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8 best game consoles for kids - the best family consoles for 2022

Whether you’re looking for a hand-held games console or a top-notch device for serious gamers, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best games consoles for kids to buy right now.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Nov 10, 2022

two children playing video games

Games consoles often come with a bad reputation, but in a healthy environment, gaming has many benefits and can be a great way for families to bond. It can be a great opportunity to bring family and friends together, laughing and enjoying a bit of healthy competition, as well as promoting teamwork and improving social connections.

But for those who aren’t particularly tech-minded, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to buying an appropriate games console. All of the games consoles on the current market offer games for families, although Nintendo is best known for being family-friendly. 

PlayStation and Xbox games consoles are a great option for more serious gamers. In fact, if you’re on the hunt for a device for an older child, Mumsnet users recommend asking them which one to buy before splashing your cash. If they want to play online with their friends, you need to make sure you get them the same games console or one that can play across multi-platforms. Otherwise it can be an expensive mistake to make. 

To help make life easier, we’ve trawled the Mumsnet forums to find out which consoles parents recommend. From hand-held devices to classic games consoles, we wanted to know which ones offer plenty of child-friendly fun. We then took these recommendations and cross-checked them with other expert review sites to make sure we ended up with a list of the best tried-and-tested products. 

If you're looking for honest, authentic tech recommendations from real parents, head over to our guides to the best tablets for kids, the best cameras for kids and the best laptops for kids

Here is our pick of the best game consoles for kids in 2022.

Best games consoles for kids:

  1. Best games consoles for kids: Nintendo Switch OLED
  2. Best budget games console for kids: Nintendo Game and Watch Super Mario Bros Game
  3. Best handheld games console: Nintendo Switch Lite
  4. Best multiplayer games console: Sony PlayStation 5
  5. Best family games console: Xbox Series X Console

1. Best overall gaming console: Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch OLED

Price on writing: £304 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age: 3+ | Included: Two Joy-Con controllers, Nintendo Switch dock, Joy-Con grip, AC adapter, HDMI cable and Joy-Con straps

Reasons to buy

  • Can be played on TV and handheld
  • Good choice of family games
  • Two controllers for social gaming

Reasons to avoid

  • Graphics not as advanced as other games consoles on the market
  • The OLED model is not hugely different to the standard Switch, but is more expensive
  • Storage isn’t as good as other games consoles

What Mumsnet users say

The Switch is a fabulous family console. We got ours at the start of lockdown and it gets used loads.” MegBusset

Definitely the best child-friendly console out there.” AdditionalCharacter

They are quite expensive, but honestly worth it! We bought DD one a few years ago and she’s had so much use out of it… still going strong. One of the best gifts we’ve ever got her!Nap1983

Our verdict

As far as Mumsnetters are concerned, there really is only one winner of the title of best handheld games console, and that’s the Nintendo Switch.

As well as hooking the console up to your TV, the Switch can be used in tabletop mode or handheld mode, meaning you can enjoy the home console experience pretty much anywhere - within reason. The newest member of the Nintendo Switch family is the OLED model, with improvements including a vibrant 7-inch OLED screen (the standard model is 6.2 inches), a wide adjustable stand, double internal storage, and enhanced audio. The portability, coupled with a battery life of up to nine hours, makes the Switch the perfect way to keep kids entertained on long car journeys.

The Switch has a huge variety of family-friendly games, such as Mario Kart, Animal Crossing and Pokémon, and is a great way to keep the whole household entertained during this dark and drizzly season. While the improvements on the OLED model make it a great overall games console, it’s not hugely different to the standard Switch so if money is an issue, you could purchase that at a cheaper price and get the same brilliant family gaming experience.

2. Best budget game console: Nintendo Game and Watch Super Mario Bros

Nintendo Game and Watch Super Mario Bros Console, gold with a red boarder and red buttons

Price on writing: £39 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age: 3+ | Included: Console

Reasons to buy

  • Child-friendly
  • Nostalgia factor
  • Small and lightweight for children

Reasons to avoid

  • Feels quite flimsy

What Mumsnet users say

The Nintendo Super Mario Game and Watch has been re-released for Mario’s 35th anniversary. My own DS has asked for it [...] My sister had an original back in the 80s and we loved it.” Blogdog

Our verdict

The Nintendo Game and Watch Super Mario Bros was released to mark the 35th anniversary of everyone’s favourite plumbers. Those who grew up with Mario and Luigi will appreciate this blast from the past, while the straightforward gameplay of this family favourite means this game is suitable for young kids.

