The Best Video Game Consoles for Kids, Including Some You Can Actually Get Your Hands On
by Bethany Braun-Silva and Sabrina Rojas Weiss
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PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X aren’t the only games in town.
Video games can be fun for the whole family, from the youngest little gamers to tech-savvy teens, as well as the parents who sneak in their own gameplay from time to time. If you’ve stayed informed about which video game consoles are right for various ages and stages of aspiring video game experts, you still may be wondering if the console you want is in stock.
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Since their releases in 2020, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X have been consistently hard to find in stock. While that’s a vote in their favor, you should know there are other options, especially when it comes to children who aren’t necessarily demanding the ultimate 4K UltraHD experience and simply want to have some fun.
For example, kids love the ever-popular Nintendo Switch and the Nintendo Switch Lite. This year, there’s also the addition of the Switch OLED, wand its high-resolution screen. There are also ways to play games on other mobile devices, plus a couple of throwback gaming devices that parents can get nostalgic about while introducing their kids to the classics.
So save yourself the trouble of searching for what your kids want, because we’ve got the scoop on the best video game consoles for kids below.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The PlayStation 5 came out in late 2020, and it's every bit as hard to find in stores as it was a year ago—a sign that it is living up to the hype. The console is optimized for 4K TVs and has a powerful, fast processor for smooth play on visually stunning games, but it also has backward capability for older PlayStation games. Players love the way the triggers simulate the feel of whatever they're supposed to be in gameplay, and the controller vibrates with the action, too. A built-in microphone in the controllers encourages more interaction in multiplayer games.
Can’t decide between a home console and portable gaming system for your young gamer? The Nintendo Switch allows kids to dock it with a television and play in HD or take it to their room or on the road in handheld mode. The tabletop mode lets kids play with others, and the handy stand ensures it won’t be leaning on a random object. Kids will jump for joy when they play with the included Joy-Con grips, which can be used as one or two traditional controllers. With the Nintendo Switch, kids can even link up to eight systems together to play wherever they choose. Parents will also love how they can set guidelines and manage how their family interacts thanks to the Parental Controls feature.
Nintendo Switch OLED
The latest version of the Switch has added a 7-inch OLED screen for gaming that's as high-res on the move as it is at home. The new device also has enhanced audio and an adjustable stand. If you have an older Switch, you can still use those Joy-Con controllers, and the whole family can play together.
Nintendo Switch Lite
Perfect for little hands and long car rides, the Nintendo Switch Lite is one of the best portable video game systems for kids. It features a sleek, unibody design with fully integrated controls. This console is mobile only and cannot be used in a dock with the TV.
Xbox Series X or Series S
If you're looking to invest in a gaming system for the whole family, one you'll hook up to your giant 4K UltraHD TV and play for years to come, the Xbox Series X may be worth the money (currently upwards of $800 because of scarcity, though it initially retailed for $500). For a smaller investment, you can get the Series S to play the same games (many available online through a monthly subscription) and just lose that 4K quality. Some of us who grew up with two-color Gameboys think that sacrifice is fine.
Sony PlayStation 4 Slim or Pro 1 TB
With PS5s still so hard to acquire, you'll be pleased to know that the 1TB PlayStation 4 Slim and PlayStation 4 Pro (best for 4K) consoles are still available. Though they're not the hot new thing, PS4 games are still some of the best. Tweens, teens, and experienced gamers alike will get lost in games such as Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 and Steamworld Dig 2 (both rated for Everyone 10+). And when game time is over, the whole family can join in the fun—the console doubles as the ultimate entertainment center thanks to the PlayStation Store streaming services, which includes newly released movies, Spotify music, and even your favorite TV channels. Bonus: Parental controls allow you to decide if you want kids to use online features, set spending limits on your account wallet, and more.
Microsoft Xbox One S
The Xbox One S is packed with features, including 1TB of storage, more than 1,300 games, and 4K UltraHD Blu-ray and 4K video streaming. Xbox has amassed a huge selection of the best games for kids, teens, and families. Once they've been conquered, Xbox Live keeps the fun going by letting kids play head-to-head with online friends and gain access to must-have apps such as YouTube, Spotify, ESPN, and many others.
2021 10.2-inch iPad
An iPad may seem like an unlikely gaming system, but it might just be the best game system for kids and the whole family. We like the 2021 10.2-inch 64 GB iPad, which has a retina display and stereo speakers (though for gaming, we definitely recommend headphones). It can be the gateway to a fun family-game session during a tedious layover, a quick educational escape in the doctor’s waiting room, or a magical way to spend a car ride. Plus, the big, colorful screen can also be the spoonful of sugar that gets kids hooked on one of the many creative games that are, well, not exactly games, like Drawing Pad, which is a digital canvas that kids can virtually draw on, save for later, and even show off on social media.
Razer Kishi Mobile Game Controller
Rather than buy a whole new console, you can turn your phone (or even an older phone you don't mind giving to the kids) into a gaming device. Fit an Android phone into a controller like this to add the tactile satisfaction of a console to the mobility of a smartphone. With all the money you save, you may even spring for some new games, too.
Sega Genesis Mini
Sure, this miniature version of the classic Sega Genesis console was designed for nostalgic adults ready to relive Sonic the Hedgehog's glory days. But kids will get just as much joy out of the included 40 classic games, even if the graphics aren't quite up to 21st-century standards.
Arcade1Up Jr. Paw Patrol
For younger gamers who don't necessarily need to play more than three video games to enjoy themselves, this 3-foot-tall miniature arcade game would make an exciting addition to the playroom. It's also available in a larger version with games like Pac-Man for the old and old-at-heart.