The holidays are a great time for video games. Console makers drop the prices on their machines in hopes people will give them as gifts. Kids all the way up to college are on break, so online matches fire quickly. And all the great new games are out in the world. But navigating the landscape of console gaming can be tough, especially if the last time you bought a console was when the Nintendo 64 still reigned supreme. Here’s a rundown of the current console landscape as well as some game suggestions for each platform to help you blow those sweet holiday gift cards.
Right now, you can choose between the Xbox One S and the super-high-end Xbox One X, which we reviewed here. For most people, the Xbox One S will be plenty of firepower, even if you have a fancy 4K TV with HDR, and at $200 (with a free game), it’s a lot cheaper than the $500 Xbox One X.
Upgrading to the X will get you some advantages, like maximum frame rates and graphic qualities on games that are optimized for the platform, as well as generally faster load times pretty much across the board. It’s important to note, though, that there won’t be specific Xbox One X games that won’t play on the One S. They just might not look as nice without the X’s extra horsepower.
For $79, Microsoft Design Lab will let you craft your own Xbox One controller using a tool like the Nike ID custom shoe builder. It also offers an Elite controller, which costs $150, but offers sturdier construction, more customizable buttons, and adjustable height sticks to customize gameplay.
Xbox Live Gold will cost you $10 for each month or $60 for the year, and it’s pretty much a no-brainer if you’re going to use the system. In addition to access for online multiplayer games, you get free “Games with Gold” every month, as well as discounts on other Xbox purchases.