This special system includes Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, Ball (Mario version) and a digital clock which plays 35 different animations. It’s small and lightweight so will be good for younger children to play alone or compete with a friend or relative, but that does mean some users felt it was a bit flimsy. And if you enjoy this little trip down memory lane, then good news - the classic The Legend of Zelda is also available.

3. Best handheld games console: Nintendo Switch Lite

Grey boxed Nintendo Switch Lite

Price on writing: £197 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs

Age: 3+ | Included: Comes with AC adaptor

Reasons to buy

  • Lightweight and small for children
  • Can game online with friends
  • Cheaper than standard SwitchCheaper than standard Switch 

Reasons to avoid

  • Can’t be hooked up to the TV
  • Cannot use with Nintendo Switch dock
  • Controllers not included

What Mumsnet users say

My DH has a Switch and I have a Switch Lite. I prefer the Lite as it’s a smaller handheld console and I found it easier to use than the Switch.” MuchTooTired 

Our verdict

The Nintendo Switch is great for holidays and travelling, but if you really want to streamline your tech, then the Nintendo Switch Lite comes highly recommended - and at a cheaper price point than its larger counterpart.

This handheld-only device has a 5.5-inch touch screen, integrated controls and can be synced up to no less than eight Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite consoles for local multiplay. However, as the Lite is designed to be taken out and about, there’s no controllers included and it can’t be hooked up to the TV, so you should consider an alternative if you’re after a family console for the home. It also only holds 32 GB of storage, which is considerably less than other consoles.

4. Best multiplayer games console: Sony PlayStation 5 Console

A white PS5 console standing upright next to a white controler

Price on writing: £699| Buy now from Currys

Key specs

Age: 7+ | Included: DualSense wireless controller, HDMI cable, power cord and USB cable

Reasons to buy

  • Speedy loading
  • 3D audio puts you at the heart of the action
  • Amazing graphics

Reasons to avoid

  • Hard to get hold of
  • Pricey
  • Only one dual sense controller included

What Mumsnet users say

My 12-year-old says Xbox is the best if you're not looking to do online multiplayer. If you are, you really need to get a PlayStation.” RhubarbTea

My kids and nephews all got PS5s last year [...] Very happy kids all around.” fantastaballs

Our verdict

Smooth and speedy with sharp visuals, this sleek-looking console is the latest PlayStation to hit the market and thought to be one of the best games consoles around. The DualSense wireless controller gives physical feedback from the gameplay, such as weapon recoil in a shoot 'em up, while 3D audio makes the PlayStation 5 a truly immersive experience. The controller’s built-in microphone also allows your kids to chat with friends online with ease - although you only get one dual sense controller included, so you’ll probably need to buy more for playing as a group.

It has a larger storage compared to the PlayStation 4 and it can stream rapidly for speedy loading. It’s not quite as family friendly in terms of games as the Switch but does have some that children will enjoy playing such as Astro’s Playroom, Sackboy: A Big Adventure and the LEGO games. There are two versions of the PlayStation 5, both offer the same gaming experience, but one is slightly cheaper and only runs games digitally, while the other you can also play gaming discs. Of course you do have to find one in stock first...

5. Best game console for families: Xbox Series X Console

Black Xbox Series X with controller

Price on writing: £449 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs:

Age: 3+ | Included: One wireless controller and HDMI cable

Reasons to buy

  • Speedy loading
  • Plays games from four generations of Xbox
  • Games pass gives access to 100-plus titles

Reasons to avoid

  • Expensive

What Mumsnet users say

An older model would be fine for a younger child, the Xbox series X is an absolutely brilliant console and has a great selection of games. The old S is good too.” AldiIsla 

Get her an Xbox. They’re the best for games, especially real feel, and encourage good hand-eye coordination. We have three and while my six-year-old is only on Minecraft and occasionally Fortnite, myself and my husband play Crash, Halo, COD, Uno, Forza, Need for Speed, Sonic Racing, Cars 2 and CTR. There’s loads of ‘cute’ kids’ games for the Xbox that are racing themed too, so it’s not all too grown-up, as well as Hasbro family game night which is awesome for Friday/Saturday nights.” ToffeePennie

Our verdict

The daddy of gaming consoles, the Xbox Series X is the fastest, most powerful Xbox to date. The console has a 1000GB (1TB) hard drive capacity and the loading speed is seriously impressive.

