Switch has been out for three years now, and people are starting to wonder: when will Nintendo release the next-generation Switch? With the release of big hitters like the PS5 and Xbox Series X, one wonders if Nintendo will bring their own next-gen to the party.
According to some gaming blogs, there is a Nintendo Switch 2, or Nintendo Switch Pro, in the works. Currently, Nintendo has not confirmed the existence of a new console and appears to intend to continue releasing content for the current Switch as normal.
However, there are a few Bloomberg reports that hint at a new console being developed, with the possibility of 4K graphics and 60 frames per second.
There are reports that developers who are working with Nintendo at the moment are being asked to make sure their games are made in 4K, adding weight to the rumors of a hardware upgrade. Projected release dates for this mysterious console place it sometime in 2021, but we’ll have to wait for Nintendo’s word before we get too excited.
Should You Buy a Current Gen Console or a Next-Gen Console?
In all honesty, this part is up to you. Current gen consoles are well-established, have a lot of excellent games to choose from, and are perfect for beginners on a budget who might not want to immediately shell out hundreds of dollars for the latest console.
On the other hand, next-gen consoles are built with the latest technology – something like the PS5 is said to be almost 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the PS4.
Additionally, all of the upcoming new games will likely be released exclusively for next-gen consoles, meaning that you might have to wait longer after games release to play them because you haven’t upgraded your console.
All in all, the question of current-gen vs next-gen is all about priorities, what games you want to play, and your budget.
What Console Do Pro Gamers Use?
With Esports and Twitch streamers becoming more and more abundant, it stands to reason that we should look to them for recommendations on the best tech.
At the moment, most Esports players almost exclusively use PCs to game, because previous consoles just weren’t powerful enough to support the high load of an Esports tournament. Consoles are more common in the Twitch streamer and YouTube gaming communities, but with the difficulties associated with capture cards, PCs are still the standard.
With the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, there may be a shift towards more pro gamers using consoles in their work, simply because of more powerful tech and more integrated sharing technology.
At the moment, the most popular console amongst YouTubers is likely the Nintendo Switch, simply for the console’s catering to fun multiplayer games such as Mario Kart 8.
Arin Hanson and Dan Avidan, the pair behind the Game Grumps YouTube sensation, appear to favor the Switch in their content for its fun, casual style and powerful online connectivity that has allowed them to play together while self-isolating for Covid-19.
We’re excited to see who emerges victorious as the best gaming system for pro gamers as technologies evolve.
What is the most powerful video game console?
While both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are incredibly powerful machines, reviewers have found that the Xbox Series X slightly outplays the PS5 in terms of processing power. Its graphics engine is capable of up to 8K resolution and its processor can output up to 12 teraflops of power – to put that into perspective, that is 12 trillion floating-point operations per second. That’s a lot of power!
So if you’re purely shopping for a powerful console, then the Series X is for you. However, reviewers have also stated that the PS5 far outweighs the Series X in terms of available games, so it’s all about priorities.
Despite the short supply of next-gen consoles, 2021 is a fantastic time to get into console gaming if you haven’t already taken a dip. The ultimate gaming console simply does not boil down to the most powerful one at the end of the day, but rather the one that fulfils all your demands.
If you’re a casual gamer who wants to make their mundane commute to work a bit more playful, then the Nintendo Switch is the best console for you. The PS5 and Xbox Series X are the most powerful consoles on the market right now, but the Xbox Series S is also an amazing console to play next-gen games on a limited budget.