It’s actually not always that easy to just buy a video game console. Almost every console on offer comes bundled with some game or other. That’s not a bad thing, of course, but it can make the process of picking out a gift a little tricky.
When picking a new console as a gift, your choice will hopefully be dictated by the desires of the person you’re buying for. This is one of those gifts that’s best not left to chance—make sure you know ahead of time which system your giftee wants, what kinds of games they like, and which games their friends play.
(Side note: We’re not including gaming PCs in this guide, because as lovely as PC gaming is, giving a gaming PC as a gift is... a complicated proposition. It’s a wonderful gift, but not exactly gift-guide friendly. If you want to get someone a gaming PC, it’s probably best that you just get them a card that says “I’m buying you a gaming PC!” and then go work more closely with them to make sure you get something that works works for them.)
Okay, back to consoles! Armed with the knowledge of what your loved one wants, it’ll be time to go get a console. Here are the bundles—and in some cases, non-bundles—that you should consider for this holiday season.
1TB may seem like a lot of hard drive space, but modern video games are big enough that it’ll fill up fast. It’s a significant upgrade from the Xbox One’s previous 500GB hard drive, however, and certainly a worthy upgrade.
Fallout 4 is probably the biggest game to be bundled with an Xbox One this year—rare is the gamer who would turn their nose up at its inclusion in a bundle. It’s a good game, too—read our review here.) The addition of a free, backwards-compatible version of Fallout 3 is a nice bonus, though it’s unlikely that most players will want even more wasteland-exploring after spending a billion hours finishing this year’s game.
It’s slightly less bang-for-buck than the Fallout bundle in terms of pure game-hours, but if you’re buying a gift for someone who really likes realistic video-game hair—or likes cinematic action/adventure games—it’s a good bet.
NOTE: Various retailers may offer these bundles at lower prices, particularly during the Black Friday weekend. Check this official Xbox post for details about some discounted deals, that will drop the aforementioned bundles temporarily down to $299.
For more game recommendations to go with the console, go through our list of the 12 best Xbox One games.
For a minute, I was under the impression there’d be a PS4 bundle featuring Until Dawn. Unfortunately, as best as I can tell, there isn’t one. So let’s just let that stand as a recommendation of that game, because it’s good.
If you want a PS4 bundle, though, your best bet is to go with the Nathan Drake Collection bundle. It’s a good value in that it includes all three Uncharted games, with the important caveat that they’re all just remastered versions of games that already came out on PS3. It mostly depends on whether the person you’re buying for has played them or not.
If you’re looking for other games to give along with the console, you can’t go wrong with anything from our list of the 12 best PS4 games.
NOTE: Sony has announced that the aforementioned bundle will be available for $299 during Black Friday weekend.
The Wii U has had a bit of a sleepy year, with a few notable exceptions. The most notable of those is Mario Maker, a Mario game so fun, subversive, and fascinating that it’s kind of amazing it exists at all. The 8-bit Mario Amiibo bundled with it just might be the best Amiibo, so this winds up being a pretty great package for Mario fans.
Alternately, look for any Splatoon bundle so you can play one of the best new multiplayer games in ages. You might be able to find an existing Wii U bundle, though we highly recommend you instead try to track down the new Splatoon/SmashBros Wii U Bundle that the company recently announced would be available for the holidays. It’s best to check for it on Black Friday, when it should be at its lowest price.
If you’re looking for a few more games to toss in with the Wii U, check out our list of the 12 best Wii U games.
Nintendo’s 3DS hardware options have gotten more varied (and potentially confusing) of late. The newest, best piece of hardware is the “New 3DS,” an updated handheld with a better screen, more control options, and a far better 3D effect. There aren’t any super compelling bundles for this one, so it’s probably best to just go with the core system.
NOTE: Nintendo recently announced the New 3DS XL will be selling for $20 less on Black Friday at select retailers this holiday. Check their Holiday Deals page for more info as you shop around.
There are plenty of great games you could get to go with it—we recommend any off of our list of the best 3DS games.
Buying a Vita is a complicated proposition these days. The handheld console itself is appealing in a number of ways: It can be a cool (albeit largely unnecessary) off-screen extension for a PS4, and it’s a great way to play the classic PlayStation games that Sony has made available for it... even while it can be frustrating that they haven’t opened up more of their entire back catalogue. The Vita also has some really good games of its own, but Sony has stopped releasing new, Vita-exclusive games. My recommendation: Don’t buy a Vita as a gift on a whim; only get it for someone who you know wants one. There aren’t really any bundles available for the Vita, so the base unit will suffice.
As with the 3DS, we’ve got a pretty solid list of the 12 best Vita games, if you’re looking for something to go along with the console.
Have some thoughts about which bundles you think are best? Chime in below.