The best console to buy during the Black Friday sale really comes down to two things: what games do you like, and what kind of TV are you playing them on? There’s no point buying a Switch if you like traditional shooters like Gears of War, and want to play it in 4K, even if there is a decent amount of money knocked off Nintendo’s console. The only way you’re going to get Gears 5 in 4K is with an Xbox One X. All the consoles are going to get discounted with some hefty Black Friday gaming specials, and as we’re close to the end of a hardware cycle the discounts are likely to be particularly deep. It’s important to decide what you want before you start buying, though.
For all the evangelising that goes on about console iterations and hardware specs, there’s only one thing you should bear in mind when thinking about which to buy: the games. A console on its own isn’t particularly interactive, and unless you intend to use it purely for streaming Netflix or playing Blu-rays you’re going to want some games.
Here's our buying advice for all Black Friday game deals, so take a look.
Many titles are cross-platform; the same game appears more-or-less identically on every console. The days when a game appears on a console in a cut-down form, or with a serious technical problem, or we even see different games released on different platforms under the same name, are mostly behind us. After all, if The Witcher 3 can be ported to the Switch, anything is possible. So Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, FIFA… they all appear on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Switch versions can vary - it’s a couple of games behind in the Assassin’s Creed series, for example - but Nintendo’s console makes up for it in other areas.
This leaves exclusives. The titles published by the platform holders which will not be ported. You’ll never see Halo on the PlayStation, or Uncharted on the Xbox. Mario lives on the Switch, along with all the other beloved Nintendo characters. And Kirby. So what’s it going to be? What floats your boat? Do the Master Chief’s exploits outweigh Aloy and the gorgeous robot dinosaurs of Horizon Zero Dawn for you? How about God of War’s Norse mythologising vs Forza Motorsport’s high-speed racing excitement? These are unfair comparisons, of course, but if the exclusive titles are the only substantive difference between systems, it pays to be in the know about them. Here’s a list of our best PS4 games and best Xbox One games respectively.
There’s an elephant in the room we need to address, but luckily it’s a small one you can fit in a pocket. The Switch is a portable console that, in its original form, docks to your TV. This reliance on battery power and mobile technology naturally means the console is less powerful than the two other beasts that rely on a mains power connection to function. This doesn’t mean it’s any less fun, however, as it supports a greater proportion of exclusive games tailored to the system, and the sheer convenience of being able to play it anywhere, rather than being tethered by HDMI and power cables, means its appeal cannot be underestimated. There will be plenty of Nintendo Switch Black Friday deals in 2019, so keep an eye out for them. There’s also a cheaper Switch Lite, which doesn’t connect to your TV at all, offering 720p gaming on the go for $100 less - it’s a neat way to access Nintendo’s library of games. Here’s a list of the best Nintendo Switch games currently available.
This is where we need to consider what you’ll be playing your new games on. Anyone with a 1080p TV from the last ten years or so can plug in a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Switch and be happy with what they see. All consoles can output at HD resolutions, and maintain them at a decent framerate most of the time. The PS4 and Xbox One, however, also come in ‘enhanced’ editions that are more expensive: the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X. These are what you want if you’re rocking the latest TV tech, with 4K resolutions and High Dynamic Range support. While they play all the same games as their vanilla brethren, the enhanced consoles get the most out of them by increasing resolution and framerate, and allowing the colors to really shine thanks to HDR. There will be plenty of Black Friday TV deals for those looking to upgrade.
If you buy a console this Black Friday, you are going to get a bargain. There’s never been a better time to jump into video games, the consoles’ software libraries are vast, there’s a wealth of accessories available (no longer are you stuck with Sony’s controller layout on the PS4 when you really prefer Microsoft’s, for example) and the mature online stores mean you’re no longer tied to buying your games on Blu-rays.
The last thing to consider is the next-gen. Sony is launching PS5 in 2020, and Microsoft is following with Xbox Project Scarlett - both will be more powerful machines with better games, at much higher prices. However, support for this current crop of consoles (PS4 and Xbox One) will continue for a few more years at least, and the Switch isn’t getting a more powerful upgrade, so it’ll be business as usual for Nintendo fans.
So before you get lost among the myriad bargains being shouted at you, decide first what you want. Don’t get persuaded to buy an Xbox One when what you really want is a Switch. The console that has the games you want to play (and ranges such as PlayStation Hits now offer great games at less than half the price they launched at) is the one you want, even if the discount on the rival machine is deeper. Stick to these guidelines, and you’re going to have a great time. For comparison, here are the current prices for all three standard consoles.
Finally, curiously, we're living in an age of rediscovery. There's never been a better time to pick up one of the best retro game consoles, especially with the recent release of the Sega Genesis Mini and price cuts to the PlayStation Classic. If none of the modern consoles float your boat, or you've already got all the ones you need, then adding a retro console to your collection is the perfect way to expand your gaming horizons.