by Staff Writer
Video games have come a long way since Pong, where two players hit a white dot across a television screen. Incredible graphics, killer soundtracks and online game playing have made playing video games one of the most exciting things you can do in your living room. With all those games comes the largest selection of video game consoles in history. Since you want to get the most fun for your money, you need help choosing the right video game console. This video game console buying guide will help you understand your choices, so you can choose the video game system and accessories that will give you hours and hours of entertainment.
What they are: The term video game console is often used to refer to the whole video game system, but the console is really just the central hub, the part that holds the CPU, RAM and audiovisual processor. Yet, since the console is useless without the controllers and game media, and vice versa, the terms have become interchangeable.
Pick what's right for you: Fans of each video game system will defend their favorite. If you plan to connect online with friends to play certain games, listen to their reasons for one console over another. If not, choose your console based on what appeals to you. Although a few games are available to play on several different video game systems, in general, when you choose a video game console, you are really choosing to play only the games that are made for that specific console. You'll want to consider the features you want in a video game console, but your choice should be driven by choosing which games you are interested in spending the most time playing.
Terms: Platform is another name for a video game system. For example, when a game is available to play on two different video game systems, it is said to be available on two platforms. When a video game system is backwards compatible, it can play older games from previous systems made by that same company. Some games require a special controller or other type of accessory; when a game is packaged and sold with the accessory and the cables needed to connect the accessory, it's referred to as a bundle. This term can also refer to several accessories which are packaged together. When a piece of computer hardware can be updated like software, it's referred to as firmware. A lot of firmware is included in the newest video game consoles, much of which can be updated through the console's Internet connection. A skin is a decorative sticker to personalize the appearance of your console as well as protect the exterior from scratches. Of course, you don't need a skin for your console to work, but your friends are sure to be jealous when they see how fierce your console looks with a cool skin.
Nintendo Wii: When Nintendo released the Wii in 2006, they started a revolution in home video game playing. The Nintendo Wii is unlike any video game console to come before it, thanks to its motion-based controls and focus on social gaming. The Wii adds a new dimension of action and fun to video games. The console gets you up and moving and is the perfect choice for casual gamers of all ages.
Wii features: Most Wii consoles come packaged with a stand for the console, a stabilizer for the stand, a wireless Wii remote with a wrist strap, a sensor bar with removable stand, a nunchuk attachment, an external power adapter, a composite AV cable with RCA connectors and a copy of "Wii Sports." (If you purchase a refurbished system, all the extras may not be present, but you'll have the basics you need to get started.) The controllers use LED sensors to create three-dimensional infrared detection. Game play involves gestures and movements; the way you move the controller, in addition to the buttons you push, causes a particular action in the game. For instance, if you are playing a tennis game on the Wii, you swing the controller just as you would swing a real racquet to hit the virtual ball. If you want to increase the accuracy of your Wii remote, Wii Motion Plus accessories are must-haves. These accessories, sold separately from the console, give Wii remotes amazing 1-to-1 accuracy with compatible games.
Wii online: If you have a wireless Internet connection, you can communicate with other Wii users, share Mii characters (personal avatars), send emails and receive updates from Nintendo for your Wii. The Wii also has a slot for a flash memory card, as well as USB ports, so you can upload your digital photos and share them, too. Wii systems also feature parental controls, allowing an age to be set for the Wii. The Wii reads the age rating of games and, if they are meant for someone older than the age setting for that console, the Wii will not allow them to be played without a password. People with wired Internet connections need to purchase an adapter from Nintendo in order to access online Wii content.
Wii games: There are all kinds of Wii games available, but many of them are aimed at casual players. If you're new to video games or don't have a lot of time to commit to the hobby, there are plenty of Wii games you will enjoy. Games such as "Wii Sports Resort" and "Wii Fit" are popular favorites that get players up and moving. Of course, the Wii does have a selection of games for more serious players, such as "Mario Galaxy" and "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess."
Wii Virtual Console: Nintendo Wii systems have a feature called Virtual Console, which allows you to play a huge collection of older games. An Internet connection is required to download these games, which range in price from $5 to $20. To play the classic games, you can turn the Wii remote control sideways, plug in a Nintendo GameCube controller or purchase a Wii classic controller.
Wii backwards compatibility: The Nintendo Wii is backwards compatible with Nintendo GameCube games. This means that if you have a collection of GameCube games or simply want to catch up on the great games offered by the GameCube, you should have no trouble; just remember to pick up a GameCube controller.
Sony Playstation 3: Also known as the PS3, Sony's Playstation 3 was released in 2006. The PS3 is the direct successor of the Playstation 2 and is the most powerful video game console yet. People who love games with incredible visuals and sound can rely on the Playstation 3 to deliver the experiences they crave.
Playstation 3 features: PS3s offer other features besides amazing graphics and sound. Each Playstation 3 comes with a spacious built-in hard drive. PS3 hard drives allow you to store game data, music, photos and more. Outside of video games, the most popular feature offered by the PS3 is the ability to watch Blu-ray movies. Every Playstation 3 comes equipped with a Blu-ray player, which will allow you to watch movies like never before. Blu-ray movies feature crystal clear high-definition video and unbeatable sound quality, so if you're looking for an excellent addition to your home theater setup, the Playstation 3 may be the video game console you're looking for.
