If you’re looking for the best gaming console in 2023, you might be diving into the world of videogames for the first time, buying a console for a gamer in your life, or just curious to see how we rank the big names against one another. This gaming console list isn’t about console wars, but a guide identifying each platform’s unique specs and strengths to help you make a great buying decision.
That means we’re comparing the Sony PlayStation (PS5 and PS4), Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Series S, and the best portable gaming consoles including the Nintendo Switch. The latest games consoles offer class-leading performance and let you play the best games out there right now. They look stunning, too. But each gaming console offers very different functionality; some are brilliant for playing games on the go, while others are fully-blown entertainment hubs.
In this guide, we’ll compare the performance, design, and functionality of the best gaming consoles, but the game libraries are also an important decision factor. Check out our guides on the best Xbox Series X games, the best PS5 games and the best Nintendo Switch games – as the console which has the most games to appeal to you might be the one you want to buy.
Here are the best gaming consoles in 2023:
- PlayStation 5 – best gaming console overall
- Xbox Series X – best premium console
- Nintendo Switch – best portable console
- Xbox Series S – best affordable games console
- Steam Deck – versatile handheld console
- Super NES Classic – fun retro console
1. PlayStation 5
The Sony PS5 is the best gaming console overall.
|PlayStation 5 specs|
|CPU/GPU||Eight-core AMD Zen 2, AMD Oberon|
|Screen resolution||8K UHD|
|FPS||up to 120|
- Runs off powerful AMD Oberon graphics card
- Impressive haptic feedback on PS5 controllers
- Cheaper digital console available
- Smallest library of unique IPs
- Limited in-built storage space
The PlayStation 5 is the most advanced gaming console currently on the market, with great hardware to boost the experience. Its DualSense controllers offer haptic feedback, which responds with precise vibrations which give you a feel for the game’s virtual environment.
PS5 controllers are also broadly compatible with most other devices, so if you’re a PC gamer looking to expand into console territory, you could use them on your Steam library too. The ergonomic design of the PS5 controller also means that if you’re a small-handed gamer, you don’t need to worry about finger aches from having to extend your extremities in uncomfortable ways.
There are currently two editions of the PS5, a disk PS5 and Digital Edition, which is slightly cheaper. You can still download and enjoy all of the same games as you’d be able to play via Disc on the Digital Edition. Both consoles are also compatible with countless streaming platforms to watch your favorite TV shows and movies.
With a growing number of PS5-exclusive games, it makes sense to go for the PS5 vs PS4, because you don’t want to risk missing out on big games like Horizon Forbidden West, and God of War: Ragnarok. What’s even better is that most of the best PS4 games will still pay on a PS5.
In terms of raw power, the PS5 is technically lagging behind the Xbox Series X by a hair’s width, but it’s an excellent platform for anybody who wants to enjoy the likes of Elden Ring, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. The Nintendo Switch doesn’t have any options for triple-A games like these, the PS5 can run them flawlessly.
If you’re a fan of gaming on the go, you might be inclined to go for the Nintendo Switch, or the Xbox Series X (due to its Cloud Gaming), but PS Remote Play is a new feature on the console which is encompassing more and more releases all the time – in a few years, you might be able to stream large swathes of the PS5 library to your mobile device. Meanwhile, with exciting developments with PSVR, the future of this console is looking bright.
Read our PlayStation 5 review.
2. Xbox Series X
The best premium console is the Xbox Series X.
|Xbox Series X specs:|
|CPU/GPU||Custom 7 nm AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores, Custom RDNA 2|
|FPS||up to 120|
- Uses a powerful AMD Scarlett GPU
- Backward compatible with two generations
- Excellent home entertainment center
- Very few exclusive games
- No design variation
The latest addition to the Xbox family is a powerful piece of hardware (just read our Xbox Series X specs guide), capable of running some really impressive next-gen games. If you find yourself having to take a break from one of those games, the Xbox Series X is unique in its ability to let you hop back into the game at the exact point you left it, even after turning it off.
Meanwhile, Xbox is the home to Game Pass. While it’s true that this is also available on PC, there’s nowhere else that will give you such an enormous selection of games for you to play with a monthly subscription. Look at our list of all Xbox Game Pass games and you’ll see it truly puts the offering with Nintendo Switch Online to shame. Of course, not everybody can afford to pay for Game Pass, but even with an Xbox Live Gold subscription, Microsoft rewards you with free games each month.
Having said that, while it is the home to Halo, Sea of Thieves, Forza, and other amazing IPs, it has to be said that there aren’t really any games that could truly be said to be exclusive to the Xbox Series X. Most new games from Microsoft Studios work on the previous generation, the Xbox One as well, and are often available on PC as well. While these games definitely perform better on the Series X compared to the Xbox One, that might not be persuasion enough for everybody.
