A Parent's Guide to Holiday Console Shopping

Okay, kids, this one is for the parents out there. Specifically, the parents who have no idea what they're doing when it comes to video games, but still want to make sure they get the right console this holiday season. If that sounds like you, read on as I guide you through the confusing world of making sure you get your kids something that doesn’t suck.

The Big Ones

Let’s say your kids have been really good this year. Or you just like to spoil them. Or maybe you want to get them something that you can benefit from too. Well, the obvious, big gaming choices this holiday season are the Xbox One and the Playstation 4.

The Xbox One

If you’re confused by the name of the Xbox One, don’t worry, plenty of other people were too. The only thing you need to take away it is that it’s the latest console from Microsoft. This is the console to get if your kid is a fan of shooting and action games. Halo, Gears of War, and Dead Rising are the kinds of games you can expect for this console.

The Xbox One can also be a gift for the entire family, as it allows users to simultaneously play their games and watch cable, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu Plus and more. Do be aware though, though that these features require a $60/year Xbox Live Gold membership.

The system is also bundled with the Kinect, a camera and microphone that lets you navigate menus using hand motions and voice commands.

Good for:

  • Kids who can handle intense, action-centric games
  • Streaming video services that don't interrupt gameplay
  • People who want to control their consoles with voice controls and arm motions

Bad for:

  • Younger kids who can't handle zombies, guns, and space aliens
  • Those looking to game on a budget
  • Anyone that doesn't want a Kinect

The Xbox One retails at $500, and if it sounds like the console for your kid, you can purchase it by clicking this link. 

(At the time of this writing, the Xbox One is currently sold out at Amazon, although more stock may become available).

The Playstation 4

The Playstation 4 is the aptly titled fourth (and latest) Playstation system from Sony. Anyone familiar with the previous Playstation consoles should be able to pick up and play just about any PS4 title.

Like the Xbox One, the PS4 also allows for video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu Plus, however unlike the Xbox One, these services on the PS4 do not require a $50/year subscription to Playstation Plus, the Playstation's version of Xbox Live Gold. What a subscription to Playstation Plus will get you, though, is access to an ever-expanding digital games library, and the ability to play games online with other players.

While the Playstation 4 does have something similar to the Xbox One's Kinect, called the Playstation Eye, it's not quite as versatile and because it doesn't come packaged with the system, there isn't much support for it. On the plus side, because it doesn't come with the system, the Playstation 4 will cost you about $100 less than the Xbox One.

Good for:

  • Those that want the latest hardware, but don't want to spend a fortune
  • Gamers who are already familiar with the Playstation
  • Those who just want to play games, without too much other stuff

Bad for:

  • People who enjoy motion controls and voice commands
  • Parents and kids that have to fight over who gets to use the TV

The Playstation 4 Retails for $400 and you can purchase it by clicking this link.

(Like the Xbox One, at the time of this writing, the Playstation 4 is also sold out on Amazon, but more stock may be available in the future).

All told, there’s really not too much difference between the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. The most important thing when deciding between the two is going to be that $50/year Xbox Live Gold subscription fee, and what games your kid wants. Keep in mind that Playstation 4 games cannot be played on the Xbox One, and vice versa, so if there’s a specific game your child wants, make sure you get the right console to play that game.

Wii U

Of course, there’s also the Wii U. The most important thing to keep in mind with the Wii U is that this is a entirely new console that will cost you at least $300, and not an add-on for the Wii. If your kid wants any games for the Wii U (Such as Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, or The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker HD), you will not be able to play them on the Wii.

Speaking frankly, the Wii U is, as of right now, tailored much more towards a younger audience. The system hasn’t quite gotten a good selection of games for it yet, and the decent titles are much more “kid-friendly” than most of what you’ll find on the Xbox One or PS4. What you have to be aware of, though, is that there are a lot of bad, throw away titles designed specifically to trick parents into buying them. Don’t be one of those parents.

Good for:

  • Gaming with the family
  • Younger kids
  • Fans of Nintendo

Bad for:

  • Anyone that wants a high-performance machine
  • Those who want "mainstream" titles such as Call of Duty or Madden
  • People that can't differentiate between the Wii and the Wii U

If the Wii U seems like the right choice for your kid, you can view the different packages and purchase one by clicking this link.


Smaller Devices

Now, maybe you don’t want your kid sitting in front of the TV all day, or maybe those $300-500 price points are a bit intimidating to you. No problem, there’s still plenty of options for parents who want to get their kid something to game with.

The Nintendo 3DS

The 3DS is your most obvious choice, and probably the most confusing as well. Let me break it down. 3DS family of handheld consoles: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 3DS XL and the Nintendo 2DS. Anything else with the letters DS in it is not a 3DS console.

