Most parents reading this article probably remember the days when choosing hardware to play your video games on was much easier simply because there was less to choose from. Today it’s all about playing games on consoles, laptops, PC’s, Macs, tablets, smartphones, and mobile gaming devices like PS Vita. The choice can be absolutely overwhelming when it comes to buying games for your kids.
Remember during the 8-bit era it was either the dominant Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or Sega Maser System? Then during the 16-bit era your choice was likely to be either a Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) or a Sega Genesis. Even the 64-bit era (or 3D era) saw two consoles fly off shelves faster than the rest: Sony’s PlayStation and the Nintendo 64.
- 1 What console should I buy for kids?
- 2 Is the Xbox 360 good for kids?
- 3 Should I buy a PS3 for my kids?
- 4 Why the Wii U is best for kids
- 5 Should you wait for the Nintendo Switch?
- 6 Why you should buy a PS4 for your kids
- 7 PlayStation VR
- 8 PlayStation 4 Pro
- 9 Xbox One is a very family friendly
- 10 So which is the best video game console for kids?
What console should I buy for kids?
These days, however, there are five home consoles that developers are still supporting, and each offers a diversity of features, vast unique libraries of games, and more. This inevitably begs the question of which ones truly are the best gaming consoles for kids.
I hope the following list helps you decide which console is right for your family if you plan on having younger gamers actively playing. More importantly, this list should help to convince you whether the console you already have your eyes set on is worth getting if your kids will also be sharing it as well.
I have been gaming since the 80’s. I’m a gamer, my wife games, and my daughter plays video games as well. I’ve owned every console on the list. So hopefully this will help you to decide which is the best console for your kids.
Is the Xbox 360 good for kids?
Only Microsoft’s second dedicated gaming console, the Xbox 360 is undoubtedly one of the best consoles for kids due to its sheer volume of games available. The incredible selection of cross-platform games, first party exclusives and downloadable titles from off the Xbox Live is quite impressive, allowing parents to find the perfect games for children of all ages.
If we’re going to mention a few titles your kids will love on their Xbox 360, we have to start off with Minecraft. The game that children can’t seem to get enough of is available on Xbox 360, complete with online features and even local split-screen for siblings to play together.
You’ll also be able to play the many LEGO themed games based off all kinds of universes, including Harry Potter, Marvel, Batman, Star Wars, and many more. Toy Story 3: The Video Game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and SpongeBob SquarePants: Plankton’s Robotic Revenge are also a few games based on cartoons and movies that your kids may love.
Xbox 360 also supports both Disney Infinity and Skylanders, two incredibly popular series of games that allow players to use actual character figures to use abilities, unlock characters, and more. The motion-sensing Kinect also offers its own unique library of family-friendly games that also will get your kids up and moving– some of the best are Kinectimals, Dance Central, Kinect Sports, Kinect Sesame Street TV, and Kinect Disneyland Adventures.
When it comes to entertainment features, the Xbox 360 has it all. Your kids can watch movies instantly with apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus, or simply pop in their favorite DVD and use the Xbox 360 controller to navigate with ease. Best of all, the Xbox 360 console allows you to control all access to games, movies and television content via easy-to-use parental controls.
The Xbox 360 has been around for awhile and is the eldest console on this list. So that means it is well established and is still quite popular. There is no shortage of kid friendly games, apps, and accessories for the Xbox 360. It is definitely one of the best consoles for kids and you’ll get a lot of use out of it as well. There are plenty of adult features, apps, games, and other content to justify your purchase. All while keeping the kids happily gaming.
Should I buy a PS3 for my kids?
The successor to the best-selling console of all time (the PS2 sold nearly three times more than the Xbox, Gamecube, and Dreamcast combined!), the PS3 certainly had big shoes to fill while competing against two other home consoles. Although it got off to a pretty poor start while the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 flew off store shelves, the PS3 eventually built up a library that can satisfy both adults and children.
Much like the Xbox 360, the PS3 also boasts tons of 3rd party games and a library of digital titles via the PlayStation Network, including the gaming phenomenon known as Minecraft. You can find all the LEGO titles like Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes on the PS3, as well as tie-in games like LEGO Star Wars III The Clone Wars, Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, and more.
The PlayStation 3 also supports the increasingly popular Disney Infinity and Skylanders games, including the latest Skylanders: Trap Team and Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes. These two series of games allow players to buy physical figures and use them to play as new characters, unlock special abilities, and other neat features.
Exclusives, however, is where the PS3 shines when it comes to selecting a console for kids. While the Xbox 360 catered more to adults with titles like Gears of War and Fable, the PS3 has plenty of kid-friendly games you’ll only find on this console.