While it may not be possible to play an Xbox Series X on the go in the same way that you can do that with a Nintendo Switch, it does still offer some functionality in that regard. Using the Xbox Cloud Gaming feature, you can stream your Xbox Series X games onto your smartphone, or other handheld devices, giving you an opportunity to play from anywhere – it’s just a little rough around the edges (and admittedly, Xbox Cloud Gaming is still in beta). Xbox controller
Overall, there’s an impressive selection of games on the console (from Grand Theft Auto V to Rare Replay) and it’s compatible with all the major streaming platforms too, so it would work well as the heart of your home entertainment center. It also has one of the best controllers in gaming history – it feels great and never makes your hands ache. What more could you want from a console? Except for a cheaper price.
Read our Xbox Series X review.
3. Nintendo Switch
The best handheld gaming console is the Nintendo Switch.
|Nintendo Switch specs:|
|CPU/GPU||NVIDIA Custom Tegra Processor|
|Screen resolution||1080p (TV), 720p (handheld)|
|FPS||up to 60|
- Hybrid home and handheld console
- Huge library of games
- Less expensive
- Misses some of the big triple-A releases
- Slightly less powerful than others
- Fewer features outside of gaming
This is a console that’s moderately inexpensive (when compared to the PS5 or Xbox Series X) and one that’s really easy to get set up and play within a short space of time. While other consoles require you to go through account creation processes, with the Switch, you can literally just turn it on, put the cartridge in, and play.
Speaking of its game library, one of the many strengths of the Switch is the fact that just about everything is available on it. There are retro classics like Banjo-Kazooie, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Super Castlevania IV, alongside games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Diablo III, Fortnite, and Minecraft, and indie superstars like Shovel Knight, Yooka-Laylee, Demon Turf, and Crypt of the NecroDancer… and all that without mentioning Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, and the other big Switch exclusives.
Although, having said that, there are some recent big triple-A games that haven’t made their way to the console because it isn’t quite powerful enough to run them. Elden Ring and Red Dead Redemption 2 come to mind, so if they’re the types of games you’re most interested in, then this might be a deal-breaker for you. Still, it covers more ground than it misses overall.
Meanwhile, it is harder to use the Nintendo Switch as the center of your home entertainment setup. For whatever reason, this console doesn’t offer compatibility with most of the streaming platforms – if you want something you can watch Netflix, Disney Plus, or Amazon Prime Video through, you’re out of luck. It does have Crunchyroll, YouTube, and Twitch (plus a special app dedicated to the Pokémon anime), but that selection does rather limit your pool of available content.
Nonetheless, the Switch will still be able to provide you with entertainment more often than its competitors, simply due to the fact that it is a hybrid console. While the Steam Deck may offer the same functionality, and Xbox Series X allows your games on mobile devices, there is no other console that lets you play on the TV and then shortly after on the bus, with the ease of the Nintendo Switch.
Read our full Nintendo Switch review.
4. Xbox Series S
The Xbox Series S is the best affordable console.
|Xbox Series X specs:|
|CPU/GPU||Custom 7 AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores, Custom RDNA 2|
|FPS||up to 120|
- Capable of playing Series X|S games
- More affordable than Series X
- More compact than Series X
- Less powerful than the Series X
- Few exclusive games
The Xbox Series S is more affordable than the Series X console and is only slightly less powerful. Like the PS5 Digital Edition, it’s cheaper because it doesn’t have a disc drive. While both consoles use a custom RDNA 2 graphics processing unit (GPU), the Series S gives you a resolution of 1440p against the 4k gaming experience of the Series X. It has half the internal storage of the Xbox Series X, so will soon be faster when you download and save games, but that can easily be fixed by buying an external hard drive.
If you’ve got a library of original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games that you still like to play, the lack of a disc drive could be a deal-breaker. And far as other entertainment is concerned, you won’t be able to use the console to watch the classics in your DVD collection.
However, if you’re buying an Xbox for the first time and don’t have an enormous budget, this is probably going to be the best gaming console for you. The Xbox One is only available second-hand now, and the Series S will give you access to the large library of games in the Microsoft Store, plus the fantastic Game Pass subscription service, and it’s compatible will most major streaming platforms as well. Check our Xbox Series X vs Series S guide if you’re still not sure which console is best for you.
Read our full Xbox Series S review.
5. Steam Deck
The Steam Deck is the best handheld gaming PC.
|Steam Deck specs:|
|CPU/GPU||Custom AMD APU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost|
|Screen resolution||up to 4k (TV), 1280 x 800 (handheld)|
|Internal memory||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|FPS||up to 120|
- Powerful, portable gaming PC
- Huge library of compatible Steam games
- Can be modified to run other games
- A little big for handheld mode
- Tricky to get setup if you’re not techy
The Valve Steam Deck is a powerful handheld gaming computer and it was released in early 2022. Using SteamOS, it’s possible to run Windows applications and games, and the library of games available to play on Steam is enormous. Like the Nintendo Switch, you can play Steam games on the go or docked on a TV, which is a refreshing change from having to play your PC games at a gaming desk.