Playstation 3 games: If you're the type of video game player that likes a wide variety of experiences, the PS3 is worth considering. Thanks to the video game console's power, it can deliver a range of game types. From the fun-for-everyone creative fun of "LittleBigPlanet" to the high-octane action of games such as "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves" and "Killzone 2," the PS3 is hard to beat for variety.
Playstation 3 online: The Playstation 3 offers a multitude of quality online experiences, so it's great if you like to play with friends using the Internet. The service that players use to play online -- the Playstation Network -- is free-of-charge, which is a nice perk. The Playstation Network also allows you to access the Playstation Store, which will allow you to purchase downloadable games and game content, access free demos and rent movies.
Playstation Move: The Playstation Move accessory is Sony's answer to the success of the motion-based control of the Nintendo Wii. Playstation Move games utilize a camera and controllers to offer motion-control accuracy that tops the accuracy of what the Wii offers.
Microsoft Xbox 360: The Microsoft Xbox 360, released in 2005, is a popular video game console choice among players who love big action. Since its release, the Xbox 360 has been defined almost exclusively by high-quality shooter games, such as "Halo 3" and the "Gears of War" series. The Xbox 360 features fantastic HD graphics and sound, so if you're looking for a high-tech experience, this is a video game console worth considering.
Xbox 360 features: Currently, the Xbox 360 is available in two varieties: the Xbox 360 Arcade and the Xbox 360 Elite. The Xbox 360 Arcade is aimed at more casual players and has a smaller amount of memory (256 MB) than the 360 Elite. It is sold without a network cable, so if you want to play online, you will have to purchase one separately. The Xbox 360 Arcade also lacks backwards compatibility with original Xbox games. The Xbox 360 Elite, which is more expensive than the 360 Arcade, has features that are musts for serious gamers, such as a 120 GB hard drive, a network cable and backwards compatibility with over 400 original Xbox games. Both types of Xbox 360s allow users to play DVD movies.
Xbox 360 games: There's no doubt about it: The focus of the most popular Xbox 360 games is shooting action. Shooters exclusive to the console include "Halo 3" and the "Gears of War" series, but it has shooters also popular on the Playstation 3, such as "Modern Warfare 2" and "Battlefield: Bad Company 2." If you're less interested in such games, the 360 does have games like the colorful "Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts" and the strategy game "Halo Wars."
Xbox 360 online: If you want to play games online on your Xbox 360, a paid subscription to Xbox LIVE is required. The Xbox 360 also features an online marketplace where you can purchase downloadable games and additional game content, access free demos and rent movies.
Project Natal: Microsoft's Project Natal is a motion-based system that allows the Xbox 360 to read your every move. This new way to play doesn't require traditional controllers; just your movements. Microsoft promises that the Project Natal will revolutionize the way people play video games.
Nintendo DS: With its clamshell design, two bright screens, easy-to-hold stylus, built-in microphone and long battery power, the Nintendo DS is an excellent way to take your video games on the road. The Nintendo DS even has Wi-Fi, so if you run into a friend with a DS, your games can connect wirelessly. Nintendo DS accessories include charging docks and plugs, in case you run out of power. Games for the DS vary from the adorable "Nintendogs" to the thought-provoking "Brain Age." The Nintendo DS is also backwards compatible with Game Boy Advance games. The Nintendo DS is currently sold in three formats: DS Lite, DSi and DSi XL. The DS Lite is the base model of the DS line. The DSi adds two cameras and the ability to purchase downloadable games. The DSi XL takes the DSi format and expands it with large, easy-to-view screens and a larger stylus.
Sony PSP: The PSP, which stands for Playstation Portable, gives you diverse portability with gaming, an imbedded web browser and multimedia playback -- including ability to play UMD movies and MP3s. The PSP also has optional attachments to make it work as a digital camera and a GPS. You'll take your PSP everywhere, so be sure to pick up PSP accessories like a case and a skin to protect it, plus extra chargers to keep your PSP running wherever you are. Games for the PSP tend to be more intense than those for the DS and include "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories" and "God of War: Chains of Olympus." Sony also offers the PSP Go, which does away with disc-based games in order to maximize portability. The PSP Go provides players with the ability to download games and movies from the Playstation Store.
Plug-n-play games: If a video game console sounds too complicated for your needs, consider plug-n-play games. With plug-n-play, you don't need a separate console; you simply connect the game directly into your television. Most plug-n-play TV games include only one game, but a few have more, especially if the games are older and contain less complicated graphics. Many games for children are available as plug-n-play, making this option excellent for parents.
When you buy the newest game console, you get the latest and coolest technology in video gaming. You'll be able to play all the new games that are only released for the new console. And just in case you miss your old games, look for systems that are backwards compatible.
Use your video game console with your computer. Connecting your video game console to your computer instead of your television requires a game-console-to-PC-monitor adapter. This is a signal converter that allows you to run your console through your monitor, and you usually don't even have to turn your computer on; the console is its own complete computer. If the television is being used or you just prefer your monitor, this device can give you another great place to play your game console.