Some of the best are LittleBigPlanet 1 and 2, two charming side-scrolling adventures that encourage creativity by letting players make their own stages and then playing them with others either locally on the same screen or online. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, the Ratchet and Clank series, and Katamari Forever are also fun games for kids while LittleBigPlanet Karting is perfect if you want an experience similar to Nintendo’s Mario Kart.
The PS3 also joined the motion-control party with the PlayStation Move controllers, which act similar to the Nintendo Wii’s controller. Games like Sports Champions offer a family-fun sports experience with great graphics, while games like Sorcery and Wonderbook: Book of Spells will satisfy your child’s fantasy needs.
In terms of entertainment features, the PS3 also offers popular movie and show streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus. Unlike the Xbox 360, the PS3 is also a Blu-ray player and can play both your favorite DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Best of all, the PS3 console allows you to control all access to games, movies and television content via easy-to-use parental controls.
Now if it’s a choice between the PS3 and Xbox 360, I would personally recommend the Xbox 360 if you have younger kids like I do. For the simple fact that you can get a Kinect which requires no controller to play games, just motion and movement. So games like Sesame Street TV would be perfect for toddlers where they can jump up and down and follow onscreen movement. If you have older kids who know how to use a controller proficiently, then a PS3 is perfect for them. And they will have no issue using the PS Move controllers for motion gaming.
Why the Wii U is best for kids
When it comes to Family friendly gaming, there’s no other name as synonymous as Nintendo. The company has been in the video game business longer than it’s two greatest rivals, and while the industry continues to change and evolve, Nintendo and the Wii U remains ahead when it comes to providing high-quality and innovative gaming experiences that both kids and adults can enjoy.
It’s of course no secret that the Wii U is struggling to attract attention despite the fact that its predecessor, the Wii, outsold both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with over 100 million units sold worldwide. And although severely lacking in the cross-platform department due to weak support from 3rd party developers like EA and Ubisoft, the Wii U is finally amassing a library that’s worth looking at after nearly two years on the market. Especially if you’re looking for the best console for kids.
My 4 1/2 year old daughter loves playing games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World. As a matter of fact, my wife, my daughter and I have beaten Super Mario 3D World as a family. This is the perfect reason why the Wii U is great for kids. The Wii U boasts arguably the best selection of exclusive games of all the consoles– and almost every one of them is kid friendly and fun for the whole family to play.
Games like Mario Kart 8, Nintendo Land, and Super Mario 3D World are the pinnacle of family friendly games that will provide hours of entertainment for everyone in the household. Your kids will also have a blast going on an epic adventure with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and Lego City Undercover, or they can work together to save a race of cute creatures in Pikmin 3. If they enjoy fun multiplayer platformers then Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and New Super Mario Bros. U will be perfect for them.
The Wii U also offers an impressive online store via the Nintendo eShop where you can download awesome digital games like Shovel Knight, Mighty Switch Force!: Hyper Drive Edition, and the NES Remix games.
Like the Wii, you can also purchase hundreds of classic games from Nintendo’s old consoles. Retro gems like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and the original Super Mario Brothers are all available for your kids to enjoy.
Worth mentioning is that no other console has such a promising line-up of exclusive games coming Holiday 2014 and beyond that are perfect for kids. Titles like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Mario Maker, The Legend of Zelda Wii U, Yoshi’s Woolly World, and Mario Party 10 are some of the best kids-friendly games worth mentioning, and there’s also the Nintendo Amiibo toy line which kids would love to get their hands on.
Did I mention that the Wii U is completely backwards compatible, unlike both the PS4 and Xbox One? That’s right, you can enjoy all your Wii games again with no problems at all since the Wii U also uses the Wiimote controllers from Nintendo’s previous console!
This means that your kids can enjoy amazing Wii games like Super Mario Galaxy, Wii Sports Resort, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and one of the many other hundreds of family friendly games that released on Nintendo’s innovative console.
The one feature that perhaps sets the Wii U as the best console for your family is the Wii U Gamepad, which allows you to play a game completely on its screen without the need for a television. Yes, the PS4 also has Remote Play, but that would require you to buy another gaming console, the PS Vita. So technically, the Wii U is the only one with “native” remote play on-hand. This even works for entertainment apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus, allowing you or your kid to watch a TV show on their Wii U Gamepad while something else plays on the living room television. The only downside is that the Wii U does not play DVDs or Blu-ray discs of any kind.