Setting up a Steam Deck can be complicated if you compare it to a Nintendo Switch, which lets you just turn the console on, pop in a game, and start playing. The Steam Deck requires a greater technical understanding, which will please some gamers and frustrate others – particularly younger users. The advantage is that you can make the console your own.
The Steam library alone will provide more than enough entertainment, but as it’s very easy to emulate pretty much anything on it, that means that you can potentially play classics from every era of gaming history on your platform. You can set it up to do exactly what you want, with a level of control and customization not available with the other platforms. Not every Steam game offers compatibility with the Steam Deck, so you might want to check whether or not your favorite games will work with it before buying one.
The Steam Deck is more expensive than other consoles on this list, and it’s essentially a powerful and portable gaming PC. But if you’re a tech-savvy gamer looking for new ways to play PC games, then you should consider a Steam Deck as your next console.
6. Super NES Classic Edition
The Super NES Classic Edition is the best retro games console.
|Super NES Classic Edition specs:|
|Modern benefits||Save states, rewind|
|Power source||USB charger|
- Library of 21 pre-installed classic games
- Comes with authentic SNES controllers
- Save states available for all games
- No way to expand your library
- Need to buy your own charger
- Certain classics missing
In this guide, we’ve been focused on the current era of gaming consoles, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a lot of respect for what came before. If you love retro games, we recommend the Super NES Classic. Whether you’re an older gamer looking to relive the games of your childhood, or a modern gamer wanting to experience these classics for the first time, the Super NES Classic is an excellent choice.
Among the games in the Super NES Classic, you’ve got Donkey Kong Country, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, EarthBound, Super Mario World, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and many other SNES smash hits. These are some truly amazing, formative games whose influence can still be felt in new games today. Excitingly, it also includes the first-ever official release of the game Star Fox 2.
While modern gamers might find these games a little bit harder than the games they usually play, the Super NES Classic includes save states that help make the classics a lot more accessible. Of course, if you’re a purist, you can just completely ignore them and play just like it’s 1991.
Even though the Super NES Classic does have a pretty fantastic selection of games, it has to be said that there are some pretty big games missing. Where in the name of sanity, and all that is holy, is Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest? And what about Chrono Trigger? Or Super Mario All-Stars? Of course, no matter what they included, someone would be missing a favorite, but it is a shame – especially when there’s no legitimate way to add games to it.
Still, while it may have a few shortcomings, it’s hard not to love the Super NES Classic. Playing these amazing games with its packaged-in SNES controllers feels amazing, and we’re sure that it will put a big grin onto the faces of anyone who has an appreciation for the games of yore.
Read our Super NES Classic Edition review.
How we chose the best gaming consoles
We didn’t just pick these gaming consoles at random. Our list represents the whole range of gaming consoles on the market right now – some are better for children, while others might suit older players and advanced gamers. And then there’s the size and format. You can’t play an Xbox in bed or on the train, but you can take a Nintendo Switch wherever you want to play. Here are some considerations to help you pick the right gaming machine for you:
- Games libraries: Without games, what is a console? There are plenty of major game releases that crossover on both the Xbox and PlayStation platforms, while the Switch and Steam Deck both have their own unique libraries. If you don’t already have any experience with a console, or a brand preference, check out which games you might like to play and narrow down your choice from there.
- Pricing: Games consoles vary in price, and we know that for some gamers, the choice will come down to what they can afford. That’s why we’ve included two versions of the Xbox and PS5 consoles.
- Portability: Is size important to you? Where do you mainly play games? If you love gaming on the go, you’re going to want a console that can either let you stream to your mobile device or which can be played directly as a handheld.
- Power: If you want the best graphics and performance with speedy loading screens, then the processing power of a console is going to be important to you. Generally, the larger the console is – think PS5 and Xbox here – the greater its processing power.
- Additional features: Some gamers don’t just want a platform to play games on, but a whole home entertainment center. The PS5 and Xbox can be loaded with streaming platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video – giving you movies and TV on-demand whenever you want to watch them.
How we tested the best gaming consoles
We want you to trust our gaming console buying advice, which is why we’re super transparent about our review process. We spend months and even years living with gaming consoles so that we can give you a full picture of how they perform. Many of our expert reviewers have several next-gen consoles, which means they can compare and contrast several – so that you don’t have to.
We want our gaming console reviews to be helpful and trustworthy. Our editorial team is incredibly experienced, knowledgeable, and passionate about the games industry, and we do have a relationship with many big brands. But we’ll never review a product just because a manufacturer asks us to, and we’ll always be honest if something doesn’t match our high standards.
We spend months and even years living with and playing on the best gaming consoles so that we can give you a full picture of how they perform in real life. Many of our expert reviewers have tested several next-gen consoles, meaning they can compare their true strengths and flaws honestly. Find out more about how we test and review games and hardware on The Loadout.