After years spent playing each system and carefully weighing the pros and cons of each, we’ve decided that theis 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. At the same time, the Nintendo Switch makes a solid secondary choice with its array of amazing first-party games.
Of course, preferences will vary, and the war between Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo will carry on nonetheless. Still, to make your decision easier, we’ve detailed all the reasons you should pick one of the consoles listed below.
At a glance:
- The best gaming console: PlayStation 4 Pro
- The best gaming console for 4K: Xbox One X
- The best portable game console: Nintendo Switch
- The best retro game console: Sega Genesis Mini
Why you should buy this: It’s the best version of the most popular console and has the highest number of high-fidelity games.
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.
A large majority of 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 doesn’t have.
The PS4 has the best games, and the PS4 Pro, in particular, makes them look as stunning as possible. The Xbox One X is technically more powerful — but it lacks the must-have exclusives that make a purchase worth it. Honestly, there’s just not as much unique content to play on the competitor.
This is especially true in 2020, with PS4 getting major generation-defining exclusives like Persona 5 Royal, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Ghost of Tsushima, and The Last of Us Part II, even if the latter was delayed.
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.
Read our full PlayStation 4 Pro review
Why you should buy this: With a 4K Blu-ray player and HDR, it offers access to both great new games and high-resolution video.
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, or at least until the PS5 and Xbox Series X launch. It won’t be getting VR, however — which may disappoint those hoping it could be an inexpensive entry point to high-quality VR experiences.
The PS4 may still 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. Moreover, Xbox Series X will not get any true exclusives for at least a year, meaning new first-party games like Halo Infinite will still come to Xbox One X and will be cross-buy compatible with the newer system.
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-generation games are now compatible with the Xbox One, which could expand your game library and keep at least some of your old games in rotation. Crazily enough, this even includes the original Xbox games that help foster the best backwards compatible ecosystem around. So grab a controller and get gaming!
Read our full Xbox One X review
Why you should buy this: You want a full console gaming experience — but on the go with unmatched first-party support.
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 soon its sequel, and that’s more than good enough for a lot of gamers. In addition to contemporary titles like the Wolfenstein II port, the Switch has also proved itself as 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 platform with something unique to offer everyone.
Nintendo even released a virtual reality Labo kit, letting younger players enjoy the world of VR and create new gadgets to use on the system in an extremely affordable way. It makes use of the Switch’s built-in screen rather than a dedicated headset, making it one of the most “Nintendo” products we’ve seen in a long time. And for those who miss the Wii Fit days, there is even a great workout experience in the form of Ring Fit Adventure, an RPG that doubles as a great time for burning calories.
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 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.
Read our full Nintendo Switch review
The best retro game console: Sega Genesis Mini
Why you should buy this: You want to relive the golden age of 16-bit gaming.
Who’s it for: Anyone with a love for retro games.
Why we picked the Sega Genesis Mini:
Nostalgia is at an all time high right now in the video game industry, with many companies jump onboard the retro gaming train that Nintendo kickstarted. One of the newest additions to this nostalgia trip is Sega, who does the best job — outside of Nintendo — of recreating a classic gaming console with some of its best games.
While others, like PlayStation, have failed at bringing older consoles back, the Sega Genesis Mini is an excellent way of experiencing the only true competitor to the SNES. With the SNES Classic out of production, the Genesis Mini is currently the best way to experience the golden era of 16-bit gaming.
Retailing for a competitive price, it comes with the miniaturized rendition of the futuristic Genesis console along with two wired controllers and more than 40 games. Right out of the box, you are ready to experience local multiplayer with some excellent titles like Streets of Rage 2, Street Fighter 2, and more.
The rest of the lineup is amazing, with a large helping of Sega classics included in the package. All the expected Sega titles are here like Sonic the Hedgehog and Golden Axe, but there are other more surprising entries worth your attention like Castlevania: Bloodlines and Tetris.
There is something for everyone, ranging from brilliant RPGs like Phantasy Star IV to the extremely challenging platformer Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Many of these games rank among the best Genesis games ever created and you can own them all in one neat package.
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 the currently unnecessary 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.”
How we test
Choosing the best gaming console in 2020 is, honestly, more philosophical than technical. Since gaming PCs currently produce the highest frame rate and highest resolution, picking the best gaming console comes down to a number of factors including its design, features, and game library.
We do test them, of course. We’ve spent a lot of time playing video games on these consoles and even more time thinking about what they can do. We make sure that everything we like about these products works and delivers like advertised. That includes playing all kinds of games, checking the quality of the internet connectivity, factoring in quality and quantity of exclusives, and checking if developers are currently making games for the platform.
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