The Series X plays thousands of games from four generations of Xbox, including Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Original Xbox titles and, if that’s not enough, then you can splash out on an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for another 100-plus titles to keep everyone busy. Games like Minecraft: Bedrock Edition can be played across multiple platforms too, so children can play against their friends no matter which platform they might be playing on. If you can get past the eye-watering price tag, the Xbox Series X could be a great investment for the whole family.

6. Best value games console: Xbox Series S Digital Console

White Xbox Series S with a black disc shape on the front and white controller

Price on writing: £249 | Buy now from Amazon  

Key specs

Age: 3+ | Included: Xbox Wireless Controller with two AA batteries, high speed HDMI cable and power cord

Reasons to buy

  • Family settings app allows easy game time management
  • No discs needed, meaning less clutter
  • Games pass gives access to thousands of games

Reasons to avoid

  • Only plays digital games
  • Doesn’t support 4K gaming
  • Less storage than the Series X

What Mumsnet users say

On a Series S, you can download any game from the Microsoft store on the Xbox. Huge catalogue and you have access to the backwards compatible games too from older consoles. There is also the game pass that has quite a few racing games on and a lot of in general. Would highly recommend! as it saves on the high prices of some of the games.” Leafypattern 

Xbox Series S doesn't have a disc drive so it really works for those using the Game Pass (monthly subscription fee) or willing to pay only for downloaded games.” Possums4evr 

Our verdict

If you’re looking to purchase a games console to be used by younger children, then the Xbox Series S is a good fit. Considerably cheaper than the Xbox Series X, the Series S makes an ideal introduction to gaming and great value. The free Xbox Family Settings app on Android and iOS makes it easy to manage your children’s screen time, block purchases and filter out age-inappropriate content.

The Series S doesn’t support 4K gaming though so you won’t get the same high-end visuals as you’d get on the X, and it also has less storage (around 500 GB), however, it is still a great games console for children. The Xbox Series S is entirely digital, so there are no discs required which means there’s less clutter and it can help cut back on costs of buying individual discs, but you do need to purchase a Xbox Game Pass, giving you access to thousands of new and classic games, to get the most out of your console.

Looking for Christmas present inspiration for a teenager? Check out our round-up of the best Christmas gifts for teens for 2022.

7. Best classic games console: Nintendo Super NES Classic Mini Console

A classic Super Nintendo System in a box

Price on writing: £239 | Buy now from Amazon

Key specs:

Age: 12+ | Included: HDMI cable, one USB power cable and two wired Super ES classic controllers

Reasons to buy

  • Excellent selection of retro games
  • Comes with two controllers
  • Child-friendly games

Reasons to avoid

  • Limited to pre-loaded games
  • Expensive for what you get
  • Can’t do online gaming

What Mumsnet users say

We have a mini NES and mini SNES that came pre loaded with a bunch of games. Not sure if they're easy to get now though.” MindyStClaire

Our verdict

It doesn’t get any more retro than the Classic Mini Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The console has the same look and feel as the original SNES, which was first launched in 1992, but is more compact. It comes with 21 pre-loaded games, including Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Kart and a host of other old-school favourites.

While there’s plenty of games to keep your child busy, it is a lot more limited compared to the likes of Switch, and not all that much cheaper. You also don’t have the same features as the other games consoles, such as online gaming. You will find two controllers in the box though, so you can dive straight in to settle some 30-year-old scores. 

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8. Best games console for parties: Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

Price on writing: £270 | Buy now from CeX

Key specs

Age: 3+ | Included: One DualShock wireless controller, HDMI cable, USB cable, Mono headset and AC power cord.

Reasons to buy

  • Also a Blu-Ray player
  • Good storage 
  • 4K gaming

Reasons to avoid

  • Hard to get hold of
  • Only one controller
  • Won’t play games designed for older PlayStation consoles

What Mumsnet users say

We have a PS4 and 4 controllers and honestly it has been really good for family bonding playing stuff like overcooked, towerfall etc. There are more fun cooperative games around these days.” ThePlantsitter

Our verdict

Not the newest PlayStation on the market, granted, but the PS4 is still a popular choice among Mumsnetters. While the PS4 is a good option for families and especially those on a tighter budget, the PS4 Pro is even better - an entertainment machine that can run games in 4K resolution and doubles up as a Blu-Ray player so children can watch movies too. 