The downside to buying the Wii U now is that Nintendo will soon pull the plug on the console after producing underwhelming sales. Production of the Wii U has already been confirmed to stop at a scheduled date in Japan, with other markets soon to follow. The good news is that Nintendo is set to release an all-new console next year: the Nintendo Switch. But let’s talk about the Switch after the next two consoles on this article.
Should you wait for the Nintendo Switch?
The Nintendo Switch was just unveiled after a long time of being kept in the dark. And based solely on its 3-minute announcement video, the potential for the Switch to become an excellent family-friendly console is apparent.
First, it’s a home console and handheld hybrid, meaning you can easily take it with you on family picnics and other family bonding events. Your kids will definitely love the idea of having a gaming system to keep them entertained during long road trips.
Second, the Switch has two detachable controllers that can function separately (or combined into one). This means that your family will be able to enjoy multiplayer while on-the-go, which is especially important if you have more than two kids who love to play video games.
And third, while the Switch is set to receive more support from third-party developers which the Wii U severely lacked, its bread-and-butter will still come from Nintendo’s intellectual properties like Mario and Kirby. Meaning, it will be similar to the Wii and Wii U in terms of providing family-friendly entertainment.
Unfortunately, there’s not much information on the Switch at the moment, especially in the launch games department. If you want to consider the Switch, you’ll have to wait for further details in January. This also means you’ll have to skip buying a console for your kids this holiday season. The Nintendo Switch launches on March 2017.
Why you should buy a PS4 for your kids
After three years in existence, the PS4 is now on track to feature even less games in its library compared to the PS2 and PS3. This of course means that the selection of kid-friendly games is also limited, but the PlayStation 4 still has a few more years ahead of it, so there’s the potential for more such games to pop up in the future.
The PS4 boasts the same 3rd party support as its predecessor, allowing it to offer fun games like The Lego Movie Videogame, Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Platforming beat ’em up Knack is one of the few console exclusives that are also kid friendly, providing a fun adventure with goofy characters and charming story. Skylanders Swap Force and Disney’s INFINITY are also worth mentioning since these games have seen plenty of success with younger gamers.
Thankfully, Minecraft is now available for the PS4, which is easily good news for kids. The PlayStation Store also currently offers several games kids can enjoy, such as Angry Birds Star Wars, Resogun and Doki-Doki Universe. The PS4 also offers all the same entertainment apps you’d expect from other consoles without the need for subscription or anything.
As mentioned, the PS4 is shaping up to feature even less games than the PS2 and PS3. But compared the Xbox One, the console has arguably a much better pool of family-friendly games. Like LittleBigPlanet 3, Hohokum and Rayman Legends.
All in all, the PS4 is still quite young (not even a year old as of this writing) and thus the library is predictably small– which means there’s even less to choose from for kids. However, the PS4 does have potential for becoming a better family friendly console than the Xbox One due to future exclusives like LittleBigPlanet 3 and a focus on downloadable titles.
Even though I own this website and its main focus is on PS4 gaming, I would not recommend the PlayStation 4 for younger gamers at all. There is just nowhere near enough kid friendly games for children like my 4 1/2 year old daughter. And even though kids her age can use the PS4 controller, the games are far too complex and are more geared toward older kids.
But, the main reason why I would recommend the PS4 for your older kids is because it’s a really great console for gaming. It’s currently the market leader, it’s very popular with gamers, and Sony’s support of their consoles is always top notch. So if you’re looking for a video game console for your kids to grow up with, then the PS4 is perfect. So when your kids become a bit older and the PS4 has become a more established part of their life, they will have some of the best gaming memories to thank you for when they are old enough to appreciate it.
And there’s one more thing that further backs up the notion that the PS4 isn’t all that kids-friendly. Well, actually, there’s two of them: the PlayStation VR and the PlayStation 4 Pro. Let’s take a look at them one at a time.
In summary, the PS4 is a console for kids who have either had a PS3 or Xbox 360 already or are old enough to operate more complex devices and games. But for kids my daughter’s age, I’d highly recommend a Wii U.
Note: Read our article to see if you should buy PS4 or PS4 Pro
This recently released virtual reality headset PlayStation VR is the first one that relies on a console as its brain, unlike the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive which both rely on a high-powered PC. Without a doubt, the PSVR is the coolest-looking of the three, thanks to its sleek design. Not to mention, it’s also the most comfortable, easily fitting on anyone’s head. Although technical-wise the PSVR isn’t exactly as juiced-up as its competition, it offers the most diverse collection of games at the moment, with more on the way before the year ends.
