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Choosing A Family Video Game System

Although you already have a variety of devices in your house that you can play games on — computers, cell phones, TVs — there often comes a time when a family wants to try something a little more immersive. This guide will help you navigate the store aisles and choose a system that’s right for you and your family.

Video game systems are tailored to delivering video game experiences first and foremost, rather than as a by product of other functions. This means that you know you are playing the game as it was intended by the developer and that there is a lot less fiddling or confusion to get the games running.

The first choice you’ll approach is whether to buy a handheld system (a portable device with a built-in screen and battery) or a home console (one that requires a TV and some space in front of it). A handheld system can be a good place to start as it is less invasive in the home, although it can be harder to keep track of how much use it is getting because it’s not tied to one location. On the other hand, a home console will offer more impressive graphics and sounds, and will have games that are easier to play with other members of the family.

With a home console, where price is the driving factor, ensure you calculate in the cost of the number of controllers you require for each member of your family, as well as any extra kits you might need. Other costs to consider are the games, protective cases and an Internet connection for playing online. You can reduce the price further by opting for outdated hardware that has been superseded — this also reduces the cost of games although availability can be an issue for very old systems.

Some Current Home Console Options

Xbox 360

This console offers excellent online features (including cooperative and competitive online play) as well as the latest graphics and games catalogue. Although renowned for shooting and more hardcore games, the 360 also has a wide catalog of games for more casual players. The Kinect controller-camera (purchased separately) enables you to play by just moving your body, and the Xbox Live Arcade (or XBLA) service provides cheap games available for direct download.

PlayStation 3

This offers the latest graphics and games catalog. In addition to the more hardcore games, the PS3 also offers different titles for family players. Its Move controllers (purchased separately) enable you to control games by motion alone. A PlayStation 2 is a cheaper alternative that still has an impressive range of games available both new and second-hand, but the PS2 is not compatible with the Move controllers.

Nintendo Wii

The Wii’s graphics aren’t quite as good as the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, but what it lack in graphics it more than makes up for in interactive play as its game library focuses on motion controlled party and sports games. This is typically aimed at more casual players but it does offer a range of more serious games as well.

Some Current Portable Device Options

Nintendo DS

The DS offers touch screen controls and a very large range of games. The original DS and DS Lite can both support older (and cheaper) Game Boy Advance games, too. The DSi cannot run these GBA cartridges but offers a game download service starting at a few dollars per game.

Nintendo 3DS

The 3DS offers a new 3D screen and improved graphics over the regular DS. It can also run all the DS games, although, like the DSi, it cannot support GBA cartridges. It provides an eShop that enables you to download old and new games starting at a few dollars.

Sony PlayStation Portable

The PSP offers better graphics and more specialist shooting and fighting games for a handheld system. The PSP Go system (that used to run downloaded versions of games) was recently withdrawn and might be found at a lower price as a result.

Written By

This article has been written by Andy Robertson, an expert in family video games who writes regularly about video games for and runs the Game People community.



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  3. Travis

    June 6, 2011 at 5:46 am

    +1 Vote for the Wii. Thing is super fun and tons of awesome games. Plus, its really funny to watch people play 🙂

  4. Nick

    June 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    If you want a console to be enjoyed by the whole family you need to go for the Wii. It might not be best for performance but to play with other people it can’t be beaten.

    Whereas xbox and playstation are more catered towards online gamers now.

  5. Janis Gagliardi

    June 6, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    When it comes to graphics the Wii is no match against the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 but its also true that Wii is the ultimate choice for a family. I like the parental controls of the console since it controls internet access. Such features is a must when you have young kids at home. Its vital to take control over the choice of the younger kids if its something unsuitable. Its great to play together that way the family gets to spend quality time together.

  6. reeha

    June 6, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    according to me Xbox 360 is the best option for every game lover family.

  7. arthurprudentt777

    June 17, 2011 at 1:22 am

    Hi Andy,
    to me, to be honest it is quite dificult to compare which console is better for the family video game system. We all know that PC is better than either the Xbox360 and the PS3. Xbox is good but so is PS3. That is why the comparisons are just opinions.
    Regards. Arthur

  8. Naked Crook

    July 27, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    If you want a good family gaming console…

    it’s called “Go outside and enjoy the sun…as a family.”

  9. Hilary

    August 19, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Our family had a Wii for a long time and loved it. But the Xbox with the Kinect is amazing! It’s so much fun, but you need a lot of space.

  10. Audrey

    September 6, 2011 at 6:54 am

    We have a PSP and PS3 at home. Now, we also have an iPhone. I think if you are buying for young kids, those handheld consoles or even your iPhone is enough to keep them entertained. After all, young kids are not serious gamers. But for teenagers, then a PS3 or XBox would be a better option.

  11. dulhemiyan

    September 10, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Hi nice article.
    This was really interesting and helpful.
    Thanks for posting.

  12. bilal

    December 30, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    wow this is very amazing to read your post

  13. Anish

    January 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

    I own a PS3 move bundle and I really love it. But then again, maybe it’s just because I’m a fan of sports games and PS3 move makes them so much fun! I find the graphics and sound effects to be pretty good.

  14. psv

    April 6, 2012 at 3:08 am

    I vote for the PS Vita 😉

  15. Grace Sevilly

    May 31, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I have always loved the Nintendo Wii, so my vote goes for the Wii this time! Although my DS gets more playing time

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