When it comes to games all are fully cross-compatible with both the PS4 and PS4 Pro, meaning children can still compete online in the same multiplayer ecosystem. However one big downside is that the PS4 won’t play any games from earlier generation PlayStations, so bear this in mind if you’re looking to upgrade as you’ll need to buy them through its digital store and its PS Now Service. There’s also PS Plus, which adds free games to your library each month. For peace of mind, parental controls allow you to restrict game content based on the ratings.

How do I choose the best game console for kids? 

When buying a game console for kids, there are a number of things you should consider. 

  • Cost: The cost of consoles vary widely, so you should consider how much your child is likely to play on it and set a budget. Just remember that the price of games can add up too.
  • Purpose: Are you looking for a portable console that you can take on car journeys? Or a console for family games in the living room? Or are you buying a console just so your children can lose themselves in Minecraft? 
  • Platform: If you’re buying for your child and they want to play with friends, it’s worth checking which games and platforms they play on as some don’t support cross-platform gaming.
  • Game choice: Check out what games you can buy for your console. Is there something in particular you are looking for? It’s worth checking out the selection before committing to a purchase, especially if you’re buying for a younger child. 
  • Parental controls: Perhaps the most important thing to consider when buying a games console for kids. Can you set screen time? Filter inappropriate content? And always make sure there’s no way your little darling can leave an unwelcome surprise on your credit card bill.

How to pick age-appropriate games for your child

The first place to start when working out whether a game is appropriate for your child is to check the game’s age rating (PEGI). The game’s packaging will state either 3, 7, 12, 16 or 18 which means that the game shouldn’t be played by a person under that age.

You can also check what the content of the game is as there are also icons indicating whether it contains violence, drugs, bad language, discrimination, fear, gambling, sex, or in-app purchases. 

It may also be helpful to play the game first to see if there’s anything you think may upset your child. YouTube is a great place for finding videos of people playing the game to see what the content is like. 

How to make sure kids stay safe while gaming

One of the great things about the latest game consoles is the ability for children to be able to play with their friends online. Unfortunately, this means that they can be exposed to other players and can lead to online bullying and inappropriate behaviour. So how can you help reduce the chance of them seeing things they shouldn’t? Here are some tips:

  • Talk to them about the dangers of online gaming, stranger danger and advise them to only connect with friends online. If they want to add a new friend, try to check who they are.
  • Choose a safe username, making sure it doesn’t include their real name or any details about themselves. Talk to them about not sharing personal details, such as where they live.
  • Show them how to report and mute anyone who’s abusive or threatening.
  • Get to know the parental controls and privacy settings on the device they are using as this can affect who they interact with online.
  • If you’re worried, get them to take off their headphones so you can hear who they are engaging with.

What is the most popular game console?

The Nintendo Switch is the most popular game console and the best handheld game console out there right now. Our Mumsnet users rate it highly for family fun, with access to a huge variety of family-friendly games that can be played on both the TV and when out and about, making it a great value for money games console. 

How we chose our recommendations

Recommendations from real parents

Whatever category we research, we always start by asking our Mumsnet users which products they rate the most. There’s over 7 million users on our forums each month so we

know this is the best place to find out which products withstand family life, and which ones will cater for different needs and budgets. 

Expert advice 

Our trusted and experienced parenting journalists research each category thoroughly. This means checking with the experts to make sure that each product has been tried and tested and stands up to scrutiny.  

We use a variety of sources, including independent review sites, such as Which?, to help ensure we are bringing you the best products on the market right now.

Consumer feedback 

How often do you look to online reviews to check how good a product is? Well, we do the same! Checking what consumers think of the product helps us work out which ones stand the test of family life. We check the likes John Lewis, Amazon and Argos, to make sure the products are worth your hard-earned cash. 

We don’t just look for positive feedback, the negative reviews are really important too as they help us identify which products perform well across the board.

Celebrated best products 

Finally, we look out for any products that have received industry awards to help us recommend a variety of games consoles for kids. From family-friendly consoles to devices for serious gamers, there’s one here for everyone. 

Why you should trust us

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.

Our writer Gemma used her own experiences of looking for a games console for her two children, eight and five. Last year, she spent time researching the best one for families and ended up purchasing a Nintendo Switch (OLED model) when they were in high demand, so she understands the challenges of finding a games console that is both fun, safe and child-friendly.