A parent’s guide to Xbox Series X, PS5, Switch and other new consoles

Your kids want a new gaming console.

But you’re not sure what you want to get them (or if you should get them anything at all) or what games might be appropriate.

I’m right there with you. As a parent, you want to be able to let them have fun but not play things that are inappropriate. Plus all these new consoles can be insanely confusing if you’re not down on all the new technology and its specs.

We’ll look at the differences in the new consoles including current systems from Xbox, PlayStation, Switch and Stadia.

Xbox Series X/Xbox Series S

First off, Xbox isn’t simply releasing one new console. They’re releasing two: the Series X and the Series S.

They both play the same games and are almost exactly the same except for a few differences: The Series X costs $200 more and can display games at 4k. The Series S cannot do 4k and does not have a disc drive, so you can’t play games off a disc or watch Blu-ray movies. Because it has fewer internal components, the Series S is also quite a bit smaller.

If you’re not concerned about 4k gaming or playing all your old disc-based games on the new console, the cheaper Series S might be right for you. (The Series S is $299 compared to the $499 Series X.) A lot of parents might be in this boat. Your kids likely aren’t hardcore gamers and won’t need the extra power.

You should also know: The Series X and S are compatible with Xbox One games and accessories. All games playable on the old Xbox One console (with the exception for a few Kinect games) will work on the new game. And Xbox has also said that accessories such as controllers will work fine with the new consoles. No adapters or anything needed.

Parents worried about needing to buy a whole bunch of new controllers and games might take solace in the fact their old stuff will work just fine.

Release Date: Nov. 10

Order an Xbox Series X or an Xbox Series S via Amazon.

PlayStation 5

The PS5 is a little less complicated. There are technically two PS5s, but there’s simply the PS5 and a “digital” PS5.

The digital edition of the PS5 does not have a disc drive, and it costs $100 less. ($399 instead of $499.) And because of not having a disc, they look slightly different. That’s it.

I, for one, haven’t bought a game needing a disc in a couple years, and I’ve turned my movie library mostly digital. An all-digital console doesn’t sound so bad.

The PS5 will also play PS4 games, whether they’re on a disc or purchased from the PlayStation store, so your old games will work here, too.

With the PS5, Sony has announced the new DualSense controller. They’ve also said PS4 controllers will not work when playing PS5 games, but they will work just fine to play old PS4 games 0n the PS5. So you might need to upgrade a few accessories.

Release Date: Nov. 12

Order a PlayStation 5 or a PlayStation 5 digital edition via Amazon.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo’s latest console bas been around for awhile, but it might be the most explicitly family-friendly console out there.

Why? Well, it’s made by Nintendo. As you may know, the company has always aimed its games at families. There’s no blood in Super Mario and no mature themes in MarioKart. It’s just good fun.

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t games aimed at adults on the console. I play a few first-person shooters, the hack and slash Diablo III and a Resident Evil installment that I wouldn’t let my kids play. But that said, the games featuring Nintendo’s most popular characters — MarioKart 8, Super Mario Maker 2, Super Smash Bros. UltimateThe Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildSuper Mario Odyssey, etc. — are great for kids and for families sitting down and playing together.

The Switch is easily the most family friendly of all of the modern consoles.

And that’s great.

If you’re going to get a Switch, the big thing you’ll have to think about is whether to get a Switch or a Switch Lite.

The beauty of the Switch is that it’s mobile. The console includes a screen, and its Joy-Con controllers attach to the screen. But you absolutely can attach it to the TV and play that way. But if you (or your kids) don’t care about playing via your TV, you can get a Switch Lite. It’s slightly smaller and it will not connect to your TV, but the Switch Lite is otherwise exactly the same.

One thing that might influence your decision: The Switch runs about $300 (if you can find one… more on that in a minute) while the Switch Lite will cost you $200.

And right now, the choice might be made for you. Because of the pandemic (and many people staying home), the Switch is sold out nearly everywhere. Resellers are taking any Switch they can find and marking it up quite a bit, sometimes pushing the price to $400 or more. That may not be worth it for you.

Available now

Order a Nintendo Switch or a Switch Lite via Amazon.

Stadia

Google’s Stadia is a different gaming system altogether. Rather than having a full-on console like the PS5 or Xbox, most players will simply have a controller and a Chromecast.

Yeah, that’s all it takes.

(Actually it takes less than that. You can play just on your computer using your Chrome browser. But more on that shortly.)

Everything is played over the cloud. You don’t have to download or install games. You don’t have a bulky game system taking up room in your entertainment center.

And it’s also pretty cheap: Stadia itself is free, but if you want to access Stadia’s library of games, it’s $9.99 per month. The library is fine, but you’ll probably end up wanting to purchase your own games, and many popular releases are available on Stadia.

A keyboard and a mouse and the Chrome browswer is needed to play on your computer. If you prefer a controller, you can also use a controller, either Google’s official Stadia controller (a bit pricey at $69) or one you already own. You can also play Stadia via some Android phones. And if you want to play on your TV, all you need is a Chromecast.

But is it kid friendly? Not as much as other consoles, to be honest. There are definitely kid-friendly games, but many of the available releases are blockbuster games such as Mortal Kombat 11Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Hitman 2. That said, there are some games for younger gamers there.

Available now

Sign up at stadia.google.com.

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