Most importantly, it’s the cheapest. Even with the additional cost of buying a brand-new PS4 (if you don’t have one yet), the PSVR is still the least bank-breaking option. VR technology is a bit clunky at the moment due to its infancy, which may translate to frequent headaches. So if you want to buy a PlayStation VR for the family, make sure to implement a strict exposure limit for your kids.
PlayStation 4 Pro
The PS4 Pro is a just-released mid-generation upgrade that is specifically tailored for hardcore gamers. Meaning, it’s the opposite of “kids-friendly.” The PS4 Pro packs a more powerful hardware inside, which turns PS4 games into an even better visual treat. This, of course, doesn’t really matter for games aimed towards kids – graphics will be the least of your 7-year-old’s concerns.
However, if you’re thinking long-term, then the PS4 Pro is a very nice investment, especially if you want the family to dabble into virtual reality as well with the PSVR. The PS4 Pro shares the same game library as the regular PS4, too, so you won’t miss out on anything.
Xbox One is a very family friendly
Much like its rival the PS4, the Xbox One still currently lacks a vast library of games due to still being a very new console. Even adult gamers are still waiting for Microsoft’s latest console to pick up steam, although there have been noteworthy games recently, like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4 and Ori and the Blind Forest. Despite the lack of abundance of family-friendly games in its library, the Xbox One offers so much great entertainment for the entire family that makes it a great purchase! More on that later. For now, let’s talk about some of the Xbox One games for kids.
There are still a good number of games to check out. You’ll find 3rd party games like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, and Rayman Legends for kids to enjoy, while a few exclusives like Zoo Tycoon and Crimson Dragon add more to the list. The Kinect accessory also offers several fun games for younger players, including Kinect Sports Rivals and Dance Central Spotlight
The super popular Skylanders Swap Force and Disney’s INFINITY games are also on Xbox One, as is Minecraft. You’re also likely to find more kid-friendly games on the Xbox Live store where you can download games like Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, Pinball FX 2, and Child of Light. Entertainment apps like Amazon Instant Video and Netflix are also available, allowing your kids to check out their favorite movies and shows with ease.
With most future exclusives like Gears of War 4 and Halo 5 catering to adult gamers, the Xbox One will have to rely on 3rd party and digital games to provide a better library of games that is also family friendly. So unless your kids really love playing 4-player split screen Minecraft, I can’t really say that the Xbox One is a very recommendable console for providing games for younger kids at the moment. Older kids…sure. But just like the PS4, this is a console your kids will have to grow up with to really appreciate it. So if you’re looking for consoles that are already established, then I would recommend the Xbox 360 or PS3.
And even though the Xbox One has the new Kinect which would sound great for young kids to take advantage of, the support for the new Kinect just doesn’t seem to be there. So again, if you want motion control gaming for your young kids who aren’t ready for controller gaming, get a Xbox 360 with Kinect instead.
With that said, it’s easy to see that the Xbox One was built with entertainment and functions the entire family will enjoy. Out of all the consoles on the list, the Xbox One is highly recommended if you want to get the best entertainment device for the entire family. The Xbox One has:
- Great apps (ESPN, MLB.TV, YouTube, Skype and more)
- A Blu-ray drive with 3D TV support
- The ability to watch Television through your Xbox One
- Xbox Video (Rent, buy, download and stream Movies, TV shows, etc)
- Xbox Music (Stream/Download music)
- One Drive cloud storage
- Xbox Fitness
The Xbox One is built with entertainment and versatility in mind for the entire family. It’s a gaming console that both you and your kids can enjoy. And I personally use it a lot to watch movies and television shows with my daughter and wife while also being able to play video games I enjoy.
Plus, the Xbox One was recently given an upgrade, too, in the form of the slimmer and sleeker Xbox One S. The most noteworthy addition to this upgrade is the presence of the built-in Ultra HD Blu-ray player, to go along with its 4K video streaming ability. The Xbox One S is further evidence that the console is an even better all-around entertainment system for your family.
So which is the best video game console for kids?
Despite not having good 3rd party support, the Nintendo Wii U could very well be the best console for kids. Although not enough to make up for its initial flounder, the Wii U was able to introduce games for gamers of all ages in recent years.
And even though the PS4 and Xbox One seem focused on growing their collection of games that cater toward adults, there is still going to be strong support when it comes to video games for kids. Of course, you can’t go wrong with an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 either since they both have the biggest libraries of all five consoles.
It’s a known fact that gaming for kids is not just good for them, it’s also a great way for parents to bond with their children. Finding the best console for kids can be somewhat of a challenge for parents who are not familiar with gaming, but the end result is absolutely worth it. Just take your time, do your research and everything else will fall into place.
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