Now, the 3DS and the 3DS XL are both pretty straightforward, both retailing for about $200, but with the XL model being larger, with bigger screens. The 2DS model is a version of the console recently introduced by Nintendo that feature an interesting new redesign, no 3D capabilities, and retails for only about $140. Nintendo claims that the 2DS model is target for younger kids, around 5-9 years old, so keep that in mind when making your decision.

Good for:

  • Gaming on the go
  • A solid library of games including Pokemon X & Y and The Legend of Zelda
  • Easily lets gamers play with their friends who also have a 3DS

Bad for:

  • Those who want a graphically powerful machine
  • Digital purchases are tied to your console, so if it's ever damaged they may be difficult to recover

You can view and purchase the different 3DS models by clicking this link.

The Playstation Vita

The other option to discuss in this field is the Playstation Vita, Sony’s handheld console. What the PS Vita lacks in game selection, it makes up for in sheer power. You won’t get a prettier handheld gaming experience anywhere else. Strangely, the PS Vita really works best with either a PS3 or a PS4 console, allowing you to transfer some games between the living room console and the handheld, and with the PS4, allowing you to stream games from that console directly to your PS Vita.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a hard sell, considering the already high price point of the PS4 and the fact that the PS Vita retails for $240. Still, if you can swing it, it’s a pretty cool set up, although probably best left to older kids who can manage the technical aspects of the whole thing.

Good for:

  • Beautiful, graphically powerful gaming
  • Playing games on the go
  • Streaming games, allowing you to play PS4 titles anywhere, wirelessly

Bad for:

  • Those looking to get the most out of their console without spending too much
  • Game variety, especially if you don't have a PS3 or PS4

You can browse the different PS Vita packages and purchase one by clicking this link.


Older Consoles

With the release of the newer consoles, we’re seeing price drops in some of the older consoles, and with an already established library of great games, these consoles shouldn’t be dismissed right off the bat.

Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 is a great console for slightly older kids, who want a lot of action and shooter games. If you go this route, you might want to consider games in the Halo, Gears of War and Call of Duty franchise.

The Xbox 360 quickly became the go-to console early in the last generation of consoles, and it's still seen by many as the sort of "quintessential console." Perfect for kids who like to play video games, but probably aren't going to be purchasing too many new ones themselves.

Good for:

  • Shooters and action games
  • Well-known and critically acclaimed franchises
  • People who like games, but probably won't be purchasing too many brand new ones

Bad for:

  • Those that want the latest model of Xbox
  • Younger kids

The Xbox 360 currently retails at about $200 and you can browse the different bundles and purchase the console by clicking this link.

Playstation 3

My personal recommendation, though, is the Playstation 3. No subscription fee to pay in order to play online or access apps like Amazon Video and Netflix, and a great selection of games that (no offense to Xbox fans) tends to lean a bit more cerebral. If you think your child isn’t one for the whole “run and gun” style of gameplay, consider a PS3 with a copy of Flower, The Walking Dead, and possibly The Last of Us.

Good for:

  • Slightly more cerebral games
  • Gaming on a budget
  • Combining it with a PS Vita for cross-buy and digital purchases

Bad for:

  • Anyone that wants the newest Playstation or the newest games
  • Those who would like a versatile motion control option

Those interested in a Playstation 3 can browse and purchase the different bundles available by clicking this link.


As for the Wii, well, it can certainly be a fun console to have in the living room, but considering its successor has already been out for about two years, it’s tough to recommend. I would say go for the Wii only if you and your child are okay with the knowledge that there really won’t be any new games coming out for the system in the near future.

Good for:

  • Family gaming
  • Those who like to just have a good time when playing video games
  • A wide selection of good Nintendo games

Bad for:

  • Those looking for the newest installments in their favorite Nintendo franchises
  • People who want a powerful gaming machine
  • Those who can't differentiate between the Wii and the Wii U

If a Wii still sounds like a good fit for your home, you can browse the different packages available and purchase one by clicking this link.

The only drawback to getting one of these older consoles? Possible blowback from a kid that wanted the newest console. Whatever you do, do not pick up a Playstation 3 or an Xbox 360, thinking “eh, they’re basically the same as the PS4 and Xbox One, right?” Because they are not. At all.

In conclusion, I hope this run-down helps, and please feel free to leave any questions in the comments below.


Matt Overstreet's picture
Matt Overstreet is a writer and creator, who's been with the 8CN since the very beginning. He currently resides in Los Angeles, CA and enjoys watching bad Nic Cage movies, playing too many video games, and reading silly books. You can follow him on twitter, if you are so inclined: @chilidog0.
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